How can the new divides between East and West be overcome? That was the question for the more than 40 foreign ministers and 80 delegations meeting in Hamburg. Foreign Minister Steinmeier today (8 December) opened the OSCE Ministerial Council in the Hanseatic city.
With tensions between East and West, borders shifted by force and frozen conflicts, the European continent appears to be trapped in a continuous loop of crises and conflicts. Dialogue and détente are therefore more important than ever, and the OSCE provides the perfect framework for these efforts.
“We want to help rebuild lost trust through renewed dialogue in order to restore security between Vancouver and Vladivostok,” Steinmeier said in his opening speech. To this end, the rules and principles jointly agreed in the OSCE needed to be resolutely upheld, the Minister continued.
Cooperation from Vancouver to Vladivostok
All European countries, the successor states of the Soviet Union, the US, Canada and Mongolia are members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Organization was preceded by negotiations to achieve détente during the confrontation between the blocs in the 1970s. The OSCE stands for open dialogue also in times of great divide. Germany has therefore assumed responsibility for this important forum for dialogue this year as OSCE Chair.
The Ministerial Conference in Hamburg is focusing on the most urgent conflicts. One important topic in this regard is the situation in eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire still occur. “This state of play is more than sobering. I find it unacceptable,” Steinmeier said in Hamburg. The Minsk agreements have yet to be fully implemented by both sides. The OSCE has played an instrumental role in helping to prevent an even more severe military escalation of the conflict. As a neutral observer and independent mediator, it is already monitoring military disengagement and demining in a number of areas.
Violation of agreements unacceptable
The question as to how the OSCE can equip itself even better for the future as a forum for dialogue and peace is also a major focus at the conference. Germany is working to make the OSCE’s instruments of conflict prevention, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding even better and more effective. New global challenges such as cyber attacks, terrorism and religious extremism are becoming ever greater risks. The OSCE must also find solutions to these problems that safeguard peace on the European continent in the long term.
Thanking the citizens of Hamburg
Steinmeier thanked the citizens of Hamburg for their hospitality. “There are very good reasons for hosting the OSCE meeting especially here in Hamburg. Everything that the Hanseatic City stands for – its long traditions, its values, its role as a bridge between East and West – is reflected in the OSCE and in the objective of our meeting in Hamburg”, said Steinmeier. In his handwritten open letter, the Foreign Minister apologised to the citizens of Hamburg in advance for the security precautions that the meeting would entail.