More than 40 Foreign Ministers are meeting in Hamburg to discuss how to overcome the tensions between East and West and restore lost trust. In this context, the focus is on Ukraine. Foreign Minister Steinmeier today (8 December) gave an interim assessment of the conference.
The OSCE Ministerial Council is taking place in turbulent times – “and you can feel it,” Steinmeier said in his assessment. The annexation of Crimea and developments in eastern Ukraine were the subject of many controversial contributions in the opening session.
OSCE indispensable in turbulent times
However, in Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s view, the deep divides and intense controversies between East and West made it clear yet again how important the conference is for security in Europe. “Particularly in turbulent times like these, the OSCE is of indescribable value as the only pan-European institution for peace and security in Europe. If the OSCE didn’t exist, we would have to invent it,” Steinmeier said. The talks, also behind the scenes, in the conference hall, in bilateral meetings and in the corridors were indispensable, especially in the current situation, the Minister added.
In Hamburg, Steinmeier met OSCE staff from monitoring missions in eastern Ukraine. “I expressed our thanks, respect and recognition for the tough and often dangerous work they do day after day for peace and for Europe,” said Steinmeier. Steinmeier was quite clear when it came to the Minsk agreements, which are still not being fully implemented by the two sides: if the parties to the conflict were not willing to find political solutions, he stated, then the OSCE would not be able to end the conflict either.
Relaunching arms control
The OSCE Ministerial Council is also looking at Steinmeier’s proposed relaunch of conventional arms control. The dangerous dynamic that can evolve from mistrust, fear and misperceptions needed to be countered with a robust mechanism, Steinmeier said. In a session with 30 other states, including the United States and Russia, Steinmeier will be talking about what form the next steps towards a new control mechanism could take.
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.