Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the end of Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship 2016

30.12.2016 - Article

One year of OSCE Chairmanship: The German Foreign Minister takes a very personal look back over the year

Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2016: at the turn of the year, following twelve intensive months as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Foreign Minister Steinmeier passed the baton on to his Austrian colleague. At the end of Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2016, Foreign Minister Steinmeier took a very personal look back over the year.

What did the OSCE Chairmanship mean for Germany?

OSCE flags
OSCE flags© OSCE

Taking on the OSCE Chairmanship was a “major project”, said Steinmeier, involving over 300 events in Vienna, Berlin, Potsdam, the entire OSCE area, and not least the grand finale in Hamburg, the Ministerial Council in December.

From a political point of view, the Minister said, Germany had sent a clear message “that we believe in effective multilateral organisations, especially now in these times of turbulence, upheaval in the international order and, all over the world, the resurgence of nationalism” and “that we are willing to actively take on responsibility in such situations”.

What will you remember the most?

Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine
Destroyed bridge in Sloviansk, Ukraine© Florian Gaertner/photothek.de

The trips were definitely among the moving moments – “trips I would describe as unique, even after so many years as Foreign Minister. One example was my visit to Transdniestria. I also travelled with my French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault to Kramatorsk, right on the line of contact to the Donbass region. We had a chance to see for ourselves what the members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission do there.”

What were the most difficult moments during your year as Chairperson-in-Office?

“We knew we were taking on the Chairmanship in truly turbulent times,” said Steinmeier, summing up: “As expected, many conflicts and crises kept us on our toes.” For example, the issue of war and peace had returned to the OSCE area since the annexation of Crimea and the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. “Naturally, this had a strong impact on us during our year as Chair.”

What made you proud?

Group photo at the OSCE Conference on Tolerance and Diversity at the Federal Foreign Office
Group photo at the OSCE Conference on Tolerance and Diversity at the Federal Foreign Office© Thomas Trutschel/photothek.de

First and foremost, said Foreign Minister Steinmeier, he was proud of his team. Of course, he was also grateful for the work of the OSCE Secretariat and “the many women and men in the field missions who work every day under difficult circumstances”.

But he was also proud of the fact that “we managed to introduce new topics, despite all the disagreements, entrenched positions, difficult debates and day-to-day crisis management” – for example, the initiative on arms control. And “the connectivity conference was the first time we managed to truly include business people in the OSCE process”.

What advice do you have for the incoming OSCE Chair?

Steinmeier at the Foreign Ministers Meeting “The OSCE is more relevant today than it has been in decades.”
Steinmeier at the Foreign Ministers Meeting “The OSCE is more relevant today than it has been in decades.”© Thomas Trutschel/photothek.net

Foreign Minister Steinmeier wished his successor as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for 2017, his Austrian counterpart, “all the best, a sure hand and above all the necessary patience to get a result in worthwhile discussions and coordination processes”. He gave this assurance: “We will not leave the new Chair to cope with this difficult task on its own. And as part of the Troika, we will be happy to provide advice and support on request.”

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