Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to the German Bundestag on the debate on the 45th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act and the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Paris – strengthening the OSCE for the tasks that lie ahead

20.11.2020 - Speech

German reunification and the signing of the Charter of Paris more than 30 years ago were a happy moment for Germany. Yet, above all, it was also a happy moment for Europe; because this moment marked not only the end of the division of our country – but, as is stated in the Charter, it also and above all marked the hope for a new era of democracy, peace and unity in Europe.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, this Europe has been more democratic, more stable and also more prosperous than ever before in its history; this is in part thanks to the institutions that made it this way: the European Union, the Council of Europe, NATO and also the OSCE.

However, in many places the optimism of 1990 seems to have faded. Conflicts like the most recent one between Armenia and Azerbaijan are again violent and armed, and calls for a ceasefire have been rejected by the parties involved. Russia – and this, too, we have not forgotten – has clearly violated the peaceful order established at Helsinki and Paris with its annexation of Crimea.

So we should not forget that, especially for times of crisis, the Final Act and the Charter of Paris left us a very clear message, namely: in addition to maintaining defensive capabilities and strength, European security requires willingness to engage in dialogue and willingness to compromise. For this dual‑track approach, we need organisations like the European Union, NATO and also a strong OSCE – because, ultimately, it is the OSCE in particular that can maintain stability in times and places marked by crisis. Its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, for example, helps secure the current ceasefire – which is the longest we have seen there so far. For the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Minsk Group of the OSCE is the key negotiation platform for achieving a truly long‑term political solution.

What is more, the OSCE plays a central role for arms control in Europe. The Structured Dialogue that was initiated by Germany in 2016 is intended to promote discussions on peace and security in Europe, also and especially with Russia. This requires progress to be made on dialogue between the United States and Russia, in particular on nuclear arms control, and above all with respect to New START. The German Government is campaigning hard for this right now, together with many of our partners in various organisations and in the international community, because we believe the election of the new US president offers a great opportunity in this regard.

Like no other organisation, the OSCE stands for comprehensive security. Peace and prosperity in Europe over the past 30 years are, after all, also a product of economic progress, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These days, this must be communicated once more, especially to Belarus, where Mr Lukashenko finally needs to realise that without free and fair elections, without justice and respect for your own people, there will simply be no stability. This is why we will not stop supporting the OSCE’s human and economic dimensions, especially with regard to this conflict.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world today – and this was already true during the last debate, which addressed much larger timespans – is different from what it was in 1975 or 1990. Yet we must not lose sight of the fundamental idea of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, which is that cooperative security is an ongoing European task. This statement can also be found in the present motion. Convinced of this fact, the German Government will become engaged wherever it can – in various organisations and at international level – and will continue to be guided by this principle.

Thank you.


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