Around one year ago, we filled the top four OSCE posts, and I would like to use this opportunity to thank all four incumbents, who despite the difficult circumstances took up their new offices with a good deal of brio. This is true for Helga Schmid, who has even further harnessed the potential of the OSCE Secretariat. It is true for Matteo Mecacci of ODIHR – which this year alone carried out 18 election observation missions. And for Teresa Ribeiro, who has worked on the issue of freedom of the media and of opinion – one of the major issues of our time. Last but not least, it is true for Kairat Abdrakhmanov. He, too, has shown great dedication as he has worked to protect national minorities. I therefore believe that you deserve our appreciation, and I think your efforts point the way forward as we look to the future.
Of course, I also want to thank Ann Linde – who, as we have all seen, has over the past year led a heartfelt campaign to make the Organization even more effective, in addition to always seeking out compromise.
Nevertheless, dear colleagues, 2021 was a truly difficult year for the OSCE. The unresolved territorial conflicts remain in the spotlight. On the one hand, there has been renewed military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are witnessing a troubling rise in ceasefire violations in Ukraine, which are again occurring on a daily basis. And what is particularly regrettable from an OSCE perspective is that the mandate of the Organization’s observer mission at the Russian-Ukrainian border, a valuable confidence-building measure, could not be renewed.
Consequently, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which threatens peace in the region, continues to be a big issue for us all. When the spirit of Helsinki is invoked here, it would make sense to also bear in mind the spirit of Minsk. Because it is Minsk where the solution to this conflict was put down on paper; it was signed by Ukraine and Russia, thus setting out how to resolve the conflict. We would be greatly pleased if our Russian friends were to remember that they signed this agreement – and that it is on them to meet the obligations that were agreed then and there.
We also note the further erosion of conventional arms control. It is in all our interest to take action to counter this trend, and to develop new ideas for confidence- and security-building measures and arms control in Europe. Within the OSCE, we have the Structured Dialogue, and that is precisely what it is for. It would therefore be a great opportunity if we could use this instrument in a much more targeted and dynamic way.
But it is not only in view of the crises and conflicts we face that we are more than ever in need of cooperation within the OSCE. The risks brought on by climate change pose new challenges, also in terms of security policy, for us all. And we can only overcome them by acting in concert. The situation is far too serious for nationalist approaches. Furthermore, this will not help solve these problems. Many of us are growing more and more tired of how individual actors are consistently preventing progress toward solving conflicts, or hindering the development of new projects. This means that routine decisions must not be politicised. When individual participating States misuse the consensus rule in pursuit of their own vested interests, for example in connection with the OSCE budget, then that is nothing short of disregard for the OSCE acquis and a violation of our common interests.
The OSCE is the only regional security organisation that brings together Russia, North America, Europe and Central Asia. Here, the sides talk with, and not merely about, each other. In view of the many serious crises and new risks such as climate change, we must urge all sides to jointly not only use, but also expand and strengthen, its instruments for cooperation, dialogue and transparency – so as to enable a future in peace and security for all people in the OSCE region. There must be a future for security and cooperation in Europe!
On this note, dear Zbigniew, I want to wish you a sure hand and every success for Poland’s OSCE Chairmanship. And I can already tell you now that Poland will have Germany’s full support for this task.
Thank you very much.