Speech by Federal Foreign Minster Heiko Maas at the meeting “The Paris Charter and European security architecture, thirty years on: What remains of the Helsinki spirit?” at the Paris Peace Forum

12.11.2020 - Speech

(Video conference)

Let me quote the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt. He said: “Now, what belongs together will grow back together”. With these famous words, he described the German reunification.
What is often overlooked, though, is that Willy Brandt’s perspective went far beyond Germany. As someone who helped pave the way to the Helsinki Final Act, he knew:
Just as East and West Germany belonged together, so did Western and Eastern Europe.
This idea lies at the heart of the Paris Charter. It marked, I think, a moment of joy in German and European history: The end of the division of our country and of our continent. And it marked the hope for a “new era of democracy, peace and unity in Europe”, as is stated in the Charter itself.
For the past 30 years, Europe has indeed been more democratic, more stable and more prosperous than ever before in its history – thanks to institutions such as the European Union, NATO and the OSCE.
But I think we cannot overlook that the hope and optimism of 1990 are long gone. Conflicts have returned to our continent. And by annexing Crimea, Russia has openly violated the order established in Helsinki and in Paris.
Now, where does all of this leave the idea of a cooperative European zone of peace, security and prosperity?
My take is that the Charter of Paris is more than an idealistic description of a better Europe. We have seen its achievements over the past 30 years. That is why we must make an effort today to draw lessons and to revive the Charter’s spirit:
I think, first, the Paris Charter was a result of persistent multilateral diplomacy – bridging geopolitical divisions.
That shows us: Security needs strength and deterrence – but also dialogue and compromise.
And let me say that in Joe Biden, we will soon have a new US president in the White House who is committed to multilateral diplomacy. He has indicated firmness toward Russia. But he has also shown a willingness to engage Moscow, for example on arms control – which remains as relevant today as it was during the Cold War.
Europe and the OSCE should prepare for such an opening. And I think it is our chance to advance the idea that European security cannot be achieved without, or even against, Russia.
Second, the Charter of Paris laid the cornerstone for the OSCE. And to build a more stable European security architecture, we need to strengthen this organisation.
Since its creation, it has made important contributions to maintaining peace on our continent. Its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has helped preserve the current ceasefire. And in the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the OSCE could provide a platform for negotiations on a sustainable political settlement through its Minsk Group.
And at the same time, the OSCE is facing challenges that we must overcome. Its conventional arms control architecture, for instance, is in a dire state.
The Structured Dialogue, which we launched in 2016, could complement US-Russian talks on nuclear disarmament and could open new paths to a dialogue on peace and security in Europe.
If we Europeans want to be heard in these discussions, then the European Union must find a common position on Russia by making full use of the five principles established by Federica Mogherini. This would also be a building block for the more sovereign Europe that Jean-Yves talked about.
And, third, the Charter of Paris showed us that comprehensive security goes beyond tanks, missiles and nuclear warheads.
The European success story of the past 30 years is based on economic development and progress in human rights, media freedom and the rule of law.
This idea of comprehensive security is the bedrock of our peace and prosperity.
And this is what those who oppress civil society, imprison journalists and quash any opposition should always remember.
Conflicts like the one in Belarus will not be solved without respect for human rights, political participation and social justice.
And that is why we will continue to back the OSCE in all its dimensions. This includes the economic and environmental dimension and the human dimension.
Ladies and gentlemen,
History did not end in 1990. But the Charter of Paris does send us a crucial message: Security is built on trust. And trust is the result of a dialogue with all those concerned.
This is where every discussion on European security needs to start.
And its goal is nothing less than keeping together “what belongs together”.
Thank you.


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