OSCE Asian Conference: Counterterrorism, cyberspace and disaster prevention are possible areas for strengthened cooperation says Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter

Bern, Press releases, 01.06.2015

Cooperation in counterterrorism, disaster preparedness and cyberspace can strengthen mutual trust in Asia, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter said at the opening of the Asian Conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Seoul. The Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said that on the basis of its experience and the instruments at its disposal, the OSCE can be a bridge for dialogue on security with Asia. Switzerland currently holds the Chairmanship of the OSCE Asian Contact Group.

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter stands behind a lectern and gives a speech.

Together with Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, Mr Burkhalter today opened this year's OSCE Asian Conference in Seoul, representing Switzerland, the current Chair of the OSCE Asian Contact Group. The focus of this year’s conference in Seoul is global security structures and visions for cooperative security in Asia, particularly in view of the mounting tensions in the region.

In light of the changing security situation, efforts were needed to strengthen cooperative security, said Mr Burkhalter in his opening speech. This would increase predictability and mutual understanding and enhance security for all. He mentioned disaster preparedness, cyberspace and counterterrorism as areas for strengthened cooperation. These are priority themes for both the OSCE and the countries of Asia. Cooperative security meant building bridges, said Mr Burkhalter.

The OSCE could be a bridge for security dialogue between Europe and Asia, he said. As a consensus-based organisation with a comprehensive security approach and a set of instruments to build confidence and promote dialogue, the OSCE could also provide an impetus for strengthening cooperative security in the Asia-Pacific region. In this connection, Mr Burkhalter also praised the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative launched by South Korea, which aims to promote mutual trust in Asia by intensifying cooperation in a number of security-related areas through the establishment of structures for dialogue. Switzerland was prepared to support this and other initiatives to strengthen cooperative security where needed, added Mr Burkhalter.

Five OSCE partner States

The OSCE's partner States in the Asia-Pacific region include Japan (since 1992), South Korea (since 1994), Thailand (since 2000), Afghanistan (since 2003) and Australia (since 2009). They meet regularly with the OSCE participating States in the Asian Contact Group, which is being chaired by Switzerland (Ambassador Thomas Greminger) this year. The partner States are also invited to the OSCE’s most important conferences and regularly take part in meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council and the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation. A ministerial declaration made at the end of the Basel Conference in December 2014 highlighted the following key areas for cooperation and exchange with the Asian partner States: combating transnational threats, confidence and security-building measures, empowerment and inclusion of women in the political and economic spheres, and providing equal opportunities for men and women to contribute to peace processes. For their part, the Asian Partners for Cooperation hope to draw inspiration for their own region from the OSCE's comprehensive approach to security and its confidence- and security-building measures.

The OSCE's Asian and Pacific partner States also make financial contributions to the OSCE's extra-budgetary projects and provide financial support for initiatives such as the OSCE's observer mission to Ukraine.

Further information:

Ministerial declaration 2014

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