A year ago, we met in Kyiv on the occasion of the OSCE Ministerial Council 2013. None of us could have anticipated the magnitude of the crisis that has unfolded since then.
To date, over four thousand lives have been lost in the conflict. A passenger airplane has been shot down. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced. The people still living in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions are having to endure insecure and precarious living conditions during the harsh winter months. Human rights have been violated and fundamental freedoms are not respected.
Ukraine’s territorial integrity has been violated. Crimea has been annexed in breach of international law. The Helsinki Principles have been disregarded. Basic foundations of European security have been thrown into question.
These are serious developments indeed. The Swiss Chairmanship considers it important to have a thorough ministerial discussion on the Ukraine crisis, and we appreciate your presence at our informal dinner tonight. As Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, I wish to convey a warm welcome to all of you.
The OSCE has responded quickly and decisively to the crisis. A range of tried and tested mechanisms and instruments have been put in place. This has been a major human effort too, with many people engaged in the name of the OSCE.
OSCE institutions such as the ODIHR, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, the High Commissioner on National Minorities as well as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly have all made valuable contributions to the efforts to de-escalate the crisis.
The Chairmanship has promoted a political response to the crisis. We have engaged with all relevant leaders and sought to find common ground. In more than 60 CiO Statements on the Ukraine crisis, we have defended the Helsinki Principles, supported the parties in their search for a peaceful solution, and outlined OSCE contributions and offers.
We have fostered dialogue at the international level and within Ukraine. Three Personal or Special Representatives of the Chair (Ambassador Guldimann, Ambassador Ischinger and Ambassador Tagliavini) have been engaged to this end, each with different roles and responsibilities. The Trilateral Contact Group has become the key format to advancing a political solution, and I am very pleased that Ambassador Tagliavini will give us a first-hand account shortly.
The OSCE’s capacity to act has also been demonstrated by two new OSCE missions that have been deployed by consensus decision of the 57 participating States: the Special Monitoring Mission and the deployment of OSCE observers to the Russian Checkpoints in Gukovo and Donetsk. These missions are making an invaluable contribution to de-escalating the situation.
Our SMM monitors are having to work in difficult circumstances. I wish to commend them for their personal commitment to reducing tensions and fostering peace, stability and security, and I am grateful that SMM Chief Monitor Ambassador Apakan will brief us tonight on the work and challenges of the SMM.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Ukraine crisis has had a polarising effect in Europe. We have witnessed this in the heated – at times even confrontational – debates in the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna.
The OSCE’s capacity to act depends on our collective political will to find common ground. It is essential that we preserve the OSCE as a platform for inclusive discussions and as an effective operational responder despite the things that divide us. We should preserve this space for the simple reason that there is no alternative. This requires a sustained and genuine effort by all of us.
With this in mind, our informal discussion tonight should be guided by the following questions:
How can the OSCE contribute to minimising negative trends in the Ukraine crisis and taking the political process forward? What specific steps can be taken next towards resolving the Ukraine crisis? What role can the OSCE play in rebuilding trust and confidence among participating States? In what way can this discussion be taken further?
At this stage, I would like to make just two points:
First, the Minsk arrangements remain the best option we have, and they continue to deserve our full support. The Minsk protocol, which refers to the peace plan presented by President Poroshenko as well as “initiatives by President Putin”, was signed by members of the Trilateral Contact Group as well as representatives of self-proclaimed entities in Eastern Ukraine on 5 September.
It covers a wide array of provisions, ranging from a cease-fire to border monitoring, decentralisation and political dialogue.
The implementation of this protocol and the Minsk memorandum will take time. This should be no surprise. The number of ceasefire violations is disturbing, but there are also positive signs. The bilateral Ukrainian-Russian Joint Centre for Command and Coordination seems to be making progress in defining the details for implementing the ceasefire – we should all support their efforts. There are other elements in the Minsk protocol that will simply take time to work and have a positive impact.
The situation is difficult, but we have every reason to stick with the Minsk process and promote its implementation, step by step, and with clear objectives and timeframes in mind.
This brings me to my second point: the OSCE requires the backing of all of you to continue its broad engagement in the Ukraine crisis.
Above all, the SMM depends on your continuous support to effectively accomplish its difficult tasks. I would like to express my gratitude for all the generous contributions by participating States. They are indispensable for the mission to carry out its mandate.
Tonight I can announce that Switzerland has decided to support the SMM with a further 2 million Swiss francs (1.7 million Euros). We will remain committed to supporting the SMM beyond our Chairmanship. We are also ready to provide substantial support to any political dialogue within Ukraine, which we continue to regard as essential for the peace process to work. And we are supporting a series of OSCE-led civil society projects in Ukraine. I encourage you all to support the OSCE’s efforts in Ukraine as much as possible.
At the ministerial side event which I hosted on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September many of you expressed the expectation that this year’s Ministerial Council be not just “business as usual”. Tonight’s dinner, as well as tomorrow’s working lunch on the wider questions of European security offer an opportunity to do just that. In this spirit, I look forward to hearing your views.