Speech by the Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter on the occasion of the Side Event of the 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council on the Final Report of the Panel on Eminent Persons in Belgrad- Check against delivery

Speaker: Didier Burkhalter

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the «Panels of Eminent Persons». ©

Dear Colleagues
Ambassador Ischinger,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased that the final report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project can be launched today in our OSCE community.

Switzerland approached our Troika partners Serbia and Germany with the idea of such a panel last year because we realised during our Chairmanship that the Ukraine crisis and the broader crisis of European security are closely interlinked and must be addressed in parallel.

The need for rebuilding bridges across the OSCE area is also obvious when you consider other current challenges such as the threat of jihadist terrorism. We can only develop and implement an effective collective response to such challenges if we work simultaneously on overcoming the crisis of trust among OSCE participating States.

I am very grateful to you, Ambassador Ischinger, and to your co-panellists for your readiness to address these challenging issues. I am sure that your discussions were not always free of strain. The result that you present to us today cannot hide the fact that differences persist.  But I consider this a strength of the report! The work this Panel has done has been valuable both for outlining existing divisions and for presenting thoughtful ideas of how to jointly move forward.

Let me briefly comment on just three of the many important issues that the report raises:

First, I fully agree that the contested security status of countries in the common neighbourhood of NATO and Russia is a key issue that needs to be addressed. Reconsolidating European security requires above all developing a mutual understanding together with the countries concerned of how this zone can be transformed into an area of stability and peace. The different options listed by the Panel deserve close examination. We must uphold the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements, just as we must ensure that the security of one State is not strengthened at the expense of the security of another State. 

Second, the Panel rightly points out that the unresolved conflicts in the OSCE area must be vigorously addressed if we want to find a way out of the current crisis. The report provides crucial stepping stones to this end.

Third, I was pleased to note your focus on economic connectivity. Switzerland has consistently been engaged in exploring ways to foster economic ties across dividing lines. Promoting economic connectivity is a promising way forward both within countries affected by conflict and between economic blocs. The Panel’s ideas on how to strengthen connectivity between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union merit further exploration.

In conclusion, I wish to thank Ambassador Ischinger and his team for their professional and skilful work.

Now that the Panel has done its work, it is time for politics. It is time to launch a flexible but intense diplomatic process and take this debate further. I encourage all of you to support the draft decision on a post-2015 dialogue. And I wish to offer Switzerland’s full support to our German and Austrian colleagues in this endeavour.

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