The OSCE is essential for security in Europe [fr]
Briefing in the presence of the Austrian OSCE Presidency - Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 22 February 2017
Today, I welcome the presence of Mr. Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, at the Security Council table and congratulate his country on its assumption of the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for this year. In the challenging strategic environment that Europe is facing today, Austria knows that it can count on our full support to implement its programme of work, which is centred appropriately on the themes of security, conflict resolution and combating radicalization and terrorism. In our view, today more than ever, the OSCE serves as an indispensable toolbox for the security services in Europe, especially on the ground.
In my statement, I will take up two points: the central role of the OSCE in our efforts to end the Ukrainian crisis, and priority challenges on which, more generally, we must get the OSCE to focus.
The current crisis in eastern Ukraine is one of the most serious and dangerous violations of the founding principles of the OSCE, penned in Helsinki more than 40 years ago. It is therefore appropriate that this topic has been a top priority on the organization’s agenda for the past three years.
The OSCE has been up to the task in responding to the matter, which is a source of satisfaction for us. It has lived up to the responsibility that falls upon it by rapidly deploying monitoring missions and subsequently assuming a central role in ensuring the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which remain the only way forward for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
As I had the opportunity to say during yesterday’s open debate on conflicts in Europe (see S/PV.7886), France has been deeply concerned by the recent escalation of tensions on the ground, in particular around the town of Avdiivka, as well as its direct consequences in terms of the human toll and the worsening of the humanitarian situation.
France is also determined, in conjunction with its German partners, to pursue mediation efforts within the Normandy format, as every bit of progress counts and we see no alternative solution for supporting the Minsk agreements. The ministerial meeting held in Munich on Saturday made it possible to agree on specific commitments aimed at fostering a rapid improvement in the situation on the ground. Those commitments include the implementation of an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the protection of critical infrastructure, the effective disengagement of the most sensitive areas, the exchange of prisoners and access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to detention facilities. It is essential that they be implemented as soon as possible, and we count on the unanimous support of the Council in that respect.
We remain convinced more than ever that the OSCE and its field missions have an essential role to play in ensuring the practical implementation of decisions taken at the political level. In that regard, it is crucial that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine be in a position to fully and freely carry out its mandate. We reiterate our call for the respect for the full freedom of movement of its observers, whose security must be guaranteed, and condemn in the strongest terms any violation of these principles — whether it takes the form of intimidation, threats, destruction of equipment or denied access to certain areas. The involvement of the OSCE in securing local elections in the Donbas will also be necessary, in ways that remain to be determined.
Finally, I reiterate my country’s commitment to defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. I note that France strongly condemns and does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.
Beyond Ukraine, the OSCE remains more than ever an essential instrument for the promotion of peace and security in Europe, amid diverse threats. The situation should encourage its 57 members to abandon political posturing and rediscover the spirit of Helsinki, which, more than 40 years ago, gave rise to a common vision of security in Europe.
In that context, we believe that the work of the OSCE should now focus on the following issues.
- First is the resolution of regional conflicts. Beyond the Ukrainian case, we cannot accept the persistence of frozen conflicts in various parts of the European continent, whether in Nagorno Karabakh, Transnistria or the separatist territories of Georgia. We are convinced that the role of the OSCE is central to each, together with the established mediation formats, in order to promote dialogue and restore confidence. Achieving tangible progress on each of those fronts is in the interest of the concerned countries, but also of the region as a whole. We are particularly attached to the outcome.
- Next is the revival of conventional arms control in Europe. There can be no strategic stability without a set of common rules to frame military competition. We are therefore in favour of continuing discussions on arms control, confidence-building, transparency and risk-reduction measures, initiated last year under the German chairmanship in the context of the OSCE’s structured dialogue.
- Maintaining the centrality of the democracy and human rights pillar in the work of the OSCE is equally important. While a multidimensional approach has always been at the heart of the functioning of the OSCE, we are concerned about the tendency of some member States to increasingly politicize or even refuse to address human dimension issues. Specifically, the introduction of a selective approach to combating discrimination is unacceptable.
- Last is the development of the operational role of the OSCE in response to certain emerging challenges. I am thinking of the fight against human trafficking, the prevention of radicalization, and climate change. The OSCE must work on each of those issues, which are priority security challenges for Europe, and respond with concrete measures that go beyond mere public posturing and statement of positions.
I shall conclude my remarks by recalling the strong convergences between the action of the OSCE and that of the United Nations, whether on the ground — where their respective missions continue their integrated action, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and Central Asia — or on principles, with a common approach linking security, development and human rights concerns.