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Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Volume 555: debated on Thursday 20 December 2012

On 6 December I travelled to Dublin to attend the 19th Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial council—the organisation’s key decision-making body, which marked the culmination of Ireland’s 2012 OSCE chairmanship-in-office (CiO). My right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe also attended.

A key outcome was agreement on a new initiative designed to inject a fresh dynamic into the OSCE as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in 2015. The “Helsinki +40” process tasks upcoming CiOs (Ukraine 2013, Switzerland 2014, Serbia 2015) to strengthen co-operation, enhance implementation of existing commitments and develop new approaches to realising a comprehensive “security community” well equipped to respond to the evolving threats to our collective security and prosperity. I spoke in support of the initiative urging all OSCE participating states to use this opportunity to develop a clear, reinvigorated vision of how the OSCE can best support security and stability across the region.

Through my plenary intervention I called on all states to implement sincerely and consistently their OSCE commitments, not least on human rights. I urged the OSCE to concentrate its efforts where it had most relevance and impact, in particular on election observation, media freedom, conflict resolution, violence against women, cyber-security, and conventional arms control and confidence and security-building measures.

The Irish CiO’s overriding objective was to agree a balanced package of decisions across the OSCE’s three dimensions: politico-military, economic and environmental and human. This was a pragmatic aim which this Government fully supported. Significant agreements were reached on a statement on the Transnistrian conflict, the first of its kind since 2002; development of a framework on counter-terrorism, as part of the OSCE’s work to address transnational threats; and a declaration on good governance, anti-corruption and transparency.

In the human dimension the UK supported adoption of decisions on media freedom, and racism and xenophobia; both key strands of the OSCE’s human rights work. It was disappointing that, in a repeat of the 2011 Vilnius ministerial council, no agreements were possible in this dimension; a clear indication of the divisions that persist within the OSCE on approaches to human rights issues. We are deeply concerned that a number of participating states appear to be falling short of their human rights commitments in the OSCE. The UK will work with the incoming Ukraine CiO to ensure that human rights, democracy and fundamental freedoms are at the forefront of the OSCE’s agenda through 2013.