I represented the United Kingdom at the 22nd Ministerial Council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), held in Belgrade, Serbia on 3 and 4 December 2015 and hosted by Serbian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ivica Dacic. The Council is the top decision-making body of the OSCE and was attended by Ministers from across its 57 participating states.
The Council took place in the final month of a year when the OSCE has continued to be at the centre of the international response to the Ukraine crisis. In my intervention in plenary on 3 December, I expressed deep concern at the ongoing situation in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and repeated our strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. I underlined the Russian Federation’s responsibility for the present situation and stressed that Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea would not be recognised. I called on Russia to implement its commitments under the Minsk protocols, by withdrawing military personnel, equipment and weapons and using its influence with the separatist leadership. I commended the work of the OSCE’s special monitoring mission in the face of considerable challenges to its security and emphasised the need for it to have free and unimpeded access to all areas of Ukraine.
While this subject dominated the Council, a number of other important issues were discussed. In my intervention, I also noted the importance of updating political-military confidence and security building measures, including the Vienna document and the need to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, which remain under challenge in a number of OSCE states.
I agreed the need to address other pressing issues, particularly terrorism and migration, while focusing on areas where the OSCE has a distinct role to play and can add value in co-ordination with other international actors.
Grave concern about Ukraine was expressed in plenary by many participating states including by US Secretary of State Kerry, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin and EU High Representative Mogherini among others. Deep divisions meant that even a limited declaration on the OSCE’s role in, and support to, Ukraine could not be agreed despite the vast majority of OSCE states’ desire to do so.
While negotiations before and during the Ministerial Council made progress in a number of areas, divergent approaches limited the scope to reach consensus on a number of proposed declarations. Decisions or declarations were however reached on terrorism, on countering violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism, on drugs and youth and security, as well as a statement on the negotiations in the Transnistrian settlement process. It was disappointing that despite the best efforts of the UK and other states, attempts to make progress on confidence and security-building measures in the OSCE region failed primarily due to further Russian obstructionism.
I and others expressed our strong support for the work of the OSCE’s autonomous institutions and I met Michael Link, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Dunja Mijatovic, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, during my visit.
In parallel, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Panel of Eminent Persons, launched under the 2014 Swiss Chairmanship, presented their final report on “European Security as a Common Project” at a side-event during the Ministerial Council.
A copy of the UK intervention can be found online on the gov.uk website: