30 Years of the Helsinki Process
30 Years of the Helsinki Process
The Contribution of the OSCE in a Changing World
Welcome Address by FM Dr. Ursula Plassnik
House of Industry
Vienna, 20 July 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to cordially welcome you to the House of Industry on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. First, I would like to thank the sponsors of this event, the Association of Industrialists on the one hand and the Foundation "Die Erste Stiftung" on the other. Both are represented by two former colleagues, Ambassador Fritz HOESS and Ambassador Franz CESKA - my "instructor" in the CSCE and co-instigator of today’s event.
I am particularly pleased to introduce two guests of honour and the leader of today’s panel discussion:
Dimitrij RUPEL: Foreign Minister of Slovenia, valued neighbour, EU partner, diplomat, university professor, former member of Parliament and Lord Mayor, and as of 2005 as Chairman-in-Office the "political head" of the OSCE.
Daniel ROTFELD: Foreign Minister of Poland, distinguished academic specialising in questions of security, Head of the Stockholm SIPRI for many years, profound expert on the CSCE and the UN and my companion in the days of the Madrid Follow-up Meeting.
Jiri GRUSA: Poet, Head of the Vienna Diplomatic Academy who supports and motivates his students; in short, a man who brings together people of all nations. The history of his life is probably best reflected in the organisation whose anniversary we are celebrating today. Born in 1938 in the Republic of Czechoslovakia, philosophical studies in Prague, at the time of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act ban on his work as an editor and writer. Arrested in 1978 because he was a co-signer of Charta 77 and deprived of his citizenship during a stay in Germany. After 1990 Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Germany, then to Austria; Minister of Education, President of the International PEN Club.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
in retrospect, one’s thirtieth birthday is usually a sort of "favourite birthday". As a rule, the crises of puberty lie well behind you, you are experienced if not successful. You are in full possession of your mental powers and physical strength - you have a zest for life, you are well networked and in harmony with yourself and the world. You have learnt to assert yourself, you have also learnt to face and resist difficulties and not to be irritated by trivial matters. You know your worth. And: you still have your whole future before you. You wish to break new ground.
Organising a small and - with your cooperation - special "birthday party" for the OSCE was a matter very close to my heart. The purpose is not to pay tribute to historic achievements - specialists such as leading politicians of the past decades have written excellent books on this.
We have rather gathered here because Austria values the OSCE and its work highly. As a host country, we are not paying lip service. For us Austrians, 2005 marks a year of commemoration and of multiple celebrations: the 60th anniversary of the reestablishment of Austria, the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty, 50 years of membership in the United Nations, 10 years of membership in the EU. And, to top it all, the first anniversary of last year’s historic enlargement of the EU.
We are proud of this history, our European history - but we are also aware of the dark and terrible chapters in this history. We know all about dangers, separations, the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and chances missed and taken.
We have witnessed at first hand the truly incredible transformation of Europe in the past decades. Without the Helsinki Process and the European policy of détente these achievements would simply not have been possible. Yes - in 1955, the very "birth certificate" of our full national sovereignty, i.e. the Austrian State Treaty, was a first bright signal that it had again become possible to achieve lasting results at the negotiating table. That a window of historic significance may be opened successfully to the whole world in a determined manner.
Ultimately, this "détente" has been much more long-lasting than those who witnessed the beginning of this development imagined, and in many cases indeed dreamed it could be.
At the end of the path taken in 1975 - as we now realize - there stood and still stands "Europe whole and free".
However, if we are honest we have to concede that especially at a stage when the OSCE has successfully realized many of its original goals, its existence is being called into question more strongly than in the three decades of its history to date.
The current Chairman-in-Office, Dimitrij RUPEL, was courageous and far-sighted in his decision to set up a "Panel of Eminent Persons", which was to submit proposals on how to strengthen and increase the effectiveness of the OSCE. Incidentally, we are honoured to welcome two members of this Panel of Eminent Persons on this podium today.
At the very beginning of its report, the Panel of Eminent Persons very clearly put its finger on the sore spot by asking the following questions:
Is the OSCE still building a "common, free Europe" or are new rifts emerging? Is the OSCE about to lose its significance? Does it apply "different standards"? Is there an imbalance between its individual dimensions and does it pay excessive attention to the Participating States located "east of Vienna" (the usual OSCE terminology for this group of states)? Does a real political will exist to make use of the OSCE in order solve the security problems of the region?
Undoubtedly, the question of internal reforms is essential. But I also have confidence in the "self-purification capacity" of the OSCE as an active, intelligent organisation which has proved its responsiveness and ability to adapt in many cases - as exemplified by its work in the Balkans, in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. But all the necessary technical and organisational reforms cannot replace the political will of all Participating States to use this organisation and its potential. The mobilisation of this political energy is what is at stake today.
Let us first recall the unique combination of concrete comparative advantages offered by the OSCE.
What are they?
- The strongest "trump card" of the OSCE remains its inclusivity: It brings Europe together around a common table with its most important partners in a community of values stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
- There is no other comparable forum which offers Europe the chance for equal dialogue - based on common values - with the United States, Canada and Russia.
- The OSCE has clear common values - the obligations agreed upon since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act.
- Based on a comprehensive security concept, the OSCE has the necessary "adhesion" for the practical implementation of these values, e.g. through its field missions, its institutions, but also through its active and effective parliamentarian component.
- Furthermore, the OSCE has unique expertise that is recognised throughout the world and enormous experience in building and strengthening democratic structures and the rule of law. I am convinced that rule of law is one of the products that is most in demand today: without "rule of law" there is no sustainable economic development, no social stability, no reliable future perspective for the people who, after all, are the driving force behind all positive developments.
- The OSCE’s rich fund of experience in its work for human rights and democratisation is indispensable for the community of nations.
- Moreover, there is no other organisation which is dealing with the security concerns and the democratic development in the countries of the Caucasian Region and Central Asia in a similarly comprehensive manner.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
today we all share a comprehensive concept of security, a concept which in its global dimension also underlies the Report on UN Reform: In Larger Freedom by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Therefore, we should be more courageous and use the synergies that exist or are coming into existence between the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU and the OSCE. I am making this statement deliberately as Foreign Minister of a medium-sized neutral country which belongs to all 4 organisations and which houses two of them as a host country.
Our citizens demand concrete tangible results - we have to meet this requirement by a clever combination of our experience and our expertise. The latter have to be used in a flexible manner - for effective conflict prevention and early warning systems, for the different stages of crisis management, but also for the lengthy and difficult processes of institution building and modernisation.
As for the competition between international actors which is sometimes mentioned: Neither the EU nor other organisations or individual states can give an answer to the many open questions in those Participating States of the OSCE which are currently undergoing a transformation process. So let’s use the institutional experience of the OSCE and the commitment of its employees!
Those who want to be strong tomorrow above all have to be capable of genuine partnership. Only those who are ready to be a partner themselves will enjoy credibility and enlist others as partners. Partnership also means that nobody - whether small or big - feels marginalized, that each partner considers the legitimate interests and needs of the other in an open-minded and constructive way. Effective multilateralism will only work if groups do not isolate themselves, but remain open and accessible. Moreover, I am of the opinion that we should examine the considerations of some Participating States concerning the further development of the "economic and environmental dimension" of the OSCE in an open-minded manner.
In future, the OSCE should also be prepared to share its expertise with others who are interested in it. Naturally, not everything can be taken over one hundred percent, but on the other hand not every wheel needs to be reinvented at a global level! Especially in the Middle East and with our Mediterranean partners, the experience of the OSCE could prove helpful in the field of confidence building procedures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
30 Years after the signing of the Helsinki Final Act we have no reason for self-doubt. My conviction that the Helsinki Process has an exciting and promising future is also based on my knowledge of how much commitment, professionalism and talent is available in the OSCE. For this I should like to express my cordial thanks to all those present, but also to all the helping hands in the background and to the employees active in the field missions!
But I am also expressing this conviction as a representative
- of a country in the heart of a changing continent
- of a country which for this reason is extremely well informed about the value of freedom, security, neighbourliness and regional cooperation
- of a country which is even more interested in a good lasting transatlantic partnership and in trustful relations with the Russian Federation.
Therefore - Happy Birthday, OSCE!