Expert meeting - European Security Dialogue: Opening Words by H.E. Michael Spindelegger
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking the Greek OSCE Chair-in-Office, Minister Dora Bakoyannis, as well as the previous Finnish Chair, Minister Alexander Stubb, and their able teams, for their efforts to initiate a European Security Dialogue.
Since its inception, the OSCE has offered a well-functioning and ever evolving platform not only for dialogue, but also for the development of mechanisms for confidence and security building.
Austria deeply appreciates the historic achievements of the OSCE. Over the past decades, Europe has undergone far-reaching transformations. The Helsinki process played a crucial role in these developments. With patience and determination, it was possible to overcome the tragic division of our continent.
Let us take a look back: In May 1989, Hungary started to dismantle the barriers along the border between Austria and Hungary. In June 1989, Foreign Minister Alois Mock met with Minister Gyula Horn to symbolically cut through the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe. Just a few months later, the Berlin wall came down. Divisions that had been regarded as insurmountable for decades vanished overnight. After decades of Cold War and arms race, a new chapter opened in European history. The fall of the Iron Curtain provided new perspectives for the political, economic and cultural development of our continent.
These days we celebrate this historic change with events in Austria and also in Hungary. On 28 and 29 May, my Ministry will host an international conference on the theme “Divided | United. 1989 to 2009: Launching a new Europe” here in Vienna.
And yet: Twenty years later, unresolved conflicts in the OSCE area continue to cause human suffering and remain a threat to security and stability.
The fact that some countries have expressed the wish to further develop the existing security architecture in Europe has to be taken seriously. History tells us that we should not shy away from a frank and open debate on new suggestions. In doing so, we have to depart from a solid basis. Our dialogue must therefore encompass a careful analysis of existing security commitments and their implementation.
The most important factors for strengthening European security are confidence and the political will to work together. Therefore, any broad European security dialogue should first of all aim at improving mutual confidence by using and possibly enhancing the mechanisms and institutions already in our hands.
Dialogue is always a necessary prerequisite for establishing a higher level of confidence and security. Dialogue should, however, not be conducted for its own sake, but should allow us
- to achieve real progress in the protracted conflicts: In this context, the question of a continued presence of the OSCE in Georgia is particularly urgent
- to revitalize arms control and the regime of confidence and security-building measures, and
- to help us better understand the common security challenges we all face such as climate change, economic crises, international terrorism and organized crime or energy security.
Answers to all these challenges have to be worked out by using different international instruments – one very important toolbox in this respect is the OSCE. Among the trademarks of the OSCE – as relevant today as in the past – are its inclusive membership, its transatlantic scope, and its set of principles, commitments and mechanisms based on the cross-dimensional approach to cooperative and comprehensive security. Democracy, rule of law, human rights and the independence of the media all continue to be of paramount importance and also need to be addressed in the current security debate.
Only ten days ago, OSCE Ambassadors had a useful Retreat in Stegersbach dedicated to this very topic. I hear that the views expressed there were remarkably close: a readiness to listen to each other, the will to use the OSCE as a negotiating forum and a clearing house, and the determination to address the challenges in all three dimensions of the OSCE: the political-military, the economy and environment and the human dimension.
In concluding, I would like to express my gratitude to the entire OSCE community and to your colleagues in the other Vienna-based International Organisations. Thanks to your commitment and hard work Vienna makes an ever more active contribution as a platform for dialogue, peace and security.
We will continue to do our utmost in supporting you in these efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish you all an interesting and fruitful discussion. It is my hope that today's gathering will point the way forward on our road to a Europe whole and free.