Vienna, 21 July 2005 - Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council today, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik quoted Bruno Kreisky, who on the occasion of the signature of the Helsinki Final Act on 1 August 1975 had said: "For all the scope and significance this Act may have, much will depend on the extent to which we are able to translate it into reality".
"This quotation by the then Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, who signed the Helsinki Final Act on behalf of Austria, has been and will continue to be the OSCE’s true calling", said Plassnik.
"In its entirety the Helsinki Process has certainly been one of the most noteworthy political and diplomatic success stories of the second half of the last century. But the work has by no means been concluded. We have no reason for complacency, nor for excessive self-doubt", the Foreign Minister stated.
"Being able to live in a free and reunited Europe, without Wall and Iron Curtain, is certainly not something that I and my fellow countrymen take for granted. For me personally, it is also the root of our responsibility to continue working daily to further the European peace project - among other things by contributing in concrete terms to the promotion of peace, stability and reconciliation on the Balkans. That is why the latter will be a focal point of work of the Austrian EU Presidency," said the Foreign Minister.
Plassnik emphasised that for all the debate about the question of who ultimately benefits from the work of the OSCE, the organisation actually made concrete and practical policies for people. "Thus in the 1980s - albeit with some difficulty - we reached agreement in the ‘Third Basket’ on issues such as family reunification, working conditions for journalists and maximum processing periods for departure permit applications", the Foreign Minister said.
Part of the significance of the OSCE was also due to a unique combination of comparative advantages, as Plassnik pointed out, citing as examples the clear common catalogue of values and the comprehensive definition of security and describing the OSCE as a unique platform for equal dialogue between the European states and the US, Canada and Russia. Moreover, Plassnik emphasised the OSCE’s important role in coping with complex conflicts such as the Trans-Nistria or Nagorny Karabakh problems and its international standing as an election monitoring agency. "Expert knowledge, experience, and professionalism in building and strengthening democratic structures governed by the rule of law play a particularly valuable role," said the Foreign Minister.
Referring to the terror attacks of the past few weeks Plassnik said: "The certainty of being able to live without fear is an issue of central importance for the quality of life of our citizens and the basis for a life lived in dignity and freedom. Every society and every state, and likewise every regional and global organisation, must contribute towards this goal".
Plassnik underlined that the OSCE’s potential in the field of promoting security was far from exhausted, saying: "One aspect of this is naturally a continued focus on arms control and disarmament management, in particular programmes for the destruction of weapons stocks in some member states or the reduction of inventories of small arms and light weapons."
The OSCE, as Plassnik pointed out, is currently opening up to further issues. As an example of this she cited the fight against terrorism, an issue that simultaneously involves upholding what has already been achieved in terms of the rule of law and the protection of human rights; the Foreign Minister explicitly emphasised the OSCE’s important role in building structures to safeguard the rule of law. "Without the rule of law, there can be no sustainable economic development, no social stability, no reliable perspective for the future for the people living in a country", Plassnik said.
The Foreign Minister went on to stress that Austria supported many of the recommendations of the Panel of Eminent Persons convened by OSCE Chairman-in-Office Dimitrij Rupel. From this list Plassnik explicitly mentioned the need to re-invigorate the role of the Secretary General and the field missions, the issue of giving the organisation a legal personality, its continued role as a mediator in unresolved conflicts within the OSCE area and the expansion of OSCE capacities for civilian crisis management. Austria, as the Foreign Minister emphasised, sets great store by the autonomy of the individual OSCE institutions.
"Like the rest of us, to remain effective the OSCE must keep itself in good shape and stay lean and flexible, free of incrustations and fat pads. We also have to be wary of the temptation to hide behind bureaucracy and over-regulation. Here in the 21st century we no longer have any need for corsets!", Plassnik said.
The Foreign Minister underlined that the OSCE's work had to be useful for the people. "More than one billion people in the OSCE region have a right to freedom and security, to democracy and human rights, to economic and social development. We are answerable to these people - they are the ones who should enjoy the benefits of the OSCE. It is for them that the goals of the Helsinki Final Act and the commitments entered into since must be put into practice", the Foreign Minister stated by way of conclusion, ending her speech with a quotation of Peace Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi: "The only real freedom is the freedom from fear."