Vienna, 20 July 2005 Press release

Plassnik: "Making Determined Use of the Potential and Comparative Advantages of the OSCE"


Vienna, 20 July 2005 - Today, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik opened the anniversary event "30 Years of the Helsinki Process" at the House of Industry in Vienna. On this occasion she welcomed her opposite numbers from Poland and Slovenia, Adam Daniel Rotfeld and Dimitrij Rupel, the OSCE-Chairman-in-Office.

In her introductory statement the Foreign Minister emphasized that the celebration of this event in commemoration of the birth of the Helsinki Process 30 years ago was of special concern to her. By organising this event, Austria wanted to express her high appreciation of the OSCE and its achievements.

"As a host country, we are not paying lip service. For us Austrians 2005 is a year of multiple celebrations, a "year of commemoration": the 60th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Republic, the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty, 50 years of membership in the United Nations, 10 years membership in the EU. And, of course, 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", said the Foreign Minister.

"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", continued Plassnik.

Furthermore, Plassnik stated that in general a thirtieth birthday was accompanied by the wish to break new ground. "You have learnt to assert your self, you have also learnt to face and resist difficulties and not to be irritated by trivial matters. You know your worth. And: you have your whole future before you", said Plassnik.

"The Chairman-in-Office, the Slovenian Foreign Minister 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", continued Plassnik.

Plassnik described the conclusions submitted by the Panel of Eminent Persons a month ago as very clear and added that the right questions had been asked. "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 often proved its responsiveness and ability to adapt, as exemplified by its work in the Balkans, in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan", continued the Foreign Minister.

Plassnik called upon the political will of all Participating States to make determined use of the OSCE and its potential. "The mobilisation of this political energy is what is at stake today"", said the Foreign Minister.

Moreover, Plassnik referred to the comparative advantages of the OSCE: "Inclusivity is still foremost: The OSCE brings Europe together around a common table with its most important partners in a community of values stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok", continued the Foreign Minister. "The OSCE is the only forum which offers the chance for equal dialogue both with the United States and Canada on the one hand and Russia on the other", she added.

The OSCE had clear common values. The field missions were an essential tool for the practical implementation of those common values. The OSCE had unique expertise recognized worldwide, particularly in the development of legal certainty. Its rich fund of experience in the field of human rights and democratisation was indispensable. Moreover, there was no other organisation which was dealing with the security concerns and the democratic development in the Caucasian region and Central Asia in a similarly comprehensive manner.

"Today we all share a comprehensive concept of security, a concept which also underlies the Report on UN Reform by Secretary-General Kofi Annan", said Plassnik, calling upon the participants "to use synergies that exist between the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU and the OSCE."

"Those who want to be strong tomorrow above all have to be capable of real partnership", continued Plassnik and added that "in future the OSCE should not hesitate to share its expertise with others".

There was no reason for self-doubt, concluded the Foreign Minister, and thanked all employees of the OSCE for their commitment and professionalism.

Further guests of honour and participants in the panel discussion included Vladimir Chizov, the Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wilhelm Hoynck, the former German Secretary General of the OSCE, Christian Strohal, the Austrian Director of ODIHR, and Richard S. Williamson, US member of the Panel of Eminent Persons for the Reform of the OSCE. The discussion was chaired by Jiri Grusa, former Czech ambassador to Vienna and current Director of the Diplomatic Academy.

Plassnik expressed her thanks to the hosts and sponsors, in particular the Association of Industrialists and the foundation "Die Erste Stiftung".