• Date 08 July 2018
  • Location Berlin

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It is a great honour to welcome you all to Berlin. Here in Berlin, we can see the merits of the OSCE and its predecessor. The CSCE played an important role in the events in Europe that led to the fall of the Berlin wall. In November 1989, people from both parts of Berlin danced on the wall between this Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate.

Since then, Berlin has become one big city, and it has become difficult for visitors to figure out whether they are in the former Eastern or Western part. As much as the divided city of Berlin was a symbol of the Cold War, this reunified city has become a symbol of the most peaceful period in many parts of Europe, for many decades now.

That is why I am happy that this conference is taking place in Berlin, and in particular in this building, which itself has played a key role in modern German history. A fire deliberately started in the Reichstag in February 1933 was used by the Nazis as a pretext to suspend the constitution and strip the German parliament of its powers. We all know where this led.

Ladies and gentlemen,

this historic location should remind us of the values of democracy, peace and international cooperation – the values the OSCE stands for.

After the end of the Cold War, the OSCE “Charter of Paris for a new Europe” [1990] reflected the new hope for peace and security cooperation across the entire area encompassed by the OSCE. Never before had a region spanning 3 continents and 57 countries shared the same approach towards comprehensive security. This is an approach that goes far beyond the purely military aspects of security and also covers aspects like economic stability and individual security, grounded in democracy and human rights. Today, it also encompasses new trans-national challenges such as large migration flows and the fight against terrorism, organized crime, cyber attacks and violent extremism.

The OSCE has defined common principles and commitments that everyone has agreed to respect and abide by. Unfortunately, these days our rules-based system is being challenged on multiple fronts. Broken trust has strained relations among key stakeholders. This may result in rising tensions and increasingly hostile rhetoric. These dynamics of confrontation intensify the risk of conflict or a process of re-nationalisation. Scepticism about the merits of multilateralism and international co-operation is gaining a stronger foothold.

And ironically, this scepticism is particularly pronounced among people living in countries which have taken great benefits from multilateralism and co-operation in recent decades, in terms of both, security and economic growth. Many people perceive a loss of control over both their personal future and political developments. This sense of uncertainty leads some people to believe in parties and politicians who promise that confrontational and purely national politics are the solution to today’s challenges. But gambling for majorities by proposing seemingly easy solutions that have negative effects on others does not solve problems. Fear-mongering and the fuelling of prejudice divide our societies and alienate states and regions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We cannot allow this scepticism to prevail. We must keep striving to preserve regional security and stability. There is no viable alternative to co-operative and multilateral approaches as we all, even the bigger states, face challenges that cannot be solved by one state alone. Unfortunately, many persistent armed conflicts confirm this assessment.

We must do our utmost to prevent any further disintegration of the international order, in particular in the OSCE area. Standstill or no-action motions are not an option. Difficulties can never justify political inertia.

We must oppose unilateralist trends and uphold what we believe is a better solution: a pluralistic society based on democratic principles and the rule of law. The OSCE’s participating states have recognized these principles by way of commitment, and it is our duty as governments and parliaments to live these commitments by entering into open dialogue and by expressing a genuine willingness to co-operate.

I am convinced that comprehensive and co-operative security offers the best prospects for a safer future for us all. We have a set of accepted rules to lead this discussion, and this Annual Meeting of the Members of Parliament in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is certainly the right forum for such debate.

Ladies and gentlemen,

What are the key issues that need to be discussed?

Above all, in the politico-military dimension, we have to make full use of the Structured Dialogue of the OSCE, established by consensus at the Hamburg Ministerial Council in 2016. This forum has become an essential element of the OSCE. We must take this opportunity to address pertinent questions. And we need a new start for Conventional Arms Control and confidence and security-building measures in the OSCE area.

You can play a very important role by lending your support to the Structured Dialogue and asking your governments to strive for tangible results in this common endeavour. In order to safeguard cooperative security for Europe.

The OSCE not only provides an indispensable platform for dialogue, it also plays an important role in implementing security policies on the ground. Germany works particularly closely with the OSCE in strengthening the control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in South Eastern Europe and along the EU border with Ukraine.

Another good example of concrete actions taken by the OSCE is its work to fight terrorism and violent extremism. Germany has been one of the major donors to these projects. The challenge here is to act efficiently while at the same time safeguarding human rights and the rule of law.

Equally concrete is the work we have launched during Germany’s chairmanship in the economic and environmental dimension under the heading “connectivity”. Trade facilitation and trans-regional transport links together with secure and sustainable energy supplies and energy efficiency, are a key basis for growth and stability in our countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In certain parts of the OSCE area, we have witnessed attempts to redraw internationally recognized borders by force. Also, protracted conflicts have endangered the security of certain regions and their inhabitants. In many regions, OSCE countries are working to build peace and resolve conflicts. It is important that all the countries involved take responsibility for the region. The OSCE can exploit its full de-conflicting potential and thus pave the way for economic development only if all sides demonstrate the political will to resolve the conflict. 

Maintaining a protracted conflict may promise to bring easy strategic gains in the short-term, but from a long-term perspective, this is a lose-lose situation – instability is contagious, and no country should expect to be immune. And everyone involved needs to be aware that the resources spent on maintaining a conflict cannot be invested in more important things such as education, economic prosperity and development.

Once again, the Parliamentary Assembly is gathering against the backdrop of a serious security crisis in Europe caused by Russia’s illegal and unrecognized annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Another great obstacle to restoring trust is the crisis in and around Ukraine. After more than four years of fighting, military logic still prevails. The welfare of the people in the conflict zone appears to have dropped out of the equation. Germany is working with France, Russia and Ukraine in the Normandy Format to achieve progress on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Both sides must abide by the commitments they have subscribed to.

Wherever common ground is not in sight, the first step toward pragmatic co-operation is dialogue. The OSCE’s history is the best example of how to set up a dialogue across ideological differences. Berlin and the Reichstag building remind us of its success.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is a key forum for dialogue and constructive debate. For this reason, I am confident that your Annual Meeting will continue this tradition, and I wish you a fruitful and productive session. 

Thank you!