OSCE Ministerial Council 2018 in Milan

soreidemilanesi - Photo:OSCE/Marco Piraccini
Norwegian FM Eriksen Søreide greeting the Italian FM Moavero Milanesi, Chairperson of the OSCE in 2018. Photo: OSCE/Marco Piraccini.

- The OSCE is an important arena for discussing security politics and conflict prevention. In a polarised world, OSCE’s efforts to advance security, cooperation and democracy are of increasing importance, says Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Earlier this month, the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council took place on December 6th and 7th in Milan, Italy. As the central decision-making body of the OSCE, delegations from all participating States have long been preparing for the organisation’s most important meeting of the year.

During their time in Milan, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 57 participating States met to take stock of the security situation in the OSCE area and of the organisation’s activities as a whole. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, called on participating States to take the OSCE back to its roots, as an arena for political, state-driven, and non-technical discussions on comprehensive security.

- In my statement, I emphasised the importance of having a rules-based international order and upholding fundamental human rights. I also underlined how women’s full participation is crucial for security and conflict prevention in the OSCE region, stated Eriksen Søreide.

The Ministerial Council continues to be an increasingly important multilateral meeting place for discussions on security issues. It serves as one of the few fora where several global powers, including the United States and the Russian Federation, meet on equal footing to discuss security matters of regional and global importance. The OSCE creates opportunities for constructive dialogue across continents, despite the substantial distance between the parties’ positions on several issues.

The dialogue has in large part circled around the current situation in and around Ukraine, particularly after the recent so-called “elections” in certain areas of Eastern Ukraine, and conflict escalation near the Kerch Strait and in the Sea of Azov. This conflict makes the role of the OSCE more relevant than ever, particularly due to the work of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; the only observer presence acceptable to all parties of the conflict.

- We are concerned with the situation in Ukraine and in the Azov Sea. Russia’s use of force against Ukrainian vessels is unacceptable. During the conference and in bilateral meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister, I repeated Norway’s call on Russia to release the crew and return the vessel to Ukraine. It is now important that both parties contribute to reduce the tension in the area, the Minister explained.

Other important issues were also on the agenda of the meeting, such as a number of protracted conflicts in the OSCE region, the fight against terrorism, digitalization in a security context, and safeguarding of fundamental rights.