Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting
On December 5-6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the regular, 26th meeting of the Council of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the OSCE participating states (OSCE Ministerial Council) in Bratislava.
The Ministerial Council is second to the OSCE summit in the hierarchy of the organisation’s governing bodies and meets in those years when summits are not held. It reviews progress in the implementation of the decisions that have been made and defines the tasks for the medium term. The Ministerial Council also serves as a platform for political dialogue among the participating states. The decisions made by the OSCE are not legally binding, but they are political commitments.
Ministerial meetings, as a rule, are convened once a year in the country holding the Chairmanship. In 2019, it is held by Slovakia. In 2020, the Chairmanship will pass to Albania.
We are open to constructive work on all draft ministerial documents that have been proposed; there are more than 20. While reviewing and coordinating the wording of documents, our experts are guided by the requirements of Russian legislation, Russia’s international legal obligations and national interests.
Our practical contribution to the Ministerial Council is a substantial set of draft decisions concerning:
- the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II (agreed upon in the CSTO format, other countries are welcome to join),
- the 20th anniversary of the Charter for European Security and the Platform for Co-operative Security,
- strengthening the OSCE’s role in addressing the world drug problem (for all CSTO countries),
- responsible behaviour by the media in the interests of a society free of terrorism and extremism,
- strengthening the OSCE’s role in preventing and combating terrorism,
- unimpeded public access to information,
- freedom of peaceful assembly,
- enhancing efforts to protect the language and education rights of national minorities.
On the sidelines of the Ministerial Council in Bratislava, a packed programme of bilateral negotiations is planned between Sergey Lavrov and the foreign ministers of the OSCE participating states, partner countries, leaders of the OSCE and other international organisations. A traditional meeting of the CSTO countries’ foreign ministers is scheduled before the OSCE Ministerial Council.
Russia supports strengthening the OSCE’s role as a platform for equal dialogue and cooperation among the participating states, and seeks to increase its role in European and international affairs. It is our belief that the participating states still have the common strategic goal of implementing the mandate given at the organisation’s 2010 Astana summit to build a community of equal and indivisible security, and the current task of restoring trust.
In the OSCE’s military political dimension, we continue to participate in a Structured Dialogue on security challenges and risks (a process initiated by the OSCE Ministerial Council decision in Hamburg in December 2016 and launched at the beginning of 2017). We believe this process should focus on de-escalation of the military-political tension in the Euro-Atlantic. Contacts between the military in this format are particularly important. We oppose aggravating the Dialogue with political bias and diluting it with confrontational topics such as hybrid threats.
In the context of NATO’s continued policy of “containing” Russia, we see no reason to discuss a modernisation of the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence and security-building measures.
We are committed to enhancing the role of the OSCE in combating transnational threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime, migration and challenges in cyberspace. Russia is working on the OSCE project to train Afghan and Serbian drug police officers at the Interior Ministry’s training centres in Domodedovo, Voronezh and St Petersburg. In November and December of this year, we organised the first OCSE drug enforcement courses for Turkmen and Uzbek police officers at the Interior Ministry’s Siberian Law Institute in Krasnoyarsk. In the first half of 2020, we will organise OSCE-supported dog training courses at the Rostov Service Dogs Training School and ICT courses at Kikot Moscow University of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation for Uzbek personnel. Experts from the Russian Interior Ministry and the Border Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) are helping to train local personnel at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe.
We believe that the OSCE’s second basket (the economic and environmental dimension) has significant unification potential for strengthening the economic connectivity and aligning integration processes. The OSCE Platform for Co-operative Security, which was adopted in 1999 at the EU’s initiative, provides a solid basis for EAEU-EU interaction with a strategic view towards the creation of a Greater Eurasian Partnership.
To strengthen the integrity of the Euro-Atlantic humanitarian space, we should encourage the OSCE to address such unifying subjects as the protection of traditional values, socioeconomic and cultural rights, national minorities and children, as well as the fight against neo-Nazism and the falsification of history. We should give additional attention to the people’s language, education and religious rights, especially in light of the policies pursued by the authorities in Ukraine and the Baltics. It is unacceptable to try to enforce the neo-liberal approaches about which there is no consensus at the OSCE, in particular, to assign special rights to certain sections of population, such as LGBTI, human rights champions and bloggers.
In light of the plight of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, we demand that the recommendation of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, held in Basel in 2014, to elaborate separate ministerial declarations to protect Christians and Muslims be implemented without delay. We cannot understand the position of some countries that are hindering this.
We are alarmed by the attempts taken to “cleanse” the OSCE information space of dissenting views. Some countries are using the pretext of combating propaganda to introduce censorship and compile the so-called white and black lists of media outlets. We would like the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, to take note of this dangerous trend.
We support the OSCE’s efforts to facilitate the settlement of regional conflicts, primarily in eastern Ukraine. There is no alternative to the Minsk Package when it comes to the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine. We welcome the agreements reached between the sides at the Contact Group. We are working together with the OSCE to promote a direct dialogue between the conflicting parties – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.
We are monitoring the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM). We continue to assign Russian observers to it (there are currently 41 of them). We firmly believe that the OSCE reports must present a comprehensive and objective review of the developments in eastern Ukraine and in other Ukrainian regions. We look forward to the publication of the OSCE consolidated themed reports on civilian casualties and damages to civilian infrastructure in Donbass during the conflict.
The OSCE is providing considerable assistance to the settlement of the Transnistrian and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts and is a co-chair of the Geneva International Discussions on Security and Stability in the South Caucasus. We believe that any conflicts must be settled peacefully through political and diplomatic measures and within the framework of the accepted formats, as well as with the direct involvement of the parties in conflict and with due regard for their interests.
The OSCE should pay more attention to the Balkans, where the situation remains rather complicated. The OSCE missions and institutions must work in accordance with their mandates rather than try to promote the incorporation of Balkan states into Euro-Atlantic structures. It is unacceptable to invite Kosovo to attend OSCE events in the capacity of a state. Our firm position on Kosovo is based on the principles of international law set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Kosovo problem can only be settled peacefully through dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
We continue our efforts towards reforming the OSCE and rectifying the thematic and geographical imbalances in its work. We call for the drafting of an OSCE Charter, strengthening interstate foundations and the rules of consensus, adopting regulations on the operation of its institutions and missions, as well as restoring order in personnel and financial matters, primarily with regard to extra-budgetary projects. The optimisation of the OSCE’s activities in the human dimension is long overdue.
There is no doubt that the work of OSCE institutions, namely the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, must be depoliticised. Any attempts to formalise their “autonomy” are unacceptable. The OSCE institutions are executive bodies and hence they are not authorised to set their own priorities.