Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement at a meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, December 3, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are grateful to Albania, as Chair-in-Office, for preparing the Ministerial Council meeting in conditions of force majeure. The coronavirus pandemic has become an additional factor of fragmentation and anxiety in international relations. At the same time, this global crisis has clearly shown once again the need to jointly work out consistent responses to common challenges and counter real rather than imaginary threats.
The stumbling block remains the reluctance of Western countries to give up confrontational block-based approaches and the arrogant attitude to the lawful interests of other states, which stems from the belief in their exceptionalism. The policy of replacing international law with some “rules-based order” is leading to the increasingly tough and dishonest game without rules and the abundance of disinformation and double standards. The fewer facts are used in the skilfully-orchestrated media campaigns, the more aggressive these campaigns become.
The difficulties with the appointment of the Secretary-General and heads of three OSCE institutions merely point to the organisation’s accumulated problems and imbalances. The OSCE’s reputation received a heavy blow due to the misguided refusal of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to monitor the presidential election in Belarus, subsequent one-sided criticism of the Belarusian authorities and the launch of the obsolete Moscow Mechanism. The ODIHR’s bias, its participation in campaigns against some countries and its impervious, cowardly silence about the situation in other countries discredits our organisation.
Obviously, the OSCE urgently needs to be reformed. The reform must be aimed at increasing the transparency and efficiency of its Secretariat, institutions and field missions, improving methods of monitoring elections, streamlining the activities and preparations of the Ministerial Council meetings, balancing our three baskets and upgrading the budget process. It is necessary to compile a new agenda, focusing on what unites rather than separates us, and to strive for compromises through an open and equitable dialogue. We suggest that Sweden, as the future Chair-in-Office, should establish an informal working group on enhancing the OSCE’s efficiency.
This is not an appeal to start from scratch. Building a community of equal and indivisible security in all dimensions remains our common goal. It is important to give a new lease on life to the package of OSCE interrelated commitments, which has taken shape over the past few decades. The organisation will not have a future if it is not required by its member states. The proposals of Russia and our allies on the OSCE’s reform have been well known for a long time. It is high time our Western colleagues stopped feigning the impression that changes are not necessary. Otherwise the future of the OSCE itself will come into question. It is losing fast its reputation and prestige in the eyes of its member states.
New OSCE officials must fully comprehend this situation and consider the alarming trends in their practical work. They must act without bias and in a responsible manner, to strengthen the fundamental rule and principle of consensus, rather that at the prompting of various states.
Amid the destruction of the strategic stability system and persisting NATO- Russia tensions, it is necessary to look for points of contact in the format of a “structured dialogue” with the involvement of military experts. For the time being, our constructive proposals to deescalate tensions and minimise the consequences of dismantling arms control have not received any sensible response.
The shockingly cruel acts of terror in France and Vienna confirm the need to increase the OSCE’s role in countering terrorism. The fight against the drug threat as well as organised and cyber crime requires more effort.
We note the good job done by Albania, as a Chair-in-Office, in the area of combatting corruption. It is necessary to pay more attention to the second basket in general, especially as regards economic interdependence and coordination of integration processes.
During the pandemic, social and economic rights of citizens and the implementation of the right to development are gaining special importance. It is necessary to adopt an unbiased approach to the human rights dimension. The position of Russian speakers in the Baltic republics and Ukraine remains a source of concern. The instruction made by the Ministerial Council meeting in Basel in 2014 on adopting declarations in defence of Christians and Muslims has not been carried out up to this day. The yellow vest protests in France, the exacerbation of religious strife, large-scale demonstrations in other European countries, and fierce racial clashes with dozens of victims in the United States confirm that urgent human rights problems must not be sought solely “to the East of Vienna.”
A number of member countries are becoming increasingly intolerant to alternative views that reflect what they consider unseemly truth. Not only traditional censorship but also the technical potentialities of social media and IT giants are being used against objectionable media resources and “dissidents.” We support the elaboration of OSCE commitments on public access to information. This principle was proclaimed in the early 1990s, but now our Western colleagues are trying to bury it in oblivion.
The OSCE’s potential in settling conflicts is still in demand. The reached agreements on settling crises in the OSCE space require more support from the member countries, which will facilitate their implementation.
We expect this to be done with respect to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, which we will continue promoting in every way. We value cooperation between the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group.
We hope that Kiev will finally stop subverting the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which are the only option for a Ukrainian domestic settlement, and that it will not dodge fulfilling the decisions of the Paris summit in the Normandy format and a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk.
The OSCE may return to its sources – the role of a pan-European backbone structure for discussing and adopting collective decisions on security in all of its dimensions. The key to this is in the hands of the member states, which must display their political will for compromise, as well as equitable and mutually respectful cooperation.
I would like to wish good health to everyone, and success to our Swedish colleagues during their future OSCE Chairmanship.