What's In Blue

Posted Mon 23 Feb 2015

Briefing by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office

Tomorrow morning (23 February), Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dačić will brief the Council in his capacity as Chairperson-in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE briefing is held annually usually soon after the new OSCE chairperson assumes office. (In 2012, Switzerland and Serbia decided to jointly run for the chairmanship of the OSCE (2014 and 2015) in an effort to foster long term planning for the organisation. This was the first time two countries had presented a combined bid for the chairmanship of the organisation. )

At the briefing, Dačić will likely update the Council on recent OSCE activities and present the main objectives for the Serbian chairmanship, which included addressing crises and conflicts in the OSCE region; advancing regional co-operation with a special focus on Western Balkans; stepping up work on youth and security; and promoting water governance.

The last time the Council was briefed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office was on 24 February 2014 (S/PV.7117). It was at this meeting that the situation in Ukraine was first brought to the attention of the Council. Soon after, on 28 February, the Council held its first meeting on developments in Ukraine. Almost a year later the situation in Ukraine has been discussed by the Council some 30 times and the crisis in Ukraine is one of the main priorities of the OSCE in 2015. On 15 January, in his address to the OSCE Permanent Council upon assuming the chairmanship,Dačić stated that the Serbian chairmanship will “invest all of its efforts in strengthening the role of the OSCE in Ukraine”.

In briefing the Council on Ukraine, Dačić is likely to reiterate the crucial importance of achieving a sustainable ceasefire and cessation of hostilities that will enable the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to carry on its mandate under the Minsk agreements. (According to the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Accords” signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on 12 February in Minsk, the OSCE SMM is mandated to monitor and verify the ceasefire as well the withdrawal of heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine.) The Council will likely be interested to hear more about the latest activities of the SMM as well as get an update on the ceasefire and heavy weapons withdrawal. Some members may also be interested in hearing if the OSCE has been given adequate access to carry out its monitoring role.

This particular issue was raised on 17 February when Council members issued a press statement (SC/11784) expressing grave concern over fighting in Debaltseve and calling on all parties to abide by the commitments agreed in Minsk, “including facilitating access for the OSCE SMM to monitor and verify compliance with the Minsk agreements”.

The OSCE is also part of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, which in addition to the OSCE, includes the representatives of Russia and Ukraine. Members may be looking for more information about the expected role of the Trilateral Contact Group in the implementation of provisions of the Minsk agreements especially in relation to local elections planned for the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

At the briefing, Dačić is likely to also devote attention to the issue of fostering regional cooperation with a special focus on Western Balkans. The OSCE has been playing a significant role in the post-conflict transition process, reconciliation and range of reforms in the region. On several occasions Dačić has emphasised added value that Serbia’s chairmanship can bring to the OSCE in “terms of translating the lessons learned from the region’s experience.” With regard to the reconciliation efforts Dačić might also emphasise the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and progress made by the region since the end of hostilities in the 1990’s.

Regional issues that are not on the Council’s agenda but are likely to be covered by the briefing include mediation efforts in frozen conflicts in the Southern Caucasus. The crisis in Ukraine has provided a new context to these frozen conflicts. Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh intensified in 2015 resulting in military casualties on both sides. On 27 January, Dačić voiced his concern over the increase of violence on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and called for both sides to take measures that would lead to de-escalation of the situation. Council members might also be interested to hear more about the OSCE mediation efforts in Transdniestria and Georgia.

The Serbian chairmanship will also likely focus on other global challenges such as terrorism and the issue of returning fighters and radicalisation of the youth. These issues will be of particular interest to the Council considering the attention it has paid recently to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and the rise of terrorist groups in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Dačić may also cover other issues such as promotion of human rights, management of natural disasters, arms control and increasing political partition of the youth.

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