Switzerland is grateful to Austria for hosting us here in Vienna. It is an honour for me to address this council for the first time.
A strong OSCE has long been a priority of Swiss foreign policy. And it will remain so. The OSCE is our best chance to reduce tensions and increase trust in Europe again.
Insecurity in the OSCE area remains high, but so does the commitment of many participating States. Under the skilled Austrian Chairmanship, the OSCE managed to fill the position of the Secretary General and the heads of the three institutions. This provides new opportunities to move ahead in addressing the many challenges we face.
In the politico-military dimension, we have made progress in discussing essential European security questions. Our new “Structured Dialogue” holds great potential as it allows us to tackle strategic and technical issues in parallel. This includes the revitalisation of conventional arms control. We look forward to continuing this dialogue in 2018.
Switzerland is an open country that benefits from global trade. We know from our daily experience that economic contacts, trade and transport cooperation can sustain confidence and security. Empowering the OSCE in the field of economic connectivity will therefore remain a priority for us.
As for the OSCE’s human dimension, all participating States have signed up to human rights and democratic societies being integral components of European security. We must not lose sight of this. This is also why Switzerland values the work of the three autonomous institutions.
Resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine is an essential step towards re-establishing European security. The lack of progress in implementing the Minsk Agreements is deplorable. We urge the sides to draw back their weapons and to make room for peace. Switzerland will continue to support the OSCE in Ukraine and commends the work of the Trilateral Contact Group, the Special Monitoring Mission and the Border Observer Mission. As for the proposal of a peacekeeping operation, we welcome all efforts that promote peace and protect the civilian population in the conflict zone. Should this operation come into being, we suggest that the OSCE be included early on.
In the meantime, we must make sure that the assistance to the Ukrainian people does not decline. Switzerland will increase its humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine and will continue to help people on both sides of the Contact Line.
We also support the efforts of the OSCE towards a peaceful solution of the conflicts in Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh. And we welcome the latest progress in the Transdniestrian settlement talks in Vienna.
That being said, let us focus on more preventive diplomacy rather than just fixing crises. We can do so by providing the OSCE Secretariat with better access to funding, expertise for fact-finding missions as well as an increased capacity for mediation support.
In light of the continuing challenges posed by large-scale movements of migrants across and beyond the OSCE area, let me also say that Switzerland considers the OSCE well placed to address this issue under the incoming chair.
I conclude by expressing our gratitude to Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Secretary-General Thomas Greminger and all the OSCE staff, and by extending Switzerland’s good wishes to Italy as it takes the chair.