OSCE 2013: Welcome Mongolia, and Ukraine: Attention, You Will be Watched

The OSCE is not the easiest organisation, but it has proven to follow a solid policy in the sense of the majority of its member states, i. e. pro Human Rights, democracy, freedom of press etc.

In this context it may be useful if it is pointed out that some weeks ago, the OSCE has a 57th member state – Mongolia. This signalizes a political choice of a country surrounded by states like China, Russia, Kazakhstan. So welcome, Mongolia, and it can be considered a choice of confidence. In my opinion, Mongolia will be a non-problematic member of the OSCE.

Another member state has taken over today the presidency of the 57: Ukraine. This country is more problematic. This has to do with its demands to herself, like joining sooner or later the European Union. Nothing against this at all; enlargement is always the most successful aspect of any EU foreign policy, and welcome to the Ukrainians! But a country close to the EU wanting to join the club is always under closer scrutiny than a country further away.

According to an OSCE press release from today’s 1st January 2013, the country „will seek to make progress on resolving
protracted conflicts, strengthening conventional arms control, combating human trafficking, reducing the environmental impact of energy-related activities, and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as OSCE Chair in 2013 the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, said…“. It is correct when the Minister underlined „his country’s role and experience as a co-mediator and guarantor in the Transdniestrian settlement process and
welcomed the momentum achieved in these talks over the past year. He stressed the need to continue to make progress in this and other protracted conflicts in the region.“ This is correct, and maybe the Ukrainian chairmanship can change something to the positive in Transdniestria, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. He should be wished all the best when he says; „We must re-energize negotiations within the existing formats and prevent any escalation in tensions. The resolution of protracted conflicts must remain the highest priority for the OSCE and all participating States”.

This sounds after all very well and is also realistic, together with some other accents on arms control and confidence-building measures, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office stated, as a way of strengthening security and military stability.

But there is another wish to Ukraine, too: Strengthening democracy at home, a correct handling of human rights, of elections (about which some weeks ago the OSCE election observers issued a devastating assessment), of the non-interference in the judiciary – and all this in an evident, uncomplicated, uncontested way. I have often heard the argument that some CIS countries, like Ukraine, cannot achieve within 20 years what other states – e.g. in Western Europe – have achieved since World War II (Germany), since 1789 (France) or since the 13th century (Great Britain with the habeas corpus act). Come on please, information today is global, education too, discussion too, and of course nobody would blame Ukraine for details in this field, but in general today we all live in an era with common goals, to which the preservation of power does not belong. So nobody in Ukraine lives still on the back of the moon.

The European Union Member States have just been witness of an OSCE chairmanship by Kazakhstan, not either the yolk of an egg. But it was good to go there and discuss openly, and perhaps it could contribute to an open-minded and free mass media there in the future (not during and right after te OSCE year of the country). As soon as Ukraine will have a system which is not anymore determined by corruption, by political trials, by full fundamental freedoms, then nobody in the EU will have anything against „the“ agreement EU-Ukraine. This must be taken into account by the Kiev government. The OSCE press release from today says „Emphasizing that protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and implementation of existing OSCE commitments in this area remain an important integral part of the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive security, Leonid
Kozhara said that Ukraine’s Chairmanship would promote fight against human trafficking, support media freedom and encourage meaningful steps in a number of human dimension issues.“ Great what he wants to achieve. But has he the freedom to do so by his own government, apart from human trafficking? There are a lot of doubts, and they are permitted. And if he wants to get rid of FEMEN, the fancy female movement which has brought a new, drastic, colourful demonstration culture to Ukraine (like „Pussy Riots“ to Russia) – then, Minister, it is very easy: Just change a couple of things within Ukraine, and then FEMEN will be obsolete. But at present they are necessary in your country.

Let’s wait until 17. January 2013. Then the Minister will present Ukraine’s priorities to the OSCE Permanent
Council in Vienna. Let’s wait if it will be an apparatchik’s speech, or something which can bring Ukraine closer to the European Union, as its citizens desire it (and please do not forget: The EU cannot be blackmailed with a possible approach to Russia!). What you say, Minister, may upgrade your country as valuable interface to Russia, why not!

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal