Deeper, longer, hopeless: Lavrov leads OSCE from crisis to collapse

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Source :

OSCE Ministerial meeting, ended on December 9 in Hamburg, was not a triumphal event. Instead, there its members for the first time publicly talked about the threat of collapse
21:36, 13 December 2016

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112 Agency

The German presidency of the OSCE aimed to revive the organization, which recently can't boast of efficiency. At least, the head of the German Foreign Ministry Frank-Walter Steinmeier, while being the current chairman of the organization a year ago hoped that the authority of Germany will make his political mission a success story.

And now we can say the opposite. OSCE Ministerial meeting, which ended on December 9 in Hamburg, Germany, was not a triumphal event. Instead, there its members for the first time were publicly talking about the threat of collapse.

Although most of the participants are trying to continue to talk about further collaboration in the framework of the OSCE, but Ministerial meeting results clearly demonstrate that the organization is paralyzed. And it is difficult to say on its effectiveness until the principle of consensus operates in OSCE, and one of the organization members is Russia.

Minister does not dance

The public part of the "ministeriales" – is a large-scale event, pompous, but almost always not too weighty. The ministers speak in turn, for three minutes each, sometimes they not even have time to express the main idea, what are the key issues of the OSCE.

The main thing is happening behind the scenes. First, exactly there a team of OSCE member states agrees on the texts of formal decisions of the ministerial meeting. Secondly, on the sidelines each minister conducts bilateral talks which quantity exceeds two dozen in two days.

And only a small part of these meetings is truly decisive. That was, in particular, the meeting of foreign ministers of Germany and Russia, which has become the first public event of the international forum.

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Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Sergei Lavrov met on Wednesday evening. Organizers called journalists to the protocol part of the meeting, but Russian minister was clearly not glad to see media attention. The meeting started without the usual diplomatic congratulations "for the cameras."

"We're not going to dance here" - said Russian Minister in English, interrupting the protocol shooting.

Later German diplomatic sources explained that the closed part of the dialogue of ministers was also not very friendly. Diplomats said about the "long and serious conversation" devoted mostly to Ukrainian, Syrian issues and decisions of the OSCE.

The next day after Lavrov’s public speech, it became clear how deep the disagreements between members of the organization are. The Russian minister accused other members of the OSCE in persecution of Russia and said he would not agree to negotiate on the conditions of the West.

"If you want to invite a partner in dialogue, then you shouldn’t start a dialogue with the charges against him and claims to lead the dialogue solely on your own conditions. Realize once and for all times – here could be only the equal dialogue" - appealed Russian minister to people around, speaking one of the first at the meeting.

Here Sergei Lavrov mentioned the possibility of the collapse of the OSCE if its members try to reform the organization. "We need to stop any attempt to move away from the principle of consensus, as they can bury the OSCE," - said the representative of the Russian Federation.

It is noteworthy that the official text of the Lavrov’s speech, published on the website of Foreign Ministry is missing most of his conflicting statements - it seems that Russian Minister has substantially rewrote his speech after the bilateral talks.

Genre of crisis

Lavrov’s indignation is understandable. Disclaimer of the consensus procedure means that Russia will lose the right to veto decisions of the organization. And the sources from the EP suggest that most decisions, including about Ukrainian issue, were blocked by just one vote "against", and it is - the voice of Russia.

That is why the OSCE really started talks about changing the voting principles. This was stated in particular in Pavlo Klimkin’s comments to "European truth. "We for a long time have been discussing the possibility of making decisions in the form of "consensus minus one". There is also the idea of "minus two ", but the basic version is minus one" - he explained.

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But we should not expect the collapse of the OSCE by the Russian scenario. Unfortunately or fortunately, this would not happen soon. Russia blocks all attempts to deprive it of the right of veto - as well as it is doing in the UN Security Council.

"Even from the standpoint of tactics it’s better for Russia to block a lot of things within the OSCE than agree with them. And it is not possible to change the principle of consensus without the consent of Russia" - recognizes Klimkin. And Russia could block quite well, we should admit.

OSCE Speaking Club

After the failed meeting in Hamburg remains the question: what is the nature and what is the need for an organization that is simply unable to make decisions.

"Let us remember the essence of the OSCE. There were the core principles, but Russia ruined them. Also, the OSCE was based on trust (in particular, the Helsinki principles). Russia also destroyed the trust.

The only thing we have left – these are so-called "dimensions" - economic, humanitarian and so on. Among them stands out the question of human rights. Without it, I do not see the organization at all. In particular, without the presence of the OSCE in the territory of occupied Crimea.

The absurdity of the situation is that the insignificance of OSCE existence in its present form is understood by all, but no one is able to change the situation.                                                  

The organization turns into speaking club, an analogue of the CIS, which makes sense only in facilitating bilateral negotiations of ministers during the high-level meetings.

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