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Minister Alfano’s address to the OSCE Permanent Council

(Check against delivery)

Mister Secretary General,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Permanent Representatives,

I am very pleased to address the OSCE Permanent Council today to present the programme of the Italian Chairmanship in 2018.

I wish to convey my gratitude to the Austrian Chairmanship – Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and my colleague Karin Kneissl –  for the excellent work performed during the year that has now come to a close.

We are glad to pick up the baton from our Austrian friends and follow along with the same commitment, strong determination, aware of the responsibilities and challenges ahead.

Moreover, we are sure we can rely on the support of all Participating States and Partner Countries to further expand, together, the horizons of co-operation, with mutual confidence and an increasingly intense and profound dialogue.

 “Dialogue, Ownership, Responsibility” is the motto we have chosen for our Chairmanship, as we believe that these are the fundamental ingredients to relaunch the spirit of Helsinki in its most authentic connotation – that spirit which Aldo Moro, Italy’s Prime Minister at the time, defined as “a passage to the future”.

Today, as we unhesitantly come to terms with reality, we can see that our major challenge consists in seeking a solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Reciprocal provocations between the two countries have generated a climate which is likely to compromise the confidence building  measures adopted by the Parties to date. A negative sign in this sense is the freezing of activities of the  Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC), while a positive exception is the exchange of prisoners on 27 December, that we consider to be a significant humanitarian action. We of course hope it will contribute to facilitating a trend reversal, encouraging further steps towards the full enforcement of the Minsk Agreements.

As we have always done in the past, we will commit all our energy to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. The work accomplished, often under extremely difficult security conditions, is critical to avoiding a new and dangerous escalation of the crisis. Thus, we believe that the first thing to do is guarantee the safety of observers, as they should be assured adequate conditions in which to carry out their mandates and functions with the least possible risk. We would therefore like to foster a further reflection within the OSCE on avoiding risks as well as on how to increase the Parties’ political will to support the Mission.

Some maintain the OSCE’s fate is linked to that of its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. Perhaps this is deliberately over-emphasised, but the Mission’s role is definitely a fundamental test bench for the credibility of our Organisation.

Furthermore, we are convinced that it is of utmost importance to intensify negotiations within the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group. As for the latter, it is critical to resume discussions on humanitarian issues, favouring access to areas of conflict by  humanitarian organisations and NGOs committed in providing assistance activities.

It is my intention  to go on a mission to Ukraine and the Russian Federation from January 30 to February 1st. Hence, I consider today’s debate useful to the preparare this mission and thank you in advance for any remark you will want to make.

Looking beyond the crisis in Ukraine, our attention will always be alert and unaltered with regards to all the major prolonged conflicts.

Transnistria saw the end of 2017 from an encouraging and positive perspective as some significant agreements were accomplished, such as the reopening –after many long years- of the bridge on Nistro River. These developments seem to prove that this could be the right time for the resolution of the crisis. I wish to commend all the Parties involved and the actors of the “5+2” format, while I wish to assure you that Italy will follow along this path in order to try to make more strides forward.

With regards to Georgia, we will support the Geneva international talks and are ready to promote dialogue whenever possible also via informal initiatives. We will support the work accomplished on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue by the Co-Chairs of the Group of Minsk towards a final and shared solution of the conflict.

At the same time, we wish to bring to the surface the many challenges coming from the Mediterranean. This would mean giving new life to an intuition which our founding fathers had when, in the Helsinki Final Act, they acknowledged  the indivisibility of Euro-Mediterranean security and the fact that the Mediterranean dimension was complementary and not alternative to Euro-Asian security. The one strengthens the other. On a planisphere, the Mediterranean looks like a lake. But the game being played on this small sea is not regional – but global. Most of the world’s security and prosperity depend on the dynamics around the Mediterranean and consequently also on the capability of the OSCE and its Participating Countries to establish a fruitful dialogue and an intense cooperation with the Partner Countries from the Southern shore of the Mediterranean.

This is why we wanted Italy’s OSCE Chairmanship to be preceded by the Mediterranean Conference in Palermo (24-25 October) and to disseminate the ‘Spirit of Palermo’ – namely the capability of establishing an authentic partnership between the 57 OSCE Countries and the Mediterranean States, especially relying on three crucial elements:

1. Broader political dialogue based on a shared responsibility and widespread solidarity with respect to the major common challenges; 2. More concrete cooperation in the area of security and in controlling migration routes, considering the possible return to Europe of Foreign Fighters following the military defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria; 3. More investments in culture, in order to bridge the dangerous gap in the Mediterranean which is fertile ground for fanaticism, violent extremism and terrorism. 

The added value of the Mediterranean Partnership lies in the implementation of a ‘practical cooperation’, rediscovering the Organisation’s vocation as a plural and inclusive multilateral platform, in addition to its function of building bridges. If 40 years ago the ‘Spirit of Helsinki’ inspired the rapprochement of East and West in the world during the Cold War, the ‘Spirit of Palermo’ today will fuel and enhance the dialogue for peace and security in the Mediterranean.

The very migration crisis would be unsolvable without broader responsibility sharing and international solidarity. We well know that this is a global phenomenon doomed to last many years, which can be managed only with an authentic multilateral spirit, reaching out to our Mediterranean Partners.

To tackle the immigration issue means to also manage integration. In this sense, we wish to intend to maintain a close cooperation with OSCE’s High Commissioner for National Minorities, Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, as well as  –of course – with the Slovak Chairmanship which has succeeded us at the lead of the Mediterranean Contact Group,  to whom I wish all the best.

Dear  Secretary General,

Dear Permanent Representatives, 

the Italian Presidency will spare no effort to enhance the three dimensions underlying the concept of ‘comprehensive security’ of our Organisation, keeping constantly in contact with all of you, with the Parliamentary assembly and the Autonomous Institutions. I would also like to reiterate that, in order to pursue concrete and enduring goals, it is necessary for all Participating States to make a responsible contribution. For OSCE to be effectively operational, it will need adequate, asssured and foreseeable resources, which can be guaranteed only with the timely approval of the 2018 unified budget.

Within the  politico-military dimension, we rely on the political will of the Participating States to pursue with determination the relaunching of the co-operative security idea. It is our duty to avoid misunderstandings, enhancing confidence, transparency, foreseeability and moderation, while seeking to achieve concrete results also in the field of conventional weapons control.

Furthermore, the Italian Chairmanship will do its best to give new impulse to a structured dialogue, which has reaped a major achievement only one year since its inception, namely the capability of maintaining an honest and substantial dialogue also on controversial issues.

We will devote special attention to transnational threats, an issue that demands stronger cooperation with Mediterranean and Asian Partners. This includes fighting terrorism and radicalization, with a focus on the use of the Internet by terrorist groups; cybersecurity; fighting illegal trafficking (of weapons, drugs, cultural property, toxic waste, wildlife). We ascribe the utmost importance to the detection and attenuation of the links between terrorism and crime. We wish to promote a holistic approach to the fight against terror, which implies the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as investing in education and culture, with great attention to women and youth.

We will also fight corruption in all of its forms, because it corrodes the rule of law and undermines the trust relationship between the State and its citizens, threatening democracy and security, as well as stability and the competitiveness of the economic system.

In the economic and environmental dimension, we will seek to enhance dialogue on growth, innovation, human capital, good governance and the transition to green energy. The theme which binds all our initiatives is synthetically expressed in our priority objective, namely “Reducing the inequality gap through responsible leadership”. In fact, we consider the equality issue to be the core of equitable and sustainable development. We will implement OSCE’s action plan on gender equality and enhance our endeavor to fight all forms of violence on women.

Lastly, the human dimension.  Our common history has taught us that the respect of rights, fundamental liberties and the rule of law are principles indissolubly linked with our security. The protection of human dignity is our greatest common good. We would therefore like to call on the Participating States to concentrate greater attention, throughout 2018, to fighting human trafficking and protecting the rights of these victims, especially of women, children and unaccompanied minors.

We equally intend to devote greater efforts to fighting all types of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance. It is not a chance that one of the first and priority events on our calendar is the International Conference on the Fight Against Anti-Semitism in the OSCE area (Rome, 29 January). I am confident that your countries will amply participate in this event. If the fundamental rights are protected by the legal system and in everyday life, with no exceptions or discriminations, the rule of law and security are guaranteed. If this protection is not awarded, conflicts will multiply and could give rise to social and political instability.

Mister Secretary General,

Ladies and Gentlemen – Permanent Representatives,

Italy is proud of taking on the 2018 Chairmanship and to start working with all of you, Representatives of the Participating and Partner States. We believe OSCE will be successful because we are united by the history of this Organisation; by a common desire for peace against all threats and a profound desire to cooperate.

I would like to express my wish that this profound and precious bond between all Participating States will help us consolidate, in 2018, our common commitment for the stability and security of our great space of freedom in the OSCE area.

Allow me to close my address by wishing you all once again a happy new year.