Press Conference of the OSCE Troika | 17th OSCE Ministerial Meeting
Joint Press Conference of Prime Minister George A. Papandreou, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kanat Saudabayev and Foreign Minister of Finland Antti Turunen at the end of the session of OSCE
George A. Papandreou: Welcome. We have just completed a very successful meeting. Let me say a few words in Greek, for the Greek journalists, and then I will say a few words in English, and then give the floor to the other delegations and the future chairmanship, the new chairmanship of Kazakhstan.
Yesterday and today Greece hosted a large and very important event, an international event, the OSCE Ministerial Council. We hosted the ministers of foreign affairs from the 56 OSCE member states.
What is particularly important about it is that this day is a day that the OSCE turned a new page. Fifty-six countries committed to a common document, the Corfu Process Declaration. We recognised that we are faced with common challenges, that we must jointly take initiatives, that we must make mutual compromise, in order to unite our forces, and then, united, try for more security, more growth, more peace in our area.
Today, in the context of the OSCE we made history, but we are still in the beginning, a beginning that is difficult and we know that there are various hurdles ahead. Besides, this is natural within an organisation that spreads from Vancouver all the way over to Vladivostok.
But Greece has managed, as an honourable broker, to give essence to our discussion. The OSCE members have not managed to agree on a political declaration for the past seven years. So therefore we are very happy that this unaccomplished expectation became a reality here in Athens, amongst all of us.
When we undertook the chairmanship of the OSCE, pessimism was all around. We met to disagree, and indeed nobody expected anything better of this chairmanship.
Indeed, great efforts were made in the previous chairmanships. I know how difficult a work they had. And we continued on the foundation that they had laid.
Greece set bold targets. We utilised the changes in the international circumstances. We placed a wager that this institution would have a significant role ahead, as it has had in the past. And we placed a wager that this organisation can think politically, and we won this wager today.
We now hand over the baton to Kazakhstan. We give an organisation that is ready to once again guide the developments on the most critical issues for Europe, namely security, security which means peace, growth, environment, economy and protection of human rights.
Security and dignity for all, dignity for each and every one of us, placing citizens at the forefront, at the focus and protecting the rights of each and every citizen.
Kazakhstan has difficult work ahead, but I would like to tell to me colleague from Kazakhstan that we are standing by you and we will be supporting you and we will be in the Troika.
I would like to thank all the OSCE members for their efforts. Our fate, our future are in our hands, and today we have proven that, when we want to do something, we can achieve it.
I will shortly give the floor to Minister Saudabayev.
This Ministerial Council was not business as usual. Why? Because the overarching theme of the seventeenth Ministerial Council in Athens was the Corfu Process, initiated by the Greek chairmanship last June, and it existed to foster open and honest dialogue on the security challenges of the twenty-first century.
This Process has revitalised our political dialogue on areas such as security and cooperation in the OSCE area. Its first concrete result has been the positive atmosphere and the confidence-building attitude that prevailed during our ministerial meeting. Thanks to this spirit, we adopted, for the first time since 2002, a political declaration, focusing on the Corfu Process.
We have spoken with one voice. We have affirmed our shared target to work together to reach the goals of this organisation, a Europe whole, free and in peace.
The Corfu Process started as an initiative of the Greek chairmanship. Today, by adopting a declaration and the accompanying decisions, it has become the brainchild of all 56 participating states. We are honoured by the trust and grateful for the support we have received from all of our partners.
The Process will be further advanced next year under the Kazakh chairmanship. In the Corfu Declaration, the participating states positively noted the proposal of the incoming Kazakh chairmanship to hold a substance-driven summit next year. Such a summit would be the first meeting of OSCE heads of state and government since Istanbul in 1999.
We believe that the OSCE is a natural forum for this dialogue, as the only regional security organisation to bring together the United States, Canada and Europe, including the Russian Federation and the other CIS countries.
The Athens Ministerial Council also resulted in a large number of decisions and statements on Europe’s pressing security challenges, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including areas of energy security, a decision on strengthening political dialogue and migration management, a decision on promoting women’s participation in political processes.
We also solemnly commemorated with a ministerial declaration the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
That the OSCE states were able to come together and agree on these challenges is also proof that this Ministerial Council was not business as usual.
We have also agreed on our future leadership. Ireland will chair our organisation in 2012, after Kazakhstan next year, and Lithuania in 2011. So we welcome Ireland’s initiative to lead our organisation.
Finally, we also welcome Australia as a new partner for cooperation, which was agreed upon here in Athens. And the Corfu Process emphasises the importance of addressing security challenges both within and outside the OSCE area. Security challenges see no borders.
And the Ministerial Council confirmed our commitment to work together with our 12 Asian and Mediterranean partners to tackle these issues. And just to mention these partners: Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Australia now.
And in the Mediterranean Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
With that, I will give the floor to our new chairman, Kanat Saudabayev.
Kanat Saudabayev: Thank you. Thank you, Prime Minister. Distinguished representatives of the mass media, ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to convey my gratitude to the government of Greece for the outstanding organisation of this ministerial meeting, as well as on the whole for their very impressive chairmanship of the OSCE.
The documents adopted today provide us with a good starting point for Kazakhstan’s incoming chairmanship of this organisation. And we are resolved to make our contribution to the development and strengthening of the organisation, seeking adequate and appropriate responses to the challenges facing the OSCE today.
Kazakhstan, as chairman in office will unswervingly be wedded to the fundamental principles and values of the OSCE, basing itself on the interests of all its participating states to strengthen trust and mutual understanding between states, both to the west and to the east of Vienna.
We will tend to ensure an equal population of all three baskets of the organisation’s activity. This year at the OSCE will be marked by renewed dialogue on future European security, the so-called Corfu Process.
The documents adopted today at the ministerial meeting speak to the success of the Greek chairmanship in office and the success of all the participating states of this organisation. Today the OSCE, as never before, is needed to provide an effective mechanism for regional implementation of universal international legal instruments, in such areas as political and military security, assisting the settlement of conflicts and post-conflict rehabilitation, stepping up economic and environmental cooperation, upholding human rights and human freedoms.
I would like to here refer to the need to counter the threats which stem from Afghanistan. The OSCE can and must take its place in rehabilitating this country.
Our common task is preserving and developing positive trends which have emerged within the OSCE area. Collective efforts will be required to provide new impetus to its activities, to enhance trust and respect in our common organisation.
Basing ourselves on this understanding, the President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev proposed to, on the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, which is also the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the 20th anniversary of the Paris Charter, organise a summit of heads of government and state of OSCE participating states. The topics of this summit could be such topical issues as the further progressing of the Corfu Process and building a single trans-European, transatlantic and trans-Asian security infrastructure, issues of tolerance, non-discrimination, and of course the rehabilitation of Afghanistan.
These last few days in Kabul I signed an agreement with the government of Afghanistan regarding cooperation in the field of education, in the framework of which Kazakhstan has allocated USD50 million to train and educate thousands of Afghan citizens in various specialties in our universities.
In doing this, we want to make our contribution to involving the citizens of this long-suffering country into restoring peace. We are convinced that today, 10 years after the Istanbul summit, the time has come when at the very highest level an assessment will be required of today’s very complex challenges and to set out more significant priorities in ensuring security and cooperation in the space stretching from Vancouver and Vladivostok.
We are grateful to our partners, to all participating states of the OSCE, for their support for this topical, timely initiative by President Nazarbayev, namely to convene a summit in 2010, which was today formalised and enshrined in the documents of the ministerial meeting in Athens.
We cherish a hope of future promising cooperation, fruitful cooperation during Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in office of the OSCE, both on issues of the organisation of the summit, as well as on the whole strengthening and developing our organisation.
And again I would like to underscore that Kazakhstan, as chairman in office of the OSCE, will strive to ensure that the organisation’s activities are commensurate with today’s challenges, in line with the interests and expectations of all participating states of the organisation. It is only if we work together in an agreed way that we will achieve the high, noble objectives of the OSCE, namely to uphold security and prosperity for our peoples. I thank you.
George A. Papandreou: Thank you, Minister. I would like to give the floor now to our Finnish colleague, Antti Turunen.
Antti Turunen: Mr. Prime Minister, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
As the outgoing Troika member, I want to congratulate the Greek chairmanship for the successful ministerial meeting here in Athens. I think the atmosphere is much better now, in a political sense, than it was a year ago in Helsinki, which was overshadowed by the war in Georgia.
But the seeds that were sown in that meeting, in order to start a new kind of security dialogue in Europe, have now led to this success here in Athens, where the declaration on the Corfu Process and the decision on procedures how to take this dialogue forward were taken.
We can see that the political climate in Europe has changed, and there is now a possibility to improve cooperation on a multilateral basis. This is very hopeful and we have achieved a lot during these few days here in Athens to improve the possibilities for real issues to be tackled within the OSCE. The OSCE is the right place for this multilateral and comprehensive dialogue on European security.
We did not achieve everything. Consensus was not achieved in all issues that were on the table. For me personally, I regret that for instance the issues concerning climate change or trafficking in human beings or rule of law or freedom of the media were not so successfully passed during the last few days.
But anyway we have to make compromises and the content of building on these topical issues takes time.
But all in all, I would say that the organisation is in good hands and this is a good prospect for the incoming Kazakh chairmanship. Thank you.
George A. Papandreou: Thank you very much. Again, I want to thank everyone for all the help, the Troika and the diplomats and the translators, and of course the journalists.
Now I’ll hand it over to our moderators to take some questions.
Moderator: Please do raise your hands, and please could you tell us where you’re from. Thank you very much, and wait for the microphones. At the back, please. At the very back.
Journalist: Good evening. I wanted to ask whether there was some sort of… (microphone problems)
George A. Papandreou: …issues of broader Europe. Of course there is the participation of many countries from the Mediterranean, amongst them Israel. We had the opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister of Israel and discuss with him the efforts made by the international community, and of course on behalf of the European Union, for the relaunch of the negotiations, the peace negotiations. But in a broader sense the discussion for security in Europe does indeed affect the regions, the areas in the Mediterranean, although this is not an item on our agenda, but security, as we said, is a greater issue, and the discussions and the procedures in this organisation contribute and facilitate procedures in other areas such as the Middle East.
Journalist (ANSA ITALIAN NEWS AGENCY): Good evening. My question is: Since you start a new political dialogue with the Corfu Process, why there is no mention, as far as I could see, of the Russian ideas about this treaty for pan-European security, why there is no mention in the documents about that.
George A. Papandreou: Well, in fact the whole Corfu Process, as you know, began after the initiatives that both Medvedev and Sarkozy took to talk about European security. And it is part and it will be part of this Corfu Process in discussing this.
So in fact it is something which we are not concluded on, and that is maybe why there is no mention, but it is not because we don’t want to mention it; it is because in fact it is the basis of the Corfu Process, of the initiative of the Corfu Process.
So we welcome very much these thoughts, as OSCE, as I think the whole issue of the European security architecture is now being discussed, and it’s being discussed in a number of organisations, and these ideas will be very useful. It’s being discussed obviously in the OSCE, and it’s even being discussed in NATO, and it’s continually being discussed in the European Union. So these ideas would be, I think, very useful for our Corfu Process.
Journalist: Here in Athens at this meeting a great deal was said about the fact that to settle the situation in Afghanistan, the rehabilitation of this country, will require qualtitatively new approaches. Mr. Saudabayev, as Chairman and Foreign Minister in this region, will have to deal with this in detail. Could you tell us a little bit more, mindful of the fact that yesterday the President of the United States declared that he would send additional forces to Afghanistan, which of course increases the military component?
Kanat Saudabayev: I’d like to tell you that Afghanistan today is one of the complex challenges facing not only our region but also the whole area of responsibility of the OSCE, because unfortunately for many years this country has found itself plunged into a situation of permanent war and has been a source of international terrorism, one of the main suppliers of narcotics to the markets of Europe.
And of course Kazakhstan, being already involved in this process, as our country, these last few years has provided substantial humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. For example, we build schools, hospitals, roads, are providing humanitarian assistance in the form of corn and grain, and on the 22nd of November I visited Kabul, engaged in discussions and negotiations with President Karzai, and we signed an agreement with the government of Afghanistan on an educational programme within whose framework we have allocated USD50 million, and over these next few years intend to educate a thousand Afghans, train them in such professions as engineers, agronomists, doctors.
This is our country’s contribution to the rehabilitation of Afghanistan, involving the citizens of Afghanistan into peaceful civilian life, something which unfortunately they have not been able to do over the last 30 years. They have lived with guns in their hands.
We consider that the measures that ISAF is undertaking today in Afghanistan are very important ones, sorely needed ones, but this is nothing more than a precondition to provide stability and peaceful life to this country.
And it is in this context that we view the recent initiative of the American President, Barack Obama, to increase the number of troops. However, the most important component of this process is one which we consider to be the humanitarian field.
And this is why we, as incoming chairman in office, will attend to utilise the potential of the OSCE, and this is a very significant, substantial potential, which will be used to participate and make a contribution to the humanitarian field, for example, training, personnel, and other necessary measures to provide assistance in this field.
This is why it is no coincidence that Afghanistan is a topic which we have placed at the very forefront of the summit, which is an initiative of our President, and I would like to again thank all participating states of the OSCE for their support of this very important topical initiative. Thank you.
Journalist: Prime Minister, good afternoon. This is a bilateral issue. I would like to ask you for your meeting today with Mr. Davutoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, whether you discussed the issue of the Muslim minority in Thrace. Thank you.
George A. Papandreou: It is the second meeting I have had with Mr. Davutoglu. We had a very constructive discussion today with Mr. Davutoglu. We discussed many issues of common interest, issues on which we want and we can work together. But I want to close this discussion here and say this: Issues that have to do with Greek citizens are not being discussed. Thank you.
Journalist (KAZAKH TV): I have a question to the Secretary of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan. I’d like to put the following question to you. You just said at the summit at the level of heads of state. Well, why do you consider that our country came up with this initiative? And what results can we expect of this high-level meeting within the framework of the OSCE? Thank you.
Kanat Saudabayev: Well, I can tell you that one of the traits of our President, and this is probably a very good quality for a leader to have, is that at every specific point in time he sees what the main problem is. He can see what the main link in the chain is, the link that can be grabbed to hold onto this chain.
And in this situation, where 10 years after the conclusion of the Istanbul summit, unfortunately the heads of state of participating states of the OSCE did not find it possible to sit down behind one table and to look at the problems facing the organisation, problems which have an impact on the interests of the peoples of the participating states of the OSCE.
Over these 10 years events have taken place which have shaken and battered our world. A threat which has emerged is that of international terrorism, which has virtually changed the traditional perception of security and of threats, as compared to the way these things used to be seen. There is no more enemy, enemy state, but there is a very serious threat to security, in even the most successful countries, as was so clearly demonstrated on the 11th of September 2001.
The problem of Afghanistan remains. Afghanistan is a source of threats, not only to our region, the neighbouring region; it’s a source of threats to the whole area of responsibility of the OSCE.
Today, issues of tolerance, international agreements become a problem in the most successful countries of Europe, where the result of migration processes over these last few years, the ethnic composition of these countries has changed. I believe that this and a great many other problems which I have not referred to here now are the challenges which the leaders of the participating states of the OSCE need to consider. They need to review and assess the current situation throughout the world and in the area of responsibility of our organisation, and to set out the most important priorities for the future activity of the OSCE.
Journalist ASSOCIATED PRESS): For the Minister of Kazakhstan. Your country has been accused of severe human rights abuses. As you take over the chairmanship of the OSCE, what will you do to change your country’s human rights record?
Kanat Saudabayev: Well, I can tell you that over these very short 18 years of independence in Kazakhstan we have upheld the main human rights, the rights to dignified life, the rights to qualitative education, health, freedom of expression, freedom of faith and belief. Kazakhstan is probably the only of the former republics of the Soviet Union where representatives of 140 different ethnic groups and nationalities and 46 faiths can be found.
From the very first ever independence, stability, peace and understanding have been preserved. And I would like to underscore again that we are probably the only post-Soviet republic in which there was no conflict on this basis. And I believe that this is something of great value.
As far as the criticism which is occasionally heard and directed at my country, this criticism is not criticism on the principles of the path we have chosen to build a democratic society; it is criticism on the speed at which our political development is taking place.
The speed of democratisation and political liberalisation in our country is dependent on our realities, specific realities, and those of our immediate neighbourhood.
This is why I want to tell you today that we have chosen the path of building a democratic society ourselves, not because we wanted to please some country or organisation. And this is why for the last 18 years we have consistently, unswervingly travelled this path. We consider that democratisation is an ongoing permanent process.
I cannot name any country in the world which can today claim that it built democracy in a final way, in an irreversible way.
Journalist: Thank you, Martin. I have a question for the Prime Minister, which I suspect is quite close to his heart, particularly in the last few weeks. And I suspect I might not get an answer, but he might surprise me pleasantly.
Prime Minister, at the risk of sounding dissident, could you tell us how much the summit cost the Greek taxpayers?
George A. Papandreou: I can get you the exact numbers, but I don’t have them at hand. But our government has always said, this new government, that everything will be on the Internet. As a matter of fact, tomorrow we are passing in the Ministerial Council a law which says that every single signature for any amount of taxpayer money will be put on the Internet for scrutiny and for the information of the public.
So as soon as I have it, it’s all yours.
Kanat Saudabayev: I would like to add to what was just said by my distinguished Greek colleague. There are things which simply cannot be valued in monetary terms. This whole year Greece was the chairman in office of an organisation which includes 56 member states, and I can tell you that this chairmanship was a breakthrough chairmanship.
And the Corfu Process, which was born on the ancient lands of Greece, will always be linked to Athens and to your chairman, to your minister.
So you, as a Greek citizen, a patriot, should be proud of what your country has achieved this year, achieved for 56 countries throughout the world.
George A. Papandreou: Thank you. I just want to say I do hope that the money invested by Greek taxpayers was well worth it.
Journalist (REUTERS): A little bit more about the Russian proposal. I’d like to know if there were elements there that you could work with and if there were elements that were non-starters. And I’d also like to know if at any point Iran became an issue of discussion and further actions against Iran, if any views were expressed on that. Either the Chairman or Mr. Droutsas as well.
George A. Papandreou: Well, first of all, as I mentioned, we have received President Medvedev’s Draft European Security Treaty, and it was discussed here; it was. Because of it is central to our organisation to discuss the future of European security. It is one of the most important challenges, and that’s why we want to examine it thoroughly.
Obviously the purpose was not to conclude on something today. And as I said, the core idea of the Corfu Process, other than the fact that the Corfu Process allowed us to approach issues in a different way, allowed us to be more informal, open and honest in discussing our problems and recognising even our differences, and sometimes we underestimate the human dimension of these conferences. We think that we are simply diplomatic robots speaking in official language. I think what we were able to do is bring, even in this process, a closer understanding and a closer communication with each other, which is very important when we are talking about such a big organisation of so many countries.
And the Corfu Process did begin inspired by the initiative that both President Medvedev and President Sarkozy took. So as I said, this will be central to this organisation, and obviously we look forward to further discussing European security, and take on board whatever constructive ideas we can.
And I think because that spirit was here in Athens and through the Corfu Process, I think that spirit did help us move forward and come to important conclusions.
Now, obviously on bilateral discussions the issue of Iran was raised in many discussions because it is an important issue. But obviously we are not the organisation taking a decision on this issue. Thank you.
Journalist: I would like to ask to what extent, after this successful Greek chairmanship and maybe in the light of the Corfu Process, whether there is a sense that Russia would be a bit more disposed to discuss issues of soft security, including of course the protection of human rights. Thank you very much.
George A. Papandreou: A very part of the Corfu Process is to be open to all issues. And in discussions I had with Minister Lavrov, and Minister Lavrov in his announcement in the plenary and during our lunch, he said exactly that: that the Corfu Process should not be restricted to one or another subject matter or basket of subject matters, but to all issues pertaining to security, and therefore the interconnection, the link of more soft issues, soft security issues, and link them closely with the hard security issues, the conflict issues.
And I think that this also is embodied in the modern spirit that this organisation wants to give to the approach of the security problem, which of course originates in the dignity of each and every person, each and every individual, and has to do with all the aspects, the aspects of security, safety, dignity, human rights, dealing with conflicts that may exist in our greater area.
And for this reason I would say that this is yet another success. The fact that this approach was accepted, and I believe that taking the Corfu Process even further can be constructive, can be more fruitful, exactly because we are going to touch upon many issues, as we heard the Afghanistan issues, and we are going to approach many issues from many sides.
Journalist (ATHENS NEWS AGENCY): We heard that the next chairmanship has an ambitious target of convening a summit. Could we assume that the step taken here in Athens is a step so that we will have, at the summit level and in the next chairmanship, specific, concrete actions for a security architecture in Europe? thank you.
George A. Papandreou: We hope for that. We hope that we are going to have such a conclusion, but I would like also to give the floor to the next chairmanship of our organisation.
Kanat Saudabayev: Today I stated, and I would like to reaffirm this here today, that we will, first and foremost, continue and develop all the traditions which have been put in place by our predecessors, including the Corfu Process, which was born here in Greece.
This is why a summit which is usually a meeting of heads of state is the very summit of international diplomacy and international affairs. And I think that if God willing this summit does take place next year this will be the crowning point of the efforts of the Greek chairmanship, as well as that of other predecessors.
And if concrete steps, measures and decisions are adopted, which will determine the activities of our organisation for upcoming years, this will be all of our success.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
George A. Papandreou: Well, thank you very much. My voice is about to fail me, so I won’t say much more, but thank you all and I wish all those who are returning or have a long voyage the best voyage. Bon voyage, and thank you for your participation. And the best of success to the Kazakh chairmanship. Thank you.