Protracted conflicts, Mediterranean security, migration among Italy’s OSCE priorities

Angelino Alfano, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs addressing the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, 11 January 2018. (OSCE/Micky Kroell)

VIENNA (KDN) – Addressing the protracted conflicts, the security of the Mediterranean region, and the challenges of migration, including by combating human trafficking and all forms of xenophobia and discrimination, are among Italy’s OSCE Chairmanship priorities, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told the Permanent Council in Vienna today.

Formally inaugurating Italy’s 2018 Chairmanship of the OSCE, Alfano announced that “Dialogue, Ownership, Responsibility” would be the motto of its work this year, reflecting the spirit that informed the organization’s origination four decades ago.

“These are the ingredients that we consider fundamental to reviving ‘the spirit of Helsinki’ in its most authentic form. It is this spirit that the Italian prime minister at the time, Aldo Moro, called ‘a point of transition to the future’”, he said.

He said the protracted conflicts would be a major focus of the Italian Chairmanship’s work this year.

“Our main challenge is the search for a solution to the crisis in and around Ukraine,” he said. “Mutual provocations have generated a climate that risks compromising the confidence-building measures hitherto adopted by the sides. Our hope is to help to reverse this trend by encouraging new steps towards the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

In addition to supporting the intensification of negotiating efforts under the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group, Alfano said that the Chairmanship will support with all its energy the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

He also announced he would visit Ukraine and the Russian Federation from 30 January to 1 February.

On the Transdniestrian Settlement Process, Alfano noted that 2017 ended with a positive and encouraging momentum.

“These developments show us that this could be a crucial moment for the resolution of the protracted conflict. My appreciation goes to the Sides and to the actors of the ‘5 + 2 format’. I would also like to assure you that Italy will continue on this path to try to take further steps forward,” Alfano said, adding that he had appointed former Italian Foreign Minister and European Union Commissioner Franco Frattini as his Special Representative to the Settlement Process.

Regarding the conflicts in the South Caucasus, Alfano said the Chairmanship would continue to support the Geneva International Discussions and look to encourage dialogue also on informal initiatives, while on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Italy would continue to support the work of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs “for a definitive and shared solution to the conflict.”

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office said that Italy intends to give greater importance to the multiple challenges coming from the Mediterranean region.

“It is a matter of revitalizing an intuition that came from our founding fathers, who recognized, already in the Helsinki Final Act, the indivisibility of Euro-Mediterranean security and the fact that the Mediterranean dimension was complementary and not an alternative to the Euro-Asian dimension. One reinforces the other,” he said.

Alfano said that the Italian Chairmanship would work to build a “genuine partnership” with the Mediterranean countries through more political dialogue, more concrete collaboration on security issues such as the regulation of migration routes and on the return to Europe of foreign terrorist fighters, and working “to reduce the dangerous rift in the Mediterranean, in which fanaticism, violent extremism and terrorism proliferate.”

“We want to promote a holistic approach to the fight against terrorism, which involves the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as investment in education and culture, with more attention to women and young people,” he said.

In other areas of the politico-military dimension, the Chairmanship will work to revive the logic of co-operative security among participating States, in particular through supporting the ongoing Structured Dialogue.

Pledging to “reduce the gap of inequality through responsible leadership”, Alfano said that the Chairmanship in the economic and environmental dimension will aim to strengthen dialogue on growth, innovation, human capital, good governance and the transition to green energy. Highlighting that “we will also fight against corruption in all its forms”, the Chairperson-in-Office said that he has appointed Italian former Minister of Justice Paola Severino as his Special Representative in this area.

Regarding migration, Alfano said that there was a need for a wider sharing of international responsibility and solidarity. He said that the Chairmanship would focus its efforts in the human dimension on the related issues of the fight against human trafficking and for the protection of victims’ rights, especially women, children and unaccompanied minors.

He also announced Salvatore Martinez, President of the Italian Observatory on Religious Minorities in the World and on the Respect of Religious Liberties, as his Special Representative on combating all forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance.

The Chairperson-in-Office also thanked the outgoing Austrian OSCE Chairmanship, including Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissel, for their “excellent work” over the last year.

“We are pleased to take the baton from our Austrian friends and continue with the same commitment, great determination, and awareness of the responsibilities and challenges that await us,” he said.

“We believe in the success of the OSCE, because in this Organization we are united by a common history; a common motivation to work for peace with respect to every threat; and a deep desire for co-operation,” he concluded. “My hope is that this profound and precious bond of unity among all the participating States will help us to consolidate this year our common commitment to the stability and security of the OSCE region.