The OSCE is a very political organization – OSCE Secretary General
RT: Mr. Secretary General, thank you very much for joining us. Let’s start with one of the most discussed topics today, which is Israel’s assault on the flotilla which was delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza. It sparked a wave of criticism in the world. How do you think this incident can affect Israel’s relations with Europe?
Marc Perrin de Brichambaut: The issue was immediately raised in the debate within the OSCE, because ambassadors meet twice a week, and a number of countries raised this issue – like Turkey. Therefore, as long as the process of the inquiry has not started, has not run its course, and as long as the political solutions which would be probably called for after the inquiry are not implemented, we are likely to have a continuous political debate going on. Israel is a Mediterranean partner of the OSCE, so it sits at the same table in Vienna as a full member of the OSCE.
RT: Russia has long been calling to reform the European security structure. In the light of these recent events, do you think Europe should start paying more attention to this issue?
MPB: The work is going on now. If you look at what has been the work of the OSCE in the last 18 months, there has been continuous work started in Corfu, a Greek island by the Greek chairmanship, which has been continuing by intensive consultations in Vienna and which is leading to another informal meeting under Kazakh chairmanship in Alma-Aty very soon, possibly to a summit. This is the OSCE revisiting its own commitments and values. And other organizations are also working. You are following what is going on in NATO; they are working on the strategic concept. You are following the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty by the EU. We are in a period of intense collective thinking about what should be the future security structures in Europe. And I suspect that by the end of the year we will have the beginnings of outlines, but there is still a lot work to be done.
RT: Greece’s economic meltdown and the devaluation of the euro have revealed some serious problems in the European economy. Many analysts have compared these problems with some of the turbulence that Russia had gone through during the 90s. Do you think this is correct? Can Europe learn something from Russia’s experience?
MPB: That’s a very good point. You are right. Capital markets are very tough, when they lose confidence in one economy, and they put an immediate punishment in terms of access to credit, which requires severe adjustments within the economies, which requires international solidarity from partners and from the IMF. As the crisis of 1998, which was not only the crisis that Russia had to go through, but Asian countries had to go through too, show that once you go through the severe measures that have to be taken, the international community is capable of mastering the support which is necessary to move along.
It’s a painful process. It’s difficult, but it works. Therefore, in all likelihood, the experience that some Euro zone members may be experiencing will lead to a similar revival and success.
RT: There have been fears that there could be a domino effect in Europe after Greece. What is the OSCE doing to prevent that?
MPB: So far this situation has been addressed within the Euro zone. It has also been addressed with the help of the International Monetary Fund. The expertise and the cooperation within the OSCE, which includes Russia, which includes Central Asia, which includes Turkey, the United States has not been called for. If the crisis were to take bigger proportions, it might be called upon, but we are clearly not there yet.
RT: Let’s move on to Kyrgyzstan now. This country has gone through a lot of violence recently, first when the government and the president were basically thrown from power in April, then when several of Bakyev’s supporters tried to begin controlling the south. What is the OSCE doing to help stabilize the country?
MPB: The OSCE has been working to a field office in Bishkek. From the first days it was present throughout the events. It is working with the rest of the international institutions, with the international community. What it is doing is helping to build up the institutions, which the interim government is trying to bring together. Referendum, elections and a strong legal framework. It is helping to address ethnic tensions in Southern Kyrgyzstan through the High Commission on National Minorities, which is right now present and trying to mediate, to reconcile, to cool down and to avoid conflict. It is participating with other international institutions, and they support activities in the economic field, in which Russia has indeed a leading role currently and which will allow to currently contain the economic impact to the political crisis.
RT: There has been a lot of talk about reforming the OSCE. As the Secretary General, can you tell us more about that? What should we expect?
MPB: The OSCE is a very political organization. Its 56 states working together and taking decisions by consensus. By definition there is a constant process of negotiation among them. Some participating states feel that it should become more of an institution – with a charter, with more bureaucracy, with more power for the Secretary General. Others feel that it should remain very flexible, very innovative in order to be able to respond to all situations on the basis of their own merits. The two schools in a way find a balance over time and we’ve seen progressively a bigger budget, a bigger bureaucracy and new authority given to the chairman in office. When you look at how the situation in Kyrgyzstan was addressed, you will see that within a few hours the Kazakh chairmanship had deployed a special envoy which was on the ground, had asked for meetings of the permanent council and within a few days we had extra funding made available to our field office in Bishkek to address emergency issues and allow the interim government to face its first challenges. Not bad.
RT: The OSCE has been accused of failing to prevent the conflict in South Ossetia and now that the international community has acknowledged that it was Georgia who attacked. Is the OSCE going to be more attentive to the region in the future?
MPB: We had monitors on the ground. We had visits by ambassadors. We had a constant flow of information warning that the tension was increasing. That it could degenerate. It has four participating states to take into account the information they receive. The organization as such cannot in itself make decisions. It a reflection of the political will of its participating states. We have no more field office right now in Georgia, regrettably. But we are still quite actively involved in seeking solutions. The OSCE participates in the Geneva process co-chaired by the EU and the UN. Today there was a meeting of the incident prevention mechanism regarding South Ossetia where the OSCE was present alongside with South Ossetia, with Georgia and the EU. We also had a message from the council of Europe. So we are constantly involved in trying to follow up on the situation and to resume the process of political discussions and hopefully negotiations at some stage.
RT: How would you judge the situation in that region now?
MPB: Unfortunately we had a frozen conflict before the conflict. Then we had an unfrozen conflict and we may be back at a semi-frozen conflict.
RT: The NATO Secretary General has proposed that Russia should take part in building a unified anti-missile defense system in Europe. What is the OSCE’s stance on that?
MPB: The Forum for Security Cooperation of the OSCE is constantly receiving information from all quarters within the organization, all the participating states on those developments. This is a virtue of transparency. Having a constant debate among peers on what is going on. Indeed, if the OSCE is not directly involved in anything that has to do with missile defense, it is a place where transparency takes place, where trust has to be built, where confidence has to be regularly built. And I think it is fulfilling that mandate because there is a constant flow of information that is reaching the Forum for Security Cooperation that allows a good understanding of what are the intentions of each of the key actors.
RT: And now finally with a potential nuclear threat coming from North Korea. How can the OSCE protect its members?
MPB: The only thing the OSCE can do is, like in the first topic, Israel, reflect the tensions that are taking place, allow the participating states to discuss and to debate them and when the conditions are right – try to find the processes of negotiation, of mediation, to put them back under control. Clearly, North Korea is not our cup of tea. But there will be a constant flow of information going into the OSCE for no other reason that South Korea is an Asian partner of the OSCE and that it keeps its partners and member states constantly informed of the developments.