OSCE Chairmanship keeps Finland busy to very end
Summit planned as Georgia disagreements continue
By Kari Huhta in Vienna
Finland’s exceptionally dramatic year as the holder of the Chairmanship of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not ease even as the year nears its end. Finland will be offered one more opportunity to help raise international politics out of the mire into which it was plunged by the war in Georgia.
At the same time Finland will also invariably be offered a possibility for further failures in the major effort during the chairmanship.
“This is a calculated risk. A salmon is a fish that is worth trying to catch, even if you don’t get one”, says special envoy Antti Turunen, who leads the Finnish representation to the OSCE.
The Chairmanship period, which went through the dispute over monitoring Russian elections and the war in Georgia, will culminate in a meeting of foreign ministers to be held in Helsinki on December 4th and 5th. The Helsinki meeting is being turned into a step toward a big international summit, where the international system should be fixed in the wake of the disputes in Georgia.
The idea of a summit was drawn up three weeks ago by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in response to a proposal by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for an overhaul of the international security system. France feels that the meeting should be organised possibly already next year, specifically in an OSCE framework, and the thought is gradually winning support from other countries as well.
However, the whole summit project is still shaky.
“The possibilities of success are still small”, said one experienced OSCE diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous.
In the next month, Finland’s task will be to find out how much room there is to manoeuvre for political negotiations at a time when the disputes sparked by the war in Georgia are also causing upheavals within the OSCE.
The tool is a common political declaration, which Finland is trying to draw up for the foreign ministers’ meeting in Helsinki. The declaration should make it possible to bypass the disputes over Georgia without burying them. At the same time, some kind of political intent of the member states toward a summit meeting should be expressed. The project is made challenging by the fact that no common texts have been agreed upon for six years, although the problems have been less serious than the present ones.
Finland is trying to avoid the earlier pitfalls by negotiating directly with the governments of the member states.
The diplomats in Vienna have their work cut out for them, while texts are agreed upon for the ministers’ meeting on other OSCE matters, such as opposing human trafficking, as well as environmental projects.
One decisive moment is November 11th, when Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) travels to Moscow to put forward Finland’s proposals, and probably to get counterproposals prepared by Russia.
In Vienna, Russia’s OSCE envoy Anvar Asimov supports the project specifically as an initiative by Medvedev.
The US envoy to the OSCE, Julie Finley, is also cautiously positive.
“At this point it is not ruled out”, said Finley.
At the same time, Russia has held on to its views, which could prove to be obstacles to an OSCE declaration. Russia is demanding changes to the OSCE’s authority in Georgia, when they are re-examined at the end of the year at the latest.
A similar dispute also threatens to trash the negotiations over Georgia. There will be an attempt to restart the talks on November the 18th is Geneva.
As the Chairman, Finland is expected to take action in these disputes before the turn of the year. After that, the pressure will be on Greece, the next OSCE chairman.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 1.11.2008
More on this subject:
COMMENTARY: A successful failure
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen and Stubb criticise Russian military action in Georgia (26.8.2008)
NEWS ANALYSIS: Collateral damage from Finnish OSCE Chairmanship (2.6.2008)
OSCE not sending election monitors to Russia (8.2.2008)
Finland avoids big disputes at launch of OSCE Chairmanship (10.1.2008)
NEWS ANALYSIS: Kosovo and Russian elections overshadow Finnish chairmanship of OSCE (29.12.2007)
Finnish-Russian relations under strain during OSCE Chairmanship (7.10.2008)
Vanhanen: Strong support for Georgia but no sanctions against Russia (1.9.2008)
KARI HUHTA / Helsingin Sanomat