Intervention by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Bert Koenders at the OSCE informal ministerial meeting in Mauerbach

OSCE informal ministerial meeting in Mauerbach (Austria) 11 July 2017

Dear colleagues, dear Sebastian,

I am convinced that progress is urgent and possible. I think one of the most, if not the most, significant outcome of the Hamburg Ministerial Council was our Declaration on the Framework for Arms Control and the launch of the Structured Dialogue. In this declaration, we at least agreed that our conventional arms control and CSBM instruments are not being used properly. We need to discuss why that is the case, and how we can improve our collective performance: also with an eye to the future. I know it is difficult to look beyond the “here and now”, especially during times of serious ongoing conflicts, but in Vienna we have managed to do so before. I am pleased with the resumption of the NATO Russia Council discussions, with an upcoming meeting on 13 July, but they cannot replace this Structured Dialogue.

This Dialogue is by definition a long-term and wide-ranging debate that, I believe, should focus on those topics that are ultimately relevant to the overriding theme of arms control and CSBMs because yes, this is the gist of the Hamburg Declaration and no, this will under the prevailing circumstances not immediately lead to negotiating new arrangements anywhere soon. Indeed; no preconceived outcomes, but no preconceived detours either. We need focus. We should not turn the Structured Dialogue into another Helsinki + 40 process, and issues such as nuclear proliferation, tolerance and non-discrimination or fundamental freedoms are important, but are already being discussed elsewhere. I plea for focus. I am impressed with the work so far. It is good to acknowledge the divergences in threat perception and to continue discussing those. I do support the proposal of mapping of military force posture and exercises, in order to have more objective facts. Focus should be on cluster 3, maybe with some elements of cluster 4.

We should state our differences, but cannot limit ourselves to identifying controversies. At some point, we should mold this “common solid basis for a way forward”, as Hamburg declares, while continuously striving to implement and modernize our current toolbox. Like many other participating States, the Netherlands has tabled some Vienna Document proposals, including on so-called “no-notice activities”, providing for observation of, for instance, snap exercises that are of increasing concern to many countries. Military transparency is key here. In this context, I would like to call on the organizers of upcoming, large-scale military exercises, from whatever side they are coming, to provide the necessary transparency, just as observers are being invited to exercises conducted by NATO members.

I learned the initial phase of this Dialogue produced an open and at times very frank debate that showed serious divergences. Nobody is blind for that. That was to be expected and that is perfectly fine. We should continue this debate by our delegations and experts from capitals. Our French colleagues have suggested some proposals to structure the Structured Dialogue and I want to thank them for that. Any constructive ideas to support a meaningful discussion are welcome. I am looking forward to taking stock of this Dialogue at the December Ministerial meeting.