Astana welcomed 28 presidents and 10 heads of governments, with three problematic OSCE ‘baskets’ on the agenda: political-military, economic-ecological and humanitarian. Military conflicts and associated problems have been evident: the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, bloody events in Kyrgyzstan, and unresolved conflicts from the 20th century — in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria.
Participants were absolutely unanimous in their view that the OSCE is an important venue for dialogue on acute problems: such as those relating to nuclear disarmament. Belarus’ Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, met the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who thanked Belarus for its elimination of highly enriched uranium stockpiles. “This is a very significant and important step being taken by Belarus,” underlined Mrs. Clinton.
A joint statement by the Republic of Belarus and the USA was adopted during their meeting, which also tackled the forthcoming presidential elections. Mrs. Clinton welcomes Minsk’s decision to invite so many international observers to monitor the elections. The US Secretary of State stressed that the electoral campaign’s meeting of democratic standards is of great importance for improving Belarus-USA relations.
The forthcoming elections were also high on the agenda at a meeting between Alexander Lukashenko and Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s President. Mr. Lukashenko noted that Belarus and Ukraine have many common issues, ‘ensuring the economy and interests of our people’.
The Belarusian President also exchanged warm greetings with the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, behind the scenes at the Summit. Additionally, Mr. Lukashenko met Nursultan Nazarbayev, alongside his Azerbaijani colleague, Ilham Aliyev; the heads of state confirmed their commitment to developing partnerships and friendly relations between our countries.
The OSCE is a unique place for dialogue, simultaneously uniting members of NATO, the EU, the Council of Europe, the CIS and CSTO. Under major discussion is whether the OSCE should remain no more than a contact ground or whether it should become a fully-fledged organisation.
“I’m participating in my third OSCE Summit. We’ve taken good decisions at previous summits, and continue to do it here but, no matter what we say about the significance of our work, we lack any tangible results to be proud of,” Mr. Lukashenko asserted. Addressing those attending the Summit in Astana, the President of Belarus called for members not to allocate blame in this matter but to decide what should be done to move forward. He then answered the question himself, noting that Belarus advocates stronger pan-European architecture of stability and security, based on mutual respect, partnership and true solidarity.
Minsk is convinced that the OSCE could play a key role in shaping our modern, humanitarian society, but requires radical modernisation. Belarus primarily believes that the OSCE needs a fully-fledged charter, rather than purely fundamental principles. Russia shares the same view, but the idea isn’t welcomed by everyone. OSCE General Secretary Marc Perrin de Brichambaut does not believe that the organisation needs a charter. However, without one, the OSCE may never become a fully-fledged international organisation.
Mr. Lukashenko has analysed three dimensions within the scope of the OSCE: political-military, economic-ecological and humanitarian. According to Belarus, the humanitarian ‘basket’ (embracing human rights, the development of democratic institutes and election monitoring) is now at the forefront of the OSCE’s activities, leading to a misbalance of dimensions. OSCE activities are primarily focusing on monitoring elections and stimulating democratic processes, with ‘human rights’ and ‘democratic elections’ the most widely heard expressions during the Summit. The Belarusian President tackled this important problem, calling not just for democratic categories to be enumerated but to be seriously pondered. He believes that the standards of elections should be equal for all. According to Mr. Lukashenko, several states are using this sphere as a ‘sticking point’.
Speaking of human rights and freedoms, the President of Belarus stressed the importance of such issues as freedom of movement. Growing contacts between citizens is greatly contributing to improved mutual understanding and trust. However, since the OSCE Summit in Istanbul eleven years ago, visa procedures have become overly bureaucratic and costly. Belarus is observing some progress in its European partners’ approaches, but a long way seems to be ahead until the practical removal of visa barriers.
As far as the military-political ‘basket’ is concerned, this year, the persistent efforts of Belarus and Russia have allowed changes for the better to take place. Work is afoot to renew the 1999 Vienna Document — adopted at the Istanbul Summit. Meanwhile, 56 OSCE member states are committing to share military information annually, conducting mutual inspections.
The aim is to strengthen trust between states and ensure common security. Eleven years have passed since the adoption of the Vienna Document and our lives have drastically changed. According to experts, over half of the document’s regulations are very poorly connected to life today, requiring updating and improvement. Belarus presented a comprehensive proposal to renew the Vienna Document and hopes to see this supported.
Minsk is keen to see a single security system created within the zone of OSCE responsibility. “In particular, we believe that OSCE nuclear member states could provide unconditional and unambiguous guarantees of security, sovereignty and territorial integrity to OSCE non-nuclear member countries,” stated the Belarusian President. He added that Belarus and the USA adopted a joint statement in Astana, embracing measures to prevent nuclear proliferation. Mr. Lukashenko emphasised that this is an important and definite contribution to a common cause in creating a secure Europe and a secure world.
The Belarusian President enjoyed enhanced attention from the foreign media; he told Kazakh journalists his views on the OSCE and the reasons for his marked statements at the Summit.