Counterterrorism, cyberspace and disaster prevention are all areas where Europe and Asia can strengthen cooperation – this was the message of Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Burkhalter on Monday in a speech at the opening of the Asian Conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Burkhalter, who served in 2014 as the OSCE’s president, opened the meeting in Seoul along with Korea’s minister for foreign affairs, Yun Byung-se.
Security issues have become more pressing both in the Euro-Atlantic/Eurasian area and in the Asia Pacific, said Burkhalter. “The risk of political and military polarisation is growing in both regions. In addition, we are confronted with a multitude of crises around the globe and with challenges that no state can cope with on its own.”
The OSCE could provide an impetus for strengthening cooperative security in the Asia-Pacific region, said Burkhalter. Among its strengths, “the OSCE is an inclusive and consensus-based organisation; it provides a platform for permanent, structured dialogue; it applies a comprehensive approach to security; and it has developed tools for conflict prevention and resolution”.
The OSCE should be a bridge not just between the Euro-Atlantic and the Eurasian area, but also between Europe and further parts of Asia, Burkhalter said. It has “a tradition of sharing experiences within the Asian Contact Group on a range of issues that include responding to transnational threats, managing borders, combating trafficking in human beings, and building democratic institutions”.
In 2015, Switzerland’s Ambassador Thomas Greminger is serving as chairman of the OSCE’s Asian Contact Group. The OSCE also has five partner states in the Asia-Pacific region − Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Afghanistan and Australia − which are invited to the OSCE’s most important conferences, and take part in meetings of the OSCE Permanent Council.
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