HELSINKI, 5 December 2008 - The spirit of Helsinki has revitalized the OSCE, and the meeting of foreign ministers gave new impetus to discussions on European security challenges, said the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, at the close of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Helsinki today.
The two-day meeting, which was attended by a record 50 foreign ministers from the OSCE's 56 participating States, concluded with the 2009 Greek Chairmanship indicating willingness to convene a high-level meeting to continue the talks on European security that took place here.
In the closing address, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said that the meeting had been "constructive and substantive".
"During these two days the ministers have had the unique opportunity to share views and exchange ideas on security challenges and possible next steps. From our point of view the OSCE is a natural forum to discuss European security issues, also at the high level if needed," he said.
Stubb called the meeting a success, although the ministers did not agree a joint political declaration. "I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn't get a political declaration. I think we had a window of opportunity to do it - we missed it. But at least we were able to sort a few of the key issues," he said.
Thirteen decisions were taken by the OSCE ministers, including agreement on a ministerial statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They welcomed the "constructive and positive momentum in the peace process for the political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict", and encouraged the sides to intensify negotiations.
The foreign ministers also agreed to enhance OSCE efforts to improve the situation of Roma and Sinti, and to combat trafficking in human beings. Other decisions concerned, among other issues, small arms and light weapons and stockpiles of conventional ammunition, and countering terrorism.
The Greek 2009 OSCE Chairmanship was tasked with pursuing dialogue on strengthening the legal framework of the OSCE. Marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the declaration.
The Chairman-in-Office referred to the foreign ministers' discussion on the future of European security that took place yesterday as a high point of the meeting: "It was refreshing, it was frank, it was open, and it was analytical, and that in and of itself to me is part of the spirit of Helsinki."
Greek Foreign Minister and 2009 OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Dora Bakoyannis emphasized the Greek Chairmanship's commitment to continuing the talks.
"The discussions we have started in Helsinki should be taken forward. As the incoming Chairmanship, Greece stands ready to take forward proposals to continue our high-level dialogue on Euro-Atlantic security, perhaps through the convening of a special meeting to deepen the debate and clarify the questions that remain," she said.