Past and Future of European Security

The Results of the “Past and Future of European Security in the Aspects of Dialogue of Civilizations” Workshop held at the 13th Rhodes Forum on October 10, 2015

By Walter Schwimmer, Co-Chairman, World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”; Secretary General, Council of Europe (1999-2004); President, European Democracy Forum (Strasbourg)

There was a common sense that there is a joint responsibility of the Greater Europe for security and sustainable peace on the continent and this applies in particular to the European Union and the Russian Federation. When European interests are at stake, as this is the case for example in Ukraine, but also in the European proximity, as in Syria wherefrom hundreds of thousands, if not millions, are on their way to Europe, fleeing from the war, there must be an independent European security policy. The OSCE, “born” out of the Cold War, could play a role in overcoming what is sometimes called a “cold peace”, sometimes a Cold War II. Germany will take the chairmanship of OSCE next year, followed by Austria in 2017.  We appeal to the two countries to prepare for a reform of OSCE, adapting the organization to new challenges.

We regret that against all promises after the end of the Cold War neither the European Union nor the Russian side developed any vision of their future relations. The so-called “strategic partnership” remained an empty word. But neither the end of the Cold War was nor the current stalemate in EU-Russia relations is the end of European history.  However we see some light at the end of the tunnel. In the Minsk declaration of February 12, 2015 the participating leaders, Hollande, Merkel, Poroshenko and Putin committed themselves to the common vision of a joint humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Vladivostok to Lisbon. But how can we get there?

Dealing with security in Greater Europe and its proximity one needs short term, medium term and long term objectives.

Short term objectives are pragmatic, urgent ones. Taking into account the dramatic and immense suffering of the people because of violence, fighting, killing and destruction, the short term objective is certainly stop the fighting. That means ceasefire in Syria between the government and the non-fundamentalist opposition, the Curds as well as the US-supported so-called moderate rebels. Stop the killing, stop the suffering must have priority, after that the political dialogue for a sustainable solution can start. US, Russia and of course European Union where the Syrian refugees are heading to must act together to achieve this. For Ukraine that means that the Minsk agreement must be fully implemented. EU and Russia must use their respective influence to maintain the positive development.

The medium term objective is to find an autonomous or independent position of Europe in security matters where European interests are at stake. The EU must restore a "practical relationship" with Russia and not let the US "dictate" that policy, like the European Commission chief has recently said. At the occasion of last year’s Rhodes Forum I said at the press breakfast that my friend Jean-Claude Juncker will have a more positive and self-reliant attitude towards Russia. I had to wait just one year but I hope this is the beginning of a new era in EU-Russia relations.

What is the long-term objective? 70 years ago there was the agreement of Yalta, defining the post-war order of Europe. 25 years ago there was the meeting and the never implemented accord of Malta. Although Winston Churchill was in Yalta, Europe was in both cases more or less the object of these plans. Now we need a new security architecture for Europe which will be the result of a constructive Pan-European dialogue.

Talking about short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives does not mean that we should postpone the medium and the long-term objectives. NO, we have to start all of them now.

To initiate, to accompany the necessary dialogue on these objectives would of course be a noble task for the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations.”