A Ukraine United, Democratic, and European?

"Here, in Vienna, you are closer to the Ukrainian border than to the border to Liechtenstein and Switzerland," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz reminded the participants of the MSC Core Group Meeting in Vienna in the conference's opening session. On June 16-17, the meeting brought together about 60 senior leaders to debate critical issues of European security.

The MSC Core Group Meeting in Vienna (Photo: Kuhlmann / MSC).

"We cannot accept that recognized borders are challenged in Europe once again," Kurz stressed in his statement. But a continued search for ways to work with Russia would be needed.


"We can make compromises about many issues, but the European way and European path of Ukraine is not under discussion," Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s foreign minister, emphasized. He laid out three principles for the future of his country: united, democratic, and European. While he did argue in favor of engagement with Russia – "there should be rules of engagement."


The Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter pointed out in his speech that there was no need for new rules but rather for improved adherence to the existing rules. "As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, European security is in crisis. This is no moment to celebrate. But the anniversary does provide an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Final Act and our subsequent commitments to a free and undivided Europe. And it should inspire us to resolutely and comprehensively address the current crisis, rebuild trust, and make sure that we are doing everything possible not to let our continent be divided again," Burkhalter said.

Except for these three speeches, the conference was held under Chatham House Rule. Many participants agreed on the need to ramp up financial, economic and political support for the government in Kiev. However, they seemed to disagree about the specific form and the magnitude of the support needed. Some participants said that the Ukrainian government made important progress and made the case for a "Draghi strategy," i.e. clearly stating that the West would do all it takes to ensure a prosperous future for Ukraine. Others argued that Kiev also needed some tough questioning relating to its implementation of the rule of law.

The participants in the meeting emphasized that Europe must not become divided again. Many stressed that Russia's turning away from Europe was neither in Europe's nor in Russia's best interest. Yet participants did not see eye to eye on how the current conflict over some fundamental aspects of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture could be alleviated in the short term and completely overcome in the long term.


The Core Group Meeting ended with a joint lunch with the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project, which was tasked by the OSCE troika to develop recommendations on how to reconsolidate security in Europe. In Vienna, the panel, chaired by Wolfgang Ischinger, presented its Interim Report on lessons for the OSCE from its engagement in Ukraine.

The Chairperson-in-office of the OSCE, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, addressed the participants and stressed the need to strengthen the OSCE: "One of the key lessons we have learned from the OSCE response to the crisis in and around Ukraine is that we need to strengthen the Organization’s capacity to prevent and respond to conflicts."

Both Foreign Minister Dačić and the Secretary General of the OSCE, Lamberto Zannier, thanked the Panel members for their Interim Report, which they discussed with the members of the OSCE Permanent Council later in the afternoon. As Zannier underlined, the report "provides useful recommendations on how the Organization could work even more effectively and is therefore a timely and important contribution to the discussion on how to overcome the current divisions in Europe."

Other participants of the meeting included Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, Miroslav Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexej Meshkov, the Austrian Federal Minister of Defence Gerald Klug and his counterpart Milica Pejanović-Ðurišić from Montenegro, Jan Hamáček, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, Elmar Brok, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the German Bundestag Norbert Röttgen, the former Federal Chancellor of Austria Wolfgang Schüssel, the former NATO Secretary General and former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Celeste Wallander, Special Assistant to the US President and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia in the National Security Council, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, Prinz Turki Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, George Soros, the Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations, as well as Gerhard Roiss, Chief Executive Officer of OMV.


Since 2009, the MSC Core Group Meetings bring together an exclusive group of senior leaders in changing locations around the world for off-the-record discussions of key issues of international security policy. Previous Core Group Meetings have taken place in Beijing, Doha, Moscow, New Delhi, and Washington, D.C. The next Core Group Meeting will take place on April 14-15, 2016, in Addis Ababa. Further meetings are being planned for Beijing and Washington, D.C.

17 June 2015, by MSC