Interview with the Ambassador of Ukraine to Bosnia and Herzegovina H.E. Mr.Oleksandr Levchenko
Q: To start, can you briefly tell us about the key priorities of Ukraine’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2013? How do they relate to current issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Firstly I would like to stress that Ukraine is strongly committed to the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive and indivisible security, rooted in agreed principles and commitments. We will pay special particular attention to maintaining a balanced approach across all three OSCE dimensions, to promoting trust, confidence and reconciliation among the participating States and to upholding the principles and goals of this Organization. The priorities of Ukrainian chairmanship include the settlement of protracted conflicts within the OSCE area, strengthening arms control, confidence-building measures and security, preventing the negative impact of energy sector on the environment. Ukraine will pay more attention to the fight against human trafficking, the protection of freedom of speech, as well as other important issues of the OSCE human dimension.
I am convinced that all these areas are very important for Bosnia and Herzegovina where OSCE is playing an important role in the process of implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. I would like to point out that Ukrainian Chairmanship appreciates the elaboration by the experts of the OSCE Mission in BiH of the Conceptual document on interaction between the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Ukrainian Chairmanship-in-Office in areas which, we believe, could contribute to the implementation of Mission’s mandate and which reflect top agenda of Ukraine’s OSCE Chairmanship.
Q: As the Organisation is approaching the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, how can participating states work more closely in improving co-operation and progressing towards a security community? What innovations will Ukraine bring?
As you know the Dublin Ministerial Council decision on the Helsinki +40 process registered our determination to work together and in a result-oriented manner on many key issues leading up to the OSCE’s anniversary of 2015. The Ukrainian Chairmanship will pursue the Helsinki+40 initiative in close cooperation with future Chairmanships, each participating State as well as the Secretary General and his staff. One of the first decisions of the Ukrainian Chairmanship was establishment of an open-ended informal Helsinki+40 Working Group at the level of permanent representatives of participating States. Its first session will take place in early February.
We encourage joint ownership and common responsibility for this initiative as well as readiness and resoluteness of all 57 participating States to embark on such an endeavour, which could be translated into practical deliverables as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.
Q: How can conventional arms control be revitalized?
Arms control mechanisms and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures remain crucial for maintaining peace and security in our region. In the current challenging circumstances, we see merit in launching a dialogue within the Forum for Security Co-operation aimed at elaborating the fundamental principles of the future conventional arms control in Europe. By taking into account current political and military realities, it should aim at enhancing the overall level of security by promoting openness, transparency and co-operation. This could be of a particular relevance for those participating States that do not belong to any politico-military alliances, like Ukraine. In this context the Chairmanship will work closely with the chairs of the Forum for Security Co-operation to facilitate discussion within the existing FSC mechanisms on the role conventional arms control can play in today’s and the future European security architecture, taking into account current politico-military realities as well as risks and challenges to military security in Europe.
The Ukrainian Chairmanship is ready to contribute to “building bridges” between existing approaches on how to continue the update of the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence and Security Building Measures, which would include the CSBMs covering new aspects of modern military activities.
Ukraine stresses the importance of completing the update of 1994 OSCE Principles Governing Non-proliferation as a contribution to the global non-proliferation efforts.
Q: Which activities does Ukraine plan to implement in the fight against transnational (cross-border) threats, such as cybercrime or drug trafficking to terrorism?
The Ukrainian Chairmanship will promote practical implementation of the Dublin Ministerial Council Decision on the OSCE’s Efforts to Address Transnational Threats with the aim of translating political commitments into programmatic actions. To this end the Chairmanship will advocate step-by-step approach to the implementation of the OSCE Strategic Framework for Police-Related Activities, the OSCE Concept for Combating the Threat of Illicit Drugs and the Diversion of Chemical Precursors as well as the OSCE Consolidated Framework for the Fight against Terrorism. We will seek support and co-operation of the participating States in organizing thematic events on fighting against terrorism, countering illicit drugs, and practical implementation of the OSCE Strategic Framework for Police-Related Activities.
The Chairmanship will provide necessary support to the activities of the Informal Working Group established by the Permanent Council Decision 1039 and will work together with its Chair and all participating States to achieve progress on the set of Draft Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to Reduce the Risks of Conflicts Stemming from the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
As the year 2014 will bring the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Forces from Afghanistan, we believe, it is important to develop and operationalise possible OSCE response to new challenges and threats that have a direct impact on the OSCE states bordering Afghanistan as well as on the whole OSCE area. To make a detailed analysis of potential risks to security of the OSCE participating States the Ukrainian Chairmanship sees merit in conducting in-depth discussions of this important issue within the OSCE framework. In connection with these activities the Ukrainian Chairmanship proposes to devote a specific session of the 2013 Annual Security Review Conference to the border-related issues.
Q: Ukraine’s Chairmanship listed the reduction of human trafficking as a priority. What initiatives will the Chairmanship advocate in the region to tackle human trafficking? How will these initiatives impact BiH?
In 2011 Vilnius Ministerial Declaration on combating all forms of human trafficking the participating States expressed grave concern that despite sustained measures undertaken at the international, regional, and national levels, trafficking remains a serious problem. The Ukrainian Chairmanship will promote fight against human trafficking with the aim to address all forms of this heinous crime in the OSCE area that violates human dignity and undermines human rights and fundamental freedoms. Particular focus will be placed on such forms as trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour as well as support for victims of human traffickers. The Ukrainian Chairmanship will organize an international conference on the issue of combating trafficking in human beings. We believe this conference will provide good platform for exchange of experience between the participating States in combating trafficking in human beings. In this context the experience of BiH in this field could be of a particular interest.
Q: In your opinion, what are the best ways of including civil society and ultimately citizens in decision-making and implementing OSCE commitments?
Hardly anyone can deny the indispensible role of modern civil society institutions in achieving and sustaining comprehensive security what is the ultimate goal of all OSCE activities. And hardly any one can deny the indispensible role of activists from so-called “facebook generation” in supporting spirit of freedom and independence in civil society communities within the OSCE space.
Sharing this vision the Ukrainian Chairmanship is planning to highlight the role of younger generations in developing of the civil society community. With this in mind we are preparing to host an international event aimed at engaging youth representatives from all OSCE participating States and partners for co-operation. In particular within framework of this meeting new approaches to expanding of civil society participation in OSCE activities will be discussed. The OSCE constantly needs some fresh ideas to innovate in terms of collaboration of the official and the civil sides of the OSCE and obviously young minds are the best source for it.
Q: What are the main challenges to media freedom in the OSCE region? How can we work together in addressing them?
Unfortunately, freedom of the media is still under threat in the OSCE region. According to the estimations of the experts of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, we are witnessing the deterioration in crucial dimensions of press freedom: the physical security of journalists and the legal protection of reporting critical of state officials. The important role of the free media in ensuring free and fair elections and the rule of law is recognized by all participating States as expressed in the Astana Commemorative Declaration. The Chairmanship plans to hold an expert seminar on the issue of necessary legislation for the media freedom, which could result in developing relevant recommendations for participating States.