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OSCE chairmanship Burkhalter outlines Swiss goals for 2014

Burkhalter addresses his OSCE colleagues

(Keystone)

Speaking to members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter said that peace in Europe shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Burkhalter, who serves as the OSCE’s Chairperson-in-Office this year, told representatives of the 57 participating states that Switzerland had three main goals for its chairmanship: to promote security and stability, to improve people’s living conditions, and to strengthen the OSCE’s capacity to act.

“Regarding our first objective of fostering security and stability, advancing regional cooperation in the Western Balkans will be a major priority,” Burkhalter said. He also mentioned “encouraging signs” concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the South Caucasus.

“The Swiss chairmanship is also ready to re-launch a discussion on the OSCE presence in Georgia, provided that the stakeholders show flexibility and creativity,” he stated.

Overall, Burkhalter – who also serves as Switzerland’s foreign minister – said he wanted to focus on “incremental progress rather than any new grand designs”.

He also said he wanted to put the issue of torture and its prevention back on the agenda, and announced that there would be a conference against trafficking in human beings in mid-February.

“The goal is to discuss how legally binding standards, monitoring mechanisms, and political strategies can mutually reinforce each other and lead to effective action to counter trafficking in human beings,” Burkhalter said, noting that the conference would be arranged jointly with the Austrian chairmanship of the Council of Europe. And in June, Bern will host an event focusing on human rights defenders.

Some of the other topics that Burkhalter highlighted as priorities were disaster relief and risk management, cyber security and terrorism. In April, Interlaken will host an anti-terrorism conference.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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