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Switzerland celebrates pioneering role in OSCE

Austria's foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (right) shares a joke with delegates at the OSCE anniversary celebrations Keystone

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is celebrating its 25th anniversary in the Austrian capital, Vienna. Switzerland has always had a very important role in the organisation.

The Swiss provided considerable input in drafting the final document at the 1975 Helsinki summit of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe on August 1, 1975, out of which the OSCE was born.

At the time Switzerland wanted to play a more active part in world affairs because it was not a member of any of the major international organisations. Hans-Jörg Renk, a Swiss diplomat at the preparatory talks, told swissinfo that Switzerland’s participation from the start had been important in shaping the development of the OSCE.

“Switzerland managed to get through quite a few procedural matters which were important for the success of the conference, such as the principle of consensus,” said Renk.

“Later on Switzerland contributed quite a lot to the contents of the final act such as the peaceful settlement of disputes – a typically Swiss solution – and improving the working conditions of journalists abroad.”

Since the end of the Cold War, the organisation has had to redefine its role. Renk said that throughout the 25 years Switzerland has remained faithful to keeping a dialogue going between what was then eastern and western Europe, and is now pan-Europe in its widest sense.

“One has to recognise that times have changed. Twenty-five years ago there was a need to have mediators and bridge builders. This need is no longer the same today after the end of the Cold War,” said Renk.

Wednesday’s celebrations are being hosted by the current president of the OSCE, the Austrian foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR