Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rooting International Law and Reaching for Peace and Reconciliation in Europe

Last night I participated in the round table discussion, following the keynote addresses which opened an International Conference here in Kyiv, bearing the title: Ukrainian Reconciliation Projects and the Future of Europe. The event was encouraging because it was so upbeat by comparison with the usual diplomatic concerns burdening war-torn Ukraine.

All three keynote speakers were convinced that there is a European way of doing things and which can be applied to conflict resolution, in this case toward putting an end to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and fighting corruption and internal divisions here in the Country. I was particularly impressed by the reference made by Prof. Jose` Casanova back to the origins of the OSCE from HELSINKI in long ago 1975, in the FINAL ACT of the CONFERENCE ON SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE. The professor focused on Helsinki as the best possible formulation of the principles of international law in the matter of "Questions relating to Security in Europe". I will list all ten from the Helsinki Final Act, but he highlighted the first five points of the "Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between Participating States" as decisive yet today for how European nations should be dealing with each other: 

I. Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty 
II. Refraining from the threat or use of force 
III. Inviolability of frontiers 
IV. Territorial integrity of States 
V. Peaceful settlement of disputes 
VI. Non-intervention in internal affairs 
VII. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief 
VIII. Equal rights and self-determination of peoples 
IX. Co-operation among States 
X. Fulfilment in good faith of obligations under international law

Do I need to say that the first five in particular shine a very bright light on Russia's bad behavior?

I offer this reminder in the hope and prayer that policy makers in Russia and in Europe, all those who adhere to the OSCE, might find their way "home" to the good sense which inspired those who went before them back in 1975. There is little to be lost and everything to be gained by finding our way back to such wisdom as a guide for relations among states, and not only in Europe.

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