North Macedonia says OSCE 'saved' at Skopje summit

North Macedonia says OSCE 'saved' at Skopje summit
North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani with Maltese Minister Ian Berg at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Skopje. / Valentina Dimitrievska
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje December 3, 2023

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister and outgoing OSCE chairman-in-office Bujar Osmani said on December 1 that the organisation “has been saved” and Malta will be next holder of the presidency in 2024.

The 30th OSCE Ministerial Council, which was held in Skopje on November 30 - December 1, was set to deliberate on the organisation's future and the challenges it confronts. Key decisions include the election of the chair for 2024, budgetary considerations and appointments to key positions within OSCE institutions.

“OSCE is safe. We have saved the organisation and its functionality. All participating states have agreed that Malta is the new chair for next year,” Osmani said at the closing news conference in Skopje.

North Macedonia temporarily opened its airspace for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his delegation to attend the OSCE ministerial meeting in Skopje, despite sanctions, in an effort to unblock the functionality of the organisation. Moscow thwarted a previous attempt by Estonia to assume the chairmanship of the OSCE 2024.

“I want to congratulate Malta and Minister [Ian] Borg and to express our deep gratitude for taking the burden of responsibility for the continuation of the OSCE’s important mission in these challenging times,” Osmani added.

Osmani highlighted that Ukraine, the primary focus during North Macedonia's chairmanship, will require the assistance of the OSCE even more after the cessation of aggression and the start of the recovery process.

“As I stated on many occasions in the past, the OSCE can do a lot during war, but it can do even more to prevent conflicts and mitigate the fallout of armed conflict. For these reasons, we need this organisation to foster multilateralism and facilitate cooperation, so people can live freely and enjoy normal lives,” Osmani stated.

Osmani also announced that participants managed to secure mandates of four leadership positions at OSCE.

He welcomed the extension of mandates of OSCE secretary general Helga Schmid, representative on freedom of the media Teresa Ribeiro and high commissioner on national minorities Kairat Abdrakhmanov, and the appointment of director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Matteo Mecacci, until September 3, 2024.

Schmid emphasised the impact and relevance of the OSCE’s work across the region.

“The decisions made by participating states here in Skopje will enable this work by and for the people of the OSCE region to continue to support stability, security, and human rights.” Schmid said.

Borg, the newly appointed chairman in office, stated that Malta has embraced a role as a bridge builder in the geopolitical landscape.

He emphasised that the unanimous vote by all 57 countries is a testament to their collective commitment to further strengthen the organisation.

Despite the current challenges, Borg affirmed the determination to ensure the continued robustness of the organisation. 

"The OSCE was created upon shared principles and values. It is an inclusive platform for effective dialogue and we will make sure to keep strengthening it," Borg stated.

Malta will begin its term as OSCE chairperson-in-office on January 1, 2024. 

Russia's different voice

During a news conference held on December 1 on the sidelines of the OSCE summit, which attracted huge media interest, Russian Lavrov once again criticised Western countries for what he sees as the "destruction" of the OSCE.

"It is regrettable that we find ourselves at the 30th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in a situation where we cannot celebrate this anniversary. We are witnessing a complete degradation of everything that was created within the organisation, encompassing all three dimensions of security: military-political, economic-environmental and humanitarian. I won't provide specific examples," said Lavrov.

He expressed the conviction that their Western counterparts have not learned any lessons from their perceived failure in handling the OSCE.

Lavrov claimed that Western politicians persistently undermine the organisation, which he said he believes deserves better treatment. According to him, the majority of the speeches from Western colleagues during the meeting were dedicated to this agenda, with only a few "sober" voices.