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Ischinger: 'We need better machinery for conflict prevention'

The OSCE should increase its conflict prevention capabilities, Wolfgang Ischinger, head of a study group on lessons learned from the Ukraine conflict, told DW.

DW: Your study group issued five recommendations to improve the work of the OSCE in light of the Ukraine crisis. If you had to pick the most important of these which one would it be?

Wolfgang Ischinger: It's clearly the very difficult question of conflict prevention. Conflict prevention are words easy to pronounce and spell, but extremely difficult to execute. Quite frankly, no one has ever earned the Nobel Peace Price for having prevented a conflict because you cannot prove that you have prevented one. That is the inherent difficulty.

Wolfgang Ischinger Münchener Sicherheitskonferenz 22.01.2014

Wolfgang Ischinger

We believe that the capacity of the OSCE should be strengthened in the area of conflict prevention in particular. There are also other areas, but this to us, having seen how the Ukraine crisis has precipitated a major European crisis without much advanced warning, really shows that we need better machinery for conflict prevention - and the OSCE is the organization that should have this capacity.

The Panel of Eminent Persons you chaired was comprised of members from 15 countries with very different perspectives on the Ukraine conflict, including Russia, the United States and Ukraine. How would you describe the atmosphere and the level of cooperation?

Given the fact that there are two almost diametrically opposed narratives between the Western approach to the Ukraine crisis and the Russian approach to the Ukraine crisis, and given the fact that there is still no effective ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, obviously there are major, major differences among the panelists. But in light of these fundamental differences of views we had a good, a professional and a focused atmosphere where these differences where openly discussed and where efforts were made - I must say by all panel members - to find ways to come to common conclusions, even though I have to say, some of the recommendations were not adopted by consensus. We had quite a bit of difficulty arriving at these recommendations.

How confident are you that these recommendations will not simply collect dust on the shelf?

That is, of course, a very good question, but this is up to those who make the decisions about the future of the OSCE. This report is about the OSCE specifically, so it will be up to the German government, the Russian government, the US government and all the others assembled in this organization of 57 participating states to hopefully not drop the recommendations into the waste basket, but to take them up and discuss them. I would hope that they at least implement a few of them - and the one regarding conflict prevention really is the one that deserves the most attention.

Wolfgang Ischinger chairs the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a Common Project. He is also the head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German diplomat.