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Mediterranean and the Security of the OSCE's Southern Region in focus of the joint meeting of the Forum for Security Co-operation and the Permanent Council

VIENNA, 11 July 2018 – In light of large movements of refugees and migrants, the security situation in the Mediterranean was a key area of focus at today's Joint Meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation and the Permanent Council. The region is of special importance for European security, which was recognised by the participating States already in the OSCE's founding document - the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.

Opening the meeting, Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the OSCE and Chairperson of the Forum for Security Co-operation, said that the aim of the joint meeting is to bring greater attention to the challenges emanating from the Mediterranean basin.  "This is because Slovenia and Italy are not only neighbouring countries, but also participating States that are acutely aware of the special importance of security of OSCE's southern region" he said.  The OSCE has also a unique capability to address such challenges with its cross-dimensional approach. "This kind of holistic strategy was already approved by the OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on Migration in Ljubljana in 2005, during the Slovenian OSCE Chairmanship" he added.

Ambassador Alessandro Azzoni, Permanent Representative of Italy to the OSCE and Chairperson of the Permanent Council, underlined that the topic could not be more fitting for the Italian OSCE Chairmanship. According to him, the recent challenges have highlighted once again the interconnected nature of security in Europe and the need to amplify contacts and dialogue among all the States of the Mediterranean:  "A position that Italy continues to champion".  He also pointed out that fight against human trafficking and smuggling of migrants is one important element in shaping a coordinated and comprehensive response to the broader challenge of migration.  "This is one area where our Organization is contributing, for example through the simulation training programme jointly conducted by the OSCE and the Carabinieri of the COESPU in Vicenza" he added.

A comprehensive approach to the security in the Mediterranean is also advocated by the EU. EUNAVFOR MED – Operation Sophia, the biggest operation under the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, is part of its efforts to address migration and support the return of stability to Libya.  It is also the only international actor implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya in line with UNSCR 2420 (2018).  Captain (Navy) Ettore Socci, the Military Adviser to the Commander of EUNAVFOR MED, therefore updated the participating States on the state-of-play in connection to the operation's main goal, which is to disrupt the business model of human trafficking. 

Since July 2017, irregular migration from Libya to Europe has been reduced. The situation needs monitoring, but it shows that through an integrated approach the smugglers business model can be broken. Focusing on Libyan Coastal Guard and Navy capabilities is of key importance. They are eager to fight illicit activities and save lives at sea. Their continued training and monitoring is a crucial part of the EU’s engagement. In addition a deterrent effect regarding the arms embargo was achieved.  Through its presence at sea, EUNAVFOR MED is contributing to maritime security - at the sea and from the sea - in the Central Mediterranean region.  He also added that gender mainstreaming is an important part of the operation and is promoted in internal and external training. "The operation will also integrate a 'Gender' module into the training programme for the Libyan coast guard and navy in September 2018" he said. 

Slovenia is one of the original contributing States to operation Sophia.  Captain (Navy) Boris Geršak, Commander of the Slovenian Naval Force, stressed the complexity of the situation in the Mediterranean, including the regular deployment of naval groups coming from far outside the region, as well as the most pressing issue of migration flows.   "The Mediterranean has therefore become an area of extreme insecurity, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the States in the region" he said.  Since Adriatic-Ionian region is an inseparable part of the Mediterranean, migration flows can have spill-over effects there as well.  He therefore emphasized the need for strengthening regional cooperation and highlighted the example of the Adriatic–Ionian Initiative (ADRION), which joins navies from Italy, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. 

He also presented the Slovenian contribution and experiences of Slovenian naval forces in operations of the Italian Defense and Security Forces “Mare Nostrum” and EUNAVFOR MED Sophia in the Mediterranean, most notably with the contribution of the Slovenian flagship "Triglav". In addition, Slovenian Armed Forces members have also been present in both operational and force commands from the beginning of operation Sophia. Since Slovenia has only one set of forces he underlined the importance of NATO and the EU moving in a coordinated manner and enhancing institutional cooperation with a view to a combined answer to maritime security on Europe's doorstep.  He concluded by emphasizing that Slovenian naval capabilities contribute to the achievement of maritime security. In other words: “It is not the size; it is the willingness and skills that matter.”

The Joint Meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation and the Permanent Council was also addressed by Dr. Assia Bensalah Alaoui, Ambassador-at-Large of his Majesty Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco.  As a representative of an OSCE Mediterranean Partner for Co-operation she emphasized that all shores of the Mediterranean are confronted with common challenges: increasing general insecurity, migration, terrorism, cultural divide and polarization. Dr. Alaoui remarked that polarized societies are an obstacle to dialogue and inclusion, and that women are often the first victims
of insecurity.

As far as migration is concerned, Morocco has witnessed great inflows due to its generous policy concerning Sub-Saharan migrants.  This will be even more true with the prospective membership of Morocco in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Women have played a key role in the migration sphere, with numerous NGOs promoting integration being headed by women. Furthermore, women have taken up a fundamental role in the context of mediation, particularly in translating peace agreements into practice at the day-to-day level in several realities. A practical example is the joint initiative that Morocco is promoting with Spain aimed at training local mediators in the Mediterranean. Lastly, one of the pillars of Morocco’s strategy is the prevention of radicalization and terrorism, and women play a key role in this approach, as they can depict early signs of radicalization in society and have the right sensitivities to address them early on.