Finland will chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2025, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday evening.
The OSCE is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organisation, and Finland's role as 2025 chair is expected to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of all 57 member states at a meeting in Stockholm on Wednesday. Sweden is the organisation's current chair.
"The forthcoming chairship of the OSCE is a concrete demonstration of Finland's work and commitment to promoting peace and stability in Europe," Haavisto said.
2025 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1975 Helsinki CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe) Conference — a precursor to the establishment of the OSCE — which culminated in the signing of the Helsinki Final Act by 35 nations and had a far-reaching effect on the Cold War and U.S.-Soviet relations.
Haavisto said that Finland has been gathering support among other nations to take over the chair in 2025, and he laid the groundwork with Russia when he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in the Norwegian city of Tromsø earlier this month.
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö also welcomed the announcement.
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OSCE plays "significant role" in tense world
Haavisto described the OSCE as an important forum for increasing dialogue, transparency and trust between the 57 member states.
The importance of the OSCE is especially emphasised when international relations are tense, he added.
"The working atmosphere within the OSCE has been quite difficult recently, so there is plenty of work to do here," Haavisto said.
The interests of the member states — including Belarus, the United States, Mongolia, Ukraine, Britain, France and Russia — must be reconciled, Haavisto added.
Finland last chaired the OSCE in 2008, a year that was marked by a war in Georgia.
At the time, the OSCE was involved in drafting a ceasefire agreement to end hostilities between Russia and Georgia.
The organisation's activities have focused in particular on conflict management in Eastern Europe as well as crisis management operations, post-conflict rebuilding and the strengthening of democracy, including through the monitoring of elections.
Format of 2025 summit still open
Haavisto said that it is too early to assess whether Finland's chairship and the 2025 summit will involve heads of state, as during the 1975 Presidency, or remain at the more usual foreign minister level.
"A lot depends on the state of Europe and the state of the OSCE, but the goal during the presidency is to establish a high-level dialogue between the heads of state as well," Haavisto said.
It also remains to be seen whether there will be any events during Finland's chairship in which non-OSCE countries, such as China, could also take part.
"We think of the anniversary year in terms of hard work, not the year of polishing champagne glasses," Haavisto added.
Reviving the 'spirit of Helsinki'
The 1975 Helsinki Summit was held at Finlandia Hall at the end of July and the beginning of August, and was attended by Russian leader Leonid Brezhnevand US President Gerald Ford as well as, in a historic first, by the leaders of both West and East Germany.
The summit led to the easing of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, most notably with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act and the eventual establishment in 1994 of the OSCE as a successor to the CSCE.
Finland's President Niinistö has repeatedly said recently that he would like to revive the 'spirit of Helsinki', including last week during a working visit to Germany.
"We must take responsibility for the future of our continent. Finland is ready to play its part," Niinistö said in Berlin.