OSCE Conference

Securing Trade in Europe

Steinmeier_Gregor Fischer-dpa
Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The aim of this week’s conference is to assess opportunities and risks for improved trade conditions between Europe, Asia and North America.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is hosting a conference this week, titled “Connectivity for Commerce and Investment.”
    • The Berlin conference brings together executives and politicians from more than 60 nations.
    • Besides all major European and Western countries, the guest list will also include Russia, which had been excluded from the G8 group (now G7) of the world’s leading economies over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will combine trade and security when he hosts the Organisation for Security and Economic Co-operation’s first big business conference today, titled “Connectivity for Commerce and Investment,” in Berlin.

While the official mandate of the OSCE has been promoting peace and stability, Germany’s foreign minister has included trade relations in the mix.

“The OSCE has great potential for economic connectivity,” he told Handelsblatt. “This potential unfortunately is far from being tapped fully.”

“With our conference, we want to start a process that stresses shared interests and promotes cooperation and builds trust – despite all differences.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister

The Berlin conference is meant to change that, by bringing together executives and politicians from more than 60 nations that are not assembled in any other international organization in this setting.

The idea is “to assess opportunities and hurdles for better trade and investment conditions between Europe, North America and Asia,” Mr. Steinmeier said. “That also helps building trust between East and West.”

Besides all major European and Western countries, the guest list will also include Russia, which had been excluded from the G8 group (now G7) of the world’s leading economies over its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Turkey, too, will be part of the conference. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is currently attracting harsh criticism internationally for his attempts to lift diplomatic immunity of many Kurdish MPs, jeopardizing a €3-billion ($3.4-billion) refugee deal with the European Union.

Repealing the so-called anti-terror laws that effectively allow Mr. Erdoğan to oppress opposition and reshape the Turkish state is a prerequisite for visa-free travel conditions for Turkish citizens. Mr. Erdoğan, in turn, has made visa-free travel for his countrymen a condition for securing the 28-nation bloc’s eastern border against illegal migration from scores of refugees trying to make their way from the Middle East to Europe.

In addition to the 57 OSCE members, Mr. Steinmeier also invited 11 partner countries to the conference, including China, which is currently chairing the G20 group of the world’s most important industrialized and developing countries.

“With our conference, we want to start a process that stresses shared interests and promotes cooperation and builds trust – despite all differences,” the German foreign minister said of the varied guest list.

According to Mr. Steinmeier, the topics on the agenda include how to expand cross-border digital infrastructure and what trade facilitations are possible. The questions don’t affect all 60-odd participants equally, as sources within the foreign ministry admitted. While the European Union is already strongly integrated, economic ties in other regions, like the Caucasus, are “massively obstructed.”

The ideas of this week’s conference might be presented at the next full-fledged OSCE conference in December, when all foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Hamburg.

 

Jan Hildebrand leads Handelsblatt’s financial policy coverage from Berlin and is deputy managing editor of Handelsblatt’s Berlin office. To contact the author: hildebrand@handelsblatt.com

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