SC: Open Debate "Conflicts in Europe"

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
to the United Nations,
New York, 21 February 2017

Thank you Mr. President, or in honor of your presidency: Diakuyu pane Prezydente.

Mr. President,

I would like to start with offering my and my country’s condolences to late Ambassador Churkin’s wife and his children, his colleagues, as well as to the Russian Federation and its people.

Mr. President,

Thank you for convening this debate on the international maintenance of peace and security on conflicts in Europe.

The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement delivered by EU High Representative Mogherini and we support the statement made by Italy, also in the context of our split term in the Security Council 2017-2018.

Mr. President,
Represented in the Security Council today are five member states that are located on the European continent.
Under these circumstances, it would only seem becoming that we, as European nations, should take a step back and look inward.
We welcome this discussion on peace and security in Europe at the highest level, and we commend you, Mr. President, for putting this topic on the agenda.

In January, Secretary General Guterres spoke to this Council of the need to change our traditional approach to peace and security.
We need to do more to prevent conflict and sustain peace, and focus less on responding to conflicts as they escalate.
To put it in the words of the 17th century Dutch philosopher Spinoza: “ Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”.

Therefore, in discussing peace and security in Europe, I would like to look at the entire spectrum of Peace and Security.
What lessons can we draw from the continent’s approach, both for regional organizations and the UN?
What role can and should the UN play to build strong, peaceful and resilient regions that contribute to international peace and stability?

In the sustaining peace resolutions that were adopted by both UNSC and UNGA, the UN recognizes three issues that are essential to any discussion on peace and stability:

-      conflict prevention

-      peacekeeping

-      and the peaceful settlement of disputes 

I will discuss how these three issues relate to the European experience.

Conflict prevention

Mr. President,

Multilateral cooperation lies at the heart of peace and security in Europe.

In the past 60 years, the European Union has shown its ability to bring peace to where there was once conflict.  

Not once since the inception of the European Union, did violent conflict erupt between its member states.
Generations have grown up in the EU without war.
Along similar lines, other regional organizations such as NATO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, continue to play an important role in maintaining peace and security in Europe as well.
All by addressing different aspects of conflict prevention such as military protection, economic and political cooperation, assistance in democracy-building and strengthening the Rule of Law.

And all operating in the wider context of the global multilateral organizations, first and foremost the United Nations.


Mr. President,

Then, on to my second point, peacekeeping.
Secretary General Guterres reminded us in January that prevention is best served by strong, sovereign States acting for the good of their people.
Also in Europe, peacekeeping has been necessary when basic tenets of international law were violated.
However, while peacekeeping missions can be critical to stabilizing conflict situations, they cannot resolve them. Ultimately, Europe’s conflicts can only be resolved politically, not militarily.
The current negotiations in Cyprus underscore this point.

UN-mandated missions have played a constructive role in Cyprus and Kosovo.
However, the UN does not need to carry the burden of resolving each and every conflict alone.
Regional organizations like the EU, NATO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe all play essential roles in stabilizing conflicts zones in Europe and in brokering political solutions.
Under the provisions of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, the UN should seek to reinforce its cooperation with regional organizations wherever it can.

UN support for the work of the OSCE in monitoring the implementation of the Minsk agreements, for example, sends a clear signal to the conflicting parties.

Peaceful settlement of conflict

Mr. President,

This brings me to my third point, the peaceful settlement of conflict.
Over the years, a number of European states sadly have seen their sovereignty challenged or their territorial integrity compromised.
We witnessed this most recently in places like Georgia and Ukraine.
This is something the UN should not condone or abide by.

The European security order is firmly based on the principles of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, the peaceful settlement of disputes and the free choice of countries in deciding their own future. 

Too often we see conflict management replacing conflict resolution, conflicts turning from ‘hot’ to ‘frozen’,stalemates instead of sustainable solutions and peace.
But, as the Balkan wars in the nineties demonstrated, simmering conflicts can easily reignite.
It is better to settle disputes peacefully through the international court system, than by military means.
Let  the underline the importance of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in this regard.
Courts also have a role to play when it comes to conflict resolution, reconciliation and accountability.
I am convinced that, ultimately, there can be no lasting peace without justice.


Mr. President,

In conclusion, the European experience teaches us that when States focus on mutual benefits and respect for international law, conflict need not occur.
The ‘disposition for benevolence, peace and justice’, that Spinoza described, must be the UN’s state of mind too.
The UN is not only there to oversee the cessation of hostilities in conflict zones.
It should focus much more on prevention.
And when conflicts do occur, the UN should pursue political resolutions vigorously and create an environment in which reconciliation can occur.
To that end, the UN should seek to strengthen its cooperation with regional organizations wherever it can.
And press for accountability when it needs to.
This holds true in Europe as it does anywhere else in the world, so all nations may reap the benefits of peace and stability fully.

And the Kingdom of the Netherlands remains your partner for peace, justice and development in that endeavor.

I thank you, Mr. President