07/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tackling European Security in Corfu

Twenty years ago today, the foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary cut through the border fence that separated their two countries. This simple gesture marked the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain and two generations of East-West division. Soon afterwards, the Berlin Wall fell, and European and American leaders adopted the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, boldly declaring "a new era of democracy, peace and unity" for our region.

This is certainly an anniversary worth celebrating, for we have made and seen remarkable progress over the past two decades: democratic transition, economic growth and political integration have altered the landscape of Central and Eastern Europe.

But this remarkable progress has proven fragile, stalled by frozen conflicts, and -- as we saw last August in the Caucasus -- even reversed by not-so-frozen conflicts. Europe's basic structure of arms control and confidence-building, having facilitated the destruction of over 60,000 pieces of heavy military equipment since 1992, is eroding.

At the same time, interdependency between states in the Eurasian region -- cooperation in key sectors such as energy and economy -- has reached unprecedented levels. But here, too, progress is being hampered, not so much by conflicting interests in these sectors themselves -- prosperity and energy security are after all in everyone's interest -- but by the same mistrust and geopolitical tensions that have so far prevented substantial dialogue on European security.

Today the renewed commitment from Russia and the U.S. to work on common ground, focusing their relationship on what unites them, creates a momentum we should built on.

In this spirit, I have invited the foreign ministers of the 56 participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to gather in Corfu on 28 June for the specific purpose of bringing all stakeholders to the same table as equal partners in dialogue for some serious but informal talks on European security as we try to jumpstart discussions. And the 27 June NATO-Russia Council -- also being held in Corfu -- shares the aim of promoting joint actions against the common threats of terrorism, proliferation, piracy and regional instability and to reestablish trust.

The Greek OSCE Chairmanship proposed this meeting because we need to make short work of the security problems still pending in the OSCE space. After all, the greatest threats to 21st-century European security lay beyond our region. So we need to ask ourselves: How can we deal effectively with the security issues in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs and the Middle East when important matters of security in our own region are in political limbo? And we need to give ourselves the tools and policy to resolve our differences and address the real security challenges of our era. It is therefore our objective this weekend to establish that all of the members of the OSCE have the political will to embark on the Corfu Process, which will enable us to embrace our interdependency, identify our common goals, and act together to ensure European security in the 21st century.