Stories from the classroom
11 November 2020

Ambassador Thomas Greminger joined discussions in class: Multilateralism in Crisis

Ambassador Thomas Greminger, former OSCE Secretary General, joined the final session of the course "Cooperation and Competition, Security in Europe and the Role of the OSCE”, taught by Prof. Fred Tanner.

The MINT course on Cooperation and Competition, Security in Europe and the Role of the OSCE, taught by Visiting Professor Fred Tanner, was honored to have Ambassador Thomas Greminger participate in the final session.

Ambassador Greminger, a distinguished Swiss diplomat, was until recently the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Vienna. Previously, he was the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the OSCE and the Chair of the Permanent Council during Switzerland’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2014.

The session he joined dealt with “Multilateralism in Crisis: the COVID-19 crisis and the future of regional cooperation in Europe”. During the meeting, Ambassador Greminger commented on a student group presentation on the impact of emergency measures on human rights and democracy in the OSCE region. 

He also contributed to the class's final discussion, exploring the potentials and limitations of the OSCE as a Pan-European organization in light of the crisis of multilateralism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambassador Greminger reflecting on COVID-19 and how it has impacted multilateralism and the OSCE:


COVID  worked as an accelerator of already existing threats: as an accelerator of the growing distrust between states; of the polarisation which we have been seeing for more than a decade between states and within states; as an accelerator also of the pressure on multilateral institutions through unilateral transactional approaches as opposed to a rule-based approach to solving problems.

Students had the unique chance to get the Ambassador's perspective on some of the complex issues Europe is facing today. One of the questions raised during the discussion was:


Are we witnessing the decline in democratic norms and principles in Europe and what role can the OSCE play in preventing the decline of democracy in Europe?


Reflecting on this, Thomas Greminger emphasized that states should be held accountable, OSCE institutions should be staunch advocates of OSCE commitments and make expertise available, showcase best practices and thereby counteract this erosion. However, he noted, the OSCE as a multilateral platform cannot be a substitute for a lack of political will of states.

Visiting Professor Tanner facilitating the online discussion