April 6, 2018

The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University, LISD, convened its first Liechtenstein Colloquium, LCM, Security Retreat on “European Foreign and Security Challenges”  at the Augustinian Monastery of Saint Florian in Upper Austria from March 15-18, 2018. The retreat was private and by-invitation-only and had three objectives: to reflect on and evaluate the 2017 Austrian OSCE Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); to consider European foreign and security challenges in the realm of the 57 OSCE participating States (from Vancouver to Vladivostok, the North Pacific to the Sea of Okhotsk, North East Asia), and to develop ideas about concrete steps which would contribute to stabilization and the establishment of trust and cooperation in our unruly and unpredictable times. The beautiful and serene setting of the 16th century Abbey of Saint Florian offered an ideal venue to reflect on and discuss the above themes candidly. Additionally, the retreat addressed how these issues build a new perspective on the European Union and its member states, and their contributions towards stability, justice, peace and prosperity.

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Courtyard of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian in Upper Austria. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018.

This retreat was convened in cooperation with the team of the 2017 Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE and brought together representatives of more than 30 OSCE delegations, governmental representatives, academics, experts and representatives of civil society. This inaugural LCM Retreat took place under the auspices of LISD Princeton University, the Princely House of Liechtenstein, and was under the patronage of the Governor of Upper Austria; it was convened and chaired by Prof. Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, LISD Founding Director.

The event opened with a reception on the evening of Thursday, March 15 in the guesthouse of the St. Florian Monastery. On Friday, March 16,  Working Session I, began with select participation a “Review of the 2017 Austrian Chairmanship.” Prof. Danspeckgruber and Ambassador Florian Raunig, Head of the Task Force for the 2017 Austrian OSCE Chairmanship opened the Security Retreat. Danspeckgruber highlighted the need to also consider the perspective of young team members, both men and women, in order to adequately evaluate the 2017 Austrian Chairmanship -- asking what was achieved, what was not, and what should still be done. Furthermore, Danspeckgruber enumerated three key elements of LISD’s role during the 2017 Austrian Chairmanship, which included: i.) assisting to bring in new avenues of dialogue in uncpredictable and unruly times; and also to be cognisecent of religion and religious values, ii.) considering increased global multipolarity, including the influence of powerful and influential non-state actors, the role of China, and the increasing impact of advanced technology, robotics, etc., as well as uncertainty, disinformation, and perceived disillusionment and insecurity in the OSCE Realm, and finally, iii.) the goal of facilitating direct personal contact between actors, political and communal decision makers, and the population at large, of all generations and income levels, with the aim of generating positive effects and trust.

Conference participants

From left to right: Amb. Christian Strohal; Professor Wolfgang Danspeckgruber; Amb. Florian Raunig; Amb. Ertuğrul Apakan. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018.


Amb. Raunig reflected on the experience of the year-long mandate of Austria to chair the OSCE, noting that although there were a number of successes throughout the Chairmanship, three key points proved challenging to accomplish. Firstly, 1) keeping the overview over the wide range of topics in the OSCE while executing the leadership of the Organization in thematic, programmatic and organisational terms. Additionally, 2) securing compromise and consensus remains difficult due to political divisiveness and lack of dialogue, which has considerably slowed down progress in all three dimensions of the OSCE. And finally 3) dealing with the many still unsolved and newly emerging challenges in a climate of mutual distrust and accusations.

The conversation that began in Working Session I continued in Working Session II, “Identification of Main Trends and Results,” during which participants of the retreat discussed the motivations of the various geo-political epicenters to enact change on a global scale. The transformations of regional strategy within the Trump administration were highlighted as an example of a growing need to adapt to unexpected foreign policy agendas and instead empower individual actors and states to function in the face of colossal threats of cyber or nuclear attack. The session also focused on a key shift impacting liberal democracies, namely the lack of proper channels for aggregating political preferences among a diversified populace. The traditional beneficiaries of a liberal democracy are facing heightened identity politics and ethno-nationalism.

Meeting participants seated at the table

From left to right: Amb. Prince Stefan von und zu Liechtenstein; Amb. Schoenaich-Carolath; Mr. Christopher Nixon Cox. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018. 

This shift has brought actors such as President Trump onto the world stage, and his political approach can be understood as perhaps both a symptom and an outcome of this global trend. The session closed with a discussion on the way online communities experience this global trend differently, which effectively differentiated the lived “virtual” and “real” platforms for change and influence. While some viewed social media and similar online platforms as a randomized and unbiased equalizer, others pushed for a more cautionary outlook on a freeing yet destructive internet.

Parallel to Working Session II, participants from the Austrian Chairmanship team had a private evaluation session, which served as an exclusive space for candid reflection among personnel of the OSCE and members of the 2017 Austrian Chairmanship.

At the conclusion of Friday’s sessions, the retreat featured a reception in the grand Marble Hall of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, followed by a dinner in the Sala Terrena where alums of the boys choir, the St. Florianer Saengerknaben performed for guests of the gathering. The Abbot of the Monastery, Propst GR Johannes Holzinger delivered an address to the group regarding the history of the abbey’s namesake, Saint Florian, and his selfless and determined mission to help those in need. Propst Holzinger remarked that this mission can be interpreted as substantially linked to that of promoting peace and security on all levels of society. The meaningful address by the Abbot was followed by a rather historic coin-de-feu/fireside conversation: for the first time in OSCE history, all chairmanships from 2013 to 2019 including Ukraine, Switzerland, Serbia, Germany, Austria, Italy and Slovakia were present to offer their special impressions on the Chairmanship and the challenges associated with it.

The LCM Retreat continued in full session on Saturday morning with an opening address by Prof. Danspeckgruber and a keynote by Amb. Alexander Marschik, Political Director General of the Austrian Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. This was followed by a subsequent division into three separate breakout sessions tailored to address elements of foreign security strategy.

Breakout Session A, on “Security Challenges and Emerging Conflicts”, addressed the role of global trends of inequality, populism on the rise and the role of ethno-nationalism in recent European elections. The session also highlighted the role of isolationism in transatlantic relations, especially the way in which Europe can remain open to the United States’ involvement after the end of the Trump administration. Finally, the session highlighted the need for inclusion of the United Nations in negotiations between the United States and Russia on finding a lasting peace on the crisis in and around Ukraine.

Conference participants seated around table

From left to right: Amb. Marcel Pesko; Ms. Astrid Holzinger; Mr. Ondrej Pavlik; Prof. Charles Kupchan. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018.

Concurrently, Breakout Session B, on “Asia and the Geopolitical Context”, focused on the relationships between Russia, the United States, China, and the Republic of Korea, as well as Afghanistan and Central Asia. The session addressed U.S. military strategy in light of China’s development while building a discussion around regional economic cooperation, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). A highlight of this session was the variation with which regional strategic players view the advantages of these developments.

Ambassador Clemens Koja, Mr. Christopher Nixon Cox and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry addressing a session on the Asia-Pacific

From left to right: Amb. Clemens Koja, Mr. Christopher Nixon Cox and Amb. Karl Eikenberry addressing a session on the Asia-Pacific. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018.

At the same time, Breakout Session C, on “Self-Determination in Europe”, discussed the perceived renaissance and reinvigoration of self-determination in Europe, from Kosovo to Scotland, Catalonia, the Kurds, and Brexit. The session highlighted the perceived instrumentalization of self-determination by great powers, and the newfound effects of technology and social media on the diffusion of self-determination claims and enactment of the principle. Keynote speakers emphasized the need to take into account (1) new ‘technological’ avenues for building a state, such as those exemplified by Estonia, (2) constructing more robust and nuanced notions of political community when discussing identity and independence, (3) the potential benefit of using new vocabulary to discuss issues of self-determination, and (4) how the international community might demonstrate greater willingness to defend the principle. 

A concluding session tried to bring up several key concerns in all the break out sessions – like the issue of information and media, the role of other powers like China, issues concerning leadership, uncertainty, further crises and even the weaponization of trade. After an intense discussion the entire group visited the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, and had a dinner in Hotel Schlossle on the Postlingberg.

Professor Wolfgang Danspeckguber and Ambassador Simone Knapp

From left to right: Prof. Wolfgang Danspeckguber and Amb. Simone Knapp. Copyright Richard Trenner/LISD 2018. 

On Sunday, March 18, all were invited to a High Mass Celebration in the Collegiate Church of the Monastery of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine’s Order at St. Florian when the Organ of Anton Bruckner was used. The celebration was optional for participants, but featured a moment of reflection and remembrance for those in attendance.

Following the High Mass, participants joined in a wrap-up session which featured a conversation on select issues of the previous days. The conversation focused on the issue of lost trust in media and leadership and the crisis in the Transatlantic relationship. At the same time, and in parallel to the OSCE-oriented retreat, first-hand accounts concerning the crisis in Spain and the Catalans striving for independence there were also heard. It became clear that respectful interaction between all concerned is the only possible and effective way forward and to stem a crisis. The longer it lasts, the more radical it will be and the higher the chance of outside interference. If no solution is found, this will be to the detriment of the Kingdom of Spain and also the European Union, and might affect many states elsewhere.

A Chair’s Summary of this retreat will be published by the Institute.