Sian MacLeod

Sian MacLeod

UK Ambassador to Serbia

Part of UK at the OSCE

30th November 2015

Belgrade Barometer

Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Barometer

Admiral Fitzroy's Storm Barometer
This week the OSCE moves south with its 57 national delegations from Vienna to Belgrade, capital city of our 2015 Chair-in-Office Serbia, to await the arrival of our 57 government representatives for the annual Ministerial Council.

The event may not make the headlines like NATO or EU Foreign Ministers. There will be no high profile decisions on military, political or economic commitments. But it will be worth watching as a barometer of the state of the political and security climate across our region.

The crisis in and around Ukraine will remain central to discussion. The great majority of participating states will seek to hold Russia to account for illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilising military interference in the Donbas, and call for restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty. The UK and many others will push for full, unfettered access for the OSCE’s 600 odd Special Monitoring Mission and its equipment to all of Ukraine, including the border with Russia, and full implementation of the Minsk Agreements that seek to end the violence and resolve the conflict.

Some participants might prefer to see the spotlight move away from Ukraine onto other matters. This will not happen, though there are however other important issues ‘on the table’ or likely to be raised. Many of these have relevance to the Ukraine crisis or its surrounding circumstances.

In the case of some pressing issues, eg terrorism and migration, the OSCE plays a supporting part alongside other actors. But there are others where OSCE has a leading role. It is for example important that in Belgrade we keep firmly in view the ‘Helsinki Principles and Commitments’ that underpin the purpose of the OSCE. First adopted in 1975, and an important milestone in east-west relations, these include not only ‘inviolability of frontiers’ but also ‘respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’. (As well as featuring at the ministerial event, the growing pressure on these freedoms will be the focus of a Parallel Civil Society Conference.) Also highly topical are questions of military transparency and risk reduction, an important area of OSCE activity where we urgently need to update existing mechanisms and consider whether new steps could help reduce risks associated with military accidents and incidents.

I wish my Serbian colleagues all the best this week. The nature of modern multilateral meetings means that much of their attention will be on the logistical challenges of transporting, feeding and wiring up 56 visiting diplomatic missions, as well as drafting, negotiating, and circulating documents. I am sure they will handle them with the professionalism and ingenuity that my Serbian counterpart has shown through the year. The outcome of this week’s discussions though will be a responsibility shared with participating states and will act as something of a weather forecast for the year to come.

Image: Admiral Fitzroy’s Storm Barometer
Science Museum (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About Sian MacLeod

Sian Macleod was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia in September 2019. Prior to this, Sian was Ambassador and Head of the UK Delegation to the Organization…

Sian Macleod was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia in September 2019. Prior to this, Sian was Ambassador and Head of the UK Delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Sian joined the FCO in 1986. Her first posting was to Moscow. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she served briefly in the Embassy in Vilnius. Since then she has been posted to The Hague, returned to Moscow 2004-7, where she became Minister (Deputy Head of Mission). Between overseas postings she has worked in the FCO and the Cabinet Office.

Sian was Ambassador in Prague from 2009 to 2013 and then Director of the British Council Triennial Review and FCO Additional Director for the Eastern European & Central Asian Directorate.

Sian is married to Richard Robinson and they have three children and enjoy music, cycling and cross-country skiing.

Before joining the FCO she studied music at the Winchester School of Art and the Royal Academy of Music.