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12.01.2024 - Article

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organisation in the world.

The OSCE was created by the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in 1975. The official change of name from CSCE to OSCE became effective on 1 January 1995. It comprises 57 participating States from North America to Central Asia. As a rule, the OSCE takes decisions according to the consensus principle. The decisions in which the participating States commit themselves to common values, ideas and goals are politically, but not legally, binding.

Beyond its participating States, the OSCE conducts dialogues with partner countries in the Mediterranean region (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan) and with Asian partner countries (Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Afghanistan), as well as Australia. These cooperation partners also attend meetings of the OSCE bodies.

Objectives of the OSCE

The OSCE’s objective is to enhance security in the OSCE area through cooperation and dialogue between the countries. The OSCE is based on a comprehensive definition of security that encompasses the “three dimensions”:

  1. the politico-military dimension,
  2. the economic and environmental dimension, and
  3. the human dimension.

Core topics of the OSCE in the first dimension include crisis and conflict management, arms control, disarmament, security development and confidence-building, counter-terrorism, cooperation and exchange between police authorities, joint border management, the fight against human trafficking and organised crime, and engagement in the area of cyber security. The economic and environmental dimension primarily seeks to promote economic security and stability, strengthen cooperation on environmental questions, mitigate climate change-related risks and foster connectivity among the participating States. The third dimension comprises the protection of human rights as well as the promotion of democratic and rule-of-law standards. In a cross-dimensional context, the OSCE focuses on topics such as promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, gender equality, mediation and dialogue. The aim is to enable participating States to build trust in the long term through issues and projects of common interest.

As a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the priorities of the OSCE have also shifted. Since 24 February 2022, the focus has been on the impact of Russia’s war of aggression on security and cooperation in Europe and on support for Ukraine in all three OSCE dimensions.

Germany in the OSCE

Germany last held the Chairmanship of the OSCE, which rotates annually, in 2016. Its priorities were military security and confidence-building, counter-terrorism, sustainable economic connectivity and tolerance and diversity. Moreover, it worked intensively to expand the former Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) and to resolve the conflicts in the Moldovan region of Transnistria and in the Southern Caucasus. In 2024, the Republic of Malta is holding the Chairmanship of the OSCE, and Finland will take over in 2025.

Germany contributes 11 percent of the current OSCE budget, which makes it the second-largest contributor after the United States. Moreover, the Federal Government supports OSCE projects throughout the OSCE area with additional voluntary contributions. German staff are to be found in almost all the OSCE missions and institutions. All in all, Germany seconds more than 40 experts to the OSCE. Furthermore, Germany regularly contributes to the OSCE election observation missions run by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Since 2002, secondment of personnel has been organised in cooperation with the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF).

Germany’s interests within the OSCE are represented by the Permanent Mission to the OSCE at the organisation’s headquarters in Vienna.

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