The OSCE dates back to the detente of the early 1970s, with the opening of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), a multilateral body for dialogue and negotiation between Eastern and Western Europe.
The Helsinki Final Act signed on 1 August 1975 determines the remit of the OSCE. It sets down 10 fundamental principles governing relations between the participating States, including refraining from the use of force and the inviolability of the borders resulting from the Second World War. These remain keystones of European security. The signature of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in December 1990 established the CSCE. In December 1994, it became the OSCE following the Budapest Summit.
The OSCE is based in Vienna and remains the only organization focused on inclusive Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security cooperation, providing a permanent political guidance forum for its 57 (since 2012) participating States.
1) Politico-military dimension;
2) Economic and environmental dimension;
3) Human dimension.
The Chairmanship of the Organization is held on an annual basis by one of the participating States, after approval of its candidacy by consensus among them.
A preventive diplomacy instrument through:
• Permanent political dialogue in Vienna;
• The work of the Chairmanship-in-Office;
• Mediation activities (such as on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the Minsk Group, the Transnistria conflict, and the crisis in Ukraine);
• The role of the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM);
• The 15 field missions deployed in South-East Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
A forum for reflection on security in Europe, with, on the one hand, the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC), which brings together all delegations to address cooperation and security measures specific to the OSCE, and on the other, the “Structured Dialogue” on security in Europe, an informal framework with regular high-level meetings.
On security, the OSCE has a cooperative and multi-dimensional (the three dimensions) approach: the 57 participating States have equal status and decisions are taken by consensus.
For the last decade, combating transnational threats has been highly important. It was one of the priorities of the Astana Summit in 2010. Since then, there have been major developments that make the OSCE an important regional player, including the creation of the post of Co-ordinator of Activities to Address Transnational Threats within the OSCE Secretariat, and the adoption of several decisions in the policing, drugs and terrorism fields.
Work on the politico-military dimension takes place in three forums:
• The Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) for the Treaty on Open Skies;
• The Joint Consultative Group for the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty);
• The Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC).
The following themes are discussed in this framework:
• Drafting of Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) through the Vienna Document revised in 2011;
• Implementation of the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security;
• Implementation of specific Documents on small arms and light weapons (SALW) and conventional ammunition;
• Support for the universalization of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540).
Economic and environmental dimension
Activities under the economic and environmental dimension are the responsibility of the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA). They include:
• Economic confidence-building measures;
• Addressing the economic impact of human trafficking;
• Treatment of toxic and radioactive waste;
• Creation of regional water basin management projects.
The human dimension encompasses activities and commitments of the participating States concerning:
• Human rights and fundamental freedoms;
• Rule of law and democracy;
• Media freedom;
• Fighting intolerance and discrimination.
• The participating States are committed to holding democratic elections and inviting the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to observe their national elections.
• The OSCE’s activities under the human dimension are primarily conducted by autonomous institutions such as the ODIHR, the HCNM, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, as well as by each of the OSCE field missions, which have remits covering activities in this area.
Field missions play a role in the three dimensions of the OSCE’s work and are present in the following regions:
The OSCE has six field missions in South-East Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and North Macedonia. They play an essential role in:
• Promoting democracy in the region;
• Protecting human rights;
• Strengthening institutions;
• Developing the media.
• The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is the organization’s largest field presence, apart from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM).
The OSCE’s activities in Ukraine and Moldova focus on electoral observation, promotion of the rule of law and conflict resolution.
Since March 2014, the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has been deployed across the country, including in the Donbass region, in order to help settle the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.
Until recently, the OSCE supported Armenia and Azerbaijan in the areas of economic and environmental development, conflict resolution and democracy. The OSCE field presences in Baku and Yerevan ended in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
The organization remains present in the region through the Office of the Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference (Nagorno-Karabakh), who is responsible for observing the line of contact and border between the two countries and assisting the Minsk Group Co-Chairs in seeking a peaceful, sustainable settlement to the conflict.
The participating States situated in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are supported by the OSCE in the implementation of their political and economic reforms. The scope and activities of several of its missions have recently been scaled back at the request of the host countries.
At the OSCE, the European Union speaks with a single voice and national positions are rare. EU Member States define common positions ahead of every meeting. France’s action is therefore inextricably linked to that of other Member States and European Union priorities.
These French and European priorities include:
• Peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine;
• Security and stability in South-East Europe;
• Development of a strategy in Central Asia based on establishing the rule of law and improving border management to address threats in the region, including organized crime, drug trafficking, terrorism;
• Settlement of protracted conflicts, notably in the South Caucasus (South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh) and in Moldova (Transnistria);
• Compliance of all participating States with their commitments, including with respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms and support to OSCE institutions (ODIHR, HCNM, Representative on Freedom of the Media, field missions) to help achieve this;
• Adaptation of confidence-building and arms control instruments to current military realities, particularly the Vienna Document and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
The European Union accounts for 70% of the OSCE’s budget.
In 2018, France paid €14.6 million in mandatory contributions to the OSCE out of an overall budget of €138 million.
In addition, France makes voluntary contributions to fund projects for field activities.
For example, a call for additional contributions has been made every year since 2014, when the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was established. The budget of the SMM totalled nearly €100 million in 2018 to which France contributed €7.6 million.
Updated: December 2019