The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

21-09-2018

In today's context of renewed tensions on the European continent, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has an opportunity to play a stronger role as a forum for all Europe's security actors, helping to prevent a logic of confrontation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU versus Russia from prevailing. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) came into being during the detente of 1962-1979. It transformed the zero-sum game of the Cold War into a positive-sum game between European states, becoming a forum for discussion between the two superpowers and European countries. However, the main achievement of the Helsinki process that formed the CSCE was that it brought all the participating countries to the negotiating table. The main outcome of the Helsinki process was less the Final Act itself than the original process of negotiations between all the participating states. After the fall of the USSR and the subsequent EU and NATO enlargements, the OSCE (as the CSCE was renamed in 1994) was redesigned as a forum for resolving Cold War tensions and it became gradually less relevant. The main elements of the European security framework established by the CSCE (Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Vienna Document, Open Skies Treaty) lost their ability to secure effective arms control and build confidence. There was a shift towards soft security cooperation (election monitoring, peace processes, the protection of minorities, and action to ensure a safe environment for journalists). Initiatives to reform the OSCE over the past decade have largely failed because of disagreements between member states on the objectives and the organisation's legal and financial means. Nevertheless, it remains a necessary forum when it comes to resolving a growing number of crises.

In today's context of renewed tensions on the European continent, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has an opportunity to play a stronger role as a forum for all Europe's security actors, helping to prevent a logic of confrontation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU versus Russia from prevailing. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) came into being during the detente of 1962-1979. It transformed the zero-sum game of the Cold War into a positive-sum game between European states, becoming a forum for discussion between the two superpowers and European countries. However, the main achievement of the Helsinki process that formed the CSCE was that it brought all the participating countries to the negotiating table. The main outcome of the Helsinki process was less the Final Act itself than the original process of negotiations between all the participating states. After the fall of the USSR and the subsequent EU and NATO enlargements, the OSCE (as the CSCE was renamed in 1994) was redesigned as a forum for resolving Cold War tensions and it became gradually less relevant. The main elements of the European security framework established by the CSCE (Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, Vienna Document, Open Skies Treaty) lost their ability to secure effective arms control and build confidence. There was a shift towards soft security cooperation (election monitoring, peace processes, the protection of minorities, and action to ensure a safe environment for journalists). Initiatives to reform the OSCE over the past decade have largely failed because of disagreements between member states on the objectives and the organisation's legal and financial means. Nevertheless, it remains a necessary forum when it comes to resolving a growing number of crises.