OSCE & EU

Background on the OSCE and its activities

All Member States of the European Union are also participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Altogether, the OSCE has 57 participating States from Europe, North America, and Central Asia and spans a geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostok. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis.

Since the establishment of the OSCE (originally the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE) through the signature of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, the organisation pursues a comprehensive concept of security in a cross-dimensional approach. The three “dimensions” of the OSCE's work are: the politico-military; the economic and environmental; and the human dimension including the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democracy and the rule of law. The OSCE's activities range from issues such as military transparency and arms control to fostering economic development, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and promoting the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The OSCE also deals with transnational threats, such as cyber security or fight against terrorism.

Three autonomous OSCE institutions assist the participating States in monitoring the implementation of their OSCE commitments and help them in improving their record in this respect. The autonomous institutions are the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) based in Warsaw, the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) based in the Hague, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM) based in Vienna.

The OSCE also remains an important forum for conflict resolution and confidence building in its area and is directly involved in the negotiations to resolve the protracted conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, as well as the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Most recently, the OSCE has played a key role in efforts to address the crisis in and around Ukraine, including through the deployment of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM).

OSCE facts and figures

57 participating States: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America (USA), Uzbekistan.

The OSCE maintains special relations with a number of countries in the Mediterranean region, in Asia, and Australia, which are known as Partners for Co-operation and have observer status. The Partners are: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Australia.

OSCE Chairmanship in Office (CiO)

  • 2012: Ireland
  • 2013: Ukraine
  • 2014: Switzerland
  • 2015: Republic of Serbia

OSCE Permanent Council

  • Meets in Vienna

OSCE Secretariat

  • Secretary General: Lamberto Zannier (Italy)Headquarters: Vienna

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

  • President (2014): Ilkka Kanerva (Finland)
  • Secretary General: Spencer Oliver
  • Headquarters (Secretariat): Copenhagen
  • http://www.oscepa.org/

Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

  • High Commissioner on National Minorities: Astrid Thors (Finland, appointed 2013)
  • Headquarters: The Hague
  • http://www.osce.org/hcnm

Office of the OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media

  • OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media: Dunja Mijatovič (Bosnia and Herzegovina, appointed 2010)
  • Headquarters: Vienna
  • http://www.osce.org/fom

Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings

  • OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: Madina Jarbussynova (Kazakhstan, appointed 2014)
  • Headquarters: Vienna
  • http://www.osce.org/cthb

Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities

17 OSCE Field Operations:

  • OSCE Presence in Albania
  • OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • OSCE Mission in Kosovo
  • OSCE Mission to Montenegro
  • OSCE Mission to Serbia
  • OSCE Mission to Skopje
  • OSCE Mission to Moldova
  • OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine
  • OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
  • OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk
  • OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Baku
  • OSCE Office in Yerevan
  • OSCE Centre in Ashgabat
  • OSCE Centre in Astana
  • OSCE Centre in Bishkek
  • OSCE Office in Tajikistan
  • OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan

More information about the OSCE can be found under http://www.osce.org/.

EU co-operation with the OSCE

Article 21 (2.c) of the Lisbon Treaty states that "the Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders."

The EU and the OSCE share a strong interest to co-operate on security-related discussions and conflict prevention in Europe and co-operate closely at all levels, including in the field. The EU and the OSCE pursue a permanent political dialogue among their members and coordinate efforts in pursuing common objectives and finding shared solutions. The agendas of the two organisationsoverlap to a considerable degree.

The EU actively supports this comprehensive and co-operative approach to security. As the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU grows in importance and effectiveness, especially with the development of a European Security and Defence Policy and of a crisis prevention and civilian crisis management capacity, the co-operation between the EU and the OSCE increases. The EU also greatly values the role of OSCE field operations and the autonomous OSCE institutions.

EU Member States contribute over two third of the OSCE's main budget and the EU and its Member States also contribute to the funding of a number of OSCE implemented extra-budgetary projects. Examples of EU support for the OSCE include assistance for the ODIHR in developing national electoral and human rights institutions and crisis management, for instance in the Western Balkans.

The EU Delegation to the International Organisations in Vienna coordinates the EU policies in the OSCE on a day-to-day basis and represents the EU in the OSCE.

The role of the EU in the OSCE

The role of the European Union in the OSCE has never been formally defined in a comprehensive manner. For a long time, the participation of the European Commission (before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009) in OSCE proceedings was simply based on established practices, most of which dated back to the preparatory negotiations of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, in which the Commission was already involved. This participation was formalised only in November 2006 when OSCE Ministers adopted the Rules of Procedure  of the organization.

The basic justification for EU participation in OSCE proceedings stems from the fact that the legal competence concerning some issues addressed by the OSCE has been transferred from EU Member States to the European Union. Hence, already the Helsinki Final Act was signed by Prime Minister Aldo Moro "as Prime Minister of the Italy and in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Communities" (so-called Moro Declaration  ). The other two key OSCE basic documents, the Charter of Paris (1990) and the Charter for European Security (1999) were signed directly by the then Presidents of the Commission Jacques Delors, respectively Romano Prodi.

The key features of the EU's participation in the OSCE are:

  • The Delegation of the EU is regarded as being part of the Delegation of the OSCE participating State holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU. As such the Delegation is participating in all proceedings unless the issue under discussion clearly falls fully outside the scope of the EU.
  • As the EU has its own Ambassador/Permanent Representative  accredited to the OSCE, it is, in principle, treated as an individual OSCE participating State as concerns protocol issues, and as regards the circulation of documents or other information or invitations.
  • In all OSCE decision-making bodies, including on Ministerial and Head of State and Government level, the EU has a seat reserved beside the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU (in non-decision-making bodies the question does not arise as the OSCE practices 'free seating').
  • In cases where the issue under discussion mainly falls under the competence of the European Community, the Delegation of the EU, representing also the Commission, can intervene in the same way as an OSCE participating State.
  • In OSCE decision-making bodies, where the EU is speaking 'with one voice', the EU Delegation may speak on behalf of all EU Member States.
  • In non-decision-making bodies, the Delegation usually coordinates the position of all EU Member States and presents it in meetings.
  • At meetings at the levels of Ministers or Heads of State and Government, the EU High Representative or the Presidents of the Council or Commission are intervening.  

In particular through its Delegation accredited to the OSCE, the European Union has developed close contacts both with other OSCE Delegations and with all OSCE Institutions, notably the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna as well as the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw. Although the EU as such cannot contribute to the Unified Budget of the OSCE, it has become in recent years a big donor of extra-budgetary contributions for a large variety of programs and projects.

The close relations between the EU and the OSCE are also maintained through regular meetings, from EU-OSCE Ministerial Political Dialogue meetings to PSC-level Political Dialogues and staff-to-staff talks. At field level, there are regular contacts between the OSCE field missions and the respective EU Delegations, as well as the CSDP Missions of the EU. In addition, the EU works with the OSCE and other partners in the conflict resolution processes in Moldova and in Georgia.