Pulling together despite attempts at obstruction to ensure the OSCE is fit for the future

Cityscape of Skopje, North Macedonia with the logo of the OSCE Ministerial Council

Cityscape of Skopje, North Macedonia with the logo of the OSCE Ministerial Council, © OSCE

28.11.2023 - Article

Important decisions on the Chairpersonship and key positions are on the agenda of the OSCE Ministerial Council. Russia is blocking and paralysing the organisation. You can find out here why the OSCE needs us, why we need it and what we are doing to ensure that it can carry on its work.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organisation. Germany is the second-biggest contributor to the OSCE after the United States. The OSCE pursues a comprehensive concept of security with “three dimensions”. In addition to the politico-military dimension and the economic and environmental dimension, the OSCE is committed to the human dimension: its election observation missions are one prominent example of the organisation’s work in the sphere of democracy.

Foreign Minister Baerbock commented on this as follows:

From Los Angeles to Almaty, from Svalbard to Istanbul, the OSCE is an anchor for security and cooperation for 1.3 billion people in 57 participating states. Since its founding, it has been firmly moored to its central pillars of dialogue and joint commitment; it represents a unique forum where a wide range of countries, big and small, closely allied and neutral, sit together at one table.

OSCE member states make their decisions unanimously. For more than 650 days now, Russia has been taking advantage of this and has repeatedly tried to block decisions within the OSCE. It has not been possible to date to approve the extension of the four key OSCE positions, including that of the Secretary General, the German diplomat Helga Schmid. Furthermore, there is no regular budget, resulting in the OSCE not having sufficient funds available.

Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised:

We have put our heads together and through pragmatic efforts have managed to save a great many projects that would otherwise have been wound down due to the lack of a regular OSCE budget. These rescue efforts were supported by special contributions not least from Germany and from friends such as Japan. All of this is only possible with enormous effort and conviction. I am glad to know that in Helga Schmid we have such an experienced diplomat and strategist at the helm of the OSCE.

Despite Russia blocking OSCE decisions, 55 participating states have taken a clear stance in favour of maintaining the OSCE, on the side of the law, on the side of peace and security. What bothers Russia about the organisation is precisely what many other member states, including Germany, find attractive: it is an alliance of 57 states ranging from North America and Europe to Russia and Central Asia which was established to resolve conflicts and enable more than one billion people to coexist in peace. The OSCE’s objective is to enhance security in Europe through cooperation between the European and the eastern and western neighbouring countries.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the OSCE
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the OSCE© Janine Schmitz/photothek.de

Even in the face of considerable headwinds, the OSCE has made progress on many issues during the Chairpersonship of North Macedonia in 2023.

The organisation has widened its focus, both thematically and regionally. For instance, the cooperation with and in the Central Asian states has been stepped up thanks to the efforts of Secretary General Helga Schmid, while a fund to support climate and security has been established – two of many examples which highlight how the work done by the OSCE builds confidence and brings security to the civilian population in the individual states.

In Skopje, Foreign Minister Baerbock will call for Malta to be granted the Chairpersonship for 2024 and for the four key positions to be extended:

If the OSCE is to plot a course that brings people security, then we must also give it the equipment and the navigators to do so, so that it can remain somewhat capable of action and continue onwards – even in fierce winds. This is what I have been urgently advocating in recent weeks, and it is why I am travelling to Skopje, too. I firmly believe that every effort to preserve the OSCE is worthwhile.
– Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock


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