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 has 57 participating States, comprising the countries of Europe and the successor states to the Soviet Union, as well as the United States, Canada and Mongolia. The OSCE’s decisions are reached by consensus, i.e. with the approval of all participating States. 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 Europe through cooperation and dialogue between the European and the eastern and western neighbouring countries. The OSCE is based on a wide-ranging definition of security that encompasses the “three dimensions”: 1. the politico-military dimension, 2. the economic and environmental dimension, and 3. the human dimension of security policy. Core topics of the OSCE in the first dimension include military fields such as disarmament, arms control and security- and confidence-building, in addition to other tasks such as crisis management and counter-terrorism. The economic and environmental dimension primarily seeks to promote economic security and stability, 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 issues such as promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, fighting human trafficking, as well as mediation and cyber security. The aim is to enable participating States to build trust in the long term through issues and projects of common interest.
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, economic connectivity and tolerance and diversity. Moreover, it has worked intensively to expand the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) and to resolve the conflicts in Transnistria and the Southern Caucasus. Poland holds the OSCE Chairmanship in 2022 and will be succeeded by North Macedonia in 2023.
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 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.