The OSCE comprises 57 participating States, including 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. The OSCE emerged from the Conference on Security and Cooperation in 1990 with the Charter of Paris.
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 what are known as 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 disarmament, arms control and security- and confidence-building, in addition to crisis management and counter-terrorism. The economic and environmental dimension primarily seeks to promote good economic framework conditions for security and stability as well as 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. The comprehensive concept of security enables participating States to build trust in the long term through issues and projects of common interest. More information can be found on the official website of the OSCE.
Germany in the OSCE
In 2016, Germany held the Chairmanship of the OSCE, which rotates annually. Germany therefore hosted the annual OSCE Ministerial Council, which took place in Hamburg. Priorities of its Chairmanship included military security, counter‑terrorism, economic connectivity and tolerance and diversity. Germany held a conference on each of these topic areas during its Chairmanship. 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, and has put migration on the OSCE’s agenda.
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 70 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 has a Permanent Mission to the OSCE in order to fulfil all of these tasks.