Its predecessor, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), was converted, from 1973 to 1975, from an instrument of the Cold War to one of cooperation between East and West; it achieved a series of agreements on human rights, economic issues, and the mutual monitoring of military maneuvers. At the beginning of 1995, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the CSCE was renamed the OSCE. It is comprised of 56 member states: all the European states, the former Soviet Union, the USA, and Canada. Decisions can be made only on the principle of consensus. The OSCE’s conception of security is based on cooperation and excludes the use of coercion and violence. Its headquarters is in Vienna. Its bodies and institutions include the Council of Ministers (annual meeting), the Permanent Council (at least one weekly session), the Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE field missions, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Between 1990 and 1995, i.e., during the period of the first and second Balkan wars, and to some extent afterwards, the OSCE established more than 20 peacekeeping missions, which have successfully prevented crises and mediated in conflicts. The OSCE has carried out forward-looking peace missions from the Baltic to southern Georgia, composed of representatives from government and civil society. According to the OSCE, its work is based on a three-dimensional concept of security, which encompasses political- military, economic-environmental, and human security. It lists early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-crisis follow-up as specific fields of action.

After the end of the Cold War, Russia especially pursued the goal of transforming the OSCE into a new European security organization to replace NATO. This, of course, this did not succeed. Instead, the OSCE committed itself to supporting the transitional states of the former Soviet Union in building democratic structures. This policy now meets with increasingly stiff opposition from the governments of Russia, Belarus, and some Central Asian countries. They have accused and still accuse the OSCE of interference in their internal affairs. There have been repeated attacks on OSCE representatives, including the media. OSCE missions have been obstructed and, in Chechnya, they were even forced to retreat. When the OSCE cancelled its observer mission to the Russian presidential election of March 2, 2008 due to “restrictions by the Russian authorities,” the Russian government reacted angrily, saying this was not “acceptable.” Other states such as Uzbekistan joined in with threats against the OSCE.

Sources: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung;; 

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