U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Europe and Canada Bureau

NOVEMBER 29, 1994

1. CSCE -- Overview
2. CSCE Structure
3. CSCE Conferences and Meetings, 1989-1994

Fact Sheet
Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)

From Vancouver to Vladivostok, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) brings a new kind of diplomacy--one built on respect for human rights and regional cooperation as the bases for security among Atlantic, European, and Eurasian countries.

While its most prominent characteristic is furthering European security and cooperation by defining and protecting human rights, CSCE also fosters these goals through programs centered on press and culture, economics, conflict prevention, and military security. CSCE is committed to developing democratic institutions at the grass-roots level, through local officials and activities, and through non- governmental organizations.

Evolution of the CSCE

CSCE began during the Cold War as a way to promote dialogue and decrease tensions between East and West. In August 1975, 35 nations signed the Helsinki Final Act, a politically binding declaratory understanding of the democratic principles governing relations among nations. The act contained a provision to continue regular discussions on a broad range of concerns--from migration and military security to the environment and media relations--in what became known as the "Helsinki process."

During the 1980s, follow-on meetings in Madrid, Stockholm, and Vienna reviewed implementation of CSCE agreements and continued the opportunity for discussion. Although CSCE had no permanent headquarters and no enforcement capability, important progress was made to establish firm standards for the protection of human rights and to increase confidence through the advance notification of military activities and the exchange of military information.

With the end of the Cold War, all CSCE states for the first time accepted the principles of pluralism and free markets as the basis for their cooperation. This made it possible for CSCE to explore ways to act on its rigorous principles and to ensure that they were upheld. To do this, CSCE in 1990 established the Secretariat in Prague, Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna, and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw. A decision to create an office of Secretary General was made at the December 1992 Stockholm meeting of CSCE Foreign Ministers.

During 1992, the decision to move from principle to action was most marked in a new Helsinki document which established a number of practical tools that help CSCE work with NATO, the EU (European Union), and other international bodies to defend human rights and manage the unprecedented changes now taking place in Europe. In particular, it sets out an ambitious role for the CSCE in conflict resolution and "preventive diplomacy."

CSCE is also an important framework for conventional arms control in Europe. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed in November 1990, limits non-nuclear ground and air forces from the Atlantic to the Urals. A separate political agreement, concluded in July 1992, covers personnel in the same region. Through continued negotiation, confidence-building measures have been extended and higher expectations for treaty compliance and verification have been set. A new security negotiation--the Forum for Security Cooperation--opened in Vienna on September 22, 1992.

CSCE and European Conflicts

The civil war in the former Yugoslavia has been an early test of the CSCE's ability to take an active part in conflict prevention. On August 6, 1992, the U.S. Government called on the CSCE to help monitor the human rights situation in the Balkans and inhibit the spread of the conflict.

The CSCE quickly sent fact-finding and rapporteur missions to the region and supported the sanctions and humanitarian measures taken by the UN and the EU. The CSCE then established a completely new kind of presence in the areas adjacent to the conflict. These "missions of long duration" provided an early warning system for any spill-over of the hostilities into the regions of Serbia and Montenegro--Kosovo, Vojvodina, and Sandzak--and into The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Until the missions in Serbia and Montenegro were expelled in July 1993 by Belgrade authorities, they made a significant contribution to stability, as the mission in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to do. Missions also have been sent to Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to investigate alleged violations of CSCE principles.

In August 1992, the London Conference on the Former Yugoslavia asked the CSCE to assist in monitoring sanctions compliance. There are now missions in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, and Albania. The post of Sanctions Coordinator was created to oversee the CSCE-EU sanctions missions in the countries around Serbia and Montenegro.

The CSCE is in the forefront of conflict resolution in other parts of the region as well:

-- Under CSCE auspices, the Minsk Group--11 nations (including Azerbaijan and Armenia)--is the focus of international efforts to solve the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.

-- The CSCE mission in Georgia is assessing the political and human rights situations in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia, as well as monitoring peace-keeping forces and participating in political negotiations in South Ossetia.

-- Rapporteur missions have been sent to the new Central Asian republics to assess the governmental and human rights situations.

-- In February 1993, CSCE agreed to send a long-term, conflict- prevention CSCE mission to Moldova and a mission to Estonia to promote integration and better understanding between communities there.

-- In October 1993, the CSCE agreed to send a mission to Latvia to monitor Latvian-Russian minority issues.

-- The previous Chairman-in-Office (Sweden) sent a personal representative to investigate the situation in Tajikistan, which led to a December 1993 decision to send a mission there. The Tajikistan mission has a mandate to foster confidence-building, democracy, and human rights.

-- In 1994, the CSCE established preventive diplomacy missions in Ukraine and Bosnia.

As a charter member of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States has been central in the promotion of uncompromising humanitarian standards and their practical implementation. From the beginning, CSCE has embodied America's hopes for a unified, democratic, and prosperous Europe. Americans continually have worked to ensure that the CSCE process remains flexible, innovative, and unbureaucratic. The United States established the first permanent delegation to the CSCE in Vienna in August 1992, charting a course for other nations to follow.

CSCE Participating States
Czech Republic
The Holy See
San Marino
Slovak Republic
United Kingdom
United States

* Excluded from all CSCE meetings


Fact Sheet

CSCE Structure

The Charter of Paris, signed in November 1990, committed Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) member states to a substantial enhancement of CSCE decision-making bodies, mechanisms, and institutions in order to give permanence and strength to a 16-year-old process of ad hoc political consultations. Since the signing of that document, CSCE has gained several new institutions and a number of expanded consultative mechanisms geared toward intensifying the pan-European discussions commonly referred to as the Helsinki process.

Council of Ministers (COM). CSCE members agreed at the Paris summit to establish a Council of Ministers (COM)--comprised of foreign ministers-- as its highest decision-making body which would meet at least annually. The Charter of Paris set a broad mandate for the COM to deal with any issues relevant to security and cooperation in Europe. The state hosting a COM meeting assumes the chairmanship of CSCE and holds the position until the opening of the next ministerial; Italy is the current CSCE Chairman-in-Office.

Committee of Senior Officials (CSO). The Charter of Paris also established a subsidiary working group/executive body at the ambassadorial/political director level. The Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), acting as the agent of the ministers, is charged with preparing for meetings of ministers, carrying out their decisions, reviewing current issues, and considering future work of the CSCE, including its relations with other international organizations. CSO meetings are held at least quarterly. Several additional meetings have been called to deal with the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The state chairing the COM also heads CSO meetings.

Secretary General. The Stockholm COM agreed to establish the position of Secretary General as the CSCE's chief administrative officer to manage CSCE structures and operations, work closely with the Chairman- in-Office in the preparation and guidance of CSCE meetings, and ensure implementation of CSCE decisions.

CSCE Secretariat. The CSCE Secretariat opened in Prague in February 1991. It is charged with administrative support of the COM and CSO; the maintenance of archives; and the dissemination of information to the public, non-CSCE states, and other international organizations.

Parliamentary Assembly. Legislators from CSCE states have agreed to meet on an annual basis. The first session was held in Helsinki in July 1993. The assembly has a consultative role in the CSCE process.

Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The Office for Free Elections (OFE) started operations in April 1991, with a general mandate to collect and disseminate information on elections within CSCE states. In 1992, CSCE states agreed to expand the OFE into an Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. In addition to its original OFE duties, the office now serves as a central information source for all aspects of democratic institution-building and organizes seminars on specific topics in this area. It is responsible for organizing periodic meetings to review CSCE human dimension commitments. It also supports use of the expanded Human Dimension Mechanism (HDM) and the activities of the newly created High Commissioner for National Minorities.

High Commissioner on National Minorities. Acting under CSO aegis as an instrument of conflict prevention, the High Commissioner on National Minorities will provide "early warning" and, as appropriate, "early action" on tensions involving national minority issues which have the potential to affect peace, stability, or relations between participating states.

Conflict Prevention Center (CPC). The first CSCE institution to open-- in Vienna in January 1991--was the Conflict Prevention Center, which is charged primarily with overseeing the sharing of data on military forces in Europe and hosting annual implementation meetings and those called under the Unusual Military Activities mechanism. The CPC is in charge of supporting implementation of the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes mechanism. In February 1993, the CSO approved a plan to have the CPC provide operational support for the CSCE's ever-growing diplomatic, conflict-prevention, and peace-keeping missions.

Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC). At the 1992 Helsinki summit CSCE established this forum as the only pan-European forum for security dialogue and arms control negotiations. The Helsinki summit also established a program of immediate action which includes development of further confidence- and security-building measures, and exchange of global military information, cooperation on non-proliferation, and cooperation on regional measures. The FSC convened in September 1992 in Vienna and will continue to meet in semi-permanent session.

Permanent Committee. Created by the Rome Council in 1993, the Permanent Committee is responsible for the day-to day operational tasks of the CSCE. It conducts comprehensive and regular consultation and when the CSO is not in session it takes decisions on all issues pertinent to the CSCE. It meets in Vienna.


Fact Sheet

CSCE: Major Conferences and Meetings, 1989-1994

In addition to institutional activity, the CSCE pursues its goals through a regular series of meetings and seminars. These meetings focus on practical application of CSCE commitments and feature participation by experts and non-governmental organizations actually working on the subject being discussed. CSCE commitments also provide for regular meetings of foreign ministers and for periodic reviews of implementation.

April-May: Information forum--London
May-June: Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension--Paris
October-November: Meeting on the protection of the environment--Sofia

March-April: Conference on economic cooperation in Europe--Bonn
June: Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension--Copenhagen
September-October: Meeting on the Mediterranean--Palma de Mallorca
October: Meeting of CSCE Foreign Ministers--New York
November: CSCE summit--Paris


January-February: Meeting of experts on the peaceful settlement of
May-June: Symposium on cultural heritage--Krakow
June: Meeting of the CSCE Council of Ministers--Berlin
July: Meeting of experts on national minorities--Geneva
September-October: Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension--
November: Seminar of experts on democratic institutions--Oslo


January: Meeting of the CSCE Council of Ministers--Prague
March: Preparatory meeting--Helsinki
March-June: Follow-up meeting--Helsinki
July: CSCE summit--Helsinki
September: Forum for Security Cooperation convenes--Vienna
October: Meeting on peaceful settlement of disputes--Geneva
November: Tolerance seminar--Warsaw
December: Council of Ministers meeting--Stockholm


March: Economic forum--Prague
April: Migration seminar--Warsaw
May: National minorities seminar--Warsaw
May: Mediterranean seminar--Valletta
July: CSCE parliamentary assembly--Helsinki
September: Boreal and temperate forests seminar--Montreal
September-October: Implementation review meeting--Warsaw
November: Free media seminar--Warsaw
November 30-December 1: Council of Ministers meeting--Rome


January: Early warning seminar--Warsaw
February: Creating small and medium-sized businesses seminar--Bishkek
March: Economic Forum--Prague
March: Migrant workers seminar--Warsaw
April: Human dimension seminar--Almaty
May: Local democracy seminar--Warsaw
May: Regional security seminar--Ashgabat
July: CSCE Parliamentary Assembly--Vienna
September: Business and environment seminar--Tallinn
September: Roma issues seminar--Warsaw
September: CSCE issues seminar--Tashkent
October-December: Review Conference--Budapest
December 5-6: CSCE Summit--Budapest


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