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

U.S. Department of State
95/11/20 Fact Sheet: Organization for Security & Coop. in Europe
Bureau of Public Affairs

Fact Sheet
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

From Vancouver to Vladivostok, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 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.

Renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at the December 1994 Budapest summit to reflect its increased role in European security matters, the OSCE furthers European security and cooperation by defining and protecting human rights. OSCE also fosters these goals through programs centered on promoting respect for human rights, economic affairs, conflict prevention, and military security. OSCE is committed to developing democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law at the grass-roots level, through local officials and activities, and through non-governmental organizations.

Evolution of the OSCE

The OSCE began during the Cold War as a way to promote dialogue and decrease tensions between East and West and was originally known as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). In August 1975, 35 nations signed the Helsinki Final Act, which outlines democratic principles governing relations among nations. The act contained a provision to continue regular discussions on a broad range of concerns-- from developing economic infrastructure and enhancing military security to protecting the environment and defending freedom of association and movement--in what became known as the "Helsinki process."

During the 1980s, follow-on meetings in Madrid, Stockholm, and Vienna reviewed implementation of the then-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 OSCE work with NATO, the European Union (EU), 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 OSCE in conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy.

The OSCE 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 venue--the Forum for Security Cooperation--opened in Vienna on September 22, 1992.

OSCE and European Conflicts

The OSCE is in the forefront of conflict resolution in various European conflicts through preventive diplomacy and human rights monitoring.

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

-- The OSCE mission in Georgia assesses the political and human rights situations in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. It also monitors peacekeeping forces and participates in political negotiations in South Ossetia.

-- In December 1993, the then-CSCE established a mission to Tajikistan in order to foster confidence-building, democracy, and human rights. In addition, rapporteur missions have been sent to other new Central Asian republics to assess the governmental and human rights situations.

An OSCE regional office opened in Tashkent in the spring of 1995. -- The OSCE missions to Latvia and Estonia are mandated to promote integration and better understanding between communities there.

-- In Moldova, the OSCE mission assists in seeking a solution to the problems of the Transdniester region.

-- The OSCE mission to Ukraine, established in 1994, focuses on the Crimea issue by enhancing dialogue and fostering a peaceful solution.

-- The OSCE mission in Bosnia supports the human rights ombudsmen of the Federation.

-- Along with other international fora, such as the Contact Group and the UN, the OSCE makes an important contribution to efforts to stop the fighting in the former Yugoslavia and to help prevent any further spill- over of hostilities. To this end, the OSCE has established a preventive diplomacy mission in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. OSCE missions to Kosovo, Sandzak, and Vojvodina, were established in 1992, but were expelled by Belgrade authorities in July 1993. The OSCE also assists in monitoring sanctions compliance in the countries around Serbia and Monte-negro. There are now sanctions-monitoring missions in Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, and Ukraine.

-- In April 1995, the OSCE established a long-term presence in Grozny to promote human rights and a political settlement to the Chechnya conflict.

As a charter member of the OSCE, the United States has been central in the promotion of uncompromising humanitarian standards and their practical implementation. This effort has embodied America's hopes for a unified, democratic, and prosperous Europe. Americans continually have worked to ensure that the OSCE process remains flexible, innovative, and unbureaucratic. By establishing the first permanent delegation to the then-CSCE in Vienna in August 1992, the United States charted the course which other nations have followed.

OSCE Participating States

Albania
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Belgium
Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Canada
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
The Holy See
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
San Marino
Slovak Republic
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Tajikistan
Turkey
Turkmenistan
Ukraine
United Kingdom
United States
Uzbekistan
Yugoslavia*

* Excluded from all OSCE meetings.

November 20, 1995 (###)

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