The independent resource on global security

Appendix 1A. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe: constant adaptation but enduring problems



I. Introduction

II. OSCE reform proposals in 2004

III. Conclusions


Read the full appendix [PDF].


Appendix 1A discusses attempts to reform the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Despite landmark political changes that affected both its environment and its relevance, the OSCE proved highly adaptable in the 1990s. Today, however, the question of reform is raised by an overall decline in the institution’s importance and its gradual marginalization. Of the five key features that used to distinguish the OSCE—comprehensive participation by the Euro-Atlantic states, legitimacy when addressing domestic issues, a focus on the whole conflict cycle, a home for otherwise isolated nations, and a relatively weak and non-constraining institutional structure—none any longer provides a unique advantage in the European context. A more basic problem is that either the OSCE’s characteristic issues are seen as a low priority or, if given a high priority, they are taken over by other organizations.


Consequently, the OSCE security agenda is progressively being emptied of its content. A further problem is that some states have recently adopted a highly critical stance with regard to the OSCE, and pressed for sometimes retrogade ‘reforms’ apparently more as a matter of expediency than with Europe’s best security interests in view.