CSCE becomes the OSCE

With the disintegration of the Warsaw Treaty Organization following the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the CSCE began a rapid process of transformation to respond to the new post-Cold War security situation. The creation of a genuine Transatlantic system of “cooperative security” appeared possible.

The CSCE took on new responsibilities and challenges in this period of transition characterized by institutionalization, strengthening of operational capabilities, development of field activities, and further elaboration of commitments and principles.

Copenhagen

1990

An experts meeting held on the human dimension of security enacted a code of democratic procedures to guide all participating states. Specifically it called for:

  • Free elections - open to outside observation
  • Equality of all persons before the law
  • Freedom to establish political parties
  • Rights of the accused
Charter of Paris

Paris, 1990

One of OSCE’s fundamental documents, the Charter of Paris, was signed on 21 November 1990 at the Second CSCE Summit. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France/Frédéric de la Mure)

One of OSCE’s fundamental documents, the Charter of Paris, was signed on 21 November 1990 at the Second CSCE Summit. (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs /Frédéric de la Mure)

The Charter of Paris, signed by Heads of State and Government from all CSCE participating states, represented the first high-level multilateral instrument to reflect the disintegration of the communist bloc and the end of the Cold War. In its preamble, the Paris Charter announced the opening of a new era for European security based on a reaffirmation of the Helsinki Principles.

After the Charter of Paris, the CSCE began to take on features of an established international organization, rather than consisting of a series of ad hoc meetings about security issues.

The Paris meeting established the following structures for the CSCE:

  • Secretariat
  • Conflict Prevention Centre
  • Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (originally the Office of Free Elections)
  • Parliamentary Assembly

It also established a new schedule of meetings of foreign ministers (annually), Head of State and/or Government summits (at irregular intervals), and Committee of Senior Officials (when needed).

Moscow Human Dimension Conference

1991

As a follow-up to the 1990 Copenhagen code of democratic procedures, a conference on the Human Dimension (as Basket III is often referred to) was held in Moscow to expand cooperation on human dimension matters and broaden the mandate of the Office of Free Elections to provide it with a mechanism for field missions to assist and monitor elections and other aspects of human dimension activities (known as the "Moscow Mechanism").

A major innovation was that the participating states declared "categorically and irrevocably" in Moscow that "commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension of the CSCE were matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating states and did not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the state concerned."

This explicit limitation on absolute sovereignty represented a major innovation introduced into contemporary international relations by the OSCE in 1991, effectively interpreting the provision in the Helsinki Decalogue to mean that the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states no longer would apply regarding obligations freely taken by participating States.

The Moscow Mechanism has been used seven times to date, most recently in 2011 to investigate the human rights situation in Belarus after the disputed 2010 presidential election.

Helsinki Follow-Up Meeting

1992

Meeting of the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Helsinki, March 1992. (OSCE)

Meeting of the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Helsinki, March 1992. (OSCE)

The Helsinki Follow-Up Meeting was preoccupied with the violence sweeping across the former Yugoslavia and to a lesser extent parts of the former Soviet Union. Participating states sought to engage the CSCE more actively both to prevent the outbreak of such conflicts and to manage and resolve those that had already broken out.

 

New Offices and Institutions

This wave of violence led to efforts to strengthen the Conflict Prevention Center and endow it with additional functions in conflict management.

The following new offices and institutions were created after the meeting:

  • High Commissioner on National Minorities
  • Court of Conciliation and Arbitration
  • Forum for Security Cooperation
Missions

Another major advance taken at Helsinki was the decision to establish missions in areas of tension to provide for "early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management, and peaceful settlement of disputes." The intent appeared to be to create temporary, more or less ad hoc missions to deal with conflicts as they arose.

Due to the worsening of the situation in the former Yugoslavia, the Committee of Senior Officials created "Missions of Long Duration." The first of these was sent to monitor the situation in three ethnically tense regions of the former Yugoslavia--Kosovo, Sandjak, and Vojvodina--in 1992.

Summits after Helsinki

Following Helsinki, the following were the most important summits:

Budapest 1995

The Budapest Summit formally changed the name of the CSCE to OSCE in recognition of the institutionalization that had taken place.The Summit also adopted the Code of Conduct in Politico-Military Aspects of Security (which also included cooperation in combating terrorism.)

The Budapest Summit also decided to step up the CSCE role in bringing an end to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The Summit decided that the CSCE would play a greater role in the mediation effort previously handled by Russia, strengthened the Minsk Group effort to achieve a political settlement, and stated that the CSCE would be willing to provide its own peacekeeping force after an agreement on ending the armed conflict.

Istanbul, 1999

At the Istanbul Summit, OSCE Heads of State or Government signed the Charter for European Security to better define the role of the OSCE. The Charter aims at strengthening the organization's ability to prevent conflicts, to settle them, and to rehabilitate societies ravaged by war and destruction.

 	The President confers with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the opening ceremony of the 54-nation OSCE Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

The President confers with National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the opening ceremony of the 54-nation OSCE Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. (White House Website/Ralph Alswang)

The REACT (Rapid Expert Assistance and Cooperation Teams) initiative was put forward by the U.S. at this summit. REACT provides for participating states to develop a pool of skilled individuals ready for speedy deployment with OSCE. While some participating states have implemented the REACT commitment by developing a roster with trained individuals available for short-notice deployment, OSCE has not formally  utilized this capability so far.