European Union

EU flag

EU flag

Another crucial partner for European security is the European Union (EU), which was created after WWII with the goal to end war among European states and to create a common economic market. With 27 members (since the UK left the EU due to Brexit), all EU Member States are at the same time OSCE participating States. Three more pS are listed as candidates for EU membership, namely Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. 

The European Union agreed on a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) with the 1991 Maastricht Treaty. In 1999, the EU created a “High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy” to present itself more visibly and effectively on the world stage. Josep Borrell, a former Spanish Foreign Minister, currently holds the position.

The EU has served as a magnet to Central and Eastern Europe states, many of whom have already joined the EU. EU related financial assistance from institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has helped to alleviate some of the underlying economic and social conditions for violent conflicts. 

EU-OSCE cooperation

The EU has played an important role in and at the OSCE since the outset. It’s delegation (that of its predecessor, the European Community) was present and a signatory of the Helsinki Final Act as well as other key OSCE documents. In 2006, the participation of the EU in the OSCE was formalized in the Organization’s Rules of Procedure, which granted it a seat next to the participating State holding the rotating EU Presidency. The EU generally makes joint statements and has adopted common positions on issues addressed by the Permanent Council as well as Ministerial and Summit Conferences. Since the EU speaks and acts together as a bloc in the OSCE, it is formidable force both in OSCE decision-making and as a major source of both UB as well as ExB funding at the organization. 

Though the EU includes almost half of the OSCE pS, and is budgetarily and politically powerful, it has no formal status per se. The EU Delegation sits at an extra seat with the pS who is holding the rotating EU Presidency. Previously there was one Head of EU Delegation to cover all the international organizations based in Vienna. Around the time of the Ukraine conflict, an EU Permanent Representative to the OSCE was appointed, with a staff of 6 EU officials/seconded national staff plus interns. When the EU Ambassador would like to speak at the PC or another formal meeting, the EU Presidency state, is first recognized by the Chair, and then passes the floor to the EU representative who delivers the EU statement, negotiated among the EU member pS.

At both the political and working levels, relations between the OSCE and the European Union are maintained through:

  • Consultations between the OSCE Troika, including the OSCE Secretary General, and the EU at both the ministerial and ambassadorial/Political Security Committee levels.

  • Participation and cross representation at relevant meetings.

  • Contacts between the Secretary General and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and other high-level EU officials. 

  • Annual staff-level talks on topical issues that are on each organization's agenda

EU-OSCE Thematic and Operational Cooperation

The two organizations enjoy operational and thematic cooperation on a range of issues including:

  • Border management, combating human trafficking, including with CEPOL and FRONTEX

  • Democratization, institution-building and human rights

  • Elections

  • Judicial and police reform, public administration, anti-corruption measures

  • Media development

  • Small and medium-sized enterprise development

Participants at the Frontex/OSCE joint conference for the Western Balkans region on preventing document fraud, Vienna, 11 September 2019. (OSCE)

Participants at the Frontex/OSCE joint conference for the Western Balkans region on preventing document fraud, Vienna, 11 September 2019. (OSCE)

Both organizations enhance operational collaboration through the implementation of EU-funded projects. 

EU missions have cooperated with the OSCE in:

The Balkans: 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to implement the non-military provisions of the 1995 Dayton Agreement; The EU Monitor Missions operated alongside NATO peacekeepers and OSCE missions with related mandates in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), now North Macedonia; The EU launched the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which cooperates with other key international actors in Kosovo, including KFOR and OSCE), and what remains of UNMIK. EULEX also works under the authority of the International Civilian Office (ICO), which is headed by the European Union Special Representative in Kosovo and the International Civilian Representative. The ICO was originally intended to replace UNMIK altogether, but the transition has not taken place, given that Serbia and others have refused to accept this change.

In Eastern Europe: 

An EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) was established to assist Moldova and Ukraine in controlling their border in 2005; The EU has deployed a civilian monitoring mission (EUMM) in Georgia to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreements following the 2008 war. Although its EU mandate provides for it to operate throughout Georgia, Russian military forces and secessionist authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have rejected their entry into these areas; The Geneva International Discussions, established following the 2008 August war in Georgia, are jointly co-chaired by the OSCE, UN and the EU. The humanitarian working group is co-moderated by the OSCE, UNHCR and the EU.

OSCE FOs may also call upon the support of the EU when dealing with candidate countries seeking EU membership, several of which have had OSCE missions stationed on their territory. 


The EU has been limited in its ability to take a leading role in providing security for Europe in the post-Cold War period as it is primarily an economic organization, and In contrast to the OSCE, neither Russia nor the U.S. are members.