To Be or Not to Be: The OSCE in the 'New Europe'

By Leah Pybus
Interstate - Journal of International Affairs
1997, Vol. 1996/1997 No. 1 | pg. 2/2 |

The Adjustment of the OSCE

Even if one accepts this more optimistic assessment, it remains clear that there are certain areas of the work of the OSCE which will require adaptation if the OSCE is to meet the challenges of the twenty first century. The question of equality between states has been dealt with previously in context of the argument against the continued role of the OSCE. However there is a case that this equality is an important aspect of the OSCE. Unanimity enables all states to put forward their concerns without fear of rejection and Great Power complacency. This equality prevents the resentment between states which has developed in the United Nations, and prevents claims by lesser states that the organisation is being utilised by the powerful states to maintain control over weaker members. [26] The predominant western states have plenty of alternative forums through which to exercise their power that it seems unlikely that they will resent being placed on an equal par with their smaller European partners within the forum of the OSCE.

Another bone of contention is the consensus rule, which is believed by many to hinder decisive action (Holsti, 1992.) This has been adapted since the end of the Cold War. At the Berlin Conference 1991 the Emergency Mechanism was introduced (“Twelve-plus-one”). This removed the need for the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) to gain consensus or the consent of the states involved in the emergency before it could discuss the situation. However, consensus still applies to all other decisions and their implementation. The argument emerging in the 1990s is that the consensus rule should apply for major decisions only, leaving the organisation with the ability to alter its internal structure and procedures. [27] Alternatively Christopher Bertram suggests introducing a similar voting system to that in place in the EU – qualified majority voting. [28] However, many are reluctant to support the case against consensus. As Zagorski and Leatherman both point out that the consensus rule ensures impartiality and comprehensive support for decisions, rather than states being forced to agree to decisions to which they are opposed. [29] The question of consensus however, still clearly needs to be resolved.

The policy of non-intervention also causes considerable problems, as such protection of state sovereignty is clearly incompatible with the principles of Basket III. In an era in which intra-state conflicts are becoming more common, and in which the role of the OSCE is the protection of human rights and national minorities, it is vital for this contradiction to be removed from the Final Act. Steps have already been made towards weakening the non-intervention argument in the case of violations of human rights. At the 1991 Moscow conference on human rights “consensus minus one” was agreed which would enable violations to be addressed without the consent of the state being investigated. The concluding document also avoided any reference to non- intervention – a major break through considering the Soviet Union’s previous insistence on the clause. [30] However, this is a dilemma which the OSCE is likely to be battling over for some time to come.

The need for further institutionalisation is also recognised, although as some writers argue, institutionalisation can often prove counter-productive. Zargoski warns against the snares of bureaucracy which prevents decisive decision-making and effective intervention. Zargorski believes that the OSCE has already suffered from the drawbacks of institutionalisation. [31] For him institutionalisation has been too ad hoc, resulting in preference being given to the structure of the organisation rather than its substance. [32] For the time being the organisation is attempting to improve co-ordination between the three secretariats in order to ensure efficient use of resources. Greater co-operation is also needed between the OSCE and other European Organisations, particularly Nato. This link is considered by some analysts to be the answer to the OSCE’s problem of not having the capacity to implement decisions in the absence of economic or military strength. [33] Although moves have already been made towards closer collaboration with Nato there is a considerable bridge between the two which remains to be overcome.

Birnbaum brings attention to a final concern which results from the diversity of states in Europe. Birnbaum identifies what Bryans, (1992) terms a “security gap” in Europe. He argues that the threats to security in the West are much less prominent than those in the East where ethnic tensions have the potential to both erupt and spread. [34] Holsti has also identified the problem of a future “two-tiered” Europe. The Western sphere of Europe is confronted with economic, commercial and environmental conflicts between states, which can be subjected to peaceful means of settlement, such as arbitration and meditation. The second zone of the former Soviet bloc on the other hand is threatened by these new ethnic tensions which so far have proven immune to all attempts at a peaceful solution. It is hoped by some that the contents of Basket II of the Helsinki Final Act will provide a means through which these ethnic tensions can be reduced. However, this is a long-term solution, and immediate friction must still be addressed. [35]

Conclusion

In conclusion, although the OSCE’s role will be limited in the future, it seems likely, as Gabor Kardos identifies, to offer an invaluable forum through which to promote confidence between states and the respect of human rights within states. [36] Despite the inadaquacies of the organisation at the present, there is considerable scope for further adaptation and institutionalisation in the future which will ensure the OSCE’s proficiency in the areas of conflict prevention and crisis management. The OSCE is the only organisation where the human dimension to security is dominant, and as a result the OSCE is more relevant to the prevention of conflicts than any other security forum. Birnbuam is justified when he argues that:

“The relevance of the CSCE for European security has always been related to its political rather than military aspects. This is expected to be focused on these non-military dimensions, the potential of the CSCE for meeting the concerns and needs of signatories could grow significantly, provided its working procedures will be adapted to the requirements of changed circumstances.” [37]

The OSCE certainly has its flaws, as do all the organisations which have been developed in Europe. However, the process of institutionalisation which has already taken place suggests that the member states consider the OSCE to be an important organ through which to provide security and stability in Europe. The challenge for the future will now arise from the need to divide security concerns in Europe effectively between the four major European institutions – Nato, OSCE, WEU & EU. [38] No single forum is likely to be capable of dealing with all aspects of security in the future. It took thirty years to progress from the first thoughts on a security conference in Europe to the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. A further fifteen years have been required for the forum to become a permanent institution. In the year ahead the OSCE is likely to adapt further, providing a unique contribution to the new “architecture” of European security. How effective the OSCE will be however, remains to be seen, and lies solely in the hands of the member states.


References

Acimovic, Ljubivoje. “CSCE and the Non-Aligned States.” Survival. vol. 18, no. 3. May/June. 1976. pp. 113-114.

Blazevic, Andjelko (ed.). “Tito on Peace, Security and Co-operation in Europe.” (Stvarnost, Belgrade, 1977.)

Bryans, Michael. “The CSCE and Future Security in Europe.” Working Paper 40. Report on a two- day conference in Prague. 4-5 December, 1991. Published March, 1992 by the Prague Institute of International Relations. p. 29

Burkowski, Charles. “Yugoslavia and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.” Co- Existence, vol. 28. 1991. pp. 371-373.

Ghebali, Victor-Yves. “The CSCE in the Era of Post-Communism: The jewel that has lost its gleam?” Paradigms. vol. 6, no. 2. Winter, 1992. p. 4.

Holst, Johan Jorgen. “Confidence-Building Measures: A conceptual framework.” Survival. vol. 25, no. 1. January/February, 1983. pp. 12-13.

Hoynck, Dr. Wilhelm. “CSCE Works to Develop its Conflict Prevention Potential.” Nato Review. no. 2. April, 1994. pp. 20-21

Kardos, Gabor. “Between the Past and the Future: The humanitarian dimension.” Paradigms, vol. 6, no. 2. 1992. pp. 43-51.

Keesing’s Record of World Events.

Kiss, Laszlo J. “European Security and Intra-alliance Processes.” Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 21, no. 2. 1990. pp. 179-180.

Korey, William. “The Helsinki Accord: A growth industry.” Ethnic and International Affairs. vol. 4, 1990. pp. 65-66.

Kupchan, Charles & Clifford. “Concerts, Collective Security and the Future of Europe.” International Security. vol. 16, no. 1. 1991.

Leatherman, Janie. “Conflict Transformation in the CSCE: Learning and institutionalisation.” Co- operation and Conflict. vol. 28, no. 4. 1993.

Maresca, John J. “To Helsinki: The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, 1973-1975.” (2nd ed.) Duke University Press, USA. 1987

Mearsheimer, John. “The False Promise of International Institutions.” International Security, vol. 19, no. 3. 1995. pp. 5-49.

Williams, Andrew. “International Responses to the Security Problems of the New Europe.” Paradigms. vol. 6, no. 2. Winter. 1992. pp. 1-3.

Zargorski, Andrei. “New Institutions and Structures of the CSCE: Adjusting to the New Europe.” Paradigms. vol. 6, 2. Winter. 1992. pp 16.

The Secretary General Annual Report, 1995 on OSCE Activities.


Endnotes

  1. Excerpts of a speech by Tito on July 11, 1945 in Andjelko Blazevic (ed) “Tito on Peace, Security and Co- operation in Europe.” (Stvarnost, Yugoslavia, Belgrade. 1977.) p. 12.
  2. “Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and Yugoslavia’s Activity.” Yugoslav survey. vol. 16. November 1975. p. 147.
  3. Burkowski, Charles. “Yugoslavia and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.” Co- Existence, vol. 28. 1991. pp. 371-373.
  4. Maresca, John J. “To Helsinki: The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, 1973-1975.” (2nd ed.) Duke University Press, USA. !987. pp. 23-26. Acimovic, Ljubivoje. “CSCE and the Non-Aligned States.” Survival. vol. 18, no. 3. May/June. 1976. pp. 113-114.
  5. John Maresca. op. cit.
  6. Keesing’s Record of World Events. September 1-7, 1975. 27301-27303.
  7. ibid. 27303.
  8. John Maresca. op. cit. pp. 88-93.
  9. Keesing’s op. cit. 27303.
  10. Ghebali, Victor-Yves. “The CSCE in the Era of Post-Communism: The jewel that has lost its gleam?” Paradigms. vol. 6, no. 2. Winter, 1992. p. 4.
  11. Korey, William. “The Helsinki Accord: A growth industry.” Ethnic and International Affairs. vol. 4, 1990. pp. 65-66. Also see Charles Burkowski, “Yugoslavia and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.” (Co-Existence, vol. 28. 1991.) pp. 579-580.
  12. Zargorski, Andrei. “New Institutions and Structures of the CSCE: Adjusting to the New Europe.” Paradigms. vol. 6, 2. Winter. 1992. pp 16.
  13. Keesing’s. vol. 36, no. 11, 1990. 37838 & vol. 40, no. 12. 1994. 40027.
  14. The Secretary General Annual Report, 1995 on OSCE Activities. p. 6.
  15. Holsti. 1992. op. cit. p. 57.
  16. Michael Bryans. Working Paper 40. “The CSCE and Future Security in Europe.” Report on a two- day conference in Prague. 4-5 December, 1991. Published March, 1992 by the Prague Institute of International Relations. p. 29
  17. Mearsheimer, John. “The False Promise of International Institutions.” International Security, vol. 19, no. 3. 1995. p.49
  18. Holsti. 1992. In Michael Bryans, 1992. ibid. p. 66.
  19. Michael Bryans, 1992. op. cit. p. 5.
  20. ibid. p. 27. (David Braid was the Chairman for the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.)
  21. Hoynck, Dr. Wilhelm. “CSCE Works to Develop its Conflict Prevention Potential.” Nato Review. no. 2. April, 1994. pp. 20-21
  22. ibid.
  23. John Toogood. 1992. op. cit. p. 35.
  24. Andrei Zargorski, 1992. op. cit. pp. 14-17.
  25. Holst, Johan Jorgen. “Confidence-Building Measures: A conceptual framework.” Survival. vol. 25, no. 1. January/February, 1983. pp. 12-13.
  26. Kiss, Laszlo J. “European Security and Intra-alliance Processes.” Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 21, no. 2. 1990. pp. 179-180.
  27. Victor-Yves Ghebali, 1992. op. cit. p. 7.
  28. Michael Bryans, 1992. op. cit. pp. 25-26.
  29. Leatherman, Janie. “Conflict Transformation in the CSCE: Learning and institutionalisation.” Co- operation and Conflict. vol. 28, no. 4. 1993. pp. 425.
  30. Williams, Andrew. “International Responses to the Security Problems of the New Europe.” Paradigms. vol. 6, no. 2. Winter. 1992. pp. 49-50.
  31. Zargorski, 1992. op. cit. p. 20.
  32. Ibid. p. 17.
  33. John Toogood, 1992. op. cit. p. 32.
  34. Michael Bryans, 1992. op. cit. p. 13.
  35. Holsti, 1992. op. cit. pp. 60-61.
  36. Kardos, Gabor. “Between the Past and the Future: The Humanitarian Dimension.” Paradigms, vol. 6, 2. 1992. p.50.
  37. Birnbaum, 1992. op. cit. p. 48.
  38. ibid.

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