To Be or Not To Be: The OSCE in the ‘New Europe’

Leah Pybus

Originally published in 1996/1997, Issue 1

The aim of this article is to assess the role of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the post-Cold War era. The paper will firstly give a brief outline of the development of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and will then consider two opposing views which have developed in the 1990s. The first argues that the OSCE is a product of the Cold War which has become obsolete in the absence of East-West rivalry. The second suggests that the OSCE has an important role in providing security in the “new Europe”, and goes so far as to argue that it could offer a viable replacement for Nato. Supporters of the OSCE recognise however, that vital alterations must be made to adapt the institutions and procedures of the organisation to new security concerns, particularly ethnic tensions and national uprisings. Following the discussion of these two views the article will move on to look at some of the major drawbacks of the organisation which have been identified, and which demand the attention of member states if the organisation is to fulfil their expectations.

The Birth of the CSCE

In 1944 the leader of Yugoslavian Communist movement, Tito, voiced interest in developing co- operation between states throughout the whole of Europe. [1] This desire was echoed in 1953 by Molotov, Foreign Minister for the Soviet Union, in his proposal for a pan-European security system. In 1965 Tito once again reiterated the importance of establishing a security conference in Europe. This enthusiasm encouraged the Yugoslavian government to publish suggestions for a conference. This document was subsequently distributed to all European states and Canada and the United States, although enthusiasm in the West was lacking. [2] These proposals were resubmitted to prospective member states in 1972 and the doors for a Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe were finally opened. [3]

The struggle towards the final agreement in 1975 was long and arduous. The Soviet Union battled to ensure that post-World War II boundaries remained intact and Socialist regimes were accepted as legitimate. On the other side of the negotiating table the West rallied to include issues relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms into the final agreement, much to the dissatisfaction of the USSR. In the midst of this political tug-of- war the neutral, non-aligned states (NNA) grappled to find common ground between the two blocs in order to provide a focus for the foundations of compromise and an acceptable final agreement. [4]

Following three stages of negotiations – Helsinki, July 3-7, 1972; Geneva, August 29- September 2, 1973 and Helsinki, July 30-August 1, 1975 – the Helsinki Final Act was produced as the non-legally binding concluding document. [5] The document is divided into four Baskets each addressing a different aspects identified by the members as being relevant to European security. Basket I, the baby of the Soviet Union, is presented in the form of ten Principles which establishes norms for the regulation of inter-state relations. These Principles express the commitments of the member states to respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of frontiers and to refrain from intervention in the internal affairs of states and the use or threat of force. [6] Basket II, to which the West devoted more attention, encourages co-operation and the harmonisation of relations in economic, technical, scientific, and environmental fields. This Basket received enthusiastic support from Eastern and Central European states, as it provided a legitimate means through which to weaken ties with the Soviet Union. [7]

Basket III proved to be the bane of the negotiations, but without agreement on human rights issues addressed in the Basket the West would have refused to agree to those Principles in Basket I. [8] After considerable compromise and rephrasing Basket III finally emerged to promote freedom of movement and information, the protection of national minorities and efforts towards reuniting divided families. Basket IV declares the signatories’ resolve to adhere to the standards of the treaty and to discuss sentiments on its provisions and their implementation. The continuation of the Conference was also secured through setting a date for a Follow-up Meeting. Finally provisions were made in an additional section, to improve co-operation with non- member Mediterranean states, considered by Malta as vital for European security. [9]

The achievements of the CSCE during the Cold War amounted to providing a forum for communication between the East and West at times when relations outside of the Conference were hostile. [10] It ensured accepted standards in inter-state relations and enabled East European countries to strengthen ties with the West. The atmosphere in the CSCE eventually enabled a break through in the area of arms control through the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) negotiations, an area in which Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) negotiations had failed to achieve any compromise between 1973 and 1989. Confidence and security- building measures (CSBMs) encouraged transparency and predictability in military manoeuvres and promoted the exchange of military information in order to reduce misunderstanding and misinterpretation. [11] More importantly perhaps, the CSCE provided Europe with a comprehensive security forum to enable it to take advantage of the new circumstances which emerged after 1989.

The end of the Cold War paved the way for the institutionalisation of the CSCE – the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of hostilities lead many to argue that the Conference worthy was of permanent status. [12] The process of institutionalisation was triggered at the Paris conference, 1990 which formulated permanent bodies in Vienna, Warsaw and Prague, and in Budapest, 1994 the Conference was renamed the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe. [13] The focus of the CSCE/OSCE since the Paris Charter has shifted towards that of conflict prevention and crisis management. This has been reflected in the way the organisation has attempted to develop a capability to deal with intra-state as well as inter-states tensions. [14] The question remains however, whether the OSCE will have developed this capacity to provide a pillar of security in Europe, and possibly to replace Nato, in the future. Or will the OSCE prove inappropriate in the new Europe, troubled by internal ethnic tensions, the threat of nuclear proliferation and environmental degradation? [15]

The Death of the OSCE?

A number of analysts have argued that the OSCE does not hold the potential to offer a credible forum through which to address these new threats and uncertainties. Those who renounce the contribution of the OSCE tend to be neo-realists and as Michael Bryans found at the Prague conference, journalists. [16] Neo- realists still maintain that institutions simply reflect the balance of power within a region rather than offering a means of security; although this claim could be questioned in the case of the OSCE, where states are considered equal. In his article The False Promise of International Institutions, Mearsheimer states that such misguided reliance upon institutions will prove damaging in the future. [17]

The pessimistic media coverage is perhaps inevitable given the focus of the OSCE’s work. The role of the OSCE has been more in the realm of providing long-term solutions to tensions. [18] The OSCE’s influence has therefore been behind the scenes. Christopher Bertram, political editor of Die Zeit, Hamburg sees the OSCE as a stage upon which the East and West blocs could continue their games of Cold War political rivalry. Bertram does not believe that the OSCE has the ability to build the capacity to cope with the threats to security in the post- Cold War Europe. This obsolescence, he declares, is reflected by the organisation being preceded by other forums such as Nato, the European Union and the WEU, which has left the OSCE with no unique identifiable role.

Pavel Seifter, Director of the Conference’s co-hosting institute in Prague, lends support to Bertram’s claims. Seifter highlights the fact that the CSCE was created within an atmosphere of détente and the optimistic belief that such a forum for European security could be created and succeed. Europe during the 1970s, Seifter informs us, was also a more humane Europe and more conducive to co-operation and coexistence. He goes on to argue that in the aftermath of the euphoria generated by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Communism, the “true nature” of post-Cold War Europe emerged. For Seifter, the outbreak of nationalist violence and ethnic tensions nipped the euphoria in the bud and removed the motivation which existed in some areas of the organisation. [19] David Braid has also raised the question over Great Power enthusiasm for an organisation in which they are given no preferential treatment over middle and small states. [20] Similarly, Martin Walker of the Guardian was sceptical about whether the Great Powers will tolerate their international status remaining unrecognised in the future. Walker predicts that Great Power enthusiasm for the OSCE will wane and that their efforts will be concentrated on alternative organisations such as Nato and the EU, where they have more leverage over the course of events.

The Show Must Go On?

It is undeniable that the East-West hostility which the CSCE was created to address disappeared with the collapse of the bi-polar world. A multi-polar world however has not managed to eliminate all of these tensions, and conflicts which were suppressed during the Cold War era have now been released from the bonds of socialist solidarity. There are those who argue that these tension areas could provide the OSCE with a role which can be distinguished from those within the jurisdiction of other European organisations. The body of literature supporting the role of the OSCE in the future is expanding in the 1990s. Supporters of the CSCE/OSCE (including Johan Jorgen Holst, 1990; Holsti, 1990; Toogood, 1990; Andrew Williams, 1992, Peter Courtier, 1990; Jan Zielonka, 1991; Clifford and Charles Kupchan, 1991) have concluded that the OSCE has important features which other alternative organisations do not have, which make it more conducive to conflict management and crisis prevention. Dr. Wilhelm Hoynck, former Secretary General of the CSCE, states that the CSCE is the only organisation whose membership covers the whole of Europe, rather than being limited to Western or Eastern European membership. [21] It is a result of this comprehensive nature that the OSCE is considered vital for securing Europe in the future. (Kiss, 1990; Dassi, 1990; Kielinger, 1990.) In addition to the nature of the membership, the OSCE is also considered valuable due to the Final Act covering all aspects of state relations, rather than being preoccupied with military or economic concerns. [22] One of the most vital benefits of the OSCE, it is argued, is that it aims to ensure what Galtung refers to as positive peace, rather than negative peace, (an absence of war). Positive peace ensures that as well as there being an absence of war there is also an absence of violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms. This, according to Galtung is essential in removing the threat of war. Because of the OSCE’s inability to place economic or military pressure on member states it has channelled its energies in to providing more long-term solutions to tensions even before they have developed into conflict, through the promotion of CSBMs. As a result, supporters argue that many conflicts have been prevented from breaking out. John Toogood has suggested that it was the promotion of CSBMs that prevented the spread of the conflict in Bosnia into neighbouring territories, and discouraged external support for the factions. [23]

In addition to having limited capabilities to enforce decisions, the OSCE is also a non-legally binding treaty. For some this is an obstacle to success. Zagorski, (1992) however adopts the opposite view and actually states that in the absence of any legal force member states are encouraged to co-operate beyond the expectations of the Helsinki Final Act. [24] Because there are no legal obligations the treaty is reliant on the good-will of member states to adhere to the standards. Conformity, Zagorski argues, encourages an atmosphere of trust and the desire to improve relations further. This extension of the Final Act has been particularly evident in the area of CSBMs where the West particularly has provided information in excess of that specified by the Final Act. [25]

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.


Footnotes

[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.


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.