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Confidence-and Security- Building Measures


The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe was created in the early 1970s. Under the name of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), it was called upon to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between East and West. From 1975 to 1990, the CSCE, as its name implied, functioned as a series of conferences and meetings where new commitments were negotiated and their implementation reviewed. The Paris Summit Meeting in 1990 marked the beginning of institutionalization aimed at meeting the challenges presented by the post-Cold War period.

The development of the security situation in Europe in the 1990s has led to a fundamental change in the CSCE. Reflecting this change, the 1994 Budapest Summit changed its name to OSCE. Today, the OSCE comprises 55 participating States from the region stretching from Vladivostok to Vancouver, including the United States, Canada and all the countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The origin of the OSCE can be traced back to the early 1950s, with a proposal from the Soviet Union to create an all-European security conference. Other Eastern European countries, including Poland, made similar proposals. Finland offered Helsinki as a venue for the conference in 1969, inviting all the European countries, the United States and Canada. In 1972, 35 States agreed to enter into multilateral consultations concerned with preparations for the conference, and the stage was set for the preparatory talks in Helsinki with the original 35 signatory nations. In 1973, the consultations concluded with the "Blue Book," which outlined final recommendations for the scope and rules of procedure for the Conference. The negotiations went on for almost two years in Geneva.

On 1 August 1975 in Helsinki, the Heads of State or Government of the 35 participating States signed the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Act established basic principles for behavior among the participating States and of governments toward their citizens:

1. Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty;

2. Refraining from the threat or use of force;

3. Inviolability of frontiers;

4. Territorial integrity of States;

5. Peaceful settlement of disputes;

6. Non-intervention in internal affairs;

7. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief;

8. Equal rights and self-determination of peoples;

9. Cooperation among States;

10. Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law.

The Helsinki Final Act laid the basis for further development of the CSCE process. The document is not a treaty, but a politically binding agreement. It is divided into three main parts, or "baskets," concerning:

1) Questions relating to security in Europe;

2) Cooperation in the field of economics, science and technology, and the environment;

3) Cooperation in humanitarian and other fields.

The document called for regular follow-up meetings to review the implementation of CSCE agreements, to set new standards and norms, to expand cooperation and to maintain political dialogue.

Such meetings were held in Belgrade, Madrid and Vienna. At these meetings, all the CSCE participating States agreed upon important commitments aimed at upholding human rights, and measures to build confidence among the participants. In addition, a number of expert meetings were held on such specific topics as democratic institutions, human rights, human contacts, peaceful settlement of disputes, the environment, the media, science, culture and economic cooperation. Thus a process was initiated which consisted of a series of follow-up meetings to review the implementation of the Helsinki Act and elaborate upon its provisions as necessary.

After Helsinki, the CSCE was no more than a diplomatic conference. In order to keep the organization flexible no permanent structures were created and no long-term schedules made. There was no permanent body to undertake operational action between meetings. It was not until the momentous change of 1989-1990 that the participating States could agree on the need for permanent CSCE bodies and on their composition and functions.

The CSCE's greatest advantage during the unstable political climate of the 1970s and 1980s was its ability to approach issues in a comprehensive way.

Of particular importance was the linkage of human rights to general security and cooperation. The CSCE established that a country systematically violating the fundamental liberties of its own citizens could not be internationally trusted and should even be considered as a potential threat to other countries.

The first negotiated results in the field of human rights and humanitarian cooperation were very modest provisions. They required, for example, favorable consideration of applications for travel for family visits or the reuniting of families and for exit permits for mixed marriages. Weeks of negotiation were necessary to reach agreement that visa fees should be reduced. Step by step, tighter provisions were introduced to eliminate restrictive interpretations and delays in issuing travel documents. The Helsinki Final Act was also used to develop a somewhat freer access to information, to limit jamming of radio broadcasts in Eastern Europe and to relax the control over speech and print.

A complicated network of linkage and quid-pro-quos resulted in a balancing of interests, which created the basis for a continuing CSCE process. Through meetings, political dialogue, negotiation of new commitments and a constant pressure to implement them, the CSCE became a catalyst of peaceful change in Europe. It is widely associated with the democratic revolution which came to Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.

What was the secret of the CSCE's vitality? Why was it able to progress despite sometimes formidable challenges? The Final Act was not, of course, a magic formula for dismantling the "socialist" system. The CSCE must also be seen as just one element in a very complex and comprehensive process. Progress by the CSCE was as much a result of changing realities as an instrument of further change. There are, however, specific CSCE contributions. First, the CSCE provided a political platform and moral support for the champions of democratic change inside the Warsaw Pact countries, such as "Charter 77" in Czechoslovakia or "Solidarity" in Poland. They were the true victors in the 1989 "autumn of peoples." They derived legitimacy and a certain power from the ideas enshrined in the Helsinki Act. Second, by building an elaborate system of political channels and bridges, the CSCE made it possible for the West, including many neutral and non-aligned countries, to build continuously upon the ongoing changes within the "socialist system."

To symbolically close the Cold War chapter of European history and, in the process, address the issues facing the "new" Europe, the CSCE States decided to convene a summit in Paris. The Paris Summit Conference, the first summit meeting since Helsinki, took place from 19 to 21 November 1990. It was a historic event in that it formally recognized the end of the Cold War.

The Charter of Paris for a New Europe signed at the Summit marked the turning point in the history of the CSCE in the post-Cold War era, serving as a transition point for the CSCE from its role as a forum for negotiation and dialogue to that of an active operational structure. The document aimed at defining the CSCE's identity in a new international environment. The first standing institutions: the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna, the Office for Free Elections in Warsaw (now known as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) and the Secretariat in Prague were established. The Paris Charter also created three political consultation and decision-making bodies: regular summit meetings of Heads of State or Government; the Council of Ministers consisting of foreign ministers from the participating States; and the Committee of Senior Officials to assist the Council and manage day-to-day business. The disintegration of Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the split-up of Czechoslovakia resulted in the emergence of new States. The newly independent States applied for membership, and the number of OSCE participating States increased to 54 with the adoption in the fall of 1995 of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that enjoyed previously observer status as a fully participating State. The principality of Andorra was the most recent state to join the OSCE, becoming the 55th participating state in 1996.

The military security environment changed radically. An important arms control agreement, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was negotiated within the framework of the CSCE process and signed in November 1990. The CFE limits non-nuclear ground and air forces from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains.

Further impetus and possibilities for concerted action within the CSCE framework were outlined in the new Helsinki Document of July 1992. It established a number of practical tools to strengthen the CSCE's contribution to the protection of human rights and the management of the unprecedented change under way in Europe. It declared the CSCE a regional arrangement in the sense of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. In particular, it called for an ambitious role for the CSCE in early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management. The newly created High Commissioner on National Minorities was tasked with responding, at the earliest possible stage, to ethnic tensions that have the potential to develop into a conflict within the region. In December 1992, the CSCE Council established a new post of the Secretary General, and in 1993, a strengthened Secretariat in Vienna.

In December 1993, a new body, the Permanent Committee (since December 1994 the Permanent Council), was established in Vienna, significantly expanding the possibilities for political consultation, dialogue and decision-making on a weekly basis.

The new operational profile of the CSCE expanded with the dispatch of several conflict prevention and crisis management missions to areas of potential or actual conflicts.

Determined to give the CSCE new political impetus at the 1994 Budapest Summit, 52 Heads of State or Government from CSCE participating States renamed CSCE the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Budapest Document declared the OSCE to be the primary instrument for early warning, conflict management and crisis management in the OSCE region. The document established the possibility of the OSCE sending a peacekeeping mission to Nagorno-Karabakh. The document also called for strengthening the competencies of the Chairman-in-Office as well as those of the Secretary General and the Secretariat, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. A "Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security" was adopted setting forth principles guiding the role of armed forces in democratic societies. The document also called for a discussion within the OSCE on a model of common and comprehensive security based on CSCE principles and commitments.

The 1995 Ministerial Council Meeting in Budapest approved a program for the OSCE to fulfill new challenging tasks put before it under the Dayton Agreement on Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The next major summit will be held in Lisbon in December 1996.

The priorities of the OSCE today are:

-- to consolidate common values and build civil societies;

-- to prevent local conflicts, restore stability and bring peace to war-torn areas;

-- to overcome real and perceived security deficits and to avoid the creation of new divisions by promoting a cooperative system of security.

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