Between the EU and Russia: Opportunity or Dilemma for Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship?

Between Europe and Russia. Image: bandvela/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the Security and Human Rights Blog on 22 January, 2015.

On 15 January, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić outlined the priorities of the 2015 Serbian OSCE Chairmanship at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. Foreign Minister Dačić stressed that the main priority of the Serbian Chair would be to continue supporting a peaceful resolution of the crisis in and around Ukraine. In this context, he expressed support for the work of the Trilateral Contact Group, the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and their respective roles in helping to implement the Minsk protocols as well as the peace plan for the east of Ukraine.

Summing Up Switzerland’s 2014 Chairmanship of the OSCE

The OSCE Ministerial Council in session in Basel, December 2014. Image: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres/Flickr

The Swiss presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was dominated by the escalating Ukraine Crisis. Dealing with one of the worst crises in the Euro-Atlantic area since the end of the Cold War was a huge challenge for Swiss diplomacy. Switzerland emerged as an innovative, impartial, and effective crisis manager, but the Ukraine Crisis also clearly demonstrated the limits of the consensus rule within the OSCE. In the end, it led to a serious erosion of trust in the security architecture designed in 1975 and fully implemented after 1990.

With the conclusion of the 21st Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – held in Basel on 4-5 December – Switzerland’s 2014 Chairmanship of the organization can now be assessed. As Swiss Ambassador to the OSCE Thomas Greminger has argued since April of this year, the Ukraine Crisis has been both a curse and an opportunity for the OSCE.

The Ukraine Crisis and the Issue of National Minorities

Pro-Russian Meeting, courtesy of Lystopad

This article was originally published by Security and Human Rights.

National minorities are a political and social fact in Europe and many other parts of the world. In Europe, the issue of national minorities became particularly acute after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 as well as more recently after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s. The newly created independent states became hosts to national minorities: for example, the Baltic States and Ukraine to a Russian minority, Romania to a Hungarian minority, Croatia to a Serb minority and vice versa, just to name a few.

The 20th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Kyiv: Addressing Persistent Dividing Lines

The 20th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Kyiv
OSCEPA Bureau meeting in Kyiv, 4 December 2013. Photo: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly/flickr.

On 5 and 6 December 2013, Ukraine hosted the 20th OSCE Ministerial Council (MC) meeting in Kyiv. The OSCE MC meets once a year in the country holding the Chairmanship and is the highest OSCE decision-making body. This year, the MC meeting was preceded by an OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference which was organized by the Civic Solidarity Platform in Kyiv as well as by a panel discussion held by the newly-established network of OSCE think tanks.

The MC meeting was held amid a political crisis in Ukraine which was sparked by the unexpected decision by the Ukrainian government on 21 November to suspend talks with the European Union (EU) on an Association Agreement and a deep free trade agreement, instead ordering to resume “an active dialogue” with the Moscow-led customs union. Tensions increased further when on 30 November Ukrainian riot police violently dispersed peaceful protesters on Maidan Square in Kyiv leaving the international community in a state of disappointment. Although Ukrainian president Yanukovych condemned “the actions that led to forceful confrontation and suffering of people” and Ukrainian foreign minister Leonid Kozhara released a statement prior to the OSCE MC meeting announcing a “thorough investigation” into the violent incidents, the damage had been done. Ukraine – in its capacity as OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office – had clearly breached core OSCE commitments of freedom of assembly and expression.

The Helsinki+40 Process: Determining the Future of the OSCE

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, Schlussakte
Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, Schlussakte. Photo: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

Many times, reference has been made in this blog to the so-called Helsinki+40 process. What are the origins of this multilateral discussion process and what does it stand for? Has any progress been made so far and how likely are any concrete, landmark achievements by 2015?