The OSCE after the Kyiv Ministerial

OSCE Ministerial Council meeting on 5 December in Kyiv
OSCE Ministerial Council meeting on 5 December, 2013, in Kyiv. Photo: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly/flickr.

“Today, the OSCE is not the organization over which foreign ministers are racking their brains when they wake up early in the morning.” This was how Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore characterized the state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the end of Ireland’s presidency in 2012.  A year later, however, the OSCE for once finds itself in the headlines. Just a few days before a routine meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Kyiv, the Ukrainian government – which holds the 2013 OSCE presidency – decided to move the country closer to Russia by breaking off trade negotiations with the European Union. In the run-up to the meeting, police violence against peaceful protesters and the biggest street demonstrations since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” dominated the scene in Kyiv.

US Boycott

In response to Ukraine’s actions, only half of the 57 OSCE members sent their top personnel to Kyiv. US Secretary of State John Kerry deliberately boycotted the event, and Britain and France sent deputies in lieu of their foreign ministers. Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, decided to meet with Serbian and Kosovar leaders in Brussels instead. By not attending this year’s ministerial meeting, Kerry and others did the OSCE a disservice. For 40 years the organization has been a powerful symbol of dialogue and the search for consensus and compromise between East and West. Boycotts and deliberate snubs may be useful for alliance-building and zero-sum games, but they are not in keeping with the “spirit of Helsinki” or the principles of cooperative security.

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Mediation Perspectives: Armenia and the Customs Union – Window of Opportunity for Nagorno-Karabakh?

Sargsyan, Medvedev, Aliev
Sargsyan, Medvedev and Aliev. Photo: kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons.

Policymakers and analysts have spent the past two decades applying the same insights and settlement approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the same limited impact. There is an underpinning perception that everything that could have been said has already been said. This, combined with a set of overused words such as ‘stalemate’, ‘deadlock’, ‘frozen’ and, more recently, ‘simmering conflict’ brings with it a certain level of fatigue and apathy on the part of the conflict parties and external observers.

However, tangible contextual changes within protracted conflicts often open up windows of opportunity for new dynamics in peace processes. In this respect, does Armenia’s stated intention to join the Russian-led Customs Union provide a window of opportunity for renewed mediation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

The OSCE and Conventional Arms Control in Europe: Towards a Double Relaunch

OSCE Ministerial Council meeting opening in Vilnius, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much has been written about the OSCE’s crisis. Much of it is true. Still, the future of this organization may be less grim than many predict. Current developments in Europe suggest that the role and relevance of the OSCE may actually grow in the years ahead.

For one thing, following the ambivalent outcome of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a conspicuous intervention fatigue among European publics. The ‘crisis’ of military crisis management is bound to exacerbate as the European debt crisis translates into shrinking defense budgets. There will likely be a shift towards more subtle, civilian, long-term approaches to conflict resolution and peacebuilding – the type of measures the OSCE has focused on.

Looking at the EU and NATO, there is also growing enlargement fatigue. This points to obvious limits to how far stability in Europe can be accomplished by expanding the Euro-Atlantic security community. By implication, the pan-European OSCE, with twice as many member states as the EU and NATO, is bound to gain traction again.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Human Trafficking

A warning about the lure of trafficking / Photo: mvcorks/flickr
A warning about the lure of trafficking / Photo: mvcorks/flickr
According to the latest statistics at least 12 million people are caught in the cycle of human trafficking. Based on data from selected European countries, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says that 95 percent of the victims have also experienced physical or sexual violence.

If these stats aren’t depressing enough, the OSCE also says that prosecutions of trafficking cases have been at a standstill since 2001.

In the latest edition of ISN Podcasts, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Eva Biaudet discusses how the Organization is tackling trafficking, our theme for this week, and the role the EU should play.

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