OSCE March 2003

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March 2003

Official Name:
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Editor's note: Information for this article was compiled and edited from Fact Sheets and Reports made available from 2001-2003 through the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.



The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is a multilateral forum involving all European states and several Central Asian countries, as well as the United States and Canada. The original Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was formalized in Helsinki, Finland, on August 1, 1975, when 35 leaders from Europe and North America signed the Final Act or Helsinki Accords. This document is a politically binding agreement composed of three major parts ("baskets") addressing military, economic, and human rights issues. The Helsinki Final Act initiated a diplomatic process -- the "Helsinki Process" -- with periodic review conferences to assess its implementation and elaborate/extend its provisions. Over the last two decades, the following meetings were held in: Belgrade (1977-1978); Madrid (1980-1983); Vienna (1986-1989); Helsinki (1992); Budapest (1994); Lisbon (1996); Copenhagen (1997); Oslo (1998); Istanbul (1999); and Vienna (2000). At the Budapest Summit, CSCE was renamed OSCE, effective January 1, 1995, and most of its bodies were renamed and given new or additional responsibilities.

The OSCE has adopted several important measures. The Vienna Document of 1994 (VD-94) builds upon the Vienna Document of 1992 and enhances several confidence- and security-building measures. The 1995 Global Exchange of Military Information (GEMI) requires members to exchange detailed information on conventional armaments/equipment and military personnel. In addition, a Defense Planning measure requires members to improve transparency regarding the size, structure, training, and equipment of armed forces. Finally, the program for Military Contacts and Cooperation involves exchanges and liaison arrangements.

The OSCE is based in Vienna. Delegations of OSCE participants meet almost daily in the framework of the Permanent Council to discuss and decide on a wide range of political and security issues. The Chairman-in-Office (C-I-O) of the OSCE, the Foreign Minister of an OSCE state, has overall responsibility for executive action. The C-I-O is assisted by the Troika, which is made up of the preceding, current, and succeeding Chairmen. The OSCE also has a Secretary General that supports the C-I-O in all aspects of his activities and serves as the Chief Administrative Officer. The Secretariat provides operational support to the Organization. OSCE also has the Conflict Prevention Center to support implementation of CSBMs, and a Forum for Security Cooperation to conduct negotiations on European security and arms control and disarmament, review implementation of CSBMs, and organize the Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting.

OSCE Member States

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia Federation, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro participation suspended), and Macedonia. Japan, Korea, and Thailand are Partners for Co-operation (observers).


In 2002, the U.S. continued to focus the work of the Organization on combating terrorism in the OSCE region. For example, the U.S. encouraged the Organization and participating States to implement commitments undertaken in the 2001 Bucharest Action Plan on Combating Terrorism and produced a program aimed specifically at helping the Central Asians with respect to stopping terrorist financing. By year's end, a majority of members had signed the UN conventions against terrorism and all but 4 of the States had completed the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) self-assessments on what they have done and need to do to stop terrorist financing. The U.S. also took the lead in drafting a Charter on Terrorism, adopted at the Porto Ministerial in December, which will serve as a continual guide to the OSCE in its counterterrorism efforts.

Counterterrorism Policies

To ensure continued OSCE attention to combating terrorism, the U.S. proposed establishing an Annual Security Review Conference (ASRC) to assess progress combating terrorism and to review OSCE activities in the security dimension. The conference will enable the OSCE to review progress regularly in combating terrorism and the full range of the OSCE's security commitments. It can also serve as an engine for generating new OSCE proposals in the security dimension. This proposal was approved at the Porto Ministerial.

Although the U.S. sought to strengthen the OSCE by broadening its focus to cover emergent issues such as terrorism, and expanded cooperation with Russia, the human dimension remained the center of U.S. efforts in the OSCE in 2002. The OSCE continued to be a central focus of U.S. human rights policy and leaders regularly raised ongoing human rights concerns, including religious freedom, in all appropriate OSCE fora. The annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw and the various OSCE field missions, continue to play an important role in highlighting ongoing human rights abuses and in supporting the development of democratic, market-oriented societies governed by the rule of law. The HDIM met for the first time in 2002 in a shortened, two-week format. The meeting continues to provide an important forum for the discussion of human rights issues in Europe and Eurasia.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the OSCE took significant steps to organize itself to better deal with the threat posed by terrorism and to establish core documents to guide future work to address that threat. In 2003, the OSCE will focus on concrete and achievable steps that produce measurable results in advancing regional security and combating terrorism and organized crime. In 2003 and beyond, the OSCE should focus on promoting agreedupon international standards developed by other international organizations, such as the G-8 or the United Nations-affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization across the OSCE region. The OSCE can then establish baselines to measure effectiveness in implementing these standards by participating states and then direct technical assistance, in coordination with other organizations, to enhance the capabilities of these states to combat terrorism and organized crime and ensure homeland security.

The OSCE is poised to work closely with the UN counter-terrorism committee (CTC), the G-8 and others to take the work they have done to develop standards and encourage their regional implementation. Implementing counter-terrorism agreements are a top priority for the United States in the OSCE for 2003.

U.S. Priorities for 2003

In 2003, U.S. priorities include:

  • Broadening the work of the OSCE in all three dimensions: human dimension, economic-environmental dimension, and the politico-military dimension;
  • Continued engagement with Russia on all aspects of OSCE work, including implementation of Russia's Istanbul commitments on withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova, progress towards a resolution of the Transnistrian conflict and cooperation with the OSCE border monitoring mission in Georgia;
  • Counterterrorism;
  • The promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms – including religious freedom, and the implementation of human rights programs in OSCE countries;
  • Resolution of regional conflicts;
  • Strengthened OSCE activities in Central Asia;
  • Continuing efforts in the Balkans; and,
  • Broadening the work of field activities on human dimension activities and completion of the agreement on privileges and immunities for OSCE officials approved at the Porto ministerial.



Russia maintained its objections to the OSCE mission in Chechnya. In late 2002, Russia announced their intention to eliminate the human rights monitoring function of the OSCE mission, or failing that, to close it. The United States intervened at senior levels of government to avert what the USG felt was a mistake by Russia. Working with Allies, the U.S. developed a compromise to maintain the mission. Unfortunately, Russian officials refused to accept any proposal short of mission closure.


Belarus remained a particular concern in 2002. The Lukashenko regime adopted a cynical policy of gutting the OSCE mission there by refusing to renew visas, while continuing to perpetrate wide-scale human rights abuses. In response to the closure of the OSCE mission, the U.S. and 14 member states of the European Union imposed a visa ban on senior government officials until Belarus permits the OSCE mission to resume normal activities. Belarus agreed to a new mission mandate in December 2002, and the new Head of Mission arrived in Belarus in February 2003 to take up his duties. During 2002, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) decided not to seat Belarusian parliamentarians until Belarus had met electoral criteria established by the PA. The decision to do so, however, was carried by only one vote in the July 2002 session, a harbinger of the PA decision to seat Belarus in early 2003.


In Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. and other OSCE states continued to raise concerns regarding the arrest and trial of Kyrgyz parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, that appeared to be linked to his critical statements of the government. The OSCE also played a constructive role in strengthening civil society following the March 17 and 18 violent demonstrations in the Jalal-Abad protests in which six protestors died.


In Tajikistan, the OSCE and the government agreed on a new mandate that will strengthen the mission's work in the economic and human dimensions. The OSCE also assisted the government in the registration of the first independent radio station, Asia-Plus Radio, which can serve as a model for the region.


In Uzbekistan, there was some progress made by the government in meeting its OSCE obligations, with the registration of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan and the continuation of a model prison reform program. However, the U.S. continued to raise concerns in the Permanent Council regarding a number of cases of alleged torture and deaths of individuals, including those accused of Islamic extremism, while in Uzbek police custody.


Regarding Turkmenistan, the U.S. worked closely with the European Union and associated countries to invoke the Moscow Mechanism to ask formally for information on the where abouts, condition of, and charges against former Turkmen Foreign Minister Batyr Berdiev and all others in custody in connection with the November 25 attack on President Niyazov. This was the first time the Moscow Mechanism had been invoked in a number of years and represented a strong signal to the government of Turkmenistan of the international community's concerns regarding human rights abuses in the country. A fact-finding mission, established under the Moscow Mechanism, has since been denied permission to enter Turkmenistan and is in the process of drafting a report to the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in the country.

Central Asia

Through the OSCE in Central Asia, the U.S. continued to make clear the policy that real and lasting security and stability can not be achieved without meaningful political and economic reform and a solid respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. and other OSCE states continued to raise concerns regarding the arrest and trial of Kyrgyz parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov, that appeared to be linked to his critical statements of the government. The OSCE also played a constructive role in strengthening civil society following the March 17 and 18 violent demonstrations in the Jalal-Abad protests in which six protestors died. In Tajikistan, the OSCE and the government agreed on a new mandate that will strengthen the mission's work in the economic and human dimensions. The OSCE also assisted the government in the registration of the first independent radio station, Asia-Plus Radio, which can serve as a model for the region.


The closure of the OSCE Chechnya Assistance Group at Russian insistence remains a matter of deep concern, not only because of the implications for human rights monitoring in Chechnya, but also because other OSCE participating states may be emboldened to seek the closure of OSCE missions in their countries. Although the OSCE has not played a role in brokering a political solution in Chechnya, the USG believes that the OSCE could contribute to efforts to consolidating any peace achieved by the parties. The Chechnya conflict's danger of spreading led to an OSCE border-monitoring mission on the Georgia-Russian border. Its success is dependent upon Russia's cooperation.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The OSCE has continued to encourage Armenia and Azerbaijan to move toward agreement. The OSCE CiO's Special Representative has been active in implementing confidence-building measures for seven years, and is a unique asset in U.S. efforts to resolve the conflict and prepare for an eventual OSCE peacekeeping operation.


At Porto, OSCE Ministers blessed the Russian commitment to complete withdrawal of arms and ammunition from Moldova by December 31, 2003. This represents a one-year extension of Moscow's 1999 Istanbul commitments. The OSCE should seek to mount pressure on the Transnistrian regime to cooperate in this endeavor. The government of Moldova has requested that OSCE member states impose visa restrictions on the Smirnov regime. The U.S. and EU announced visa restrictions on senior Transnistrian leaders on February 27, 2003.

The Balkans

The OSCE's continuing mission in Macedonia will focus on strengthening police authority through confidence-building measures and community policing programs, thus assisting Macedonian security forces in taking full responsibility for, human rights in the rule of law, public security and border control. Elsewhere in the Balkans, the United States has supported the OSCE's policing efforts, human rights emphasis, and democratization programs.


The OSCE provides a monitoring mission that has helped prevent the resumption of hostilities in the separatist conflict in South Ossetia. The OSCE's primary engagement in the Abkhazia relates to Russia's commitment to close its base at Gudauta. The U.S. will provide additional voluntary funding to expand the OSCE border-monitoring mission to effectively cover the Dagestan section of the border with Russia. The purpose of this additional mission is to monitor air and ground movements in the area to ensure that the Chechnya conflict does not spread beyond Russia's borders.


The Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC), created in 1992 at the Helsinki Summit of the former Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), is an integral part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its principal forum for discussing/negotiating arms control and security issues. The FSC opened in Vienna on September 22, 1992, and has been meeting on a continuous basis, under rotating chairmanships in Vienna, Austria ever since. From September 2003 to January 2004, the United States will assume the FSC chairmanship. The following are the Participating States of the OSCE: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia.

The FSC is responsible for conducting negotiations on arms control, disarmament and confidence/security-building measures (CSBMs). In December 2001, the FSC was tasked to: address those aspects of new security challenges falling within its mandate, and update its activities accordingly; be closely connected with the overall OSCE work on current security issues; facilitate implementation of existing politico-military commitments; and serve as a venue to negotiate new measures in order to enhance security by fostering stability, transparency and predictability. At the December 2002 OSCE Ministerial, the Foreign Ministers of its 55 member states (including the United States) declared that arms control and CSBMs remain indispensable to the U.S. comprehensive approach to security and tasked the FSC to contribute to common responses to emerging security challenges. They added that OSCE has a unique role in promoting democracy, peace and stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic region by building confidence through dialogue, transparency and addressing the root causes of threats to stability.

FSC Activities: 1992-2002

  • Monitoring/improving the implementation of Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, a political document containing major CSBMs agreed to by OSCE member states.
  • Conducting an Annual Implementation Assessment Meeting to review the status and enhance full implementation of all agreed CSBMs by the OSCE participating states.
  • Reviewing the implementation of other OSCE commitments, including: Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security; OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons; Principles Governing Non-Proliferation; and Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers.
  • Remaining informed of the status of implementation of regional agreements, such as those in accordance with Annex 1-B of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Articles II, IV and V).
  • Strengthening efforts by FSC member states to prevent and combat terrorism as mandated by the Bucharest Plan of Action for Combating Terrorism.

Additional FSC Activities for 2003

  • Implementing a Charter on Combating Terrorism.
  • Developing a strategy to address Threats to Security and Stability in the 21st century.
  • Implementing an Annual Security Review Conference.


The Treaty on Open Skies establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants. The Treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is the most wide-ranging international effort to date to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities. The original concept of mutual aerial observation was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955; the Treaty itself was an initiative of President George H.W. Bush in 1989. The Treaty was negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992. The United States ratified it in 1993. The Treaty entered into force on January 1, 2002.


The 26 States Parties to the Open Skies Treaty are: Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and United States. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not yet ratified. The Treaty depositaries are Canada and Hungary. The Open Skies regime covers the national territories - land, islands, and internal and territorial waters - of all the States Parties, and thus includes the territory of most member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Treaty is of unlimited duration and open to accession by other states as follows: (1) states of the former Soviet Union that have not already become States Parties to the Treaty may accede to it at any time; (2) other members of the OSCE may apply for accession to the Treaty at any time; (3) any other interested state may apply for accession to the Treaty six months after it enters into force (i.e., from July 1, 2002 onward). All applications for accession (i.e., categories 2 and 3 above) are subject to a consensus decision by the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), the Viennabased organization charged with facilitating implementation of the Treaty, to which all States Parties belong. So far, the OSCC has approved applications for accession by Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- all of which are members of the OSCE.

Basic Elements

Territory: The Treaty specifies that all territory of the States Parties is open to observation on a reciprocal basis. Observed States Parties may restrict observation flights only for reasons of flight safety and not for reasons of national security.

Aircraft: Observation aircraft may be provided by either the observing state party or (the "taxi option") by the observed state party, at the latter's choice. All Open Skies aircraft and sensors must pass specific certification and pre-flight inspection procedures to ensure that they meet Treaty standards and that only Treaty-permitted sensors are installed. The official U.S. Open Skies aircraft is the OC-135B (a military version of the Boeing 707).

Sensors: Open Skies aircraft may have video, optical panoramic and framing cameras for daylight photography, infrared line scanners for a day/night capability, and synthetic aperture radar for a day/night all weather capability. Photographic image quality will permit recognition of major military equipment (e.g., permit a State Party to distinguish between a tank and a truck), thus allowing significant transparency of military forces and activities. Sensor categories may be added and capabilities improved by agreement among States Parties. All equipment used in Open Skies must be commercially available to all participants in the regime.

Quotas. Each State Party has agreed to an annual quota of observation flights it is willing to receive - its passive quota of observation flights. Each State Party may conduct as many observation flights - its active quota - as its passive quota. During the first three years after EIF, each State will be obliged to accept no more than seventy-five percent of its passive quota. Since the overall annual passive quota for the United States is 42, this means that it will be obligated to accept no more than 31 observation flights a year during this three-year period. Only 4 of the 31 potential flights over the United States were requested during the first year of Treaty operation, all by Russia/Belarus (which functions as a single country for quota allocation purposes). During this period (2002/03), the United States is entitled to 8 of the 31 annual flights available over Russia/Belarus. Additionally, the United States is entitled to one flight over Ukraine, to be shared with Canada.

Data Sharing/Availability. Collected imagery from Open Skies missions will be available to any State Party willing to pay the costs of reproduction. The Treaty provides that at the request of any State Party, the observing state will provide it a copy of the data collected during a mission over the observed state. As a result, the data available to each State Party is much greater than that which it can collect itself under the Treaty quota system.


Provisional application of portions of the Treaty took place from signature in 1992 until entry into force in 2002. During that period, participants conducted joint trial flights for the purpose of training flight crews and testing equipment and sensors. Now that the Treaty has entered into force, formal observation flights have begun in August 2002 -- in accordance with the agreed distribution of active and passive quotas -- starting with a Russian mission over the United Kingdom (August 6-9). During the fourth quarter of 2002, France, the UK, and Italy are also planning to conduct missions over Russia/Belarus.

Since the signature of the Open Skies Treaty in 1992, the security environment in Europe has changed significantly. Nevertheless, the Open Skies Treaty remains an important element of the European security structure, along with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), and the Vienna Document 1999 Agreement on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMS) under the auspices of the OSCE.