Limits and Opportunities of the OSCE

19/01/2017 18:00

Limits and opportunities of the OSCE


The International Institute for Peace and the "Gesprächskreis für aktive Außen- und Neutralitätspolitik" organised a discussion round dealing with the limits and opportunities of the OSCE. Please find the summary as well as the article discussed of Prof. Kurt Tudyka below.


to read the article of Prof. Kurt Tudyka: Limits and Opportunities of the OSCE please klick here



Andreas Stadler, OSCE Chairmanship Task Force and Guest Professor at the Vienna University of Applied Arts


Kurt Tudyka, Political Scientist, European peace and security policy

Christine Muttonen, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Hannes Swoboda, President of the IIP

Christian Strohal, Special Representative for the OSCE Austrian Chairmanship 2017

Hannes Swoboda, president of the IIP, opens the discussion by underlining the importance of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe nowadays, especially when one considers the tension between „Limits and Opportunities“ or „Realism and Idealism“.  Andreas Stadler, member of the OSCE Chairmanship Task Force, illustrates this tension by quoting several challenges such as a multiple crisis of democracy, international law and multilateralism. The violation of international general rules (Georgia in 2008 or Ukraine in 2013) puts the principle of collective security into question on the ground as well as in the digital world with a growing number of cyber-attacks or illegal intrusions.

The first panellist, the political scientist Kurt Tudyka, suggests to analyse what we have in common: our past. Therefore, he briefly reminds us the OSCE history in the light of six periods during which the Organisation worked hard on developing a dialog and cooperation between the two blocs in order to imagine the project of a collective security from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The image of the OSCE is somehow considered as a reflector of the member states relations and as a thermometer for the political evolution of Europe. The OSCE structure is closely related to the respect of international law and to the principle of consensus among member states. Nevertheless, a traditional vision characterized by major conferences in Helsinki, Paris or Astana seems to be threatened because of national or unilateral initiatives. To conclude, Kurt Tudyka expresses several wishes for the future of the Organisation. Firstly, the OSCE may work on a new enlargement in order to become the OSC (Organisation for Security and Cooperation) and tackle different issues such as climate change. Besides, the Organisation could do more for promoting culture, especially during the Austrian 2017 Chairmanship because, as a cultural nation, Austria has a long tradition of bringing together artists, writers, intellectuals from various countries. The OSCE represents a forum for economic cooperation but what about social issues? Finally, can we imagine an OSCE radio or TV focused on information and education?

Christine Muttonen, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, admits that the OSCE is not always beyond reproach; nevertheless it has at least the merit to exist and to preserve a dialog thanks to conferences and meetings. We need a new impulse and a new basis between member states to overpass the current situation related to tensions, rhetoric struggle, and militarization, especially between NATO and the Russian Federation. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is a good platform for improving dialogs, exchanges, debates and restoring trust between member states because everyone can participate and speak without fear. The Assembly is a forum, an experimental laboratory in order to develop parliamentarian diplomacy in terms of dialog, cooperation and peace. As President of the PA since 2016, Christine Muttonen worked particularly on the role of women in security policy or the protection of minorities’ rights by supporting local initiatives and organising international conferences. The question of OSCE enlargement is regarded as central and if the Organisation is not active from Vancouver to Shanghai yet, there are some efforts in order to start a dialog and cooperation with the Shanghai Organisation. Among the multiple activities of the OSCE, Christine Muttonen evokes the remarkable work delivered by the service for election observation during field missions in Georgia, Moldavia or Montenegro.

Hannes Swoboda, President of the International Institute for Peace, agrees with the two versions of the OSCE suggested by the first two panellists: a critical analysis (Kurt Tudyka) and a overview of the every day work (Christine Muttonen). If we need both of them, it is worth noticing that a strong vision about the future of the OSCE is missing. As “a thermometer of European relations”, the Organisation reveals divisions between the USA, Russia and the European Union as well as inside Europe. If the expansion of NATO was successful until Gorbatchev, it is obvious that Putin strongly refuses any further step. Nevertheless, Swoboda affirms that we have to maintain the possibility of a dialog and to admit several abuses made by Western countries. With the election of Donald Trump and his promise of opening “a window of opportunity”, it is time for Europe as well to develop a new climate with Russia in order to find solutions as far as Ukraine is concerned.

According to Hannes Swoboda, the question of connectivity will remain a major topic under the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship. The main idea is to strengthen economic cooperation and contacts in order to improve appeasement and peace. First results are mixed but the importance of maintaining basic economic relations is fundamental for the local population. We should not underestimate other main topics such as terrorism, security and migration and forge dialog and cooperation with key actors, namely Mediterranean and African states or Turkey. Culture is a great vector for bringing people together and may help us to improve peace and above all to better involve civil society into the world of international politics.

Christian Strohal, Special Representative for the OSCE Austrian Chairmanship 2017, describes the different opportunities and risks related to such a great responsibility for Austria. After two years of intense preparation and thanks to the experience gathered by the precedent chairs, Vienna is ready to assume the many responsibilities of a chairmanship. First of all, there is a mandatory programme to respect and secondly, we can imagine a time for specific initiatives and projects. The Austrian chairmanship brings together a team of 50 experts and tackles about 103 different topics. With Vienna permanently hosting the OSCE Secretariat, there is obviously a double challenge in which leadership and management are essential.

The Organisation represents an international forum for dialog and cooperation. On this basis, American and Russian representatives are meeting every week. Since 1973, the OSCE member states are respecting a dense and detailed set of rules in order to find a consensus. Furthermore, there is a range of operational tools which aim at advising, supporting, monitoring and helping member states. At the present time, we have to admit that pessimism is stronger than optimism because of several armed conflicts in South-Caucasia and Ukraine. For example, 1100 OSCE staff members are currently in Ukraine in order to report on events, to help the local population and to observe the respect of the cease-fire. The Austrian Chairmanship would like to tackle other issues that are threatening our collective security such as human trafficking, terrorism or radicalisation. But first of all, we need to restore confidence among member states as well as between states and citizens.

As concluding remarks, Christian Strohal invites Austria to completely meet the double challenge represented by the chairmanship without neglecting any task or topic. The number of events, the capacity to reach agreement among member states, the need to involve civil society are all important indicators suggesting that 2016 was a successful year for the OSCE. Nevertheless, the Organisation respects the principle of consensus which means that every member has de facto a veto and tensions among the 57 make thzuz12345e uhuallenge even more complex.