Macedonia enters the finals of the OSCE Chairmanship
The ministers of foreign affairs and other representatives of the 57 member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and partner countries are meeting in Skopje for the next three days to discuss the future of the organization and the challenges it faces. . The Council of Ministers will also mark the end of North Macedonia's one-year chairmanship of the OSCE. The new chairman will be Malta after a compromise was reached between the member states on Monday after the veto from Russia and Belarus for Estonia, which according to the rotating principle was supposed to take over the chairmanship.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will come to Skopje. The Russian foreign minister's participation was uncertain due to international sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, but after Bulgaria opened its skies and allowed a Russian government plane to fly over, and the EU said it was not a violation of sanctions, Moscow confirmed that Lavrov was coming in Skopje.
The arrival of Lavrov, on the other hand, is the reason for the cancellation of the participation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba and the heads of diplomacy of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Margus Tsakhna, Kristianis Karinsh and Gabrielius Landsbergis.
Ukraine will be represented at the forum by a delegation from their MFA, the Ukrainian Embassy in Skopje confirmed for MIA. The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Oleg Nikolenko, said that Kiev highly appreciates the efforts of North Macedonia as the OSCE Chairmanship in 2023 and personally of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bujar Osmani, who have shown high professionalism and unwavering commitment to protection to the principles and obligations of the OSCE and which gave priority to the issue of opposing Russian aggression against Ukraine.
- The Russian Federation is constantly destroying the OSCE, abusing the rule of consensus. Resorting to blackmail and open threats, Russia has systematically blocked consensus on key issues, as well as Estonia's candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship in 2024. Russia has created an existential crisis in the OSCE and turned the organization hostage to its whims and aggression, Nikolenko said in a Facebook post.
The foreign ministers of the three Baltic countries, in turn, said in a joint statement that "Lavrov's presence carries the risk of giving legitimacy to the aggressor Russia as a legal member of the community of free nations, trivializing the brutal crimes that Russia has committed, as well as the obvious Russian violation and contempt of the basic principles and obligations of the OSCE". According to them, "Russia will use this opportunity to spread its propaganda and undermine the unity of the West."
There are no other cancellations for now. The presence was confirmed by the high representative of the EU for foreign policy and security, Josep Borrell, but as he announced, he will not talk to Sergey Lavrov.
On Thursday and Friday in Skopje, the ministers of foreign affairs of the countries will also discuss the mandates of four high officials of the OSCE, including the German diplomat Helga Schmid as secretary general. Their mandates expire on December 4, and there is still no agreement on whether and who will succeed them, due to the remarks of Russia and Belarus. In recent years, and especially after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow uses the right of veto in the OSCE, where decisions are made by consensus.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organization that unites 57 participating countries from Europe, North America and Asia and acts as a link between European and global security.
The core function of action is based on warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict recovery. The organization enables security and cooperation through the three main dimensions or areas of work: political-military, humanitarian and the dimension for economic issues and environmental protection. One of the specificities of its operation is that decisions are made by consensus.
In the network of European security organizations, the OSCE stands out for its numerous membership that includes Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian components, comprehensive mandate, flexible structure and extensive field activities. OSCE activities are aimed at realizing the concept of a single and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space.
Unlike other security organizations (NATO, UN), the OSCE does not have its own forces or means to establish peace and uses mainly preventive diplomacy that includes arms control, strengthening trust between states, monitoring respect for human rights, freedom of the media, monitoring elections and monitoring of economic and environmental relations. In the second half of the 1990s, missions and field operations in SEE Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus became an important tool of the OSCE, and it is also aimed at new, modern threats to security (transnational threats, organized crime).
The OSCE employs around 3.600 people, mainly in its field operations, but also in the secretariat in Vienna and its institutions. The OSCE has observer status in the United Nations.
From KEBS to OSCE
The OSCE traces its origins to the détente era of the early 1970s, when the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was created to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiations between East and West. Talks of establishing a European security body began in the 1950s, but the Cold War prevented any substantial progress until 1972.
After two years of meetings in Helsinki and Geneva, the CES reached an agreement on the Helsinki Final Act, which was signed on August 1, 1975. This document contained a series of key commitments on political-military, economic, environmental and human rights issues that became central to the so-called "Helsinki Process". Also, 10 basic principles ("Decalog") were established that regulate the behavior of states towards their citizens, as well as towards each other.
Until 1990, the CEBS functioned mainly as a series of meetings and conferences that built on and expanded the commitments of participating countries while periodically reviewing their implementation. However, with the end of the Cold War, the Paris summit of November 1990 set the CSCE on a new course. In the Paris Charter for a new Europe, the CSCE was called upon to play its role in managing the historical change taking place in Europe and to respond to the new challenges of the post-Cold War period, which led to its reformation and the establishment of permanent institutions and new operational capabilities. .
As part of this institutionalization process, the name was changed from CSCE to OSCE by a decision of the Summit of Heads of State or Government in Budapest in December 1994.
Organization and bodies
The OSCE operates at several levels. Decisions represent political determinations and are made by consensus. The political direction of the Organization is given by the heads of states or governments during the summits. Summits are not regular or scheduled, but are held as needed. The last summit was held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 1 and 2 December 2010.
The organization's high-level decision-making body is the OSCE Ministerial Council, which meets at the end of each year.
At the ambassadorial level, the OSCE Permanent Council meets weekly in Vienna and serves as the regular negotiating and decision-making body. The Permanent Council is chaired by the OSCE ambassador of the presiding state.
In addition to the Ministerial Council and the Permanent Council, the OSCE's decision-making body is the Forum for Security Cooperation, which mainly deals with military cooperation issues, such as inspection modalities under the 1999 Vienna Document.
The OSCE Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria. The organization also has offices in Copenhagen, Geneva, The Hague, Prague and Warsaw.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe consists of 323 parliamentarians from 57 member states. The Parliamentary Assembly performs its functions mainly through the Standing Committee, the Bureau and three general committees – the Committee on Political Affairs and Security, the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and the Environment and the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
The Parliamentary Assembly passes resolutions on political and security issues, economic and environmental issues, and democracy and human rights. Representing the collective voice of OSCE parliamentarians, these resolutions and recommendations aim to ensure that all participating countries fulfill their commitments to the OSCE. The Parliamentary Assembly also deals with parliamentary diplomacy and has an extensive election observation program.
The oldest institution of the OSCE is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), established in 1991 following a decision taken at the 1990 Paris Summit. It is based in Warsaw, Poland, and is active throughout the OSCE area in the fields of election observation, democratic development, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, rule of law and Roma and Sinti issues. ODIHR has so far observed over 300 elections and referenda since 1995, sending more than 50.000 observers.
The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, established in December 1997, acts as an early warning watchdog for violations of freedom of expression in OSCE member states. The representative also assists participating countries by advocating and promoting full compliance with OSCE norms, principles and commitments regarding freedom of expression and free media.
The High Commissioner for National Minorities was established in 1992 at the Helsinki Summit. It is in charge of identifying and seeking early resolution of ethnic tensions that could threaten peace, stability or friendly relations between member states.
To calm crisis and conflict situations, the OSCE has so far carried out missions in about ten countries, including in Macedonia in 2001.
The first OSCE mission was to Georgia in 1992 to help with the Russo-Georgian conflict, the second to Moldova in 1993 to resolve the crisis in Transnistria, and the third to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 due to the war in that former Yugoslav republic.
Followed by the missions in Kosovo in 1998, in Macedonia in 2001 to support the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement that ended the armed conflict, the mission in Serbia in 2001, in Montenegro in 2006, the mission in Texas during the presidential elections in USA in 2012, the mission in Turkey for the constitutional referendum in 2017, the monitoring mission in Ukraine in 2014, in Armenia in 2022 and again in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in 2022.
North Macedonia and OSCE
North Macedonia enters the final of the OSCE Chairmanship in 2023. "It's about the people" was the motto of the one-year Macedonian chairmanship of the OSCE that began on January 1 of this year.
– We have positioned ourselves as a Presidency focused on people, because in a world in turmoil, the needs and demands of people always come first. Their safety should always be at the center of efforts of all political leaders. The approach of the chairmanship of North Macedonia to the OSCE was multifaceted and focused on: a clear commitment to the people of Ukraine and other regions affected by conflicts and support to the affected population and institutions, the work of the field operations of the OSCE and their support, assessed at the end of the chairmanship mandate of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bujar Osmani.
In his capacity as Chairman of the OSCE during the past year, he made a total of 12 visits to the field operations of the OSCE in Ukraine, the OSCE Mission in Skopje, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In addition to the field visits, a number of conferences were held dedicated to the topics highlighted as priorities in the Program of the Chairmanship of North Macedonia with the OSCE to address anti-Semitism, economic and climate challenges in the OSCE region, gender equality, human rights, youth and their future and other topics of key importance for the Organization and the participating countries.
– While priority was given to Ukraine and to addressing the consequences of Russian military aggression, we aimed to maintain the consistency of our principles across the OSCE region, with a particular focus on protracted conflicts, heightened tensions and their human consequences, as well as making OSCE tools available to those who need them, says Osmani.
On January 1, 2023, North Macedonia took over the chairmanship of the OSCE from Poland. The next chairman will be Malta.
The country became part of the OSCE on October 12, 1995, then as the Republic of Macedonia.
The OSCE mission in Skopje was established in 1992 with the main goal of preventing conflicts from spilling over from the region. After 2002, the process of reducing the staff is constantly taking place according to the achieved results. The activities of the Mission, which are determined and implemented in close cooperation with the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and are aimed at supporting national reforms, are focused on the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, decentralization, anti-discrimination, police reforms, the rule of law and areas related to good governance.
It cooperates closely with the High Commissioner for National Minorities of the OSCE, with the Representative for Freedom of the Media, as well as with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR observed all elections in the country starting with the parliamentary elections in 1998.
The country has an active role within the OSCE, which, in addition to the current role of chairman, is reflected through the chairmanship of the Committee for Economic Affairs and Environmental Protection (in 2007), with the election of our diplomat as head of the OSCE Office in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (2009), as well as with the appointment of Macedonian representatives as heads of the OSCE/ODIHR observation missions to monitor the elections in various member states of the Organization. In 1996 and in 2012, the country presided over the Forum for Security Cooperation, and in February 2018 in Vienna, it presided over the 28th Annual Meeting for the Assessment of the Implementation of the Obligations from the Political-Military Dimension of the OSCE. In 2016, we hosted the fall session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. A significant number of representatives from the Republic of North Macedonia participate in OSCE field missions, especially in Ukraine.