Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by the UK Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

  Thank you for your letter of 16 November 2004 and for inviting me to provide evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Western Balkans at a meeting on Wednesday 12 January. I attach an unclassified memorandum which provides an overview of the OSCE's role in the Western Balkans region. I would be pleased to provide additional viewpoints on the OSCE role when we meet later this week.

Colin Munro CMG

Head of UK Delegation to the OSCE



  1.  At the request of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the UK Delegation to the OSCE submits the following memorandum as a contribution to the Committee's inquiry into the situation in the Western Balkans. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already submitted a memorandum providing a comprehensive overview of UK policy towards the Western Balkans. This memorandum provides more detail on the role of the OSCE in the region. Attached at Annex A and B are details of the costs and mandates of the OSCE's Missions in the Western Balkans.

  2.  Since 1989 all international organizations involved in Eastern Europe have encouraged the development of democracy, good governance and the protection of human rights. The commitments in the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) 1990 Copenhagen Conference Document are comprehensive in this respect, and explicit that these are matters of legitimate international concern. But, Yugoslavia responded to suspension in 1993 from the CSCE (for "gross uncorrected" breaches of these commitments) by expelling the CSCE Preventive Diplomacy Missions from Kosovo, Sandjak and Vojvodina. The CSCE/OSCE remained on the sidelines in the Balkan conflicts until the end of 1995 when the Dayton/Paris Agreement established a role for the OSCE in civilian implementation of the peace settlement, including "supervision of the preparation and conduct" of post war elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The OSCE Mission in BiH is still its third most expensive (Euro 18.2m), after Kosovo (Euro 39.2 million) and Georgia (Euro 21.3 million which includes provision for monitoring part of Georgia's mountainous border with Russia). The OSCE is part of a substantial international presence in the region that also includes the UN (the OSCE is a regional organization under Chapter VIII of the Charter), the Council of Europe (CoE), the EU, NATO and the International Financial Institutions. It is helping states in the region to fulfil their commitments, eg under the Copenhagen Document, and thus achieve the strategic objective that they all have in common—integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. This is a high priority in 2005 for the Slovenian Chairmanship of the OSCE and the UK as incoming EU Presidency.


  3.  The OSCE has missions in all the Western Balkans countries. The mandates (details with costs attached) provide for Missions to assist hosts in meeting their OSCE commitments, on democratisation, good governance, free and fair elections, free media, and the rule of law including administration of justice, police education and development. The Kosovo mission (Pillar III of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo—UNMIK) for example, runs the police training school, and has already trained over six thousand policemen and women. The OSCE also played a major role in establishing the multi-ethnic police force in South Serbia and continues to train and develop the organisation. The missions (with the exception of Albania) have a role in the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons. In BiH and Kosovo the High Representative and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General have respectively assigned them responsibilities for capacity building in education. The BiH Mission also has responsibilities for sub regional arms control and defence reform—creating one army out of three (although the lead role in this will increasingly be played by NATO). Heads of Mission report regularly to the Permanent Council (PC) in Vienna where mandates are reviewed and budgets decided.


  4.  The Missions work closely with the OSCE institutions, the Secretariat and other international organizations, especially the EU. The mandates of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFM), the Strategic Police Matters Unit (SPMU), the Special Representative on Trafficking in Human Beings, and the Economic and Environmental Coordinator (OCEEA) are focused on post conflict rehabilitation, the development of plural civil society, and early warning of possible future conflict. For example, the HCNM's mandate allows its High Commissioner Rolf Ekeus to use his judgement to identify situations involving minorities with conflict potential, and provide confidential advice to governments and minority representatives, on possible remedies. At present the RFM is working with UNMIK and others to create a free and responsible media in Kosovo. ODIHR has an important role in election observation throughout the region. The recent referendum on decentralization in Macedonia is an example.


  5.  These are:

    —  comprehensive membership including the countries of the region, the US and Russia. The missions and institutions belong to countries such as Serbia and Montenegro (SaM). They have an equal say in their cost, activities and deployment.

    —  comprehensive concept of security including politico military matters, the economy, environment and human rights. The OSCE can focus on where the need is greatest, and fill niches not covered by other organisations;

    —  top priority accorded to conflict prevention by OSCE Institutions such as the HCNM. The Budapest summit in 1994 established the OSCE as a primary instrument for conflict prevention, management and resolution;

    —  expertise in standards for free and fair elections and for observation. ODIHR, established in 1990 as the Office for Free Elections, is an acknowledged leader. The OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly has also developed its capabilities in this field, especially during Bruce George's tenure of office as its President;

    —  field presence throughout the region not replicated by any other international organization. OSCE missions can also carry out projects on behalf of other organisations such as the European Commission and UNHCR. They have detailed knowledge of conditions affecting human rights at the local level;

    —  well developed cooperation with NGOs. This applies both to institutions such as ODIHR and to field missions;

    —  ability to work with other organisations to promote good neighbourly relations including through the link between OSCE commitments and EU accession. The Croatian government for example, wishes its OSCE mission to continue to provide assistance during its accession negotiations;


  6.  A pertinent example of these advantages in practice: the Netherlands OSCE Chairmanship (2003) identified human trafficking as an issue where the OSCE, had the potential to add value to the work of other international organizations and national governments. Helga Konrad's ( who took up her duties as Special Representative last year) action plan is based on prevention, prosecution and protection. She has particular expertise on the Balkans as former South East Europe Stability Pact anti Trafficking Coordinator. There will be opportunities for the UK to work closely with her, especially during our EU Presidency.


  7.  The role of the OSCE in the Western Balkans is declining as the EU steps up its effort. But it still makes an important contribution, for example through the police training school in Kosovo, and in dealing with contemporary threats to security and prosperity such as trafficking in human beings and the all-pervasive corruption that is the antithesis of good governance. The UK's total annual OSCE expenditure of £21 million in 2004-05 (roughly 10% of the total cost of the OSCE, the greater part of which is still allocated to the Western Balkans), is an investment in both an effective EU in a secure neighbourhood, and in effective multilateralism, part of the EU's own security strategy.

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