The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organisation in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space with its 57 participating States covering an area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

The OSCE traces its origins to the détente of the early 1970’s when the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was established as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between the East and the West. The Helsinki Final Act was signed on 1 August 1975 following a long period of negotiations started at the end of the 1960s. The Helsinki Final Act contained a number of key commitments on politico-military, economic and environmental and human rights issues that became central to the “Helsinki process”. The most important part of the document, namely the “Decalogue” contains the ten fundamental OSCE principles which govern the behaviour of States towards their citizens and as well as towards each other still today.

Until 1990 the CSCE functioned as a place of multilateral dialogue between the two ideological and political blocs which allowed the participating States to elaborate new commitments in the three – politico-military, economic-environmental, and human rights – fields. However, with the end of the Cold War the CSCE entered a new course which led to the acquisition of permanent institutions and operational capabilities. As part of the institutionalisation process the name of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was changed to Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1994. As a proof of particular importance attached to this organisation, Hungary hosted that important OSCE summit in Budapest in 1994. Following the Summit Hungary assumed the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 1995.

Nowadays the OSCE addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities.

Comprehensive concept of security

The OSCE has maintained its relevance in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian architecture due to its comprehensive approach to security. The concept of comprehensive security encompasses commitments and mechanisms related to the politico-military, economic-environmental and human dimensions, and strikes a fair balance among them.

The cooperation in the politico-military dimension of the OSCE is primarily based on the respect of commitments and treaties which constitute the fundamental basis of the European conventional security architecture, namely the Vienna Document, the CFE (Conventional Armed Forces in Europe)-regime and the Open Skies Treaty. In the second dimension the OSCE promotes the implementation of the economic and environmental commitments. The Human Dimension also plays an important role in the comprehensive concept of security of the OSCE. The dignity of the human being, democracy, rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms require constant vigilance, protection and improvement. There are three autonomous OSCE-institutions which play an important role in supporting the tireless efforts of the OSCE in this field:

  • The High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) monitors the situation of the ethnic minorities across the OSCE area in accordance with its mandate.
  • The Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) monitors the situation of journalists and media in the participating States and evaluates the degree of freedom of the media.
  • The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deals mainly with the elections observation in the OSCE participating States, as well as with the fight against discrimination (including the recent trends related to anti-Semitism, anti-Roma sentiments etc.), protection of the rule of law, strengthening of the commitments related to humanitarian issues (refugees, internally displaced persons, etc).

Functioning and Structure

The political leadership of the OSCE is assumed by the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship is held for one calendar year by one OSCE participating State. The function of the Chairperson-in-Office (CiO) is exercised by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of that State. In 2014 and 2015 the chairmanships are respectively held by Switzerland and Serbia. The executive structures of the OSCE (Secretary General, Secretariat, OSCE field missions) assist the working program of the Chairmanship in running the Organisation and fulfilling its tasks.

The OSCE decisions are taken by the decision-making bodies of the Organisation (Summit and Ministerial Council Meetings, the Permanent Council) by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis. The OSCE field missions constitute an important part of the OSCE activities. These 15 field missions support the host countries (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and help them to deal with problems connected to all three dimensions of the OSCE.

Hungary and the OSCE

Hungary’s contribution to the OSCE covers all three dimensions. The Hungarian Government has been providing technical and financial assistance as well as expertise to the OSCE projects especially in the Western Balkans in areas such as post-conflict rehabilitation. Hungary has been contributing to different ODIHR projects in the field of minority protection and antidiscrimination. Hungary also actively contributes to the OSCE’s election observation activities and to the work of field missions by seconding experts.

At a political level Hungary attaches great importance to the work of the OSCE and to the promotion of comprehensive security. In this regard Hungary fully shares the common vision of a Security Community defined in the Astana Commemorative Declaration set out at the latest OSCE Summit in Astana in 2010. In order to achieve that goal the OSCE should be strengthened. Hungary supports the work of the OSCE and its 57 participating States to strengthen the Vienna-based organisation by rebuilding dialogue and promoting the reinforcement of confidence. Hungary firmly believes that the Helsinki+40 process started under the Irish Chairmanship in 2012 will contribute to bringing the OSCE closer to the demands of the 21st century by 2015, the year which will mark the 40th anniversary of its inception.