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The OSCE was formed in 1995 following several years of preparations. These started with the era of detente in relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the 1970s, which led to the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 and the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The new climate prevailing in international relations following the collapse of Eastern European regimes and the creation of new independent states from the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the transformation of the Conference into an Organization (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/OSCE).
The OSCE – an Organisation of 57 countries covering a geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostok – is based in Vienna. It is inspired by the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and is a forum for political dialogue on issues relating to three dimensions of international security: I. the political-military, II. the economic and environmental, and III. the human dimension. The fact that the decisions taken by the participating states are political, but not legally binding, does not and must not detract anything from their effectiveness. Greece has fulfilled the obligations arising from the contractual texts drawn up within the framework of the CSCE/OSCE from Helsinki to this day, and it also participates actively in the Organization’s activities, whether autonomously or in its capacity as a member of the European Union, participating in the shaping of the latter’s positions.
In order to achieve its objectives, the Organization has developed a wide network of 15 missions-on-the-ground and Offices in countries of the Western Balkans, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Furthermore, since the early 1990s the OSCE has maintained special relations with its Mediterranean partners (Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia) and Asian partners (Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, Thailand). At the 2009 OSCE Ministerial Council in Athens, Australia was granted Asian Partner status, with the right to participate in the meetings of the relevant Contact Group.
The Parliaments of the OSCE participating states are represented in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which carries out a number of activities and is one of the OSCE top institutions. Iikka Kanerva, of Finland, is the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and, with a renewed term, Spencer Oliver, of the U.S. has been the Secretary General since 1995. Roberto Montella of Italy has been elected the next Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly with a term starting on 1 January 2016.
From 2010 to 2012 Greek MP Petros Efthymiou served as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The current Greek delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – consists of 6 regular members and 4 alternate members.
Another important OSCE organ is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR), which is based in Warsaw and is active in a number of sectors, including election observation in the OSCE space. The new Director of the ODIHR, as of 1 July 2014, is Michael Georg Link, of Germany. Greece participates with observers in ODHIR election missions. The most recent short-term mission of Greek Observers was to the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine, in October 2014.
In August 2013, Astrid Thors, of Finland, was elected the new High Commissioner of the Agency for National Minorities.
During 2013, the following OSCE officials visited our country:
- 18-19 September: the Three Personal Representatives of the OSCE for Combating Discrimination made a working visit to Athens (American Rabbi A. Baker/Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship for Combating anti-Semitism, former Kazakh Senator A. Akhmetov/Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship for combating discrimination against Muslims, and Ukrainian Ambassador T. Izhevska/Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship for combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance and discrimination against Christians).
- 7-8 November: the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for gender issues, American June Zeitlin, carried out a working visit to Greece.
- The aforementioned representatives had the chance to converse with both NGOs and representatives of the Greek administration.
No visits of OSCE officials to Greece took place in 2014 and 2015.
The rotating Chairmanship of the OSCE is assigned by the Organization’s Permanent Council, lasts for one year, and is exercised by the Foreign Minister of the participating state that is chosen. In 2009, Greece held the OSCE Chairmanship with great success. Always bearing in mind the OSCE’s principles, it consistently worked as an “honest broker” in order to bring into existence the “Corfu Process”, named after the Greek island that hosted the Informal OSCE Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which was the Greek Chairmanship’s ‘highlight’. This is a renewed, multilateral and cohesive process for dialogue on the European security architecture seen as a whole, which has already come into being and has been the 2009 Greek Chairmanship’s legacy. Kazakhstan held the Chairmanship in 2010, followed by Lithuania (2011) and Ireland (2012). The 2013 Chairmanship was held by Ukraine, followed by the Swiss Chairmanship (2014). Serbia held the Chairmanship in 2015 and is followed by Germany (2016) and Austria (2017).
The Irish Presidency (2012) introduced a new initiative for the promotion of the project of creating an OSCE Security Community from Vancouver to Vladivostok, as decided by the Summit Meeting in Astana (2010), within the framework of the Helsinki+40 Process. It promoted a relevant Draft Ministerial Resolution at the Dublin Ministerial (December 2012), which was adopted with the principal aim of setting specific goals from 2013 to 2015. The Ukrainian Chairmanship included the promotion of the Helsinki+40 Process among its main priorities, and at the start of its Chairmanship set about forming a relevant Informal Helsinki+40 Working Group (IHWG) within the framework of the OSCE Permanent Council, with the mission of preparing for the drawing up of ways to implement the relevant Dublin Decision
During the OSCE Ministerial Council in 2014, in Basel, a Declaration was adopted on the follow up of the Helsinki + 40 Process.
On the occasion of the anniversary of 40 years from the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, an Informal High Level Meeting took place, on 10.7.2015, in Helsinki, with the participation also of Greece. The main theme of the Meeting was the future of European Security Dialogue, within the framework of the Helsinki + 40 Process.
On 20-21.10.2015, the annual OSCE Conference with the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation was held in Jordan, during which our country was represented by our Alternate Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. N . Xydakis. The main topic of the Conference was Common Security in the Mediterranean Region – Challenges and Opportunities, following a multidimensional approach.
On 10.11.2015, in Malta, an International Conference on the future of cooperation in the Mediterranean region, based on the Helsinki Final Act, was held, with the participation of Greece.
The Swiss OSCE Chairmanship proposed in October 2014 the establishment of a Panel of Eminent Persons, consisted of 15 members, with the aim to submit and elaborate proposals that would allow the promotion of the European Security Dialogue, the conditions of which have been worsened. This initiative aims at reviving a climate of mutual trust and understanding in the European area, determining additionally the specific role that could be played by the OSCE itself. The decision on the establishment of this Panel was taken during the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel, in December 2014, and its implementation was assigned to the Serbian Chairmanship in 2015. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece and OSCE Chairperson in Office in 2009, Mrs. Dora Bakoyannis, participates in the Panel of 15 Eminent Persons. German Ambassador W. Ishinger, former Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs was nominated Head among equals of this Panel. The Panel submitted an Interim Report last June and a Final Report during the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade, in December 2015.
By decision of the OSCE Permanent Council, a Special Monitoring Mission was set up to contribute to de-escalating tensions in the country and to consolidating peace, stability and security. Following the Minsk Agreement of 5 September 2014 (Trilateral Contact Group – autonomist representatives), which provides for the conclusion of a ceasefire between the Ukrainian army and the autonomist forces, the Mission has essentially undertaken the monitoring of the ceasefire. The Mission’s mandate has been extended through 31 March 2016, with 70% of staff coming from EU member states. Greece participates with 20 observers, one of them holding the position of Head of Operations. On December 1, 2015, there were 651 monitors deployed to SMM. The number of monitors is scheduled to reach 700 by end of January 2016.
Other OSCE activities in Ukraine include the Observer Mission at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints on the Ukraine-Russia border, consisting of 20 observers, with Mr S. Eugster (Switzerland) as Chief Observer; the Military Observation/Vienna Document Inspection Mission that was completed on 6 June 2014 and in which participated 3 Greek officers; the Programme for the disarmament of Ukraine, funded by the OSCE, with the aim of disarming illegal armed groups; and the National Dialogue Programme, within the framework of promoting the constitutional reform process.
The OSCE Serbian Chairmanship concluded with the 22nd Meeting of the Ministerial Council in Belgrade, 3-4 December 2015. The main topics of this Ministerial Council were rebuilding consensus on European Security as a common project , the crisis in and around Ukraine, counter-terrorism and tackling the refugee-migration issue. Greece was represented by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. I. Amanatidis.