The OSCE Legal Framework
"Between Aspirations and Realities: Strengthening the Legal Framework of the OSCE"
OSCE-symposium on the Völkerrechtsblog
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is rare of
its kind: while it possesses most of the attributes traditionally
ascribed to an International Organization, it lacks a constitutive act
under international law and an established international legal
personality. Despite long-lasting attempts to formalise its
institutional structure, the legal status of the OSCE remains an open
issue until today.
This leads to a patchwork of
legal regimes under which the organization operates in the participating
States. The organization’s sui generis legal status is the result of a
unique legal and political process, which has started as an effort to
build an East-West forum for political dialogue in the framework of
Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and
formalised by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and later
OSCE (1995). Today, the OSCE is the world’s
security organization with 57 participating States,
security, economic and environmental as well as human
constituting a key institution in the field of early
prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict
the role of the OSCE, it is remarkable that
questions surrounding its
legal framework remain unresolved.
backdrop, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and
International Law convened a one-day international conference, which
took place on 13 July 2016 at the Harnack-Haus in Berlin. Under the
heading “Between Aspirations and Realities: Strengthening the Legal
Framework of the OSCE”, the conference aimed to provide a new impetus to
the debate on strengthening the legal framework of the OSCE.
attempts have shown that strengthening legal framework of the OSCE
faces a number of competing demands. On the one hand, formalisation
efforts have been pursued in a belief that endowing the organization
with legal personality, privileges and immunities would ensure a uniform
legal status and the necessary legal protection for the organization
and its staff, both in the Vienna Headquarters and in field missions.
Legal personality is also expected to facilitate the OSCE relations
both domestic and international public and private actors,
improving the organization’s effectiveness and
towards greater legal certainty. On the other hand, the
nature of the OSCE is appreciated for the flexibility and
offers in decision-making and crisis response, thus
the organization’s effectiveness.
question is therefore whether and to what extent formalising the OSCE
status could alter the existing arrangements and undermine the
organization’s significance as a platform for political dialogue.
Moreover, the possible adoption of a constitutive act (Charter) raises
concerns as to the maintenance of the OSCE acquis and the
sensitive power relations within the organization. Furthermore, a
modified legal framework would necessarily affect the distribution of
legal responsibility between the participating States and the
organization, and would require the establishment of appropriate
accountability mechanism, which all opens up questions that have not yet
been properly addressed.
So far, the
discussions have been framed by political considerations brought
by the OSCE participating States at the high political level,
drafted by expert bodies and working groups within the
aim of this conference was to complement these
efforts by opening up
debate to a broader international audience.
the proposals as drafted in the past years as a common starting
the discussions focused on legal and political implications of
proposals and envisaged possible further options for
the OSCE framework. In order to ensure an open and
discursive format of
the conference, international scholars and
practitioners with expertise
in legal, political and related fields,
civil society organizations and
media representatives were all welcome
as panellists and participants.
Building on the discursive interaction of the conference (13 July
2016), several authors discuss important dimensions of the legal status
of the OSCE in a dedicated symposium on the Völkerrechsblog (August 2016). The series of blogposts includes the following contributions:
on the conference concept and the conference presentations, a
publication of selected contributions in an edited volume is envisaged.
Clara Schindowski | Florian Kriener (studentische Hilfskräfte)
Tel.: +49 (0) 6221 492 307