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The editors on the occasion of the Book Launch in Berlin (October 2019). Photo credit: M. Weiss/Ostkreuz

The OSCE Legal Framework


Anne Peters

Mateja Steinbrück Platise

Carolyn Moser

Über das Projekt:

Edited volume (eds. Steinbrück Platise, Moser, Peters) “The Legal Framework of the OSCE”, Cambridge University Press, 2019

"What Legal Framework for the OSCE? A Book Launch Conversation", 25 October 2019, Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 57 participating States, covering security, economic and environmental as well as human right issues and conflict management. While the OSCE possesses many of the attributes traditionally ascribed to an International Organization, including permanent structures such as the Secretariat, it lacks a constitutive act (founding treaty) under international law. Moreover, there is no text establishing the OSCE's international legal personality. Therefore, the OSCE is currently not - despite its name - an International Organization in a technical, public international law sense. What is more, OSCE decisions are considered mere political commitments deprived of legal bindingness.

Despite many attempts, including the drafting of a convention that would endow the Organization with international legal personality, legal capacity, privileges and immunities, the OSCE legal status remains unsettled until the present day due to a political stalemate, leading to a patchwork of legal regimes under which the Organization operates in the participating States.  So far, a scholarly analysis of the OSCE’s legal status has been lacking, and no monograph or edited volume had yet dealt with the OSCE’s de jure and de facto situation. The book “The Legal Framework of the OSCE” - edited by Mateja Steinbrück Platise, Carolyn Moser and Anne Peters - is therefore the first comprehensive analysis of the legal status of the OSCE.

The edited volume analyses core questions related to the legal status of the OSCE under three cross-cutting headings. The first part entails different perspectives on the quest for international legal personality of the OSCE. The second part deals with a range of cross-cutting issues tied to the manifestation of the OSCE’s current legal position under international law. The third and last part addresses governance issues related to the legal status of the Organization. The edited volume was published in June 2019 with CUP (for more information see below).  


International conference “Between Aspirations and Realities: Strengthening the Legal Framework of the OSCE”, 13 July 2016, Berlin

In early 2016, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law was invited by the OSCE Task Force of the German Foreign Office to conduct a project on the OSCE Legal Framework aimed at reviving and reframing the discussion on the legal framework of the OSCE at the occasion of Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2016. The project, consisting of an international academic conference and written scholarly work, seeks to examine legal and political implications that arise from the unsettled legal status for the Organization and its members of staff, for states as well as for individuals and peoples at large, who are affected by the Organization’s acts.

In order to provide for a new impetus to the debate, the Institute organized on 13 July 2016 an international conference entitled “Between Aspirations and Realities: Strengthening the Legal Framework of the OSCE”. The conference took place in the Harnack-Haus of the Max Planck Society in Berlin and was convened by Mateja Steinbrück Platise, Carolyn Moser, and Anne Peters. 46 academics and practitioners (plus the three conveners) attended the conference and contributed to a lively discussion.

Since in the past, the debate had primarily been framed by political considerations brought forward by the OSCE participating States at the high political level, the conference aimed to open up the debate to a broader international audience and to allow for an input by a larger community of scholars, practitioners and civil society representatives. By pursuing an open and discursive format of the conference, experts from legal, political and related fields, international scholars, practitioners and political representatives, civil society organizations and media representatives were all welcomed as speakers, engaged listeners and other conference participants.

The first panel explored the broader legal and political context in which the OSCE has been operating since its establishment. Subsequently, the second panel examined the present legal framework of the OSCE. The third panel then went on to discuss the question of the international legal status as a governance issue. Finally, the forth panel analysed legal and institutional implications of legal personality.


Most recently, Mateja Steinbrück Platise has published a blog Powerful but legally non-existent?, in which she has sketched some of the legal and political controversies surrounding the legal status of the OSCE.

In 2019, an edited volume (Steinbrück Platise/ Moser/ Peters) was published with CUP. Under the title “The Legal Framework of the OSCE”, the book analyses in 15 chapters core questions related to the legal status of the OSCE under three cross-cutting headings. Authors include, inter alia, Niels Blokker, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Tanja Börzel, Petri Hakkarainen, Carolyn Moser, Christian Nünlist, Anne Peters, Isabelle Pingel, Cedric Ryngaert, Mateja Steinbrück Platise, Helmut Tichy, Ramses Wessel, and Jan Wouters. For further information, please visit the CUP website.

The research and its salience was furthermore highlighted by the editors in the Max Planck Research Report 2018. For further information please visit the website of the Max Planck Society.

Furthermore, several authors discussed important dimensions of the legal status of the OSCE in a dedicated symposium on the Völkerrechsblog (August 2016) as a follow-up to the discursive interaction of the conference (13 July 2016). The series of blogposts included the following contributions:


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