2009 Report to Congress: U.S. Policy and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

March 2009

Report Pursuant to Section 5 of 22 U.S.C. 3005 (1976), As Amended by Section 226 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2003 (As enacted in Public Law 107-228)

U.S. Policy Objectives That Are Advanced By the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

This report, submitted pursuant to Section 5 of the “Act to Establish a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe,” 22 U.S.C. 3005 (1976), as amended by Section 226 of the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2003” (P.L. 107-228), discusses U.S. policy objectives advanced through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This report reviews OSCE activities and initiatives in 2008, including those led by OSCE institutions and conducted by OSCE field missions. It covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2008, and looks forward into 2009, presenting U.S. priorities for the OSCE for the coming year.


The OSCE effects change and advances U.S. interests in Europe and Central Asia by promoting the growth and spread of democracy, strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and controlling conventional arms. The OSCE also works to improve economic prosperity and promote sustainable environmental policies.

The pillars of the 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy – promoting freedom, justice, human dignity, and effective democracies – are also the OSCE’s prime objectives. The OSCE has a role to play in helping to combat terrorism through a number of initiatives in the areas of arms control and border and travel document security, and, more generally, in advancing freedom, security, and prosperity throughout the OSCE region. By promoting these and other initiatives collectively, the OSCE acts as a force multiplier in support of U.S. interests, allowing the United States to share costs and political responsibility with other OSCE participating States and, at the same time, to coordinate actions to avoid duplication of effort and maximize success.

Promoting democracy and respect for human rights is fundamental to achieving sustainable security in Europe and Eurasia. The OSCE’s core democracy and human rights mission is crucial to that effort. All OSCE participating States have accepted the same commitments to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights, and all must be held accountable for implementation of those commitments. The United States is committed to preserving OSCE democracy and human rights promotion activities, including the important election observation and democracy promotion work done by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The U.S. contribution (and related costs) to the OSCE’s field missions and extra-budgetary projects were funded in FY 2008 through the Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) and FREEDOM Support Act (FSA) accounts. The U.S. contribution to the OSCE was approximately $38 million in FY 2008, including funds from Diplomatic and Consular Programs, FSA, and SEED accounts. Due to insufficient resources, for the first time, we had to draw on funding from two fiscal years to pay for our financial obligations for a single calendar year, using FY 2009 funds to meet a portion ($5.6 million) of our OSCE bill for the calendar year 2008.


Election Observation

Drawing on a time-tested standardized methodology, OSCE election observation missions enjoy worldwide respect for their objectivity and credibility. The United Nations has no comparable institution or methodology and indeed has borrowed heavily from the OSCE to develop its own standards, using ODIHR’s election observation methodology as the model and inspiration for its 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and its accompanying Code of Conduct.

In 2008, the OSCE conducted twelve election observation and assessment missions, most notably in Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and the United States. OSCE observation of the 2008 election in the United States was very useful in demonstrating once again U.S. adherence to the concept that every participating State must fulfill its OSCE commitments---in clear contrast to the refusal of Russia to allow ODIHR to observe elections there in an effective and acceptable way. In these countries and elsewhere, ODIHR provided expertise to help improve the conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections and provided robust election observation missions that documented the degree to which elections met OSCE commitments and international standards. In Georgia, for example, ODIHR observed both presidential and parliamentary elections, and the OSCE continued its cooperation with the government to review and amend the legal framework to provide for the multi-party composition of election administration at all levels and to introduce a reduced five percent threshold for party representation in Parliament. By contrast, in the run-up to its March 2008 presidential elections, Russia again impeded preparatory work by ODIHR, imposed artificial limits on the number of observers ODIHR was allowed to send to the elections, and failed to issue visas in a prompt manner. For these reasons, ODIHR concluded, as it did before Russia’s December 2007 parliamentary elections, that Russia’s restrictions prevented it from being able to conduct an assessment in accordance with its guidelines and decided it could not send a monitoring mission. It is important to note that Russia was subjected to much international criticism for its failure to permit OSCE observation of its elections.

In contrast to Russia, the United States welcomed OSCE observation of the November 4 general elections, which met OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), in this particular instance, and owing to the absence of short-term observers, opted not to join ODIHR in a consolidated OSCE observation mission and a common statement on the elections. ODIHR and the PA issued separate statements on the elections.

Except for Russia, all other OSCE countries continued to invite OSCE observers without restrictions and cooperated with ODIHR in election observation missions. While Belarus permitted ODIHR observers, ODIHR reported significant problems with access for observers on election day and for the vote count. ODIHR’s election observation methodology is based on sound, standardized criteria applied in an objective and fair manner. Despite this, a few OSCE participating States, most notably Russia, continue to urge a review of election-related commitments and a revision of ODIHR’s methodology in an effort to undermine ODIHR’s autonomy and effectiveness. The United States considers ODIHR’s methodology and practice to be sound and objective, and believes the real issue is not methodology but the lack of political will among some participating States to implement existing commitments and to allow the voice of the electorate to be heard. Some States wish to have elections judged on technical administrative merit on election day, rather than on an objective assessment of whether the overall electoral process met democratic standards and offered the electorate a legitimate choice. We will continue to lead by example and will call on States to act on ODIHR’s post-election recommendations and allow ODIHR to continue its important electoral work unhindered and undeterred.

Democracy Promotion

The OSCE assists all branches of government of OSCE participating States in developing policies and legislation to meet their democratic commitments. In 2008, a seminar on constitutional justice provided valuable insights and recommendations on the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the independence of the judicial system, and a Supplemental Human Dimension Implementation Meeting focused on lawmaking in democratic societies. Building on these activities, the OSCE adopted a far-reaching decision at the December 2008 Helsinki Ministerial Council to promote the continued development of the rule of law in the OSCE region.

The OSCE expanded trial monitoring work in Central Asia in 2008 and continued to provide legislative assistance in the criminal justice sector, advising authorities in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan on legislation that impacted religious and media freedom, criminal justice, political party development, and election administration. In Turkmenistan, ODIHR conducted a workshop on the evaluation and oversight of legislation, and in Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE continued efforts to strengthen the judicial sector by supporting training for the prosecutor general’s office and supporting projects to increase access to justice for socially vulnerable groups.

Laws affecting religious freedom in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were the subject of two advisory opinions by ODIHR in 2008. Unfortunately, most of the recommendations were not followed by the governments involved, although Kazakhstan's Constitutional Court ultimately struck down the amendments in question.

Elsewhere in the OSCE region, ODIHR issued an opinion on Moldova’s electoral code, and the OSCE completed an assessment of the Moldovan judicial system’s compliance with national and international fair trial standards, after monitoring nearly 2,400 hearings in 596 criminal cases. In conjunction with the Council of Europe, ODIHR also issued guidelines on the implementation of the law on freedom of assembly in Azerbaijan to assist officials in fully securing that freedom.

In the Balkans, the Criminal Justice Reform project, an initiative of the American Bar Association’s Europe and Eurasia Program, continued to work to improve inter-state cooperation in war crimes procedures by bringing prosecutors together to discuss issues of common concern. ODIHR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) launched a project to build and strengthen domestic capacity to hold war crimes trials fairly and efficiently. ODIHR also organized an expert meeting in 2008 on the use of plea agreements in Bosnia and Herzegovina war crimes cases.

Protection of Human Rights

Respect for human rights represents one of the key values of the OSCE, and the organization is active in assisting participating States in meeting their commitments. ODIHR issued its second report in 2008 on the plight of human rights defenders who remain under threat in many parts of the OSCE region. Along with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, ODIHR sent an expert team to Georgia to conduct an assessment of the human rights situation in the conflict zone following the August 2008 war. Working with OSCE field missions, ODIHR also conducted training for lawmakers and officials in Georgia on the protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism and for human rights defenders in Armenia on how to monitor and report on freedom of assembly.

The OSCE conducted roundtables on draft legislation affecting religious and media freedom in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and helped engage the Tajik government and civil society representatives in debating new draft legislation on religion. The OSCE also hosted monthly human rights roundtables for internationals and NGOs in Tajikistan throughout 2008. In Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE continued its important work in humanizing criminal legislation and assisting with penitentiary system reform, including enhancing public monitoring of penitentiary institutions. The OSCE Office in Tajikistan also played an important role in the creation of a national institution for human rights (Ombudsman).

Fight Against Intolerance

The OSCE tackles the challenges of intolerance and discrimination through programs and projects in the fields of legislative reform, capacity building for tolerance-focused NGOs, education on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, and efforts to counter other forms of ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice. The United States has provided significant political and financial support to the activities of ODIHR in these areas and others.

Thanks to intense efforts by the U.S. Government, including Members of Congress, and in close collaboration with NGO partners, the OSCE in 2005 appointed three personal representatives of the Chairman-in-Office on tolerance issues. Throughout 2008, these representatives – with a focus on combating anti-Semitism; intolerance and discrimination against Muslims; and racism, xenophobia and discrimination, including against Christians and members of other religions – traveled to OSCE participating States to raise awareness of OSCE commitments and to assist authorities in implementing those commitments. The United States strongly supported the continuation of the personal representative process by the Greek chairmanship in early 2009. The representatives work closely with ODIHR in a cooperative environment, but are free to travel and are independent of ODIHR. They also take part in NGO roundtables and OSCE expert meetings throughout the year.

In January 2008, the personal representative on combating anti-Semitism held a meeting in Berlin, and in September 2008, the Romanian government hosted a regional conference on the same topic in Bucharest. The May Supplemental Human Dimension Implementation meeting focused on discrimination, with much discussion on the need to address anti-Roma violence and discrimination in several OSCE participating States in 2008. Additionally, the OSCE held an expert-level meeting on hate crimes in Helsinki in June 2008. These events helped keep the focus of OSCE tolerance activities on anti-Semitism, as well as on racism, xenophobia, and discrimination against Muslims, Christians, and members of other religions.

We continue to encourage the OSCE to expand ODIHR education programs to counter intolerance against Muslims and to increase its tolerance work and training on media freedom in, and with the full cooperation of, the Mediterranean partner States. In line with these efforts, the OSCE in December 2008 organized a roundtable for young Muslim leaders to discuss anti-Muslim attitudes in some participating States.

Anti-Trafficking Efforts

The OSCE is well suited for combating the transnational problem of trafficking in persons, which requires engagement with multiple foreign governments and NGOs. The Maastricht Action Plan of 2003 on combating trafficking in human beings includes provisions for specialized police training, legislative advice, and other assistance, which ODIHR and OSCE field missions provide. The OSCE’s Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and the Secretariat’s Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit support these efforts, in particular by providing a framework within the OSCE to expand States’ combined efforts.

The OSCE has taken the lead in the international community in establishing a strong code of conduct for its field mission personnel to ensure they do not encourage trafficking. This issue was addressed on a broad scale with the adoption at the 2005 Ljubljana Ministerial Council of steps to prevent international mission members and peacekeeping troops from contributing to human trafficking. The OSCE also has crafted an economic component to its anti-trafficking plan directed toward at-risk individuals in source countries and at businesses that might be misused by traffickers, such as hotels and tour operators. The aim is to reduce demand in destination countries by raising awareness of the plight of victims trafficked for labor and commercial sexual exploitation purposes.

Based on initiatives taken by the U.S. Government, in conjunction with France and Belgium, the OSCE is also at the forefront of the fight against the sexual exploitation of children. OSCE participating States decided at the December 2007 Madrid Ministerial Council to continue to train law enforcement officials in investigative techniques and to improve intergovernmental cooperation. In 2008, the OSCE held its first-ever online workshop on the topic of sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.

Political-Military Dimension

The OSCE is at the forefront of counterterrorism efforts in the region and has made progress in this area both as a security multiplier and in terms of cooperation among countries from the Balkans to the Baltics. The OSCE has proven responsive and effective in coordinating with other international organizations to help train authorities in the region to implement tougher security and counterterrorism practices in areas such as law enforcement, shipping, and document issuance. In 2008, the United States and Russia worked together on a second Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Conference in a continued effort to explore ways for governments to cooperate closely with the private sector and civil society to combat terrorism. As a follow-on PPP effort, the United States is interested in advancing Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection (CEIP) efforts through the OSCE. The OSCE hosted an CEIP experts workshop in July of 2008.

In 2008, the OSCE’s Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) continued work, initiated by a U.S. proposal, to prepare best practices guides for national implementation of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540, which is aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States seeks to broaden the scope of UNSCR 1540 work at the OSCE by addressing its requirements in the Permanent Council’s Security Committee, which deals with non-military aspects of security, and possibly expanding UNSCR 1540 implementation to the OSCE eighteen field operations.

To better monitor weapons trade in recent years, the FSC has adopted documents aimed at controlling stockpiles of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and conventional ammunition, including export controls for man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and exchanges of national practices on arms brokering and end-use certificates and related mechanisms. The United States has provided funding for a number of SALW destruction projects in Tajikistan, and for mélange rocket fuel conversion in Armenia and Georgia. The United States also serves as the coordinator for the editorial review board charged with preparing best practice guides for safeguarding and eliminating SALW and conventional ammunition stocks.

Confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) remain a vital element in the long-term security of the OSCE region; however, Russia’s decision to “suspend” its implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) as of December 12, 2007 has contributed to a more challenging atmosphere in the political-military dimension, especially with regard to arms control. Nevertheless, the FSC continues to review implementation of the Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, which, through its regime of notifications and inspections, contributes greatly to transparency about military forces and mutual confidence among participating States.

It is especially worth mentioning that in 2008 – in the FSC and Joint Forum for Security Cooperation and Permanent Council – the participating states conducted extensive dialogue in a consultative and constructive manner on security concerns surrounding increased tensions in the Southern Caucasus. Initial dialogue in April and May concentrated on mitigating tensions following the 20 April 2008 incident involving an unmanned aerial vehicle shot down over Abkhazia, Georgia. Intense debate in September and October centered on addressing the August 2008 armed conflict in Georgia.

Border Management and Security

At the 2005 Ljubljana Ministerial Council, OSCE participating states adopted a sweeping “Border Security Management Concept,” by which they committed to promoting previously agreed OSCE standards for open and secure borders in a free, democratic, and more integrated OSCE area. At the 2007 Madrid Ministerial Council, the participating states tasked the OSCE Secretary General to examine the potential for greater engagement with Afghanistan on this issue. The OSCE developed a set of sixteen border security projects relative to Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors and continued to work in 2008 to find new ways to facilitate capacity-building for border services and to reinforce cross-border cooperation in the OSCE region. The United States will continue to work with the OSCE throughout 2009 to find ways to help targeted states, such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Combating the Threat of Illicit Drugs

In 2008, the OSCE held, together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, an expert-level conference on ways to combat the production and trafficking of Afghan heroin and other illicit drugs in the OSCE area. Along with identifying current best practices in law enforcement, the experts discussed challenges and threats posed by the links between illicit drug trafficking, terrorism, and transnational organized crime. The United States used the forum to highlight the need for improvements in the sharing of real-time intelligence among drug enforcement agencies and to promote increased international cooperation through existing tools.

OSCE Field Missions

In 2008, the OSCE, through its institutions and 18 field missions, carried out, with the concurrence of host governments, an ambitious range of activities to support political stability and democratic and economic development.

Ukraine: The OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine (PCU) continued in 2008 to develop and implement projects in all three OSCE dimensions and remained involved in promoting transparency, civil society, and the rule of law for parliamentary elections expected in 2009. In close cooperation with ODIHR and at the request of the Ukrainian Central Election Commission, the PCU trained more than 80,000 election officials, carried out a nation-wide voter education program, and promoted a better understanding of the election law by the media.

The PCU and its regional centers continued to help the government of Ukraine in its anti-trafficking efforts by providing legislative assistance to Ukrainian authorities seeking to develop a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, which will establish legal mechanisms to prevent and prosecute trafficking in human beings as well as assist victims in accordance with international human rights standards. The PCU also continued efforts to strengthen democratic governance by providing capacity-building aid to civil society, with the goal of improving cooperation with government authorities. Additionally, the PCU implemented projects to support the transition of former Ukrainian military personnel to civilian life through seminars on entitlements and retraining opportunities, and assisted the Ukrainian judicial system and legislature in resolving contradictions between the civil and commercial codes.

Georgia: The OSCE Mission to Georgia continued efforts to further Georgia’s development into a liberal, market-based democracy fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community. The Mission advanced its election reform efforts in 2008, providing training for Central Election Commission officials and NGOs, and supported efforts to strengthen local self-government. The Mission also assisted with the integration of national minorities, supported the monitoring of official anti-corruption initiatives, facilitated the development of small- and medium-size enterprises by offering entrepreneurial training, and assisted with water management in the Black Sea and Caspian basins. The Mission worked to enhance the professional capacity of regional media outlets and assisted in the establishment of a public broadcasting service. Additionally, the Mission offered human rights training at state institutions, monitored and handled human rights cases, assisted authorities and civil society in fighting human trafficking and torture, and conducted major programs to help reform the justice and penal systems.

Unfortunately, the Mission’s ability to perform its work was seriously impeded by Russia’s August 2008 invasion of Georgia, and the Mission itself was put in doubt in late 2008, when Russia blocked consensus on a renewed mandate. Additional military monitoring officers dispatched to the vicinity of the separatist region of South Ossetia following the August 12 ceasefire reinforced ongoing observation efforts, but the duration of their mandate was uncertain at year-end, and the Mission faced the possibility of forced closure in early 2009. Despite this, the OSCE continued efforts to reduce tensions in the region, and furthered international efforts through the Geneva process to develop an incident response mechanism and facilitate the safe, voluntary return of internally displaced persons.

Moldova: The OSCE Mission to Moldova continued efforts to find a long-term solution to the conflict in the separatist region of Transnistria. The United States strongly supports OSCE efforts in Moldova, which further our own objective – and that of the EU – of finding a durable resolution that respects Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States has urged all sides to work transparently with the OSCE to make concrete progress toward a political settlement, and has urged Russia to fulfill the commitments it made during the OSCE’s 1999 Istanbul Summit to withdraw its forces and munitions from Moldova.

The mediators (Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE) and observers (United States and EU) to the Transnistria conflict settlement talks held 3+2 discussions in 2008 but were unsuccessful in restarting formal negotiations, in large part due to Transnistrian intransigence. There were no official 5+2 talks (the 3+2, with Moldova and Transnistria) in 2008, but the group met informally.

Belarus: While Belarus has taken some steps to improve relations with the West, there has not been a clear commitment from the Belarusian authorities to genuinely respect democracy or basic human rights. Repression of fundamental freedoms and human rights by the Belarus authorities remains a significant concern of the United States and many other OSCE participating States. The United States remains deeply concerned by attacks by the Belarusian authorities on the political opposition, independent newspapers, and civil society, including religious groups. Partially because of the constraints imposed on it by the Belarusian authorities, the OSCE Office in Minsk (OOM) has become less effective in monitoring the human rights situation and in furthering the international community’s efforts to address Belarusian authorities’ harassment and detention of the opposition and restrictions on independent media.

The OOM has offered to help Belarusian authorities meet OSCE commitments and has found areas of cooperation with the government on the environment and trafficking in persons. Many OSCE field projects in Belarus partner with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, organizations primarily responsible for combating human rights violations but which have also perpetrated violations themselves. Reporting by the OOM of violations of human rights has become spotty and OSCE observation of political trials and demonstrations has declined. The OOM has been criticized by some NGOs for distancing itself from civil society. The U.S. has also voiced our concerns about the Head of Office’s priorities in working first with the Belarusian authorities at the expense of civil society.

The September 2008 parliamentary elections failed to meet OSCE standards. ODIHR reported that substantial efforts were necessary to conduct genuinely democratic elections and noted that almost all of its recommendations from prior election reports remained unaddressed. Problems in freedom of assembly and expression persisted during the broader election campaign and the vote count was non-transparent and deemed unreliable. No opposition candidates were elected. The Belarusian authorities have voiced their commitment to working with ODIHR on improving the electoral process.

The United States coordinated closely with the EU and other concerned partners to bring public pressure to bear on the authorities to live up to their OSCE commitments. The Belarusian authorities have taken certain positive steps on reform, but our concerns on democracy and human rights persist. The authorities released all political prisoners in 2008, allowed two major independent newspapers to be distributed through state networks, registered the “For Freedom” civic organization, and formed a public council through which to engage independent organizations on domestic reform. However, the authorities forcefully dispersed peaceful demonstrations on several occasions, forcibly conscripted three youth activists into military service, and re-arrested two former political prisoners and a third associate on charges related to a 2004/2005 arson case. The U.S. will continue to watch the situation in Belarus closely to encourage the authorities to undertake systemic reforms to improve the climate for democracy and human rights.

South-Eastern Europe: In 2008, the OSCE devoted nearly 47 percent of its total budget to its seven field missions in the Balkans, although this figure has declined gradually over the past several years, reflecting the relative stability of the region. In general, missions in the Balkans, many of which originated as part of immediate post-conflict international stabilization efforts, are much larger than OSCE field presences in the former Soviet Union. Overall, the OSCE’s work in the Balkans is a success story. Problems that still require assistance in the form of resources and attention from the international community include trafficking of drugs, weapons, and human beings, and organized crime.

Kosovo: The OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) is the largest OSCE mission in the field. Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008, the environment in which OMIK operates has undergone significant changes. Because of a requirement imposed by Serbia, Russia, and several other OSCE participating States which do not recognize Kosovo, OMIK has been made to operate in a “status neutral” manner. This has encumbered its relationship and interactions with Kosovo government authorities and limited its ability to provide direct support to government institutions. The EU Rule of Law Mission also has assumed the UN’s responsibilities in the areas of policing, justice, and customs; OMIK had played a key role in police training. OMIK still retains important monitoring functions, and an extensive field presence throughout Kosovo. Its network of 30 municipal teams remains well positioned to play an important role in promoting transparency and good governance at the local level and in ensuring non-discriminatory access to municipal services, which are essential for the protections for minority communities.

In 2008, OMIK continued to conduct training and development activities through its Security and Public Safety Program. Its long-standing work with the Central Elections Commission continued, as well. OMIK also remained active in political party development and in facilitating the “institutionalization” of human rights units in each of Kosovo’s 16 ministries.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: In 2008, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to help strengthen government institutions and facilitated efforts to build the capacity of the State Parliamentary Assembly, including by increasing the involvement of citizens in the legislative process.  Much of the Mission’s staff and resources were devoted to promoting the rule of law.  The Mission played a key role in monitoring the disposition of war crimes cases transferred to Bosnian courts from The Hague Tribunal.  This essential function boosted the ICTY’s confidence in the quality of these trials, allowing it to lower its caseload, at an overall cost savings.  The Mission also focused on the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes as a crucial part of its human rights program.  The Mission was active in fostering state-wide education reform.

Macedonia: Monitoring and assisting with the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement remained one of the primary tasks of the OSCE Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje in 2008. Many of the Mission’s activities focused on preventing ethnic tensions through the implementation of confidence-building measures and the training of a multi-ethnic police force. It expanded its focus to include programmatic activities to strengthen the rule of law and judicial capacity, increase the independence of the media, and improve the administrative structures of local governments. The Mission also designed, or identified and supported, grassroots projects promoting inter-ethnic cooperation and confidence, including projects in primary and secondary education. The Mission also played a key role in monitoring a number of ethnically divisive war crimes trials that were returned by the ICTY as case files to Macedonia.

The Mission largely has succeeded in its most resource-intensive projects, and has scaled back its field work and presence over the last several years, but with Macedonia’s movement toward closer Euro-Atlantic integration having slowed somewhat, the Mission has an important role to play in keeping the country on the right track, particularly with regard to rule of law issues.  The Mission closed down one of its two field offices outside of Skopje at the end of 2007, but the remaining field office in Tetovo, an area of past tension, continues to play an important monitoring role, particularly given election-related violence in the area in 2008.

Serbia: Among the OSCE Mission to Serbia’s most important achievements has been its vital work to promote overall police reform, accountability, and transparency, and to further the capacity of the Serbian police to fight organized crime.  The Mission promoted community policing principles and cooperative relationships between the police and the local communities in multi-ethnic areas such as southern Serbia and Vojvodina.  The Mission also helped build greater legislative oversight and transparency in both the National Assembly and at the municipal level, and promoted greater involvement of the public in the legislative process at both levels.  Additionally, it facilitated the decentralization process and contributed to building more effective local government.  The Mission continued to play an important role in 2008 by monitoring domestic war crimes cases and in helping Serbia live up to its international human rights commitments, in fighting discrimination and intolerance, and in combating human trafficking.  Finally, the Mission helped stimulate dialogue between Belgrade and the various ethnic communities in southern Serbia, and promoted the integration of ethnic Albanians into state institutions.

Montenegro: The OSCE Mission to Montenegro had a meaningful and positive impact on the country’s democratic and economic development in 2008.  It provided institutional and expert support to Montenegrin judges and prosecutors as well as assistance in helping to monitor the courts, in the process raising judicial standards and strengthening judicial independence.  The Police Affairs Program did vital work in helping Montenegro develop a more professional, democratic, and capable police force and in raising the levels of forensic expertise. The Mission is in the second year of a four-year effort to help Parliament modernize and improve its capacity to review legislation, and exert effective oversight over the government and other state institutions.  The Mission also facilitated the involvement of civil society actors in decision-making processes at the central and local levels and worked to strengthen the competencies of local governments.

Albania: The OSCE Presence in Albania continued to focus in 2008 on fighting corruption and promoting reform, helping to build the capacity of the Albanian Assembly and supporting the development of the State Police, the Border Police, and the Ministry of Defense.  The Presence also was active in good governance activities, introducing anti-corruption initiatives and training tax officials on the legal framework of conflict-of-interest declaration requirements.  In the area of democratization, the Presence focused on electoral and civil registry reform.  It also assisted Albania in promoting the rights of the Roma community and in combating trafficking in human beings.

Croatia: The OSCE Office in Zagreb has a limited mandate to monitor war crimes trials, including those transferred to Croatia by the ICTY, and report on residual aspects of the implementation of the housing care program. Croatia continues to make progress on issues such as electoral reform, minority rights, and the return and integration of refugees.

Armenia: The OSCE’s focus in Armenia in 2008 remained on advancing democratization and respect for human rights, particularly in light of the February elections and the March 1 violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, which resulted in the deaths of eight protesters and two police officers, and on peacefully resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through negotiations between the sides. The OSCE Office in Yerevan carried out programs to promote good governance and combat corruption, improve democratic control of the armed forces, and reform the criminal justice system. Projects and activities promoting free and fair elections, respect for freedom of assembly and freedom of the media received particular attention in 2008.

Azerbaijan: As in Armenia, the OSCE’s focus in Azerbaijan in 2008 remained on advancing democratization and respect for human rights, and on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The OSCE Office in Baku continued implementation of its policing reform program, revising the training curriculum and introducing community policing centers in several locations. In preparation for the October 2008 presidential election, the Office implemented a wide range of assistance programs, including training on public order management consistent with respect for human rights and on how to protect and facilitate freedom of assembly, to help Azerbaijan prevent election shortcomings. The Office was also active in promoting freedom of the media and protection of journalists, and sought both publicly and behind the scenes to reverse a negative trend on media freedom in Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Meetings of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (the United States, Russia, and France), with the participation of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and the foreign ministers and presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, continued throughout 2008. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs traveled to the region seven times to meet with the presidents and foreign ministers, in addition to meeting numerous times with the foreign ministers outside the region. In November, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow, where they signed a Declaration promising to continue work towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict under the auspices of the Minsk Group. In December, U.S. Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial in Helsinki to emphasize the importance of a peaceful settlement.

Negotiations on the basis of the “Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict” will continue in 2009. The goal remains a just and balanced agreement consistent with the Helsinki Final Act principles of territorial integrity, self-determination, and non-use of force.

Central Asia: The United States supports the development of democratic, market-oriented, and fully sovereign states in Central Asia, and seeks to increase regional stability and security. The United States also seeks to improve regional cooperation on water and energy, and to create new links in trade, transportation, and communication. In addition, the United States seeks to improve Central Asia’s relationship with its southern neighbor, Afghanistan, and to counter trafficking in weapons and narcotics by improving border management and control.

The OSCE plays an important role in advancing these goals, working with the Central Asian states across all three dimensions and assisting in the implementation of democratic and economic reforms. OSCE field missions help host governments and civil society improve electoral systems, strengthen freedom of expression of the media, consolidate the rule of law, and curb corruption. Several OSCE missions in Central Asia also play a monitoring role, informing OSCE participating States of current developments in the host countries and providing early warning of political or ethnic tension. Additionally, the OSCE plays a key role in SALW/CA storage and destruction, and in de-mining former conflict zones.

The OSCE also is helping to improve regional relations. By bringing the Central Asian states together for topical regional conferences, the OSCE provides a neutral forum for dialogue and cooperation. Several Central Asian states have shown increased willingness to cooperate with each other as an outcome of such discussions, including on the critical issues of education and water management.

Transnational issues, such as terrorism, trafficking, and border security, are a promising area of growth for OSCE activities in Central Asia consistent with U.S. goals. Several Central Asian states have shown willingness to cooperate with the OSCE on these issues, including on projects related to border security and management and on the implementation of the Bucharest Plan of Action for Combating Terrorism. Several Central Asian states already have agreed to work with the border management unit of the OSCE’s Conflict Prevention Center on national border assessments. In 2008, Tajikistan was the first country to begin implementing the results of such an assessment, and the OSCE is now working with Tajik border guards to increase border patrolling, improve customs administration, and enhance border management training for mid- to senior-level border guards. In 2009, a regional Border Management Staff College will open in Dushanbe and will include students from Afghanistan, Central Asia, and other OSCE participating States.

Several Central Asian governments have expressed an interest in increased Economic and Environmental Dimension activities. The OSCE expanded its work to improve the environment for SME development and growth, and worked with local populations to encourage entrepreneurship. Through its Environment and Security program, the OSCE has addressed environmental hot spots that could be destabilizing, including large storage areas of mélange. The Central Asian states have shown enthusiasm for the program, which centers on promoting technical and scientific cooperation between states.

Kazakhstan: The OSCE Center in Astana and its field mission in Almaty worked in 2008 to assist Kazakhstan in upholding core OSCE principles through programs promoting free and fair elections, and by providing assistance on drafting legislation on elections, political parties, local government, media, and religion. The Center also promoted legal education for lawyers, police training, and civil society development.

Kazakhstan’s record on human rights and democratic development remained mixed in 2008, with a flurry of activity at the end of the year to meet the commitments it made at the 2007 Madrid Ministerial Council. Except for legislative amendments to the religion law, draft legislation under consideration in parliament at the end of 2008 was considered a potential step forward in Kazakhstan’s democratization, but would fall short of meeting OSCE commitments. The Constitutional Court ultimately ruled amendments to the religion law unconstitutional. The OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media and ODIHR have been critical of Kazakhstan’s progress, but Kazakhstan appears willing to work with both institutions in 2009.

Kyrgyzstan: The Kyrgyz Republic took several steps backwards on key OSCE commitments in 2008. Freedom of assembly and religion laws, for example, were heavily criticized by ODIHR and OSCE participating States, as was a Kyrgyz Government raid on the offices of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. In April, ODIHR submitted its final report on the December 2007 Parliamentary elections, calling them a “missed opportunity” and providing recommendations on calculation of legal voting thresholds, administration of the Central Election Commission, improvements in voter registration, and other improvements to the election code. Nevertheless, the government continued to allow the OSCE Center in Bishkek much autonomy to conduct activities in all three dimensions and to work with civil society representatives, and the OSCE continued to play an important role in Kyrgyzstan in 2008, regularly reporting to OSCE participating States on current events. Additionally, the Center supported media resource centers and implemented projects on media capacity-building that included legal support to journalists.

The OSCE Academy in Bishkek, which serves as a regional center for students across Central Asia, is the first of its kind and has helped bridge a regional divide through training and research. At the end of 2008, the Academy conducted important training on OSCE matters for Kazakh diplomats involved in the 2010 Chairmanship. The Center’s anti-terrorism, police training, and inter-ethnic relations programs were also successful.

Tajikistan: Due in large part to pressure from Russia and unhappiness with the former head of mission, the Tajik government asked the OSCE to renegotiate the mission’s mandate in late 2007 to scale back its activities. After six months of negotiations and various roundtables with key stakeholders, the OSCE adopted a new mandate that changed the mission to an “Office,” increased its work in the economic dimension, and encouraged a stronger role in border management and training. The new mandate maintained a robust level of activity in the human dimension.

Since agreeing to a new mandate, Tajikistan has worked more cooperatively with the Office and the OSCE. In late 2008, the government presented a list of requested activities that helped form the 2009 program outline.

Tajikistan hosts the largest of the OSCE Central Asian field presences. In 2008, the Office continued to streamline its activities, with the goal of having fewer but more effective programs. The Office focuses much of its work in the first and second dimensions, as requested by the Tajik government, and assists with political reform and a large de-mining program. Tajikistan has regularly hosted roundtables on various reform issues that include participants from government, NGOs, media, and civil society.

Tajikistan has been an active supporter of OSCE counterterrorism and border initiatives, including efforts to strengthen travel document security. As a follow-up to the OSCE border assessment completed in 2007 (and amended in 2008), the government agreed to several additional projects, which have helped strengthen human surveillance along the border and improve customs administration at key border crossings. The government is developing a national border management strategy with OSCE assistance, and encouraged the OSCE to establish a regional border management center in Dushanbe, which will open in mid-2009.

The Office’s SALW and conventional ammunition programs, under the guidance of the OSCE SALW and Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition Documents, is a major success story, with at least seven countries, including the United States, making financial and in-kind contributions to infrastructure and capacity-building, as well as destruction of surpluses.

The OSCE has succeeded in bringing representatives of the government, civil society, and international experts together to discuss important human rights issues, such as the controversial draft religion law. Despite the good work of the OSCE field mission, however, the overall human rights situation has continued to deteriorate. Government policies have unduly restricted basic civil rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right of association. The government has refused all attempts to involve the ICRC or others in an examination of the penal system; credible allegations of torture have been made. Political parties have also been marginalized. The government of Tajikistan has banned some religious communities, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and has made it difficult for NGOs to register and operate effectively. The media is not free, and independent television programming reaches a very small portion of the population.

Uzbekistan: The OSCE continued to play an important niche role in 2008 in supporting international efforts to address the poor human rights and democratic reform situation in Uzbekistan. Although operating with only a small staff, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan has been able to work with the Police Academy, the national security service, and government-approved NGOs, lawyers, and Parliament to create small but effective programs.

In 2008, the government made several steps forward, only to follow this with several steps backward. Government approval of limited ICRC prison monitoring and accreditation for a U.S. NGO, for example, went hand-in-hand with an unwillingness to accredit the expatriate Human Rights Watch country director (ensuring his departure) and continued pressure on opposition activity. Some high profile political prisoners were amnestied, but others were imprisoned in procedures that lacked due process. Torture continued to be systemic in law enforcement. Although more OSCE projects were approved in 2008 than in 2007, the government continued to be exceedingly selective with the OSCE projects it approved and took an exceptionally long time to respond to OSCE requests for project approvals.

Turkmenistan: The OSCE Center in Ashgabat offers the government and its citizens opportunities for concrete cooperation to build a democratic future and reminds the government of its human rights obligations. In 2008, the OSCE continued to work with Turkmenistan to improve respect for human rights, particularly through work related to access to prisoners, freedom of association and religion, public access to the internet, and loosening restrictions on NGOs. There was limited progress on areas such as registering religious groups, increasing the number of mandatory years of education, and restoring pensions. The government of Turkmenistan has expressed an interest in expanding its cooperation with the OSCE, and the United States will continue to work with other OSCE members to improve the situation in Turkmenistan.


Russia and a number of participating States (mostly from the CIS) that host OSCE field missions continue to be strongly critical of the OSCE’s field operations and the work of ODIHR. They assert that there are “double standards” on human rights and complain about ODIHR “interference” in domestic issues, an allegedly excessive concentration of OSCE activities in the former Soviet republics, and an asserted lack of balance in OSCE activities, which they believe emphasize the human dimension over the economic and security dimensions. They have singled out for special mention the OSCE’s election-related activities, specifically its election observation procedures, and asserted that a lack of standardized election criteria (i.e., uniform one-size-fits-all criteria that would not take into account the size of a country or the complexity or lack thereof of monitoring a particular election) has led to politicized election assessments. They also have increased their efforts to try to prevent access by NGOs to OSCE meetings where the implementation of human rights commitments by participating States is reviewed.

The United States strongly disagrees with these criticisms and works actively to counter any efforts to undermine the objectivity and independence of ODIHR election observation. Supported by the vast majority of participating States, we have stressed continuously that there are no OSCE double standards on human rights. All OSCE States signed on to the same commitments to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights and to hold free and fair elections. We also have argued that there are no OSCE double standards on election assessments: OSCE observer missions have standard assessment methodology and criteria, listed in a publicly accessible election observation handbook, and standard advance training. In addition, ODIHR and its election observation mandate were designed specifically to aid countries in transition to democracy. The OSCE’s human dimension work is not concentrated exclusively “east of Vienna;” while the core mandate of the OSCE’s field missions is to help countries meet OSCE standards, efforts to combat trafficking in persons and other activities are directed toward the entire OSCE region. Criticism of ODIHR “interference” in domestic affairs is also unwarranted in view of participating States' agreement in Moscow in 1991 that human dimension commitments are “matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned.”

As demonstrated by our active and constructive participation in negotiations on a Convention on Legal Personality, Legal Capacity, and Privileges and Immunities for the OSCE, the United States is open to constructive suggestions on ways to make the OSCE more effective, but adaptations or changes must not come at the expense of its democracy and human rights promotion activities. At the same time, the United States opposes revision of the OSCE’s democratic principles and election monitoring standards. Likewise, NGO participation is critical to the OSCE and the United States will continue to resist attempts by some States unduly to restrict participation.

OSCE Scales of Contribution and Budget

Following U.S. consultations with major OSCE partners, OSCE participating States agreed in early 2008 to a 2008 budget of €164.2 million (roughly $213 million, down 2.5% in Euro terms from the previous year), a budget that is sufficient for the OSCE to carry out its core activities to promote democracy and human rights. Negotiations on the 2009 budget were deadlocked at the time of publication, but likely will result in no more than zero nominal growth compared to the approved 2008 level. If the OSCE fails to prolong the mandate of the Mission to Georgia, the 2009 Unified Budget will be significantly less. The participating States agreed to roll over the OSCE Scales of Contribution for 2008-2009, a major victory for the United States, as most participating States believe the United States is capable of paying much more, rather than less, of the organization’s costs. The scales issue will need to be revisited in the course of 2009. Another rollover is the most likely outcome.

Helsinki Ministerial

December 4-5, 2008

After several years of debate, OSCE participating States were able at the 2007 Madrid Ministerial Council to resolve the difficult issue of future Chairmanships-in-Office (CiO) through a package deal granting the Chairmanship to Greece in 2009, Kazakhstan in 2010, and Lithuania in 2011. Kazakhstan achieved participating States’ support by delivering a forthright intervention in which it committed itself to further domestic reforms, defending ODIHR, and upholding OSCE principles.

Participating States were successful in passing six ministerial decisions in the human dimension, including the most comprehensive reaffirmation of our core human rights and fundamental freedom commitments in more than 17 years. In response to Russian proposals to "rebalance" OSCE's three dimensions and begin negotiating a new European security architecture, the great majority of participating States reaffirmed the value of existing security organizations and declared anew the importance of a comprehensive approach to security.


Priorities for 2009

In 2009, the United States will seek to do the following:

  • Increase the OSCE’s effectiveness in helping participating States reach their objective of becoming fully democratic and prosperous nations secure and at peace;
  • Continue to promote the long-term, peaceful resolution of conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh, including:
    • In Georgia, continue to develop broad international support for the peaceful resolution of the conflict; continue to support the Geneva talks; and achieve consensus on a continued OSCE presence in Georgia, and on increased numbers of military monitoring officers in South Ossetia;
    • In Moldova, work through the Mission to engage the parties to the Transnistria conflict in discussions in the 5+2 format, and help to create conditions for the resumption of formal 5+2 talks; and
    • In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, work with fellow Minsk Group Co-Chairs (France and Russia) to further narrow differences between the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides in pursuit of a settlement agreement;
  • Enhance OSCE activities in Central Asia, including regional cooperation on border management, efforts to combat terrorism and illicit drugs, implementation of confidence- and security-building measures, promotion of fundamental democratic reforms, and protection of human rights, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression for the media, and freedom of religion;
  • Seek ways to utilize OSCE expertise in developing and implementing programs aimed at combating terrorism, particularly through the strengthening of border security management and implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions;
  • Increase the OSCE’s outreach to partner countries, particularly Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, with special emphasis on strengthening border management and security in Afghanistan, and encouraging participation by Afghanistan in OSCE programs aimed at promoting religious and ethnic tolerance and democratic institution-building;
  • Consider areas where the OSCE could lend particular expertise on current problems, and address the pressing issue of energy security within the OSCE’s Economic and Environment and Security Committees; and
  • Support efforts to gain Ministerial approval of the draft Convention on Legal Personality, Legal Capacity, and Privileges and Immunities for the OSCE, without agreeing to Russia’s demand to discuss the development of an unneeded and destructive “charter” for the organization.

Promoting the Human Dimension

  • Ensure the annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) remains an effective forum for raising human rights and fundamental freedom concerns, supporting human rights defenders, defending U.S. positions and practices on issues such as human rights and capital punishment, and integrating follow-up on issues raised at the HDIM into the OSCE Ministerial agenda;
  • Ensure NGOs remain able to participate fully in the HDIM and other human dimension events;
  • Expand and intensify OSCE activities in promoting the rule of law, legislative transparency, the independence of the judiciary, and the reform of criminal justice systems in the OSCE region;
  • Ensure the OSCE continues to serve a useful function in Kosovo by playing an active role in capacity-building without undermining Kosovo authorities or the International Civilian Office while improving efficiency and focus.
  • Intensify efforts to strengthen implementation of existing OSCE election standards, and ensure the OSCE continues to be able to provide election-related assistance and effective monitoring and recommendations:
    • Support OSCE election observation missions: Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Albania, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and others will hold elections in 2009;
    • Support appropriate OSCE/ODIHR elections support for the upcoming Presidential elections in Afghanistan.
    • Continue to defend the OSCE’s frank and public assessments of whether elections meet OSCE standards;
    • Support ODIHR follow-through on recommendations from election observation missions; and
    • Continue to work with Russia and other CIS countries to increase their participation in election observation missions;
  • Combat the growing trend of using restrictive NGO legislation to repress civil society, including minority and non-traditional religious groups;
  • Develop more effective ways to help human rights defenders;
  • Promote the review of freedom of religion in the OSCE region through a Human Dimension event;
  • Promote implementation of the OSCE’s Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and continued engagement by the Secretariat’s Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit;
  • Work to ensure the implementation meetings on tolerance address anti-Semitism, as well as intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, Christians, and members of other religions, and racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance;
  • Continue efforts in the Balkans to build democratic institutions, promote human rights, fight organized crime and corruption, and ensure trials for persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes; and
  • Work closely with EU members and other OSCE-participating States to advance the respect for democracy and basic human rights in Belarus.

Focusing the Security Dimension

  • Continue to engage OSCE participating states, including Russia, on security issues, including new initiatives on counterterrorism and fighting illicit drugs, and on practical ideas for strengthening European security while preserving the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security;
  • Encourage Russia to reverse its CFE “suspension,” and work constructively to resolve the current CFE impasse in a manner that would create the conditions for all CFE states to move forward on ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty, including resolution of Russia’s remaining Istanbul commitments relating to the Russian military presence remaining in Georgia and Moldova;
  • Increase counterterrorism work by using the Forum for Security Cooperation, the Security Committee, and the Annual Security Review Conference to encourage participating States to meet existing commitments and to identify additional measures that the OSCE can take to fight terrorism;
  • Counter proliferation of weapons by promoting implementation of political-military agreements, such as those on SALW, stockpiles of conventional ammunition, and MANPADS;
  • Address MANPADS controls as discussed at the 2008 seminar with OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, and continue to coordinate the development of best practice guides for stockpiles of conventional ammunition;
  • Support full implementation of UNSCR 1540, which bars non-state actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and encourage the OSCE to cooperate with the UN 1540 Committee in New York through normative decisions and outreach to participating States through Secretariat organs and OSCE field missions;
  • Press for additional support from participating States to complete elements for the best practices guide on UNSCR 1540, and encourage OSCE participating States to sign on to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; and
  • Promote full implementation of all political-military commitments, including the Vienna Document 1999 and the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, to maintain security and stability in the OSCE region.

Strengthening the Economic and Environmental Dimension

  • Press the Economic and Environmental Subcommittee to focus on a more concrete program of activities;
  • Convince the Chairman-in-Office to choose annual themes that encompass practical and achievable areas of economic and environmental work that do not duplicate the efforts of other international organizations and contribute to the continuity of OSCE activities in this dimension; and
  • Examine more closely the work that economic and environmental officers are doing in OSCE field presences and replicate these successes.