OSCE REVIEW : European Security vol 15, numero 1/2008
Raimo Väyrynen

A greater sense of realism in the OSCE is needed to put it back into shape, says Raimo Väyrynen.

The end of July and beginning of August 1975 were sunny. This was when
all the participating heads of state and government gathered in Finland
for the summit meeting of the CSCE. Though I was in no way involved in
the CSCE’s initial heavy diplomatic activity – I had been in Geneva
following the negotiations – the summit nevertheless made a deep
impression on me. I felt a certain feeling of national pride: as an
independent nation we had come out from the shadow of Finlandisation,
and this was due to the example of the overwhelming statesmanship of
President Urho Kekkonen. There was also good reason to be proud of the
CSCE summit: Finland had probably never before been so prominent in the
international media as during the summit. In a way, the post-World War
II period, which for Finland began with the 1947 Treaty of Paris or the
Helsinki Olympics in 1952, ended with the CSCE Final Act. It signified,
on the one hand, a ratification of the division of Europe but, on the
other, the start of the breaking down of that division, which the
ossified leadership of the Soviet Union that had pushed for the Final
Act failed to understand.

Still, we should ask ourselves whether we were guilty of self-deception
in believing in the CSCE’s epoch-making impact. My own answer is that
we were not, though we were too righteous in our belief in the CSCE.
Kekkonen was aware of the tough international power games behind the
CSCE. His job and that of his associates was to market CSCE as the
culmination of his career as a statesman, with a Nobel Peace Prize as a
finishing touch. The CSCE influence also rebuffed efforts to stop East
Germany’s increasing demands for recognition as a sovereign state.

Fragile condition

As a young PhD graduate at the time, I believed greatly in the CSCE
idea, and in autumn 1975 went around handing out copies of the Final
Act at numerous events. CSCE idealism has changed into OSCE realism and
at the same time the Conference has become an Organisation. OSCE
activities have also expanded to include numerous other areas, in
addition to the three baskets of security, economic relations and human
rights. According to one wag, the OSCE now even supports beekeepers in
Central Asia – which is true. New measures on promoting democracy, in
particular, have become a special focus of attention, because in
addition to the original participants there are over 20 new member
states, many of which belonged to the former Soviet bloc. It is due to
them that the monitoring of free and fair elections has become more

There is a need now for OSCE realism. Finland has the chairmanship,
which should keep Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva on his toes. Realism
is needed because the OSCE is in the worst condition it has ever been
in. The problems are in part reflected in the Organisation’s finances.
US and Russian demands that the budget be cut has resulted in the
compromise of zero growth. Actual political problems are the fault of
the member states. In the Caucasus, in particular, there are a number
of so-called frozen conflicts, the solution to which the OSCE has been
unable to achieve due to the policy of consensus among the member
states. Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and Serbia and
Russia’s opposition to it undermine the OSCE’s influence in the region
through its 1000-strong mission. OSCE decisions require unanimous
approval, so with just one intervention Russia can instigate the
evacuation of the mission.

New initiative needed

The OSCE’s main tasks in Kosovo have included the promotion of
democracy and human rights and stopping human trafficking. Election
monitoring has become one of the means in efforts to promote democracy,
and in this the ODIHR and Parliamentary Assembly have carried out
scores of monitoring missions. Their task has been to assess whether
elections have been free and fair. In many cases their conclusion has
been that they haven’t been either free or fair or that both criteria
have been partly negative. Russia’s growing sense of self-esteem is
reflected in many ways in the OSCE. Its current policy is to emphasise
the country’s democratic sovereignty, which does not permit outside
evaluation of policy or efforts to influence it. The Putin government
set such strict conditions on the monitoring of the Duma elections in
November 2007, that ODIHR felt unable to send monitors. The OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly, on the other hand, did, which reflects its
independence. The March 2008 elections had similar problems.

The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, an arrangement in
parallel with the OSCE, is a crucial post-Cold War security agreement.
It is regrettable that the treaty is in crisis. In response to
opposition to it by some NATO countries, Russia has withdrawn from the
treaty’s obligations. But there is now a pressing need to continue with
efforts to limit conventional armaments. This may require a totally new
treaty, which in the current political climate may be difficult. And
yet, during the Cold War numerous arms limitation agreements were
reached, so in current conditions this should not be impossible.
Finland has little leeway to influence arms limitation, but some sort
of initiative to ensure the continuation of the CFE Treaty is essential.