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History of the OSCE

The Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was founded in 1975, when 35 European countries, the United States, and Canada signed the Helsinki Final Act. It was to form the basis for increased dialogue between East and West during the Cold War. It was agreed to cooperate on the three main areas: 1) the military 2) the economic, and 3) the human, which included fundamental human rights and exchange of information between East and West. The Helskini Final Act became an important reference point for human rights groups in the communist countries, and was used to put internal pressure on their leaders to comply with the commitments they had made in Helsinki. The CSCE thus played a major role in the democratic protest movement that led to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The CSCE process and the end of the Cold War

In the years that followed, the CSCE process became largely a matter of complying with the obligations in the final act. This was done through so-called follow-up meetings and a series of expert meetings on, among other things, confidence building measures, human rights, and scientific and cultural work. The end of the Cold War changed the security environment in which the CSCE had operated, and created an opportunity to develop new and important measures. Therefore, the participating States could now reach agreement on basic principles of democracy, market economy and respect for human rights. These principles are enshrined in, inter alia, The 1989 Vienna Final Document, the Copenhagen Final Document of 1990, and the "Charter for a New Europe" adopted in Paris 1990. As a result of the Paris meeting, parliamentarians from the participating States in 1991 also decided to set up the CSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

The OSCE is established

At the 1994 Budapest Summit, the CSCE changed its name to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The tasks became increasingly focused on preventing and seeking to resolve the conflicts that arose after the turmoil in Europe in the early 1990s. OSCE evolved from only being a norm-builder to a field organisation as well. The first major mission opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the OSCE was given a central role in the Dayton Peace Agreement. Today, the OSCE has several field missions in South and South-eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The largest is the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine. At the Istanbul Summit in 1999, the framework for the future role of the OSCE was defined in the "European Security Charter". The OSCE should focus on civilian conflict prevention, including through its missions, in a number of Europe's conflict areas. At the same time, opportunities for the role of the OSCE in police-related operations were expanded. The OSCE's role in peacekeeping operations was made clear, first and foremost, through the organisation's extensive mediation and democratisation efforts - in close cooperation with the UN, NATO, the EU, and the Council of Europe. Following the Istanbul Summit, the 30 CFE State Parties signed an adapted version of the CFE Treaty, which, instead of military balance between two blocs, had stability as the guiding principle. The Treaty lays down national limits for ground-based treaty-limited equipment (tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery) within the scope of the Treaty (the OSCE area without the United States, Canada or Russia east of Ural).

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