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Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

OSCE conference center in Hofburg, Vienna. Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev.OSCE conference center in Hofburg, Vienna. Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is one of the largest regional security organisations in the world with 57 participating States from Vancouver, Canada, to Vladivostok, Russia.

Finland has participated in the OSCE and its predecessor, the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, since the beginning. Finland signed the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 together with 34 other countries.

Tasks of the OSCE, comprehensive concept of security and forms of cooperation  

Finland and the European Union (EU) consider that the OSCE is a significant regional security organisation and also one of the principal human rights policy actors. At its best, the OSCE is a flexible actor with a variety of functions in the fields of crisis management, conflict prevention, early warning, and conflict reconciliation, complementing other security cooperation by means of its broad regional and thematic expertise and the wide range of instruments at its disposal.

The OSCE's comprehensive concept of security, which was agreed about soon after the end of the Cold War, differs from the traditional security concept in that it emphasises not only politico-military security but also the crucial importance of human rights and democracy standards and economic and environmental issues on security.

The OSCE Strategy to Address Threats to Security and Stability in the Twenty-First Century, adopted by the Ministerial Council in December 2003, reinforces the OSCE's comprehensive concept of security by complementing it by measures related especially to societies' internal and human security.

The OSCE is constantly engaged in work in the fields of arms control, preventive diplomacy, human rights (including minorities and freedom of the media), election monitoring, police and legal cooperation, and economic and environmental security.

The OSCE regularly follows the implementation of arrangements and agreements related to military security (Agreement on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe, Treaty on Open Skies related to unarmed observation flights over the territory of participating States) and political commitments concerning interaction between states, cooperation, democracy and human rights.

In the 1990s, the OSCE's operative action concentrated on the Western Balkans, but the emphasis has gradually shifted towards southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

The organisation has a key role in the resolution of protracted and complicated frozen conflicts in the South Caucasus and in Transdniestria in Moldova.

Finland's role in the cooperation

Astrid Thors assumed her post of High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) on 20 August 2013. Photo: Michelle Pirotta/OSCE.Astrid Thors assumed her post of High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) on 20 August 2013. Photo: Michelle Pirotta/OSCE.

Astrid Thors assumed her post of High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) on 20 August 2013, the highest position in the OSCE that Finland has ever held. The HCNM serves as an instrument of conflict prevention. The High Commissioner seeks to prevent and mitigate tensions that are related to national minorities within the OSCE area. The use of silent diplomacy and support of cooperation between different parties are underlined. The objective is to step in at the earliest possible stage of tensions. The High Commissioner can also, if necessary, draw the participating States’ attention to individual situations of concern. The office of the HCNM is in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Finland support the OSCE by sending special advisors to its delegations and the Secretariat in Vienna and some 25-40 election observers on average to the OSCE's election monitoring missions annually. Furthermore, Finland is one of the major providers of voluntary financial contributions to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Finland has participated in the Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs), included in the Helsinki Final Act since 1975, and been a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies since 2003. Finland was chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2008.

Finland has participated in the creation of the OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons and in projects related to the disposal of small arms and rocket propellant, and organised training related to democratic guidance of armed forces in countries in the South Caucasus.

Finland lays stress on enhanced EU coordination in matters concerning the OSCE and considers that it is important to ensure positive development of the cooperation and coordination of activities between the OSCE, the EU and the Council of Europe and other international organisations.

The OSCE on the threshold of a new decade

The Corfu Process refers to the dialogue on European security conducted in the framework of the OSCE. The objective of the dialogue is to formulate a common position on significant security threats and to consider ways to solve problems. The OSCE Summit held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in December 2010, moved on to the next phase and discussion is currently continued in the informal Vienna to Vilnius security dialogue.

Efforts are made to further improve the implementation of the OSCE’s fundamental principles and its role in crisis management (especially conflict prevention capability). Human rights and responding to multicultural, economic and environmental threats play an increasingly prominent part in the work of the organization. The Chairmanship of the organisation is held by Ukraine in 2013, followed by Switzerland in 2014.

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