Czech Republic in the OSCE
Czech Republic in the OSCE
The Czech Republic considers the OSCE an important element of the European security architecture. One of the long term priorities of the Czech Republic is to support the work of the OSCE. The Czech Republic would like the OSCE to be a flexible organization able to adapt to the upcoming challenges. The Czech Republic supports the balance between all three dimensions of the OSCE (the politico-military dimension, the economic and environmental dimension, and the human dimension) and encourages the compliance with standards and obligations in these dimensions by all participating States of the OSCE. According to the Czech Republic, the role of the OSCE is mainly in the conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation and in the fight against terrorism. From the Czech Republic's point of view, the debate about the future of the European security is also an important challenge and the OSCE is right to support such a debate throughout all three dimensions.
The European countries represent almost a half of all participating States in the OSCE (27 out of 56) and their financial contribution constitute around two thirds of the overall OSCE budget.
In 2010, the Chairmanship of the OSCE was held by Kazakhstan. The high point of the Chairmanship was the Summit of head of states and prime ministers in Astana, Kazakhstan in December 1 and 2 2010. The 2010 OSCE Summit in Astana was concluded with the adoption of the Astana Commemorative Declaration, which confirmed earlier obligations of participating States. Because of the inability to find an agreement on so called protracted conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh, the summit failed to agree upon the substantive outcome in the form of Action Plan. The Czech Republic expressed its disappointment about the inability to adopt the Action Plan, which would define practical steps necessary for eventual restoration of trust and confidence among participating States and would outline the work programme of the OSCE for years to come. From the substantive point of view, the summit was a missed opportunity. According to the Czech Republic, it is necessary to continue in effort to solve the most urgent conflicts of the region. In 2011, Lithuania takes over OSCE Chairmanship. In 2012 Ireland and in 2013 Ukraine will become the presiding state.
OSCE Politico-military dimension
Cooperation in the Politico-military dimension of the OSCE is primarily based on respect for commitments included in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Treaty on Open Skies and the Vienna Document 1999. The goal of the first dimension is control of armament, improvement of the security and mutual trust among participating States in the area between Vancouver and Vladivostok.
The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe is considered to be a fundamental basis for the European security. There are 30 parties of the treaty which are at the same time participating States of the OSCE. The original goal of the treaty was disarmament, elimination of the possible surprise attack and suspension of the arms race in Europe. The so called Istanbul Commitments of the Russian Federation became the key aspect of the treaty after the OSCE Summit in 1999. The Russian Federation promised to pull back its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova, and Western countries promised to ratify the adapted CFE treaty which would replace the old block to block approach in dealing with the numbers of conventional armed forces.
The Russian Federation does not comply with its adapted CFE obligations since December 2007. However, the unilateral suspension of obligations is not allowed by the text of the treaty. As the result of the suspension, the Russian Federation does not share information about its armed forces any more. Moreover, it does not allow inspections in Russia either. For a longer time period and without explanation, not even Azerbaijan does share information on its armed forces.
In 2010, the USA and NATO member states prepared a new initiative, which tries to modernize the control system of conventional forces in Europe. This initiative has been negotiated in Vienna among 36 states which are signatories of the NATO and CFE treaties. The Czech Republic actively supports international effort to create the operational control system as well as the disarmament of conventional forces in Europe. The negotiations should support transparency, trust and security.
The Open Skies Treaty aims at trust building among the parties of the treaty. The main instruments of the treaty are inspection flights by certified planes. These flights take medium resolution photos of lines and areas selected by inspectors.
The Vienna Document 1999 was prepared for better implementation of existing mutual trust commitments of the OSCE participating states such as the Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers, the Global Exchange of Military Information, and support of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, etc. The Forum for Security Co-operation meets weekly in Vienna to discuss and make decisions regarding the Vienna Document 1999. The Forum adopted the decision on the modernization of the Document in 2010 and launched the negotiations on the matter.
The OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension
The most important event of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension is the annual Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF). The topic of the 18th Forum was “Promoting good governance at border crossings, improving the security of land transportation and facilitating international transport by road and rail in the OSCE region”. Various topics were discussed during the 18th EEF:
- Best practices and good governance at border crossings and in customs procedures, as part of border management, including the aspects of rule of law, transparency, co-ordination and harmonization;
- Facilitation of international land-transport and cross-border operations, paying due attention to the specific needs of landlocked developing countries, in order to strengthen economic co-operation during the current economic downturn;
- Safeguarding of the security of the international transport circuit, including the fight against transnational crime, terrorism and trafficking in weapons, drugs and human beings;
- Impact of transportation on environment and security.
The long term priority of the Czech Republic is to strenghten a review process of the OSCE´s commitments in the second dimension. We also support better exchange of the best-practices in the economic and environmental matters. The Handbook of Best Practices at Border Crossings was one of the practical outcomes of the 2010 annual cycle in the second dimension of the OSCE. The Czech Republic supports activities that contribute to the improvement of safety and security in the economic and environmental areas.
In 2011, the topic of the 19th EEF is the „Promotion of common actions and co-operation in the OSCE area in the fields of development of sustainable energy and transport“. In the area of the energy security, priorities of the Czech Republic are regional cooperation, confidence-building and development of early-warning mechanism. Last but not least we support further effort to promote transparency, stability and predictability in the energy sector, as well as reliability and safety of the critical infrastructure.
The OSCE Human Dimension
There are three very important institutions of the OSCE Human Dimension:
- The High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) monitors the situation of ethnic minorities in the participating States of the OSCE.
- The Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) monitors the situation of journalists and media in the participating States and evaluates the freedom of their work.
- The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deals mainly with the electoral law and election observation in the OSCE participating States.
Because of the Summit in Astana in 2010, the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting was replaced by the three-part review conference. The first part of the review conference took place in Warsaw, the second and third parts were held in Vienna and in Astana. The goal of the review conference was to confirm and control human rights obligations of participating States adopted in the framework of the OSCE. The review conference is an opportunity for a meeting of representatives of states, non-governmental organizations and all concerned subjects from the area of the OSCE. It is also an opportunity for discussions about effectiveness of the human rights protection and their realization.
The working sessions of the conference were devoted to the following areas:
• Democratic institutions (democratic elections; democracy at the national, regional and local levels; citizenship and political rights);
• Fundamental rights and freedoms (freedom of thought, conscience, religion; freedom of association and assembly; freedom of movement; national institutions protecting human rights and the role of civil society in protecting human rights; activities of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and other);
• The rule of law (transparency of legislative; independence of judiciary; right to a fair trial; the death penalty; torture prevention; protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism);
• Humanitarian issues and other commitments (refugees and displaced persons; treatment of citizens of other participating States; human rights education);
• Tolerance and non-discrimination (implementation of the OSCE Action Plan on Roma and Sinti; ethnic minorities; prevention of aggressive nationalism, racism and chauvinism; gender balance and strengthening the implementation of the Action Plan and the relevant OSCE commitments; prevention of hate crimes; the fight against intolerance and discrimination);
• Freedom of media (obstacles to freedom of expression and media freedom; including the imprisonment of journalists and violence against them);
• Intolerance against migrants (crimes and other incidents motivated by hatred against a group of people);
• Fight against trafficking of human beings (with special attention to trafficking of children).
In addition to the official statements of the OSCE participating States, also many non-governmental organizations had also an opportunity to express their opinions on the pending human rights issues in the OSCE area. This openness is very important aspect of the review conference. However, the participation of the Turkmen non-governmental sector representatives at the Warsaw part of the conference was complicated due to a problematic attitude of the Azerbaijan chairmanship.
Other institutions of the OSCE
The Czech Republic actively seconds experts for the majority of the both OSCE/ODIHR long-term and short-term elections monitoring missions. In 2010, several tens of Czech election observers participated in the election observation.
The field missions are important part of the OSCE activity in the participating states in Southeast Europe, Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia. There are around 18 field missions which support host countries and help them to deal with problems connected to all three dimensions of the OSCE. At the end of 2010, the government of Belarus refused to prolong the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk. The mission was closed in March 2011. It is a reaction to the criticism of the presidential elections in Belarus in December 2010, which according to the ODIHR "has a considerable way to go in meeting it OSCE commitments for democratic elections".
The Czech Republic seconds also civil experts to the OSCE missions. In 2010, there were 6 to 8 experts from the Czech Republic, and in 2011, the number will be approximately the same.
The Czech Republic supports the Prague Office of the OSCE Secretariat. The Prague Office is the documentation repository of the Organization and it supports all forms of dissemination of public information. It also helps with the organization of the annual meeting of the Economic and Environmental Forum in Prague.