Crisis in Ukraine and the role of OSCE

While the EU has been actively engaged in trying to resolve the crisis in Syria, the ongoing situation in Ukraine remains high on the agenda. The crisis in and around Ukraine poses a challenge to the European security architecture, particularly to the OSCE. On the 15th December 2015 in Brussels, the Royal Higher Institute for Defense “EGMONT” organized a conference to discuss the security of Europe 40 Years after the Helsinki Final Act.

During the event, the speakers underlined importance of OSCE in providing security in the region. “While lacking its own military forces, the OSCE has demonstrated its key role in the establishment of the stable situation in the region”, said one of the participants. The developments in Ukraine including the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, a clear violation of the OSCE Helsinki Final Act (1975), have deepened East-West divide. “It is of high importance to assess OSCE accomplishments and define where the changes are needed in order to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, and hence Europe”.

Another speaker gave an overview of the history of OSCE, its transformation and the broadening of the OSCE’s mandate. “Although OSCE is deeply rooted in the Cold War, it has undergone significant transformations, especially in the 1990s”. Whereas,  after Georgian – Russian conflict in 2008, OSCE saw its decline, Ukraine, on the other hand, has been a wake-up call for the organization.

Since May 2015, OSCE has been well represented in Ukraine. It included local authorities and served as a reference point on the ground. OSCE is also engaged in trying to solve the crisis in Ukraine on the international scene.  It participates in the Tripartite Contact Group, Normandy Group, as well as in the preparation of Minsk Memorandum and Minsk Agreements. “OSCE has launched Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which has a mandate to deescalate the conflict by providing daily and weekly reports and ad-hoc spot reports to diminish propaganda which is massive in the region». From the OSCE observation reports it becomes clear that even after short-term seize-fire, last week approximately 200 explosions took place. In this light, there is a high likelihood that the weapons were brought back to the region.

OSCE is facing a problem because of Russia’s security zone, which prevents members of the Special Monitoring Mission to report about the developments in the border zone.

Furthermore, the OSCE has been engaged in election observation in Ukraine. However, no OSCE representatives took part in the the elections in Crimea and in the regions which are controlled by the separatists. OSCE considers these elections illegal.

The conference took place under Chatham House Rules.