OSCE and Ukraine: can Germany change the rules of the organization?

Author : Vitaliy Martynyuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Germany's priorities during its OSCE Chairmanship 2016 are directly related to the Donbas conflict
10:03, 5 February 2016

Read the original text on Evropeiska Pravda.

A month has passed since Germany, a key mediator in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, has taken over OSCE Chairmanship for 2016.

The capabilities of OSCE was one of the topics of talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Poroshenko, which took place on February 1, in Berlin. Ukraine expects that the active participation of Berlin in Normandy talks would help in in resolving Donbas conflict.

The priorities of Germany's presidency of the OSCE show that Berlin will pay attention to this organization not only conflict in Ukraine, but also to the efficiency of the OSCE as a whole.

However, Ukraine has become a litmus test of the success of the organization and the German presidency.

Germany announced its priorities in six key areas:

- crisis and conflict management;

- strengthening the capacity of the OSCE on conflict cycle;

- using OSCE as a platform for dialogue;

- promoting sustainable governance in the OSCE region;

- focusing on the human dimension;

- strengthening cooperation between the public and the state.

From this list the first three are the most important for Ukraine, because they are directly related to the conflict in Donbas.

Deputy director of the Department of International Organizations Foreign Ministry Vasily Pokotylo stated that Kyiv supports Berlin’s priorities but expects more active and more effective participation of the OSCE in the conflict in Ukraine.

In addition, Ukraine insists on the inclusion in the program of the German presidency of the Crimean issue, which for some reason it is not mentioned.

Related: The number of OSCE observers will draw up to 800 people

But as currently we have the following areas of Berlin, it makes sense to concentrate on their analysis. Within the priority "crisis and conflict management", Berlin plans to "increase the efforts of the OSCE in Ukraine by strengthening financial and human resources".

The focus will be the expansion of the mandate and increase the number of Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) OSCE (Berlin hopes to render a judgment in March). ODIHR projects are important and those that focus on clearing areas in the east of Ukraine from the remnants of explosives and mediating national dialogue.

Activities of SMM is often criticized because of its ineffectiveness and partiality of the reports. For example, February 2, ATO staff claimed that OSCE "does not respond to attacks performed by illegal gangs of pro-Russian forces against Ukraine’s position in Zaytseve and other towns".

Deputy Chief of Mission Alexander Hug explained that the reason of low efficiency are civil character of SMM and obstruction of its activities by local militants. Ukrainian experts also point out that OSCE observers are tens of kilometers from the contact line and do not carry constant monitoring.


Therefore, for many observers it is clear that the work of SMM must be changed – it should cover a larger area, have access to critical areas to prevent entry of aggressor, i.e. Russia.

Finally, the work of SMM must be reinforced by international missions under UN or EU, as has been suggested by Kyiv. Obviously, the current format of the OSCE (SMM, Trilateral Contact Group, the Supervisory mission on the Ukrainian-Russian border) and Normandy Quartet is not enough.

Related: Ukraine remains key topic on the OSCE agenda, - Zannier

The times passes, but there is still no resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

It requires a transformation of format. For example, last December OSCE has proposed to extend the negotiation format by the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, this idea was supported by Ukrainian leadership. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin January 30 initiated consultations with all countries of the Budapest Memorandum.

This advanced format is unlikely to radically change the situation, but can move it off the ground and strengthen international pressure on Russia.

The second priority of the German presidency, strengthening the capacity of the OSCE on conflict cycle, recognizes the need to establish an effective mechanism that will cover all stages - from early conflict prevention to post-conflict recovery.

This mechanism, in fact, could significantly contribute to security in Europe and if applied on the conflict in Donbas, but put into question the timely reaction of the OSCE at the beginning of the conflict.

Thus, in the case of Ukraine, OSCE quickly responded by forming and sending to Ukraine its monitoring mission in March 2014. However, its task was not to detect instances of aggression that has lasted, but monitoring the internal situation in the country, the more coincided with Russia's vision.

Related: OSCE Foreign Ministers to discuss counteraction to Russian aggression

As stated during the round table on the priorities of the German Presidency Chairman of Mejlis Refat Chubarov, the situation in Crimea showed that conflict prevention is impossible if OSCE is to compromise rather than to respond to the aggressor.

In practice, because of the principle of consensus in decision-making, OSCE is not able to act against the will of one of the member countries and it is forced to seek compromise.

In order to overcome this problem, the organization has transformed a platform for dialogue in a more efficient mechanism - a full-fledged international security organization.

The German Presidency has demonstrated the desire to make progress on the issue of OSCE’s entry legal under international law. OSCE representatives believe that OSCE summit should be initiated, which would approve Helsinki principles and establish the punishment for their abusers.

There is no need to invent something that already exists, but OSCE should think how to enforce the existing international rules previously agreed by all OSCE member countries including Russia.

The remaining Germany’s priorities in OSCE are more common, but no less important. We should pay attention to the priority "OSCE as a platform for dialogue" to resolve disputes and prevent the emergence of conflicts.

Dialogue should take place, but there is a danger that the aggressor would use it for distraction.

Refat Chubarov gives a striking example: "Statement of Lavrov that Russia is following the Budapest Memorandum, explanations of Patrushev why Russia invaded Crimea, is definitely imposing Russian vision of the dialogue". Although the OSCE is one of the platforms for dialogue with Russia, but it has become a means of appeasing the Kremlin.

Aggression against Ukraine Russia has dealt a blow to the principles of OSCE. It gave up a double challenge to Germany - first as a member of the Normandy format and now as chair of the OSCE.

Berlin has yet to make a lot of efforts to find new levers of influence on the aggressor to overcome this challenge.

Related: OSCE Ministerial meeting in Belgrade: Ukraine in the spotlight

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