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Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an international organization for security. In its region it is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. It has 55 participating states from Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America.


The decision making bodies of the organization are the Summit, Ministerial Council and Senior Council, with the Permanent Council the regular decision-making body, with the leadership of the Chairman-in-Office (Currently (January 2002) the chairman is the Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana).

The OSCE headquarters are located in Vienna, Austria. The Organization also has offices in Copenhagen, Geneva, The Hague, Prague and Warsaw.


The organization was established in 1973 as the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). Talks had been mooted about a European security grouping since the 1950s but the Cold War prevented any substantial progress until the talks at Dipoli in Helsinki began in November 1972. The recommendations of the talks, "The Blue Book", gave the practical foundations for a three-stage conference, the Helsinki process. The CSCE opened in Helsinki on July 3, 1973 with 35 states sending representatives. Stage I only took five days to agree to follow the Blue Book. Stage II was the main working phase and was conducted in Geneva from September 18, 1973 until July 21, 1975. the result of Stage II was the Helsinki Final Act which was signed by the 35 particpating nations during Stage III, which took place in Helsinki from July 30 to August 1, 1975.

The concepts of improving relations and implementing the Act were developed over a series of follow-up meeting, with major gatherings in Belgrade (October 4, 1977 - March 8, 1978), Madrid (November 11, 1980 - September 9, 1983), and Vienna (November 4, 1986 - January 19, 1989).

The collapse of Communism required a change of role for the CSCE. The Paris Charter for a New Europe which was signed on November 21, 1990 marked the beginning of this change. With the changes capped by the re-naming of the CSCE to the OSCE on January 1, 1995.

In Istanbul on November 19, 1999, the OSCE ended a two-day summit by calling for a political settlement in Chechnya and adopting a Charter for European Security.

See also: Europe, European Union, Council of Europe, NATO, WEU

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