Security experts from around Europe sparred on the meaning and necessity of the OSCE at today’s DASICON panel, “The OSCE in the European Security Architecture.” The spirited debate provided a broad overview of the challenges facing the OSCE and exposed the underlying tensions within the security community.

 

The OSCE, a vital actor

Paul Huynen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Belgium to the OSCE, set the tone, citing the potential of the OSCE at every stage in the conflict cycle- from early warning, prevention, resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. Stressing the principles of equality and sovereignty , Huynen insisted that consensus is one of the OSCE’s greatest assets. As Europe’s only comprehensive security community, the OSCE’s democratic and egalitarian nature guarantee its role in the future of regional stability.

A fragile architecture

Thierry Béchet, the EU Permanent Representative to the OSCE, shared sentiments with Huynen on the OSCE’s purpose, but departed on its functional capabilities. Citing meager political will and “pathetic” funding, Béchet claimed that the OSCE lacks the resources for credible deterrence. Stressing the human elements of security, Béchet claimed that without robust backing, the OSCE will fail to provide “deep” security on the continent.

Cooperation or war

Parrying claims of NATO’s “hard security” focus, Jamie Shea, the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, stood behind the strength of European Security architecture. Shea called for support of NATO and the OSCE, and described the unique nature of today’s security arrangement. As threats mount on the peripheries, Europe needs to defend its cooperative structures and resist impulses to nationalism. The alternative is war.

A superficial institution

Lev Voronkov, Chair of Integration Processes at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs, rounded the discussion with a different perspective. Questioning the organization’s viability, Voronkov cited the OSCE’s  operational focus as a key weakness. Voronkov expressed skepticism at the OSCE’s ideological nature and claimed that other organizations currently fulfilled each OSCE “basket.” Further, Voronkov insisted that Russia was committed to cooperative institutions, as long as Russia is treated as an equal partner.

Tension was evident below the diplomatic niceties. By the end of the debate, the participants found little common ground. However, everyone agreed that the OSCE faces challenges on multiple fronts.

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