The Netherlands and the organisation for security and cooperation in Europe in 2003: role and direction

October 10, 2005 - nr.26
Advice request
  Security Policy Department
  Security and Defence Policy Division
  Bezuidenhoutseweg 67
  2594 AC Den Haag

Professor F.H.J.J. Andriessen
Acting Chair
Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV)
Postbus 20061
2500 EB Den Haag

Date 27 April 2001
Contact Daphne Bergsma
Our ref. DVB/VD-183/01
Tel. (070) 348 5393
Page 1/4
Fax (070) 348 5479


Dear Professor Andriessen,

The Netherlands, which has long been active in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its predecessor, the CSCE, has announced its candidacy for the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2003. Formal selection of the Netherlands cannot take place until the OSCE ministerial meeting in Bucharest this November or December. Given the high degree of support expressed informally and formally for the Netherlands’ candidacy, we are almost certain to be selected for the Chairmanship. We will then become a member of the OSCE Troika on 1 January 2002, along with Romania and Portugal, who hold the Chairmanships for 2001 and 2002 respectively. The Netherlands will, however, have the weightiest task during its own Chairmanship in 2003.

The Chairmanship will represent a major commitment for both the Netherlands’ permanent representation at the OSCE in Vienna and the Ministry in The Hague. Because the OSCE itself is a relatively small international organisation with a modest Secretariat, the Chairman in-Office (i.e. the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the state holding the Chairmanship) is mainly responsible for providing political leadership. We are already taking steps to carr y out this task successfully. So far, the emphasis has been on financing and staffing. Our primary model has been the Norwegian Chairmanship, the most recent to be generally seen as a success.

Comparing the Chairmanships
Recent Chairmanships have varied in quality. The Netherlands will try to make its Chairmanship an active and a successful one, that will be regarded as effective by most OSCE Participating States. I would ask the Advisory Council to draft a comparative report on the strengths and weaknesses of the Chairmanships since 1995 and, on the basis of your conclusions, to issue recommendations on how the Netherlands can best approach its own Chairmanship. The year 1995 has been chosen because it was then, during the Swiss Chairmanship, that the first major OSCE mission was established, in Bosnia. This and subsequent events (particularly in Albania and Kosovo) have greatly altered the scope and nature of the organisation’s activities. The Chairmanship is now considerably more onerous.

Decision-making procedures
In your report, I would ask you to go into detail about the procedures used in decision-making during each Chairmanship. Within the OSCE, decisions are always taken by consensus, which can lead to difficulties in an organisation with 55 member states. In recent years, complaints have frequently been voiced that decisions were made in advance by a small group of insiders. What can the Netherlands do to forestall such complaints? Would it be wise to set up "groups of friends" for particular subjects, and what conditions would have to be met? Considering the EU’s role within the OSCE, and the ever larger degree of policy coordination within the EU (examples being the CFSP and the CESDP), what is the best approach to cooperation with non-EU countries? The Netherlands’ approach should also take account of our own tradition of multilateral negotiation and its strengths and weaknesses.

Relationship between the Secretariat and the Chairmanship
Given the size of the OSCE Secretariat, its capacity to provide support is limited. Still, it serves as an important safeguard of continuity and quality, especially since the work of the Chairmanship has recently been growing in volume and complexity. The OSCE Secretary-General, Jan Kubis ¢, recently proposed creating firm guidelines for the relationship between the Chairmanship and the Secretary-General and Secretariat. What form should this relationship take, given the limitations of a small organisation that must remain flexible? How does the Secretary-General fit into this relationship? How should the Chairmanship and the Secretariat communicate and how can we most smoothly take over the activities of the previous Chairmanship?

Strengthening the OSCE
Please find enclosed a recent letter to the Dutch House of Representatives, giving an analysis of the current state of the OSCE, which is more or less one of stagnation. It also presents a number of proposals developed in cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany, which are intended to revitalise the OSCE by strengthening it, improving its working methods and opening new areas of cooperation. They are meant to serve as a basis for multilateral and bilateral talks among Participating States. Other countries, political parties,1 NGOs and scholars are developing more new ideas. I would ask you to present proposals and thoughts on expanding the role of the OSCE in preventing and controlling crises and conflicts, taking into account the debate on this issue taking place in Vienna. The effectiveness of a number of OSCE instruments, such as missions and REACT (Rapid Expert Assistance and Cooperation Teams), can also be considered. I would appreciate it if you would give special consideration to the position of the Russian Federation.

New themes for the OSCE
In the past few years, the OSCE has shown that it can take the initiative on new themes in debates on international security. For example, the organisation has become involved in police issues. One topic of discussion is the OSCE’s potential role in fighting new threats: terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking. Please identify any new issues where the OSCE could be useful, arising from recent developments in the debate on international security. Are there any other issues you believe the OSCE should take up?

In closing, let me briefly tell you what studies by other organisations the Dutch Chairman-ship wishes to address. The European Platform for Conflict Prevention is working on an analysis of the problems of Central Asia and the Caucasus. This will form the basis for a seminar on the role of the OSCE in Central Asia, to take place later this year in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee will focus on getting NGOs involved in the Chairman-ship and on the theme of the human dimension. We are in discussion with Clingendael to examine ways of strengthening the OSCE’s early warning and conflict prevention capabilities.

In view of the need to prepare for the Chairmanship, I hope to receive your recommendations as soon as possible, preferably by December of this year.


Yours sincerely,

Jozias van Aartsen
Minister of Foreign Affairs

1 See e.g. the October 2000 policy memorandum by the Dutch party Green Left, ‘Met alle geweld voorkomen, beleidsvoorstellen voor conflictpreventie’.

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