Hamburg and the OSCE

Dr Frank Evers und Dr Cornelius Friesendorf

The IFSH was founded in 1971. Four years later, on 1 August 1975, heads of state and government signed a key détente policy document in Helsinki: the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), the subsequent negotiations of which would later give rise to the OSCE in 1995.

Although the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is not well known to the public, it is nevertheless important for the pan-European peace and security order. The OSCE is comprised of 57 participating States from three continents: North America, Europe and Asia. The governments of the participating States meet regularly at the OSCE’s headquarters in Vienna and utilise the OSCE’s structures and their field operations for the purposes of conflict prevention and resolution. The OSCE also supports arms control and deals with economic and environmental issues. One particularly controversial topic is the protection of human rights. The hope that prevailed in the 1990s that democratisation was an inexorable process has since been dashed; the OSCE is increasingly shaped by authoritarian and populist governments that view calls for the rule of law, including regard for human rights, as western interference in their affairs.   

The IFSH has closely followed and supported the work of the CSCE and OSCE over decades. For example, our former director Egon Bahr’s understanding of collective security famously played a significant role in shaping the OSCE process. With the publication of the first OSCE Yearbook in 1995, the IFSH began to create a record of OSCE-related scholarly and political debates for the public.  

The Centre for OSCE Research (CORE) at the IFSH was established on 6 January 2000. The opening of CORE was celebrated with a ceremony at the Hamburg City Hall and attended by prominent guests: Johannes Rau, then President of Germany, and OSCE Secretary General Ján Kubiš each gave a ceremonial address. Rau declared: “Today, the establishment of this research centre sends a new, hopeful message: Academia and politics are finally taking the prevention of armed conflicts seriously.” Ortwin Runde, then the First Mayor of Hamburg, saw CORE as “a new component of peace research in the form of an OSCE ‘memory’”.   
CORE engages in research and knowledge transfer in close co-operation with the Federal Foreign Office, its most important sponsor, as well as with representatives from the delegations of the OSCE participating States in Vienna, the OSCE Secretariat, OSCE field operations, the OSCE’s three institutions and the Parliamentary Assembly. Since its founding, CORE has produced reports on various topics. These include the strengthening of intrasocietal dialogue in Tajikistan, protection of minorities in the Baltic region and the Balkans, economic instruments for conflict management in Transnistria and South Ossetia, and opportunities for the OSCE to support the rule of law. Other topics have included China-OSCE relations, strengthening the Secretary General, conventional arms control, and co-operation between the OSCE and the Council of Europe. These reports reflect the political changes in the OSCE over the past 20 years.  

In addition, CORE builds bridges between academia and political practice. The IFSH played a significant role in establishing the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions in 2013. Today, this nongovernmental policy consultation network has grown to include 150 member institutions from more than 40 countries. All paths converge at the IFSH: the Institute is the network’s co-ordinating body. What’s more, since 2020, CORE and Nomos Verlag have published OSCE Insights, a new series featuring articles on current OSCE issues. Like the OSCE Yearbook before it, OSCE Insights is published in English, German and Russian. CORE is also involved in capacity development. CORE played a leading role in the establishment of the OSCE Academy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek in 2002, and, since 2007, CORE has held training courses for diplomats from designated OSCE Chairmanship states. One highlight was the OSCE German Chairmanship and the 2016 meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg, with which CORE, under the long-standing leadership of Wolfgang Zellner, was closely involved.  

Due to their growing differences, European governments are now less engaged in the OSCE than they once were. However, peace and security necessitate multilateral cooperation, particularly in times of crisis. CORE advises the participating States on how they can use the OSCE more effectively again. In a special issue of OSCE Insights, CORE examines selected participating States’ interests in the OSCE. CORE is also involved in the current debate on how the time before the 50th anniversary of the OSCE in 2025 can be used to revitalize and further develop the European peace and security order.