The OSCE’s Role in Europe’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy

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Three intergovernmental organizations in Europe are committed to counter-terrorism issues, the outcomes of which form part of the overall universal framework for counter-terrorism responses. One of the organizations is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is a regional security organization with 57 participating States across North America, Europe, and Asia. It is a platform for political dialogue about shared matters on various security issues and a forum for joint action. It strives to bridge differences and construct trust between States by collaborating on conflict prevention, crisis managing, and post-conflict rehabilitation matters, including counter-terrorism. As a legal basis, all of its decisions are taken by unanimity on a politically, but not legally compulsory basis, though they are politically influential.  

One of the main threats to Europe is terrorism. A threat that does not recognize borders and impacts countries and individuals irrespective of their geographical area. 

Individuals and groups should not increase their political purposes by using terror, questioning the democratic values of European societies, and putting in jeopardy the rights and freedoms of citizens, especially by indiscriminately targeting people. Acts of terrorism are criminal and inexcusable and must be treated as such under all possibilities.

A principal purpose of the OSCE is to promote a cooperative and collaborative approach to countering terrorism at all levels, private and governmental, including public, intergovernmental, civil society, and media stakeholders.

The OSCE has assumed many important Ministerial Council Decisions, such as Decision No.1 on Combating Terrorism and its Annex, the Bucharest Plan of Action for Combating Terrorism. Its outcomes reaffirm the Organization’s foundational values, i.e., “measures to conduct this fight must be undertaken with full respect for the rule of law, and per our obligations under international law, in particular, international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.” To that end, a central principle of the activities of the OSCE has been encouraging its participating states to confirm international anti-terrorism conventions and to execute and enforce them in practice in a respectful rule-of-law manner.

The OSCE Consolidated Framework reports its efforts for the Fight against Terrorism. Its strategic focus areas include maintaining international criminal justice cooperation, contradicting violent extremism, preventing and stopping the financing of terrorism, supporting national efforts on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass devastation in furtherance of Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of counter-terrorism efforts. As with other organizations, the OSCE is also pledged to issues relating to the inflow of foreign terrorist fighters, notably the requirement to deny haven and to bring them to justice.

The OSCE publishes several other influential documents, such as reports, directories, and studies, which are directed to in subsequent Modules.

Since 1983, when the OSCE first became vigorously engaged in terrorism and counter-terrorism-related matters, the human dimension has been paramount. Thus, the OSCE Charter for European Security, adopted on 19 November at the 1999 Istanbul Summit, declared: “International terrorism, violent extremism, organized crime, and drug trafficking represent growing security challenges… We are committed to strengthening our protection against these new risks and challenges; strong democratic institutions and the rule of law are the foundation for this protection.” 

In the aftermath of 9/11, OSCE documents have put particular importance on the need to respect international law, and in particular, international human rights law, while fighting terrorism.

Moreover, on 21 March 2014, the OSCE sent its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine at the request of Ukraine’s government. The task has received varied reviews. While some viewers have praised its function as the “eyes and ears of the international community.”

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