Stand-off in Vienna as Azerbaijan tries to change the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku.

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the...

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The diplomatic row between Azerbaijan and the OSCE regarding the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku went public last week in Vienna.On 14 May 2013, whilst in Vienna accompanying President Ilham Aliev who was on a state visit to Austria, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, took time to address formally the representatives of the 57 participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at a meeting of the Organisation’s Permanent Council.

Couched in diplomatic language the Minister’s speech, and the response to it from many of the diplomats present, highlighted a serious stand-off on the issue of the role of the Office of the OSCE in Baku. The office was established in 1999 and was seen as an important mechanism to accompany Azerbaijan’s programme of reforms aimed at bringing it in line with OSCE commitments.

Over the recent months Azerbaijan has been asking for the mandate of the office to change, in practise reducing its role to that of a technical office. Since the budget of the office is part of the OSCE budget, and since the budget needs to be approved by consensus by all the member states Azerbaijan has been hinting that it may veto the whole budget unless its request is satisfied.

This is only one of many issues that have emerged over the last year in Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU and other countries as a result of a crack-down against all form of dissent in the country.

read the current mandate of the OSCE office in Baku here.OSCE Baku office mandate More…

OSCE-EU – A relationship that needs to be fine-tuned.

The President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy (r) greets OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier during the latter’s official visit to the EU, Brussels, 10 April 2013. Picture courtesy of the European Union

The President of the European Council Herman Van
Rompuy (r) greets OSCE Secretary General Lamberto
Zannier during the latter’s official visit to the EU,
Brussels, 10 April 2013.
Picture courtesy of the European Union

The current challenging political and economic environment calls for focused international response, said OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy during their meeting on 10 April 2013.

According to the web portal they discussed a wide range of issues related to the European security dialogue, including the role the OSCE can play as a forum to build bridges between different countries to create a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community. They also exchanged views on regional issues on the OSCE agenda including recent developments related to the protracted conflicts. In Brussels the Secretary General also met with Commissioner Štefan Füle responsible for enlargement and European neighbourhood policy and senior officials from the European External Action Service.

Whilst the EU and the OSCE are two organisations that are very different in nature they face many common challenges and the overlap of membership of the 27 EU member states who form nearly half the membership of the OSCE calls for a more harmonised and more focused relationship. Nowhere is this more the case than in the South Caucasus where the two organisations are involved in multiple ways on wide spectrum of issues involving Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, from conflict resolution to democracy and human rights issues. More…

Thirty-two European governments express concern about human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

osce flagsAt the 941st meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held in Vienna on Thursday, 14 February  2013 a statement was made on behalf of the twenty-seven member states of the European Union and on behalf of  Croatia, Montenegro, Iceland, Bosnia-Herzogovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia who aligned themselves with it, expressing concern about recent developments in Azerbaijan in the field of human rights. More…

Empowering women politicians in Armenia.

On Wednesday 25 July, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan announced a series of activities designed to encourage and increase the participation of women in Armenian public life. “Promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres as well as inclusion in public life is an essential factor for ensuring democratic advancement. The positive effect women’s participation has on stability and security throughout society is undeniable,” said Sorokin. More…

International Community calls on Georgia to ensure media freedom, says government is failing to protect journalists.

In light of recent violent incidents against journalists, both the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Amnesty International have called on the Georgian government to uphold the rights and freedom of the media, and investigate thoroughly acts of aggression, and intimidation against representatives of the media. More…

OSCE considers future of election observation.

The Irish Chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), together with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on 12 and 13 July convened in Vienna a supplementary Human Dimensions Meeting of the organisation, to discuss democratic elections and elections observation. The OSCE Human Dimension Meetings focus primarily on issues of human rights and democratisation, and are meant to provide a space for interaction between the fifty six member states of the organisation and their civil society. NGOs are invited to participate and speak in the meetings. More…

OSCE/ODIHR prepares to deploy 400 international observers for Georgia’s autumnas report of its “Needs Assessment Mission” highlights polorised environment. 1

An OSCE/ODIHR “Needs assessment mission”, ahead of Georgia’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for October, has released its report following its visit to the country from 11-15 June. The report noted a “polarised” electoral environment in Georgia and stated the need to ensure that the elections are observed evenly across the country, with particular emphasis on the regions with national minorities.

The OSCE/ODIHR representatives called for OSCE Member States to pledge 28 long-term observers to be deployed for the campaign period and 350 short-term observers for the actual election day, in addition to the core OSCE/ODIHR staff. While noting several improvements, and the implementation of many of the OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission’s previous recommendations to the electoral framework and preparations, the report highlighted concerns surrounding voters’ lists, abuse of administrative funds for campaign purposes, intimidation of opposition supporters in the regions, the rigidity and selectivity of the State Audit Service (SAS), and the political polarisation of the media. The report recommended the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission (EOM) concentrate its activities on monitoring the implementation and impact of the new electoral legal framework, media coverage of the campaign, the application of the new regulations for campaign financing, the performance of the complaints and appeals mechanism, and the general conduct of candidates throughout the campaign. More…

CEW Editorial Comment: Elections in the South Caucasus – Is the glass half full or half empty?

The Irish Chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)will be hosting a meeting in Vienna on 12-13 July to discuss democratic elections and elections observation.

This Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) will provide a platform to discuss best practices in follow-up and implementation of the OSCE commitments on democratic elections and explore strategies and key issues in election observation. The SHDM will also address such election related matters as universal and equal suffrage rights, legal framework, media, campaign financing, and gender.

The meeting cannot be more timely for the countries of the South Caucasus in the middle of a crucial cycle of elections. More…

OSCE pushes for more women participation in politics in the South Caucasus

A meeting hosted by the OSCE in Yerevan analysed the role of women in the 6 May Parliamentary elections.

As part of its mandate to support and promote pluralism and equal democratic representation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) recently organised events to address the issue of women’s political participation in Baku and Yerevan.

On June 21 and 22, the OSCE office in Baku with support from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) brought together over 30 senior political party officials to discuss how to increase participation amongst women in political parties. More…