Ljubljana hosts two-day OSCE Ministerial meeting as Slovenian presidency nears end

The OSCE or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe - Europe's largest security organisation - met in Slovenia this week. Slovenia has held the rotating Presidency of the organisation for the past 12 months during which there've been some questions about the organisation's future.

The annual council was not only a big event for the host country Slovenia but also an opportunity to review and asses the activities of the OSCE during the past year, as Slovenia's Foreign Minister stated in his opening speech:

"As the central forum of political consultation and decision making on all issues relevant to the OSCE, our meetings offer the opportunity to take stock of our work, assess achievements and challenges, introduce new policies and activities and provide guidelines at the ministerial level for the future development of the organisation."

The OSCE is the largest regional security organization in the world and it is active in the field of conflict prevention, crisis management and human rights. The organisation itself is in need of reforms as was stated by a number of states during the council; however a large number of participants praised the modernisation efforts in the organisation launched by Slovenia and the fact that an agreement on the OSCE budget 2005 was found. Another request made by a large majority was that the organisation should become more efficient and transparent. Russia, a very active promoter of reforms was quite critical on the organisation. Lavrov stressed that the OSCE should turn into a more democratic and effective organisation Russia has been accusing the organisation of using double standards in its core activity of election monitoring.

As the adoption of documents in the OSCE requires consensus among all 55 participating states, it was not unexpected that the ministerial council has failed to adopt a ministerial declaration.

At a press conference following the ministerial, Rupel said the absence of a declaration is a result of consensus-based decision-making in the OSCE:

"We have had tough negotiations, we have had interesting statements, one could say that we regret failure to have consensus regarding the ministerial declaration but this is the only thing that we can regret. We have agreed on a document that I find extremely important, which is the road map for reform. It was not quite sure that we would be able to do this, still late last night it looked almost impossible."

Dimitrij Rupel spoke about Slovenia's one-year stint as OSCE chair, saying that Slovenia has had success in reforming, rebalancing and revitalising the security organisation. He praised progress in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and said there were good results in Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo, but he also voiced regret that declarations on Kosovo and Moldova had not been adopted. Dimitrij Rupel stressed that the organisation is in good shape when Slovenia passes it to Belgium, which will head the organization in 2006. The Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht told the press at the end of the conference how he sees the role of the OSCE:

"We look forward to this chairmanship in office we think it's a very tough job. I think the OSCE still has a very vital role to play in fact it is the only institution that is bringing together under one umbrella the European and Central Asian countries. I think it is very important that we all together can play a major role in democratising that vital part of the world."