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OSCE condemns cyber-attack on portal Buka

OSCE - Tue, 01/23/2024 - 12:08
539522 Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 23 January 2024 - As yet unidentified parties have been conducting cyber-attacks against BUKA's website for the past two weeks, affecting everyday operations and their ability to provide timely information to the public. To safeguard media freedom, the OSCE Mission to BiH calls on authorities to respond swiftly, per their respective mandates, to counter these escalating threats.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission congratulates 23 January - Day of Journalists of Montenegro

OSCE - Tue, 01/23/2024 - 11:39
561772 Marina Živaljević

In congratulating journalists in Montenegro, Dominique Waag, Head of OSCE Mission to Montenegro noted that 23 January reminds us of the vital part journalists play as fact-checkers and guardians of verified information in democratic societies.

“Professional journalists perform a crucial role in investigating, reporting and publishing impartial stories. With the increased use of artificial intelligence in content production, journalists will continue to be those who can be trusted to produce information, as the media have an obligation to their audience to uphold the highest professional standards,” said Ambassador Waag.

Pointing to the OSCE commitments to freedom of information, freedom of the media and the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference, Head of Mission Waag said: “A priority must be to create conditions for freedom of information and foster an environment in which media are free from political, financial or any other influence, and journalists, especially women journalists, are safe to work independently, investigate stories, and have access public documents.”

“We celebrate Montenegro’s professional journalists and media outlets and encourage them to uphold the highest journalistic standards,” said Head of Mission Waag.

To support of journalists, especially women journalists, young journalists and journalism students, the Mission has designed programmes to strengthen their knowledge and practice-oriented skills, and nurture fact-checking and ethical reporting, investigative journalism, and co-operation amongst media professionals.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to BiH condemns the attack on the journalist and editor of

OSCE - Fri, 01/19/2024 - 16:21
539531 Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 19 January 2024 - The OSCE Mission to BiH (Mission) condemns the 12 January attack on the journalist and editor of, Mirza Dervišević, in Brčko District of BiH (BD). The Mission commends the prompt reaction by the BD authorities in identifying and detaining a suspected perpetrator and expects the proper further processing of this incident. The Mission reiterates that all media professionals must be guaranteed a safe working environment, in which all fundamental rights and freedoms are fully protected and respected.

Categories: Central Europe

Foreign Minister of Malta Ian Borg to present programme for 2024 OSCE Chairpersonship at Permanent Council and Press Conference

OSCE - Thu, 01/18/2024 - 17:30

VIENNA, 22 January 2024 – The OSCE Chair-in-Office, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Dr Ian Borg, will present the programme of the 2024 Chairpersonship of Malta to the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday, 25 January.

Journalists are invited to cover the statement by Chair-in-Office Borg to the Permanent Council as part of the formal inauguration of Malta as OSCE Chair, and the subsequent press conference attended by Chair-in-Office Borg and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid.

Events will take place in Vienna at the Hofburg. The statement to the Permanent Council will begin at 10:00 am, followed by the press conference at 12:30 pm.

To attend either event in person, please register by 12:00 on 24 January by sending an email to with your name, outlet and position. Please also indicate which event(s) you would like to participate in. There will be a pool for the Permanent Council meeting due to limited camera spots and you will be informed in due time on pool participation. Details will follow successful accreditation.

Malta took over the OSCE Chairpersonship from North Macedonia on 1 January 2024. Chair-in-Office Borg will outline the programme of Malta for the 2024 OSCE Chairpersonship. Ukraine remains a central priority for Malta during its Chairpersonship, as does the resolution of other regional conflicts. Another primary task of the Maltese Chairpersonship will be to address the OSCE’s outstanding decisions relating to its budget and leadership. The Chair will also focus on promoting an inclusive approach to security by giving a voice to gender and youth perspectives. This will be reflected throughout its initiatives across the three dimensions of the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security.

The latest information from the OSCE 2024 Chairpersonship of Malta can be found at and on Twitter: @MinisterIanBorg and @OSCE24MT.

Journalists unable to attend in person can follow the livestream on

The OSCE Permanent Council is a decision-making body gathering representatives of all 57 participating States of the Organization and 11 Partners for Co-operation. It convenes weekly in Vienna to discuss developments in the OSCE area and to make decisions.

Categories: Central Europe

Nearly 30 years following the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, war victims remain neglected

OSCE - Thu, 01/18/2024 - 13:33
Željka Šulc

Joint Op-Ed by Bojana Urumova, Head of Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo, Johann Sattler, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brian Aggeler, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH, and Ingrid Macdonald, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina 

The devastation of the 1992-1995 war continues to impact Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in numerous ways. Amongst other issues, key decision-makers lack the political will to help victims of war deal with lingering trauma and various forms of marginalization. As such, nearly 30 years after the conflict, victims in BiH still lack essential institutional assistance, including compensation. Beyond its grave effects on both individuals and communities, these failures also hinder BiH’s progress toward genuine and lasting reconciliation.

As recently noted by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, confronting past gross human rights violations is central to achieving long-term peace and security in cohesive, pluralist democratic societies. That said, moving forward to achieve durable peace and security respectful of human rights and the rule of law requires full recognition of the depth and breadth of the suffering of all victims of war, including the challenges that hinder access to adequate support, reparation, protections and justice. Chronic neglect and widespread denial of their suffering compound the physical and psychological trauma inflicted during the war. Responses to trauma, therefore, must reflect the realities of these timelines and the evolving needs of victims.

Despite these challenges, some progress has been made. Notably, as a result of years of advocacy by victims’ associations, both the Brčko District (BD; 2022) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH; 2023) adopted laws that recognize children who were born as a consequence of wartime rape as victims.

Most recently, on 1 January 2024, application of the new FBiH Law on the Protection of Civilian Victims of War (FBiH Law) began. The adoption of this law was an essential step in ensuring the recognition and rights of civilian victims of war and in providing support to a historically neglected and marginalized group.

While important, the FBiH Law and comparable legislation in the Republika Srpska (RS) and BD are insufficient to address these issues.

As consistently recommended by United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms and the Universal Periodic Review, a unified BiH-wide framework should be established to replace the patchwork of existing laws and ensure the provision of readily accessible and sufficiently and sustainably financed institutional and legal support to victims, free from any form of discrimination, including based on place of residence.

The statutory deadlines enshrined in the various laws regulating the status of victims of war impose arbitrary and undue burdens on victims’ ability to obtain recognition and are inconsistent with BiH’s international legal obligations and human rights norms.

Decisions by international mechanisms affirming the rights of civilian victims of war to effective forms of redress, including compensation, remain unimplemented. This includes recommendations by several UN treaty bodies as well as the 2019 Decision by the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) requiring that BiH issue a public apology and secure payment of compensation to a victim of wartime rape as awarded by the Court of BiH, as well as to establish a comprehensive and effective national-level reparation scheme for all victims of war crimes. Over four years after UNCAT issued its decision, the authorities have yet to fulfil their obligations.

Compounding these difficulties around compensation, RS authorities have engaged in the deeply unfair practice of seeking reimbursement for court costs from victims of war who were barred by statutes of limitations from seeking compensation through civil proceedings. Moreover, despite the availability of formal mechanisms allowing victims to seek compensation through criminal proceedings, judicial authorities throughout BiH have not ensured that victims are able to exercise that right. Indeed, according to the OSCE’s comprehensive trial monitoring program, compensation has been awarded in just 19 of nearly 700 adjudicated war crimes cases.

This unjust situation also creates serious impediments to genuine reconciliation. One of the Key Priorities that determines BiH’s path to the European Union calls for concrete steps to promote an environment conducive to reconciliation and overcome the legacies of the war. In this regard, BiH should implement received and accepted recommendations related to justice and reparation for victims of war, including of conflict-related sexual violence, before its 4th Universal Periodic Review in January 2025.

Authorities in BiH at all relevant levels must take meaningful and prompt action to improve the status of victims who remain vulnerable and marginalized nearly three decades after the war. In this respect, with urgency, we call on:

  • The FBiH, RS and BD authorities to ensure that all victims can have their status recognized and can effectively access comparable social, financial and medical support, regardless of their place of residence or ethnicity and without fear of intimidation or discrimination or undue burden. This should include the harmonization of the respective approaches and the immediate elimination of all deadlines for obtaining recognition of the status of victims of war.
  • The BiH authorities, including the Council of Ministers, to ensure the prompt and comprehensive implementation of the 2019 UNCAT decision, including compensating and offering public apologies to the complainant and establishing an effective national-level reparation scheme for all victims of war crimes.
  • The FBiH authorities to implement the FBiH Law promptly, meaningfully and comprehensively, including the allocation of adequate budgetary resources.
  • The RS authorities to undertake the legal and policy reforms necessary to ensure a formal end to the practice of seeking reimbursement for costs of proceedings from victims of war who sought and were denied compensation through civil litigation.
  • Judicial authorities to identify and address any obstacles to awarding compensation to victims in both criminal and civil proceedings. Simultaneously, legislative authorities should promptly remedy any existing laws contrary to international standards relied on by judicial authorities to avoid awarding compensation as part of such proceedings.

The Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo, the European Union Office in BiH, OSCE Mission to BiH, and the UN in BiH remain committed partners to victims, victims’ associations and authorities across the country in order to improve the status and well-being of all victims of war.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to Montenegro assists the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office in its communication to the public and publishes research measuring trust in Prosecution

OSCE - Thu, 01/18/2024 - 12:26
561673 Marina Živaljević

Half of the respondents report that they are informed about the work of the State Prosecutor’s Office, while in 2022 less than a quarter reported the same. 41 per cent of respondents believe that the State Prosecutor’s Office is accessible and open to the public, which represents an increase of 11% compared to the previous year. Approximately 41 per cent of respondents believe that the work of the State Prosecutor’s Office is transparent, and a bit less than a half of respondents are familiar with this jurisdiction, indicating the need for improved communication between the institution and citizens.

These are some of the findings from an opinion poll Perception of the State Prosecutor's Office in Montenegro, commissioned by the OSCE Mission to Montenegro and conducted by DeFacto Consultancy in September 2023.

“Overall, nearly one-third of the respondents hold a positive or somewhat positive general attitude towards the State Prosecutor’s Office, while just over one-third have a some-what negative or very negative attitude,” said Slaven Živković of the DeFacto, presenting the results.

The survey also shows that trust in state prosecution offices at all levels has increased compared to 2022. Almost fifty per cent of citizens have some or complete trust in the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, a seven per cent increase from 2022, and around 55 per cent of respondents have some or complete trust in the Special State Prosecutor's Office, a 12 per cent increase from 2022. Corruption and organized crime were overwhelmingly identified as problems in Montenegro, showing that citizens have strong expectations in the work of the Prosecution in this regard.

Tatjana Begović, Acting Supreme State Prosecutor, thanked the OSCE Mission to Montenegro for its continuous support of this annual research. “We are encouraged that this year’s research shows a growing trust in state prosecution offices at all levels. At the same time, this obligates us to further improve our work.” said Ms. Begović.

Head of OSCE Mission to Montenegro, Dominique Waag welcomed the decision to publicize the research for the second time. “This will support the Supreme State Prosecutors’ Office in enhancing their communication with citizens. To boost transparency is imperative for the State Prosecution Service to communicate effectively with the public and the activities they undertake, said Waag, adding that to inform the public about ongoing OCC cases, in line with transparency standards, while ensuring the presumption of innocence, is of public interest.”

The OSCE Mission to Montenegro assisted the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office in drafting and implementing their first communication strategy; an important effort to increase transparency and institutional outreach. In addition to supporting this research, the Mission contributes to the production of a TV format “Get to know the Prosecutor’s Office”, to enhance the State Prosecution Office’s public outreach. The Mission will continue its support to State Prosecution Service in 2024 and offered to equip a conference/press room to communicate effectively with the media and the public.

The public opinion survey on the perception of the State Prosecutor’s Office in Montenegro was conducted on a sample of 1,002 adult respondents, using a multistage random sampling selection method.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities dedicates bench to The Hague for hosting HCNM office for 30 years

OSCE - Thu, 01/18/2024 - 09:22
561667 OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities OSCE celebrates 30th anniversary of High Commissioner on National Minorities

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Kairat Abdrakhmanov dedicated a bench to the city of The Hague on 18 January 2024 in gratitude for hosting the office of the HCNM for 30 years.

High Commissioner Abdrakhmanov thanked the Mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, for the city’s long-term support for the office of the HCNM. He also expressed gratitude to the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands.

“With this bench, we wish to express our thanks to the city of peace and justice that has hosted us for the past 30 years and, at the same time, create a special space in the park near our office to inform the general public about the presence of the institution of the HCNM here and its important work,” said Abdrakhmanov.

“The High Commissioner on National Minorities is one of the key players in the ecosystem of peace and justice in The Hague. We are proud to host this important organization in The Hague,” said Mayor van Zanen.

Representing the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador for International Organizations Paul van den IJssel said: “The Netherlands strongly believes in the work of the office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities as a conflict prevention mechanism and we are honoured to have been a host nation for the past 30 years.”

The OSCE HCNM has a unique mandate: to provide “early warning” and, as appropriate, “early action” at the earliest possible stage with regard to tensions involving national minority issues within the OSCE participating States. The first High Commissioner, eminent Dutch statesman Max van der Stoel, shaped the institution into a principled, respected, quiet force in the field of conflict prevention. The successive High Commissioners and their staff have continued to honour the mandate, methods and commitments established by Max van der Stoel in addressing minority rights and security.

As a small institution with a unique approach to conflict prevention, the HCNM has benefited greatly from being a part of the international centre of peace and justice, with its active community of human rights experts, lawyers, diplomats, academics and other international organizations. The rigorous discourse on peace and justice feed into the HCNM’s daily work of conflict prevention throughout the OSCE region. 

The office of the HCNM in The Hague was established in 1993. The HCNM organized several activities throughout 2023 to mark its 30th anniversary. The presentation of this bench in January 2024 is the concluding event of this series of activities, and commemorates the long-standing relationship between the OSCE HCNM and the Netherlands.

The bench is in Walther Boerweide Park, Haagse Bos. The plaque reads, in English and in Dutch: Integration with respect for diversity; In gratitude to the City of The Hague and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting and supporting our work for thirty years.

The ceremony was also attended by representatives of the Municipality of The Hague, the Foreign Ministry, and the Dutch Forestry Service, as well as several bilateral ambassadors to the Netherlands.

Categories: Central Europe

Cyprus assumes the Chair of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation

OSCE - Wed, 01/17/2024 - 10:00

VIENNA, 17 January 2024 – Today marked the opening session of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) under the Chairpersonship of Cyprus, during which Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Constantinos Kombos outlined the country’s priorities for its Chairpersonship.

“We are assuming the Chair of the Forum with a great sense of responsibility and with strong commitment to further promote the knowledge which has emerged from the previous Chairs, in close co-operation with the FSC Troika as well as the Chairpersonship of the OSCE, our good partner Malta. We are fully aware that our Chairpersonship coincides with an extended period of deep reflection, due to Russia’s unjustified war of aggression, which has devastating impacts on its victims, while also gravely affecting the security and stability of our continent and beyond,” said Minister Kombos, who underlined the special importance of international law, the rules-based order and multilateralism for Cyprus.

The programme of Cyprus’ FSC Chair will comprise a series of sessions dedicated to specific topics, involving international experts. The topics addressed will include humanitarian demining, the application of International Humanitarian Law during armed conflicts with a focus on gender-based violence, the role of security forces in the protection of the environment and the response to climate change, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. All of these thematic areas will incorporate gender equality as the Chair’s cross-cutting priority.

“Despite the challenges, the OSCE remains the most important regional platform for dialogue, with a unique comprehensive concept on security,” emphasised Minister Kombos. “The perseverance of peace should continue to be our collective compass. We must recall what brought us together and our commitment for peace, security and stability in the OSCE area and beyond.”

The FSC is an autonomous decision-making body of the OSCE, with the aim of maintaining military security and stability in the OSCE area. The FSC brings together delegates from all 57 participating States on a weekly basis. It contributes to the implementation of trust and security-building measures regulating the exchange of military information among states. Furthermore, the FSC plays an important role in the implementation of the Code of Conduct, a crucial document for ensuring the democratic control of security forces by the participating States.

Cyprus will chair the FSC meetings until April 2024.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE: Increased threats to media freedom, law reform and decriminalization of defamation are crucial

OSCE - Mon, 01/15/2024 - 16:08

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mission) is very concerned about growing threats to media freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), noting the worsening of this trend in recent years. 

Journalists in BiH regularly face violence and intimidation, and they are often subject to attacks, threats and lawsuits, which adversely impact their ability to report objectively and consistently and limit the right to freedom of media and expression.

Since the Mission began systematically monitoring the safety of journalists in BiH in 2019, we have recorded, on average, 30-40 incidents or attacks on journalists per year. In 2023, however, the Mission recorded over 50 incidents that included verbal and online threats, harassment and intimidation as well as cases of physical violence, confiscation and/or the damaging of equipment or property belonging to journalists, targeting and insults by public officials and politicians, and defamation lawsuits that may serve as a form of strategic action against public participation (SLAPP). In addition to the above, the Mission is increasingly concerned with cyber-attacks on independent media outlets’ websites and social media profiles.

Read the full article here

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE organized in Tashkent the launch of an upgraded digital platform for self-employed women entrepreneurs

OSCE - Mon, 01/15/2024 - 13:17

On 12 January, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) organized in Tashkent the launch of a digital platform developed by the social start-up Coozin. The aim is to further develop women's entrepreneurship and increase their self-employment skills by  using advanced digital technologies.

The Coozin start-up was launched in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has helped more than 2,000 women to generate additional income from home by running online culinary companies.

After the first successful Coozin years, time has come to further professionalize the digital platform.  This is why online courses about business, marketing, sales and other key skills on how to start a thriving online business have been included. The platform now features additional services like tools for marketing and promotion and a marketplace, where women entrepreneurs can can sell goods and services.

The PCUz has been supporting the Coozin start-up since its creation, and will continue to strengthen women's entrepreneurial potential in Uzbekistan. Reducing economic inequality and bridging the digital divide for inclusive economic development are among the most important goals.

This activity is part of the extra-budgetary project “Support to women employment and facilitation of women led small businesses through digital tools” (2021-2024) funded by Austria, Germany, Norway and the International Coca-Cola Foundation.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports the 2nd International Training Board on Explosive Hazards and Responses meeting in Istanbul

OSCE - Thu, 01/11/2024 - 08:05
561526 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

Regional co-operation and standardization of responses to explosive hazards can assist in reducing threats to human lives and property.  The 2nd International Training Board meeting took place in Istanbul, Türkiye from 14-15 December 2023. Organized by the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe in collaboration with the OSCE's Conflict Prevention Centre, the meeting aimed to highlight the progress achieved by the OSCE's extra-budgetary project regional "Integrated Cooperation on Explosive Hazards Programme" implemented by the Programme Office in Dushanbe.

The meeting centred around discussing the roles, responsibilities, and intentions of current and future participants in the International Training Board on explosive hazards and responses. Participants addressed tasks related to explosive hazard reduction and response, training curricula, professional development of operational and educational staff, standards, and monitoring and evaluation programs in Central Asia.

The crucial aspects of explosive hazard reduction and response systems at both the national and international levels in Central Asia were discussed. Participants explored ways to strengthen cross-border collaboration in systems and procedures.

Attention was also given to international and regional co-operation, emphasizing the need to fortify cross-border explosive hazard reduction and response systems. The participants acknowledged the instrumental role played by the OSCE in supporting countries in Central Asia, especially in response to risks stemming from instability in Afghanistan.

The meeting brought 25 participants, including representatives from the Ministries of Defence of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, the Border Troops of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the US Embassy in Tajikistan, OSCE Offices in Vienna, Astana, and Dushanbe, as well as agencies such as Norwegian People`s Aid, UNDP and Tajikistan’s National Mine Action Centre.

The meeting concluded by recognizing the significance of partnerships and wider perspectives in achieving effective explosive hazard reduction and response. The Regional Explosive Hazards Training Centre was highlighted as a key player in training and professional development efforts, with plans for future advancements and in-kind contributions.

Moving forward, the shared commitment to enhancing national and international systems will foster safer environments and combat illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, ammunition, and explosives in Central Asia.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to BiH reaction to hate- and bias-motivated incidents

OSCE - Wed, 01/10/2024 - 19:38
Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 10 January 2024 - The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mission) condemns all actions and speech driven by bias or hatred and notes with growing concern the recent surge of such incidents in certain locations in Republika Srpska in conjunction with Serbian Orthodox Christmas and the unconstitutional Day of Republika Srpska, as well as in the Federation of BiH.

Following an unfortunately regular pattern, the period around Serbian Orthodox Christmas and 9 January 2024 again witnessed threats and harassment targeting non-Serb communities in some parts of Republika Srpska, including vehicle convoys and public gatherings where participants carried firearms, chanted ethnic slurs and glorified war criminals. Incidents were also observed in the Federation, including damage to property belonging to Serbs. Such displays of intimidation and aggression incite fear and divide communities trying to move forward and rebuild trust. Per data collected through the Mission’s extensive monitoring programme, despite indicators and initial evidence of bias, responsible officials rarely investigate and prosecute these instances properly or take other meaningful measures. The repetition of such incidents indicates an environment of impunity wherein institutional responses to date have done little to diminish or prevent similar acts from recurring.

That said, following the recent events in Vlasenica and Srebrenica law enforcement agencies are acting commendably and swiftly, even in the face of mounting public pressure to disregard their legal obligations. The Mission further welcomes the condemnation of these incidents. The Mission urges the relevant prosecutor’s offices to conduct thorough investigations into potential criminal charges and motives, respecting both domestic criminal legislation and binding European Court of Human Rights case law. All other legally mandated authorities should respond to these and any similar incidents promptly and appropriately, including by providing support and protection to victims and their communities.

Most importantly, it should be recognized that these episodes do not exist in a vacuum and must be examined within the wider context of hate-filled and divisive rhetoric espoused by some elected leaders, public figures and media organizations. The institutional and individual promotion of exclusion, discrimination and marginalization of citizens that do not belong to a dominant nationality, religious or political group serves as a clear endorsement of conflict and hatred. This includes continued official support for and celebration of the unconstitutional Day of Republika Srpska, further undermining fundamental human rights and the rule of law, including the authority of the judiciary. The Mission reiterates its condemnation of any contraventions of the principles of inclusivity, pluralism and democracy, the very principles serving as the foundation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Relevant institutions and those serving in positions of power and influence, including elected officials, must work for everyone in their areas of responsibility, irrespective of background or religious beliefs. As all persons are equal in the eyes of the law, officials are obligated not only to refrain from but actively and decisively denounce any bias-motivated incidents and crimes and hate speech. Indeed, they must work to strengthen social cohesion rather than weaken it and ensure zero legal, social or cultural tolerance for those aiming to attack or marginalize certain groups or individuals in society. In short, leaders and institutions must ensure the safety, security and well-being of everyone living in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Categories: Central Europe

Decision not to invite OSCE observers to parliamentary elections contrary to Belarus' international commitments

OSCE - Mon, 01/08/2024 - 18:32

WARSAW/COPENHAGEN, 8 January 2024 – It is deeply regrettable that the Belarusian authorities have decided not to invite observers for the country’s forthcoming parliamentary elections from OSCE states through the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), leaders of both institutions said today, adding that the decision contradicts the principle of transparency, which is essential for holding genuinely democratic elections.

"We are profoundly concerned that the decision not to invite OSCE states through ODIHR to observe Belarus’ parliamentary elections will prevent the country’s citizens and institutions from benefiting from an impartial, transparent, and comprehensive assessment,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “This is contrary to the commitments made by Belarus, and goes against both the letter and the spirit of collaboration on which the OSCE is based.”

“The Belarusian government's decision to shirk its obligation to invite OSCE observers is concerning, and goes against the best interest of the Belarusian people,” said OSCE PA President Pia Kauma. “I deeply regret that the Assembly is being denied the opportunity to contribute to democratic development through our observation processes, which we have done in Belarus since 1995, and urge for greater openness of the Belarusian authorities.”

Elections are a central element of the democratic process, and ODIHR observes elections throughout the OSCE region using a comprehensive methodology that has been developed over many years and is used in the same way in every country. ODIHR already began engaging in consultations with Belarus in October 2023 to reach an agreement on the deployment of a pre-election needs assessment mission, an initial and crucial step in determining whether to deploy an election observation and in what format. Following the 2020 presidential election, the parliamentary elections on 25 February 2024 will be the second time that ODIHR is unable to observe elections in Belarus due to the lack of a timely invitation from the national authorities.

All OSCE states have repeatedly recognized the value of ODIHR’s observation and the effectiveness of its comprehensive and objective methodology. They have also committed to inviting observers from other OSCE participating States and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe, as well as following up swiftly on ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations. Parliamentary observers from the OSCE PA put their political expertise and personal experience in electoral processes at the disposal of the OSCE through election observation work conducted across the OSCE region.

While ODIHR will not be able to observe the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the Office continues to watch the unfolding events in Belarus from all the areas covered by its mandate.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina statement ahead of 9 January

OSCE - Thu, 01/04/2024 - 11:59
Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 4 January 2024 – The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mission) emphasizes that the official sponsorship and support by the government of Republika Srpska of the celebration of the so-called “Day of Republika Srpska” on 9 January not only constitutes an act of discrimination. The 26 November 2015 ruling of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina determine this is clearly unconstitutional, as it directly contravenes the constitutions of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Republika Srpska itself.

According to the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the designation of 9 January as the “Day of Republika Srpska” violates the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina by privileging one ethnic group while discriminating against others. It should be recalled that the Constitutional Court also determined that such a practice violates the equality and non-discrimination protections provided by the Constitution of Republika Srpska.

In the same ruling, the Constitutional Court further found that the official and institutional marking of 9 January as the Serbian Orthodox Patron Saint’s Day of Republika Srpska prioritizes the cultural heritage, traditions and customs of one ethnic  group while neglecting others and is thus discriminatory.

The Mission calls upon the government of Republika Srpska to fully uphold the rule of law, which must include respect for the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina as final and binding. Any failure to comply with and implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court constitutes a criminal offence. 

The Mission remains committed to supporting all authorities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina in fulfilling their legal obligations to ensure equality, non-discrimination and the rule of law. Doing so, thereby fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation, would create a brighter future for all people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Statement on war against Ukraine deplores civilian deaths, calls for end to misery and suffering

OSCE - Tue, 01/02/2024 - 21:57

VALLETTA/VIENNA, 2 January 2024 - The Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid made the following statement on the continuing and intensifying aerial attacks by Russia in its war against Ukraine:

“The new year has depressingly begun in the same way that the last one ended. Death and destruction have stolen the lives of women, men, boys and girls and destroyed essential infrastructure.

Every day, it is civilians who consistently pay the price in this terrible conflict. They should never be the victims of deadly drone and missile attacks.

Together, we deplore in the strongest possible terms these ongoing attacks and urgently call for an immediate end to the unrelenting violence that does nothing but propagate a vicious cycle of misery and suffering. We call for this war to end now.” 

Categories: Central Europe

Malta takes over OSCE Chair

OSCE - Sun, 12/31/2023 - 23:42

VALLETTA/VIENNA, 1 January 2024 - Today, Malta takes over as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office with a focus on strengthening the Organization’s resilience and effectiveness.

"While it is a great honour to assume the Chairpersonship of the OSCE in 2024, it is also with a deep sense of responsibility and duty that Malta has taken on this role," said Ian Borg, Malta’s Foreign Minister and the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

“Amidst the ongoing complex and critical challenges to security, the OSCE's relevance and survival remain crucial” Minister Borg noted. "The decision to appoint the Chair for this year, though made at the eleventh hour, demonstrated a collective ambition to save our Organisation," he added.    

“The OSCE continues to have a crucial role to play as a unique security organization and a platform for dialogue. Malta, as Chairperson-in-Office, will continue to work on safeguarding and upholding the fundamental principles and commitments enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris,” Minister Borg affirmed.

"The absence of full respect for our shared values and commitments undermines trust, the possibility of meaningful dialogue, and the prospects of peace and security in our region."

The Chairperson-in-Office emphasized that Malta will build upon the work of past Chairpersonships by supporting resolutions to ongoing conflicts in the OSCE area, placing human rights and the security of people at the centre of its endeavours while also providing support for the OSCE presence on the ground.

“Throughout the Chairpersonship, Ukraine will remain a priority. Malta will continue to emphasize the need to end Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine while seeking solutions to assist Ukraine and its people,” Minister Borg stressed emphasized.

“Malta believes in the importance of preserving the OSCE as an inclusive organization of diverse participating States, unique in gathering Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian communities, as well as fostering relations with Mediterranean and Asian Partners for Co-operation.”

At the core of its overarching priorities, the Maltese Chairpersonship will seek to strengthen the resilience of people across all three dimensions of comprehensive security. As Chair, Malta will strive to incorporate an inclusive approach by giving a voice to gender and youth perspectives, as well as increasing the engagement of women and youth in building peace and security.

As Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE and as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council until the end of 2024, Malta will be at the forefront of multilateral efforts to strengthen cooperation with a view to building back confidence and trust.

Malta looks forward to working closely with the OSCE Secretary General, as well as with the heads of the autonomous institutions: the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Minister Borg will officially inaugurate Malta’s Chairpersonship at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna on 25 January 2024.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Secretary General condemn air strikes across Ukraine

OSCE - Fri, 12/29/2023 - 15:15

SKOPJE/VIENNA, 29 December 2023 – The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani, and OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid made the following statement after air strikes hit cities across Ukraine and left at least 18 people dead and over 130 wounded:

“Once again, people are bearing the brunt in the war against Ukraine. In the middle of the holiday period, civilians across the country had to shelter while their cities came under attack. Dozens of families are left mourning in the rubble.

We renew our urgent call to stop this senseless violence and the tragic suffering it continues to inflict on the Ukrainian people.”

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR opens election observation mission in Azerbaijan

OSCE - Thu, 12/28/2023 - 10:30

BAKU, 29 December 2023 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today opened an election observation mission for the 7 February early presidential election in Azerbaijan, following an official invitation from the national authorities.

The mission is headed by Eoghan Murphy and consists of a core team of 11 international experts based in Baku and 26 long-term observers, who will be deployed throughout the country from 5 January. ODIHR also plans to request 280 short-term observers, to arrive several days before election day.

The mission will assess the conduct of the election for its compliance with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections, as well as with national legislation.

Observers will closely monitor all key aspects of the election. This includes the conduct of the campaign, also on social networks, the work of the election administration at all levels, election- related legislation and its implementation, respect for fundamental freedoms, media coverage and the resolution of election disputes. They will also assess the implementation of previous ODIHR election recommendations.

Meetings with representatives of state authorities and political parties, civil society, the media and the international community form an integral part of the observation.

An interim report will be published during the course of the observation to update the public and the media. The day after the election, a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions will be presented at a press conference. A final report with an assessment of the entire election process and containing recommendations will be published some months after the election.

For further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in the country, please visit:

Media contacts:

Egor Tilpunov, Media Analyst: or +994 55 220 16 20

Katya Andrusz, ODIHR Spokesperson: +48 609 522 266 (Warsaw mobile), or

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR observers to Azerbaijan’s early presidential election to hold press conference on Friday

OSCE - Wed, 12/27/2023 - 10:25

BAKU, 27 December 2023 – Observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) will hold a press conference on the opening of the observation mission to the forthcoming early presidential election in Azerbaijan on Friday, 29 December.


  • An introduction to the role of the ODIHR election observation mission and its planned activities


  • Eoghan Murphy, Head of the ODIHR observation mission


  • 12:00 local time (GMT +4) on 29 December 2023


  • Baku Conference Room, Hotel Holiday Inn, 5 Keykab Khanim Safaraliyeva St, Baku


  • No registration is necessary, but only questions from journalists will be taken.

For further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in Azerbaijan, please visit: Elections in Azerbaijan | OSCE

Media Contact:          

Egor Tilpunov, Media Analyst: or +994 55 220 16 20

Categories: Central Europe

Uzbekistan 2023 constitutional referendum and early presidential election: ODIHR observation missions final reports

OSCE - Fri, 12/22/2023 - 15:39
561293 Public Affairs Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Katya Andrusz

Following the 2023 constitutional referendum and early presidential election in Uzbekistan, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has published final reports with recommendations to assist the country in bringing its electoral process closer in line with international standards for democratic elections.

The 9 July early presidential election was technically well prepared but took place in a political environment lacking genuine competition, ODIHR’s report states. Ongoing reforms provided some improvements in line with previous ODIHR recommendations, but more extensive changes are needed to provide a good legal basis to hold democratic elections. The low-key campaign lacked meaningful engagement with voters, and candidates did not voice alternative political views. Election day itself was calm, but serious irregularities were observed, and important safeguards were often not followed during voting, counting and tabulation.

The 30 April constitutional referendum was technically well prepared, but the process lacked genuine political pluralism, says ODIHR’s report. The Central Election Commission carried out its tasks efficiently, but the lower-level commissions lacked neutrality and independence. The authorities organized an extensive voter information campaign on referendum day procedures and promoted some recent amendments, but the media did not provide impartial and balanced information, undermining voters’ ability to make an informed choice. In the polling stations visited, the voting process was calm, but serious violations were observed during voting and counting.

Key recommendations from both reports include:

  • Reviewing the legal framework on the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression;
  • Revising legislative and administrative requirements for the registration of political parties;
  • Replacing criminal sanction for defamation with civil remedies in line with international standards;
  • Limiting additions to the voter list on election day and ensuring effective safeguards against multiple voting;
  • Revising nomination and appointment of election administration staff to ensure their independence;
  • Ensuring that any restrictions to social networks and websites are transparent, clearly defined by law, subject to judicial oversight and conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality;
  • Amending legislation to allow for citizen election observation by independent non-governmental civil society organizations;
  • Taking measures to ensure that all votes are counted and reported accurately and honestly.

ODIHR deployed a Limited Referendum Observation Mission on 28 March 2023 to observe the constitutional referendum, and an Election Observation Mission on 8 June 2023 to follow the early presidential election. All 57 participating States across the OSCE region have formally committed to following up promptly on ODIHR’s election assessments and recommendations.

Categories: Central Europe


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