Relations with the OSCE

  • Last updated: 21 Jun. 2016 11:10

The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) is an important partner for NATO. The OSCE establishes the principles that govern international relations in the Euro-Atlantic area and embodies a comprehensive approach to human security. The two organisations play complementary roles in building security and maintaining stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. Both support the principles that underpin the European security order. Both also acknowledge the need for a coherent and comprehensive approach to crisis management, which requires the effective application of both military and civilian means.

NATO Secretary General Jens  Stoltenberg meets with the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Lamberto Zannier


  • NATO and the OSCE cooperate at both the political and operational levels in conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict rehabilitation, border security, small arms and light weapons, and arms control, as well as in addressing emerging security challenges.
  • At the political level, NATO and the OSCE exchange views on thematic and regional security issues of common interest through exchanges by senior leadership, direct cooperation and regular staff-to-staff talks.
  • The two organisations also complement each other’s efforts in the field: NATO initiatives to support defence reform, mine clearance and the destruction of stockpiles of arms and munitions, dovetail with OSCE efforts aiming to build peace and stability (successful examples of such cooperation include Central Asia, Western Balkans and South Caucasus).
  • At recent summits, the Allies have reiterated the importance of the OSCE’s role in regional security and as a forum for dialogue on issues relevant to Euro-Atlantic security, not least on arms control and disarmament.
  • NATO Allies fully support the promotion of arms control, military transparency, and confidence- and security-building measures through the modernisation of all of the political-military tools in the OSCE toolbox, especially the Vienna Document.
  • The Alliance aims to further enhance NATO’s cooperation with the OSCE, including through a newly appointed Representative of the NATO Secretary General to the OSCE.

More background information

  • Political dialogue

    NATO and the OSCE conduct regular dialogue and meetings at all levels. These contacts include meetings between the Secretary Generals of the two organisations, meetings with the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and attendance at the OSCE Ministerial Councils and Summits. NATO civilian and military staff also regularly brief the Forum for Security Cooperation, Secretary General Security Days, and other meetings, upon invitation, on NATO programmes, policy and plans.

    Since 1998, NATO and the OSCE secretariats hold regular staff-to-staff talks (currently at least twice per year). These talks provide an opportunity to deepen and further develop staff contacts, as well as to exchange views and information on security-related issues of mutual interest, such as border security, security sector reform, non-proliferation, disarmament, arms control, controlling the spread of small arms and light weapons, mine action, energy security, cyber security, counter-terrorism, and the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The two organisations also cooperate on environmental issues that are a threat to security, stability and peace through the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC)¹.

    1. The NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme is associated with the ENVSEC, which brings together NATO, the OSCE, the Regional Environmental Center, the UN Development Programme, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the UN Environment Programme.

  • Cooperation in the Western Balkans

    Practical cooperation between the OSCE and NATO is best exemplified by the complementary missions that have been undertaken by both organisations in the Western Balkans.

    Within the framework of operations conducted in the Western Balkans region, representatives from both organisations in the field have met regularly to share information and discuss various aspects of their cooperation.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina

    In 1996, further to the Dayton Agreements and the adoption of UNSCR 1031 in December 1995, NATO and the OSCE developed a joint action programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) and its successor, the Stabilisation Force (SFOR), have provided vital support for implementation of the civilian aspects of the peace agreements.

    NATO assisted Bosnia and Herzegovina in support of the OSCE’s work on arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, and small arms and light weapons/mine action in the country. This includes implementation support of the Dayton Agreements and the Vienna Document. Also, by providing security for OSCE personnel and humanitarian assistance, NATO has contributed to the free and fair conduct of elections under the OSCE.


    Between January 1998 and March 1999, the OSCE mounted a Kosovo Verification Mission to monitor compliance on the ground with the Holbrooke-Milosevic cease-fire agreement. NATO conducted a parallel aerial surveillance mission. Following a deterioration in security conditions, the verification mission was forced to withdraw in March 1999.

    Since the adoption of UNSCR 1244 in June 1999, a new OSCE Mission in Kosovo was established as part of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). It is tasked, among other things, with supervising the progress of democratisation, building of institutions, and the protection of human rights. The mission – the largest of the OSCE’s field operations – has been maintaining close relations with the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which has a mandate from the United Nations to guarantee a safe environment for the work of the international community.

    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia2

    NATO also had close cooperation with the OSCE in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia2, where a NATO Task Force provided additional security for international monitors in early 2000. Today, the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje continues to exchange information with the OSCE Mission to Skopje.

    2. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

  • Border security

    NATO and the OSCE also cooperated in the management and securing of borders in the Western Balkans. At a high-level conference held in Ohrid in May 2003, five Western Balkans countries endorsed a Common Platform developed by the European Union, NATO, the OSCE and the then Stability Pact for South-East Europe aiming to enhance border security in the region. Each organisation supported those players, involved in the areas within its jurisdiction.

    Cooperation in the area of border security has now been extended to Central Asia, where the two organisations carry out complementary projects and programmes.