North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, including using the organization to condemn Russian aggression and hold the government of the Russian Federation to account, to launch international investigations on Russian war crimes, and to reestablish an OSCE mission on the ground in Ukraine. The OSCE has remained at the forefront despite Russian efforts to block consensus and undermine the Organization and its work.
During this hearing, North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Bujar Osmani discussed North Macedonia’s priorities in the OSCE and how it will address Russia’s war on Ukraine and other regional challenges.
The hearing began with a reaffirmation of support from Chairman Joe Wilson, “We are shoulder to shoulder on a bipartisan basis when it comes to the principles of the OSCE, and enforcing them, and shining light on some of the challenges we have – the most serious of which, of course, is Vladimir Putin’s illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. It matters to our friends in North Macedonia. It matters to citizens of the United States of America. It matters to every member of the OSCE.”
Commissioner Mike Lawler added that he is very concerned that “if Vladimir Putin is allowed to succeed in Ukraine, he will not stop there…The Ukrainian people deserve our support. The Ukrainian government deserves our support.”
Mirroring this, Minister Osmani started his address by stating; “We are living in a time of war and conflicts and unprecedented turmoil and continuous tension across the OSCE. The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a blow to European and human security.”
Under this backdrop, Minister Osmani identified his three priorities as being firstly Ukraine, secondly protracted conflicts, and lastly organization functionality.
Minister Osmani declared Ukraine the key security priority and his overarching priority for his Chairpersonship. He called for the “Russian Federation to immediately stop this war, withdraw its troops from Ukraine, [and] recommit to the principles and values of the OSCE and to diplomacy.”
Under North Macedonia’s leadership, the organization hopes to reinforce the principles and commitments of the OSCE as the foundation of European security and cooperation. Asserting that in order to foster meaningful dialogue, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine must end. Only then can they engage in credible confidence-building exercises.
The war in Ukraine poses the potential to escalate latent and protracted conflicts in the region. “It affects our engagement in Eastern Europe, in the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and Western Balkans. It affects the performance of our field missions… and obstructs our ability to implement a positive agenda for the institution and to engage proactively in the search for durable solutions, critical for pan-European security, stability, and prosperity” explained Minister Osmani.
Responding to Commissioner Victoria Spartz’ question on the OSCE’s action plan, Minister Osmani emphasized the need to preserve the functionality of the organization, so that a balance is made between the “change of functionality of the Organization and maintaining the ongoing activities, mainly with the field operations across the OSCE region.”
Chairman Joe Wilson expressed interest in issues across the region to which Minister Osmani reported progress made between Kosovo and Serbia, emphasized focus on Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, and urged continued peacetime reconciliation, reforms, and European integration.
Representative Spartz also inquired about issues in Central Asia. To which Minister Osmani highlighted the five field operations in all five participating States in Central Asia and expressed concerns over the repercussions following the Taliban takeover and climate change in the region.
Minister Osmani was forthright about serious challenges the OSCE faces. The organization has no budget approved and has the possibility of a leadership vacuum at the end of the year if there is no consensus achieved. Sharing that the Permanent Council has only approved a partial extension of the mission in Moldova. Thus, the OSCE can provide a platform for communication, but it’s ultimately up to 56 participating states and their willingness to engage, compromise, and maintain dialogue to find common ground on issues.
For more information, please contact Janice Helwig of the Commission staff at 202-225-1901.