Confidence-Building Measures in the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension

Much has been written in the past as well as more recently on the role of the OSCE and the potential of its second (economic) dimension in re-building trust and cooperation across borders. Yet, very little systematic knowledge exists on what actually works in terms of building confidence between member states. This lack of knowledge, in turn, inhibits the capacity for evidence-based policy making of the OSCE and its member states when it comes to using economic and environmental CBMs to stabilize and improve relations between member states. The Network seeks to remedy this by examining comparatively past experiences with economic and environmental confidence building measures and how lessons can be learned from this experience to inform future OSCE practice, including the possibility of setting up a specific “mechanism” for bilateral and/or multilateral consultation on economic and environmental issues that raise concern of individual participating states and may affect their interests.


The main question that the Network, therefore, seeks to address is this: How can any economic and environmental confidence building measures „fit“ into the current context of instability in the OSCE region and beyond where Russia’s so-called near abroad and EU’s Eastern Neighborhood overlap and have become political and economic „battlefields“ of new trade regimes—the Eurasian Economic Union and the DCFTAs—that play out against the background of a number of conflict situations, such as the ongoing crisis in Ukraine?


We make no assumption that economic and environmental connectivity by default can achieve greater security and stability. Rather, we acknowledge that economic and environmental confidence building has, albeit unevenly, been conducted in the past. However, it is not clear what its concrete effects have been, whether it has contributed to enhanced confidence between OSCE member states, whether any positive spill-over into other areas of confidence-building has been achieved, and/or whether there have been any sustainable legacy effects. We equally lack systematic knowledge on how negotiations over how economic and environmental CBMs are best initiated and by whom, on how they can be successfully concluded, and on how their agreements can be implemented and sustained. Put differently, we have no sound basis of evidence upon which we can assess the merit, or otherwise, of the creation of a specific mechanism for economic and environmental confidence building to institutionalize and formalize hitherto disparate and ad hoc efforts.

The project envisions commissioning ten papers contributed by Network institutions and current and former policy practitioners. These should take the form of single and comparative case studies focused broadly on fostering economic and environmental connectivity as a means of confidence building (including trade, transport, communication, energy, environment, banking, insurance, etc.) within and beyond the OSCE region. Papers should also focus on how states have used such activities to raise concerns and engage in the joint search for cooperative solutions. 

The project is led by Prof. Stefan Wolff, University of Birmingham, and Ambassador Philip Remler, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as lead drafter. The first brainstorming workshop under this project was conducted at the University of Birmingham, 10 – 11 July 2017.

Slovak Foreign Policy Association is taking part in this project as one of the  member of OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions.