Multilateralism in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE

Multilateralism in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE

Multilateralism in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE

By Thomas Greminger, Fabian Grass, Anna Hess Sargsyan, David Lanz, Benno Zogg

The aim of this book is to bring together different expert and practitioner perspectives on the question of where the Organization for Security and Co-​operation in Europe (OSCE) stands at the beginning of the 21st century. Set against the backdrop of the global crisis of multilateralism and increased geopolitical polarization, it examines the challenges this broad context poses for an institution such as the OSCE and how the OSCE has responded to them. It also highlights the opportunities that have emerged for the organization, often paradoxically as a result of a highly polarized environment. First-​hand insights into the challenges faced by Swiss Ambassador Thomas Greminger, who acted as the OSCE Secretary General from 2017–2020, and how he sought to navigate the OSCE through stormy waters form the heart of this volume, flanked by analyses of the OSCE’s responses “on the ground” to the conflicts in Ukraine and Transnistria. It also aims to look toward the OSCE’s possible future development.

The volume opens with a chapter by David Lanz, who looks at the broader context in which the OSCE exists and must contend with. Then, Fabian Grass, who headed Thomas Greminger’s 2017 campaign for the position of OSCE Secretary General, discusses the considerations that formed the backdrop of the campaign. The contribution by Greminger himself provides a critical assessment of the extent to which the goals he set out when he took up his mandate were achieved. Greminger reminds us that the crisis of multilateralism needs to be responded to by reforms that increase the effectiveness and efficiency of multilateral organizations, such as the OSCE. The last two chapters look at the OSCE “on the ground” in Ukraine and Transnistria. Anna Hess Sargsyan’s chapter highlights the paradox of how the crisis in and around Ukraine affected the relations between Russia and Western states, yet managed to generate joint action from both blocs. Benno Zogg’s chapter looks at the OSCE’s role in the Transnistria conflict in Moldova, a so-​called protracted conflict in which the OSCE has a far-​reaching mandate to work toward resolution.


Fabian Grass is a Swiss diplomat. From 2011 to 2015, he was seconded to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conflict Prevention Centre where he worked on military confidence- and securitybuilding measures. In 2017, he supported Thomas Greminger’s candidature for Secretary General of the OSCE, acting as campaign manager. Later, he became a diplomatic advisor to the Swiss State Secretary and Head of the Policy Planning Unit at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). Since 2021, he has been Deputy Head of Mission of the Swiss Embassy in Canberra, Australia.


Thomas Greminger served as the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the OSCE, the UN, and the International Organizations in Vienna from 2010 to 2015. During the Swiss Chairpersonship, he chaired the OSCE Permanent Council and played an active role in addressing the crisis in and around Ukraine. From July 2017 until July 2020, he served as Secretary General of the OSCE. On 1 May 2021, he took over as Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).


Anna Hess Sargsyan is an international affairs professional with extensive experience in conflict studies and peace mediation. Over the course of nine years at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zürich, she supported a number of formal and informal peace processes, as well as developed and led educational programs in the field of peace and conflict studies. Parallel to her practical work, she has authored a number of publications. Her research focuses on the impact of geopolitical tensions on the settlement of protracted conflicts in the OSCE area.


David Lanz is Co-Head of the Mediation Program at swisspeace, lecturer at the University of Basel, and co-manager of the Mediation Support Project (MSP), a joint venture between swisspeace and the CSS at ETH Zürich, supported by the FDFA. From 2012 to 2015, he was seconded by the Swiss Expert Pool for Civilian Peacebuilding to the OSCE Secretariat’s Conflict Prevention Centre, working to establish its Mediation Support Team.


Simon J. A. Mason is Head of the Mediation Support Team at the CSS at ETH Zürich. Since 2005, he has been working in the MSP and, since 2011, in the Culture and Religion in Mediation program (CARIM), a joint program of the CSS and the Swiss FDFA. He has been involved as a trainer or facilitator in dialogue, mediation, and negotiation workshops with actors from various conflict contexts. He is Senior Advisor for the Master of Advanced Studies ETH Mediation in Peace Processes program and a member of the Mediation Roster of the UN and OSCE.


Lisa Watanabe is Head of the Swiss and Euro-Atlantic Security Team at the CSS at ETH Zürich. She previously held positions at the GCSP and York University, Toronto, Canada. Her research focuses on challenges related to geopolitical shifts as well as political and socio-economic factors in Europe’s southern neighborhood.


Benno Zogg is Senior Researcher in the Swiss and EuroAtlantic Security Team at the CSS at ETH Zürich. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions. His areas of research include Swiss and European security policy, the nexus between security, development and trade policy, and the international politics of Eurasia.

Disclaimer: This publication was first published by the ETH Zurich here. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Contributors, their secretariats or their governing bodies. The Contributors do not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this work. The boundaries, colours, denominations, and other information shown on any graphic or chart in this work do not imply any judgment on the part of the IGOs concerning the legal status of any territory or the endorsement or acceptance of such boundaries. Nothing herein shall constitute or be considered to be a limitation upon or waiver of the privileges and immunities to which certain Contributors are entitled under national laws and international agreements, all of which are specifically reserved.