15th OSCE Summer Academy
Although it does not take place in the centre of public attention, it is worth mentioning that this year it was already the 15th time that the Summer Academy on OSCE took place in Stadtschlaining, Austria. Every year since 1997 it brings together 20-25 participants from various countries in the OSCE area, mostly originating from the Foreign Ministries and OSCE field presences, whereas some participants also come from academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. This year’s participants represented a wide variety of countries, ranging from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan at the one end of the specter to the USA at the other end.
Although the OSCE Summer Academy is closely co-operating with the various OSCE institutions (officially it is organized “under the auspices of the OSCE”), it is formally an independent establishment which guarantees a ‘free flow’ of information and ideas about all aspects of the functioning of the organization. It aims at providing the participants a forum, where they can reflect on all important issues relating to the OSCE. In day-to-day work people usually are so busy with routine issues that there is often hardly time for reflection and this is exactly what the Summer Academy aims to achieve. This year, for instance, vivid discussions took place on issues such as the possible role of the OSCE and its participating States in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA), a possible strengthening of the political leadership within the organization and possible improvements in the decision-making process. Also the prospects for the OSCE which right now is definitely not the main security player in the Eurasian area were discussed extensively.
The program of the Summer Academy has been designed in such a way that allows for extensive discussions by providing (inter-active) lectures, workshops and several simulation exercises. It relies on a vast range of resource persons both from the OSCE institutions and independent experts. It is directed by Dr. Arie Bloed (Netherlands) and Ursula Gamauf (Asutria). Over the years many members of the various delegations to the OSCE in Vienna or at OSCE desks in the national ministries of foreign affairs have passed the Summer Academy, often as a preparation for their posting in Vienna or in other OSCE bodies. Also representatives of various Partners for Co-operation (Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Thailand) have participated. Several Academy alumni achieved high-level positions within the diplomatic service of their countries.
The Summer Academy takes place every year in the idyllic environment of the medieval castle of Stadtschlaining, about one-and-a-half hours driving south of Vienna and close to the Hungarian border. The castle is the home of the hosting Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR). Every year various OSCE participating states are funding scholarships for participants without which the Summer Academy would not have reached this milestone of 15 years. This year scholarships were provided by Austria, Ireland and Germany.