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Photo: OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev

OSCE selects new Secretary General

Stephanie Liechtenstein
Analysis 14 March 2017

At the end of June, the mandate of the current OSCE Secretary General (SG), Lamberto Zannier, will expire. The 57 OSCE participating States are therefore currently in full swing to select a new personality for this important position.

Any OSCE participating States can nominate a candidate for the post. The decision on who will become the next SG has to be taken by consensus among all 57 States. While every single State has an equal say, in practice, a candidate is well positioned to win the race if he or she has the support of the three key players within the OSCE, notably the European Union member states as a bloc, the United States of America, and the Russian Federation.

The selection process for the post takes place behind closed doors. This week, the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship is holding hearings for the four nominated candidates. During this week, OSCE participating States can also make use of the opportunity to speak to the candidates individually through the diplomatic equivalent of speed-dating.

The SG is appointed for three years with the possibility of extension for a second and final term. The SG shares the OSCE leadership with the OSCE Chairmanship (currently held by Austria) that rotates on an annual basis. The post of the SG is defined as “Chief Administrative Officer”, whereas the Chairmanship’s role is considered to be political and its main task is to build consensus among the 57 participating States.

The mandate of the OSCE SG is defined in the Ministerial Council Decision No. 15 of 2004, according to which the main tasks of the SG are to ensure implementation of decisions taken by the 57 OSCE participating States, to support and provide advice to the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, and to ensure implementation of the Financial and Staff Regulations and Rules. The SG also supports the political dialogue and the negotiations among the 57 OSCE participating States, oversees the management of field operations, countersigns letters of appointment for heads of missions, and appoints directors in the OSCE Secretariat with the consent of the Chairmanship. So he or she is usually more of a Secretary than a General.

That said, the mandate was strengthened in 2006 to allow the SG to raise issues at the Permanent Council which he or she thinks could present a threat to security and to participate in the debate, as well as in 2011 to allow the SG to issue an early warning to participating States and propose fact finding missions to emerging crisis situations in the OSCE region.

The nominated candidates have been contacted for interviews by the Security and Human Rights Monitor. All candidates will receive the same three questions. Readers can expect the interviews to be published within the next few days.

For background information, here are the four candidates who are running for the post:

Stefan Füle of the Czech Republic, former EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, European Affairs Minister as well as First Deputy Defense Minister. Mr. Füle currently serves as Special Envoy for the OSCE at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thomas Greminger of Switzerland, former Swiss Permanent Representative to the OSCE, the UN and International Organizations in Vienna, as well as Head (and Deputy Head) of the Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Greminger currently serves as Deputy Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ilkka Kanerva of Finland, former Minister for Foreign Affairs (and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in 2008), Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Labour as well as Minister of Transport. Mr. Kanerva currently serves as a Member of Parliament.

Alena Kupchyna of Belarus, former Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador of Belarus to Hungary and concurrently to Slovenia, as well as Director of the Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights and of the Department for Humanitarian, Ecological, Scientific and Technical Cooperation at the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms. Kupchyna currently serves as Ambassador of Belarus to Austria and concurrently to Croatia, as well as Permanent Representative of Belarus to the OSCE and International Organizations in Vienna.

Who will be the next OSCE SG? Watch this space.