EPRS Admin By / September 29, 2021

OSCE structure

OSCE structure

OSCE structure

The OSCE has three main bodies. The first of these is the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, headed by Matteo Mecacci, which sends observers to monitor elections in OSCE countries. A Representative on Freedom of the Media – currently Teresa Ribeiro from Portugal – monitors issues such as media regulation, journalist safety and internet freedom. High Commissioner on National Minorities, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, monitors short and long-term causes of ethnic tensions and conflict. In addition, there are currently 15 field operations, such as the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; all of these operate in Western Balkan and former Soviet Union countries. Administrative support comes from the Secretariat, which has its headquarters in Vienna, and a network of field offices running OSCE projects. Since December 2020, the Secretariat is headed by Helga Schmid, formerly Secretary-General of the European External Action Service. These four senior OSCE officials are appointed by the foreign ministers of participating states in the Ministerial Council by consensus, for a three-year term, renewable once.
In the OSCE, all political decisions are taken by representatives of the participating states. OSCE heads of state or government only meet rarely – the last OSCE summit was held in Astana, in 2010 – and therefore it is the annual Ministerial Council, comprising foreign affairs ministers of the participating states, which acts as the equivalent of the EU’s European Council in setting the organisation’s longer-term priorities. The decision-making role of the Council of the EU is played by the ambassador-level OSCE Permanent Council, which meets once a week in Vienna, as well as the Forum for Security Cooperation, which is responsible for security issues such as arms control and exchange of military information. Regardless of their size, participating states carry equal weight in OSCE decisions, all of which are taken by consensus. Despite the overwhelmingly intergovernmental nature of the organisation and the lack of any formal right of initiative for the Secretariat, in practice the latter can sometimes play a proactive role in initiating policy.
The OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly has 323 members, appointed or elected by national parliaments. The assembly has no decision-making powers over OSCE executive institutions, but it acts as a forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue and can adopt resolutions and recommendations. The Secretariat (which is separate from the main OSCE Secretariat) is based in Copenhagen, and there is an annual winter meeting in Vienna, while OSCE states take turns to host the autumn meetings and the annual sessions.


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