The OSCE Chairmanship is held for one calendar year by the OSCE participating State designated as such by a decision of the Ministerial Council. In this capacity the chairing State plays a major role in steering the work of the OSCE and in representing the organisation externally. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the chairing State exercises the function of Chairperson-in-Office. The fact that in the OSCE decisions are taken by consensus of the 57 participating States makes the Chairmanship a special diplomatic challenge.
At the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Basle in December 2014, the participating States entrusted Austria with the Chairmanship of the OSCE for the year 2017. In this function Austria succeeds Germany, which held this position in 2016. After having been in the OSCE Chair in 2000, Austria will now hold this responsible and important position for the second time. The OSCE Chairmanship is mandated with a wide range of tasks and is thus a central political player. In this role as mediator and facilitator Austria will be able to build on its foreign policy experience and priorities in contributing to strengthening security. The challenges and priorities of the Austrian Chairmanship thus include managing conflicts, preventing and fighting transnational threats to internal security and re-establishing trust and confidence in a common space shared by 1.2 billion people.
In times of major upheaval and increasing levels of insecurity, international and regional organisations must assume political responsibility. Building on its role as an honest broker, Austria will seek to promote dialogue and cooperation in the OSCE region.
On 1 January 2017, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz shall assume the function of Chairman-in-Office during the Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2017.
The OSCE Chairmanship is held for one calendar year, during which the Foreign Minister of the chairing state assumes the function of Chairperson-in-Office (CiO). Together with the CiO of the preceding Chairmanship (Germany) and the succeeding Chairmanship (Italy), he forms the OSCE Chairmanship Troika.
For his term as CiO, Federal Minister Sebastian Kurz has defined three priorities of work in the context of which he places a special focus on countering radicalisation and violent extremism, mainly among young people.
Priorities of the Austrian Chairmanship
Especially since the events of 2014, it has become clear that it is no longer exclusively border conflicts and military confrontations, but also increasing radicalisation and terrorism as well as a growing loss of trust – also among participating States – that are giving way to a rising feeling of insecurity and augmenting fears in our societies. It is particularly against such a background that the OSCE plays a key role in re-establishing security and stability.
Austria has therefore defined the priorities for its Chairmanship of the OSCE 2017 in response to the current threats and challenges in the OSCE area:
In the context of its Chairmanship Austria will thus focus on:
1) Contributing towards defusing existing conflicts.
The last few months have seen a further aggravation of military conflicts, which have already resulted in thousands of victims, displacements and destruction. The Austrian Chairmanship will therefore place a major focus on countering these developments.
2) Joining forces in fighting radicalisation and violent extremism.
The increasing threat to domestic security posed by radicalisation of mainly young people and resulting in terrorism represents an imminent risk to the entire OSCE area. The Austrian Chairmanship will therefore place a major focus on countering these tendencies.
3) Re-establishing trust and confidence.
The increasing loss of trust between states as well as citizens’ continuing loss of confidence in governmental institutions and organisations mandated with safeguarding peace and our shared values, needs to be critically examined. The Austrian Chairmanship will therefore place a major focus on taking relevant action and on launching the necessary initiatives aimed at facilitating confidence building.
Similar to the cohesive programme of the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship, the activities launched by the Chair cannot be considered in an isolated manner but need to be placed in the context of ensuring continuity in view of annually rotating chairs. The Austrian Chairmanship programme acts as the common thread linking the Ministerial Council in Hamburg in December 2016 to the Ministerial Council in Vienna in December 2017 and thus ensuring sustainability of the OSCE’s activities.
OSCE Ministerial Council in Vienna, Austria
In his capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has invited the Foreign Ministers of the OSCE’s 57 participating States and 11 Partners for Co-operation, as well as high-ranking representatives of a range of international organizations, to Vienna for the 24th OSCE Ministerial Council, which is scheduled to take place from 7 to 8 December.
The meeting is taking place in the context of a fundamental crisis of the European security order, in which our States are confronted with external and internal threats. It offers a framework for high-level multilateral and bilateral discussions among the participating and partner States, to develop common solutions to these common challenges.
The Austrian Chairmanship’s three main priorities for the work of the OSCEthis year will steer the discussions at the Ministerial Council. Alongside defusing conflicts in the OSCE area – including, in particular, the OSCE’s work in Ukraine, Transdniestria, Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia – discussions will focus on fighting violent extremism and radicalisation, as well as on efforts to restore trust and confidence in the OSCE area.
In the plenary sessions, participating States will exchange views on threats to security, as well as on current developments. In addition to the conflicts in the OSCE area, main topics will include migration, terrorism, human rights, rule of law and democracy. Side events will provide an opportunity to discuss more intensively key issues such as radicalisation and the Ukraine conflict, as well as how to carry forward the structured dialogue on current and future challenges and risks to security in the OSCE area.
A parallel civil society conference will be held on 5 and 6 December in Vienna. The recommendations emanating from this conference will be introduced into the Ministerial Council’s debates.
The OSCE, as the world’s largest regional organization, with an intricate and balanced system of political commitments founded on a concept of comprehensive and cooperative security, offers a key platform for overcoming security challenges. The principles and values agreed upon unanimously by the participating States in Helsinki in 1975 and expanded over the years, provide a solid foundation for the long-term security and stability for all States in the OSCE area.
The OSCE Ministerial Council is the OSCE’s principal decision-making body. It meets annually and provides an opportunity for the Foreign Ministers of the 57 participating States to take stock of the Organization’s activities over the past year and to strengthen the dialogue on security issues.
The Permanent Representation of Austria to the OSCE, led by the Permanent Representative Ambassador Clemens Koja, and the department in charge of OSCE affairs at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, headed by Ambassador Florian Raunig, will be responsible for carrying out Chairmanship activities.
The Permanent Representation of Austria to the OSCE is responsible for the political aspects of OSCE-related activities, including, for instance, consultations with the Permanent Representations of other participating States. Other tasks performed by the Permanent Representation of Austria include representing Austria in the numerous OSCE bodies, including at the weekly meetings of the Permanent Council or in the Forum for Security Cooperation.
The department in charge of OSCE affairs at the Austrian Foreign Ministry is responsible for representing Austria’s interests and positions within the OSCE. In order to facilitate the best possible implementation of the goals and tasks of the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship 2017, this department acts as a Task Force coordinating all matters related to the Austrian Chairmanship during this year. The Task Force is also entrusted with all matters related to communication with the foreign ministries of the other participating States of the OSCE.
Ambassador Clemens Koja: Head of the Permanent Representation of Austria to the OSCE in Vienna
Clemens Koja was born on 19 July 1960 in Vienna. Raised and educated in Vienna and later in Salzburg, where he finished a classical gymnasium in 1978, he served in the Austrian army as a reserve officer. From 1979 -1983 Koja studied law at the Universities of Salzburg and Vienna, obtaining a Dr.iur. In the following years he studied Catholic theology in Rome and Salzburg, obtaining a Master’s degree in 1993. In 1989 he joined the Austrian Foreign Service; his first postings abroad were at the Austrian Embassies in Warsaw, Rome and the Vatican. In the Foreign Ministry he worked mostly in the Southern European Department, of which he was the Director between 2003 and 2008. Later he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Madrid and as Ambassador in Belgrade (2008-12) and Ljubljana (2012-16). Since 6 July 2016 he is the Permanent Representative of Austria to the OSCE.
Ambassador Florian Raunig: Head of the OSCE Task Force
Florian Raunig was born on 7 January 1967 in Basel. In 1986 he finished the classical gymnasium in Munich and then studied political science, philosophy and law at the University of Vienna. In 1997 he joined the newly-established OSCE Presence in Albania, setting up the first Field Office as well as the Border Observation Team in Northern Albania. Thereafter, he headed the Austrian Development Co-operation Offices in Tirana and Skopje and worked for the Delegation of the European Commission in Tirana. After joining the Austrian Foreign Ministry in 2002 he served in the Ministry’s department for the EU, at the Austrian Embassy in Ljubljana and in the Austrian Development Agency. He served as Austrian Ambassador to Montenegro (2007-2009) and to Albania (2009-2013) and as the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania (2013-2016). Since 6 July 2016 he heads the Task Force for the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship 2017.
Enterprises – strong partners of the OSCE Chairmanship
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) offers its 57 participating States and 11 Partners for Co-operation a reliable platform for dialogue where different perspectives, traditions and experiences can be shared and discussed, in order to better deal with contemporary and future challenges. As a traditional bridge-builder between East and West, Austria in its role as the OSCE Chairmanship in 2017, will foster dialogue and exchange between states, civil society and the business community.
Highlights of the Chairmanship year include the informal ministerial meeting in July and the OSCE Ministerial Council in December, major political and diplomatic events in Austria that will focus media attention on the OSCE and the host country. The Austrian Chairmanship takes the opportunity to work together with partners from the business community, which are contributing their experience, their products and their knowledge to the organization and logistics of these events free of charge. In turn, they profit from the international and media attention to these high-level meetings. This partnership between the public and private sectors strengthens mutual trust and generates added value for both sides. The Austrian Chairmanship thanks the following companies for their contribution:
Porsche Austria in cooperation with AUDI provides a vehicle fleet to ensure the transport of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and their delegations participating in the conferences under the Austrian OSCE chairmanship. Models of the series Audi A6, A8 and Q7 e-tron (some of the specially equipped) and Volkswagen Multivans will be used.
Helvetia provides casualty insurance coverage for the car pool of the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship.
Swarovski, a leading manufacturer of crystal glass, provides lapel pins for the heads of delegation.