The Chairperson-in-Office (CiO) is vested with overall responsibility for executive action and the coordination of OSCE activities. CiO duties include:
- Representing the Organization before other organizations and to participating states
- Coordinating the work of OSCE institutions
- Supervising activities related to conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation
- Seeking consensus for regular decision-making
- Mediation and conciliation of conflicts among participating states, either directly or through special representatives appointed by the CiO
The Chairmanship rotates annually, and is selected by a ministerial or summit decision no later than the year prior to its joining the troika (see below). The foreign minister of the country chairing the organization traditionally holds the position of CiO. The country that is selected must provide substantial personnel to carry out the many functions of the Chair during the term as a member of the Troika.
The OSCE Ministerial Troika, Foreign Ministers Knut Vollebæk of Norway (centre), Wolfgang Schüssel of Austria (left) and Bronislaw Geremek of Poland (right), meet in Vienna, 21 January 1999 to discuss the situation in Kosovo. (OSCE)
Traditionally, the CiO has been assisted by the previous and succeeding Chairs, with the three of them together constituting the Troika.
Which country gets to hold the Chair?
There was a tendency during the first decade and a half of the chairmanship to select "middle powers" to fulfill this role. A newly unified Germany served as the first Chair in 1991; following that, members of the EU tended to hold the position. This changed in 2010 when Kazakhstan assumed the Chair, making it both the first Central Asian and ex-Soviet state to lead the OSCE. Ukraine held the OSCE Chairmanship in 2013.
Switzerland holds the Chair in 2014 (the first country to play this role twice), and Serbia will hold the Chair in 2015.
Foreign ministers have other responsibilities and are not expected to preside over the day-to-day operation of OSCE affairs. Members of the chair's delegation preside over Permanent Council meetings, and they may also serve as representatives of the CiO on missions to conflict areas or for meetings in participating states. The success of the OSCE significantly depends on the skills of the staff of the country holding the chair at any given time.