A Swiss Army knife for the OSCE?

Local news, 05.04.2017

The question of how to create and ensure sustainable security worldwide became a popular topic of highest interest in Europe and the United States within the past few months. The discussion also evolves around the question of who contributes what and how much.

The Swiss candidate, Ambassador Thomas Greminger © Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA
The Swiss candidate, Ambassador Thomas Greminger © Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

One of the most crucial and longest-standing organizations of cooperation in the field of security policy is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE. Certainly, contributions to ensure security around the world not only consist of financial and ideological support but of manpower as well. The OSCE is currently looking for a new Secretary General and as it happens, Switzerland could have the right match for that position.

The OSCE is one of the key pillars of the transatlantic security. It is the world’s largest regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization and the only fully-inclusive institutionalized platform to offer the opportunity for discussion among all 57 participating states, which include not just European countries but also the United States of America, Canada, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Mongolia. The OSCE’s mandate includes issues such as arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. It is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation and has its origins in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) held 1975 in Helsinki, Finland, where it was created during the cold war as an East — West forum. 
 Under the direction of the Secretary General, the secretariat of the OSCE provides operational support to the organization. The Vienna-based secretariat consists of administrative and programmatic departments and assists the rotating OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office. Just last month the official hearings of candidates for the successor of current Secretary General, Italian Lamberto Zannier, were held in Vienna. The four candidates come from Finland, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Switzerland.

The Swiss candidate, Ambassador Thomas Greminger, served as the Perma­nent Representative of Switzerland to the OSCE from 2010 to 2015, where he contrib­uted significantly to the strengthening of the organization. Switzerland considers the OSCE an essential platform for inclusive dialogue and common action. But what’s “in it” for Switzerland if he becomes Secretary General of OSCE?

Thomas Greminger puts it this way: “The OSCE Secretary General serves independently and impartially, under the guidance of the Chairmanship-in-Office. A Swiss Secretary General of the OSCE will strengthen the reputation of Switzerland as important contributor to the multilateral system and as a bridge-builder in difficult times.”

During Switzerland’s chairmanship and its membership of the OSCE Troika, Ambassa­dor Greminger helped build consensus on decisions that have proven instrumental for European security, such as the launching in 2014 of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM). The outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine happened only a few weeks after the chairmanship of the Swiss had begun in 2014. It was in these unforeseen events that Ambassador Greminger was able to show his high potential in the field of conflict management for the OSCE. He also played a key role in preparing the successful Ministerial Council in Basel, which yielded 21 consensus deci­sions and declarations. He has a broad expertise in all three OSCE dimensions: the politico-military dimension, the economic and environmental Dimension and last but not least, the human dimension.

Ambassador Greminger recently came to Washington D.C. to speak to collaborators and representatives at the U.S. Department of State, the National Security Council and the congressional Helsinki Commission. The OSCE maintains a strong relationship with the U.S., who was one of the founder members of the organization and supports the work of this paramount instrument for ensuring security in the Northern Hemisphere.

Why does the Swiss candidate think he is the best pick for the job of Secretary General?

“I know the OSCE inside and out. I can offer strong management and leadership skills, allowing me to deliver also under difficult circumstances and my in-depth knowledge of the organization enables me to further the role and relevance of the OSCE. I want to position the organization as a unique dialogue platform and as an effective actor in the security field.”

A strong OSCE that all can deem credible and useful, is a major asset for participating states. Switzerland certainly seeks to contribute to this end; it is in this light that it’s putting forward a candidate for the position of Secretary General.

The deciding board is expected to come to a decision end of June 2017 the latest.