VIENNA (Reuters) – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes Russia and the United States and other former Cold War foes, formally agreed on Friday to fill four of its top jobs with new faces, ending months of deadlock and bickering.
The four positions, including the body’s top full-time job of secretary general, had been vacant since July after disagreements among its participating states torpedoed what was supposed to be a straightforward renewal of the three-year terms for those occupying each post.
The 57-nation OSCE is best known for its election observation work and its monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, and is often involved in diplomacy around regional conflicts.
But of late it has struggled to play a central role on issues such as Nagorno-Karabakh and protests against the rule of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as tensions between Russia and its allies and the West have been increasing, leading to disagreements including over the leadership posts.
Consensus was reached on four new candidates, headed by Helga Schmid of Germany, who is currently secretary general of the European Union’s foreign policy office. Foreign ministers and senior officials from the OSCE’s 57 participating states signed off on the agreement at an annual meeting on Friday.
“Decision – Helga Schmid appointed as OSCE Secretary General,” Albania, the outgoing annual OSCE chair, said on the Twitter account of its chairmanship. A news conference due to be held after the meeting was cancelled.
The three other posts, special representative on freedom of the media, high commissioner on national minorities and head of the OSCE office dealing with elections and human rights, will be filled by officials from Portugal, Kazakhstan and Italy, Albania confirmed.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alison Williams)