Organisational challenges and experiences of the Slovene OSCE Chairmanship

Posted in Other | 09-Oct-06 | Author: Milan Jazbec

Dr Milan Jazbec

The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia has been regularly analyzing the events in the Middle East and the Balkans. Dr. Milan Jazbec, member of the IFIMES International Institute, has analysed organisational challenges and experiences of the Slovene OSCE Chairmanship in 2005. He has focused his attention on the management of the process and its consequences for policy making. The article was originally published in Helsinki Monitor, Quarterly on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Volume 17, 2006, No 3, pp.269 – 278.

The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent those of his employer.

Helsinki Monitor is published by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and is also available online (

The IFIMES International Institute would like to express its thanks to the publisher for granting the permission to distribute this article, entitled »Organisational challenges and experiences of the Slovene OSCE Chairmanship« in full.


To assume the OSCE Chairmanship would primarily mean to co-create and bear responsibility for the security and interest management in the Northern Hemisphere in the current calendar year. Furthermore, for the country concerned and its Foreign Ministry it also means a specific test of its organizational flexibility and an ability to provide substance for this co-creation and decisionmaking process. Additionally, it also includes an active participation in the global security processes, since at least major security players have developed a reasonable degree of cooperation so far.

In this contribution we will try to analyze the organizational challenges and experiences of the Slovene OSCE Chairmanship in 2005. Hence our attention is focused on the organizational management of the process and relations within the Slovene diplomatic organizationii as well as on those with and within the OSCE structures. This has provided the necessary substantial output for the policy and decision-making process, which has supported the Chairman in Office (CiO). Our thesis would be that only efficient diplomatic machinery, which is capable of ensuring constant, smooth and rich in substance provision of information, could enable an efficient chairmanship of the OSCE as an example of managing a demanding and complex international policy-making process.

While concentrating on the case of Slovenia, a small and still new country in the international community, we will also try to generalize this experience. From one point of view, this could present a comprehensive impression of the concrete chairmanship, and from another point of view, it could add to the institutional memory from which the future chairing countries would draw.

Presentation of Basic Organizational Aspects

Slovenia announced its ambition to host the chairmanship at the Istanbul Summit in December 1999 and was granted it at the Porto Ministerial Meeting in 2003. Consequently, during 2004 its Mission to the OSCE in Vienna was enlarged with additional diplomats, the OSCE Task Force in the Foreign Ministry was established and other related activities were initiated (like financing of the project etc.iii). Also a small OSCE Project Group was established towards the end of 2003 at the Ministry of Defence, which kept contacts with the Task Force.

The Task Force consisted of 15 diplomats. Two of them were detached from the Defence Ministry, one from the Ministry of the Interior and one from the Slovene Intelligence Service; four of them were detached from different other divisions of the foreign ministry (one was soon included in the Task Force for the whole year, two for only part of the year). One third of the Task Force consisted of junior diplomats and one fourth of middle-ranking diplomats, the rest were senior ones, among them one former State Secretaryiv; almost half the group were women with varied experience. The former Foreign Minister headed the Task Force. As it has transpired later on, this was a highly useful combination of knowledgev, experience, an eagerness to work and the necessary feeling of contemplation. The Task Force existed from the summer of 2004 up to the end of January 2006. It dealt only with substantial issues; for handling the bureaucratic part of the business, the Division for OSCE was established within the foreign ministry. Its members were only those diplomats from the Task Force, who weren’t detached there to (the so-called core group). The deputy head of the Task Force headed the Division.

The Head of the Task Force was subordinated and directly responsible to the Foreign Minister and the CiO, and was acting also on his behalf, where and when this was necessary and possible. He was also a member of the Board of the Ministry. The Deputy Head of the Task Force (i.e. the Head of the Division) attended all other meetings in the Ministry and accompanied the CiO during all his travelling. The Task Force met regularly twice a week (in principle on Monday and Thursday); the core group also met more frequently. Because of the preparations of the Ministerial Council Meeting, the representatives of the Protocol Division attended meetings of the Task Force from late October 2005.

Members of the Task Force were in daily contact with colleagues at the Slovene Mission to the OSCE, at the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna and at various OSCE institutions and bodies, at the OSCE field Missions, with Personal and Special representatives of the CiO, with representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, members of the Panel of Eminent Persons and with other diplomats (such as missions to the OSCE of other participating countries; at foreign ministries of various participating countries; with Slovene diplomats at various locations within the OSCE community and participation in the Asian Security Forum in Seoul etc.). The minister’s cabinet was, naturally, heavily involved in this process. They were in contacts also with various NGOs, think-tanks and institutions in Slovenia and in the participating states, both from the academic community and from civil society, which all took part at various OSCE activities. They also kept contact with different representatives of the media.

The Slovene Mission to the OSCE in Vienna consisted of 11 diplomats. More than a third of them were womenvi; almost half of the whole team consisted of junior to middle-ranking diplomats. Two senior diplomats were recruited from the Defence Ministry. The CiO appointed the former Slovene Prime Minister and Foreign Minister as his personal representative for Central Asia; he was supported by a senior Slovene diplomat, who was residing during the second part of 2005 in Bishkek and was frequently travelling around the region.

Organizational Aspects and Challenges

There are at least some important political and organizational aspects of chairing the OSCE, which determine and challenge the country in charge. From one point of view, they originate from the characteristics of the OSCE, and from another point of view, they have to be kept in mind while managing the chairmanship and providing the necessary as well as the expected functioning of the organization.

Our first step here would be to present both these aspects, one after the other. As far as the first, conditionally speaking, political cluster of aspects is concerned, we could name the following:

• The OSCE mission to provide and maintain security derives from its firm presence on the ground. Through its 17 field missionsvii the organization keeps contact with reality and does not only operate in the spheres of high politics;

• Through its three dimensions the OSCE agenda covers a wide spectrum of topics and areas. This adds to the demands and complexity of the chairmanship;

• Because of the consensus-based decision-making process, the chairing country has to seek consensus continually. It does not have to favour its own position; as a matter of fact, the position of the Chairmanship and the national position of the country, which holds the current chairmanship, are two different aspects. The position of a chairing country is shown indirectly through the well-oiled running of the organization;

• It is only the current CiO who speaks on behalf of the chairmanship. There is no replacement for him/her during the 365 (366) days of a calendar year;

• The CiO has to divide carefully and transparently his/her duties of the Chairman and of the country’s foreign minister. As a CiO, he/she has a decisive yes vote in many issues, though limitations imposed by sometimes very inflexible procedural regulations could be frustrating;

• There is no direct relation between the higher or lower level CiO activities and progress on the ground. Sometimes his/her endeavours can be highly stimulating and encouraging, sometimes they practically do not matter. Moderating between various interests and ambitions of the participating states could be very productive, although it is limited to motivating, encouraging, stimulating and similar activities. Nobody can force member states to do anything.

One should also add here a few comments regarding the agenda of a small country’s chairmanship. Basically there are no differences between the small and larger countries’ agenda when executing the chairmanship process. The chairing country and the Secretariat shape the agenda, taking into account issues which are in the pipeline. This also holds true for how to manage the whole process. However, each country could bring some of its own aspects to the process. With such specific aspects the country characterizes its chairmanship. Ideas and suggestions of other countries are welcome, but there is no necessity to accept them, in particular if they try to politically affect the process.

The Slovene Chairmanship was originally marked with ‘a 3R approach’, namely the ambition was to revitalize, reform and rebalance the organization. This was put to a concrete test when the crisis in Kirgizstan occurred. The crisis erupted during the second half of March 2005, between the second round of parliamentary elections (March 13) and the day when the provisional government was sworn in (March 28). The upheaval appeared literally overnight and the Chairmanship had to react quickly, adapting to the situation. The personal representative of the CiO was sent to monitor and follow the situation, and the CiO was in contact with the most important actors, and a senior member of the Task Force was also dispatched to the region to provide constant information from the area. This provided the framework within which the situation was managed and brought under control.

This consisted of monitoring the situation, discussing it with all the parties involved, meeting with other representatives of the international community as well as expressing expectations that the rule of law and democratic standards would be followed and respected. The role of the OSCE, which was at a certain moment the only international organization active in Bishkek, was in particular to strengthen the process of democratization. The personal representative of the CiO inter alia established permanent coordination between the Ambassadors of the RF, the USA and Germany (representing the EU); he met frequently with the country’s highest authorities and organized a meeting between the OSCE Ambassadors in Bishkek with the representatives of the provisional government. The CiO visited Kirgizstan twice (on March 31st and on April 17/18th). With all these activities the Chairmanship showed an ability to react and to adapt, to listen and to be listened to; to be received and to get parties around the table. Generally speaking, the management of the crisis achieved so that transfer of the organizational efforts and a substantial input, along the rules of procedure, into political efficiency could be attained. Having in mind the second, organizational cluster of aspects, we could speak of the following issues:

• The OSCE Chairmanship is a highly complex and complicated organizational project. As we have seen from the Slovene experience, presented in the previous section, there are many permanent and ad hoc bodies and individuals, which are involved in the process;

• The organization of the Ministerial Council meeting stands out as a particular and overall demanding project.viii However, it should anyway become part of advanced routine management, which represents important part of the contemporary diplomatic activities;

• These bodies are placed in different vertical levels and are spread within various horizontal levels, within and outside the foreign ministry; within the chairing country and out of it; within governmental structures and outside;

• Cooperation with other international organizations is gaining in importance, also having in mind complementarity as one of the most important characteristics of contemporary security processesix;

• These bodies have in common the provision of all possible information for the CiO, coordination of the activities, sharing of information and management of the entrusted parts/phases of the process;

• These relations and connections provide a sensitive and flexible network, where the center is clearly defined (the Head and Deputy Head of the Task Force). However, the majority of the communication heads in various horizontal directions, where the communicators make decisions constantly, while preparing reports and suggestions to the centre, which then, upon agreement within the network meetings, transfers the decision vertically to CiO.

Such flexibility enables and allows the smooth and well-oiled functioning of the whole machinery, which supports the CiO. There are some important relations, which directly involve the CiO (like those with the Secretary General of the OSCE, the foreign ministers of participating and other states, the highest representatives of various international organizations etc.). The caretakers of this communicational aspect must be clearly defined to ensure the correct dispersion of the information, to everybody within the network who would need this information. If this is not the case, the CiO will receive different, even contradictory background information which will inevitably affect his/her work.

With our second step we can try to imagine the picture which will result from overlapping of the already presented political and organizational clusters. This shows us what are the necessaryx political and organizational aspects of a complex and sophisticated process, which is called the chairmanship. The management of this process should be (and usually is) entrusted to two, perhaps three persons, who have to establish constant, smooth and highly operational communications among them. In our opinion, they are the Head of the Task Force and his/her Deputy as well as the Permanent Representative of the country chairing to the OSCE. They form the running team of the chairmanship.

From one point of view, they collect decisions, suggestions and information from the previously described network and transfer these to the CiO, while from another point of view, they accept his/her reactions and transfer them the other way round. They have to watch out the inflow from the direct communication between the CiO and various players (see the organizational cluster, number six) and ensure its delivery to the network. They have to be able to react to each issue which comes on the agenda, and to sense possible unpredictable complications, and bring them into the process machinery. They have to depend and rely on each other, and have to be in constant contact; this could be described as a kind of organizational-communication dispatch centre. Only this can ensure that the CiO is constantly and well equipped with concise, substantial and proactive information support, which provides an adequate, consistent and streamlined policy of the chairmanship. Therefore, their contribution to the chairmanship is noticeable not directly from the results of their work but through the smooth functioning of CiO, who does not need to take care of anything except doing his/her work (focusing on the political substance only).

The already presented organizational and personal chemistry has to reduce the room for improvisation to constantly oil the machinery, to upgrade the substance of the decision and policy-making process as well as to allow organizational flexibility in order to be able to react to everything that comes on the agenda.

Our third and final step in this chapter would be to ask how such experiences from a highly demanding management process could be implemented in the organizational concept of the diplomatic machinery of a small state. It is a well known fact that small states have to devote a great deal of attention to human resources and organizational management, since they never have enough resources and capabilitiesxi to be able to develop extensive and complex diplomacies. This would be the reason why they have to react in a flexible way and constantly adapt their diplomatic organizations. But this reaction has to be built into the system and shall not be primarily a question of ad hoc improvisation. As we have seen, the high number of bodies, involved in the chairmanship process calls for a flexible and loose bureaucratic structure. It should be able to react more within a network principle than in a classical, rigid bureaucratic one. This would mean in particular that challenges (or information input) from the diplomatic and political environment have changed dramatically. They are constantly dynamic, constant and changeable all the time and demand rapid reaction with an increased level of coordination and information sharing. Generally speaking, this also characterizes the chairmanship process as such.

Hence, it would be logical and understandable to implement most of the overlapping experience in the organizational concept of the diplomatic organization.xii With the high dynamics of policy making within the EU and NATO, member countries are exposed to the constant challenges presented above. From this point of view we could describe the OSCE chairmanship as a highly useful experience, which contributes a great deal both the institutional memory and the organizational vitality of national diplomacies.

Therefore, how the chairmanship is managed and organizationally approached should also be the standard way as to how to organize a foreign ministry as a whole nowadays. Without any exaggeration, this could be close to the ideal organizational approach in small foreign ministries. Hopefully, at least the small countries which have so far chaired the OSCE have either already been organized in that way or have experienced this. For the former chairmanship it was an additional test how such an organization works efficiently, and for the latter, hopefully, an additional and perhaps also decisive argument as to how to organize the ministry.

This would mean that the diplomatic organization of a small state should be small, flexible as well as being clearly and functionally designed. It should be open and able to absorb experiences from its immediate environment as well as showing strong trend to flatten vertical levels and disperse authority and responsibility across the horizontal level. The players should be able to coordinate their work, sharing information and reacting quickly.xiii They should only forward already digested issues and leave open only a few most sensitive ones.xiv It is our strong belief and hopefully also as evidenced by the topics discussed, principles are very well exercised in the OSCE chairmanship. Its organizational challenges argue and call for their implementation also in the regular organizational chart of the diplomatic organization.

Lessons Learned

Coming back to the Slovene chairmanship and its experiences, with generalizing it, we could pick up some of the most typical and useful lessons learned. They present a mixture of political, organizational and sociological aspects. An important part of this process is exercised through a purely pragmatic approach:

• The chairmanship demands from a small diplomatic organization that it is adaptable and flexible. Primarily this provides useful output for a smooth decision-making process;

• To achieve this easily, adaptable organizational solutions have to be implemented. While drawing from them on a daily basis during the chairmanship period, they should be included in the subsequent regular organizational concept;

• The organization of the Ministerial Council meeting stands out for its complexity and the scope of demands. It highly mobilizes the whole diplomatic organization and brings at least for a few days all other activities to a lower level of dynamics;

• The need for outsourcing as a management method becomes not only obvious but also necessary in various areas (organization, logistics, security, personnel, research etc.)

• Various expected and unexpected issues which complicate the management of the process, appear throughout the chairmanship. This could be the conversion of purely technical issues into political ones (like the question of the budget and contribution scales), the shortage of consensus, maintaining a balance between the three dimensions etc.; It is rather usual, although not at all preferred, that the discrepancy appears between the activities of the CiO and an absence of the consequent progress on the ground. The higher level of CiO activities does not necessarily result in the same level of progress on the ground, although they are decisive for the tempo of the chairmanship. This could be frustrating, because progress is sometimes achieved due to the certain events which hardly have any direct connection with the (current) chairmanship;

• It is not unusual, that the high tempo of CiO activities brings results during the nextxv or even later chairmanship period. However, this is another organizational aspect of the OSCE processes, which helps to keep the process rolling on and is perhaps most noticeable through the Troika principle. From what has been presented so far it is rather easy and obvious to notice that the organizational dynamics of the chairmanship concentrates on two, perhaps three vertical levels and is widely spread throughout the horizontal ones. This results in a specific, loose and possibly very efficient networkxvi, where individual players enjoy a high level of independence and responsibility. In the author’s long experience in human resource management this is primarily a highly effective and stimulating approach. Above, we have described the running team of the chairmanship (two to three persons) as a focal point of such a network, where all the information and coordination processes go through (apart from the CiO’s direct contacts on a high level). These activities should share organizational synergy and be combined with the personal rationality of players involved and this should be stretched on a bipartisan basis. Apart from having a strong organizational character, these are also important sociological characteristics of diplomatic organization. Coordination and information exchange, which must be constant, widespread and brief, should provide the outer limits of this network, as defined by the topics of mutual concern (i.e. the current OSCE chairmanship agenda).


The main purpose of this article has been to present, on a general level, with the ambition to generalize and with a structural approach, the organizational experiences of the Slovene OSCE Chairmanship, as well as to argue that such a process can only be efficient if it ensures a constant, smooth and rich in substance provision of information. This demands a loose and horizontally-oriented organizational network, which affects the traditional organizational concept of diplomatic organization as a classical bureaucracy. Therefore, the chairmanship process which is only manageable with a flexible approach, based on project teams and task forces, which also include outside experts.

This would perhaps be the most important conclusion that has been reached in this contribution. Here, we feel the need to combine this experience with the advice that such an organizational approach could be accepted as the basis for the overall functioning of diplomacies of small state diplomacy. This is even more important bearing in mind that with EU and NATO membership they are exposed to upgraded dynamics, which sooner or later become daily routine.xvii However, only the successful management of organizational issues enables these diplomacies to establish substantial policy-making and decision-taking process, along with achieving the appropriate results.

The experiences here presented and argued could confirm our general starting proposition that two dimensions of the process (organizational and substantially political) have to complement each other; in the long run, policy making cannot rely on organizational improvisation, which would only react to the changing environmental output. And vice versa, also organizational consistency as the backbone of each diplomatic organization would be threatened by possible constant policy making improvisation. Therefore, implementing the OSCE chairmanship experience for the whole diplomatic organization is a way of organizing a complex bureaucratic machinery in a contemporary, highly interconnected and interdependent international community.

Ljubljana, 09 October 2006

International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) – Ljubljana

Bakhtyar Aljaf

i Dr Milan Jazbec, Minister Plenipotentiary, employed at the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is also Assistant Professor at the Faculty for Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. The views expressed in this article are solely his own and do not represent those of his employer.
ii With the term ‘diplomatic organisation’ we understand a permanent body or an institution consisting of the foreign ministry and the diplomatic consular network (embassies, missions to international organizations and consulates), entrusted with the implementation of a foreign policy through diplomatic activities. More on this in Jazbec, M., The Diplomacies of New Small States: The Case of Slovenia with some comparison from the Baltics, Aldershort, 20021, pp. 147-1250.
iii These aspects are not given any attention in this contribution.
iv The author of this article served one term as a State Secretary at the Defence Ministry (during that time he chaired their OSCE Project Group). During 2005 he was member of the Task Force in charge of political military issues. He also had the opportunity to follow closely as a Slovene diplomat in Stockholm the Danish (1997) and the Norwegian Chairmanship (1999). Therefore, by preparing this article, he drew heavily from his experience, using the method “observation with one’s own participation”. Gilli, G.A., Come si fa ricerca: guida alla ricerca sociale per non-specialisti, Milano, 1975.
v Four diplomats held PhD, three M.A.
vi Three young Slovene female diplomats chaired the afternoon and evening session of the PrepCom on the eve of the Ministerial Council Meeting. To the author’s knowledge this has never been the case so far.
vii After the independence of Montenegro one could expect that the 18th OSCE mission would be established in Podgorica.
viii Approximately 40% of the diplomats employed by the Slovene Ministry of Foreign Affairs were engaged in this project. This argues in favour of outsourcing as an increasingly important management method in diplomatic organizations.
ix The CORE Report (Zellner et all, 2005:33-34) speaks about the UN, the EU and the Council of Europe; we should add also NATO, see Jazbec, M., Evropski varnostni procesi – splošne znacilnosti (European Security Processes – General Characteristics), in: Hacek, M., Zajc, D. (eds.), Slovenija v EU: zmožnosti in priložnosti (Slovenia in the EU: capabilities and opportunities), Ljubljana: FDV, 2005, pp. 447-462.
x It is not only the author’s strong belief, but also his personal experience that this “necessary political and organizational substance” has been empirically proved during the Slovene chairmanship. Because of the limits of this article it is not possible to present them in a graphic way, which would make it easier to cope with the complexity, which derives from the overlapping of both clusters.
xi More on this in Jazbec, 2001:110-118.
xii Here, we can point out three important events in the case of Slovenia: non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council (1998-1999), the OSCE Chairmanship in 2005 and the future EU Presidency in 2008. (Compare, Jazbec, M., Zur Entwicklung der Europäischen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik: Die Rolle und Perspektiven Sloweniens. Wien, 2006). They add to continous and increasing experience as well as demonstrating, how to organize a small diplomatic organization to be able to compete with those of bigger and more experienced states.
xiii With this remark we come close to the nature of multilateral diplomacy within the United Nations: “Multilateral diplomacy in the UN requires an astonishing grasp of detail, speed of movement and ability to capitalize on one’s gains.” Edwards, R.D., True Brits: Inside the Foreign Office. London 1994. Compare also Jazbec, M., 2001:66-72.
xiv The already discussed running team of the chairmanship should in principle forward to the CiO only agreed and closed issues.
xv The long awaited decision to again hold the Seminar on Military Doctrines was made towards the end of the Slovene Chairmanship and was executed at the start of the Belgian one.
xvi Conditionally speaking, we could describe a network as a variety of cross-organizational processes on a low number of levels, which do not have any specific central point or that this point is a moving nucleus of interactions, which refer to a small group of exposed individuals.
xvii This can be confirmed as the Slovene experience after two years of both memberships.