Malta primed to head OSCE for first time

OSCE diplomats meeting in Vienna recommend that Malta be chosen to chair the OSCE, a regional security and cooperation organisation, next year

The OSCE headquarters is situated in Vienna (Photo: OSCE)
The OSCE headquarters is situated in Vienna (Photo: OSCE)

Updated at 3:30pm with Robert Abela visit to OSCE

Malta has been recommended by the OSCE Permanent Council to chair the international organisation that brings together 57 member states.

The unanimous decision was taken on Monday in Vienna, where the organisation is headquartered.

It will be up to foreign ministers of the member countries to approve Malta as OSCE chair in 2024 during a meeting on Thursday.

Shortly after the decision, Prime Minister Robert Abela met OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid at the Maltese embassy in Vienna. Abela was in Austria for bilateral meetings with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Abela congratulated Schmid for leading the organisation through turbulent times and expressed Malta’s support towards the renewal of her mandate, a statement by the Department of Information said. Malta also supports the renewal of existing mandates for other top officials at the OSCE, including the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media, and the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities.

Malta's prime minister Robert Abela welcomes the OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid at the Maltese embassy in Vienna
Malta's prime minister Robert Abela welcomes the OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid at the Maltese embassy in Vienna

The decision breaks the deadlock that developed after Russia objected to Estonia taking over the leadership of the OSCE when North Macedonia’s term is over.

“Malta’s ability to speak to everyone was the key aspect that tipped the balance in its favour,” sources close to the talks said.

The annual ministerial meeting of the OSCE that will be held in Skopje on 30 November and 1 December is expected to formally adopt the recommendation, the sources added.

North Macedonia conducted intense negotiations behind closed doors resolve the impasse and avoid an unprecedented leadership vacuum in the organisation. The Balkan country’s tenure end on 31 December.

Estonia had launched a bid to take over the OSCE chair in 2024 three years ago but faced opposition from Russia.

The OSCE is a regional security organisation and this will be the first time for Malta to be chairing it. The one-year term coincides with Malta’s membership of the UN Security Council.

The Security and Human Rights Monitor, a platform that provides analysis and news on the OSCE, says the chair is responsible for guiding negotiations among the 57 participating states and helping them achieve consensus. "The foreign minister of the country at the helm of the OSCE is a trouble shooter who is expected to travel to crisis hotspots in the region, including Ukraine and South Eastern Europe."

Furthermore, the platform says the chair is also responsible for brokering agreement on the budget, making key appointments, chairing the weekly permanent council and even hosting meetings.

If ministers approve Malta’s candidacy it will be another crowning moment for the country's diplomatic efforts and another eventful year for the foreign ministry in light of the current geopolitical turbulences.

During his visit to the OSCE, Abela was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ian Borg and Head of Secretariat of the Office of the Prime Minister Glenn Micallef.