The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was established in 1975 with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. In 1994, it was decided to convert the CSCE into the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Unlike other international organizations, the OSCE is not a treaty-based organization, but is instead based purely on political consensus decisions.
The main task of the OSCE is to define common standards for intergovernmental behavior and for relations between Governments and citizens. Additionally, the OSCE is involved in integrating new democracies into the community of shared values and in activities related to crisis management and conflict prevention. Increasingly, the latter have grown to be the OSCE’s primary areas of focus as the traditional East-West conflict has eased.
To strengthen parliamentary influence on OSCE cooperation, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) was established in 1992. The tasks of the Assembly are to evaluate the implementation of the OSCE’s overall objectives, to address current matters on behalf of the OSCE and to submit recommendations to the governmental section of the OSCE. The Parliamentary Assembly consists of 320 parliamentarians from the 56 Member States.
The OSCE PA convenes for one session and two meetings annually:
- a winter meeting, two days in February – always held in Vienna, Austria
- an annual session, five days in July, location rotates between the Member States
- an autumn meeting, two days in October, usually held in the Mediterranean area
The day-to-day work in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is carried out by the Bureau, made up of the President, nine Vice-Presidents, the treasurer and the former president. Additionally, meetings are held in the Standing Committee, comprising of the Bureau, the heads of the national delegations and the Chairs of the three committees. The Standing Committee is the decision-making body in between the annual sessions. The Parliamentary Assembly and the three committees are served by an international secretariat, which has been located in Copenhagen, Denmark since its establishment.