With 57 participating states, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world's largest regional security organization. It includes the European countries, the United States, Canada and the countries of Central Asia. The OSCE's first institutions, including the Parliamentary Assembly, were created by the Charter of Paris in 1990. The Parliamentary Assembly held its first session in Budapest in 1992.
The OSCE takes a comprehensive approach to security. Among its key concerns are arms control and disarmament, preventive diplomacy, democratization, confidence-building measures, human rights, and economic and environmental security. Its goal is to bring states together as equal partners to discuss and agree on measures to enhance the security of the participating states, both individually and collectively.
The Finnish delegation has six members and six alternates. It submits an annual activity report to Parliament.
The delegation's secretariat is part of the Parliament's International Department.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is attended by over 300 full and alternate members, who are elected by their national parliaments. The number of members from each country is roughly proportional to its population. Only one of the 57 participating States, the Holy See (Vatican), is not represented by lawmakers in the Parliamentary Assembly. This is because it has no parliament.
The Parliamentary Assembly monitors the implementation of the OSCE's objectives, discusses issues brought up in the Ministerial Council and summits, supports democratic institutions and promotes the peaceful settlement of conflicts. It submits recommendations and proposals to the Ministerial Council. The Annual Session takes a stand on timely international political developments by adopting declarations.
The Parliamentary Assembly holds its Annual Session in July. The President who is elected at this time represents the PA between sessions. The Standing Committee and three general committees meet during the Annual Session. Each session revolves around a special theme chosen in advance.
The other major meetings on the Assembly's calendar are the Winter and Autumn Meetings, when the Standing Committee and the three general committees convene. The first Winter and Autumn Meetings were held in 2002 in Vienna and Madrid, respectively.
The Annual Session elects the Assembly President and nine Vice-Presidents. The President is elected for one year at a time and can be reelected once. The Vice-Presidents' term is three years.
The Standing Committee consists of the heads of national delegations and the members of the Bureau. Its task is to prepare matters for discussion in Assembly meetings, and if necessary it can approve declarations concerning urgent political issues.
The Assembly has three general committees: the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security; the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment; and the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. The Assembly may also establish ad hoc committees and working groups to address timely issues.
The members of the Bureau are the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer, the President Emeritus and the officers of the general committees.
To ensure communication between the Assembly and the OSCE's other organs, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and senior officials attend plenary sessions. The Assembly President also speaks at meetings of the Ministerial Council.
The Parliamentary Assembly's budget for the 2013-2014 accounting period totaled just over €3 million. Finland's share was 1.85%.
The OSCE's six official languages are English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.
The OSCE's highest decision-making body, when convened, is the OSCE Summit, and its highest decision-making body that convenes regularly is the annual Ministerial Council. A key decision-making body is the Permanent Council, which convenes weekly in Vienna. The country holding the Chairmanship of the OSCE directs decision-making in the Permanent Council. The OSCE also has a number of organs and institutions whose tasks include monitoring the implementation of decisions worked out in negotiations. In this category are the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The OSCE is financed by the participating States, whose shares are determined annually. The budget is approximately €145 million.
One of the key tasks of the OSCE is to monitor the functioning of democratic institutions such as elections. The Assembly sends delegations primarily to monitor parliamentary elections in participating states. In some cases it may also monitor presidential elections, often in cooperation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and other interparliamentary assemblies.
OSCE field missions are established in regions where an international presence is needed. The mandate, size and role of a mission depends on the country in question and is decided by the Permanent Council.
The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) held its summit in Helsinki in 1975. In the Final Act the 35 signatories agreed to arrange regular international meetings to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in the Final Act. These cover military and non-military security, including economic and environmental matters, human rights and cultural and educational cooperation. A series of meetings and conferences followed in the years up to 1990, when the CSCE's first institutions were established by the Charter of Paris. The CSCE was renamed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1995.