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The Secretary General
The Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the chairman of the North Atlantic Council, the supreme decision-making organisation of the defence alliance. The Secretary-General also serves as the leader of the organisation's staff and as its chief spokesman...
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is the chairman of the North Atlantic Council
North Atlantic Council is the most senior political governing body of NATO established by Article 9 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The NAC can be held at the Permanent Representative Level , or can be composed of member states' Ministers of State, Defense, or Heads of Government. The NAC has the...
, the supreme decision-making organisation of the defence alliance. The Secretary-General also serves as the leader of the organisation's staff and as its chief spokesman. In addition to these official responsibilities, the Secretary General must maintain close relations with the head of state
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...
of each NATO country, and work both formally and informally with other diplomats to deal with issues facing the alliance.
As a matter of tradition, the post of Secretary General is held by a European. This structure is intended to balance the influence of the United States, which appoints the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO's senior military officer. The Secretary General is selected by consensus among the NATO member states. There is no formal process for the selection; instead, diplomats from the NATO states informally discuss the matter until a candidate is selected. The Secretary-General typically serves for a four-year term, but he or she may be asked to serve for a fifth year or longer, with the consensus of the member states.
The NATO countries selected the first Secretary General on April 4, 1952. Since that time, twelve different diplomats have served officially as Secretary General. The position has also been occupied temporarily on three occasions by an acting Secretary General in between appointments.