to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly
1. Committee meetings
Although committees deal in particular with
reports, they have great freedom to discuss any matter within their
competence when they agree to do so. They organise hearings, colloquies or
conferences on particular subjects, the findings of which can then be used
for the preparation of reports to the Assembly.
Committees meet either in Strasbourg or
Paris, possibly in Brussels when a joint meeting with a body of the
European Parliament is envisaged or in Budapest at the European Youth
Centre. The meetings generally last one day. Each committee
normally holds one meeting combined with a visit to a member state. It
serves the purpose of informing the committee on the particular situation
in that country.
Sub-committees can also meet once a year
outside Strasbourg and Paris. However, in order to participate in meetings
or hearings organised by intergovernmental bodies of the Council of
Europe, as well as in conferences of Specialised Ministers, they can hold
supplementary meetings after having been authorised by the Bureau of the
2. Sessions and sittings
The sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly
are divided into four part-sessions, each lasting for about a week at the
end of January, April, June and the beginning of October. Taking into
account the system of representatives and substitutes to the Assembly,
practice that morning and afternoon sittings are considered separate
sittings. This enables Representatives to be replaced by a Substitute at
Seats allocated to members in the Chamber
are arranged in the shape of a horseshoe and allocated in alphabetical
order. Consequently members do not sit in national delegations or in
political groups. Speaking-time being short, a system of white and red
lights indicates to speakers when their speaking-time is running out or
when it is over.
4. Official and working languages
According to the Statute, the official
languages of the Council of Europe are English and French. However, the
Assembly provides interpretation in German, Italian and Russian as
additional working languages at the expense of the Council of Europe's
budget. Several other languages have been added, in particular for the
plenary debates, at the expense of the delegations that request it. All
documents are drawn up simultaneously in English and French.
5. The Table Office
The Table Office advises members of the
Assembly, secretaries of delegations, of political groups and other
officials on how best to achieve their objectives within the Rules of
Procedure and serves as custodian of these rules. It also submits opinions
to the President of the Assembly whenever a procedural difficulty arises.
It has specific responsibilities for the credentials of members, for
convening the Assembly and for keeping the Assembly's Order of Business up
to date. Motions, amendments, questions, written declarations and
committee reports are submitted through the Table Office. Nominations for
membership of committees or for the election to the posts of President,
Vice-President and other posts are handed in to the Table Office. The
register of speakers is also kept and drawn up there.
The Assembly's plenary debates are held in
public while committees meet generally in camera. The debates are
conducted according to the principles observed in national parliaments.
The number of representatives who may take part in a debate is not
limited, except in specific cases such as debates on requests for urgent
procedure or on procedural motions. Due to the general shortage of
debating time available, the Bureau proposes to the Assembly a programme
and a timetable for each specific debate. That timetable is adopted at
the same time as the order of business. In practice this means that a
debate is interrupted as soon as time runs out in order to allow time for
consideration of amendments and voting. In general, speakers are able to
speak for five minutes. If the debate has to be terminated before
the list of speakers has come to an end, those speakers concerned may hand
in their speeches to the Table Office. They will then be published in the
official report, provided their length does not exceed the speaking time
Under specific circumstances urgent
procedure may allow a debate to be held on an item which had not been on
the Agenda of the Assembly. The adoption of urgent procedure requires a
two-third majority of the votes cast. The Committee of Ministers, the
committee concerned or at least 20 members must have made the request.
Similar regulations apply to the Standing Committee.
A current affairs debate, at the end of
which the Assembly or the Standing Committee does not adopt a text, can
also be introduced using a similar procedure.
Only members duly designated by the
national delegation and who have signed the register of attendance for the
specific sitting shall be entitled to vote. The Assembly normally votes by
using the electronic voting system. A vote by roll call is only applied
if at least one sixth of the Representatives belonging to at least five
national delegations express their desire to do so. In the case of
appointments, voting shall take place by secret ballot.
A two-thirds majority is required for
questions such as a draft recommendation or draft opinion to the Committee
of Ministers or the
adoption of urgent procedure. In respect of a draft resolution and any
other decision, a majority of the votes cast is required.
The Assembly may deliberate and decide a
certain number of questions, whatever the number of representatives
present, unless before voting, the President has been requested to
ascertain the number of those present. At least one sixth of the
Representatives authorised to vote belonging to at least five national
delegations have to vote in favour of such a request.
The quorum is one third of the number of
Representatives of the Assembly authorised to vote.
10. Prerogatives with regard to
Whilst it is normal that the Assembly
elects its President and Vice-Presidents, it also carries out a series of
other elections, a characteristic that reinforces its role as
parliamentary organ of the Council of Europe.
The Assembly elects the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe, the Deputy Secretary General as well as the
Secretary General of the Assembly. All three are elected by secret ballot
for a period of 5 years.
The Assembly also elects members of the
European Court of Human Rights. In particular, since the setting up of the
single Court, this procedure has been developed and hearings of the
candidates are organised by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights before the secret ballot vote takes place in the Assembly.
Members of the European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are
elected by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from a list
of three names drawn up by the Bureau of the Assembly.
The Assembly also elects the Commissioner
for Human Rights. This Commissioner, who has a non-judicial function, is
responsible for furthering human rights in member States and ensuring full
and effective respect of Council of Europe texts.
11. Assembly texts
The Assembly can adopt three different types
of texts: recommendations, resolutions and opinions.
- Recommendations contain proposals addressed to the Committee
of Ministers, the implementation of which is within the competence
- Resolutions embody decisions by the Assembly on questions,
which it is empowered to put into effect or expressions of view for,
which it alone is responsible.
- The Assembly mostly expresses opinions on questions put to
it by the Committee of Ministers, such as the admission of new member
states to the Council of Europe, but also on draft conventions, the
budget, the implementation of the Social Charter.
Search adopted texts
12. Drafting of reports
In general, a motion for a recommendation
or resolution generates reports. This motion has to be tabled by ten or
more members of the Assembly belonging to at least five national
delegations. It is then referred to a committee for report and possibly to
other committees for opinion. The main committee then appoints a
Rapporteur who drafts, with the help of the Assembly secretariat,
his national delegation, his own expertise or some specially recruited
expert, a report which is divided into two parts: the operational draft
resolution, recommendation or opinion and the explanatory
Both parts are discussed in committee, but
only the operational part is voted on. Although the explanatory memorandum
is drafted in the name of the Rapporteur, he has to take into account
dissenting opinions voiced in the committee. When a report has been
adopted in the committee it is tabled for discussion by the Assembly
either at a part-session or at a meeting of the Standing Committee.
Furthermore, written declarations allow
members of the Assembly to give formal expression to their views on
matters of European interest. At least twenty representatives or
substitutes of four nationalities and two political parties must sign a
written declaration. It must not exceed 200 words. If judged by the
President to be in order, it is printed as an Assembly document and
distributed. If a written declaration receives new signatures before the
opening of the next part-session is redistributed.
13. Assembly records
The Rules of Procedure of the Parliamentary
Assembly list the following official documents: Orders of the Day, Minutes
of the Proceedings, Official Reports of Sittings, Reports, Communications,
Requests for opinion transmitted by the Committee of Ministers, Questions
to and answers from the Committee of Ministers, Communications from the
Secretary General, Motions tabled by members, Reports by committees and
amendments thereto, Reports of international organisations, Written
Declarations and Adopted Texts.
The Orders of the Day are published in a
printed-paper known as the Notice (Bulletin in French), circulated before
each sitting. It also contains all other relevant information for members.
The Minutes of Proceedings are the record
of decisions taken by the Assembly.
Reports of Debates contain the verbatim
speeches in English or in French in the report compiled in that language
and a summary of its simultaneous interpretation in the other official
language. Thus the English report contains in extenso the speeches made in
English, together with a summary in English of the speeches made in French
or any other language.
Recommendations, opinions and resolutions are published in a provisional edition after their adoption. A
final version is published in a part-volume after each part-session in the
Assembly documents are also reprinted in a
collected edition at the end of a part session. Printed volumes of
Assembly records are sent automatically to the secretariats of national
delegations as soon as they are published. They are sent to members on