- Parliamentary representation
- Special guest status
- Political groups
- The Bureau
- The Standing Committee
- The Joint Committee
- Assembly Committees
- Composition and working methods of committees
- Interparliamentary co-operation
- External relations
1. Parliamentary representation
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE) consists of a number of individual representatives from each member
State, with a President elected each year from among them for a maximum
period of two sessions. The present President is Jean-Claude MIGNON
(France, EPP/CD). He was
elected in January 2012.
Whilst in the Committee of Ministers each member State
has one vote, in the Parliamentary Assembly the number of representatives
and consequently of votes is determined by the size of the country. The
biggest number is eighteen, the smallest two. As there are an equal number
of representatives and substitutes, the total number of members of the
Assembly is therefore 636, plus 18 Observers.
They are appointed to the PACE in a manner, which is
left to be decided by each member state, as long as they are elected
within their national or federal Parliament, or appointed from amongst
the members of that parliament. The balance of political parties within
each national delegation must ensure a fair representation of the political
parties or groups in their national parliaments.
The accession process usually begins with a request
to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, who transmits it to
the Committee of Ministers for consideration. The latter consults the
Parliamentary Assembly, which in turn examines whether the candidate
fulfils all the necessary requirements. This is done by an on-the-spot
visit by parliamentary committees and also, since the 90s, by fact-finding
missions by eminent jurists. Although not a statutory provision, it has
also become customary to require the acceptance of the European Convention
on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by any new candidate. The Opinion
adopted by the PACE then determines the invitation from the Committee
of Ministers to the State to become a full member.
||2. Special guest status
In order to facilitate the process of accession of
the countries from Central and Eastern Europe, the Assembly introduced
in 1989 a so-called special guest status, applicable to all national
legislative assemblies of European non-member states, which have signed
the Helsinki Final Act (1975) and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe.
The decision to grant special guest status is taken by the Bureau of
The National Assembly of Belarus obtained the status
on 16 September 1992 but it was suspended on 13 January 1997 by a decision
of the Bureau. The number of seats allocated to each special guest delegation
is the same (although without substitutes) as that likely to be attributed
when becoming a full member.
Special guests have many rights in the Assembly and
in committees (except in the Joint Committee, the Monitoring Commitee and
the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities), with the exception
of the right to vote or to stand for election.
The Assembly may, on the proposal of the Bureau, grant Observer status
to national parliaments of non-member states of the Council of Europe which
meet the conditions set out in paragraph 1 of Statutory
Resolution (93) 26 of the Committee of Ministers
on Observer status.
The Assembly shall specify the number of members of Observer delegations (Canada,
Israel, Mexico). The parliaments concerned are not required to submit credentials
to the President of the Assembly but, in appointing their delegations, they should
reflect the various currents of opinion within their parliaments
Members of such delegations may sit in the Assembly but without the right to
vote. They shall have the right to speak with the authorisation of the President
of the Assembly.
They may attend committee meetings as provided in Rule 47.5.
(Source: rule 60 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly)
||4. Political groups
In order to develop a non-national European outlook, the formation of
political groups in the Parliamentary Assembly has been promoted and from
1964 onwards they were granted certain rights within the Rules of Procedure.
At present the Assembly counts five political groups: the Socialist Group
(SOC); the Group of the European People's Party (EPP/CD); Alliance of Liberals
and Democrats for Europe (ALDE); the European Democrat Group (EDG) and
the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL). Political Groups have to
commit themselves to respect the promotion of the values of the Council
of Europe, notably political pluralism, human rights and the rule of law.
To form a Group, at least twenty members of at least six different delegations
have to decide to do so. Members of the Assembly are entirely free to choose
the Group they wish to join. Before deciding they can attend meetings of
one or several groups and should not be bound by their national party label
but choose the group which best suits their political affinities. The President
of the Assembly and the leaders of the groups form the Presidential Committee
of the PACE.
||5. The Bureau
The President, twenty Vice-Presidents, the Chairpersons
of the political groups or their representatives as well as the Chairpersons
of the general PACE Committees or their substitutes make up the Bureau
of the Assembly. The big countries have a permanent seat in the Bureau;
the smaller countries take turns. The duties of the Bureau are manifold:
preparation of the Assembly's agenda, reference of documents to committees,
arrangement of day-to-day business, relations with other international
||6. The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee consists of
the Bureau and the Chairpersons of national delegations. It is generally
convened at least twice a year and its major task is to act on behalf
of the PACE when the latter is not in session. Each year one of the Standing
Committee meetings, together with a number of other committees, takes
place normally in one of the member states.
||7. The Joint Committee
The Joint Committee is the forum set up to co-ordinate
the activities of, and maintain good relations between, the Committee
of Ministers and the Assembly.
It is composed of a representative of each member Government
and a corresponding number of representatives of the Assembly (the members
of the Bureau and one representative of each parliamentary delegation
of member States not represented on the Bureau)
||8. Assembly Committees
According to its Rules of Procedure, the PACE has
8 committees with the following figures:
- Political Affairs and Democracy: 84 seats
- Legal Affairs and Human Rights: 84 seats
- Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development: 84 seats
- Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons: 84 seats
- Culture, Science, Education and Media: 84 seats
- Equality and Non-Discrimination: 84 seats
- Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee): 84 seats
- Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs: 27 seats
The Bureau and the Standing Committee do not count
in this list. At times there are also ad hoc committees directly responsible
to the Bureau. In the interest of its work, a committee may also appoint
one or more standing or ad hoc sub-committees, of which it shall determine
the exact composition and competence at the time of their appointment.
Membership must not be more than one third of the total number of members
of the parent committee. Sub-committees do not adopt reports. Their decisions
are submitted to the plenary committee, which appointed it.
||9. Composition and working methods of Committees
Committees are composed of representatives or substitutes
of the Assembly. All committees (with the exception of the Committee
on the Honouring of obligations and commitments by member states, known
as the Monitoring Committee) have an equal number of Alternates of the
same nationality who have the same rights although they may not be elected
chairperson of that committee. Other members of the same nationality
can replace absent members of the committee.
Nominations to committees are proposed by national
delegations and ratified by the PACE, the Committee on the Honouring
of obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe
(Monitoring Committee) being an exception.
At the beginning of each session, i.e. in January of
each year, the committees are reconstituted and elect their chairperson
and three vice-chairpersons. The chairperson can be re-elected twice,
i.e. remain in office for a maximum of three sessions only.
In general, a committee can work when one third of
its members are present.
Its discussions are held in camera, but the committee
is free to admit anybody to its meeting whom it wishes. Secretaries to
national delegations may attend the meetings of committees, except for
those of the Monitoring Committee.
||10. Interparliamentary co-operation
The Pan-European Programme for Inter-Parliamentary Co-operation and Assistance
of the Parliamentary Assembly (DEMOPARL) is open to member states as well
as to those enjoying special guest status. The programme covers in particular
three fields: information and training for parliamentarians and parliamentary
staff; multilateral and bilateral co-operation in the legislative field;
assistance with documentation and the organisation of meetings.
|| 11. External relations
Carla del Ponte
External relations of the Assembly cover
national parliaments of member states, of non-member states, international
parliamentary assemblies and international intergovernmental organisations
and are governed by decisions of the Bureau of the Assembly.
Whilst relations with national parliaments are covered
by the provisions of membership, special guest or observer status, the
PACE has developed its contacts with other international parliamentary
assemblies such as the European Parliament, the Western European Union,
the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the Inter-Parliamentary Union,
Benelux, the Nordic Council, PABSEC, CIS and others.
For many years the Assembly has also been operational
as parliamentary forum for a certain number of intergovernmental organisations,
in particular the OECD, and has developed close relations with specific
organisations such as the EBRD and many of the specialised agencies of
the United Nations.