Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

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The emblem of the PACE

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, an international organisation dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and which oversees the European Court of Human Rights. It is made up of 318 parliamentarians from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe's 47 member states, and generally meets four times a year for week-long plenary sessions in Strasbourg.

The Assembly held its first session in Strasbourg on 10 August 1949, and can be considered the oldest international parliamentary assembly with a pluralistic composition of democratically-elected members of parliament established on the basis of an intergovernmental treaty.

Functions[edit]

The hemicycle of the PACE at the Palace of Europe

Unlike the European Parliament (an institution of the European Union), which was created after the model of the PACE and also meets in Strasbourg for its plenary sessions (prior to 1999, in the PACE hemicycle), its powers extend only to the ability to investigate, recommend and advise. Even so, its recommendations on issues such as human rights have significant weight in the European political context. The European Parliament and other European Union institutions often refer to the work of PACE, especially in the field of human rights, legal co-operation and cultural co-operation.

Important statutory functions of the PACE are the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

In general it meets 4 times per year at Strasbourg at the Palace of Europe for a week. The 10 permanent commissions of the Assembly meet all year long to prepare reports and projects for resolutions in their respective fields of expertise.

The Assembly sets its own agenda. It discusses European and international events and examines current subjects which interest the populations of the countries of Europe. The main themes covered are human rights, democracy, protection of minorities and the rule of law.

Election of judges[edit]

Judges are elected by PACE from a list of three candidates nominated by each member state which has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the European Convention does not, in itself, require member states to present a multi-sex shortlist of potential appointees, PACE Resolution 1366 (2004) states that it ‘will not consider lists of candidates where the list does not include at least one candidate of each sex’.[1] As part of a package of changes designed to improve its working procedures, PACE decided in 2014 to create a special committee to deal with the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights. The new 20-member committee – meeting in camera – will interview candidates for judge on the Court and assess their CVs before making recommendations to the full Assembly, which selects judges from a shortlist by voting.[2]

Members[edit]

It has a total of 642 members – 321 principal members and 321 substitutes [3] – who are representatives of each member state. There are also 18 delegates from the Canadian, Israeli and Mexican observers. The size of each country determines its number of representatives and number of votes. This is in contrast in the committee of ministers, where each country has one vote.

Each State member selects its method of designating its representatives to the parliamentary assembly; however, they must be chosen from among the members of the respective Parliaments. Moreover, the political composition of each national delegation must reflect the representation of the different parties within the respective parliaments.

Some notable former members of PACE include:

Composition by parliamentary delegation[edit]

Parliament Seats Accession date
Albania Albania 4 1995
Andorra Andorra 2 1994
Armenia Armenia 4 2001
Austria Austria 6 1956
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 6 2001
Belgium Belgium 7 1949
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 5 2002
Bulgaria Bulgaria 6 1992
Croatia Croatia 5 1996
Cyprus Cyprus 3 1961 - 1964, 1984
Czech Republic Czech Republic 7 1991
Denmark Denmark 5 1949
Estonia Estonia 3 1993
Finland Finland 5 1989
France France 18 1949
Georgia (country) Georgia 5 1999
Germany Germany 18 1951
Greece Greece 7 1949
Hungary Hungary 7 1990
Iceland Iceland 3 1959
Republic of Ireland Ireland 4 1949
Italy Italy 18 1949
Latvia Latvia 3 1995
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 2 1978
Lithuania Lithuania 4 1993
Luxembourg Luxembourg 3 1949
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 3 1995
Malta Malta 3 1965
Moldova Moldova 5 1995
Monaco Monaco 2 2004
Montenegro Montenegro 3 2007[6]
Netherlands Netherlands 7 1949
Norway Norway 5 1949
Poland Poland 12 1991
Portugal Portugal 7 1976
Romania Romania 10 1993
Russia Russia 18[7] 1996
San Marino San Marino 2 1988
Serbia Serbia 7 2003
Slovakia Slovakia 5 1993[8]
Slovenia Slovenia 3 1993
Spain Spain 12 1977
Sweden Sweden 6 1949
Switzerland Switzerland 6 1963
Turkey Turkey 12 1949
Ukraine Ukraine 12 1995
United Kingdom United Kingdom 18 1949

The special guest status of the National Assembly of Belarus was suspended on 13 January 1997.

Parliaments with observer status[edit]

Parliament Seats Date
Canada Canada 6 1996[9]
Israel Israel 3  ?
Mexico Mexico  ? 1999

Parliaments with Partner for Democracy status[edit]

Parliament Seats Date
Morocco Morocco 6 2011
State of Palestine Palestine 3 2011[10]
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 3 2014[11]

Parliamentarians with observer status[edit]

Parliamentarians Seats Date
Turkish Cypriot Community 2 2004[12][13][14][15]

Composition by political group[edit]

The Assembly has five political groups.[16]

Group Ideology Chairman Members
Socialist Group Social democracy, democratic socialism Andreas Gross 203
European People's Party Christian democracy, liberal conservatism Pedro Agramunt 187
European Conservatives Group Conservatism Christopher Chope 81
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Liberalism Jordi Xuclà i Costa 77
Unified European Left Group Democratic socialism, communism Tiny Kox 36

Languages[edit]

The official languages of the council of Europe are English and French, but the assembly also uses German, Italian and Russian as working languages. At the plenary sessions (which lasts one week and take place four times per year), the available languages are English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Greek and Spanish, for which there are interpreters. Each member of Parliament has individual headphones and a controller for him to choose the desired language. Foreign guests who speak another language must either express themselves in one of the two official languages, or bring their own interpreter. In spite of this, the majority of the interventions in the assembly are done in English.[citation needed]

Presidents[edit]

The presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have been :

Period Name Country Party
1949 Édouard Herriot (interim)  France Radical Party
1949–51 Paul-Henri Spaak  Belgium Socialist Party
1952–54 François de Menthon  France Popular Republican Movement
1954–56 Guy Mollet  France Socialist Party
1956–59 Fernand Dehousse  Belgium Socialist Party
1959 John Edwards  United Kingdom Labour Party
1960–63 Per Federspiel  Denmark Venstre
1963–66 Pierre Pflimlin  France Popular Republican Movement
1966–69 Geoffrey de Freitas  United Kingdom Labour Party
1969–72 Olivier Reverdin   Switzerland Liberal Party
1972–75 Giuseppe Vedovato  Italy Christian Democracy
1975–78 Karl Czernetz  Austria Social Democratic Party
1978–81 Hans de Koster  Netherlands People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
1981–82 José María de Areilza  Spain Union of the Democratic Centre
1983–86 Karl Ahrens  Germany Social Democratic Party
1986–89 Louis Jung  France Centre of Social Democrats
1989–92 Anders Björck  Sweden Moderate Party
1992 Geoffrey Finsberg  United Kingdom Conservative Party
1992–95 Miguel Ángel Martínez Martínez  Spain Socialist Workers' Party
1996–99 Leni Fischer  Germany Christian Democratic Union
1999–2002 Russell Johnston  United Kingdom Liberal Democrats
2002–2004 Peter Schieder  Austria Social Democratic Party
2005–2008 René van der Linden  Netherlands Christian Democratic Appeal
2008–2010 Lluís Maria de Puig  Spain Socialist Workers' Party
2010–2012 Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu  Turkey Justice and Development Party
2012–2014 Jean-Claude Mignon  France Union for a Popular Movement
2014 Anne Brasseur  Luxembourg Democratic Party

The Assembly elected Wojciech Sawicki (Poland)[17] as its Secretary General in 2010. His five-year term of office began in February 2011.

Controversy[edit]

Russia suspension[edit]

The assembly voted to suspend the Russian delegation's voting rights as well as the rights to be represented in the Bureau of the Assembly, the PACE Presidential Committee, the PACE Standing Committee, and the rights to participate in election-observation missions, after the assembly condemned the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The suspension applies from 10 April 2014 and throughout the remainder of the 2014 session. In the event of no Russian de-escalation and launch of political initiatives to resolve the territorial dispute with Ukraine, the suspension might be converted to a full exclusion from PACE.[7] The suspension of Russia is so far limitted to PACE activities, and does not affect the Russian delegation in the second statutory political body of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers.[18]

On 4 June 2014, Russia suspended its cooperation with PACE, since its delegates were deprived of voting rights in the aftermath of the Ukrainian conflict.[19]

Alleged corruption[edit]

In 2013, the New York Times reported that “some council members, notably Central Asian states and Russia, have tried to influence the organization’s parliamentary assembly with lavish gifts and trips”.[20] According to the report, said member states also hire lobbyists to fend off criticism of their human rights records.[21] German news magazine Der Spiegel had earlier revealed details about the strategies of Azerbaijan’s government to influence the voting behaviour of selected members of the Parliamentary Assembly.[22] As a consequence to the allegations, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has made the fight against corruption his big challenge.[23]

Cultural divisions[edit]

Although the Council of Europe is a human rights watchdog and a guardian against discrimination, it is widely regarded as becoming increasingly divided on moral issues because its membership includes mainly Muslim Turkey as well as East European countries, among them Russia, where social conservatism is strong.[24] In 2007, this became evident when the Parliamentary Assembly voted on a report compiled by Liberal Democrat Anne Brasseur on the rise of Christian creationism, bolstered by right-wing and populist parties in Eastern Europe.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Adelaide Remiche (August 12, 2012), Election of the new Belgian Judge to the ECtHR: An all-male short list demonstrates questionable commitment to gender equality Oxford Human Rights Hub, University of Oxford.
  2. ^ PACE creates a special committee for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights, 24/06/2014.
  3. ^ This number is fixed by article 26.
  4. ^ https://wcd.coe.int/wcd/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=PR968%282010%29&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&Site=DC&BackColorInternet=F5CA75&BackColorIntranet=F5CA75&BackColorLogged=A9BACE
  5. ^ (Italian) [1]
  6. ^ previously part of Serbia and Montenegro: member since 2003
  7. ^ a b "PACE Deprives Russia Of Voting Rights". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. April 13, 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Previously part of Czechoslovakia, member since 1991
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ KTTO
  13. ^ Res.1997-1113
  14. ^ Res.2004-1376
  15. ^ James Ker-Lindsay The Foreign Policy of Counter Secession: Preventing the Recognition of Contested States, p.149: "...despite strong opposition from the Cypriot government, The Turkish Cypriot community was awarded observer status in the PACE"
  16. ^ http://website-pace.net/en_GB/web/apce/political-groups
  17. ^ http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/PA-SG/Sawicki/defaut.asp
  18. ^ "Russia suspended from Council of Europe body". EuropeanVoice. 10 April 2014. 
  19. ^ gulf-times.com: "Russia snubs PACE" 4 Jun 2014, p.21
  20. ^ Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
  21. ^ Judy Dempsey (April 27, 2012), Where a Glitzy Pop Contest Takes Priority Over Rights International Herald Tribune.
  22. ^ Ralf Neukirch (January 4, 2012), A Dictator's Dream: Azerbaijan Seeks to Burnish Image Ahead of Eurovision Der Spiegel.
  23. ^ Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
  24. ^ a b Stephen Castle (October 4, 2007), European lawmakers condemn efforts to teach creationism International Herald Tribune.

Further reading[edit]

  • (French) Le Conseil de l'Europe, Jean-Louis Burban, publisher PUF, collection « Que sais-je ? », n° 885.

External links[edit]