Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
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.
- 1 Functions
- 2 Members
- 3 Languages
- 4 Presidents
- 5 Controversy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
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.
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 in Strasbourg at the Palace of Europe for week-long plenary sessions. The 8 permanent committees of the Assembly meet all year long to prepare reports and draft 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
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’. 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.
It has a total of 636 members – 318 principal members and 318 substitutes  – who are appointed or elected by the parliaments of each member state. Delegations must reflect the balance in the national parliament, so contain members of both ruling parties and oppositions. There are also observer delegates from the Canadian, Israeli and Mexican parliaments. The size of each country determines its number of representatives and number of votes. This is in contrast to the Committee of Ministers, where each country has one vote.
Some notable former members of PACE include:
- Dick Marty (Switzerland), appointed in late 2005 as rapporteur to investigate the CIA extraordinary renditions scandal and organ theft in Kosovo by the Kosovo Liberation Army from the Kosovo war, in 1998–2001
- Marcello Dell'Utri (Italy), convicted for complicity in conspiracy with the Mafia (Italian: concorso in associazione mafiosa), a crime for which he was found guilty on appeal and sentenced to 7 years in 2010.
Composition by parliamentary delegation
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||5||2002|
|Cyprus||3||1961 - 1964, 1984|
The special guest status of the National Assembly of Belarus was suspended on 13 January 1997.
Parliaments with observer status
Parliaments with Partner for Democracy status
Parliamentarians with observer status
|Turkish Cypriot Community||2||2004|
Composition by political group
The Assembly has five political groups.
|Socialist Group||Social democracy, democratic socialism||Andreas Gross||200|
|European People's Party||Christian democracy, liberal conservatism||Pedro Agramunt||191|
|Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe||Liberalism||Jordi Xuclà i Costa||77|
|European Conservatives Group||Conservatism||Christopher Chope||61|
|Unified European Left Group||Democratic socialism, communism||Tiny Kox||37|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2009)|
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 last 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.
The presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have been :
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. In January 2015, the Assembly renewed sanctions against the Russian delegation. The suspension of Russia is so far limited 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.
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.
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”. According to the report, said member states also hire lobbyists to fend off criticism of their human rights records. 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. As a consequence to the allegations, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has made the fight against corruption his big challenge.
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. 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.
- 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.
- PACE creates a special committee for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights, 24/06/2014.
- This number is fixed by article 26.
- (Italian) 
- previously part of Serbia and Montenegro: member since 2003
- "PACE Deprives Russia Of Voting Rights". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. April 13, 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
- Previously part of Czechoslovakia, member since 1991
- 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"
- "Citing Ukraine, PACE renews sanctions against Russian delegation". PACE website. 28 January 2015.
- "Russia suspended from Council of Europe body". EuropeanVoice. 10 April 2014.
- gulf-times.com: "Russia snubs PACE" 4 Jun 2014, p.21
- Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
- Judy Dempsey (April 27, 2012), Where a Glitzy Pop Contest Takes Priority Over Rights International Herald Tribune.
- Ralf Neukirch (January 4, 2012), A Dictator's Dream: Azerbaijan Seeks to Burnish Image Ahead of Eurovision Der Spiegel.
- Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
- Stephen Castle (October 4, 2007), European lawmakers condemn efforts to teach creationism International Herald Tribune.
- (French) Le Conseil de l'Europe, Jean-Louis Burban, publisher PUF, collection « Que sais-je ? », n° 885.