Bodies of the Council of Europe
The Committee of Ministers is an intergovernmental body and the highest decision making body of the Council of Europe.
Until 2005 it met twice a year, in May and November, at the headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. According to the latest practice it meets once a year. It adopts substantive and procedural decisions relating to working fields of the organization, budget and obligations of member states and discusses the necessary measures based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.
The Committee of Ministers is chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the member state that holds the chairmanship (half-year term in alphabetical order). Currently the chairmanship is being held by Azerbaijan (May 2014 - November 2014). The Committee of Ministers’ Deputies – ambassadors of member states of the Council of Europe – meets on a weekly basis. USA, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the Holy See participate in the intergovernmental bodies of the Council of Europe as observer states. Slovenia held the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers from May to November of 2009.
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is a consultative body composed of representatives of the national parliaments of 47 member states.
PACE independently formulates the programme of its sessions and debates on the Council of Europe’s activities and topical international issues, as well as adopting recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers or member states. The President is elected from among the parliament members for a period of three years. Anne Brasseur (Luxembourg), a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, has been President of PACE since January 2014.
In the Committee of Foreign Affairs Ministers, each member state has one vote, whereas the number of representatives in PACE depends on the size of a country. France, Germany, the Russian Federation, Italy and the UK have the largest number of representatives (18) in PACE, whereas Andorra and Liechtenstein have the smallest number of representatives (2). In PACE, Slovenia has three representatives and three substitutes. In total, there are 318 representatives, the same number of proxies (together 636) and a few observers. Israel, Canada and Mexico hold observer status in PACE. The number of representatives of the various political parties in the delegation of each country must provide a balanced reflection of the political forces represented in the national parliament.
A Parliamentary Assembly session consists of four plenary sessions. Each of them usually lasts a week, and they are held at the end of January, April, June and September respectively.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is a consultative body representing local and regional authorities of member states.
Its work is focused mainly on promoting local and regional democracy, as well as strengthening cross-border cooperation. Jean-Claude Frécon has been its President since October 2014. In the Congress, Slovenia has three representatives and three substitutes.
The Secretary General is the highest function in the Council of Europe’s Secretariat, which is divided into two Directorates General:
Human Rights and Rule of Law and Democracy. The Secretary General is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a period of five years. Thorbjørn Jagland (Norway) took over the function of Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 1 October 2009. In June 2014, he was re-elected, and his second term in office commenced on October 1, 2014. Gabriella Battaini - Dragoni (Italy) is the Deputy Secretary General; she was elected on 1 September 2012.
The Court operates under the European Convention on Human Rights, in force since 1953 (signed in 1950), and its protocols. Complaints can be brought before the Court either by state parties who believe that another state party violated the rights under the Convention, or by individuals with a legal interest. The judgements are final and binding on the respondent state. Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg) was elected President of the Court in September 2012 for a period of three years.
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe is a political body independent from the ECHR and other bodies of the Organisation. The institute of the Commissioner was established in 1999 and ensures the respect and application of human rights in the member states.
The Commissioner’s tasks are encouraging education, awareness and promotion of respect for human rights in member states, and ensuring complete and effective accordance with Council of Europe texts, such as conventions, recommendations and resolutions. He or she is elected by PACE. In the current term of office, this post is occupied by Nils Muižnieks (Latvia), who was elected on 1 April 2012.
Partial agreements in which some but not all of the Council of Europe member states participate:
- North-South Centre
- European Audiovisual Observatory
- European Centre for Modern Languages
- European Commission for Democracy through Law – Venice Commission
- EDQM/European Pharmacopoeia
- Pompidou Group
- Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)
- Council of Europe Development Bank
Partial Agreements are not international treaties, but a specific form of cooperation within the Council of Europe. These Agreements enable member states to cooperate in a specific field with other signatory states to the Agreement. The budget for Partial Agreements is separate from the general budget of the Organisation. At the 117th session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the Resolution establishing the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) was adopted. Slovenia is among the 16 signatories to the Partial Agreement.
The Council of Europe plays an important role in setting up legislation in member states in all areas of activity. In more than fifty years, 200 conventions and agreements have been adopted. Owing to their multilateral nature, they are more than an act of cooperation, as they replace hundreds of bilateral treaties that would otherwise be concluded by the individual states.