The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
The Parliamentary Assembly is a consultative body of the Council of Europe. Since many of the organisation’s important instruments were conceived by the Assembly, it is often called the Council of Europe’s “engine”.
The Parliamentary Assembly brings together 324 delegates (plus 324 substitutes), who are democratically elected members of parliament in their respective countries. Each national delegation comprises between two and eighteen representatives, depending on the country’s population, and must reflect the balance of political forces in the respective national parliament.
The Parliamentary Assembly is represented as a body by a president who is elected by the parliamentarians from their midst for a one-year term of office and may be re-elected once.
In the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the parliamentarians are organised in the following five political groups:
- the Socialist Group (SOC)
- the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD)
- the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
- the European Democrat Group (EDG)
- the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL)
The members of the Assembly work in the following eight permanent committees:
- Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy (AS/Pol)
- Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (AS/Jur)
- Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development (AS/Soc)
- Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (AS/Mig)
- Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media (AS/Cult)
- Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination (AS/Ega)
- Monitoring Committee (AS/Mon)
- Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs (AS/Pro)
Four times a year, the Assembly meets for a one week plenary session in Strassburg. During these PACE sessions, the parliamentarians discuss Europe’s most pressing socio-political questions. The Assembly’s debates are open to the public and there’s a live-stream in several languages available on the Council of Europe’s website (http://www.coe.int)
Within the framework of these debates, the Assembly can adopt three different types of texts:
- Recommendations (proposals addressed to the Committee of Ministers)
- Resolutions (decisions by the Assembly which it is empowered to put into effect on its own)
- Opinions (answers of the Assembly to questions put to it by the Committee of Ministers)
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, its Human Rights Commissioner and the judges at the European Court of Human Rights.
The national parliaments of Israel, Canada and Mexico have observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly. Representatives of observer states are entitled to take the floor during debates, but have no voting rights.
Foto © CoE