- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which held its first session in Strasbourg on 10 August 1949, 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. The Assembly is one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, which is composed of the Committee of Ministers (the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, meeting usually at the level of their deputies) and the Assembly representing the political forces (majority and opposition) in its member states.
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.
It has a total of 642 members – 321 principal members and 321 substitutes  - 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 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 terrorist 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 country
Country Seats Accession date Albania 4 1995 Andorra 2 1994 Armenia 4 2001 Austria 6 1956 Azerbaijan 6 2001 Belgium 7 1949 Bosnia and Herzegovina 5 2002 Bulgaria 6 1992 Croatia 5 1996 Cyprus 3 1961 Czech Republic 7 1991 Denmark 5 1949 Estonia 3 1993 Finland 5 1989 France 18 1949 Georgia 5 1999 Germany 18 1951 Greece 7 1949 Hungary 7 1990 Iceland 3 1959 Ireland 4 1949 Italy 18 1949 Latvia 3 1995 Liechtenstein 2 1978 Lithuania 4 1993 Luxembourg 3 1949 Macedonia 3 1995 Malta 3 1965 Moldova 5 1995 Monaco 2 2004 Montenegro 3 2007 Netherlands 7 1949 Norway 5 1949 Poland 12 1991 Portugal 7 1976 Romania 10 1993 Russia 18 1996 San Marino 2 1988 Serbia 7 2003 Slovakia 5 1993 Slovenia 3 1993 Spain 12 1977 Sweden 6 1949 Switzerland 6 1963 Turkey 12 1949 Ukraine 12 1995 United Kingdom 18 1949
Countries with observer status
Country Seats Date Canada 6 1996 Israel 3 ? Mexico ? 1999 Northern Cyprus as "Turkish Cypriot Community" 2 2004
The special guest status of Belarus was suspended on 13 January 1997.
Composition by party groups
The assembly has five political groups.
Group Ideology Chairman Members European People's Party Christian democracy, liberal conservatism Luca Volontè 218 Socialist Group Social democracy, democratic socialism Andreas Gross 206 European Democrat Group Conservatism Robert Walter 115 Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Liberalism Anne Brasseur 103 Group of the Unified European Left Democratic socialism, communism Tiny Kox 31
The official languages of the council of Europe are English and French, but the assembly also uses German and Italian 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 chose 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 seemingly idealistic and relatively expensive operation, it appears that 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 Secretary General of the Assembly is Mateo Sorinas (Spain) since 1 February 2006.
- ^ This number is fixed by article 26.
- ^ https://wcd.coe.int/wcd/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=PR968%282010%29&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&Site=DC&BackColorInternet=F5CA75&BackColorIntranet=F5CA75&BackColorLogged=A9BACE
- ^ (Italian) 
- ^ previously part of Serbia and Montenegro: member since 2003
- ^ Previously part of Czechoslovakia, member since 1991
- ^ 
- ^ Resolution 1376 (2004) Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
- ^ 
- (French) Le Conseil de l'Europe, Jean-Louis Burban, publisher PUF, collection « Que sais-je ? », n° 885.
Council of Europe Institutions Members1 Provisionally referred to by the Council of Europe as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"; see Macedonia naming dispute.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.