Inter-parliamentary activities

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was created in 1949. Before 1974 it was called the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. Along with the Committee of Ministers, PACE is one of the main statutory bodies of the Council of Europe. It consists of parliamentary representatives from all member states of the Council of Europe. 

PACE performs advisory functions to promote European unity, protect individual rights and parliamentary democracy, advance pan-European agreements aimed at shaping common social and legislative policy standards in member states and fostering awareness of a European community that transcends cultural and other differences. 

PACE consists of 47 member states: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia (since 1996), San Marino, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Canada, Israel and Mexico have observer status. Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Palestine hold “partner for democracy” status. 

There are a total of 324 PACE members and an equal number of their representatives. They are elected or appointed by national parliaments from their own ranks. The number of parliamentarians from each country varies from 2 to 18, depending on the country’s population and whether it belongs to the group of major financial contributors. The membership of the national delegations must be proportional to the representation of all major political forces or groups in the national parliament and meet the requirement of a balanced representation of men and women. 

PACE functions based on the Council of Europe Statute and PACE Rules of Procedure. The official languages are English and French. The annual plenary session of the Assembly is divided into four parts, which last one week each. The sessions are usually held in the last week of January, April, June and September. As a rule, PACE meetings are held at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg. 

PACE President is elected from among the Assembly representatives for a period of one year and can be re-elected for the second term. 

PACE President, his 20 vice-presidents, heads of political groups and chairpersons of committees make up the Bureau of the Assembly. The Bureau approves the agenda of PACE sessions and the schedule of the committee meetings, as well as maintains regular contacts with national parliaments and international organisations. 

PACE Standing Committee ensures continuity of the Assembly’s work between sessions. It includes the Bureau members, heads of national delegations and chairpersons of the committees. The Standing Committee is convened by the President at least twice a year. 

To sum up the results and coordinate the activities of PACE and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Joint Committee is usually convened on the last day of the specific part-session. The Joint Committee consists of PACE President, members of the Bureau, representatives of foreign ministers of the Council of Europe member states and one parliamentarian from each national delegation not represented in the PACE Bureau. 

PACE members form the following political groups: the European People's Party/Christian Democrats; Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group; European Conservatives; the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; the Unified European Left. Some of the parliamentarians are not part of any group, but are “independent.” 

At the beginning of each regular session, the Assembly creates nine committees to consider various issues and draft reports: on Political Affairs and Democracy; on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development; on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons; on Culture, Science, Education and Media; on Equality and Non-Discrimination; on the Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs; on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights, and Monitoring Committee. 

The Assembly’s daily work is carried out through the permanent Secretariat headed by PACE Secretary General. PACE Secretary General is one of the two Deputy Secretaries General of the Council of Europe. 

PACE cooperates with the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and other international parliamentary bodies as well as national parliaments and UN specialised agencies, etc. 

The delegation of the Russian Federal Assembly in PACE includes 18 representatives and 18 substitutes (11 representatives and 11 substitutes from the State Duma, 7 representatives and 7 substitutes from the Federation Council). 

During the April 2014 session, PACE adopted Resolution 1990 (2014) “Reconsideration on substantive grounds of the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation” following Crimea’s reunification with Russia. As a result, some of the rights of the Russian delegation (the right to vote and the right to participate in the governing bodies of the Assembly: Bureau, Presidential Committee and Standing Committee) were suspended until 31 December 2014.

At the 2015 winter session, Resolution 2034 (2015) was adopted, “Challenge, on substantive grounds, of the still unratified credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation,” which suspended the following rights of the Russian delegation: to be appointed as a rapporteur, to be a member of temporary election observation commissions, to represent the Assembly at the Council of Europe bodies and external organisations on a temporary or permanent basis. In the context of the increased restrictions, which became a significant obstacle to full-fledged work, the Russian delegation announced the termination of its participation in the Assembly until the end of 2015. Since January 2016, according to a decision of the senior officials of both houses of the Federal Assembly, Russia has not renewed its credentials in PACE.

Yet, the consistent work to clarify and defend Russia’s foreign policy positions and form a constructive agenda to discuss problems that objectively require cooperative solutions has led to significant results. At the June session of the Assembly (24−28 June 2019), after intense debates, the rights of the Russian parliamentary delegation to PACE were restored completely, without any reservations.

Official website: www.assembly.coe.int