Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
Established as the first international organization in Europe after the World War II the Council of Europe represents an organization that takes special place in European institutional structure due to the importance of fundamental issues it deals with: protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This organization has developed unique mechanism and legal instruments for protection of human rights in the world. Council of Europe today includes 47 countries with cc. 800 million of inhabitants.
Greatest achievement of the Council of Europe is the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its implementation is monitored, among other Council of Europe’s bodies, by the European Court of Human Rights, which is the institution that will facilitate every citizen whose human rights are violated to practice its rights and to protect human dignity.
In order to fulfil its principal objectives, the Council of Europe has established a network of institutions which are trying to make Europe a better place to live. Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, European Court of Human Rights, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations, Venice Commission, European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as a number of bodies and committees try through their activities to implement principles and values of the Council of Europe in areas of: human rights, legal issues, social and economic issues, environment, local and regional authorities, education, culture and sports, youth issues.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is the advisory body of the Council of Europe, composed of members of national Parliaments where the smallest number of members that one country can have is two and biggest 18. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has 318 delegates – members of the Assembly and as much substitutes. Each national Parliament decides on the composition of the Delegation, ensuring the appropriate representation of political parties (position and opposition) and the gender. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has active political groups which represent alliance of parties that share similar ideological views, and they are: Socialists (SOC), Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD), European Democratic Group (EDG), Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Group of the Unified European Left (UEL). Membership in these groups is not obligatory so there are some members that do not belong to any grouping.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and its representation in foreign affairs is the task of the Bureau, which is composed of the PACE President, 20 Vice-Presidents, Chairmen of Political Groups and the Chairmen of Committees. Bureau members together with the Heads of all national Delegations make a Standing Committee whose primary task is to act on behalf of the Assembly between the Sessions.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe within its activities also reviews all actual social issues and political events so ten standing committees were established for this purpose:
- Political Affairs Committee
- Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
- Committee on Economic Affairs and Development
- Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
- Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population
- Committee on Culture, Science and Education
- Committee on Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs
- Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
- Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs
- Committee on Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee).
Headquarters of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg (France) where the Plenary Session meets four times a year: end of January, April, June and beginning of October. Committee meetings, including the Bureau and Standing Committee meetings are held regularly between plenary sessions and between the sessions.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopts decisions in the format of Resolutions or Recommendations and although they are not legally binding, compliance with those documents represents commitment of the member states to the organization. Additionally, due to its expertise, especially in the area of human rights, the Assembly has imposed itself as a respectable actor on European political scene. It is in charge of election of the President of the Assembly, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and its Deputy, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights.
Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH has five members and five substitutes who are assigned to appropriate political groupings and committees, according to personal preferences. The special role that members of the Delegation have is reflected in contacts with the PACE Monitoring Committee. Considering that since it became a member of the Council of Europe Bosnia and Herzegovina has been under monitoring regarding the fulfilment of the post-accession commitments, PACE Monitoring Committee regularly observes the situation in our country and prepares reports which serve as basis for PACE to adopt Resolutions and Recommendations for BiH authorities to act upon.
Member States of the Council of Europe are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Island, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
Observing countries are Canada, Mexico and Israel.
Belarus has the status of the Special Guest of the PA Council of Europe.
The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress. (Article 1, Statute of the Council of Europe).
Official languages are English and French, and Russian, German and Italian are also used as working languages.
Note: Delegation of PA BiH in the PACE has members and substitute members due to the obligatory presence at the Sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly.