Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

The emblem of the PACE

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, an international organisation dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and which oversees the European Court of Human Rights. The 47-nation Council of Europe is an older and wider circle of nations than the 28-member European Union and includes, for example, Russia and Turkey among its member states.

The Assembly is made up of 324 parliamentarians from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe's member states, and generally meets four times a year for week-long plenary sessions in Strasbourg.

The Assembly held its first session in Strasbourg on 10 August 1949, making it one of the oldest international assemblies in Europe. Among its main achievements are:


The hemicycle of the PACE at the Palace of Europe

Unlike the European Parliament (an institution of the European Union), the Assembly does not have the power to create binding laws. However, it speaks on behalf of 820 million Europeans and has the power to:

Important statutory functions of the PACE are the election of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

In general it meets four times per year in Strasbourg at the Palace of Europe for week-long plenary sessions. The nine permanent committees of the Assembly meet all year long to prepare reports and draft 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.

Election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights

Judges of the European Court of Human Rights are elected by PACE from a list of three candidates nominated by each member state which has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the European Convention does not, in itself, require member states to present a multi-sex shortlist of potential appointees, PACE Resolution 1366 (2004) states that it ‘will not consider lists of candidates where the list does not include at least one candidate of each sex’.[1] As part of a package of changes designed to improve its working procedures, PACE decided in 2014 to create a special committee to deal with the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights. The new 20-member committee – meeting in camera – will interview candidates for judge on the Court and assess their CVs before making recommendations to the full Assembly, which selects judges from a shortlist by voting.[2]


It has a total of 648 members – 324 principal members and 324 substitutes[3] – who are appointed or elected by the parliaments of each member state. Delegations must reflect the balance in the national parliament, so contain members of both ruling parties and oppositions. There are also observer delegates from the Canadian, Israeli and Mexican parliaments. The size of each country determines its number of representatives and number of votes. This is in contrast to the Committee of Ministers, where each country has one vote.

Some notable former members of PACE include:

Composition by parliamentary delegation

Parliament Seats Accession date
Albania Albania 4 1995
Andorra Andorra 2 1994
Armenia Armenia 4 2001
Austria Austria 6 1956
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 6 2001
Belgium Belgium 7 1949
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 5 2002
Bulgaria Bulgaria 6 1992
Croatia Croatia 5 1996
Cyprus Cyprus 3 1961 - 1964, 1984
Czech Republic Czech Republic 7 1991
Denmark Denmark 5 1949
Estonia Estonia 3 1993
Finland Finland 5 1989
France France 18 1949
Georgia (country) Georgia 5 1999
Germany Germany 18 1951
Greece Greece 7 1949
Hungary Hungary 7 1990
Iceland Iceland 3 1959
Republic of Ireland Ireland 4 1949
Italy Italy 18 1949
Latvia Latvia 3 1995
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 2 1978
Lithuania Lithuania 4 1993
Luxembourg Luxembourg 3 1949
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 3 1995
Malta Malta 3 1965
Moldova Moldova 5 1995
Monaco Monaco 2 2004
Montenegro Montenegro 3 2007[7]
Netherlands Netherlands 7 1949
Norway Norway 5 1949
Poland Poland 12 1991
Portugal Portugal 7 1976
Romania Romania 10 1993
Russia Russia 18[8] 1996
San Marino San Marino 2 1988
Serbia Serbia 7 2003
Slovakia Slovakia 5 1993[9]
Slovenia Slovenia 3 1993
Spain Spain 12 1977
Sweden Sweden 6 1949
Switzerland Switzerland 6 1963
Turkey Turkey 18 1949
Ukraine Ukraine 12 1995
United Kingdom United Kingdom 18 1949

The special guest status of the National Assembly of Belarus was suspended on 13 January 1997.

Parliaments with observer status

Parliament Seats Date
Canada Canada 6 1996[10]
Israel Israel 3 ?
Mexico Mexico 6 1999

Parliaments with Partner for Democracy status

Parliament Seats Date
Morocco Morocco 6 2011
State of Palestine Palestine 3 2011[11]
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 3 2014[12]
Jordan Jordan 3 2016[13]

Parliamentarians with observer status

Parliamentarians Seats Date
Turkish Cypriot Community 2 2004[14][15][16][17]

Composition by political group

The Assembly has five political groups.[18]

Group Ideology Chairman Members
Socialist Group Social democracy, democratic socialism Michele Nicoletti 200
European People's Party Christian democracy, liberal conservatism Axel Fischer 191
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Liberalism Jordi Xuclà i Costa 77
European Conservatives Group Conservatism Ian Liddell-Grainger 61
Unified European Left Group Democratic socialism, communism Tiny Kox 37


The official languages of the Council of Europe are English and French, but the Assembly also uses German, Italian, Russian and Turkish as working languages.[19]


The presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have been :

Period Name Country Party
1949 Édouard Herriot (interim)  France Radical Party
1949–51 Paul-Henri Spaak  Belgium Socialist Party
1952–54 François de Menthon  France Popular Republican Movement
1954–56 Guy Mollet  France Socialist Party
1956–59 Fernand Dehousse  Belgium Socialist Party
1959 John Edwards  United Kingdom Labour Party
1960–63 Per Federspiel  Denmark Venstre
1963–66 Pierre Pflimlin  France Popular Republican Movement
1966–69 Geoffrey de Freitas  United Kingdom Labour Party
1969–72 Olivier Reverdin   Switzerland Liberal Party
1972–75 Giuseppe Vedovato  Italy Christian Democracy
1975–78 Karl Czernetz  Austria Social Democratic Party
1978–81 Hans de Koster  Netherlands People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
1981–82 José María de Areilza  Spain Union of the Democratic Centre
1983–86 Karl Ahrens  Germany Social Democratic Party
1986–89 Louis Jung  France Centre of Social Democrats
1989–92 Anders Björck  Sweden Moderate Party
1992 Geoffrey Finsberg  United Kingdom Conservative Party
1992–95 Miguel Ángel Martínez Martínez  Spain Socialist Workers' Party
1996–99 Leni Fischer  Germany Christian Democratic Union
1999–2002 Russell Johnston  United Kingdom Liberal Democrats
2002–2004 Peter Schieder  Austria Social Democratic Party
2005–2008 René van der Linden  Netherlands Christian Democratic Appeal
2008–2010 Lluís Maria de Puig  Spain Socialist Workers' Party
2010–2012 Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu  Turkey Justice and Development Party
2012–2014 Jean-Claude Mignon  France Union for a Popular Movement
2014–2016 Anne Brasseur  Luxembourg Democratic Party
2016 - incumbent Pedro Agramunt  Spain People's Party

The Assembly elected Wojciech Sawicki (Poland)[20] as its Secretary General in 2010 for a five-year term of office which began in February 2011. In 2015 he was re-elected for a second five-year term, which began in February 2016.


Russia suspension

In April 2014, after the Russian parliament's backing for the occupation of Crimea and Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the Assembly decided to suspend the Russian delegation's voting rights as well as the right of Russian members to be represented in the Assembly's leading bodies and to participate in election observation missions. However, the Russian delegation remained members of the Assembly. The sanction applied throughout the remainder of the 2014 session and was renewed for a full year in January 2015, lapsing in January 2016.

In response, the Russian parliamentary delegation suspended its co-operation with PACE in June 2014, and in January 2016 - despite the lapsing of the sanctions - decided not to submit its credentials for ratification, effectively leaving its seats empty.

The sanctions applied only to Russian parliamentarians in PACE, the Council of Europe's parliamentary body. Russia continues to be a full member of the Council of Europe, and retains full rights in the organisation's other bodies, including its statutory executive body, the Committee of Ministers.[21]

Alleged corruption

In 2013, the New York Times reported that “some council members, notably Central Asian states and Russia, have tried to influence the organization’s parliamentary assembly with lavish gifts and trips”.[22] According to the report, said member states also hire lobbyists to fend off criticism of their human rights records.[23] German news magazine Der Spiegel had earlier revealed details about the strategies of Azerbaijan’s government to influence the voting behaviour of selected members of the Parliamentary Assembly.[24] As a consequence to the allegations, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has made the fight against corruption his big challenge.[25]

Cultural divisions

Although the Council of Europe is a human rights watchdog and a guardian against discrimination, it is widely regarded as becoming increasingly divided on moral issues because its membership includes mainly Muslim Turkey as well as East European countries, among them Russia, where social conservatism is strong.[26] In 2007, this became evident when the Parliamentary Assembly voted on a report compiled by Liberal Democrat Anne Brasseur on the rise of Christian creationism, bolstered by right-wing and populist parties in Eastern Europe.[26]

See also


  1. Adelaide Remiche (August 12, 2012), Election of the new Belgian Judge to the ECtHR: An all-male short list demonstrates questionable commitment to gender equality Oxford Human Rights Hub, University of Oxford.
  2. PACE creates a special committee for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights, 24/06/2014.
  3. This number is fixed by article 26.
  4. "Members since 1949".
  5. "Council of Europe". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  7. previously part of Serbia and Montenegro: member since 2003
  9. Previously part of Czechoslovakia, member since 1991
  10. "Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  12. "PACE: News". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  13. "PACE grants Jordan's Parliament Partner for Democracy Status". Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  14. "Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  15. "Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  16. "Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  17. James Ker-Lindsay The Foreign Policy of Counter Secession: Preventing the Recognition of Contested States, p.149: "...despite strong opposition from the Cypriot government, The Turkish Cypriot community was awarded observer status in the PACE"
  18. "Political groups".
  19. "Turkey's presence at Council of Europe increased". DailySabah. 24 May 2015.
  20. "Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly". Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  21. "Russia suspended from Council of Europe body". EuropeanVoice. 10 April 2014.
  22. Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
  23. Judy Dempsey (April 27, 2012), Where a Glitzy Pop Contest Takes Priority Over Rights International Herald Tribune.
  24. Ralf Neukirch (January 4, 2012), A Dictator's Dream: Azerbaijan Seeks to Burnish Image Ahead of Eurovision Der Spiegel.
  25. Judy Dempsey (February 4, 2013), Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe New York Times.
  26. 1 2 Stephen Castle (October 4, 2007), European lawmakers condemn efforts to teach creationism International Herald Tribune.

Further reading

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