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Assemblea Parlamentare

 

Assemblea Parlamentare

THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is the deliberative body and the driving force of the Council of Europe.

It consists of a number of individual representatives from each member State, with a President elected each year from among them for a maximum period of three sessions.
Whilst in the Committee of Ministers each member State has one vote, in the Parliamentary Assembly the number of representatives and consequently of votes is determined by the size of the Country. As there is an equal number of representatives and substitutes, the total number of members of the Assembly is therefore 648, plus 18 Observers. Italy has 18 members and an equal number of alternates. The balance of political parties within each national delegation must ensure a fair representation of the political parties or groups in their national parliaments.


In order to facilitate the process of accession of the Countries from Central and Eastern Europe, the Assembly introduced in 1989 a so-called special guest status, applicable to all national legislative assemblies of European non-member States, which have signed the Helsinki Final Act (1975). The National Assembly of Belarus obtained the status on 16 September 1992 but it has been suspended on 13 January 1997 by a decision of the Bureau.
Special guests have many rights in the Assembly and in committees with the exception of the right to vote or to stand for election.
The Assembly may, on the proposal of the Bureau, grant Observer status to national parliaments of non-member States of the Council of Europe which meet the conditions set out in paragraph 1 of Statutory Resolution (93)96 of the Committee of Ministers on Observer status.
The Assembly shall specify the number of members of Observer delegations. The parliaments concerned are not required to submit credentials to the President of the Assembly but, in appointing their delegations, they should reflect the various currents of opinion within their parliaments
Members of such delegations may sit in the Assembly but without the right to vote. They shall have the right to speak with the authorisation of the President of the Assembly.

The Parliamentary Assembly includes a number of internal structures:

  • Political groups have been promoted in order to develop a non-national European outlook. At present the Assembly counts five political groups: the Socialist Group (SOC); the Group of the European People's Party (EPP/CD); Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE); the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL) and the European Conservatives Group (CE). Political Groups have to commit themselves to respect the promotion of the values of the Council of Europe, notably political pluralism, human rights and the rule of law.
    The President of the Assembly and the leaders of the groups form the Presidential Committee of the PACE.


  • The Bureau of the Assembly consists of the President, twenty Vice-Presidents, the Chairpersons of the political groups or their representatives as well as the Chairpersons of the general PACE Committees or their substitutes. The big countries have a permanent seat in the Bureau; the smaller countries take turns. The duties of the Bureau are manifold: preparation of the Assembly's agenda, reference of documents to committees, arrangement of day-to-day business, relations with other international bodies.


  • The Standing Committee consists of the Bureau and the Chairpersons of national delegations. It is generally convened at least twice a year and its major task is to act on behalf of the PACE when the latter is not in session.


  • The Joint Committee is the forum set up to co-ordinate the activities of, and maintains good relations between, the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. It is composed of a representative of each member Government and a corresponding number of representatives of the Assembly (the members of the Bureau and one representative of each parliamentary delegation of member States not represented on the Bureau).


  • Most of the reports debated in plenary session ot at the Standing Committee are prepared by a committee. The nine general committees of the Assembly are the following:
    Committe on Political Affairs and Democracy (87 seats)
    Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (81 seats)
    Committe on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development (81 seats)
    Committe on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (81 seats)
    Committe on Culture, Science, Education and Media (81 seats)
    Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination  (81 seats)
    Monitoring Committee  (93 seats)
    Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs (38 seats)
    Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

All committees (with the exception of the Committee on the Honouring of obligations and commitments by member states) have an equal number of alternates of the same nationality who have the same rights although they may not be elected chairperson of that committee. Nominations to committees are proposed by national delegations and ratified by the PACE. Most of the committees have sub-committees on specific subjects, and may create ad hoc committees for specific activities.
Although committees deal in particular with reports, they have great freedom to discuss any matter within their competence: they organise hearings, colloquies or conferences on particular subjects, the findings of which can then be used for the preparation of reports to the Assembly. Committees meet either in Strasbourg or Paris, possibly in Brussels when a joint meeting with a body of the European Parliament is envisaged or in Budapest at the European Youth Centre.

The sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly are divided into four part-sessions, each lasting for about a week at the end of January, April, June and the beginning of October.
The official languages are English and French. During the plenary meetings, Italian, German and Russian are used as additional working languages.

Only members duly designated by the national delegation and who have signed the register of attendance for the specific sitting shall be entitled to vote. The Assembly normally votes by using the electronic voting system. In the case of appointments, voting shall take place by secret ballot. A two-thirds majority is required for questions such as a draft recommendation or draft opinion to the Committee of Ministers or the adoption of urgent procedure. In respect of a draft resolution and any other decision, a majority of the votes cast is required.

Whilst it is normal that the Assembly elects its President and Vice-Presidents, it also carries out a series of other elections: the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Deputy Secretary General, the Secretary General of the Assembly (elected by secret ballot for a period of 5 years); members of the European Court of Human Rights; the Commissioner for Human Rights. Members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) are elected by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from a list of three names drawn up by the Bureau of the Assembly.

The Assembly can adopt three different types of texts: recommendations, resolutions and opinions.

  • Recommendations contain proposals addressed to the Committee of Ministers, the implementation of which is within the competence of governments.
  • Resolutions embody decisions by the Assembly on questions which it is empowered to put into effect or expressions of view for which it alone is responsible.
  • The Assembly mostly expresses opinions on questions put to it by the Committee of Ministers, such as the admission of new member states to the Council of Europe, but also on draft conventions.

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