Council of Europe - MZV EN
Council of Europe
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Europe was marked by unprecedented devastation and human suffering. It faced new political challenges, in particular reconciliation among the peoples of Europe. This situation favoured the long held idea of European integration through the creation of common institutions.
The Council of Europe (CoE), the oldest European intergovernmental organisation, was founded on 5 May 1949 by the Treaty of London (Statute). The Treaty of London or the Statute of the Council of Europe was signed in London on that day by the ten states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Many states followed, especially after the democratic transitions in central and eastern Europe during the early 1990s, and the Council of Europe now fully integrates 47 members, nearly all states of Europe, except of Belarus. However special guest status was granted to the Parliament of Belarus in 1992, it was suspended by the CoE Parliamentary Assembly after the constitutional crisis in 1997. At the same time, examination process of the application of the Republic of Belarus for membership was frozen.
According to the Article 1(a) of the Statute states that "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." Therefore, membership is open to all European states, which seek European integration, accept the principle of the rule of law and are able and willing to guarantee democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms.
On the basis of the institutional reforms in the 1990s, other five states willing to accept the principles of the Council of Europe, namely, the Holy See, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico were granted the status of an observer. However observer status gives no right to participate on the adoption of decisions of the main Council of Europe bodies unless a specific decision has been taken by one of these organs on its own behalf, it provides for an institutional framework of co-operation. International intergovernmental organizations can enjoy the observer status, too.
The Council of Europe deals with a wide range of issues, except of military. The seat of the Council of Europe is the Palais de l'Europe in Strasbourg, France. There are two working languages: English and French. Every member state is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CM)
The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It is both a governmental body, where national approaches to problems facing European society can be discussed on an equal footing, and a collective forum, where Europe-wide responses to such challenges are formulated. In collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly, it is the guardian of the Council's fundamental values, and monitors member states' compliance with their undertakings.
The Committee of Ministers comprises the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all member states, who are represented by their Permanent Representatives accredited to the Council of Europe. Committee of Ministers’ chairmanship is held in alphabetical order for 6 months following the English alphabet (Slovenia and Sweden changed their places due to the fact that Slovenia held the EU Presidency in 2008, Slovakia held its first chairmanship from November, 2007 to May, 2008). The Committee meets at ministerial level once a year, in May. The meetings are normally held in Strasbourg and usually last one full day. At level of Permanent Representatives, the committee meets in Strasbourg once a week. These Deputies of the Ministers and other diplomats of the Permanent Representations also meet several times a week in subsidiary working groups.
The Committee of Ministers approves budget upon proposal of the Secretary General, admits new members, monitors their respect of commitments, supervises the execution of the Court’s judgements, and acts to further the aim of the organization, particularly adopts conventions and other non-binding documents. It is generally accepted that the Committee of Ministers make its decisions by the consensus emphasizing the principle of the unity of the member states.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) comprises national parliamentarians from all member states and it is the consultative body of the Council of Europe. The number of the representatives for each state depends on the population and it is moving between 2 to 18 deputies. The total number of members is 318 with 318 of alternate members. National parliamentary delegations to the Assembly shall reflect the political spectrum of their national parliament, i.e. comprise government and opposition parties.
The political parties in PACE can be divided into 5 groups: Group of the European People’s Party, Socialist Group, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Group of the Unified European Left, European Democrat Group and the Representatives not belonging to the political group. The Parliamentary Assembly meets four times a year for a weeklong plenary session. The PACE must be consulted about all international treaties drawn up at the CoE and its texts - recommendations, resolutions and opinions - serve as guidelines for the Committee of Ministers, national governments, parliaments and political parties. The Parliamentary Assembly elects the judges or the ECHR, as well as the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the CoE and its own Secretary General.
The PACE elects also its President for a year with the possibility of being re-elected for another year. The Assembly appoints members as rapporteurs with the mandate to prepare parliamentary reports on specific subjects.
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
The Congress of the Council of Europe (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe), which was created only in 1994, comprises representatives from local and regional authorities in all member states.
The overall responsibility for the coordination of the activities lies on the Secretary General. The Secretary General is responsible for the strategic management of the organization’s budget. He or she is the head of the Secretariat, which comprises 1800-member staff recruited from the member states. The Parliamentary Assembly elects the Secretary General for a period of 5 years.
European Court for Human Rights (ECHR)
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has been set up in 1959 on the legal basis of the European Convention on Human Rights like the permanent juridical instance to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the Parties to the Convention, member states of the Council of Europe. It deals with individual and inter-State petitions. Individuals, group of individuals, non-governmental organizations, can submit the individual petition. At the request of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Court may also give advisory opinions concerning the interpretation of the Conventions and the protocols thereto. The Committee of Ministers exercises the control over the implementation of the judgments, too. The judgments of the Court are legally binding on the parties of the Convention.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe elects the judges of the European Court of Human Rights (one pre member state of the Council of Europe) for the term of 6 years, and may be re-elected.
The governmental Agent, whose office is a part of the structure of the Ministry of Justice, represents the Slovak Republic in proceedings before the Court.
The Protocol No. 14 has not entered into the force due to the requirement of the ratification by the all state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Russian Federation is the only member state of the Council of Europe that has not ratified this Protocol. Because of this fact, the Committee of Ministers made at its 119 session (May 2009 in Madrid) the decision to allow the application of the selected provisions of the Protocol No. 14. The Committee of Ministers adopted the Protocol No. 14bis and decided on its opening for signature on 27 May 2009. It is effective from the 1st of October 2009. The Protocol No. 14bis contains some provisions of the Protocol No. 14 selected in the hope to help resolve the Court’s backlog. These two articles set up the followings institutes: a single judge procedure and the three judge committees.
In the margins of the Session of the Committee of Ministers, the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights took place and agreed on a provisional application of the two above-mentioned institutes of Protocol No. 14. The aim of the parallel adoption of the Protocol No.14bis and the Agreement of the Conference of the High Contraction Parties on the Provisional Application, was allowing the member states to chose the alternative which is, according to their national law, easier to provide the quick application of the of the selected provisions of the Protocol’s No. 14.
The Commissioner for Human Rights
The initiative for setting up the institution was taken by the Council of Europe’s Heads of State and Government at their Second Summit in Strasbourg on 10-11 October 1997. On 7 May 1999, the Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution, which instituted the office of the Commissioner and elaborated the Commissioner’s mandate. In fact, it is the youngest of the Council of Europe institutions.
His or her activity differs from that of the European Court for Human Rights. The Commissioner’s work thus focuses on encouraging reform measures to achieve tangible improvement in the area of human rights promotion and protection. Being a non-judicial institution, the Commissioner’s Office cannot act upon individual complaints, but the Commissioner can draw conclusions and take wider initiatives on the basis of reliable information regarding human rights violations suffered by individuals.
The Commissioner co-operates with a broad range of international and national institutions as well as human rights monitoring mechanisms. The Office’s most important inter-governmental partners include the United Nations and its specialised offices, the European Union, and the OSCE. The Office also cooperates closely with leading human rights NGOs, universities and think-tanks.
The Commissioner is an independent non-judicial institution mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human. The same generally applies to other CoE bodies and institutions, for example the Commission against Racism and Intolerance, too.