Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions
COUNCIL OF EUROPE - THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
On May 5, 1949 ten Governments
signed in London the Statute of a new kind of European organisation, the
Council of Europe, with two main statutory bodies: the Committee of Ministers
(a conventional ministerial organ) and the Parliamentary Assembly, representing
the political forces in the Member States.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe (the Assembly) is the oldest international parliamentary Assembly with a
pluralistic composition of democratically elected members. It is also the most
comprehensive European parliamentary forum, today with delegations from 47 national
parliaments (plus 3 delegations holding observer status).
The Assembly consists of 318 elected
representatives (and an equal number of substitutes) from the Member States of
the Council of Europe. The number of representatives from each country varies
from eighteen to two depending on its population.
They must be elected or appointed from among the members of their national or
federal Parliament. The balance of political parties within each national
delegation must ensure a fair representation of the political parties or groups
in the respective parliaments.
At present, the Assembly counts five political
groups: the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD); the Socialist Group
(SOC); the European Democrat Group (EDG); the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
for Europe (ALDE); and the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL). 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
The President of the Assembly and the leaders
of the groups form the Presidential Committee of the PACE.
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 make up the
Bureau of the Assembly.
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 Assembly when the
latter is not in session.
The Assembly Committees are composed of
representatives or substitutes of the Assembly. They are reconstituted in
January of each year, and elect their chairperson and three vice-chairpersons.
At present, the Assembly has 8 committees with
the following memberships:
- Political Affairs and Democracy (84 seats)
- Legal Affairs and Human Rights (84 seats)
- Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development (84 seats)
- Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (84 seats)
- Culture, Science, Education and Media (84 seats)
- Equality and Non-Discrimination (84 seats)
- Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member states of the Council of Europe, or Monitoring Committee (84 seats)
- Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs (37 seats)
ORGANISATION AND RESPONSIBILITIESThe Assembly is the driving
force of the Organisation in extending European co-operation to all
democratic states throughout Europe. It has been behind many of the
Organisation´s major initiatives such as the European Convention on
Human Rights (1950) and the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine
(Oviedo Convention, 1997). It is consulted about the international
treaties drawn up at the Council of Europe.
The Assembly speaks for 800 million Europeans citizens, acting as the democratic conscience of Greater Europe:
External relations of the Assembly cover not only national parliaments
of member and non-member states, but also international parliamentary
assemblies and international intergovernmental organisations. The
Assembly has developed its contacts with the European Parliament, the
Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the Inter-Parliamentary Union,
Benelux, the Nordic Council, PABSEC, CIS and others.
For many years the Assembly has also acted as a parliamentary
forum for a certain number of intergovernmental organisations, in
particular the OECD, and has developed close relations with specific
organisations such as the EBRD and many of the specialised agencies of
the United Nations.
- it promotes the development and implementation of the highest
standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, for the
benefit of the peoples of Europe;
- it is a laboratory of ideas and a forum for debates on emerging and
topical European issues, and it seeks to identify trends, provide
policy guidance, set benchmarks and standards and disseminate best
- it exercises political oversight over the action of parliaments and
governments in implementing Council of Europe standards, monitors the
situation in Member States and endeavours to help them to honour their
WORK PROCEDURES AND METHODS
THE ASSEMBLY´S PLENARY DEBATESThe annual sessions of the
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 agenda for each part-session features debates on European and world
events, and on key matters requiring action at European level. The
Assembly´s plenary debates are held in public and they are conducted
according to the principles commonly observed in national parliaments.
ADOPTION OF TEXTS
The Assembly can adopt three different types of texts: recommendations, resolutions and opinions.
A two-thirds majority is required for questions such as a
recommendation or an opinion to the Committee of Ministers or the
adoption of urgent procedure. In respect of a resolution and any other
decision, a majority of the votes cast is required.
Recommendations, resolutions and opinions are published in a
provisional edition after their adoption. A final version is published
after each part-session in the official languages (English and French).
- Recommendations contain proposals addressed to the Committee of
Ministers, the implementation of which is within the competence of
- 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. Most often, they include proposals addressed to
national legislatures and European or international institutions.
- The Assembly mostly expresses opinions on questions or texts
presented by the Committee of Ministers (such as the admission of new
member states to the Council of Europe, draft conventions, or the
budget of the Organisation).
COMMITTEE MEETINGSCommittees meet most frequently either in
Strasbourg or Paris, possibly in Brussels when a joint meeting with a
body of the European Parliament is envisaged. Committee discussions are
generally held in camera, but the committee is free to admit anybody to
its meeting whom it wishes.
Although committees deal in particular with reports, they have
great freedom to discuss any matter within their competence when they
agree to do so. 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.
DRAFTING OF REPORTSIn general, a motion for a recommendation
or resolution generates reports. This motion has to be tabled by at
least twenty representatives or substitutes belonging to at least five
national delegations. It is then referred to a committee for report and
possibly to other committees for opinion. The main committee then
appoints a rapporteur who drafts a report, into two parts:
Both parts are discussed in committee, but only the operational
part is voted on. When a report has been adopted in the committee it is
tabled for discussion by the Assembly either at a part-session or at a
meeting of the Standing Committee.
- the operational draft resolution, recommendation or opinion and
- the explanatory memorandum.
TOPICSThe Assembly has always paid attention to science and
technology and its work also covers topical and emerging issues in the
field of science, scientific research, new technologies and their
impact on sustainable development and society. These are dealt with by
different Assembly committees.
The specific terms of reference of the Committee on Culture,
Science, Education and Media includes the task of maintaining working
relations with the European Science Foundation and the European
Parliamentary Technology Assessment Network. The committee deals with
science and scientific research and the impact of scientific and
technological development on society. The main focus of its work has
been and remains the ethical principles and standards that should
govern scientific research and the use of new technologies.
A General Rapporteur on Science and Technology Impact
Assessment is appointed among the committee´s members with the
following main tasks: to follow activities of other Assembly committees
and liaise with rapporteurs dealing with scientific and technological
matters from other perspectives such as their social, economic, health
and environmental impact; to follow activities and maintain working
relations with national parliaments as well as with relevant
international, intergovernmental, inter-parliamentary or other
organisations including the EPTA Network; and to report periodically
back to the committee on the information collected and the action
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable
Development deals with health protection and the prevention of health
risks; biomedicine, the impact on the environment/ecosystem of sectoral
policies such as transport, energy, water management, and of new
technologies such as nanotechnologies or technologies based on
Although the Assembly does not directly implement technology
assessment activities, its work in the field of science and technology
is founded on the precautionary principle and seeks to promote the
highest ethical principles and firm standards of transparency,
independence and credibility in assessment, in order to guarantee human
dignity and fundamental rights.
SELECTION OF RELEVANT DOCUMENTS ADOPTED BY THE ASSEMBLY
- 1959 (2011) on Preventive health care policies in the Council of Europe member states
- 1929 (2010) on The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: more transparency needed
- 1885 (2009) on Drafting an additional protocol to the European
Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment
- 1863 (2009) on Environment and health: better prevention of environment-related health hazards
- 1794 (2007) on The quality of medicines in Europe
- 1787 (2007) on The precautionary principle and responsible risk management
- 1512 (2001) on Protection of the human genome by the Council of Europe
- 1468 (2000) on Biotechnologies
- 1870(2012) on the need for independent and credible expert assessments
- 1816 (2011) on Health hazards of heavy metals and other metals
- 1815 (2011) on Potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment
- 1795 (2011) on Genetically modified organisms: a solution for the future
- 1774 (2010) on Enhancing Europe´s energy security through greater use of liquefied natural gas
- 1679 (2009) on Nuclear energy and sustainable development
- 1588 (2007) on Radioactive waste and protection of the environment
- 1393 (2004) on Parliaments and the knowledge society
- 1352 (2003) on Human stem cell research
- 1083 (1996) on Parliaments and the assessment of scientific and technological choices
- 276 (2010) on the Draft convention of the Council of Europe on
counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes involving threats
to public health
- 267 (2008) on the Draft additional protocol to the Convention on
Human Rights and biomedicine concerning genetic testing for health
- 252 (2004) on the Draft additional Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine on Biomedical Research;
- 227 (2001)on the draft protocol to the European Convention on Human
Rights and Biomedicine, concerning transplantation or organs and
tissues of human origin;
- 202 (1997) on the draft additional protocol to that convention on the prohibition of cloning human beings;
- 198 (1996) on the draft convention on human rights and biomedicine;
The ethics of science (Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media)
Nanotechnologies (Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development)
As for all the work of the Assembly, the key target groups are:
Of course, all the Assembly reports are also intended to reach European
citizens, in order to raise awareness and gain their support for policy
proposals and guidelines addressed to state authorities.
- the parliaments and governments of member states;
- the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe;
- The European Union and other international organisations (e.g. WHO).
COMMUNICATION AND PUBLICATIONS
The Assembly´s website [http://assembly.coe.int]
gives regular information on the activities of parliamentarians, in
Strasbourg and on the ground. It includes reports, adopted texts,
records of debates and speeches. The plenary sessions are broadcast
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Head of the Secretariat, PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and
Fon +33 3 88412373
Fax +33 3 88412797
© EPTA, provided by ITA; version 19 Oct 2012