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BODIES AND INSTITUTIONS

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental cooperation body and the highest decision-making body. It met twice a year until 2005, in May and November, normally at the Organisation's headquarters in Strasbourg; today, it meets once a year, in May. The Committee adopts substantive and procedural decisions regarding the activities within the scope of the Organisation, budget and commitments of Member States, and discusses measures to be taken on the basis of recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. The Committee is chaired by a representative of the chairing country – a foreign minister or ambassador (rotating on a semi-annual basis in alphabetical order). The Republic of Slovenia chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from May to November 2009. The United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the Holy See enjoy observer status in the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental bodies.

 

The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is a consultative body composed of representatives of the national parliaments of 47 Member States. PACE independently formulates the programme of its meetings and debates on the Council of Europe’s activities and topical international issues, as well as adopting recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers or Member States. The President is elected from among PACE representatives for a period of up to three sessions (three years). Ms Anne Brasseur from Luxembourg assumed the Presidency of PACE in January 2014. The number of representatives in PACE depends on the size of a country. France, Germany, the Russian Federation, Italy and the UK have the largest number of representatives (18) in PACE, whereas Andorra and Liechtenstein have the smallest number (2). The delegation of the Republic of Slovenia comprises three members and their substitutes (more information on delegations). Israel, Canada and Mexico have observer status in PACE. The number of representatives of the various political parties in the delegation of each country must provide a balanced reflection of the political forces represented in the national parliament. A Parliamentary Assembly session consists of four plenary sessions. Each of them usually lasts a week, and they are held at the end of January, April, June, and September respectively.

 

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is a consultative body representing local and regional authorities of Member States. The work of the Congress is focused mainly on promoting local and regional democracy, as well as strengthening cross-border cooperation. Its current president is Gudrun Mosler-Törnström from Austria.

 

The Secretary General is the highest function in the Council of Europe’s Secretariat, which is divided into two Directorates General: Human Rights and Rule of Law, and Democracy. PACE elects the Secretary General for a period of five years. On 29 September 2009, Thorbjørn Jagland (Norway) took over the function of Secretary General from Terry Davis (UK); Mr Jagland was re-elected, and his second term in office commenced on 1 October 2014. Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni is the Deputy Secretary General; Mrs Battaini-Dragoni was elected in June 2012.

 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) operates under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has been in force since 1953 (signed in 1950), and its protocols. The ECHR was established in 1959; petitions against signatory parties for violations can be brought before the Court either by state parties who believe that another state party has violated the rights under the Convention, or by individuals with a legal interest. The judgements are final and binding on the respondent state. Since November 2012, the President of the European Court of Human Rights has been Dean Spielmann from Luxembourg.

 

The Commissioner for Human Rights (CHR) of the Council of Europe is a political body independent from the ECHR and other bodies of the Organization. The institution of Commissioner was established in 1999, and ensures respect for, and the application of, human rights in Member States. The Commissioner deals with groups of persons in discriminatory situations (Roma, aliens, etc.). He or she is elected by PACE. This post is currently occupied by Nils Muižnieks (Latvia), who was elected in January 2012.