The Bureau and the committees
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 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, etc.
The Standing Committee
The Standing Committee consists of the Bureau and the Chairpersons of national delegations. It is convened twice a year in the member states which hold the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Europe and its major task is to act on behalf of the PACE when the latter is not in session.
The Joint Committee
The Joint Committee is the forum set up to co-ordinate the activities of, and maintain 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)
According to its Rules of Procedure, the PACE has 9 committees with the following figures:
- Political Affairs and Democracy: 91 seats
- Legal Affairs and Human Rights: 90 seats
- Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development: 85 seats
- Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons: 85 seats
- Culture, Science, Education and Media: 85 seats
- Equality and Non-Discrimination: 85 seats
- Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee): 93 seats
- Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs: 38 seats
- Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights: 22 seats
The Bureau and the Standing Committee do not count in this list. At times there are also ad hoc committees directly responsible to the Bureau. In the interest of its work, a committee may also appoint one or more standing or ad hoc sub-committees, of which it shall determine the exact composition and competence at the time of their appointment. Membership must not be more than one third of the total number of members of the parent committee. Sub-committees do not adopt reports. Their decisions are submitted to the plenary committee, which appointed it.
Composition and working methods of committees
Committees are composed of representatives or substitutes of the Assembly. All committees (with the exception of the Committee on the Honouring of obligations and commitments by member states, known as the Monitoring Committee and the Committee of Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs) 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. Other members of the same nationality can replace absent members of the committee.
Nominations to committees are proposed by national delegations and ratified by the PACE, the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs and the Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights being an exception.
At the beginning of each session, i.e. in January of each year, the committees are reconstituted and elect their chairperson and three vice-chairpersons. The chairperson can be re-elected once, i.e. remain in office for a maximum of two sessions only.
In general, a committee can work when one third of its members are present.
Its discussions are held in camera, but the committee is free to admit anybody to its meeting whom it wishes. Secretaries to national delegations and to political groups may attend the meetings of committees, except for those of the Monitoring Committee and the committe on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights.