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Rules of procedure and working methods
Who currently chairs the Committee of Ministers?
Who currently chairs the Ministers' Deputies?
Who are the Observer states?
The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s decision-making body. It comprises the foreign ministers of all 47 member states. It is both a governmental body where national approaches to European problems are discussed on an equal footing and a forum to find collective responses to these challenges. With the Parliamentary Assembly, it is the guardian of the Council’s fundamental values, and monitors member states’ compliance with their undertakings.
VOICE OF THE GOVERNMENTS
The Committee of Ministers’ discussions cover all questions of common political interest except defence: these include the political aspects of European integration, safeguarding democratic institutions and the rule of law and protecting human rights – in other words, all problems which require concerted pan-European solutions.
An active body
The Committee of Ministers meets at ministerial level once a year and at Deputy level in general three times a month.
Each member State chairs the Committee in turn for six-months with a handover of the chairmanship (in English alphabetical order of member States) in May and November.
Member states’ foreign ministers meet in May to review political issues and European co-operation and to give the necessary political impetus to the Council’s activities. Their permanent representatives (Deputies) conduct most of the business of the Committee of Ministers aided by their rapporteur and working groups which meet regularly to consider certain issues in depth before decisions are taken. These subsidiary groups are informal working structures of the Deputies and have no decision-making power. They prepare decisions for the Committee of Ministers for adoption, ideally without debate.
Decisions and action
The Committee of Ministers decides the Council’s policy. It also determines the action to be taken on recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the proposals from various intergovernmental committees and conferences of specialised ministers. It approves the Council of Europe’s Programme and Budget. The Committee of Ministers also supervises the execution by member states of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Most of the Committee of Ministers’ decisions require a two-thirds majority of votes cast while a simple majority is sufficient for procedural questions.
Countries joining the Council undertake, under the Statute of the Organisation, to accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons with their jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms. They also undertake to collaborate sincerely and effectively to achieve greater unity for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.
The Committee of Ministers may invite any European State to become a member of the Council of Europe, if willing and able to fulfil the provisions of the Statute.
If a member state is in serious violation of its obligations under the Statute, the Committee of Ministers can suspend its right of representation, ask it to withdraw or end its membership.
The Committee’s decisions are embodied in European conventions and agreements, which are legally binding on states that ratify them or reach governments in the form of recommendations.
The Committee also adopts declarations and resolutions on current political issues.
Over 200 conventions have been drawn up to date. The Council of Europe conventions constitutes a unique integrated system of legal standards collectively defined within the Organisation and agreed upon by member States. Mainly they concern human rights and the rule of law but cover other areas which affirm and strengthen Europe’s democratic, social and cultural cohesion. Many conventions (such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the (revised) European Social Charter, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities) have their own monitoring mechanisms to ensure commitments are implemented.
When projects are not pursued by all member states, the Committee of Ministers may launch them under partial agreements which allow some members to pursue joint activities in specific areas.
Enlarged agreements enable some or all member states to work with non-member states in specific areas, giving them the benefit of the Council’s permanent structure.
The Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers (SecCM) comprises some 24 members of the General Secretariat. It is headed by the "Secretary to the Committee of Ministers", who has the rank of a Director General.
The SecCM services the meetings of the Ministers and Ministers' Deputies and of their informal working structures.