What is observer status?
The Council of Europe and non-member states
Apart from its 47 member states, the Council of Europe has close links with numerous non-member states, five of which have observer status with the organisation: the Holy See (1970), the United States of America, Canada and Japan (1996) and Mexico (1999).
The Council's relations with non-member states across the world enable it extend its activities and its reach to all corners of the globe. More than 45 non-member states are parties to Council of Europe conventions, or associated with it as members or observers of or participants in partial agreements such as the Venice Commission and the North-South Centre. More and more of the Council of Europe's legal instruments are drawn up in consultation with interested non-member states.
Council of Europe observer status
On 14 May 1993, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted Statutory Resolution (93) 26 on observer status. This offers non-European countries the opportunity to co-operate with the Council, to accept its guiding principles of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and to send observers to its expert committees and conferences of specialised ministers. Since September 2006, observer states have also been entitled to send representatives to observe the regular meetings of the Council's Ministers' Deputies, and to appoint permanent observers to the Council of Europe.
Observer status within the Parliamentary Assembly
Council of Europe observer status should not be confused with observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly. The national parliaments of Israel (1957), Canada (1997) and Mexico (1999) send observers to the Assembly. Members of observer delegations may sit in the Assembly but without the right to vote. They have the right to speak with the authorisation of the President of the Assembly.
The Israeli Knesset was granted this status in 1957 on an ad hoc basis, even before its official adoption by the Assembly in 1961. The parliaments of Canada (in 1997) and Mexico (in 1999) have since been awarded this status, under rule 60 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure. The parliamentary observer status of Canada and Mexico is based on Statutory Resolution (93) 26 of the Committee of Ministers.