About the Committee of Ministers

   

At a glance

 
   

Members
Committee of Ministers
Ministers' Deputies
Secretariat

 
   

Rules of procedure and working methods
iGuide to procedures and working methods

 
   

Who currently chairs the Committee of Ministers? (14 November 2013-14 May 2014)
Austria - Mr Sebastian Kurz, Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs

Chairmanship site

 
   

Who currently chairs the Ministers' Deputies?
(14 November 2013-14 May 2014)

Mr Rudolf Lennkh, Permanent Representative of Austria

 
   

Who are the Observer states?
Holy See, United States of America, Canada, Japan, Mexico

 
   

Other publications
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
The Council of Europe (1989-1999) - A decade that made history (by Denis Huber, Council of Europe Press, 1999)
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (Guy De Vel, Council of Europe Press, 1995) (replaced by the above iGuide)

 


● What is the Committee of Ministers (CM)?

● Who sits on the CM?
● When does it meet?
● What does it do?
● How does it operate?

● What is the Committee of Ministers (CM)?

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It comprises the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the member states, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg. It is both a governmental body, where national approaches to problems facing European society can be discussed on an equal footing, and a collective forum, where Europe-wide responses to such challenges are formulated. In collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly, it is the guardian of the Council's fundamental values, and monitors member states' compliance with their undertakings.

● Who sits on the CM?

Ministers

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of each Council of Europe member State.

List of Ministers
List of member states

Ministers’ Deputies

In May 1951 the Committee of Ministers invited each member State to appoint a Permanent Representative who would be in constant touch with the organisation. All Permanent Representatives reside in Strasbourg. They are usually senior diplomats with Ambassadorial rank, occasionally chargs d'affaires.

In 1952 the Committee of Ministers decided that each Minister could appoint a Deputy. The Deputies have the same decision-making powers as the Ministers. A Deputy is usually also the Permanent Representative of the member State.

The second in rank in a delegation usually has the title "Deputy Permanent Representative", not to be confused with "Ministers' Deputy".

List of Permanent Representatives

● When does it meet?

Ministers

The Committee of Ministers' timetable is based on the holding of one annual ordinary ministerial session around the symbolic date of 5 May, leaving open the possibility of holding - should the circumstances call for it - a second one during the year.

The date and venue of the Ministerial Session is fixed by the Committee of Ministers.

Ministerial sessions are comprised of two parts: a formal session and informal discussions.

More information (see Chapter II. Committee of Ministers at Ministerial Level )
Sessions

Ministers’ Deputies

Once a week. These "Meetings of the Ministers' Deputies" are usually held in the Committee of Ministers' meeting room.

The Deputies also meet several times a week in subsidiary groups.

● What does it do?

The Committee of Ministers performs a triple role:

as the emanation of the governments which enables them to express on equal terms their national approaches to the problems confronting Europe's societies;

as the collective forum where European responses to these challenges are worked out;

as guardian, alongside the Parliamentary Assembly, of the values for which the Council of Europe exists.

The work and activities of the Committee of Ministers include:

    Admitting new member States

    The Committee of Ministers has the authority to invite European States to become members of the Council of Europe (Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the Statute).

    It may also suspend or terminate membership.

    The process of admission begins when the Committee of Ministers, having received an official application for membership, consults the Parliamentary Assembly (under Statutory Resolution (51) 30). The Assembly adopts an opinion which is published in the Assembly's texts adopted.

    If the Committee decides that a State can be admitted, it adopts a resolution inviting that State to become a member. The invitation specifies the number of seats that the State will have in the Assembly as well as its contribution to the budget (Article 6 of the Statute). Recently the invitations have included a number of conditions concerning the implementation of democratic reforms in the applicant State.

    Once invited, a State becomes a member by depositing, normally by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, an instrument of accession with the Secretary General.

    Monitoring respect of commitments by member states

    Concluding Conventions and agreements

    Article 15.a of the Statute states that the Committee of Ministers "shall consider the action required to further the aim of the Council of Europe, including the conclusion of conventions and agreements".

    Over 200 treaties have now been opened for signature. The best known is the European Convention of Human Rights.

    The text of any treaty is finalised when it is adopted by the Committee. Under Article 20 of the Statute adoption of a treaty requires:
    - a two-thirds majority of the representatives casting a vote;
    - a majority of those entitled to vote.

    The same majorities are required to authorise the publication of any explanatory report.

    The Committee also fixes the date that the treaty will be opened for signature.

    Conventions are only binding on those States which ratify them.

    Adopting recommendations to member states

    Article 15.b of the Statute provides for the Committee of Ministers to make recommendations to member states on matters for which the Committee has agreed "a common policy".

    Under Article 20 of the Statute, adoption of a recommendation requires:
    - a unanimous vote of all representatives present;
    - a majority of those entitled to vote.

    However, at their 519 bis meeting (November 1994) the Ministers' Deputies decided to make their voting procedure more flexible and made a "Gentleman's agreement" not to apply the unanimity rule to recommendations.

    Recommendations are not binding on member States.

    Since 1993 the Committee has also adopted recommendations in accordance with its role in the implementation of the European Social Charter (Article 29 of the Social Charter).

    Recommendations adopted before 1979 were issued in the "Resolutions" series of texts adopted.

    The Statute permits the Committee of Ministers to ask member governments "to inform it of the action taken by them" in regard to recommendations (Article 15.b). In 1987, at their 405th meeting, the Ministers' Deputies adopted a message to the intergovernmental committees (steering committees and committees of experts), urging them to improve their monitoring of the implementation of recommendations and resolutions.

    Adopting the Programme and Budget of the Council of Europe

    The Secretary General proposes, and the Committee of Ministers approves, the Programme and Budget in accordance with the Financial regulations.

    As from 1 January 2012, the Programme and Budget will cover two consecutive financial years (hereafter “the biennium”). An integrated document, the Programme sets the Organisation's objectives for the biennium, along with expected results and performance indicators, and the Budget authorises the budgetary receipts and budgetary expenditure of the Organisation for the implementation of the Programme for each of the financial years of the biennium.

    The Committee of Ministers shall approve the Programme for the biennium and the Budget for the first financial year, as well as the Budget for the second financial year on a provisional basis, before the beginning of the biennium. Before 30 June of the first financial year, the Secretary General shall submit to the Committee of Ministers an adjusted draft Programme and Budget for the second year, together with the opinion of the Budget Committee. The Committee of Ministers shall approve the Budget and if applicable the revised Programme for the second financial year before 1 November of the first financial year in the biennium.

    The Budget Committee is composed of eleven experts with recognised competence in the administrative and financial fields, appointed by the Committee of Ministers for a renewable term of three years (Article 25 of the Financial Regulations, revised in June 2011).

    Article 17 of the Statute authorises the Committee of Ministers to set up "advisory or technical committees". This has led to the creation of a number of steering committees and ad hoc expert committees, which assist the Committee of Ministers in the implementation of the programme. In the context of the Council of Europe’s organisational reform process, the intergovernmental committee structure will be reviewed on a regular basis, and for the first time by the end of March 2013.

    Implementing cooperation and assistance programmes

    Supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

    In accordance with Article 46 of the Convention as amended by Protocol No. 11, the Committee of Ministers supervises the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This work is carried out mainly at four regular meetings (DH/HR meetings) every year. Documentation for these meetings takes the form of the Annotated Agenda and Order of Business. The content of these documents is made public, as are, in general, the decisions taken in each case. The Committee of Ministers' essential function is to ensure that member states comply with the judgments and certain decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee completes each case by adopting a final resolution. In some cases, interim resolutions may prove appropriate. Both kinds of Resolutions are public. (More....)

● How does it operate?

The CM operates on several levels.

Meetings of the Ministers and their Deputies are governed by the Statute of the Council of Europe and rules of procedure.

iGuide to procedures and working methods

Ministers

At their yearly sessions the Ministers review European cooperation and matters of political concern.

Ministers' Deputies

The Deputies, acting on behalf of the Ministers, conduct most of the day-to-day business of the Committee of Ministers.

They hold separate meetings for Human rights (execution of judgments) and monitoring of commitments.
Since September 1999 the Ministers' Deputies meet each Wednesday.

Chairmanship

The chairmanship of the Committee is rotated on a six-monthly basis, changing with each session in the English alphabetical order of member States. (More..…)

Bureau of the Ministers' Deputies

A Bureau was set up in 1975 to assist the Deputies. Since May 2001, it has consisted of six members: the Chairman, the two previous chairmen and the three future chairmen.

The Bureau meets approximately twice a month, exercising management and protocol functions, including the preparation of Committee of Ministers' meetings. It is also used as a discussion forum to coordinate action under successive chairmanships, particularly concerning the drawing up and implementation of their programmes. The specific responsibility for ensuring continuity between successive chairmanships and programmes is entrusted to the Vice-Chairman of the Deputies in co-operation with the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers.

Rapporteur Groups, Working Parties and Thematic Co-ordinators

The system of rapporteur groups was introduced by the Deputies in 1985. The groups help to prepare the meetings of the Deputies. They are composed of Deputies, who are often represented by substitutes, and assisted by members of the Secretariat.

Rapporteur groups were reorganised in 1999 to reflect the new organisational chart (one group by directorate), with additional Rapporteurs nominated for specific activities.

Working parties are set up on an ad hoc basis to deal with specific issues within a limited time period.

A further reorganisation took place with effect from 1 January 2006 – see CM(2005)181rev (2. Subsidiary bodies).

List of Rapporteur Groups, Working Parties and Thematic Co-ordinators

Secretariat

The Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers (SECCM) comprises some 25 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.