From November 2014 to May 2015 Belgium will chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The 47 Member States take turns chairing the Committee for a period of six months, in English alphabetical order. The Belgian Chairmanship follows that of Azerbaijan and precedes that of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Committee of Ministers is a political decision-making body of the Council of Europe. It decides on membership and the budget and ensures that the values of the organisation are upheld. Insofar as possible, it takes its decisions by consensus, although in some cases a two-thirds majority is sufficient. Other components of the organisation are:
- the European Court of Human Rights
- the Parliamentary Assembly
- the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
- the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations
- the Commissioner for Human Rights
- the Secretary General of the organisation.
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is responsible for the strategic management of the organisation. He heads the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers and represents the Council of Europe.
The Chairman of the Committee of Ministers chairs the debate. He makes sure that the discussions lead to concrete and operational results, preferably via decisions taken by consensus. He always does this in close cooperation with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
The presiding Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs can represent the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and speaks on behalf of its 47 members. He plays this political role in consultation with and jointly with the Secretary General.
Chairmanship key players
To the outside world, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is the most well-known face of the Council of Europe. The Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs is a primus inter pares as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and steers the internal political consultation process of the 47 Member States for six months. He also contributes to the political consultation with other actors, such as the European Union, the OCSE or the United Nations.
The Committee of Ministers meets nearly every week in Strasbourg. This happens at the level of the Permanent Representatives of the 47 Member States in Strasbourg. Once a year the Committee of Ministers meets at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. This meeting will take place during the Belgian Chairmanship, on 19 May 2015 in Brussels, as the high point of the Chairmanship.
For six months the Belgian representative in Strasbourg, the Permanent Representative, together with his staff, will act as moderator of the weekly meetings of the Committee of Ministers. His duties will consist in bringing together the points of view of the 47 delegations and making the decision-making process as efficient as possible, for instance by supervising the enforcement of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This requires constant consultation with the other delegations, with the Secretariat of the Council of Europe and with the civil society organisations.
Just like other delegations, the Permanent Representative receives constant support from the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, in particular from the Multilateral Affairs Directorate, the Legal Affairs Directorate and the Policy Unit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The instructions to our Permanent Representation, whether there is a Chairmanship or not, are always issued under the political responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Many of the issues dealt with in Strasbourg are treated in Brussels by other Federal Public Services and bythe Regions and the Communities. This is because the Council of Europe is active in a variety of policy areas, such as Justice, Social Affairs, Youth and Culture. In fact, a number of important events in the context of the Belgian Chairmanship are organised by other Federal Public Services or by the Regions and the Communities.