Europe's Democratic Conscience
The parliamentarians who make up PACE come from the national parliaments of the Organisation's 47 member states. They meet four times a year to discuss topical issues and ask European governments to take initiatives and report back. These parliamentarians speak for the 800 million Europeans who elected them. They broach the issues of their choice, and the governments of European countries – which are represented at the Council of Europe by the Committee of Ministers – are obliged to respond. They are Greater Europe's democratic conscience.
A Melting Pot of Ideas
Since 1949, PACE, which is sometimes said to be the driving force of the Council of Europe, has been behind many of the Organisation's major initiatives (the European Convention on Human Rights, for instance). It must be consulted about all international treaties drawn up at the Council of Europe. It elects the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe and its own Secretary General.
The texts adopted by PACE – recommendations, resolutions and opinions – serve as guidelines for the Committee of Ministers, national governments, parliaments and political parties. Eventually, through legislation and practice, these texts influence and improve Europeans' lives.
- co-opted Senator
- ALDE Group leader at PACE
Member of the Flemish Parliament, delegated to the Belgian Senate
- Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee
- Chairperson of the Committee on Alternative Financing of Public Investment
Member of the Belgian delegation to PACE, appointed Chairperson of the delegation in 2015
Designated as leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) at PACE in 2017
- Speaker (briefly in 2010)
- Senate Group’s leader Open Vld (ALDE)
- Member of the Belgian delegation to PACE
- Member of the Western European Union (WEU)
Member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives
- Majority leader (2003-2006)
- Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee (2006-2007)
- Quaestor (2007-2010)
Belgian Minister of Telecommunications, Public Enterprises and Public Holdings, responsible for all State-owned companies and assets (portfolio enlarged with SME policy between 2001 and 2003); member of the ‘Core Government’ (with a status equivalent to Vice-Prime Minister)
Chairperson of the European Council of Ministers for Telecommunication
Mayor of the City of Aarschot
- Senior Adviser for Foreign Investment Funds at the Federal Participation and Investment Company
- Vice-Chairperson of the Board and President of the Investment Supervisory Committee of the China-Belgium Investment Fund
- Consultant in international business development
- Professional winemaker
- Contemporary artist-painter
Vice-Chairperson of Dexia Holdings and Administrator of the Crédit Local de France
Financial and economic adviser to the Belgian Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
- UN associate expert at the Central American Institute for Public Administration, San José, Costa Rica
- Teacher in financial mathematics and investment analysis at the ICAP Post-graduate Programme
- On-site operational consultant to public companies in the Central American region
He was born on 18 August 1959 in Aarschot, Belgium, is married and has two children.
The Vice-Presidents of the Assembly
Twenty Vice-Presidents are elected annually at the beginning of an ordinary session and remain in office until the opening of the next session (but a Vice-President whose delegation is renewed in the course of a session does not remain in office). The number of Vice-Presidents has been increased on several occasions as the number of member States has grown.
he function of a Vice-President is to take the Chair in the Assembly on any occasion when the President is unavailable. While doing so, the Vice-President exercises the powers, and is subject to the obligations, laid upon the President under Part V of the Rules of Procedure. Thus, as with the President, a Vice-President may not both take the Chair during a debate and otherwise take part in that debate. When a Vice-President is in the Chair, his or her Substitute may take the Vice-President's place in the Assembly, and may speak and vote there. The Official Report of debates refers to a Vice-President when he or she presides as "the President". Unlike the President, Vice-Presidents do regularly speak in debates which they have not chaired.
Most of the reports debated in plenary session or at the Standing Committee are prepared by a committee. The eight general committees of the Assembly are the following:
- Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy (AS/Pol)
- Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (AS/Jur)
- Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development (AS/Soc)
- Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons (AS/Mig)
- Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media (AS/Cult)
- Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination (AS/Ega)
- Monitoring Committee (AS/Mon)
- Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs (AS/Pro).
In addition, most of the committees have sub-committees or a general rapporteur on specific subjects, and may create ad hoc committees for specific activities. All committees meet during the part-sessions in Strasbourg and most meet at least once in-between part-sessions, usually in Paris.
How PACE Works
Although committees deal in particular with reports, they have great freedom to discuss any matter within their competence when they agree to do so. They organise hearings, colloquies or conferences on particular subjects, the findings of which can then be used for the preparation of reports to the Assembly.
Sessions and sittings
The sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly are divided into four part-sessions, each lasting for about a week at the end of January, April, June and the beginning of October.
Seats allocated to members in the Chamber are arranged in the shape of a horseshoe and allocated in alphabetical order. Consequently members do not sit in national delegations or in political groups.
Official and working languages
According to the Statute, the official languages of the Council of Europe are English and French. However, the Assembly provides interpretation in German, Italian and Russian as additional working languages.
The Table Office
The Table Office advises members of the Assembly, secretaries of delegations, of political groups and other officials on how best to achieve their objectives within the Rules of Procedure and serves as custodian of these rules.
The Assembly's plenary debates are held in public while committees meet generally in camera. The debates are conducted according to the principles observed in national parliaments.
Only members duly designated by the national delegation and who have signed the register of attendance for the specific sitting shall be entitled to vote. The Assembly normally votes by using the electronic voting system.
A two-thirds majority is required for questions such as a draft recommendation or draft opinion to the Committee of Ministers or the adoption of urgent procedure. In respect of a draft resolution and any other decision, a majority of the votes cast is required.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regularly adopts reports on the monitoring of Georgia's obligations and commitments as a member state. Georgia is represented in the Parliamentary Assembly by a delegation of 5 representatives and 5 substitutes.
Did you know?
The Council of Europe is a separate organisation from the 28-member EU. No country has joined the EU without first joining the Council of Europe.