The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s decision-making body. It comprises the foreign ministers of all member states, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg. 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. In collaboration 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
Decisions and action
The Committee of Ministers decides the Council’s activities. It also determines the action to be taken on recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the proposals from various intergovernmental committees and conferences of specialised ministers. It approves the Council of Europe’s programme of activities and budget.
Ministers’ discussions cover all questions of common political interest except defence: these include the political aspects of European integration, extending co-operation, safeguarding democratic institutions and protecting human rights – in other words, all problems which require concerted pan-European solutions.
An active body
Member states’ foreign ministers meet once a year to review political issues and European co-operation and to give the necessary political impetus to the Council’s activities. Their permanent representatives (ambassadors) meet once a week and rapporteur and working groups meet to study certain issues in depth before decisions are taken.
Each minister chairs the Committee for six-months with a handover of the chairmanship in May and November.
When projects are not supported 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.
On the other hand, enlarged agreements enable some or all member states to work with non-member states, giving them the benefit of the Council’s permanent structure.
The Committee’s decisions reach governments in the form of recommendations or are embodied in European conventions and agreements, which are legally binding on states that ratify them.
The Committee also adopts declarations and resolutions on current political issues.
Some 200 conventions have been drawn up to date. Mainly they concern human rights but cover other areas which affirm and strenghten Europe’s democratic, social and cultural cohesion.
Most of the Committee of Ministers’ decisions require a two-thirds majority of votes cast but a simple majority is sufficient for procedural questions.
Conventions and recommendations are drafted by government experts responsible to the Committee of Ministers, harmonizing political interests with technical and sectoral considerations. Many political initiatives are also taken at regular conferences of specialised ministers.
Democracy and solidarity
The Council of Europe has co-operation and assistance programmes for new member states to allow them to draw on the Council’s experience. These are based on the results of intergovernmental collaboration at the Council – reference texts, networks of experts and co-operation structuresMinisters can suspend its right of representation, ask it to withdraw or even suspend its membership.