The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is one of the four institutions of the Council of Europe, the other three being the Committee of Ministers, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the European Court of Human Rights.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe met for the first time on 10 August 1949, which makes it the oldest international parliamentary assembly of democratically elected members based on an international agreement. In the meantime, the Assembly has grown to comprise 648 members (324 members and 324 deputy members) who are elected or appointed from within the national parliaments of the 47 member states.
Switzerland became the 17th member of the Council of Europe in 1963.
The Parliamentary Assembly sets its own agenda. It holds debates on European and international events and addresses current issues and problems which are of concern to the people of Europe. In this respect, key issues are: human rights, democracy, protection of minorities and questions concerning constitutionality.
The parliamentary Assembly normally meets four times a year in Strasbourg for a 1-week plenary session. The
8 standing committees, which draw up reports and draft resolutions concerning their field for the plenary session, meet during the sessions as well as in the interim periods.
The PACE draws up recommendations which it then passes on to the Committee of Ministers and resolutions through which it expresses its wishes. Upon a request from the Committee of Ministers it will also give its opinion, often on draft international agreements.
The PACE also elects the Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Assembly and the judges for the European Court of Human Rights.
Within the Parliamentary Assembly, the number of representatives, and therefore the number of votes, is determined by the number of inhabitants of the country in question.
The official languages of the Council of Europe are English and French, although Russian, German and Italian are also used as working languages within the Parliamentary Assembly.
The largest delegations (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia) are made up 18 members and 18 deputy-members and the smallest 2 members and 2 deputy members. With 6 members and 6 deputy members, Switzerland is in the lower half of the table.