The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held its first session on 10 August 1949, which makes it the oldest international parliamentary assembly of democratically elected members based on an intergovernmental treaty. Today, as Europe's largest political forum, the Assembly has established itself as the driving force of the Council of Europe.
Composition and appointment
Unlike Members of the European Parliament, representatives to the Parliamentary Assembly are appointed by the national parliaments of member states rather than by direct public vote. They thus have an indirect mandate. The 12 seats available to Switzerland (six representatives and six substitutes) are distributed among the Federal Assembly's parliamentary groups at the beginning of each legislative period in proportion to their representation in the National Council and the Council of States. The Parliamentary Assembly maintains a close relationship with national parliaments, which facilitates interaction with Council of Europe activities at national level in the dialogue between different state powers.
Powers and procedures
The Parliamentary Assembly chooses its own agenda. It debates matters of European and international concern and addresses and demands Europe-wide action on current social and other problems. The main issues raised are in relation to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Other regular topics of discussion and reports include migration, protection of minorities, gender equality, the environment, science and education, the economy, culture and media policy.
The Assembly normally meets four times a year in Strasbourg for a one-week plenary session. The nine general committees, which meet during these sessions and in the interim periods, prepare committee reports and draft resolutions and recommendations in their subject fields for debate in the plenary session.
Monitoring is an increasingly important part of the Assembly's work. This entails helping member states honour the commitments they made when joining the Council of Europe. While all member states are subject to periodic review, the Assembly also has a more intensive monitoring mechanism for certain states showing signs of non-compliance. For these members, the Monitoring Committee submits a report at least once every two years. As part of monitoring in the broader sense, the Assembly also participates in election observation missions in cooperation with the OSCE.
One of the Assembly's main tasks is electing the top officials of the Council of Europe. This includes the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
In addition to English and French, which are the Council of Europe's official languages, the Assembly also uses German, Italian and Russian as working languages.
Swiss delegation to PACE
The Swiss Federal Assembly has sent an observer delegation to the meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg since 1961. Switzerland officially became a member on 6 May 1963, taking a seat on the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly with all the rights and obligations that this entails.
The contribution of members of the Swiss delegation over the years has been exceptional. For example, two Council of States members, both from Geneva, have served as president of the Assembly: Olivier Reverdin from 1969 to 1972 and Liliane Maury Pasquier from 2018 to 2020.
It would take too long to list here all the members of the Swiss delegation who have distinguished themselves as authors of important reports or through their chairmanship of Committees or political groups of the Assembly. But at least one name should not go unmentioned: Dick Marty, a Council of States member from Ticino and PACE representative from 1998 to 2012, who aroused enormous public interest with his various reports, making an impact far beyond the Council of Europe. Of particular note are his reports (I and II) on CIA secret detentions and transfers of detainees in Europe, his report on illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo and his report on UN Security Council and EU blacklists.