The Committee of Ministers
The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It comprises the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the member states, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg. It is both a governmental body, where national approaches to problems facing European society can be discussed on an equal footing, and a collective forum, where Europe-wide responses to such challenges are formulated. In collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly, it is the guardian of the Council's fundamental values, and monitors member states' compliance with their undertakings.
In May 1951 the Committee of Ministers invited each member State to appoint a Permanent Representative who would be in constant touch with the organisation. All Permanent Representatives reside in Strasbourg. They are usually senior diplomats with Ambassadorial rank, occasionally chargés d'affaires.
In 1952 the Committee of Ministers decided that each Minister could appoint a Deputy. The Deputies have the same decision-making powers as the Ministers. A Deputy is usually also the Permanent Representative of the member State. (The current list of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the member States of the Council of Europe)
The second in rank in a delegation usually has the title "Deputy Permanent Representative", not to be confused with "Ministers' Deputy".
The Committee meets at ministerial level once a year, in May or in November. The meetings, known as "sessions", are normally held in Strasbourg and usually last one full day or two half days.
While the greater part of each session is usually devoted to political dialogue, the Ministers may discuss all matters of mutual interest with the exception of national defence.
Although the records of the sessions are confidential, a final communiqué is issued at the end of each meeting. The Ministers may also issue one or more declarations.
Sessions are conducted according to the Committee of Ministers' rules of procedure (5th rev. ed. 2005). They are usually held in the Committee of Ministers' meeting room.
The Committee of Ministers performs a triple role:
- as the emanation of the governments which enables them to express on equal terms their national approaches to the problems confronting Europe's societies;
- as the collective forum where European responses to these challenges are worked out;
- as guardian, alongside the Parliamentary Assembly, of the values for which the Council of Europe exists.