Parliamentary Assembly
Assemblée
parlementaire

Composition of the Bureau of the Assembly

Doc. 10185
19 May 2004

Report
Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities
Rapporteur: Mr Jonas Cekuolis, Lithuania, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group


Summary

Currently, committee chairpersons are not ex officio members of the Bureau of the Assembly. However, it is generally admitted that their membership would increase the representativeness of the Bureau and its possibilities for co-ordination of Assembly and committee activities.

To implement this, the draft resolution contained in this report proposes to modify Rule 12.2. of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure by simply adding the committee chairpersons to the existing Bureau members.

Furthermore, the draft resolution proposes that the current system of representation of national delegations on the Bureau through Assembly Vice-Presidents should be completed by allocating an additional Vice-Presidency to the member states having between two and four seats on the Assembly.

I.          Draft resolution [Link to the adopted text]

1.         The Parliamentary Assembly recalls that the composition of its Bureau has been adapted on different occasions to make it more representative of the Assembly.

2.         It notes that, at present, the chairpersons of the ten general committees of the Assembly are not ex officio Bureau members. These chairpersons, however, have in-depth knowledge of the activities and the functioning of the Assembly and its subordinate structures.

3.         It considers that ex officio Bureau membership of committee chairpersons would increase the representativeness of the Bureau and its possibilities for co-ordination of Assembly and committee activities.

4.         The Assembly therefore believes that the committee chairpersons should be added to the current Bureau members. They would thus also become ex officio members of the Joint Committee (Rule 55 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure).

5.         It notes that, under the current procedure and practice, the fifteen countries with between two and four seats on the Assembly only have 3 Vice-presidencies and thus Bureau membership every fifteen years. This situation should be improved by increasing the number of Assembly Vice-presidencies from 19 to 20 and allocating the additional Vice-presidency to that group of countries.

6.         Consequently the Assembly decides:

i.          to modify the first sentence of Rule 12.2. of its Rules of Procedure as follows:

“The Bureau shall consist of the President, twenty Vice-Presidents of the Assembly elected according to the system of apportionment of Bureau seats and the chairpersons (or their representatives) of the political groups and of the Assembly’s general committees".;

ii.          to replace in Rule 14.1. of the Rules the words “the election of the nineteen Vice-Presidents“ by the election of the twenty Vice-Presidents”;

iii.         to replace the appendix to Resolution 1105 (1996) by the enclosed text;

iv.         that these provisions shall enter into force upon their adoption.

Appendix to Resolution …. (2004)

System for the attribution of seats in the Bureau

for Vice-Presidents of the Assembly

1.         Member states are divided into four categories:

2.         Within these groups, seats in the Bureau are allocated for one ordinary session by following continuous English alphabetical order. Any new member state will be included in the relevant group and take its place according to English alphabetical order.

As regards groups II, III and IV, the annual review will be partial in order to ensure a greater continuity in the composition of the Bureau. This renewal will take place annually:

N.B.      The chairpersons of political groups or their representatives and the chairpersons of the Assembly general committees or their representatives are ex officio members of the Bureau of the Assembly.

II.         Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur

A.         INTRODUCTION

1.         On 8 September 2003 the Standing Committee referred for report to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities the appended motion for a resolution on the composition of the Bureau of the Assembly (Doc. 9858 rev. ). Its signatories considered that:

2.         According to the signatories of that motion “a solution to these problems would be to make the chairpersons of the ten Assembly committees members of the Bureau of the Assembly, together with the chairpersons of political groups. The Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, who, contrary to the Chairpersons of committees, do not reflect any political balance, could continue to be members of the Standing Committee but not of the Bureau”.

3.         This draft report presents the current provisions relating to the Bureau’s composition and main functions. It explains their evolution and, furthermore, gives basic information with respect to the Bureau’s relations with national delegations and the chairpersons of the Assembly’s general committees. Finally, the draft report will present proposals for Rule changes and take into account in particular the results of the meeting between the Bureau and the committee chairpersons held in Paris on 6 November 2003. Proposals contained in letters of committee chairpersons to the President of the Assembly and included in the files of the meeting on 6 November 2003 were also taken into account.

B.         THE CURRENT PROVISIONS OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S STATUTE AND THE RULES OF PROCEDURE RELATING TO THE BUREAU OF THE ASSEMBLY

4.         According to the Rules the Parliamentary Assembly has two steering bodies, the Bureau and the Standing Committee.

a.         The composition of the Bureau

5.         Article 28 c (ii.) of the Statute of the Council of Europe stipulates that "the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly shall determine inter alia ....the manner of the election and terms of office of the President and other officers.”

The Assembly therefore is free to determine the composition of the Bureau.

6.         At present the Bureau is composed (Rule 12.2. of the Rules of Procedure) as follows:

7.         The President and the Vice-Presidents are elected at the beginning of each parliamentary year (January part-session) and remain in office until the opening of the next ordinary session, one year later. No limit is fixed to the term of office of the Assembly President and the Vice-Presidents. The President is usually re-elected for two further yearly mandates. No limit is fixed to the term of office of Assembly Vice-Presidents. They are elected in respect of each national delegation entitled to a seat under the system of apportionment of Bureau seats established by Resolution 1105 (1996).

To be elected Vice-President, a representative or substitute must be proposed in writing by the chairperson of the national delegation concerned on behalf of that delegation. The Assembly’s rules are silent with respect to the election of political group chairpersons; this comes under the procedure and practice of the political groups.

8.         Whereas political group chairpersons unable to participate in Bureau meetings may be replaced by another group member, a similar substitution is not possible for Assembly Vice-Presidents.

b.         Main functions of the Bureau

9.         In accordance with Rule 12.1. of the Rules of Procedure, the Bureau is responsible for the co-ordination of the activities of the Assembly and of its committees and guides the Assembly’s external relations.

The Bureau adopts the agenda and establishes the order of business of the Assembly’s part-sessions. Among the many other Bureau tasks with respect to the functioning of the Assembly and which are of particular interest to committees, it is worth mentioning that it:

C.         THE EVOLUTION OF THE BUREAU’S COMPOSITION

10.        In 1949, the Assembly started with four Vice-Presidents, whereas currently there are nineteen.

During more than forty years the Bureau’s composition reflected only national delegations. The principles of this representation were as follows:

11.        This system had regularly to be adapted when new member states acceded to the Council of Europe and led to the election of currently 19 Vice-Presidents.

a.         The modification of representation of national parliamentary delegations

in the Bureau

12.        In 1993 (see Doc. 6881), the Bureau had, on the proposal of the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities, replaced the system of regional distribution of seats on the Bureau through Assembly vice-presidencies by a scheme based on the inclusion of national delegations in four groups, depending of the number of their seats in the Assembly (i.e. countries with 18 seats, with between 12 and 17 seats, between 5 and 11 seats and finally those with between two and four seats). It is to be noted that according to this scheme five countries (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, United Kingdom) have a permanent seat in the Bureau by means of an Assembly vice-presidency. The other countries are represented in the Bureau respectively:

To ensure a greater continuity in the composition of the Bureau, the annual renewal of seats on the Bureau is partial.

13.        In 1996, by adopting Resolution 1105, the Assembly strengthened the national element in the Bureau’s composition. The number of seats reserved for national parliamentary delegations (through a vice-presidency of the Assembly), according to a rotation system, was increased from 18 to 19[2]. This system currently is in force (see Appendix I).

b.         The inclusion of chairpersons of political groups among Bureau members and the Bureau ad hoc Committee of chairpersons of political groups

14.        Originally, these chairpersons neither attended Bureau nor Standing Committee meetings. However, since 1964 the chairpersons of political groups were invited to the Bureau meetings on an ad hoc basis in an advisory capacity. In 1974, the Bureau decided that they would regularly participate in its meetings without voting rights and this decision was approved by the Assembly. This was justified by the increasingly important role played by the political groups and by their contribution to the preparation of the Assembly’s decisions.  Following the adoption of Resolution 1043 in 1994, the chairpersons of political groups in this function automatically became members of the Bureau with voting rights.

15.        The Bureau has set up an Ad Hoc Committee of Chairpersons of Political Groups which generally meets before the Bureau.

D.         THE BUREAU’S RELATIONS WITH NATIONAL DELEGATIONS AND THE CHAIRPERSONS OF THE ASSEMBLY’S GENERAL COMMITTEES

a.         The Bureau and the chairpersons of the Assembly’s general committees

16.        The committee chairpersons have never been Bureau members ex officio. However, from the outset they were members of the Standing Committee which until 1997 had an important function for committee chairpersons, namely to draw up the draft order of business for part-sessions.

17.        In the past, the Bureau met sometimes in the presence of the chairpersons of the general committees to review the order of business of part-sessions. The Bureau also invited committee chairpersons to examine with them matters of common interest. Following a preliminary meeting between the President and committee chairpersons on 25 June 2003, a joint meeting of the Bureau with the committee chairpersons was held in Paris on 6 November 2003 to examine, inter alia, the composition of the Bureau.

18.        Occasionally, committee chairpersons were at the same time Vice-Presidents or Chairpersons of political groups of the Assembly and thus Bureau members.

19.        It is to be noted that since the reform of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, which entered into force in January 2000, the chairpersons of the Assembly’s general committees are elected based on the designations made by the political groups.

b.         The Bureau and national parliamentary delegations

20.        It has been mentioned that 19 of the 45 national delegations are represented on the Bureau of the Assembly by a Vice-President of the Assembly elected in their respect. When during a meeting the Bureau considers a question, which is important for a national parliamentary delegation, the Chairman of this delegation may be invited to participate.

21.        The experience has shown the importance of national delegations for any action in national parliaments and with governments with respect to the Council of Europe and Assembly budgets, the follow-up to Assembly texts and the implementation of the Council of Europe’s legal instruments, the execution of certain judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

22.        In the past, and more recently on 2 November 1999, 6 April 2000 and 14 March 2001 meetings of the chairpersons of national delegations were held to examine matters of common interest (e.g. the restructuring of Assembly Committees). These meetings had no particular status. Since January 2000 the Standing Committee is composed, inter alia, of the chairpersons of national delegations or in their absence, of a member of the delegation duly designated (Rule 15.3.d.).

E.         PROPOSALS FOR THE MODIFICATION OF THE BUREAU’S COMPOSITION

a.         Inclusion of committee chairpersons among Bureau members

23.        The central proposal in the motion for a resolution on the composition of the Bureau of the Assembly (Doc. 9858 rev., see above par. 2), which was also supported by the majority of the participants in the meeting of the Bureau with the committee chairpersons on 6 November 2003 is Bureau membership of committee chairpersons. They would be Bureau members as long as they hold the Committee chairmanship. The maximum length of the mandate would therefore be that laid down in Rule 45.7.

24.        The motion for a resolution also proposed to replace the 19 Vice-Presidents of the Assembly by the 10 chairpersons of the Assembly's general committees in the Bureau.

25.        It is obvious that membership of committee chairpersons in the Bureau would increase both its representativity and possibilities for co-ordination. The Committees are the motor of the Assembly. Committee chairpersons have a good knowledge of the activities and the functioning of the Assembly and its subordinate structures. Membership of committee chairpersons in the Bureau would facilitate its task to coordinate committee activities. The Bureau’s discussions on external relations matters, election observation and many other subjects would be enriched by the participation of committee chairpersons.

26.        Bureau membership of committee chairpersons would raise the number of Bureau members to 35. At the meeting of the Bureau with committee chairpersons on 6 November 2003, your rapporteur had asked participants if this would constitute a problem. The wide majority of them considered that this was not the case.

27.        The membership of committee chairpersons in the Bureau can be achieved by two methods: directly by adding them to the current members or indirectly by modifying the system of appointment of Bureau members. The first method was clearly supported by the participants of the afore-mentioned meeting on 6 November 2003 and by the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities.  The second method would be an answer to the proposal in the afore-mentioned motion for a resolution that the Assembly Vice-Presidents should be replaced by the ten committee chairpersons. As this proposal only received little support and because of the already underlined relevance of the representation  of national delegations on the Bureau, your rapporteur will refer to th

            (i)         Addition of committee chairpersons to the existing Bureau members

28.        At the procedural level this would require the inclusion in Rule 12.2., at the end of the first sentence, of the following words: “chairpersons of the Assembly’s general committees”.

The specification “general” would make it clear that only the committees listed in Rule 43.1 are meant and not also ad hoc committees.

The first sentence of Rule 12.2. thus amended would read:

“The Bureau shall consist of the President, twenty Vice-Presidents of the Assembly elected according to the system of apportionment of Bureau seats and the chairpersons (or their representatives) of the political groups and of the Assembly’s general committees".

29.        The inclusion of committee chairpersons in the Bureau would have no consequences for the Standing Committee’s composition. However, the increase of the number of Bureau members due to the addition of committee chairpersons would increase the number of members of the Assembly’s delegation to the Joint Committee.  It is recalled that this was also the case when chairpersons of political groups became ex officio members of the Bureau.  Rule 55.2. of the Rules of Procedure stipulates that the representatives of the Assembly on the Joint Committee shall be the members of the Bureau and one member of each parliamentary delegation of member states not represented on the Bureau. According to Rule 55.1. the Joint Committee shall consist of representatives of each member government and a corresponding number of Assembly representatives, including the President.

30.        Two further matters should be settled. Occasionally, committee chairpersons have been at the same time Assembly Vice-Presidents. The Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities considered that this possibility should be maintained when committee chairpersons will become ex officio members of the Bureau. It is recalled in this connection that under the Rules only Vice-Presidents can replace the President to chair plenary sittings. Furthermore, Vice-Presidents may be called upon by the President to fulfil representational functions for him/her.

31.        The Committee also agreed that like chairpersons of political groups, also committee chairpersons should be able to be replaced at Bureau meetings by one of their vice-chairpersons (or by a committee member specially designated).

(ii)         An alternative solution: appointment of all Bureau members–including committee chairpersons – by the Assembly’s political groups.

32.        During the meeting in Paris on 6 November 2003 some participants considered that all members of the Bureau should be appointed through political groups, taking into account their strength. This could be done after the determination of the Bureau’s size on the basis of the d’Hondt system.

33.        However, such a new appointment system would terminate the representation of national delegations on the Bureau through Vice-Presidents of the Assembly. At the meeting of the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities on 27 October 2003 it was argued that if national representation in the Bureau was abandoned, this would be a substantial structural change in the Assembly.

34.        This alternative solution does not need any further examination as it was not supported by the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities. It is to be noted, however, that at the committee's meeting on 27 April 2004, several members underlined again the interest of the alternative solution. Furthermore, during his consultations at different levels of the Assembly, your rapporteur noted that the wide majority of members favour simply adding the committee chairpersons to the existing members.

b.         Adaptation of the system of rotating vice-presidencies of the Assembly

35.        During the meeting on 6 November 2003 the following matters were advocated:

36.        The Committee on Rules of Procedures and Immunities considered that in particular the representation on the Bureau of the countries with between two and four seats in the Assembly raises problems. Once having had a seat on the Bureau (for three consecutive years), they currently have to wait for 15 years until it is their turn again. In these circumstances the Committee on Rules of Procedure considered that an additional vice-presidency of the Assembly should be allocated to the respective countries. This would require the adaptation of Rules 12.2. and 14.1.

37.        Moreover, the current three-year term of vice-presidencies for fifteen national delegations with between two and four seats on the Assembly does not seem to be justified vis-à-vis the twenty-one national delegations of countries with between five and eleven seats on the Assembly. These countries only have a two-year term of vice-presidencies.

38.        In practical terms, the proposed change would have the following consequence: the delegations of countries with between two and four seats on the Assembly would be represented on the Bureau two times (two consecutive years) during a period of eight years.

F.         CONCLUSIONS

39.        The Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities and the participants at the meeting between the Bureau and committee chairpersons on 6 November 2003 took a clear position for Bureau membership of committee chairpersons by simply adding them to the existing Bureau members. This would mean that the current system of representation of national parliamentary delegations on the Bureau through Assembly Vice-Presidents would be maintained. The Committee on Rules of Procedure agreed that it should be completed by allocating an additional vice-presidency to the group of countries having between two and four seats in the Assembly.

40.        On 27 April 2004, the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities unanimously adopted the draft resolution contained in this report and agreed to submit it to the June 2004 part-session.

41.        The proposed new provisions should enter into force on their adoption.

Appendix I

RESOLUTION 1105 (1996)[3]

on the composition of the Bureau of the Assembly

Appendix II

Doc. 9858 rev.
26 August 2003

The composition of the Bureau of the Assembly

Motion for a resolution
presented by Mr Eörsi and others


Committee responsible for the report: Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities

Reference to committee: Doc. 9858 rev., Reference No. 2856 of 8.09.2003

Draft resolution unanimously adopted on 27 April 2004

Members of the committee : Mr Holovaty, (Chairperson), MM.Magnusson, Manzella, Pourgourides, (Vice-Chairpersons), MM. Akçam, Alibeyli, Bernik, Bottomley, Bougas, Calmes, Ceder, Collavini, Mrs D'Amato, Mrs Doktorowicz, MM. Doric, Dule, Frankenhauser, Mrs Garsdal, MM. Gedei, Gligoric, Mrs Grosskost, MM. Himmer, Höfer, Mrs Jääteenmäki, MM. Jung Armand, Jurgens, Kroupa, Maissen, Miššík, Monsen, Morales Monteiro, Olteanu, Ostrovsky (alternate: Mr Fedorov), Pentchev, Pereira Coelho, Mrs Pétursdóttir, Mrs Radulovic Šcepanovic, MM. Rustamyan, Sálaridze, Sharandin, Sileikis (alternate: Mr Cekuolis), Stepaniuc, Vis, Wright, Zernovski.

NB: The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretary of the committee: Mr Heinrich.


[1]  After its accession, Monaco will be included in this group.

[2] More precisely, the number was increased from 17 to 18. However, as the nationality of the President was taken into account until January 2000 for the distribution of seats on the Bureau, there were in fact 19 seats to be shared among national parliamentary delegations.

[3]Text adopted by the Standing Committee acting of behalf of the Assembly, on 7 November 1996.