Slovenia and the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is a key regional international organisation committed to promote the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and strengthening democracy and the rule of law in the wider European area. The purpose of the organisation is to promote the development of European cultural identity and diversity as well as seeking common solutions for problems that the European society encounters. The Council's efforts have paved the way to one of the greatest achievements of present-day Europe, the abolition of the death penalty in all of its 46 member states, before 47, following the decision of the Committee of Ministers on 16 March 2022 to expel the Russian federation from the Council of Europe because of its aggression against Ukraine.
Slovenia in the Council of Europe
Since joining the oldest pan-European international organisation on 14 May 1993, Slovenia has gained recognition as a successful member state, with high standards of respect for human and minority rights, strong democratic institutions and the rule of law. Slovenia is a contracting party to the majority of 220 treaties adopted by the Council of Europe. Slovenia held the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 12 May 2009 to 18 November 2009.
Through human rights promotion, the Council of Europe helps identify and remedy violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Slovenia is a contracting party to numerous conventions, most importantly, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which contains the basic tenets for the Council's work. A unique supranational court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), was set up to ensure that these rights are respected by the member states.
Democracy and the rule of law
The international community highly values the respect for international law, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and democratic principles. As a member state, Slovenia actively supports these pillars of the Council of Europe.
The Council applies the same democratic rules to all its member states, monitors the implementation of binding commitments, and provides a platform for cooperation and exchange of good practices. The Organisation is a guardian of the foundations of democracy, such as the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, democratic institutions and an inclusive society.
Bodies of the Council of Europe
The Committee of Ministers
The Committee of Ministers is an intergovernmental body and the highest decision making body of the Council of Europe. Until 2005 it met twice a year, in May and November, at the headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. According to the latest practice it meets once a year. It adopts substantive and procedural decisions relating to working fields of the organization, budget and obligations of member states and discusses the necessary measures based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.
The Committee of Ministers is chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the member state that holds the chairmanship (half-year term in alphabetical order). The Committee of Ministers’ Deputies – ambassadors of member states of the Council of Europe – meets on a weekly basis. USA, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the Holy See participate in the intergovernmental bodies of the Council of Europe as observer states.
The Secretary General
The Secretary General is the highest function in the Council of Europe’s Secretariat. The Secretary General is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a period of five years. Marija Pejčinović Burić (Croatia) took over the function of Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 18 September 2019. Bjørn Berge is the Deputy Secretary General. He was elected on 26th of January 2021 and took up office on 1 March 2021.
The Parliamentary Assembly
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is a consultative body composed of representatives of the national parliaments of 46 member states (as the Russian federation is no longer a member state of the Council of Europe following the decision of the Committee of Ministers on 16 March 2022). PACE independently formulates the programme of its sessions and debates on the Council of Europe’s activities and topical international issues, as well as adopting recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers or member states. The President is elected from among the parliament members for a period of three years. Tiny Kox (Netherlands) has been President of PACE since January 2022.
In the Committee of Foreign Affairs Ministers, each member state has one vote, whereas the number of representatives in PACE depends on the size of a country. France, Germany, Italy and the UK have the largest number of representatives (18) in PACE, whereas Andorra and Liechtenstein have the smallest number of representatives (2). In PACE, Slovenia has three representatives and three substitutes. In total, there are 324 representatives, the same number of proxies (together 648) and a few observers. Israel, Canada and Mexico hold observer status in PACE. The number of representatives of the various political parties in the delegation of each country must provide a balanced reflection of the political parties represented in the national parliament.
A Parliamentary Assembly session consists of four plenary sessions. Each of them usually lasts a week, and they are held at the end of January, April, June and September respectively.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is a consultative body representing local and regional authorities of member states. Its work is focused mainly on promoting local and regional democracy, as well as strengthening cross-border cooperation. Leek Verbeek (Netherlands) has been its President since March 2021. In the Congress, Slovenia has three representatives and three substitutes.
The European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights operates under the European Convention on Human Rights, in force since 1953 (signed in 1950), and its protocols. Complaints can be brought before the Court either by state parties who believe that another state party violated the rights under the Convention, or by individuals with a legal interest. The judgements are final and binding on the respondent state. Síofra O’Leary (Ireland) was elected President of the Court in September 2022 for a period of three years.
The Commissioner for Human Rights
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe is a political body independent from the ECHR and other bodies of the Organisation. The institute of the Commissioner was established in 1999 and ensures the respect and application of human rights in the member states.
The Commissioner’s tasks are encouraging education, awareness and promotion of respect for human rights in member states, and ensuring complete and effective accordance with Council of Europe texts, such as conventions, recommendations and resolutions. He or she is elected by PACE. In the current term of office, this post is occupied by Dunja Mijatović (Bosnia and Herzegovina), who was elected in January 2018 and started her function on 1 April 2018.
The Council of Europes activities are tightly connected to the work of non-governmental organisations. These organisations understand best the obstacles and problems that the people of member state countries have to encounter. One of the main challenges of the CoE is to improve the position of civil society and non-governmental organisations. That is why the CoE closely cooperates with the Conference of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). INGOs actively participates in the procedures of preparing and making decisions of the bodies of the CoE which helps to make the best possible decision for the people of member state countries. Gerhard Ermisher (Austria) has been its President since April 2021.
Besides the setting of standards and foundations of human rights protection, democracy and rule of law, it is very important to ensure their implementation in practice. With this purpose CoE has established numerous independent bodies that try to recognise failures of implementation and help member states by adopting different measures.
- European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)
- Department fort he Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights
- European Committee of Social Rights
- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
- Commissioner for Human Rights
Rule of Law:
- Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism
- Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)
Conventions and agreements
The Council of Europe plays an important role in setting up legislation in member states in all areas of activity. In more than fifty years, 200 conventions and agreements have been adopted. Owing to their multilateral nature, they are more than an act of cooperation, as they replace hundreds of bilateral treaties that would otherwise be concluded by the individual states.
Partial Agreements are not international treaties, but a specific form of cooperation within the Council of Europe. These Agreements enable member states to cooperate in a specific field with other signatory states to the Agreement. The budget for Partial Agreements is separate from the general budget of the Organisation. Partial agreements in which some but not all of the Council of Europe member states participate:
- European Audiovisual Observatory
- European Centre for Modern Languages
- European Commission for Democracy through Law – Venice Commission
- EDQM/European Pharmacopoeia
- Pompidou Group
- Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)
- Council of Europe Development Bank
- Observatory on History Teaching in Europe
- Cultural routes of the CoE
- Youth Mobility through the Youth Card
- Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport