The Council of Europe in general
The Council of Europe is the continent‘s leading organisation in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Organisation was founded after the Second World War with the aim of building greater stability and co-operation and preventing more wars, with a focus on shared values. The Council of Europe has 46 member States and five observer States. The Council is currently examining the possibility of accession by the Republic of Kosovo.
Composition / Structure
What is the Committee of Ministers?
The Committee of Ministers is the central decision-making body of the Council of Europe. It adopts the Organisation’s Budget for example and monitors the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments in the member States. It is made up of the member States’ Foreign Affairs Ministers. The Committee sits once a year at ministerial level and every week at the level of the Permanent Representatives to the Council of Europe (the Ministers’ Deputies) to discuss and examine specific topics. The Ministers’ representatives are supported by a Chair, a Secretariat, rapporteur groups, thematic co-ordinators and ad hoc working parties, although these have no decision-making powers of their own.
What is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)?
The Parliamentary Assembly consists of 306 parliamentary delegates from the Council of Europe’s member States. As the Council of Europe‘s consultative body, it adopts PACE resolutions and recommendations for the attention of the Committee of Ministers. Its members also elect, among others, the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
Under the Statute of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly also has the following powers:
- issuing calls for action to 46 European governments, which must respond collectively;
- carrying out investigations to uncover instances of human rights violations;
- putting questions to Presidents or Prime ministers on any topic of its choosing;
- observing elections and sending delegations in response to crisis situations;
- negotiating the conditions in which States become members of the Council of Europe;
- encouraging States to adopt new legislation, through proposals and opinions adopted regarding treaties;
- obtaining legal opinions on member States’ laws and constitutions;
- imposing sanctions on a member State, recommending its exclusion or suspension.
Liechtenstein is represented by members of parliament Franziska Hoop, Peter Frick, Hubert Büchel (substitute) and Thomas Hasler (substitute).
What is the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities?
The Congress advises the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in all matters of local and regional policy. The highly diverse activities of the Congress include the observation of local and regional elections, the setting of standards for protecting the prerogatives of local and regional authorities and the monitoring of the implementation of recommendations and resolutions as well as the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments at local level. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities comprises representatives of the local, municipal and regional authorities of the Council of Europe’s member States.
Liechtenstein is represented in this body by two local elected representatives.
What is the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?
The Strasbourg Court, set up in 1959, ensures compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) of 1950. Since 1998 the European Court of Human Rights has been a permanently sitting court, where people can lodge applications claiming that a Council of Europe member State has violated their fundamental rights as set out in the Convention. Each of the 46 member States is represented by a judge working in the Court. The judges are elected by the PACE for each country from a list of three candidates for a non-renewable term of nine years.
This possibility for an international court to pass legally binding judgments on human rights violations by States is unique in the world. In addition to the right of individual complaint, which is the channel for most of the cases coming before the Court, it is also possible for States to make applications against other States. The execution of judgments is supervised by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.
The European Court of Human Rights rules on violations of the fundamental rights laid down in the ECHR, such as the right to a fair trial or the right to freedom of opinion. Since Liechtenstein’s accession to the Council of Europe, ten people have exercised their right to lodge an application and obtained a judgment in each case. In eight of those cases, the European Court found that Liechtenstein had committed a rights infringement, while no violations were found in the other two cases. This illustrates how things decided at a higher political level have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people.
What is the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?
The ECHR is a 1950 treaty which obliges the Council of Europe’s member States to respect common fundamental and human rights. The Convention is unique in terms of its form and scope and plays a vital role in promoting human rights and safeguarding democratic principles and the rule of law in Europe. Any member State citizen can invoke those rights and, after exhausting all nationally available remedies, have them upheld before the European Court of Human Rights.
What other Council of Europe conventions are there?
There are more than 200 Council of Europe conventions on the most wide-ranging human rights-related topics. Liechtenstein has signed and ratified 91 of them. The full list of the different conventions is to be found here. Besides this, there are various convention-based committees of experts that are of relevance for Liechtenstein.
Committees of experts
The Council of Europe has committees of experts and monitoring committees covering a wide range of issues. Some 50 experts from Liechtenstein work on these different committees alongside representatives of other States. The experts are either state government staff or independent outside consultants. A few examples of groups of experts are given below.
GREVIO (Combating violence against women and domestic violence)
The 2011 Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, opens the way for creating a legal framework at pan-European level to protect women against all forms of violence. The Convention is built on four pillars:
- Prevention of violence against women and domestic violence
- Protection from violence against women and domestic violence
- Prosecution and elimination of violence against women and domestic violence
- Co-ordination of legal and other measures among member States.
GREVIO is the independent expert body that, since 2015, has been responsible for monitoring the Istanbul Convention’s Contracting Parties to ensure that they put it into practice. To that end, GREVIO draws up and publishes reports evaluating the measures taken by the member States. In serious cases, GREVIO may initiate a special inquiry procedure against a member State and, where applicable, also adopt recommendations on the Convention’s themes and concepts. Liechtenstein ratified the Istanbul Convention on 17 June 2021.
MONEYVAL (Anti-Money Laundering)
MONEYVAL is a permanent and, as from 2011, independent monitoring body of the Council of Europe. It has the task of assessing compliance with the principal international standards to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as the effectiveness of their implementation. It also makes recommendations to national authorities regarding necessary improvements to their systems. Progress is regularly monitored through dynamic processes and recommendations made on building the capacities of national authorities.
GRECO (Fighting Corruption)
The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) pursues the objective of improving its members’ capacity to fight corruption at both national and international level. In its multidisciplinary approach the Council of Europe develops a whole host of legal instruments to tackle corruption. GRECO monitors compliance with these standards and continues to make a major contribution by developing national capacities and technical co-operation programmes to fight corruption. There are peer reviews of member States’ implementation of recommendations and agreements in the sphere of corruption, and evaluation and compliance reports are adopted.
ECRI (Combating Racism)
Set up in 1993, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is a unique expert body that monitors action against racism, discrimination and intolerance in Europe. ECRI deals with phenomena of racism, discrimination and intolerance that are of a structural or general nature and, to that end, works closely with relevant national and international organisations and civil society players. Its activities entail country monitoring, thematic work and work with civil society. Individual complaints are handled by the European Court of Human Rights.
GRETA (Combating Trafficking in Human Beings)
GRETA has been operating as an expert group with the task of combating trafficking in human beings and monitoring implementation of the Council of Europe Convention underpinning its work since 2009. In this connection, GRETA carries out country visits and produces reports to evaluate the action taken by the member States to implement the Convention’s provisions.