Council of Europe

Today I was witness to the European Parliamentary debate regarding the current issues between Russia and Ukraine. The Council of Europe headquarters I visited today is located in Strasbourg, France, right on the border with Germany. The two other European Parliaments are located in Luxembourg and Brussels.

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Being the law nerd I am, I will summarise simply what I find to be the most interesting and important facts to know about the Council of Europe and the European Parliamentary Assembly.

1. There are 47 member states.

2. Only 28 member states are part of the European Union.

3. Belarus is not a member state. Belarus is a dictatorship.

4. Poland became a member on 26 November 1991.

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5. The Parliamentary Assembly consists of 318 members of parliament.

6. The Parliamentary Assembly elects the Secretary General, the Human Rights Commissioner and the judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

7. There are ‘observer countries’ which consist of Canada, The Vatican, Japan, Mexico and the United States of America. Note, no Australia.

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Unfortunately, it was not possible to view the European Court of Human Rights from the inside.

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I had the opportunity to meet Switzerland’s representative member, Maximilian Reimann, who explained a lot of the functions of the Parliament. However, he only spoke to the group in German. Despite having an excellent translator, I realised, I must learn to speak German, and that, it really wouldn’t hurt to brush up on my high school French as well.

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No photos were allowed to be taken during the debate in the Hemicycle, but sometimes rules must be broken for the wellbeing of one’s blog. The experience was incredible, and even though most speakers delivered their speeches in English, those more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue could do so, as there were booths with translators for each official EU language (there are 24).

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Tonight, the decision of the debate was made and the results were revealed. The European members, by majority vote, 145 in favour to 21, with 22 abstentions, backed the resolution to withdraw the voting rights of Russia’s 18 member delegation until the end of 2014. Russia’s right to participation in election observation missions was scraped, in addition to being kicked off the assembly’s most prestigious committees.

For a full article regarding the outcome of today’s decision, see here.

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