The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s statutory decision-making body. It is made up of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of member States. The Committee meets at ministerial level once a year and at Deputies' level (Permanent Representatives to the Council of Europe) weekly. The Committee of Ministers considers the action required to further the aim of the Council of Europe, including the conclusion of conventions or agreements and the adoption by governments of a common policy with regard to particular matters. Its conclusions are communicated to members by the Secretary General.
In appropriate cases, the conclusions of the Committee may take the form of recommendations to the governments of members, and the Committee may request the governments of members to inform it of the action taken by them with regard to such recommendations.
The Committee of Ministers may set up advisory and technical committees or commissions for such specific purposes as it may deem desirable.
Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, its meetings shall be held in camera at the headquarters of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers shall determine what information is to be disseminated about the discussion, that took place in closed session and the conclusions drawn at it.
The Chair of the CM is held for a six-month term in turn by the representatives of the members in English alphabetical order. The Chair passes to a new Chair mid-May and mid-November, at a date fixed by the CM.
Meetings of the Committee of Ministers are held in accordance with established practice once a year at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and weekly at a deputy level (Permanent Representatives of the member states).
Committee of Ministers at ministerial level are traditionally held in the capital of the chairmanship. Ministerial sessions are comprised of two parts: a formal session and informal discussions.
The agenda of the formal ministerial session generally includes:
- institutional matters linked to the handover of the chairmanship (stocktaking of the achievements of the outgoing Chair and presentation of the priorities of the incoming Chair; date and venue of the next session);
- a specific topic for debate. The outgoing and incoming chairs have the initiative for proposing subjects, of current concern and significance;
- where appropriate, a text, which adds to international consensus on a specific subject could be proposed for adoption.
The Committee of Ministers at Deputy level (Permanent Representatives of the member states) are held according to the schedule, adopted in the autumn before the start of the year.
Decisions taken by the Deputies have the same force and effect as decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers meeting at the level of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs. The Deputies do not take decisions on any matter which, in the view of one or more of them, should be dealt with by the Committee of Ministers meeting at ministerial level.
The EU participates in meetings of the Deputies. Observer States may observe regular meetings of the Deputies.
The Deputies’ Human Rights (DH) meetings
Deputies’ meetings which are devoted to the supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the ECHR take place in private at least four times a year for a duration of two or three days. They do not take place in the same week as other CM meetings.
Bureau of the Ministers' Deputies was set up in March 1975 to assist the Ministers' Deputies. Since May 2001, it has consisted of six members in the English alphabetical order: the current President, the two previous Presidents and the three future Presidents.
The Bureau has no decision-making power on questions of substance and may not substitute itself for the full Committee (CM).
The main tasks of the Bureau are:
Rapporteur groups are informal working structures of the Ministers' Deputies and have no decision-making power. They prepare decisions for the Committee of Ministers (CM) for adoption, ideally without debate.
There are currently 7 Rapporteur Groups
GR-C - Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment
GR-PBA - Programme, Budget and Administration
GR-SOC - Social and Health Questions
In addition, the rapporteurs ensure effective liaison with the PACE, The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, steering committees (sectoral experts from the Member States) and specialized ministerial conferences with their preparatory committees.