Consensus Formation in the Council of Europe

Consensus Formation in the Council of Europe

Consensus Formation in the Council of Europe

Consensus Formation in the Council of Europe

Excerpt

INTEGRATION AND CONSENSUS

"Ater eight years of membership of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, I have -- for the time being -- given it up. I can't take the frustration any more."1 Thus commented Sir Robert Boothby, British Conservative member of the Council of Europe since its inception in 1949. His judgment is not an isolated one. Parliamentarians used to the powers and prerogatives of national legislative bodies and committed advocates of European unity share a feeling of frustration with respect to the labors of this interparliamentary assembly, which offers a forum to legislators from fifteen European countries.

In view of the novelty of international parliamentary assemblies this feeling is hardly surprising. The most venerable of the six bodies in the Atlantic area -- the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe -- is barely ten years old. These ten years, however, have sufficed to demonstrate a number of propositions concerning the role of international parliamentary assemblies in the process of regional integration. Unless they are endowed with a clear legislative mandate -- which they are not -- the deliberations of their members and the resolutions they adopt can advance integration only if the opinions expressed result from a clear and consistent meeting of the minds of all or certain groups of members, instrumental in influencing the national decision-making bodies that determine the kind and pace of integration. In short, the depth and firmness of consensus achieved by the members of international parliamentary assemblies deprived of direct legislative influence is the only road available to them for directing the progress of integration. In Boothby's judgment, such a consensus was not achieved in the Council of Europe.

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