The Parliamentary Assembly has taken a series of measures intended to adapt its working procedures in response to the exceptional situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The closure of borders, restrictions on national and international travel and confinement for health reasons have led PACE to review, on an exceptional and provisional basis, its working methods and decision-making, in order to maintain its activities.
At a meeting by videoconference on 14 September 2020, the Bureau decided – in view of the current sanitary situation – to replace the October part-session of the Assembly by a meeting of the enlarged Standing Committee that took place on 12-13 October, continued on 22-23 October. The President decided to convene it remotely.
All members of PACE were able to take the floor at this enlarged meeting. However, in accordance with the existing Rules, only members of the Standing Committee were able to vote.
Following the adoption of the report on 'Lessons for the future from an effective and rights-based response to the Covid-19 pandemic' at the Standing Committee in June 2020, four reports on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic were adopted: 'Democracies facing the Covid-19 pandemic', 'The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on human rights and the rule of law', 'Humanitarian consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for migrants and refugees' and 'Upholding human rights in times of crisis and pandemics: gender, equality and non-discrimination'. Five other reports are under preparation.
The Bureau also requested that the Assembly’s Rules Committee propose necessary changes to the Rules of Procedure in order to enable a plenary session of the Assembly, including the election of personalities, to be held in January 2021.
On 20 November, PACE’s Standing Committee unanimously adopted modifications to the Rules of Procedure to enable the Assembly to hold remote or hybrid plenary sessions in exceptional circumstances.
On 9 December 2020, the Bureau agreed to hold the first part-session of 2021 (Strasbourg, 25-28 January) in a hybrid manner, and decided that the elections of personalities during this part-session should be held by individual electronic voting.
At its meeting on 30 April, the Bureau approved a memorandum modifying the working procedures of committees in response to the exceptional situation of COVID-19 and authorised remote committee meetings.
At its meeting on 7 May, the Bureau approved a memorandum on arrangements for the conduct of such remote committee meetings, introducing supplementary working methods on a temporary basis in response to the exceptional situation of COVID-19.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related sanitary situation in Europe, the procedure leading to the selection of the winner of the 2020 Prize has had to be postponed. Further details on the Prize web page.
Committee chairpersons, rapporteurs, general rapporteurs and, more widely, all members of the Assembly remain active during this period. They have taken positions on various aspects of current events relating to the activities and mandate of the Parliamentary Assembly. Since 6 March 2020, a significant number of announcements or statements have been published on the PACE website.
Throughout the period of confinement, the Assembly Secretariat remained operational and carried out its work remotely via teleworking. This arrangement was intended to ensure the continuation of PACE’s activities while implementing the measures recommended by the health authorities of member States and the WHO, in accordance with Council of Europe policy.
Since the end of confinement, most staff members have returned to office working, but the situation remains under constant review in light of the sanitary situation.