CM(2005)160 final 17 November 2005
115th Session of the Committee of Ministers
(Strasbourg, 17 November 2005)
On the occasion of its 115th Session held in Strasbourg, under the chairmanship of Mr Freitas do Amaral, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, the Committee of Ministers reviewed the implementation of all the decisions adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe at the Warsaw Summit on 16 and 17 May 2005. Underlining that the Summit constituted a significant step towards building a Europe without dividing lines centred on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, it expressed the hope that all the European countries without exception would come together around these values. Following the Warsaw Declaration, the Ministers confirmed that they looked forward to the day when Belarus is ready to join the Council of Europe. Wishing to give concrete effect to the political impetus of the Summit as rapidly as possible, they focused on the following political priorities.
I. Strengthening the Council of Europe’s system of human rights protection
The Ministers reaffirmed that guaranteeing the effectiveness of the unique human rights protection system provided by the European Convention on Human Rights was a priority objective. They welcomed the prompt setting up of the Group of Wise Persons, composed of eleven eminent personalities, which was to make recommendations on the measures to be taken in the longer term for this purpose. They asked the Group to present them with an interim report for their next session in May 2006.
For the present, the Ministers reaffirmed that it was essential that decisions taken at the 114th Session on guaranteeing the effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights should be fully implemented within the agreed time-frame. This applied particularly to the ratification by all member states of Protocol No. 14 to the Convention. They welcomed the ratifications of the Protocol which took place during the Ministerial Session. They recalled the commitment to obtain within the next months the last ratifications which were indispensable to the entry into force of Protocol No. 14. The Ministers also stressed the particular importance of the other decisions taken at the 114th Session and instructed their Deputies to prepare, in advance of the 116th Session, a full report on the implementation of all the measures decided upon in May 2004, including those which were to be taken at national level.
Lastly, anxious to rapidly implement the Summit decision to reinforce the means available to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Ministers underlined that the Commissioner must be given the means allowing him to develop his action as from 2006 in order to fully discharge his mandate, having regard in particular to the entry into force of Protocol No. 14. They took this opportunity to commend the work done by the first Commissioner, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, to make his function renowned and gave their full support for the new Commissioner-elect, Mr Thomas Hammarberg.
II. Stepping up Council of Europe action to promote democracy
The Ministers stressed that the correct functioning of democracy remained the cornerstone for the building of advanced societies upholding human rights and the rule of law. They welcomed the fact that the process of reflection initiated in this regard at the Summit had been taken forward by the meeting to launch the Forum for the Future of Democracy held in Warsaw on 3 and 4 November at the invitation of the Polish authorities on the theme of “civic participation”. They called upon the Council of Europe to take resolute action to identify and propose innovative measures capable of promoting good governance, energising democracy and reinforcing the citizens’ confidence in it, while encouraging the participation of all actors of democratic life. In particular, they requested that the Council of Europe review experiences at national, regional or local level relating to civic participation in order to promote best practices in this area. The role of young people in the achievement of these objectives was specifically emphasized, and the Ministers called for the rapid launch of the European youth campaign decided on at the Summit. Furthermore, regarding the local level as the one where this could best be expressed, they supported the establishment of a Centre of Expertise on local government reform, due to start on 1 January 2006 for a trial period of three years, taking into account the opinions expressed by the competent bodies.
The Ministers reiterated the need to firmly combat the scourge of terrorism and the various forms of crime, including corruption and cybercrime, which pose a threat to democracy. They gave instructions on reinforcing the Council of Europe’s efforts in the fight against these threats and called on those member states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the three Conventions approved at the Summit on the prevention of terrorism, the fight against trafficking of human beings and money laundering and the financing of terrorism as soon as possible.
III. Building a more humane Europe
European construction is only meaningful if its action centres on the progress of society as a whole and if this progress benefits everyone. In this respect, the Ministers urged their Deputies to set up as soon as possible the high-level task force agreed at the Warsaw Summit to review the Council of Europe’s social cohesion strategy. They also called for the continuation of work on equitable access to social rights, including health, and to the adoption, as soon as possible, of a ten-year action plan aimed at securing equal rights for the disabled. Finally, the Ministers underlined the importance of the European Social Charter and other relevant instruments, in particular in the fields of education, culture and health, for building cohesive societies.
The Ministers also affirmed the need to achieve genuine equality between women and men in all spheres of society. They emphasised the urgency of implementing the pan-European campaign agreed on at the Summit to combat violence against women, including domestic violence, by appointing a task force to formulate targeted measures as from 2006. They took concrete measures to ensure the implementation in 2006 of the action programme on promoting children’s rights, starting with those belonging to the most vulnerable groups, and the protection of children against all forms of violence, including sexual exploitation.
The Ministers welcomed the strategy to promote intercultural dialogue in European societies which was adopted at the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Culture in Faro on 27 and 28 October 2005. This also translates into practical measures the desire for openness towards the rest of the world which was expressed at the Warsaw Summit. The White Paper to be drawn up by the Council of Europe on integrated policies for the management of cultural diversity through intercultural dialogue and conflict prevention, and the Faro Platform for promoting co-operation between institutions towards intercultural dialogue, constitute advances on this front. The Ministers asked that these be effectively followed up. The Ministers strongly encouraged the member states and the competent bodies of the Council of Europe to contribute actively to the pursuit of these initiatives. These activities will have to be co-ordinated with those of UNESCO and aim to promote, in particular, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
IV. Strengthening co-operation between the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations
The scope of the challenges but also the expectations of the peoples make it necessary for the organisations which are active throughout the continent to continue efforts to pool their energies. The effectiveness of their action and their credibility, which are essential conditions for the support of public opinion, depend on it. From that standpoint, the Ministers welcomed the progress achieved in strengthening co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE in the priority fields of co-operation which are the fight against terrorism, safeguarding the rights of members of national minorities, the prevention of trafficking in human beings, and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination. They asked for this process to be intensified by launching joint operational projects as of 2006, with due regard to each organisation’s specific features.
Given the community of values between the Council of Europe and the European Union, the Ministers expressed their support for the establishment of a genuine partnership between the two institutions. On that subject, the Ministers welcomed the constructive nature of the informal exchange of views which they had on 16 November with Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, to whom the Warsaw Summit had assigned, in his personal capacity, the task of drawing up a report on relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union.
In that context, the Ministers expected that the forthcoming opening of negotiations with the European Union would lead to the conclusion, by the end of 2006, of a memorandum of understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union, on the basis of the guidelines agreed in Warsaw. They recalled that this process is to lay the foundations for enhanced co-operation and political dialogue between the two institutions, also taking into account the proposals which will be made in the Juncker report. They agreed to evaluate the progress made in this direction at their next session.
The Ministers underlined the potential benefits of closer co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations. In this respect, they noted the participation of the Secretary General in a meeting of the United Nations Security Council held on 17 October 2005, under the chairmanship of Romania, on “Co-operation between the United Nations and Regional Organizations in maintaining international peace and security”.
V. Implementation of Chapter V of the Action Plan: enhancing transparency and efficiency
The Ministers noted that the implementation of Chapter V of the Action Plan of the Warsaw Summit regarding the reform process of the Council of Europe's organisational structures and working methods was proceeding. They reaffirmed the importance they attach to this process. Regular reports will be presented to the Committee of Ministers by the Secretary General on this matter, and a progress report will be submitted to their next Session. These reports will focus on progress made in strengthening the Council of Europe's operational capacity and improving the transparency of its activities and the evaluation of their results.