CM(2005)181 revised 15 December 2005
951 Meeting, 14 December 2005
1 General questions
1.5 Working methods of the Ministers' Deputies –
Discipline, efficiency, productivity, transparency
Guidelines for the reform and modernisation of the Committee's working methods
Item prepared by the GT-REF.INST
1. Ministers' Deputies meetings (CM)
1. The agendas of the Ministers’ Deputies should be as substantial as possible. They should mainly include items of a political nature and items requiring an operational decision.
2. These agendas shall be prepared by the Secretariat and Chair to enable the Committee of Ministers to take the necessary operational decisions.
3. The Bureau should ensure that agendas contain substantial items for decision, at the same time avoiding the addition of items that are not urgent or which could usefully be discussed at the Rapporteur group level beforehand. The length of agendas should be commensurate with the time available for dealing with the subject matter.
4. Meetings of the Ministers’ Deputies should be organised along the following lines, keeping however some flexibility:
· 3 Deputies’ meetings per month;
· in principle, Human Rights (DH) and Monitoring meetings should not take place in the same week as an ordinary meeting;
· the Ministers’ Deputies will in principle meet on a Wednesday;
· the morning session should start with essentially political issues. The afternoon session, which generally should not exceed 3 hours, should be devoted to the remaining items as necessary. There shall be a brief report from the Secretary General and/or the Deputy Secretary General;
· hearings and exchanges of views (not more than one per meeting) should, in principle, take place at the start of the afternoon. Guests should be invited only when their stature warrants it and there is a sufficiently high level of interest from delegations. The use of informal meetings or Rapporteur Group meetings, as appropriate, is recommended in this context;
· items prepared by Rapporteur Groups should be placed "in the box" for adoption without debate in cases where they were approved without objection at subsidiary group level. Delegations might make a statement in exceptional cases without it leading to further discussion;
the practice of CM statements on major events should be encouraged;
· use of silent procedures/adoption of decisions ad referendum should be encouraged. The normal deadline should be one and a half working days.
5. The Chair should ensure that the rules are respected. In particular he/she should discourage the removal of items from the box for discussion without good justification. Delegations wishing to do so are encouraged to inform the Chair two working days before the meeting. If the question is not urgent, the item could be referred back to the competent Rapporteur Group or Working Party for further consideration. Whenever appropriate, the Chair may invite the Chairs of subsidiary groups concerned to comment on this.
6. At the start of a discussion on a substantive point, the Chair may, if necessary, indicate to delegations the maximum length of time available and of interventions.
The Chair should guide the discussions towards an operational result, in particular by requesting delegations to react to compromise texts or specific proposals.
With regard to the time available, the Chair may close the speakers list or the discussion, requesting further contributions for the record.
At the end of meetings, the Chair should conclude briefly on the results (substance and/or procedure) achieved.
7. Whenever appropriate, delegations are encouraged to communicate to the Chair the positions they are likely to take in a forthcoming meeting. When that includes proposals for amending texts, delegations are encouraged to suggest specific wording in writing beforehand.
When formal statements of some length have to be made, they should ideally be summarised briefly, the full written text being distributed separately and included, if appropriate, in the records of the meeting.
8. The Chair should avoid opening drafting exercises during the Deputies’ meetings. If the issue is not ready for an operational solution the Chair should postpone the item. If the item concerns only a small number of delegations the Chair should invite them, with the assistance of a mediator and the Secretariat, as appropriate, to resolve the question in the margins of the meeting.
9. Between meetings, the Chair should take the necessary steps, especially when there is disagreement on the substance, to advance work in hand by conducting consultations with delegations. The results should be presented by the Chair, whenever possible, in writing.
2. Subsidiary bodies
10. As a general principle Rapporteur groups/Thematic coordinators/Ad hoc working parties prepare decisions for the Committee of Ministers ideally for adoption without debate.
11. The current list of Rapporteur Groups shall be adjusted and reduced to:
· GR-EDS shall be renamed GR-DEM (Democracy).
· GR-EXT (External relations) will handle relations with the EU, UN, OSCE and OECD. Thematic coordinators for some of these issues could be appointed.
· GR-AB, GR-C, GR-H, GR-J and GR-SOC shall remain unchanged.
12. Rapporteurs shall be renamed thematic co-ordinators (“TC”). They are appointed to follow certain areas of importance to the Organisation. Their work should be conducted, as far as possible, without convening meetings and address the issues within the remit given to them by the Committee of Ministers.
13. The mandate of ad hoc working parties (GTs) should be limited to the time needed to fulfil their tasks.
14. When recommending a Chairperson/Thematic coordinator to the CM, the Bureau should take into account all relevant factors in order to identify the right candidate for the position.
15. A timetable of meetings should be prepared, as far as possible well in advance, according to the following guidelines:
· In principle, the GR-DEM may hold a meeting every 3 weeks; the GR-AB every 4 weeks; the other GRs every 6 weeks; GTs as their task requires;
· Mondays and Fridays should generally be meeting-free days, unless a derogation is obtained from the Chair of the Deputies;
· Group meetings should in principle take place in the mornings, unless a derogation is obtained from the Chair of the Deputies; morning meetings may start at 9.30 a.m.;
· Sessions should be no longer than 3 hours;
· The GR-J and GR-H should in principle not take place during the same week.
If a meeting is required, thematic co-ordinators and chairs of ad hoc working parties should as far as possible request a timeslot within one reserved for a Rapporteur Group as follows:
· GR-DEM: GT-SUIVI.AGO, TC-NGO and TC-LARC.
· GR-EXT: TC-MED
· GR-H: TC-EG.
· GR-AB: TC-PROG, TC-INF, GT-REF.INST. and GT-BS.
If a timeslot is not possible, a meeting may be held, if necessary, in the afternoon.
16. The Chairperson should see to it that in principle:
· the group meets regularly according to an agreed timetable;
· the agenda justifies convening a meeting, including items which are relevant to the majority of delegations; and
· documents are distributed on time.
17. The conduct of meetings should follow guidelines common to all groups:
· advance knowledge of items for the agenda, planned timetable and timely distribution of documents;
· in principle documents for discussion should be distributed 15 workings days in advance;
· delegations should ideally present proposed amendments in writing 3-5 working days before the date of the meeting;
· preliminary debates or exchanges of views in the groups should not take place if the documents were not distributed on time;
· at the start of a discussion on a substantive point, the Chair may, if necessary, indicate to delegations the maximum length of time available and of interventions;
· when summing up at the end of group meetings, chairpersons should indicate those items that are to be placed in the box for the Ministers’ Deputies (to be indicated also in the synopsis);
· Group synopses should be distributed no later than 4 working days after the meeting.
3. Presentation of documents supporting the decision process
18. The presentation of documents should be standardised according to the following principles: concise, clear, and short, including an introductory summary, clearly defined recommendations for action to be taken and resource implications (financial and human).
19. Steering and expert committee reports and reports from conferences should be presented in the first instance to the competent Rapporteur Groups/Thematic coordinator within one month of the meeting; it being understood that the work of the Steering Committees will not be duplicated.
4. The handling of Parliamentary Assembly recommendations/questions in the work of the Committee of Ministers
20. Recommendations and written questions should receive a reply within 6 months whenever possible1. The Ministers’ Deputies should concentrate on giving timely replies to Recommendations.
21. Questions should be in the remit of the Council of Europe in so far as they deal with controversial bilateral questions. Priority should be given to questions tabled by groups of Parliamentarians and to questions on subjects immediately relevant to the Council of Europe’s activities. The Chair of the Deputies may resort to a letter of reply to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly if no agreement can be reached in spite of thorough consideration2.
Note 1 The Deputies made a commitment at their 825th meeting – item 1.6 (22 January 2003) with regard to the adoption of replies to Assembly Recommendations. This commitment introduced new deadlines for replying in principal in time for the second part-session following that at which they were adopted that is to say within less than six months whenever possible, instead of nine months, (the nine-month time limit becoming a maximum for exceptional cases).
Note In 1984, the Deputies agreed that written Questions submitted to the Committee of Ministers by members of the Assembly should not be left without a reply for a period of more than six months after they have been communicated to the Committee. (CM/Del/Concl(84)373 item 2)
Note 2 At their 880th meeting (7 April 2004), the Deputies agreed that: "If a consensus cannot be reached following the procedures set out [CM/Bur/Del(2004)7] in a reasonable timeframe, the Chair of the Deputies should hold further consultations with the delegations concerned. If these consultations fail to find an agreed reply, the Chair of the Deputies will inform the President of the Assembly that the Committee is unable to agree on a reply to the written question with a balanced and purely objective explanation of the reasons why it could not do so. In this case, once the text of the reply has been finalised, after consultations with the parties concerned, and approved by the Chair of the Deputies, a copy will be distributed to delegations. It is clear that responsibility for the wording of the reply would lie with the Chair."