Ministers’ Deputies
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CM(2009)52 7 May 20091
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119th Session of the Committee of Ministers

(Madrid, 12 May 2009) –

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union –
Report for the 119th Ministerial Session

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Executive Summary

The Council of Europe and the European Union are important partners. Since the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union in May 2007, political and technical relations between the two organisations have further developed, both from a qualitative and quantitative point of view.

Co-operation is now more diversified and covers most fields of competence of the Council of Europe, in particular human rights, democracy and rule of law. It takes various forms, from the regular exchange of information to the use of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms as a useful source of information in a number of areas for the European Union, to the organisation of joint activities. An illustration of the intensity of this co-operation is the fact that thirty-eight Joint Programmes are currently in operation. This represents over 20% of the 2008 programme of activity of the Council of Europe. Co-operation is also pursued in the fields of intercultural dialogue, education, youth and promotion of human contacts.

The two organisations have strengthened coherence between their respective legal standards in the fields of human rights and rule of law. Co-operation in this field which concerns several expert bodies of the Council of Europe contributes to promoting Council of Europe standards within and beyond the borders of Europe.

The Eastern Partnership Initiative could provide opportunities for enhanced co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, in conformity with the Memorandum of Understanding.

Inter-institutional relations between the two organisations have been further strengthened in the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Juncker report. There has also been an intensification of high-level political dialogue in order to coordinate responses to challenges to democratic stability in Europe.

These positive trends of co-operation should be further advanced in the interest of the values shared and promoted by both organisations. The Committee of Ministers will continue to pay priority attention to the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union and the report of Jean-Claude Junker.

The present report also identifies perspectives for further strengthening of the partnership.

At the 118th Session of the Committee of Ministers, the Ministers “…asked their Deputies to prepare an overall assessment of the relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, including action taken on the Juncker Report, to be submitted to the High-level follow-up group to the Juncker Report, in time for it to be examined at the 119th Ministerial Session in May 2009.”2

Since the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Council of Europe and the European Union constitutes the framework for enhanced co-operation and political dialogue, the present assessment mostly follows the structure of this document. This assessment is largely based on the document that takes stock of the co-operation in 2008 (CM(2009)52 addendum) as well as on the overview of Joint Programmes (CM(2009)52 addendum 2) and takes into account the Priorities for future action (CM(2008)169) adopted by the Committee of Ministers in November 2008.

Introduction

The Juncker Report and the Memorandum of Understanding marked the beginning of a new era in Council of Europe - European Union relations. While the Juncker report serves as a source of inspiration for the relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, the Memorandum of Understanding, which was the result of extensive negotiations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, is guiding and governing these relations. When assessing these relations due account needs to be taken of both documents, which are linked. This is the approach of the current report.

The relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union have been boosted in the past two years in qualitative and quantitative terms. This has resulted in a growing awareness of the partnership on the part of both organisations and member states and a more structured approach to co-operation and more intensive co-ordination while taking due account of their respective competences, avoiding duplication and fostering synergies. Results and achievements, as well as areas for possible improvement, have become more visible. This report highlights the most relevant developments.

The experience of the past two years not only justified the point of departure of the Juncker Report (“the Council of Europe and the European Union are partners – different but complementary organisations”), but confirmed one of the most important principles of the MoU, i.e. the Council of Europe will remain the benchmark for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms

Respect for human rights is one of the shared principles on which the European architecture is based and co-operation in this field is a good example of cohesion and consistency between the Council of Europe and the European Union. Council of Europe human rights standards often serve as a reference in relevant EU activities and are occasionally reflected and referred to in EU legislation. Similarly, EU legislation has influenced Council of Europe standard setting activities. In a number of areas, Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms constitute a useful source of information for the European Union.

Through the results of Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms, references to these standards are included in the EU country and progress reports in the framework of the EU Enlargement Policy as well as in the implementation of European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans. The value-based co-operation is well illustrated by the joint activity concerning the European Day against the Death Penalty. Close co-operation between the Council of Europe’s comprehensive programme on children’s rights and the future European Union strategy on the rights of the child should be ensured. Co-operation is also crucial with a view to improving the mainstreaming of children’s rights in all Council of Europe and EU policies. Specific forms of co-operation have been developed with respect to field activities, like pre-electoral assistance and most recently, human rights training organised by the Council of Europe for members of the EU Monitoring Mission deployed in Georgia subsequent to the conflict in Georgia in August 2008. The objective of the training was to provide EU monitors with the necessary knowledge of relevant Council of Europe human rights standards and the skills to apply these standards in the course of their monitoring duties. This cohesion and consistency have also been made visible beyond the borders of Europe, through the developing practice of referring to Council of Europe human rights instruments in arrangements elaborated between the EU and its non-European partners3. Furthermore, the results of Council of Europe’s monitoring procedures provided an input of relevant information to human rights dialogues carried out by the EU.

There is substantial co-operation between the Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant EU institutions, including at the highest levels, covering consultations and exchange of information. These consultations aim at identifying common strategies and, where possible, joint actions. In 2008, the Commissioner had several meetings with members of the European Commission. The European Commission has increasingly consulted the Commissioner for Human Rights in the elaboration of draft legislation and on instruments to measure member states’ compliance with their different human rights obligations (e.g. children’s rights or migration/refugee issues). The Commissioner has also increased his co-operation with the European Union in areas of common concern, such as human rights defenders and anti-discrimination. With the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, a number of joint activities have also been undertaken (e.g. in the fields of Roma and migration).

The relevant principles of the Juncker Report are largely reflected in the co-operation agreement between the Council of Europe and the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU. The Council of Europe has appointed an independent person in the governing bodies of the latter and is being consulted both on policy issues and specific questions. The regular contribution of the Council of Europe constitutes an important added value to the work of the Fundamental Rights Agency, especially in the context of the strategic reflection process of the latter. The next step could be the development of joint activities, inspired by the relevant good practices already established between the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

Accession by the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights, which would contribute greatly to coherence in the field of human rights in Europe, remains an important objective.

Rule of law, legal co-operation and addressing new challenges

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Commission covers a wide variety of fields, such as civil and criminal justice, the improvement of judicial co-operation, the rights of the child and the quality of pharmaceutical products, as well as the fight against terrorism, money laundering, trafficking in human beings and violence against women. The Council of Europe’s standard setting capacity is a valuable asset when further developing EU strategies in the field of judicial co-operation in criminal and civil matters. In the face of the growing threats to privacy and data protection, co-operation in this field could also be intensified, in particular, with respect to the relevant standards of both organisations.

The European Committee for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and the Council of Europe Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI) have established fruitful working relations with EU institutions. Co-operation with these and other relevant expert bodies of the Council of Europe contributes to promoting Council of Europe standards within and beyond the borders of Europe. An example of this is the co-operation between the Venice Commission and the EU in activities relating to the rule of law in Central Asia. Certain specific policy areas, like the fight against terrorism or the protection of victims of violent crimes, could provide the opportunity to enhance co-operation by joint activities.

Coherence between the standards of the Council of Europe and EC/EU law is of primary importance, as was indicated in both the Juncker report and the MoU. This crucial point was also addressed by Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission in his speech before the Ministers’ Deputies in November 2008, when he underlined the importance of the co-ordination of legislative initiatives and the complementarity of legal instruments.

The co-ordination of relevant legislative initiatives, through consultations at an early stage of the legislative process is particularly important to avoid inconsistencies. The practice of consultations has already been established in a number of areas where Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms constitute a unique source of information (e.g. the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), subject to the relevant rules of confidentiality), or where the Council of Europe can make other relevant contributions (e.g. in the revision of the EU Council Framework Decisions on combating terrorism, on combating sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and on combating trafficking in human beings, in accordance with relevant Council of Europe Conventions). The basis for more systematic co-operation has been created by the transmission to the Council of Europe of the yearly legislative work programme of the European Commission. This positive development enables the Council of Europe to plan and anticipate its contributions in a yearly perspective.

On the basis of the common understanding that certain Council of Europe conventions and certain EU legislative instruments are complementary, the accession of EU member states and, where appropriate, the European Union/European Community to certain Council of Europe conventions is to be further encouraged. In this context, the initiative of the French Presidency of the EU Council for an EU Council conclusion encouraging the EU member states to ratify relevant Council of Europe conventions in the criminal justice field in order to reinforce coherence between their standards should be noted. Moreover, the report on the consequences of the so-called “disconnection clause” in international law in general and for Council of Europe conventions containing such a clause, in particular, adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI) at its 36th meeting in London on 6-7 October 2008, is a useful contribution to the co-operation between the two organisations.

Democracy and good governance

Co-operation on issues relating to democracy and good governance has developed along the lines indicated by the Juncker Report and the MoU. Ways of further developing co-operation in the field of e-Democracy may be considered. The Schools of Political Studies and the Summer University for Democracy clearly demonstrate the joint commitment to work together for the promotion of democracy including through the engagement of civil society. The success of these initiatives also depends on the visibility of the partnership within the respective organisations and with regard to all stakeholders.

The Council of Europe and the European Union will draw on each other’s expertise and activities to foster gender equality as well as greater participation of women in the decision-making process in public life.

The Venice Commission expertise is available to all Council of Europe’s member states, as well as to the other countries which are members of the enlarged agreement. As confirmed by the Exchange of Letters on Enhanced Co-operation of 13 June 2008, the Venice Commission has also put its expertise at the disposal of the European Commission, in particular, in relation to countries covered by the EU’s Neighbourhood and Enlargement policies, as well as Central Asia. This arrangement also confirmed the existing practice of exchange of information and consultations in areas such as constitutional and electoral legislation, the rule of law, justice and public institutions in those countries.

The European Union is represented in the decision-making bodies of the Forum for the Future of Democracy and participates in their work. Further efforts are, however, needed to put into practice the relevant recommendation of the Juncker Report, i.e. the potential of the Forum to become a “central body for reflection and making of proposals on citizen participation” could be further explored in the perspective of a future assessment of its functioning.

In the field of local and regional democracy, the Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform continues to be at the disposal of the Council of Europe and the EU and a closer look at its possible contribution to co-operation between the two organisations will certainly shed more light on its potential. The success and efficiency of Europe-wide outreach programmes promoting local democracy such as the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level and the European Local Democracy Week would be significantly boosted by closer strategic co-operation between the Council of Europe and the EU.

Democratic stability

Co-operation in the field of democratic stability has been further developed. Consultations between the Secretariat General of the Council of Europe and the European Commission in the countries participating in the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Enlargement Process of the European Union have become regular practice, whereby information is shared and modalities of co-operation are discussed. The Council of Europe will further examine its modalities for consultations and coordination on priorities for future joint activities.

The recently launched Eastern Partnership Initiative of the EU refers to the Council of Europe in different contexts, especially by identifying relevant Council of Europe instruments as benchmarks. Future consultations between the parties concerned by the Eastern Partnership and the Council of Europe as appropriate will focus on the practical implementation of these provisions both in the bilateral and multilateral parts of the Initiative.

The practice by the European Commission, of referring to Council of Europe legal instruments and standards notably in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, continues to provide co-operation perspectives.

In 2008, relations have been reinforced not only between headquarters, but also at the level of field representations. The Special Representatives of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the Delegations of the European Commission co-operate on a daily basis on issues of common concern. Steps towards greater decentralisation of relevant Council of Europe competencies, paralleling the same logic of our partners in the field, might further facilitate co-operation, subject to appropriate means being made available in the budgetary process. Co-operation in post-conflict situations, following a number of positive examples on the ground could be further explored. The relevant capacities and tools of the Council of Europe constitute a solid basis for this.

The co-operation in the field of democracy, good governance and democratic stability could be further intensified and a common strategic approach could be defined in the near future to this end, with the engagement of all the parties concerned.

Intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity

The importance of co-operation to develop intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity was underlined both by the Juncker Report and the MoU. It is recalled that intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity represent areas of co-operation, which contribute to building a Europe without dividing lines. In this spirit, co-operation is being pursued between the two institutions on the basis of a common understanding of intercultural dialogue and its underlying values. The emphasis on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, put forward in the “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue” of the Council of Europe is shared by the European Union. The Council of Europe’s approach towards an intercultural dialogue is similar to the one also promoted by EU institutions, in particular in the framework of the “European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008”. Against the background of the Council of Europe “White paper” and the EYID 2008, the role of intercultural dialogue as a tool for society in the fight against all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, could be jointly explored. Other avenues for co-operation have also been explored in 2008 both in the field of networking “intercultural cities” for the exchange of best practices and in the field of rehabilitation of cultural heritage in post-conflict areas (e.g. the Kyiv Initiative, based on the experience acquired through the Regional Programme on Cultural and Natural Heritage in South East Europe, in particular the Integrated Rehabilitation Project (Ljubljana Process)).

The North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, of which the European Commission and the European Parliament are stakeholders, is also a key tool for the promotion of intercultural dialogue between Europe and its neighbouring regions, namely through its various activities and projects, such as the Lisbon Forum, or the North-South Prize. More recently two joint programmes with the European Commission on Global Education and Europe-Africa Youth co-operation have started at the beginning of 2009.

Further possibilities of co-operation (e.g. in the context of the Faro Declaration) will continue to be examined jointly in 2009 in the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Education, youth and the promotion of human contacts

In line with the MoU, co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union relating to education has been active in the framework of the Bologna process. The Council of Europe has also been actively participating in the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning, which is one of the EU’s flagship projects in the higher education field. It is to be noted that benchmarks elaborated by the Council of Europe in different fields of education have been widely used by the European Commission in its related activities.

The partnership between the Council of Europe and the European Commission in the youth sector celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008. This partnership provides added value to the activities of the two institutions and their international partners and fosters co-operation in a complementary manner. In this framework, the European Commission supported actively the “All different – all equal” youth campaign. The activities of the partnership are implemented by a joint secretariat, located in the Directorate of Youth and Sport of the Council of Europe.

Following the 2007 Euro-African Youth Summit co-organised by the European Commission and the North-South Centre, a new Euro-African dimension has been introduced in this partnership in 2008; its implementation, entrusted to the North-South Centre, has started in 2009.

Social cohesion

A partnership agreement on “Social Cohesion and Welfare for all” between the European Commission and the Council of Europe was concluded at the end of 2008. It enables the Council of Europe to further explore aspects of the recent report of the High Level Task Force on Social Cohesion.

In the field of disability policies, the Council of Europe and the European Commission keep each other regularly informed about their activities and mutually participate in relevant meetings to facilitate co-ordination and to avoid duplication in their respective work programmes.

A two-year Joint Programme (2008-09) aims at improving the situation of Roma, addressing stereotyping and prejudice towards Roma amongst the majority population.

Arrangements for co-operation

The relevant guidance of the Juncker Report and the more specific provisions of the MoU resulted in a huge increase in contacts between the Council of Europe and EU institutions, both quantitatively and qualitatively. New channels have been explored at political and technical levels. The MoU was instrumental not only in developing relations, but also in structuring them. In particular, contacts at political level are prepared and followed-up at the technical level. Intensified high level political contacts ensured greater visibility for the partnership. They included meetings between the Committee of Ministers/Secretary General/Deputy Secretary General and members of the European Commission visiting the Council of Europe4.

High-Level quadripartite meetings bringing together the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Commission, the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe and the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, dedicated to political dialogue and dealing with the most important aspects of the co-operation of the two organisations and the strategic issues, took place regularly. The Senior Officials’ meetings, designed for planning and co-ordinating co-operation at a technical level, were continued. Specialised formal and informal co-ordinating bodies have developed their activities (e.g. the “Article 36 Troika” in the field of legal co-operation and the regular consultations on issues of relevance to the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Enlargement Policy of the EU).

EU Presidencies effectively promoted relations between the Council of Europe and the Council of the European Union through high-level visits, including presentations of priorities to the Committee of Ministers by respective EU Presidencies and through the regular invitation of Council of Europe senior officials to meetings of the working groups of the Council of the European Union. The opportunity to extend invitations to other relevant working groups treating issues related to human rights and the European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Policies, where the Council of Europe could make a substantive contribution, may be explored. In addition, innovative forms of co-operation (e.g. “networking” visit of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture) are to be developed by other Council of Europe bodies in the future.

Inter-institutional co-operation

Inter-institutional relations between, on the one hand, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the European Court of Human Rights and, on the other hand, their EU partners have been strengthened in the spirit of the Juncker report and the MoU.

The co-operation, based on the Agreement concluded on 28 November 2007 between the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament, has become increasingly intensive and takes a variety of forms, including the systematic organisation of meetings between presidents, leaders of political groups, rapporteurs and committees. Other activities include joint meetings, the reciprocal participation of members in hearings and mutual references in adopted texts. In particular, the EP, in its Resolution adopted on 14 January 2009, called for the full exploitation of the MoU’s potential. Close co-operation became a well-established practice in the framework of international election observation missions in 2008, while rapporteurs of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly carrying out monitoring missions held regular meetings with EU representatives in the respective countries. The relevant committees of the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament jointly participated in European ministerial conferences, which provided a unique opportunity to discuss issues of common concern from both a governmental and parliamentary perspective.

The 2005 Co-operation Agreement between the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the Committee of the Regions of the European Union continues to serve as a basis for Committee of the Regions members to participate in Congress’ missions to observe local and regional elections and co-ordinate relevant positions. Participation in each other’s meetings has continued, promoting the co-ordination of priorities on specific issues and enabling the enlargement of areas of co-operation. In 2008, a new practice of quadripartite meetings between the Presidents and the Secretary Generals of the Congress and the Committee has been established.

Following the conclusion of the MoU, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice agreed to intensify their contacts through more frequent working visits, which now take place annually. The topics discussed in 2008 were respect of the ECHR by international organisations and recent case law on the rights of non-nationals. Specific forms of co-operation have also developed (e.g. the launch of the 2008 EU Exchange programme for judicial authorities). Building upon their existing contacts, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and other specialised monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe on the one hand, and the relevant European Union institutions on the other, should look for ways to enhance their co-operation.

The Conference of INGOs has been closely following the process that led to the creation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2007 and has been involved in the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Platform since its creation in October 2008.

Institutional presence

The relevant recommendations of the Juncker Report and the provisions of the MoU have been largely implemented and reciprocal representation has become more symmetrical. The Council of Europe’s representation to the European Union is now assured at senior level and the Brussels Office will be further reinforced, confirming its role as a Council of Europe focal point for co-operation with the different EU institutions. These measures are resulting in greater visibility of the Council of Europe and contacts with the European Union have also encouraged greater interaction. The European Commission is being represented at the Council of Europe by an Ambassador, who participates actively in the work of the Committee of Ministers. This presence has the same beneficial effect on co-operation through increased and permanent contacts, as well as greater visibility. In addition, at the end of 2008, the European Commission took a decision to open a Delegation to the Council of Europe in 2009.

Joint Programmes

Joint Programmes remain an important co-operation tool. This form of co-operation clearly illustrates the commitment of the Council of Europe and the European Union to work together on the basis of their shared values. A separate overview on the Joint Programmes is set out in document CM(2009)52 addendum 2.

Visibility of the partnership

Intensified high-level contacts and the upgrading of the level of reciprocal representation resulted in a better visibility of the partnership. These measures brought increasing awareness and understanding of the shared values and respective working methods. Nevertheless, the visibility of partnership, particularly through common activities could be further enhanced and the necessary means to this end could be looked into in the near future.

The public relations potential of organising joint events has been more systematically explored, in line with the MoU. Joint media events ensure increasing visibility and demonstrate that both organisations are working together towards the promotion of their shared values. The presence of a permanent press officer attached to the Brussels Office of the Council of Europe in the near future will certainly further increase the visibility of the partnership among Brussels-based journalists.

Conclusion

The year 2008 has been marked by a quantitative and qualitative increase of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. The common objective to achieve greater unity between the states of Europe through respect for shared values requires that this positive trend must be maintained both at political and technical levels. Through its unique standard setting and monitoring capacities, the Council of Europe remains well placed to reach this objective. From this perspective, the long-term objective of EU accession to the Council of Europe, put forward in the Juncker Report, remains an important issue. The present report also identifies areas of co-operation where the partnership could be further strengthened.

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted until examination by the Committee of Ministers.
Note 2 At their 1042bis meeting, the Ministers` Deputies adopted an interim report on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union focusing on priorities in terms of specific actions to be undertaken or pursued in the future.
Note 3 Reference could be made to the document approved by the Association Council between the European Union and Morocco on 13 October 2008.
Note 4 The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security Mr Jacques Barrot, the EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Ms Meglena Kuneva, and the EU Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Mr Jan Figel.


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