Committee of Ministers
Comité des Ministres
(Strasbourg, 3-4 November 1998)
Strasbourg, 20 October 1998
COMMITTEE OF WISE PERSONS
TO THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
Table of contents
Foreword by the President
I. Building Greater Europe without dividing lines
I.1. The role of the Council of Europe in the new European context
I.2. The specificity of the Organisation's structures and functioning
I.3. A Europe of interlocking institutions
II. A more efficient and effective Council of Europe
II.1. Reinforcing decision-making and the internal structure of the Organisation
II.2. Reorganisation of intergovernmental co-operation: structures and management
II.3. Monitoring the compliance of member states with their commitments
II.4. Improving the visibility of the Council of Europe
II.5. Financing the Organisation
III. Concluding remarks
Appendix I - Reviewing the organisation and management of the Secretariat
Appendix II - Reorganisation of intergovernmental co-operation
Appendix III - Note about the Committee of Wise Persons and its working methods
At the Council of Europe's 2nd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe on 10 and 11 October 1997 the participants decided to “instruct the Committee of Ministers to carry out the structural reforms needed to adapt the Organisation to its new tasks and its enlarged membership and to improve its decision-making process”. The Committee of Ministers accordingly decided to set up a so-called “Committee of Wise Persons” made up of ten European figures, five of whom are independent and the other five selected ex officio.
The present report attempts to address the main items of the terms of reference, even though it has not always been easy to reach a consensus, especially on specific and detailed matters. This is because the committee members differ in background, experience and personal careers.
The Council of Europe's “new tasks” and “enlarged membership” originated in the radical political, economic and institutional changes which have taken place in eastern Europe, as well as throughout the former Soviet Union. This transformation was caused by the collapse of communism and the peaceful implosion of the totalitarian system which had previously been held up as the ideal. In the west, the shock waves from this extraordinary sea change also prompted a series of vigorous reactions which obviously varied in nature but whose consequences are only now becoming plain to see.
The Council of Europe, the oldest European institution, was the result of the famous Hague Conference organised by the European Movement in the aftermath of the second world war in 1948 (of which we recently witnessed the superb fiftieth anniversary celebrations). The Organisation has become much more important as a result of the above-mentioned changes and has extended the range of its already numerous activities, while retaining its specificity. In the past eight years its membership has increased from under thirty to forty states, and it will possibly top forty-four in the very near future. This explains why it is necessary to give the Council a fresh impetus and a higher profile at both the European and the global levels and to improve its working methods, bearing in mind its basic objectives and criteria of efficiency (cost-effectiveness), with a view to integrating all member states. Such action must be based on equality and mutual respect in the current process of co-operation, mutual understanding, deepening of democracy, and respect for human rights and international law.
The Council of Europe is a pan-European organisation that is unparalleled in its efforts to protect human rights, promote and respect the rights of minorities and develop a culture of peace and dialogue among nations on the basis of equality, sustainable development and the commitment to the eradication of poverty and exclusion. This is apparent in the campaign promoted by the Council of Europe and launched at EXPO' 98 in Lisbon, under the motto “Globalisation without poverty!”
Today, as never before, we have the conditions for uniting all the countries and nations of the European continent on the basis of the values of personal and political freedom, private initiative, and respect for human rights and the rule of law in international relations. We simply need a concerted effort to secure mutual assistance and respect and genuine solidarity between individuals and nations. As we all know, democracy is a frail blossom that needs constant care and attention if it is to develop and thrive. The Council of Europe, in co-operation with its member states, should fulfil a very necessary, nay vital role in this field. For this purpose, it requires additional attention from national governments and parliaments and an increase in the quality and quantity of its means of action.
The report which we submit, within the allotted time, constitutes a serious and independent proposal for improving the effectiveness, visibility and quality of the Council of Europe's action so that it can rise to the challenges of the coming century, without forgetting the importance of striking a sensible balance between cost and effectiveness.
Lisbon, 12 October 1998
The political role of the Council of Europe and co-ordination with other organisations
We recommend a clearer affirmation of the Organisation's responsibility for democratic stability (by ensuring that its structure facilitates intergovernmental co-operation and consequently implementation of the standards which its sets) and its function as a pan-European political forum related to the Council of Europe's aims of promoting pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights. (§20)
The Council of Europe's overriding priority is to ensure that all member States comply with Council of Europe standards and to reach out to the new members and assist them in their legal, political and social transformation. (§8)
We stress the importance of co-ordination and co-operation in national capitals, between those responsible for allocating tasks to the different European organisations, in order to ensure complementarity and to avoid unnecessary duplication and overlap. (§28)
The conclusion of a framework agreement between the European Community and the Council of Europe should be considered to ensure appropriate management of the existing co-operation and to increase effectiveness in the formulation and implementation of new joint projects. (§34)
Co-operation and co-ordination of activities, basically complementary and mutually reinforcing, between the Council of Europe and the OSCE should be on an equal footing, practical and results-oriented. Provisions to this effect could be contained in a general memorandum of understanding to be concluded between the two organisations. (§36-7)
The Council of Europe should further develop existing co-operation with European regional organisations, particularly those in central and eastern Europe. (§39)
The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the Secretary General, the Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) and the Social Development Fund
We stress the importance of active participation by the Ministers themselves at meetings of the Committee of Ministers. In order to reinforce such participation, it would be advisable to review the periodicity, the organisation of proceedings and the choice of items included in the agendas of ordinary meetings of the Committee. (§42)
The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly should agree on the text of a statutory resolution clarifying their relationship as the two main partners within the Organisation. (§41)
The Committee of Ministers should consult the Assembly before the adoption of all draft conventions and protocols. Where there are major points of disagreement between the two organs, a working party of the Joint Committee should be set up to try to find a solution. (§48)
The Committee of Ministers should consult the Assembly before the ceiling for the overall budget of the Organisation is fixed, and set up a mechanism to deal directly with the Assembly on the total appropriations allocated to it each year. (§49)
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe should be more widely consulted by the Committee of Ministers on issues falling within the responsibilities of local and/or regional authorities. (§54)
The Secretary General should submit to the Parliamentary Assembly and to the Committee of Ministers, in January of each year, a short report on “The state of the Council of Europe” including proposals for developing the activities of the Organisation. (§57)
The Venice Commission could be asked to give non-binding opinions on matters of constitutional importance or of fundamental legal interest for the Council of Europe, and on the interpretation of Council of Europe conventions and other legal instruments devoid of specific interpretation mechanisms. (§59)
The Social Development Fund should be strengthened; in particular the Fund should be given the necessary means to support also projects in member States of the Council of Europe which are not members of the Fund. (§61)
The structures and processes within the Council of Europe
The current system of a six-monthly rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers should be maintained. However, the Bureau's membership should be enlarged to include some automatic members (alphabetical order) and others chosen in terms of ensuring balanced representation of all member states. (§44)
The Committee of Ministers at Deputies' level should undertake a reform of its structures and decision-making procedures, with the aim of simplifying and increasing the overall efficiency of its work. This should be facilitated by a reorganisation of the parts of the Secretariat dealing with intergovernmental co-operation and the steering committees which should lead in particular to a reduction in the number of rapporteur groups. (§47)
We recommend regrouping operational Directorates into four Directorates General, plus a General Directorate bringing together administrative and supporting services for the whole of the Organisation. (§26)
We recommend maintaining in general the existing criteria and rules regulating the recruitment procedure, as well as the specific powers of the Secretary General in this field. However, changes should be made to the contractual system and in respect of staff movements and career structure with the aim of increasing openness, mobility and flexibility and a more efficient use of the Secretariat. Furthermore, the promotion of equal opportunities, in particular as regards senior posts, needs to be taken into account. (§27)
We recommend that every year, the Committee of Ministers approve a plan for the Organisation and establish clear priorities in each field and sector in the light of the main priorities for the Organisation as a whole. (§63)
Greater discretion should be given to the Secretariat in the management of programmes and in budgetary management, coupled with increased accountability to the Committee of Ministers for results achieved. This could include a more flexible approach to the allocation of appropriations to prioritised activities. (§64)
There is a need to introduce a revised budget structure and reporting system based on the definition of objectives and the measurement of actual performance against predefined criteria (results-based budgeting). (§65)
The monitoring process
Reports drawn up within the framework of monitoring procedures should be made public wherever possible. (§71)
Direct co-operation with national institutions of the judiciary should be reinforced, having regard to the principle of independence of judiciary power and to existing judicial bodies' own status within their states. (§72)
Implementation of the “Declaration on compliance with commitments by member states” should be strengthened. The necessary follow-up should be carried out in the context of the programmes of co-operation and assistance and also of the intergovernmental programmes of activities of the Organisation. (§74)
The visibility of the Council of Europe
To improve the visibility of the Organisation:
· Council of Europe texts of particular interest to the general public should be issued in non-official languages;
· the involvement of NGOs in the implementation of the intergovernmental programme of activities should be developed and a framework for consultations with NGOs should be elaborated;
· the member states should be invited to set up national Council of Europe conferences;
· the role of the Information and Documentation Centres of the Council of Europe should be reinforced. (§77)
Follow-up to the report
We suggest that the Committee of Ministers, in close co-operation with the Secretary General, should be responsible for follow-up action and should monitor implementation of the recommendations. (§88)
I. Building Greater Europe without dividing lines
I.1. The role of the Council of Europe in the new European context
1. In May 1948, only three years after the end of the second world war, Europe's leading politicians gathered at The Hague to launch a genuine project of European reconciliation and reunification. The Hague Declaration gave rise to the birth of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949 when its Statute was signed by ten countries.
2. Rapid results were obtained amongst which the most important was the adoption, in 1950, of the European Convention on Human Rights. With it came the creation of the European Commission and European Court of Human Rights, enforcing a catalogue of fundamental rights and freedoms for all people within the territory of member states. Indeed, all projects to integrate the democratic European countries further were discussed by the Council. It was in particular the cradle for the European Community which found its basis in the commitment to the fundamental European ideals.
3. Over the years the Council gradually developed a wide variety of intergovernmental programmes covering all fields of policy apart from defence. With the constant impetus of the Assembly, this co-operation led to the adoption of over 170 legally-binding multilateral conventions, making redundant the need to conclude several thousand bilateral agreements. Through all these instruments, the Council of Europe became a major contributor to European legal harmonisation.
4. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Council of Europe became less known for its political role than for its expertise in dealing with the problems of society at large and legal issues in particular.
5. The increase in political importance of the Council of Europe occurred with the events of 1989 and the democratic revolution in central and east European countries. The immediate interest expressed by these countries enabled the Council to start playing the role that its founding fathers had originally foreseen, namely that of a pan-European organisation uniting the entire continent. This political revival was furthered by the creation of the “special guest status” by the Assembly in 1989 and above all by the holding of the first Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government in Vienna in 1993. At the time of the summit, the membership had already reached thirty-two, as nine central and east European countries had joined since 1990. This summit declared the Council of Europe to be “the pre-eminent European political institution capable of welcoming, on an equal footing and in permanent structures, the democracies of Europe freed from communist oppression”.
6. At the second summit in October 1997 in Strasbourg forty-four heads of state and government gathered for the purpose of uniting the entire continent on the basis of shared values and ideals. It is of great significance that they “solemnly reaffirmed their attachment to the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe – pluralist democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law – and the commitment of the governments to comply fully with the requirements and meet the responsibilities arising from membership of the Organisation”.
7. The holding of the two summit meetings – not envisaged in the Council's Statute – underlined the importance of its political role. Since the beginning of the 1990s the Council of Europe has shown a great ability to respond swiftly to major changes in its geopolitical environment. As a result, it has increased its political and operational significance.
8. The Council of Europe is now entering its second phase where its overriding priority is to ensure that all member States comply with Council of Europe standards and to reach out to new members and assist them in their legal, political and social transformation.
9. One important and distinctive feature of the Council of Europe is its promotion of European values and, especially, the rule of law. This concerns both the relations between states and individuals under their jurisdiction and relations between states. In certain fields, such as human rights, these are more demanding than those of the international community as a whole. In order to be eligible for Council of Europe membership, specific criteria, related to the fulfilment of the obligations resulting from the European Convention on Human Rights and related legal instruments, must be fulfilled. In this respect, submission to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, binding under international law, is clearly the most important standard of the Council of Europe.
10. The forty member states have today accepted this requirement. However, the fact that some member states (as they themselves moreover acknowledge) still have a long way to go before they can satisfy in full the Council's other requirements necessitates a new approach: the Council of Europe must cease thinking only in terms of situations (a static approach) and begin thinking in terms of processes (a dynamic approach). Accordingly, in such an approach it is imperative to keep the ultimate aim of this process constantly in mind.
11. In the ongoing process of enlargement the Organisation faces a double challenge: on the one hand, it must ensure that every member and applicant state respects the values and the important system of norms and standards developed by the Organisation over the years; on the other hand, but closely linked to the first aspect, it has to forestall the development of new divisions among its member states, by devising and implementing flexible but non-discriminatory working methods and procedures at all levels and in all its fields of action. In particular, the Council of Europe should maintain a coherent and unambiguous approach to human rights issues, dealing with all countries on an equal footing.
12. In order to face these challenges, the standard-setting function of the Council of Europe must be re-affirmed. Given the existence of a large corpus of legally-binding texts, implementation thereof acquires increased importance and requires efficient and effective mechanisms of monitoring and control. The Committee examined in this context the proposal to create a general judicial authority to monitor the implementation of the legally-binding texts. However, this proposal did not meet with its approval – notably because it would amount to the creation of a new and relatively elaborate structure.
13. At the same time, the Committee of Wise Persons considers that it would be useful that future Council of Europe conventions include specific provisions concerning their interpretation. The possibility of asking the Venice Commission to give non-binding opinions on the interpretation of existing conventions, for which interpretation mechanisms are not available, could be considered. It should be noted in this respect that in the past the Venice Commission has already replied to several requests for legal opinions from committees of the Parliamentary Assembly.
14. Full and swift implementation of the judgements of the new Single Court of Human Rights will become one of the main elements for assessing the Council of Europe's credibility in the future. The monitoring procedures developed by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers are additional mechanisms of a political nature, of great value for ensuring compliance with obligations and commitments and which were endorsed by the heads of state and government at the second summit. These procedures should be associated directly with positive assistance and co-operation aimed at overcoming and curing deficiencies identified in the course of monitoring. The proposed establishment of a Commissioner for Human Rights would supplement and reinforce existing mechanisms and would further increase the visibility of the Council of Europe in this field.
15. The Organisation should also develop its “outreach” function, defending and promoting its fundamental values and principles through renewed intergovernmental co-operation and strengthened assistance programmes, in particular in the constitutional, legal and democratic institution-building fields. Several tasks are of crucial importance in this respect. First, helping in a concrete manner all member states – and in particular the more recent ones – to fulfil their obligations and commitments to the Organisation, in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms – including the protection of minorities – through the widest implementation of the principles and provisions contained in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Second, assisting member states to meet the new challenges resulting from technological developments and to face emerging social and political problems, as called for in the Plan of Action adopted at the Strasbourg Summit.
16. This calls for a renewed intergovernmental programme of activities covering a wide range of sectors relating to legal co-operation, social questions, culture and education and the foundations of democracy. In this way all European countries participate on an equal footing in the European project. It should be noted, in this respect, that the Council of Europe offers a flexible framework for common initiatives and action in areas where states wish to keep sovereignty firmly anchored at the national level but where, nevertheless, European co-operation is needed. Its expertise and experience in a wide range of co-operation sectors represent a unique asset among European political organisations.
17. As a pan-European organisation, the Council of Europe constitutes an appropriate structure for political dialogue, allowing all European states to participate on an equal footing in the discussions and decisions on European affairs in its fields of competence. The Council of Europe has a general political responsibility for peaceful unification and democratic stability based on its key role of defending human rights, the rule of law and democracy. This must be expressed more clearly by taking a stand whenever there is a threat to respect for the rule of law. Political dialogue to this end already exists at the level of the Parliamentary Assembly, but should be intensified at the level of the Committee of Ministers, in particular through more regular and
better organised exchanges on the implementation of legal standards.
18. Bearing these considerations in mind, we consider that it is unnecessary to pursue any theoretical discussion on whether the Council is a political organisation, a standard-setting institution or a framework structure for intergovernmental co-operation and assistance programmes. These aspects of its work are mutually reinforcing and inseparable.
19. Ultimately, it is the political will to implement the values of the Organisation that is essential, on the part of the Committee of Ministers and its governments, and on that of the Parliamentary Assembly and its national parliaments.
20. We recommend a clearer affirmation of the Organisation's responsibility for democratic stability (by ensuring that its structure facilitates intergovernmental co-operation and consequently implementation of the standards which it sets) and its function as a pan-European political forum related to the Council of Europe's aims of promoting pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
I.2. The specificity of the Organisation's internal structures and functioning
21. The Council of Europe was not set up as a classical intergovernmental organisation. At the time several countries were ready to have a strong Parliamentary Assembly, however, as a result of a compromise, two statutory organs of general competence were created, a Committee of Ministers and an Assembly termed “consultative”.
22. Formally, this structure still exists. Yet, in reality, it evolved over the years and, in particular since 1989 and the beginning of the enlargement process, the Parliamentary Assembly has assumed an increasingly important political role. In addition, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) has become, in its sphere of competence, an important contributor to democratic developments at local and regional level and associates them with the process of European construction. The Council's judiciary mechanism for the protection of human rights, with the European Court and the Commission – ensuring compliance by the member states with the European Convention on Human Rights – is unique in the international community and will be further strengthened with the creation of the new permanent Single Court of Human Rights in November 1998. The Council today has a three-pillar structure reflecting the governmental, parliamentary and judicial branches, which should be recognised as such and further developed.
23. The system of checks and balances, resulting from the interaction of the Committee of Ministers and the whole intergovernmental structure, the Parliamentary Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights and other supervisory bodies, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the Secretariat, constitutes a major asset as it provides for a stability of values and standards essential for promoting and monitoring the Organisation's values, principles and standards throughout Europe.
24. While the existing institutional system is considered fundamentally sound, its different branches should be strengthened and the relations between them clarified, in order to develop genuine synergy. A stronger Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Court and CLRAE, each playing an important role in their respective sphere of competence, should be productive for the Organisation as a whole.
25. The concept of a single Secretariat to which a common set of staff regulations applies has proved its usefulness and flexibility. Thus, the Clerk of the Assembly, who is one of three senior officials of the Organisation elected by the Assembly, is responsible for the organisation of the Assembly's work to its President and the Bureau. The Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights, who is elected by the Court, is in a similar position. For the purpose of clarity and transparency, it would be advisable to better reflect the specific features of these administrative structures in the relevant regulations of the Organisation.
26. The structures of the Secretariat dealing with intergovernmental co-operation should be simplified and rationalised in order to maximise the efficient use of human resources and facilitate co-ordination in the light of the new priorities defined by the second summit. For this purpose we recommend regrouping operational Directorates into four Directorates General, corresponding to the main strands of intergovernmental activities, plus a General Directorate bringing together administrative and supporting services for the whole of the Organisation. A more clearly defined hierarchical structure is necessary for the Secretary General to be able to co-ordinate effectively the various Secretariat departments and to reinforce the coherence and visibility of their activities.
27. The independence and competence of the Secretariat has proven to be one of the Council's main assets; we recommend maintaining in general the existing criteria and rules regulating the recruitment procedure, as well as the specific powers of the Secretary General in this field. However, changes should be made to the contractual system and in respect of staff movements and career structure with the aim of increasing openness, mobility and flexibility and a more efficient use of the Secretariat. Detailed proposals in this respect are made in Appendix I. Furthermore, the promotion of equal opportunities, in particular as regards senior posts, needs to be taken into account.
I.3. A Europe of interlocking institutions
28. The existence of a multi-institutional Europe should be seen and declared to be a positive fact. Thus, we stress the importance of co-ordination and co-operation in national capitals, between those responsible for allocating tasks to the different European organisations, in order to ensure complementarity and to avoid unnecessary duplication and overlap. It is equally essential for the organs and secretariats of the international organisations concerned to improve their co-ordination.
29. The Council of Europe plays a distinctive role in creating a space of shared values, co-operation and solidarity. Following enlargement, it developed activities for both conflict prevention and post-conflict political and institutional rehabilitation. These activities are of great value to democratic stability and security and contribute to building a Greater Europe without dividing lines.
30. Against this background, it is necessary to improve co-operation and complementarity with the European Union, the OSCE and regional organisations.
The European Union
31. The European Union must be considered a natural partner of the Council of Europe, as it embodies the same ideals. The two organisations also share common objectives in the implementation of these ideals. The Union and the Council should develop co-operation and institutional links to take maximum advantage of the potential for complementary action. This is particularly important in the light of the assets the Council brings to this partnership, namely the broader geographical scope of its membership, its extensive and diversified experience in legal standard-setting and control, its crucial role in democratic institution-building and in legal harmonisation. It should be stressed in this respect that the Council of Europe has prepared the ground for successive enlargements of the European Union.
32. Many forms of co-operation have been developed between the two organisations on the basis of exchanges of letters between the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the President of the European Commission. The two meet on the occasion of the quadripartite meetings, which also bring together the European Union Presidency and the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. It is important that these meetings are held regularly and lead to tangible results.
33. We should promote in the short term, on the basis of the successful experience already acquired, partnership programmes between the Council of Europe and the European Commission, both to assist central and east European countries in their democratic transition and to co-operate in selected activities, such as those resulting from the last two summits. These programmes should be based on the consideration that the Council of Europe is an important partner in the strengthening of democratic institutions, the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law.
34. For future relations, the conclusion of a framework agreement between the European Community and the Council of Europe should be considered, to ensure appropriate management of the existing co-operation and to increase effectiveness in the formulation and implementation of new joint projects. Such an agreement:
· should be based on the common objective of assisting democratic reform processes and the strengthening of human rights protection and the rule of law;
· should be complementary to existing co-operation and joint action;
· should cover areas where co-operation can profit from the Council of Europe's comparative advantages;
· should provide for an annual review of the specific items of co-operation and its geographical application;
· should provide for the Council of Europe making available to the European Commission the results of its monitoring of member states' compliance with commitments when the latter assesses whether states applying for European Union membership fulfil the required political criteria.
35. This agreement would ensure that human and financial resources, deployed by the governments represented in the European Union's Council of Ministers and in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, are put to the most efficient use. In any event, the European Commission should be invited to assume a greater role in the day-to day co-operation with the Council of Europe (in areas in which the former has competence within the European Union) for which the establishment of a permanent presence in Strasbourg would seem very important. Furthermore, closer contacts should be developed between the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly.
36. Co-operation with the OSCE needs to be considered in the light of all circumstances, and bearing in mind the specificities of the two organisations' objectives. Existing co-operation should be improved in order to ensure that the international community sends a coherent message in conflict situations. Such co-operation should be based on better co-ordination within foreign ministries of the activities of the two organisations with the aim of ensuring the most efficient use of their comparative advantages – OSCE's operational capabilities in conflict management on the one hand, and the Council of Europe's extensive experience in standard setting and control, legal and policy co-operation on the other. Co-operation and co-ordination of activities, basically complementary and mutually reinforcing, should be on an equal footing and results-oriented. They should include, inter alia:
· a recognised role for the respective chairperson of the other organisation at ministerial meetings;
· immediate consultation in times of crisis (for instance between the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE) and in the event of any significant new initiative in the fields of democracy and human rights;
· systematic pooling of relevant information in the spheres where the organisations' responsibilities overlap.
37. These provisions could be contained in a general memorandum of understanding to be concluded between the two organisations.
38. Specific arrangements should also be agreed between the international organisations concerned as regards the observation of elections to ensure a coherent assessment of their results.
39. The Council of Europe should further develop existing co-operation with European regional organisations, particularly those in central and eastern Europe. Possible co-operation partners could be the Central European Initiative, the South Eastern European Co-operation Initiative, the Central Europe Free Trade Association, the Black Sea Economic Co-operation, the Nordic Council, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, structures of tripartite co-operation (e.g. Austria-Hungary-Slovakia, Italy-Slovenia-Hungary, etc.), as well as a number of Euroregions.
II. A more efficient and effective Council of Europe
II.1. Reinforcing decision-making and the internal structure of the Organisation
40. As mentioned above (see section I.2) the Council of Europe's present institutional architecture is one of its main assets. The proposals hereafter are aimed at reinforcing decision-making within the Organisation and strengthening and consolidating institutional balance.
41. The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly should agree on the text of a statutory resolution clarifying their relationship as the two main partners within the Organisation.
The Committee of Ministers
42. We stress the importance of active participation by the Ministers themselves at meetings of the Committee of Ministers. In order to reinforce such participation, it would be advisable to review the periodicity, the organisation of proceedings and the choice of items included in the agendas of ordinary meetings of the Committee.
43. We recommend that the search for decisions by consensus should continue to be a priority because of the inherent strength of this system; however, decisions of the Committee of Ministers for which unanimity is not statutorily required may be taken by majority vote.
44. The current system of a six-monthly rotating chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers should be maintained. However, the Bureau's membership should be enlarged to include some automatic members (alphabetical order) and others chosen in terms of ensuring balanced representation of all member states.
45. The Bureau of the Committee of Ministers should be empowered to become more pro-active when necessary, for example when a rapid public statement, response or urgent decision is necessary.
46. In this context, the Chairperson (i.e. the Minister for Foreign Affairs) of the Committee of Ministers should be given more responsibility. He/she should be able, in particular:
· to convene urgent meetings if need be;
· to invite, for discussions of special importance in the Committee of Ministers, high-ranking representatives from non-member states and from international organisations;
· to appoint, with the consent of the Bureau, special representatives to fulfil political missions in the spirit of reinforcing democratic stability.
47. The Committee of Ministers at Deputies' level should undertake a reform of its functioning, structures and decision-making procedures, with the aim of simplifying and increasing the overall efficiency of its work. This entails, inter alia, reviewing the question of agendas, which is an area where there should be fewer automatic procedures to allow debates on essential matters (accession requests, recommendations and resolutions adopted by the
Parliamentary Assembly, budgetary matters, policy guidelines, supervision of co-operation programmes, monitoring of commitments, issues on the Organisation's core functions). It also means that the Secretariat must review the system of information on intergovernmental co-operation to allow the Committee of Ministers to take regular decisions on such co-operation, in a less piecemeal manner. This should be facilitated by a reorganisation of the parts of the Secretariat dealing with intergovernmental co-operation and the steering committees, which should lead, in particular, to a reduction in the number of rapporteur groups.
The Parliamentary Assembly
48. The Committee of Ministers should consult the Assembly before the adoption of all draft conventions and protocols. Where there are major points of disagreement between the two organs, a working party of the Joint Committee should be set up to try to find a solution.
49. The Committee of Ministers should consult the Assembly before the ceiling for the overall budget of the Organisation is fixed, and set up a mechanism to deal directly with the Assembly on the total appropriations allocated to it each year.
50. The Assembly should be associated with all high-level co-ordinating meetings with the European Union, the OSCE and the United Nations.
51. The President of the Assembly should address the Committee of Ministers at the opening of each meeting at ministerial level.
52. The Assembly's name should be changed to "Parliamentary Assembly".
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
53. The position of the Secretariat of the CLRAE within the Council of Europe should be reinforced with, in particular, the election of a Head of Secretariat of the Congress.
54. The Congress should be more widely consulted by the Committee of Ministers on issues falling within the responsibilities of local and/or regional authorities.
55. The Congress should be given wider discretion in the management of the appropriations within the budgetary package allocated to the implementation of its activities (in the context of results-based budgeting).
56. The Congress should review its structures and methods, with the aim of increasing the active participation of delegates in its activities (e.g. through the creation of a limited number of statutory committees and the organisation of a second annual session). The ensuing changes should not entail additional costs for the Organisation.
The Secretary General
57. The Secretary General should submit to the Parliamentary Assembly and to the Committee of Ministers, in January of each year, a short report on “The state of the Council of Europe” including proposals for developing the activities of the Organisation.
58. The Secretary General should also have more responsibilities in the field of monitoring. In particular, he/she should be responsible for proposing to the Committee of Ministers concrete measures in the context of co-operation programmes, stemming from the conclusions of the monitoring.
The Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission)
59. The Venice Commission has already produced authoritative legal opinions on constitutional texts and legislation at the request of the member states of the Council of Europe or states seeking admission. This activity should be developed. Thus, the Commission could be asked to give non-binding opinions:
· by the statutory organs and the Secretary General: on matters of constitutional importance or of fundamental legal interest for the Council of Europe;
· by the Committee of Ministers: on the interpretation of conventions and other legal instruments of the Council of Europe devoid of specific interpretation mechanisms.
Such tasks should be entrusted to the Commission under appropriate arrangements to allow all members of the Council of Europe to participate, even if they are not members of the Commission.
60. The Venice Commission should be encouraged to promote, as one of its essential functions, the awareness of the importance of the rule of law, as understood in Europe, and its relevance to the development of democracy, as well as to pursue, in the furtherance of this objective, its co-operation with non-European countries and similar expert bodies from outside our continent.
The Social Development Fund
61. The importance of the work of the Social Development Fund should be underlined; this body should therefore be strengthened. In particular, the Fund should be given the necessary means to support also projects in member States of the Council of Europe which are not members of the Fund.
II.2. Reorganisation of intergovernmental co-operation: structures and management
62. Intergovernmental co-operation, including follow-up and implementation of conventions, and activities for developing and consolidating democratic stability, are at the very heart of the Organisation's action and account for the Organisation's specificity and “added value”. The Council of Europe's role, usefulness and visibility are very much associated with this multifaceted co-operation. There is, nevertheless, a need to reorganise activities in accordance with the fundamental objectives and with current priorities (concentration, co-ordination and coherence) and to review existing structures and decision-making procedures (rationalisation, flexibility and evaluation).
63. Obviously, having regard to the limited resources at the disposal of the Organisation, it is not possible to pursue all activities at the same time, with the same strength and the necessary staff. Therefore, we recommend that every year, the Committee of Ministers should approve a plan for the Organisation and establish clear priorities in each field and sector in the light of the main priorities for the Organisation as a whole. This might imply freezing or postponing certain activities for a period of time and concentrating resources on a smaller number of activities in order to speed up their completion. In addition a greater proportion of appropriations should be allocated to operational expenditure, in particular democracy-building programmes.
64. At the same time, greater discretion should be given to the Secretariat in the management of programmes and in budgetary management, coupled with increased accountability to the Committee of Ministers for results achieved. This could include a more flexible approach to the allocation of appropriations to prioritised activities.
65. For this purpose, there is a need to introduce a revised budget structure and reporting system based on the definition of objectives and the measurement of actual performance against predefined criteria (results-based budgeting). This should include a formal system for the regular periodic monitoring of the stewardship of resources.
66. The evaluation of the programmes as a tool for prioritising activities and for improved management should be developed. Groups of independent experts should be called to carry out external technical evaluation of programmes or sectors of activities, if need be.
67. Programming procedures should be streamlined; a shift from an annual to a multi-annual basis for the implementation of activities should be introduced, as the existing system requires a disproportionate part of energy, time and resources to be spent on the preparation, instead of on the implementation of the activity as such.
68. Detailed proposals aimed at making intergovernmental co-operation more efficient and effective are presented in Appendix II.
II.3. Monitoring the compliance of member states with their commitments
69. In addition to the “monitoring” par excellence undertaken in the proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights, an important task of the Council of Europe is to ensure that every member state respects the values and the important system of norms and standards developed by the Organisation over the years and embodied in some 170 conventions and a great number of recommendations. This requires both efficient and effective mechanisms of monitoring and control, and the reinforcement of the programmes of co-operation and technical assistance. It might also require a thorough review of all conventions in terms of current relevance and application. The Committee stresses in this respect that conventions are instruments of international public law with an autonomous existence which, after coming into force, bind the contracting Parties irrespective of their number and of the existence of follow-up and controlling mechanisms within the Council of Europe. Furthermore, the practical relevance of certain conventions has considerably increased following enlargement of the Organisation during the last decade.
Complementarity and transparency of procedures
70. The existing monitoring procedures of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly (and of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in its specific field of competence) are essentially complementary. For monitoring the compliance of member states with their obligations, the Assembly has created a specialised Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, which has, so far, completed the monitoring procedure for four countries and is still pursuing the monitoring of ten states. The specificity of the monitoring procedure of the Assembly lies with the sending of rapporteurs to the countries concerned and the public debate of the reports which result in resolutions and recommendations. Thus, their reports also achieve a significant impact – both legally and politically – in the Committee of Ministers. This feature is unique for the Council of Europe and is a clear indication of the interaction of the two organs which should be preserved and further developed. In order to create more synergy between the different bodies of the Council, the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, as well as the findings based on the European Social Charter, should, to a larger extent, be included in the monitoring work. Furthermore, the possibilities for co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE in the field of monitoring should be explored.
71. Implementation of monitoring through “diplomatic” persuasion and through the publication of monitoring reports as required by various conventions should be carried out fully and consistently. Reports drawn up within the framework of monitoring procedures, including monitoring reports on various conventions (e.g. the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities) should, whenever possible, be made public, taking into account the delicate political nature of such information. In specific cases, time limits should be fixed within which recommendations made in the report should be implemented, failing which the report about the country will be published.
72. Direct co-operation with national institutions of the judiciary should be reinforced, with the aim of consolidating the rule of law in all European countries, having regard to the principle of independence of judiciary power and to existing judicial bodies' own status within their states. For this purpose, full use should be made of existing structures and networks both at national and Council of Europe level with the aim of building up a genuine European network of interlocking relations with courts, high councils of the judiciary, and others. Similar co-operation should be developed with national ombudspersons.
73. Follow-up activities to conventions should be developed in terms of training workshops, the supply of relevant documentation, legal opinions or expertise on national legislation as well as monitoring of implementation.
Strengthening of monitoring
74. The implementation of the “Declaration on compliance with commitments by member states”, in which the Committee of Ministers decided that it would consider questions of implementation of commitments in any member state when these were referred to it by member states, the Secretary General or the Parliamentary Assembly should be strengthened. The necessary follow-up should be carried out in the context of the programmes of co-operation and assistance and also of the intergovernmental programme of activities of the Organisation.
75. The Secretary General should be given the possibility:
· to commission reports from outside public figures with recognised authority, or to appoint special thematic “rapporteurs” to look into particular areas of concern, in consultation and agreement with the Committee of Ministers;
· to carry out joint missions (with the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) in the member states concerned.
II.4. Improving the visibility of the Council of Europe
76. Visibility is not an end in itself but a means to render the Organisation more effective. In this respect it should be stressed that visibility depends very much on the results achieved and on the efforts of governments, local and regional authorities, national parliaments and non-governmental organisations to bring them to the attention of interested circles and the public at large.
77. It should be noted in this respect that the resources available at the Council of Europe for information and communication purposes are extremely small when considered in the light of the activities carried out and of the extent and diversity of the geographical and cultural area to be covered. Every effort should, therefore, be made to make the best possible use of new information technology and to involve existing networks to the full (members of the Parliamentary Assembly and of the CLRAE, experts in governmental committees, representatives of the educational and cultural sectors, non-governmental organisations, information and documentation centres, etc.). For this purpose:
· reports published by the Secretariat on the implementation of intergovernmental programmes should not be formal but substantial and reflect the real and tangible results of Council of Europe activities in the relevant field;
· Council of Europe texts of particular interest to the general public should be issued in non-official languages which are widely used in several member states and European Court of Human Rights judgments should generally be published in the language of the member state in question, in addition to the two official languages (taking into account budgetary problems, all these measures should be introduced gradually, subject to additional financial contributions to the ordinary budget from various sources, especially from the member states concerned);
· on special occasions, and subject to a consensus decision, the Committee of Ministers should invite representatives of the media to its meetings;
· the involvement of NGOs in the implementation of the intergovernmental programme of activities should be developed and a framework for consultation with NGOs should be elaborated;
· the member states of the Council of Europe should be invited to set up national Council of Europe conferences. The main tasks of these conferences should be to promote and implement the work of the Council of Europe through appropriate action. The conferences could involve members of the Parliamentary Assembly and of the CLRAE, experts from intergovernmental committees, representatives of the cultural and educational sectors, representatives of civil society, and so on;
78. Subject to their compatibility with the domestic law of member states, the following ideas should be considered by the Parliamentary Assembly:
· national parliaments could be given the possibility to address resolutions to the Assembly. National parliaments could in particular request that a topic be debated;
· the Assembly could adopt a special resolution once a year with a view to its being debated in the national parliaments.
II.5. Financing the Organisation
79. At the Strasbourg Summit, the heads of state and government of the forty member states expressed their “full support to the … [Organisation] with a view to intensifying its contribution to cohesion, stability and security in Europe.” Furthermore they decided “to give new impetus to those activities (...) aimed at supporting member states in their efforts to respond to the changes in society on the threshold of a new century”.
80. Member states are extremely reluctant to increase the budget of the Organisation because of economic restraints. They need to be convinced that priorities have been introduced and that the existing resources are being used as effectively as possible. It is in this context that an increase in resources should be envisaged, as the Council of Europe's budget is very modest when seen in relation to the tasks entrusted to the Organisation and to its membership.
81. In certain countries, this might be made easier through the creation of specific budgetary lines in national budgets. Furthermore, it might be envisaged to give a greater role to specialised ministries in the financing of some of the activities of the Organisation.
82. The possibilities of voluntary funding from non-governmental sources, as well as developing more partnerships or joint actions with the European Union, should also be explored to the full.
83. However, at heart, the allocation by member states of more financial resources to the Organisation is a matter of political will which should take into account the increased role of the Council of Europe in consolidating the vast new area of European unity around the shared values of pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
III. Concluding remarks
84. Membership of the Council of Europe is not – and never should be – the result of geographic determinism or the fruit of ad hoc political decisions. In order to become members of the Council of Europe, states commit themselves to respecting the values of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy. In particular, they accept to be bound by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and to ensure their full and swift execution.
85. The fundamental aim of the Council of Europe is to further unity between its members based on these values and principles, so as to reinforce democratic stability throughout Europe. The Organisation has not only the obligation to monitor the respect of commitments, but also the duty to help all member states, and especially the most recent, to fulfil them. In a period of rapid enlargement of the Organisation, the strengthening of assistance and co-operation programmes is therefore of the utmost importance.
86. The Committee considers that the Council of Europe plays an indispensable and important political role in Europe. In this context, we have striven to contribute ideas for the reform of the Organisation and for enhancing its efficiency, visibility and political profile.
87. The recommendations made in this report are the outcome of an in-depth analysis of the strengths – and weaknesses – of the Organisation and constitute a coherent path for real reform. We stress, therefore, that this coherence should be respected by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly throughout their detailed examination.
88. We suggest that the Committee of Ministers, in close co-operation with the Secretary General, should be responsible for follow-up action and should monitor implementation of the recommendations.
Reviewing the organisation and management of the Secretariat
The principle of a secretariat consisting of permanent and temporary staff recruited according to the criteria of competence and independence should be maintained. In the light of the new tendencies emerging in national and international civil services, it is advisable to modernise and reform the staff policy within the framework of the Council of Europe in order to strengthen its efficiency, to increase the share of fixed-term and seconded posts and to better take into account the enlargement of the Organistaion.
· Operational directorates should be regrouped into four Directorates General corresponding to the main strands of the intergovernmental work of the Council of Europe (for example: human rights and social cohesion, rule of law, democratic stability, and culture). A further General Directorate should deal with all administrative and supporting services. Such regrouping should not entail additional costs.
· The five Directors General and the Secretary General should form a Board of Management and meet regularly under the Chairmanship of the Secretary General.
· Appointments to the posts of Directors General should be made on a fixed-term (but renewable) basis after consultation of the Committee of Ministers.
2. Staff management
In respect of posts
· The Council of Europe should have three types of posts available:
- structural posts needed for the carrying out of the ongoing fundamental tasks of the Organisation (e.g. conventional activities and for the general functioning of the Secretariat);
- programme posts needed for the implementation of fixed-term ad hoc programmes and posts needed to reinforce sectors of activity for limited periods;
- temporary reinforcement posts connected with a session (of the Committee of Ministers, Assembly, CLRAE, etc.) or with a one-off event.
· Each vacant post in the first two categories should be re-evaluated in terms of its level (grade), its necessity and its nature (structural or programme).
· It would be useful to develop exchanges between the Secretariat of the Council of Europe and national and sub-national civil services, and, in this context:
- an effort should be made to develop the taking on of specialists and trainees from those member states which have joined most recently;
- under the responsibility of the Secretary General, and at his or her request, the placing at the disposal of the Council of Europe of officials by their own civil service should be encouraged for specific tasks of fixed duration.
In respect of the contractual situation of staff
· Three types of contract should be offered to staff:
- fixed-term contracts for any programme post;
- temporary contracts (daily or monthly) for staff assigned to short-term posts.
· An appropriate status should be created for staff recruited on fixed-term contracts including clear provisions on recruitment conditions, the applicable pay and allowance systems, and the relevant social insurance and pension scheme.
In respect of staff movements and career
· Procedures should be set up for managing the filling of vacant posts and staff careers with a view to:
- fostering the development of the best performing staff members' careers, while maintaining budgetary neutrality;
- promoting staff mobility within the Secretariat where this is intended to improve the functioning of departments and to develop staff potential.
· With this in mind, a number of practical measures should be considered:
- the link between grade and post should be made more flexible in respect of a number of duties which staff from adjacent grades could carry out;
- a special procedure for reclassification, on an individual basis, of staff towards the end of their careers should be set up (subject to satisfactory performance and within the limits of appropriations specifically reserved for this purpose);
- in the strict respect of staff rights, and taking account of the implementation of the staff appraisal procedure, the legal provisions enabling inadequate performance and manifest unsuitability to be penalised need to be reinforced;
- the length of steps should be able to be modulated according to merit.
In respect of recruitment policy
· Within the context of an overall review of the existing human resources policy (length of contracts, status of posts, geographical distribution) a number of constraints concerning recruitment policy need to be rendered more flexible:
- the length and conditions of the probationary period following appointment;
In respect of the pension scheme
· The establishment of a pension fund or provident fund for staff members, separate from the ordinary budget of the Organisation, should be envisaged.
Reorganisation of intergovernmental co-operation
· The priorities established by the Strasbourg Summit should be used in the next few years as an “evaluation grid” for concentrating resources allocated to intergovernmental co-operation activities.
· Furthermore, steering committees should review existing activities in order to put an end to obsolete programmes or freeze marginal ones and, to this effect, make stricter application of the selection criteria for intergovernmental activities laid down by the Committee of Ministers.
· Bilateral co-operation and assistance programmes should focus on the drafting and implementation of legislation in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, on education and training activities and on improving the services of the Council of Europe's Information and Documentation Centres in member states.
Co-ordination and coherence
· Greater use should be made of multi-sector projects where the subject requires them.
· Transparency concerning the use of resources should be improved, by grouping activities with complementary objectives and by introducing a system of cross-referencing with connected activities within the Organisation.
· Mutual consultation arrangements should be strengthened between the Parliamentary Assembly committees and the intergovernmental co-operation sector.
· Rapporteur groups of the Committee of Ministers and the bureaux of the relevant steering committees should hold an annual joint meeting at least.
· The relationship between Vote II and Vote IX programmes should be strengthened, with the aim of developing a more coherent and robust approach to intergovernmental co-operation and assistance activities and with a view to their foreseeable merger, allowing for their respective potential and specificities to be developed to the full.
· In addition to looking at Vote II and Vote IX programmes with a view to a merger, it would be useful to look at all the co-operation and assistance activities (e.g. the confidence-building measures in Vote VII) in order to group them together. This would allow more clarity and facilitate the setting of priorities in all activities of this kind.
· The programme of activities for developing and consolidating democratic stability should be based on priorities determined by the Committee of Ministers; greater use should be made of the results of monitoring procedures in this context.
· Programming procedures should be streamlined: once a multi-annual activity is started, the Committee of Ministers should confine itself to verifying its proper implementation.
· Proposals for new activities should be accompanied by a forecast of their financial implications, of expected results and their impact, and by an evaluation of possible overlaps with similar activities in other international fora.
· The possibility of introducing a system of pluriannual budgeting in order to improve planning of the programmes should be studied.
· The number of standing intergovernmental committees should be reduced. More use should be made of ad hoc committees for implementing specific activities; the terms of reference of these committees should expire on the date of completion of the activities.
· The role of the Organisation as a framework for policy development and as a forum for exchanges of best practice should be strengthened. Its catalytic function in the networking of institutions in member states and in the promotion of action on the ground, in the form of pilot projects with a potential multiplier effect, should be developed.
· The choice of working methods should be made having regard to the characteristics of the objectives pursued, cost-effectiveness considerations and the political objective of integrating all member states, on an equal footing, in the process of co-operation.
· Better use should be made of the possibility of governments grouping together to devise, carry out and finance (notably through special accounts) activities of short duration which supplement the core programme of intergovernmental co-operation, without the need to set up partial agreements. Decisions of Specialised Ministerial Conferences, in addition to decisions by the Committee of Ministers, could be used to launch such initiatives. In order to ensure overall coherence of the activities of the Organisation the Committee of Ministers should give its assent to such initiatives, before their launch, only after having verified that the new co-operation envisaged answers specific needs which cannot be satisfied under the traditional intergovernmental co-operation programme and that it will be kept informed through an automatic reporting system.
· The Organisation's capacity to provide legal, technical and political advice in response to requests from member or applicant states and other international organisations in the fields of competence of the Council of Europe should be strengthened.
Note about the Committee of Wise Persons and its working methods
At the second Council of Europe summit (Strasbourg, 10-11 October 1997), the heads of state and government instructed the “Committee of Ministers to carry out the structural reforms needed to adapt the Organisation to its new tasks and its enlarged membership and to improve its decision-making process”.
As a follow-up to this decision, the Committee of Ministers, at their 101st Session (Strasbourg, 6 November 1997), decided “to set up a Committee of Wise Persons with a limited membership reflecting a geographical balance of the member states, to be chaired by an eminent political figure, responsible for drawing up proposals for structural reform, and reporting back to the 103rd Session of the Committee of Ministers”.
The membership and terms of reference of the Committee were agreed by the Ministers' Deputies in December 1997 as follows:
Mário Soares, Chairman (former President of the Republic, Portugal)
Gret Haller, Ombudsperson for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland
Tarja Halonen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland
László Kovács, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hungary1
Vladimir Shustov, Ambassador at Large, Russian Federation
The following authorities and representatives will also be fully involved in the activities of the Committee of Wise Persons:
the President of the Parliamentary Assembly (Leni Fischer)
the President of the Venice Commission (Antonio La Pergola)
a representative of the European Union Presidency (Audrey Glover)
a representative of the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office (Hanna Suchocka)
a representative of the host country's authorities (Joëlle Timsit)
Terms of reference
a. The Committee, bearing in mind the Organisation's statutory aims, will review the Council of Europe's activities, means and working methods and elaborate proposals for reforming its structures, with a view to:
- adapting the Organisation to its new tasks and its enlarged membership, taking into account its role in, and specific contribution to, the European architecture;
- improving its decision-making process.
1 In July 1998, following general parliamentary elections, Mr Kovács lost his post as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He then became leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Hungarian Socialist Party.
b. The Committee is invited, in its work, to give particular attention to the following:
i. strengthening the Council of Europe's action in its fields of excellence;
ii. reorganising the activities and programmes of the Organisation, taking into account the new priorities as defined by the second summit;
iii. reviewing the scope of other activities;
iv. developing co-operation with other European and transatlantic organisations, in particular the European Union and the OSCE, and making it more effective, by making the best use of available resources;
v. enhancing the profile and visibility of the Council of Europe;
vi. improving the Organisation's working methods and the synergy between its various bodies: the Committee of Ministers (including its subsidiary bodies), the Parliamentary Assembly and the CLRAE;
vii. reviewing the existing system of conventions and partial agreements with a view to rationalising it and to reinforcing its coherence and homogeneity;
viii. reviewing the structures of the Secretariat, the budget procedure, the problems of staff recruitment and careers, with a view to making the best possible use of human and financial resources available to the Council of Europe.”
The Committee has met seven times in plenary (29 January, 11 February, 24 April, 12 May, 26 June, 15 September and 9 October 1998). At its first meeting it decided to organise the various questions raised in its terms of reference under four main themes, as follows:
a. Questions concerning relations between the Council of Europe, the European Union and other international organisations, particularly the OSCE;
b. Questions concerning decision-making within the Organisation, relations between the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, as well as the role of the Secretary General, of the Single Court and of Specialised Ministerial Conferences;
c. Questions concerning the Council of Europe's activities and programmes, their scope, priorities and working methods, as well as the Organisation's system of conventions and partial agreements;
d. Questions concerning the Council's funding system and budget procedures, as well as its internal organisation and visibility.
Furthermore, in view of the very short time it had been given to fulfil its terms of reference, the Committee agreed that it would not be possible to do everything in plenary sessions, and that specific working groups had to be created for the information-gathering stage of the work, focusing on the above-mentioned themes.
Each working group was chaired by a “Wise Person” and a second “Wise Person” was associated with him or her. While meetings of these working groups were open to all members of the Committee, practical considerations imposed reducing the formal membership of these groups to four people. The membership of the working groups and their calendar of meetings were as follows:
Working Group 1: (16 March 1998)
Mr Kovács (Chairperson) and Mrs Halonen
Mrs Glover and Mrs Suchocka
Working Group 2: (12 February; 15 February; 17 March; 1-2 April 1998)
Mrs Haller (Chairperson) and Mr Shustov
Mrs Fischer and Mrs Timsit
Working Group 3: (11 February; 24 February; 16 March; 1-2 April; 23 April 1998)
Mr Shustov (Chairperson) and Mrs Haller
Mr La Pergola and Mrs Timsit
Working Group 4: (16 March 1998)
Mrs Halonen (Chairperson) and Mr Kovács
Mrs Fischer and Mrs Suchocka
The following people and entities were interviewed by the Committee and its working groups:
Mr Hans-Peter Furrer, Director of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe
Leaders of the Parliamentary Assembly's political groups
Mr Peter Schieder (Austria), Chairman of the Socialist Group
Mr Walter Schwimmer (Austria), Chairman of the Group of the European People's Party
Mr David Atkinson (United Kingdom), Chairman of the European Democratic Group
Mrs Kristina Ojuland (Estonia), Vice-Chairperson of the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group
Mr Jaakko Laakso (Finland), Chairman of the Group of the Unified European Left
Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
Mr Claude Haegi (Switzerland), Chairman
Mr Alain Chenard (France), First Vice-Chairman of the Chamber of Local Authorities
Mr Vasili Likhatchev (Russian Federation), Member of the Chamber of Regions
Bureau of the Council of Europe Staff Committee
Mr Alfonso Zardi, President
Mr Guido Orlandini, Vice-President
Mr Daniel Franck, Vice-President
Mrs Michèle Becker, Vice-President
Working Group 1
Mr Hans-Peter Furrer, Director of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe
Working Group 2
Ambassador Johannes Dohmes, Chairman of the Ministers' Deputies of the Committee of Ministers
Mr Hans Christian Krüger, Deputy Secretary General
Mr Bruno Haller, Clerk of the Parliamentary Assembly
Mr Len Davies, Secretary to the Committee of Ministers
Mr Rinaldo Locatelli, Head of the Secretariat of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
Mr Klaus Schumann, Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General
Working Group 3
Chairpersons of rapporteur groups of the Ministers' Deputies
Ambassador Tom Grönberg, Chairman of the Rapporteur Group for Democratic Stability
Ambassador Sabin Pop, Chairman of the Rapporteur Group on the Intergovernmental Programme of Activities
Ambassador Magdalena Tovornik, Chairperson of the Rapporteur Group on Social and Health Questions
Ambassador Aurimas Taurantas, Chairman of the Rapporteur Group on Youth
Directors responsible for the implementation of the intergovernmental programmes
Mr Ferdinando Albanese, Director of Environment and Local Authorities
Mr Raymond Weber, Director of Education, Culture and Sport
Mr Robin Guthrie, Director of Social and Economic Affairs
Mr Guy de Vel, Director of Legal Affairs
Mr Pierre-Henri Imbert, Director of Human Rights
Mr Jean-Louis Laurens, Deputy Director of Political Affairs in charge of the programmes for the consolidation and development of democratic stability (Vote IX)
Mrs Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Co-ordinator of the Intergovernmental Programme of Activities
Mr Andrew Drzemczewski, Head of the Secretary General's Monitoring Unit
Mr Roberto Lamponi, Head of the Legal Adviser's Department and Treaty Office
Working Group 4
Mr Alan Todd, Head of the Finance Division
In addition to its members and the Secretariat, the following organisations, entities and organs submitted documents to the Committee of Wise Persons:
· Parliamentary Assembly
· Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
· Czech Republic's Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe (“Possible establishment of a 'general' judiciary authority of the Council of Europe”)
· Federal Republic of Germany's Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe (“Elements for a structural reform of the Council of Europe”)
· Budget Committee
· Steering Committee on Human Rights
· President and Vice-President of the Culture Committee
· General Meeting of Staff
· Staff Committee
· Equal Opportunities Advisory Board
· President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions
· Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation
· President of the “Fédération de la Fonction publique européenne”
· Council of Europe Staff Trade Union
Note 1 Other recommendations appear (in italics) in the body of the report and in Appendices I and II.
Note 2 The Secretariat of the Committee of Wise Persons was assured by Mr Hans Christian Krüger, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and by Mr Bruno Haller, Clerk of the Parliamentary Assembly.