CM(99)64...Report to the 104th Session of the Committee of Ministers

Committee of Ministers

Comité des Ministres

 

104th Session

(Budapest, 6-7 May 1999)

Strasbourg, 26 April 1999

Unclassified

CM(99)64

REPORT ON FOLLOW-UP ACTION ON THE FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF WISE PERSONS

 

On the occasion of the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 10-11 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, at its 101st Session, to set up a Committee of Wise Persons.

It is recalled that the final report of the Committee of Wise Persons was presented by the Committee’s Chairman, Dr Mario Soares, to the 103rd Session of the Committee of Ministers.

The Ministers’ Deputies decided to set up an ad hoc Working Party on follow-up action on the final report of the Committee of Wise Persons, under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Carter, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, to examine that Committee’s recommendations and report on them to the Deputies and to the Committee of Ministers at its 104th Session.

The Ministers' Deputies have agreed, in principle, to far-reaching reforms aimed at defining (and, where appropriate, reaffirming) the priorities of the Organisation and reorganising its structure, in order to carry out more efficiently its activities and, as a result, to increase the effectiveness and visibility of the Council of Europe. This report is submitted, in accordance with the instructions given to the Ministers' Deputies, in order that the Committee of Ministers endorse the action proposed on each Main Recommendation. The degree to which the action in respect of each Main Recommendation has already been implemented is set out in the following paragraphs. The Ministers' Deputies will continue their work on the basis of the Final Report of the Committee of Wise Persons, and Ministers will be informed, if possible at their 105th Session and at the latest their 106th Session, when implementation in each case is complete.

 

The Council of Europe’s responsibility for democratic stability (Main Recommendation 1)

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)

This is addressed in the 50th Anniversary Political Declaration. Under Main Recommendation 17 and others, the Secretariat has been requested to prepare a radical reform of its structure and in doing so to take account of this Main Recommendation.

 

Compliance with Council of Europe standards (Main Recommendation 2)

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)

The Deputies agreed that this is among the most important, even if not necessarily the overriding priority. This will be borne in mind in relation to the planning and prioritisation of work for all member States.

 

Co-ordination in capitals (Main Recommendation 3)

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 Deputies agreed that co-ordination is necessary, but recognised that this is primarily a matter for governments; unnecessary duplication and overlap must be avoided.

 

Co-operation with the European Union (Main Recommendation 4)

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)

The Deputies accepted that a framework agreement had legal implications which might create difficulty: but that the real need was for an operational tool to accelerate practical co-operation between the two institutions. Acting on instructions from the Ministers' Deputies, the Secretariat has contacted the European Commission to discuss elements for a draft Joint Declaration designed to facilitate such co-operation. These contacts have led to a common draft, which is presently under examination in Strasbourg and Brussels and will, in due time, require final agreement by both sides.

 

Co-operation with the OSCE (Main Recommendation 5)

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 objective is to manage the overlap between the two organisations through flexibility, synergy and complementarity and not a division of labour; it is results and not modalities that matter. The future relationship should be non-hierarchical. The Secretariat has so far detailed the current co-operation arrangements and drawn up a list that has been accepted by the OSCE as a means of guaranteeing the institutional memory and ensuring that existing good practice is not forgotten or lost.

 

Co-operation with European regional organisations (Main Recommendation 6)

The Council of Europe should further develop existing co-operation with European regional organisations, particularly those in central and eastern Europe. (§39)

Mutually beneficial co-operation with organisations having objectives and activities relevant to those of the Council of Europe will be encouraged, while bearing in mind the resources available and taking into account the specific nature of each Organisation. The Secretariat is writing to an agreed list of European regional organisations with a view to deepening this co-operation.

 

Meetings of the Committee of Ministers (Main Recommendation 7)

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 Deputies agreed that ministerial participation in the meetings of the Committee of Ministers was both important and necessary but that both political content and visibility were essential to attract such participation. The continuation of the current practice of an informal discussion prior to the formal meeting of the Committee of Ministers was supported. There should be greater scope for bilateral contacts. However, a number of interesting and innovative proposals were made during discussion; consideration of these will be pursued by the Ministers' Deputies.

 

Relationship between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly (Main Recommendation 8)

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)

There was a unanimous strong desire for enhanced co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly. But the Statute should not be amended. There is no objection, in principle, to a statutory resolution to be justified by its contents. Specific proposals from the Parliamentary Assembly will be considered. The concept of co-decision is not supported. The President of the Assembly will be invited to submit a written contribution to each ministerial session of the Committee of Ministers, thus allowing the Assembly to provide a valuable input to these Sessions.

 

Consultation with the Parliamentary Assembly before the adoption of draft conventions and protocols (Main Recommendation 9)

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 has agreed to consult the Parliamentary Assembly on all draft treaties. However, it noted that in practice there will be a small number of treaties, of an exclusively technical nature, which may not require such consultation. The Deputies are considering guidelines for the procedure for the adoption of Council of Europe treaties.

 

Consultation of the Assembly with regard to the budget (Main Recommendation 10)

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)

A consultation procedure with the Parliamentary Assembly has already been developed. The considerable freedom currently enjoyed by the Assembly within their financial envelope will continue. The common standards of the Council of Europe should be maintained on staff matters; any autonomy in this domain is subject to these constraints.

 

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (Main Recommendation 11)

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)

Every opportunity further to develop goal-oriented consultation will be taken.

Joint committee meetings between the Congress and the Committee of Ministers will be convened, if the subjects to be discussed are of sufficient importance to justify such a meeting. The election of a head of Secretariat is supported.

On the subject of wider discretion in the management of appropriations within its own budget, similar considerations shall apply to the Congress as to the Parliamentary Assembly.

 

Report by the Secretary General on the state of the Council of Europe (Main Recommendation 12)

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 Secretary General will present, under his/her own authority, a statement during the 1st Part-Session of the Parliamentary Assembly. The Deputies agreed that the Secretary General would be urged to use this as a forward-looking declaration designed to propose or explain objectives, energise and inspire. A free ranging debate on it will be held at the first meeting of the Joint Committee.

 

Opinions of the Venice Commission (Main Recommendation 13)

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 Deputies are pursuing consideration of this Recommendation along with a separate proposal for the creation of a general judicial authority at the Council of Europe.

A number of delegations questioned the necessity for any sort of body to take on the responsibilities defined. However, if such a demand were to be identified, a majority believed that the Venice Commission would be best placed to meet it.

 

Social Development Fund (Main Recommendation 14)

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 Deputies agreed that the Fund should be strengthened and a number of suggestions to this end are being considered by the competent organs of the Fund: through a capital increase, through administrative means and through increased membership.

Concerning support for projects in Council of Europe member States that are not members of the Fund, there is wide support for the idea of exceptional help being given only in special cases, but not on a general basis.

 

Composition of the Bureau of the Ministers' Deputies (Main Recommendation 15)

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 current composition of the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers and its existing powers and those of its Chair will be maintained but in addition there was consensus that:

- the Chair should be able to convene extraordinary meetings on very urgent matters following proposals by one or more delegations and following consultations, notably with the Bureau;

- the Chair should be able to invite, for discussions of special importance in the Committee of Ministers, high-ranking representatives from non-member States and from international organisations following consultation with the Bureau and, if appropriate, the Committee;

- the consent of the Committee of Ministers should be given prior to the appointment of special representatives to fulfil political missions in the spirit of reinforcing democratic stability;

- a representative of the Chairman-in-office of the Committee of Ministers should be ready, routinely, to inform the Permanent Council of the OSCE on relevant activities as circumstances require.

 

Structures and decision-making procedures of the Ministers' Deputies (Main Recommendation 16)

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)

New working methods of the Deputies and their subordinate Groups will be introduced from September 1999.

The Ministers' Deputies will meet once a week on a Wednesday with the possibility of continuing, if necessary, for a half day on the Thursday. The following Rapporteur Groups will be retained: Administrative and Budgetary Questions; Democratic Stability; Education, Culture and Sport; Relations with the European Union; Human Rights; Legal Co-operation; Relations with the OSCE; and Social and Health Questions. Other subjects will be entrusted to individual Rapporteurs, who will be free to develop their own working methods, under the motto "individual work-collective decision".

The formal relationship between the Rapporteur Groups/Rapporteurs and the Committee of Ministers will remain unchanged. Meetings of the Rapporteur Groups and Rapporteurs will endeavour to make use of annotated agendas and will, whenever possible, prepare draft decisions for adoption without debate by the Ministers' Deputies.

 

Structures of the Secretariat, Management of programmes and budgetary management and Results based budgeting (Main Recommendations 17, 18, 20, 21)

(17) 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)

(18) 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)

(20) 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)

(21) 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)

These Recommendations were accepted as fundamental objectives which have far reaching implications affecting the whole structure of the Secretariat and the financial management system, and which therefore need further elaboration. With this in mind, the Secretary General has been asked to draw up detailed proposals both on restructuring the Secretariat and on reforming the system of financial management and accountability on the basis of results based budgeting. Consideration on certain proposals by the Deputies has begun and competent external expertise been recruited. The Budget Committee will be involved.

 

Establishment of priorities (Main Recommendation 19)

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)

A strategic plan will be adopted by the Committee of Ministers. Both it and the tools for its implementation will be reviewed periodically by the Deputies. The Deputies have drawn up the document reproduced at Appendix 1, which is intended to be a vade mecum for the Secretary General to work with senior colleagues to draw up objectives, as well as projects and programmes to achieve them and means to measure implementation, consistent with the definition of core priorities. They will allocate human and financial resources accordingly. This process will then "cascade" downwards. The merit of this procedure is that all engaged in it will be able to rethink the best ways to achieve newly defined objectives free from any assumed or imposed need to perpetuate the heritage and practices of the past - although much that is good will certainly survive. The objective setting exercise and results-based budgeting are inextricably linked.

 

Declassification of monitoring reports (Main Recommendation 22)

Reports drawn up within the framework of monitoring procedures should be made public wherever possible. (§71)

The national contribution from each member State to future monitoring exercises will be declassified.

 

Co-operation with national institutions of the judiciary (Main Recommendation 23)

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)

There is agreement that these activities be given greater priority in the future. Practical arrangements for this are being drawn up.

 

Implementation of the "Declaration on compliance with commitments by member States"( Main Recommendation 24)

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)

There is consensus that the Committee of Ministers make use of paragraph four of the 1994 Declaration, when the need arises, ie:

"1. The Committee of Ministers will consider the questions of implementation of commitments concerning the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in any member State which will be referred to it either:

- by member States,

- by the Secretary General, or

- on the basis of a recommendation from the Parliamentary Assembly.

4. The Committee of Ministers, in cases requiring specific action, may decide to:

- request the Secretary General to make contacts, collect information or furnish advice;

- issue an opinion or recommendation;

- forward a communication to the Parliamentary Assembly;

-     take any other decision within its statutory powers."

Any necessary follow-up will be incorporated in the revised programmes to be drawn up following agreement of the strategic plan.

 

Visibility (Main Recommendation 25)

To improve the visibility of the Organisation:

a. Council of Europe texts of particular interest to the general public should be issued in non-official languages;

This is desirable and, indeed, already implemented within the resources available. In parallel, national governments are encouraged to complement the existing effort.

b. 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;

Full application of the existing framework for consultations with NGOs will achieve this objective and is encouraged.

c. the member states should be invited to set up national Council of Europe conferences;

No common view was agreed. Those member States which so desire can take appropriate action.

d. the role of the Information and Documentation Centres of the Council of Europe should be reinforced. (§77)

The Deputies will consider measures to elucidate the legal position and status of the Information and Documentation Centres and also to strengthen the links with the Council of Europe.

 

APPENDIX 1

STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE ORGANISATION

The Committee of Ministers has adopted this strategic plan for the Organisation and will implement it with the help of the Secretariat, as the executive arm of the Organisation.

 

I. PRIORITIES

- Human Rights

- Democratic Stability

- The Rule of Law

- Culture and Education

- Social Cohesion

 

II. MAIN OBJECTIVES

Building Greater Europe without dividing lines: to promote stability and unity in Europe, on the basis of shared values, to identify new challenges to the values and goals of the Council of Europe and to propose new policy responses, and therefore:

- To protect, and promote respect for, human rights in all member States on a non-discriminatory basis

- To promote and develop democratic institutions and procedures at national, regional and local level

- To ensure observance of the Rule of Law

- To promote a European cultural identity, with awareness of the cultural diversity of Europe and its heritage, with special emphasis on education

- To promote tolerance, social cohesion and social rights

 

III. TO ACHIEVE THESE, FULL ADVANTAGE WILL BE TAKEN OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL CO-OPERATION, TREATY-BASED MECHANISMS AND THE INVOLVEMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND, TO THIS END, WE SHALL:

- Emphasise the strategic role of the Committee of Ministers in co-ordinating activities to achieve these objectives, notably by promoting a focused and fruitful political dialogue between member States and in consultation with the Parliamentary Assembly.

- Work for full observance and implementation of Council of Europe conventions by all States which have ratified these including by means of ongoing monitoring of compliance: as well as of common Declarations and Plans of Action.

- Provide advice and support for legislative and administrative reform and organise training in priority areas for the consolidation of democratic stability.

- Develop new or supplementary legal and other instruments in priority areas, and consider removing obsolete instruments.

- Utilise the potential for cultural links to unify Europe, with particular emphasis on the need of people of all ages to understand Council of Europe core values, to respect other cultures and to understand the past.

- Devise programmes to promote tolerance, identify key obstacles to social cohesion and combat social exclusion.

- Ensure the Organisation is optimally structured to carry out these objectives through the flexible and efficient deployment of the human and financial resources of the Organisation.

- Develop coherent co-operation and partnership with the European Union, OSCE, other international organisations, relevant European regional organisations, NGOs and with private foundations.

 

IV. TOOLS AVAILABLE TO ACHIEVE THESE OBJECTIVES:

- The Committee of Ministers

- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

- The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe

- The European Court of Human Rights

[- The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights]

- Committees under the European Social Charter

- The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture

- Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention on National Minorities

- Committee of Experts on the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

- European Youth Centre and European Youth Foundation

- Council of Europe Information and Documentation Centres

- The following are the Committees which are answerable directly to the Committee of Ministers. They, their subsidiary bodies, and their activities must be assessed in the light of their relevance to main objectives.

Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC)

Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH)

Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM)

Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR)

European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ)

European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC)

Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI)

European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS)

Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG)

Committee for the Development of Sport (CDDS)

European Steering Committee for Intergovernmental Co-operation in the Youth Field (CDEJ)

Steering Committee on Bioethics (CDBI)

European Committee on Migration (CDMG)

Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR)

European Population Committee (CDPO)

European Health Committee (CDSP)

Committee for the Activities of the Council of Europe in the field of Biological and Landscape Diversity (CO-DBP)

The Activities for the Development and Consolidation of Democratic Stability (ADACS) programmes and Confidence-Building Measures must remain flexible for adaptation to changing needs and be reviewed accordingly.

Impact of Council of Europe Treaties on the Allocation of Resources

The above Committees set up under Article 17 of the Statute, together with any subsidiary or other committees which they may establish in pursuit of objectives, are responsible, when their terms of reference so provide, for monitoring the functioning and implementation of Council of Europe Conventions that fall within their fields of competence. They are resourced, along with a number of conventional committees also contained within the Intergovernmental Programme of Activities, from appropriations under Vote II and Vote I (Common Expenditure). The volume of such expenditure ultimately lies within the discretion of the Committee of Ministers.

Treaties providing footnote 1 , within their text, for regular follow-up by structures which represent a permanent additional call on resources are set out below:

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5 as amended by ETS No. 155) and its additional Protocols (ETS Nos. 9, 46, 114 and 117)

European Social Charter (ETS No. 35), its protocols (ETS Nos. 128, 142, 158) and revised Social Charter (ETS No. 163)

European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ETS No. 126) and its Protocols (ETS Nos. 151, 152)

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS No. 157)

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ETS No. 148)

Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (ETS No. 104)

European Charter of Local Self-Government (ETS No. 122)

The volume of resources for these purposes also lies within the discretion of the Committee of Ministers.

In addition there are a number of treaties making a limited but permanent call on resources (limited in general to provision of Secretariat services provided for under Vote I (Common Expenditure)). These treaties provide either for conventional committees or for multilateral consultation. Their ETS numbers are listed in footnote 2 below footnote 2 .


1    Excluding Partial Agreements   

2    Conventional committees: 87 and 145, 92, 93, 105, 130, 143

        Multilateral consultation: 65, 94, 100, 102, 123 and 170, 125



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