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CM/AS(2008)Rec1825prov3E  / 19 December 2008 

Ministers’ Deputies
CM Documents

CM/AS(2008)Rec1825 prov. 13 October 20081
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“Strengthening co-operation with the Maghreb countries” −
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1825 (2008)
Draft reply

For consideration at the meeting of GR-EXT on 23 October 2008

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1. The Committee of Ministers has carefully reviewed Recommendation 1825 (2008), also in the light of Resolution 1598 (2008) and has forwarded it to the attention of the member states’ governments. The Committee has also forwarded the Recommendation to the Executive Council of the North-South Centre.

2. In accordance with the decision taken at the 994th(bis) meeting of the Ministers' Deputies in May 2007, the Secretary General presents each year before the Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers an Annual Report on External Relations of the Council of Europe. This report also contains information about relations with the Maghreb countries. The report covering calendar year 2007 (document SG/Inf (2008)8) is at the Assembly's disposal. The next report on external relations of the Council of Europe, covering the year 2008, will be submitted in anticipation of the Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers to be held in 2009. This report will also be made available to the Assembly.

3. The Committee of Ministers recalls its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1753 (2006) on the external relations of the Council of Europe, adopted on 18 January 2007 at the 984th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies, and in particular its paragraph 2 in which the Committee stated that:

"2. Whilst acknowledging the importance of external relations for the Council of Europe, and of the contribution by the Organisation to the enhancement of universal values outside of Europe, the Committee of Ministers is nevertheless convinced that priority must be placed on the European dimension of the Organisation’s mission."

It is within this context and subject to specifically expressed interests of the partners that the Committee of Ministers is maintaining relations with any non-member state focusing on development of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

4. As far as the relations with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are concerned, the Committee of Ministers would like to underline in particular:

a. their relations with the North-South Centre as described in the attached Opinion of its Executive Council dated 31 March 2008;

b. the decision by Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to join the Venice Commission, opening to these countries possibilities to make full use of this membership;

c. the signature on 23 May 2008 of a Joint Declaration on the reinforcement of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the International Organisation of “La Francophonie” which gives additional opportunities for Council of Europe outreach to the member states of “La Francophonie”.
5. The Committee of Ministers is firmly committed to a policy promoting intercultural dialogue, as has been underlined most recently by the launch of the “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue”, and has frequently recognised the importance of a dialogue between representatives of different religions and cultures. The Committee of Ministers promotes co-operation with other organisations active in intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension, through the signature and implementation of agreements with UNESCO, the “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative, the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, as well as other regional organisations, such as the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, ALECSO.

6. In the view of the Committee of Ministers, however, conducting or participating in inter-religious dialogue does not fall within the competence of executive authorities, who are bound by the principles of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights) and the obligation of neutrality towards the different religious and philosophical convictions. This being so, the Committee of Ministers encourages the Parliamentary Assembly to develop initiatives aimed at fostering inter-religious dialogue and stands ready to facilitate, if necessary, the work of the Assembly aimed at dialogue between religions and cultures.

NSC/EC (2008) 4 Final
31 March 2008

OPINION OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL OF THE
NORTH -SOUTH CENTRE ON RECOMMANDATION 1825 (2008)
OF THE PARLIAMETARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
« STRENGTHENING CO-OPERATION WITH THE MAGHREB COUNTRIES»

1. The Executive Council of the North South Centre welcomes the interest of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Maghreb, and wishes to express its appreciation of Mrs Durrieu’s excellent report.

2. In the framework of its role as a bridge between the Council of Europe and the south, the North-South Centre has, for many years, developed a substantial co-operation with the countries from the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and in particular the Maghreb (see the appendix summary).

3. The Executive Council, like the Parliamentary assembly, considers that the time has come to advance further and to try to formalise the links between the North South Centre and the Maghreb countries on the basis of the existing co-operation, on the condition that these countries express the political will to do so. The Executive Council has always considered that the composition of the North-South Centre would only be complete when one or several Southern countries would become members.

4. In this perspective, the President of the Executive Council, Mr Claude Frey, paid an official visit to Morocco, on 4- 7 February 2008. The authorities of Morocco confirmed their interest in the North South Centre, as well as their appreciation of the existing co-operation and their wish to strengthen it. The question of the accession of Morocco to the North-South Centre was discussed in this context.

5. A similar approach will be made for Algeria and Tunisia. Mrs Durrieu’s report, and the texts adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on that occasion, have created a political impetus which should be used for the mutual interest of the Council of Europe/North South Centre and the countries concerned.

6. 2008 offers great opportunities in this regard. In addition to the Lisbon Forum, two important activities of the North-South Centre will be held in the Maghreb countries: Mediterranean Encounters of Tanger (Morocco) on “Migration and co-development”, organised with the association “Espace alternatif” and with the support of the Governor of Tanger-Tetouan and the Mayor of Tanger on 25-26 April, and a Symposium on intercultural dialogue organised by ALECSO (Arab organisation for education, culture and science) in Tunis (Tunisia) in October.

Appendix

LIST OF ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN CO-OPERATION WITH THE MAGHREB COUNTRIES IN RECENT YEARS

In recent years, the three Maghreb countries have been directly or indirectly involved in numerous activities of the North-South Centre. Among other events, representatives of governments and of the civil society in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have participated in the following activities:

- Conference on “Human Rights, Cultural Identities and Social Cohesion in

    the Mediterranean Region”, organised in co-operation with the Moroccan Minister of Human Rights, Mr Aujjar, in Rabat (Morocco) (20-21.10.2000);

- Regional Consultation in preparation for the Africa-Europe Civil Society

    Forum, organised in collaboration with the national commission of human rights, with the support of the Algerian government in Algiers (Algeria) (9-11.03.2000);

- 9th Permanent Conference of Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators

    (COPEAM) on “The Media in the Mediterranean as factors of Dialogue and Peace” in Algiers (Algeria) (8-12.06.2004);
    - Conference on “Women’s rights in the Euro-Mediterranean Region: Laws, Religions and Traditions” in Strasbourg (France) (13-14.10.2003);
    - Conference on “Intercultural Dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean Region” organised in co-operation with the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy in Amman (Jordania), and the participation of the Moroccan Minister of Human Rights (02.12.2003);
    - Conference on “Women in the Arab world” organised in partnership with the League of Arab States in Cairo (Egypt) (6-9.06.2004);
    - Round Table on “Democracy and Citizenship in the Southern Mediterranean countries” organised in partnership with the Panorama Centre for Democracy in Lisbon (Portugal) (11-12.12.2004);
    - International Conference on “Democracy and Citizenship in the Euro-Mediterranean Region” and implementation of a Euro-Mediterranean platform for democracy and citizenship in Marrakech (Morocco) ( 23-24.09.2005);
    - Forum on “The Integration of Migrants in Europe: What Role for NGOs” organised in partnership with the North-south dialogue and solidarity grouping and with the Messina international study and research centre in Messina (Italy) (11-12.11.2005);
    - Seminar on “The Role of Women as agents of change” in partnership with the Istituto Studi Mediterranei of Lugano and the Luso-American Foundation in Lisbon (Portugal) (30.06-01.07.2006);
    - Seminar on the “Respect for equality between women and men in family code” co-organised by the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg (France) (20.10.2006);
    - Consultation on “Women and Intercultural Dialogue”, in the framework of the preparation of the White paper on Intercultural Dialogue by the Council of Europe, in Geneva (Switzerland) (14-15.04.2007).

In addition, since 2003, the Maghreb countries have regularly participated in the annual meetings of the Lisbon Forum, a process launched by the North South Centre in 1994 and aimed at promoting dialogue on human rights, good governance and democracy between Europe, the South Mediterranean and Africa.

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.


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