CM/AS(2011)5 20 June 2011
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(April - June 2011)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Ukraine considers the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers as an opportunity to contribute to strengthening the role of the Council of Europe in today’s Europe. It will ensure that the goals and priorities of the Council of Europe will continue to be pursued, in particular the strengthening of democracy, respect for the rule of law and protection of human rights.
2. As Chair, Ukraine will focus on three priorities, namely the protection of children’s rights, human rights and the rule of law in the context of democracy and stability in Europe, and strengthening and developing local democracy.
3. There is common understanding that, among other important things, the success of the Organisation largely depends on the coherence and continuity of the activities of chairmanships. Prior to assuming the chairmanship, Ukraine had held consultations with the United Kingdom and Albania as the forthcoming chairs in order to develop a common vision for the work ahead. Ukraine appreciates the important work done by the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and will build on its achievements. Ukraine also looks forward to working with the forthcoming UK and Albanian chairmanships on our joint priorities.
4. The Ministerial Session held in Istanbul on 11 May 2011, at which Ukraine took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, constituted the high point of the Committee’s action since last year. At the close of the Session, the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Committee of Ministers issued the Declaration, which reaffirmed the Council of Europe’s role in protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the whole European continent and beyond.
5. Ukraine highly values close and mutually beneficial interaction between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in promoting the core values of the Council of Europe. During its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Ukraine intends to continue and further promote such a dialogue. Ukraine’s Chairmanship slogan “Common values – joint efforts” could serve as a guiding principle of continued cooperation between the intergovernmental and parliamentary bodies of the Council of Europe.
6. EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is essential to complete the construction of a coherent area of protection of human rights across Europe. This issue was discussed at the political level during a meeting held on 4 May 2011 with the EC Vice-President Catherine Ashton. The meeting revealed a concurrence of views on this matter.
7. Taking into account the state of negotiations, at their meeting on 25 May, the Ministers’ Deputies agreed to extend until 31 December 2011 the ad hoc terms of reference for the Steering Committee for Human rights (CDDH) to elaborate a legal instrument setting out the modalities of accession of the European Union to the Convention, while recalling the importance of concluding as soon as possible the work on the draft accession agreement. The Committee of Ministers will continue to pay particular attention to this significant question during the coming months. It is important that the negotiations are completed rapidly.
8. As far as the follow-up to the Interlaken process is concerned, a report on the measures taken so far to implement the Interlaken Declaration was submitted to the Committee of Ministers in Istanbul. The Committee welcomed the first measures taken by the Court to adapt its procedures to the new provisions of the Convention as amended by Protocol No. 14, while noting that this will not provide a comprehensive solution to the problems facing the Convention system. The Committee endorsed the Declaration and Follow-up Plan adopted at the High-level Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights held in Izmir on 26 and 27 April 2011, and expressed its determination to implement these texts as a matter of priority. Finally, the Committee instructed its Deputies to report at its next Session on further measures to be taken and amendments to the Convention which may be required in order to secure the long-term effectiveness of the supervisory mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights.
9. Following the Ministerial Session, the Ministers’ Deputies have invited the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to examine and give appropriate follow-up to the texts adopted at the Izmir Conference in all their aspects, including the strategic perspective of the future of the Court. In this context, they have invited the CDDH, in particular, to advise on a number of complex and sensitive issues addressed in the Izmir texts, i.e. on the issue of fees for applicants to the European Court of Human Rights, on any other possible new procedural rules or practices concerning access to the Court and on a system allowing the highest national courts to request advisory opinions from the Court concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention. The outcome of the work of the CDDH on all these aspects should be submitted by 31 March 2012.
10. The Deputies have also endorsed the structure for national reports to be submitted by member states to the Committee of Ministers on measures taken to implement the relevant parts of the Interlaken Declaration and have invited all member states to submit these reports as soon as possible and no later than 31 December 2011.
11. Regarding social rights, the Ministers’ Deputies held a debate on the European Social Charter and its monitoring mechanism on 25 May and 15 June, in view of the 50th anniversary of the Social Charter which will be celebrated on 18 October 2011. In the light of the outcome of this debate, a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1958 (2011) on the “Monitoring of commitments concerning social rights” will now be prepared.
12. Regarding the protection and promotion of children’s rights, which is one of the priorities of the Ukrainian Chairmanship, the Ministers’ Deputies have recently taken note of a progress report on the implementation of the objectives of the Programme “Building a Europe for and with children” (2009-2011). In this context, they have invited member states to give priority to the implementation of the Council of Europe Policy Guidelines on Integrated National Strategies for the Protection of Children from Violence (Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)10 of the Committee of Ministers to member states) and of the Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on child-friendly justice, adopted respectively in November 2009 and November 2010. They have also invited member states to ensure representation at the highest level possible at the High-level Strategy Conference to be hosted by the authorities of Monaco on 20 and 21 November 2011.
13. As far as the Council of Europe “ONE in FIVE” Campaign to stop sexual violence against children” is concerned, the Deputies have encouraged member states who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201). They have also invited member states who have not yet done so to set up national campaign teams and join the campaign. Finally, they have encouraged the relevant Council of Europe bodies to examine in what ways they could contribute to the campaign.
14. The Ministers' Deputies also adopted on 19 April 2011 a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1934 (2010) on “Child abuse in institutions: ensure full protection of the victims”, which provides detailed information on the various initiatives undertaken or planned in the intergovernmental sector in this important area.
15. In the context of the Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, an international conference “Combating violence against children: from isolated actions to integrated strategies” organised in Kyiv at the end of May confirmed that holistic strategies are needed to combat violence against children in Europe. The discussions, which focused in particular on reforming child protection systems and on developing support services and improving national child care standards and policies, stressed also the need to fight the roots of violence against children, i.e. poverty, absence of democracy and human rights and social stereotypes. The conference was part of a series of Council of Europe actions to promote – with the support of governments and other partners – zero tolerance to violence against children.
16. The Committee of Ministers looks forward to the debate which the Parliamentary Assembly will hold on 23 June on the state of human rights in Europe.
17. At its 121st Ministerial Session in Istanbul, the Committee of Ministers was in particular informed of the report of the Group of Eminent Persons “’Living together’: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st century Europe”, which was discussed at an informal working dinner held during the evening of 10 May. The Committee instructed its Deputies to consider the report, which they will be doing on 29 June 2011. The Assembly’s debate on the report to be held at the present session will be particularly useful in this perspective.
Execution of judgments
18. The Ministers’ Deputies met to consider the execution of judgments of the European Court on 7-8 June 2011. At that meeting, the Deputies in particular welcomed the release of Eynullah Fatullayev following the decree issued by the President of Azerbaijan on 26 May 2011 pardoning 90 people including Mr Fatullayev. They also took note of information provided by the Azerbaijani authorities concerning forthcoming legislation on the decriminalisation of defamation following the European Court’s judgment in the Fatullayev case and other comparable judgments.
19. At the same meeting, the Deputies examined the state of execution of the case of Sejdić and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Regretting that no progress had been made in executing the judgment since the elections in October 2010, and noting with concern that no consensus had been reached among different political stakeholders to bring the country’s Constitution and electoral legislation into line with the requirements of the Court’s judgment and the Convention, they reiterated their call on the authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the necessary measures rapidly.
20. The Deputies also considered the case of D.H. against the Czech Republic. They noted the Czech authorities’ confirmation that the action plan for the execution of this judgment, currently in a preparatory phase, will begin its implementation phase in 2013, as well as information provided concerning the entry into force of two ministerial decrees in September 2011. However they expressed concern that considerable progress remained to be achieved on the ground and stressed the importance of the Czech authorities’ intensifying and if possible speeding up the implementation of their plan.
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
21. In April, the Committee of Ministers took note of the conclusions of the International Conference on the “Prevention of terrorism: prevention tools, legal instruments and their implementation”, held in Istanbul on 16-17 December 2010.
22. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which was opened for signature at the Ministerial Session on 11 May 2011, in the presence of the Assembly’s Rapporteur, Mr Mendes Bota, received on this occasion no less than 13 signatures, from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.
23. On 25 May 2011, the Ministers’ Deputies adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1920 (2010) on “Reinforcing the effectiveness of Council of Europe treaty law”. This reply indicates, in particular, that the Council of Europe should continue to play a major role in setting standards and developing international law in the areas of human rights’ protection, democracy and the rule of law. The Deputies have invited the Secretary General to keep in mind the Assembly’s recommendations and its list of important conventions in the elaboration of the report which he will submit to the Committee of Ministers by the end of September 2011 in the context of the review of the relevance of Council of Europe conventions. The Parliamentary Assembly will be kept informed about the outcome of this activity.
24. Regarding the elderly, the Ministers’ Deputies adopted on 25 May 2011 Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on reducing the risk of vulnerability of elderly migrants and improving their welfare. This text recommends that governments undertake a holistic assessment of the situation of elderly migrants in the member states and take appropriate action at national, regional and local levels to promote their welfare, including the prevention of abuse and the reduction of their vulnerability, social isolation and marginalisation, drawing upon the principles and guidelines set out in the Recommendation.
25. As far as people with disabilities are concerned, a conference organised in Odessa on 30 and 31 May 2011 as part of the Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers highlighted best practices in seeking to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and their integration and active participation in society and to strengthen equal opportunities and non-discrimination. The conference aimed to support Ukraine in implementing an effective policy on disability, but also to contribute to the second component of the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan (2006-2015).
26. The question of improving the situation of Roma across Europe remains a priority with the Committee of Ministers. In this respect, a first progress report by the Secretary General on the follow-up (November 2010-April 2011) to the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma was submitted to the 121st Ministerial Session in Istanbul.
27. With regard to migrants, on 15 June, the Ministers’ Deputies took note of the Secretary General’s proposal for the framework for Council of Europe work on migration issues and noted that this would form the basis of the Secretary General’s proposal for the transversal programme in this area in the draft Council of Europe Programme and Budget 2012-2013. They also took note of the Secretary General’s proposals for possible Council of Europe action in 2011. In this context, they recalled that some aspects of migration represent a challenge for all European states that requires a common response and stressed that Council of Europe activities should be closely coordinated with those of other international organisations, in particular the European Union, and focus on aspects for which it has recognised expertise.
28. Finally, with the constant objective of strengthening cooperation between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on Social and Health Questions (GR-SOC) will participate in an exchange of views with the Assembly's Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee at one of its meetings during the present session.
Education, culture, youth and sport
29. On 5 May 2011, the Committee of Ministers, in its composition restricted to representatives of the states members of the Partial Agreement establishing the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre)1, adopted Resolution CM/Res(2011)6 on the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre), introducing the new Statute of the North-South Centre.
30. This Statute, which came into force on 1 June 2011, confirms the relevance of the North-South Centre, at a time when the North African countries, Europe’s neighbours, are facing historic changes. The North-South Centre will keep its current legal status and will continue to function as an enlarged partial agreement of the Council of Europe. In addition, the “quadrilogue” functioning of the Centre has been preserved, while making sure that all member states are taking full part in the decision-making process.
31. The Committee of Ministers also took this opportunity to adopt a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1893 (2009) on “The future of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity” (North-South Centre)”, which prompted the debate on revising the Statute of the North-South Centre.
32. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers also adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)4 on education for global interdependence and solidarity, which is the first European legal standard on education for global citizenship. This recommendation will provide a solid basis for the Centre’s work in one of its main areas of activity, in Europe and beyond.
33. The Committee of Ministers further adopted, on 4 May and 15 June 2011 respectively, replies to the following Parliamentary Assembly recommendations: Recommendation 1946 (2010) on “Military waste and the environment” and Recommendation 1947 (2010) on “Noise and light pollution”.
34. On 26 and 27 May 2011, the Ukrainian Chairmanship held an international conference in Yalta on “The Kyiv Initiative in the context of the Eastern Partnership – cooperation and synergies”. The event was part of the Kyiv Initiative Regional Programme which encompasses Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The discussions provided an opportunity to take stock of the considerable progress achieved in the field of democracy and culture and to identify prospects for future action in line with regional priorities.
35. Particular attention has been paid in recent months to the implementation of the electoral assistance programme put in place by the Council of Europe for the preparation of the local elections held in Albania on 8 May 2011, as well as to the support provided by the Council of Europe for the organisation of the local elections in Moldova on 5 June 2011.
36. With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ministers Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM) had on 17 May an exchange of views with Mr Valentin Inzko, High Representative and European Union Special Representative and Mr Gary Robbins, OSCE Head of Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this context, concern was expressed over the lack of progress in putting in place a government at state level in the country, as well as regarding the non-execution of the Sejdic and Finci judgment and the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet not appointed representatives to a number of Council of Europe bodies.
37. The situation in Belarus has continued to be kept under close review by the Ministers’ Deputies in the context of their Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM). In line with the Declaration adopted by the Committee of Ministers in January, the Ukrainian Chairmanship will continue supporting the establishment of closer relations between the Council of Europe and Belarus only on the basis of respect for European values and principles. It reiterates the appeal made by the Committee “for the immediate release of the presidential candidates, journalists and human rights activists arrested in the wake of the elections”.
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
38. The Deputies expressed in April their support for the Secretary General’s proposals for priorities for 2012-2013 and approved the new intergovernmental committee structure, which will be reviewed on a regular basis, and for the first time by the end of March 2013. They will decide on the budgetary implications of the priorities at the end of June, having regard to the opinions to be adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly during its 3rd Part-Session. They approved the new organisation chart of the Secretariat General of the Council of Europe on 15 June.
39. In June, the Deputies examined proposals submitted by the Secretary General regarding the reform of the Council of Europe engagement with civil society and invited him to present them, at one of their forthcoming meetings, with proposals for the follow-up to be given for their implementation. They have also adopted a revised framework for Council of Europe conferences of specialised ministers.
Co-operation with the United Nations, the OSCE, the European Union and external relations
40. The reinforcement of co-operation between the Council of Europe and other international organisations remains an important objective for the Committee of Ministers. At the Istanbul Ministerial Session, the Committee welcomed the enhancement of this co-operation, and in particular of the partnership with the European Union. The exchange of views which the Ministers’ Deputies will have with Mr Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, on 6 July 2011 will provide an excellent opportunity to review the current state of co-operation with the Union and examine the prospects for its further deepening, having regard to the numerous areas of common interest to the Council of Europe and the Union.
41. At the technical level, a review of the state of co-operation with the European Union was conducted by the Ministers Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) on 14 June. On the same occasion, the GR-EXT had an exchange of views with the independent person appointed to sit on the organs of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Mr Guy de Vel.
42. The question of the relationship with the Council of Europe’s neighbourhood has continued to retain the attention of the Committee of Ministers during the last few months. At the Istanbul Ministerial Session, the Committee took note of the proposals made by the Secretary General regarding a Council of Europe policy towards its immediate neighbourhood, based on the common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It invited the Secretary General to develop action plans for the implementation of this policy, with a view to their approval by the Committee. An initial review of this new policy will be conducted at the next Ministerial Session in May 2012. The Committee of Ministers will follow with particular interest the debates which the Parliamentary Assembly will hold on co-operation with neighbouring countries and regions during its Session.
43. The Council of Europe is a unique forum of pan-European co-operation founded on common, legally binding standards. The Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers will strive to promote these most valuable assets and, to this end, will work in close co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly and all other relevant Council of Europe bodies, so as to further human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
1 States concerned: Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.