Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2013)5 21 June 2013



Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(April - June 2013)



Table of Content

Introduction
1. Human rights
a. European Convention on Human Rights
b. Execution of judgments
c. Other questions concerning human rights
2. Rule of law and judicial co-operation
3. Social cohesion
4. Education, culture, youth and sport
5. Specific co-operation
6. Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
7. Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations

Introduction

1. The holding of the 123rd Session of the Committee of Ministers on 16 May in Strasbourg has been the most significant development since the previous report. At the close of the Session, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers was transferred by Andorra to Armenia.

2. It is an honour for the Republic of Armenia to assume its first Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It sees it as an opportunity to contribute to the achievement of the overall goal: the strengthening and consolidation of democratic practices in Europe.

3. The Armenian Chairmanship will pursue the following goals, in particular:

- combating racism and xenophobia in Europe; promoting European values through intercultural dialogue;

- strengthening European standards on human rights and on the rule of law;

- fostering democratic societies;

- reinforcing the role of the Council of Europe in the European architecture.

4. The Armenian Chairmanship will also seek to maintain and develop good relations between the two main organs of the Council of Europe that are the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly to ensure the efficient functioning of the Organisation.

1. Human rights

a. European Convention on Human Rights

5. During the 123rd Session, the Committee of Ministers reiterated its determination to implement, as a priority, the Interlaken, Izmir and Brighton Declarations. It took note of the measures taken to date by all relevant stakeholders and invited them to pursue their work according to the deadlines set forth in these documents and by the Committee of Ministers, in order to secure the long-term effectiveness of the supervisory mechanism set up under the European Convention on Human Rights. In this regard, the Committee of Ministers adopted Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention and took note of its Explanatory Report (document CM(2012)166add). The Committee of Ministers decided to open Protocol No. 15 for signature in Strasbourg on 24 June 2013 and invited the States Parties to the Convention to take steps in order to sign and ratify the Protocol as soon as possible.

6. With respect to the supervision of the execution of the Court’s judgments, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the measures taken by States Parties to the Convention to implement the execution of the Court’s judgments and encouraged them to continue their efforts in this regard. The Committee of Ministers welcomed also their Deputies’ work on this subject, as shown by the Committee of Ministers’ Annual Report 2012. Finally, the Committee of Ministers called on the States Parties to take all necessary measures to execute the Court’s judgments, providing special efforts where structural and systemic problems generating repetitive applications to the Court are concerned, and invited the appropriate bodies of the Council of Europe to provide assistance upon request.

b. Execution of judgments

7. With regard to the supervision of the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers' Deputies held their 1172nd meeting (DH) in June 2013. On this occasion, they decided to close the examination of 34 cases (decisions and judgments of the Court), thus closing 393 cases since the beginning of the year (until 6 June).

8. The Deputies resumed consideration of the case Mahmudov and Agazade against Azerbaijan. In this respect, they deeply regretted that, while the co-operation process with the Venice Commission was on-going, the Parliament of Azerbaijan adopted amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences of Azerbaijan that impose criminal penalties for defamation and insult on the Internet. The Deputies therefore urged the Azerbaijani authorities to pursue their co-operation with the Venice Commission with a view to drafting the law on defamation and to inform the Committee as soon as possible of the state of execution of this group of cases.

9. The Deputies continued their discussion on the Sejdić and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina. They firmly urged the authorities and political leaders to amend the Constitution and the electoral legislation to bring them in conformity with the Convention requirements as a matter of urgency, in view of the forthcoming 2014 elections and decided that a letter would be sent from the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, inviting the responsible Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the 1179th meeting (September 2013) (DH), for an exchange of views on the implementation of the judgment.

10. The Deputies welcomed the determination shown by the Romanian authorities in the execution of the Străin group of cases / Maria Atanasiu and others, which has allowed the adoption of a new law reforming the reparation mechanism for properties nationalised, with a view to ensuring its effectiveness and viability. The Deputies also took note of the Court’s decision to maintain the freeze on repetitive cases and invited the Romanian authorities to keep the Committee regularly informed of the implementation of the new law, with a view to enabling it to assess the progress made at the latest at its December 2014 DH meeting.

11. The Deputies resumed consideration of the case Kurić and others against Slovenia. They welcomed the presence of the Minister of the Interior and took note with interest of the explanations given during the meeting regarding the complexity of the case and the progress made. The Deputies noted however with concern that the compensation scheme for the “erased persons” would not be introduced before the deadline set by the Court and urged therefore the Slovenian authorities to intensify their efforts with a view to their next examination of the case at the 1179th meeting.

12. The Deputies also continued their discussion on the Lutsenko case against Ukraine. They recalled, with satisfaction, that the applicant was set free on 7 April 2013 and in particular strongly encouraged the Ukrainian authorities to make full use of the co-operation programmes, of which they are beneficiaries, with a view to putting rapidly in place the measures required in the Ukrainian justice system.

13. Finally, the Deputies examined the recent judgment delivered in the case of Oleksandr Volkov against Ukraine. They recalled that the Court indicated that Ukraine should secure the applicant’s reinstatement in the post of judge of the Supreme Court at the earliest possible date and underlined the findings of the Court regarding the serious systemic problems as regards the functioning of the Ukrainian judiciary. The Deputies invited the Ukrainian authorities to provide, as soon as possible, information on the measures adopted and/or envisaged with a view to their next examination of the case at the 1179th meeting.

c. Other questions concerning human rights

14. On 11 June, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on Risks to Fundamental Rights stemming from Digital Tracking and other Surveillance Technologies. The Committee of Ministers observed that legislation allowing for overly broad surveillance of citizens can interfere with their privacy and have a chilling effect on their freedom of expression and on the freedom of the media.

15. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers welcomed a progress review report on Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015).

16. Subsequently, on 30 April, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration on the recent executions in Japan and the United States of America, both Observer States to the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers deplored these executions and stated that they ran counter to the growing trend against the death penalty at the international level, as shown by the latest resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty adopted at the United Nations.

17. Finally, on 7 May, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration congratulating the State of Maryland on its recent decision passing legislation abolishing the death penalty. The Committee of Ministers encouraged other US States to follow this positive example and to reinforce the growing trend in international law and national practices towards the abolition of the death penalty.

18. On 11 June, the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate on “The role of human rights defenders and the Council of Europe's interaction with civil society”. A large number of delegations took the floor during the debate.

19. The Armenian Chairmanship has defined a number of priorities, among which are the fight against racism and xenophobia in Europe and the promotion of European values through intercultural dialogue. In this regard, Armenia will organise a High-Level Conference on Combating Racism and Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe (Yerevan, end of October) and will host the 2013 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue (Yerevan, 2-3 September).

20. The strengthening of European standards on human rights and on the rule of law is another priority of the Armenian Chairmanship. The Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) Network Conference was organised under the auspices of the Armenian Chairmanship and focused on cross-cutting aspects of this issue (Strasbourg, 18-19 June).

2. Rule of law and judicial co-operation

21. At the end of May, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the Chair of the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International law (CAHDI), Ms Liesbeth Lijnzaad.

22. On 11 June, the Committee of Ministers took note of the General Activity Report for 2012 of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), and held an exchange of views with its President, Mr Marin Mrčela.

23. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers agreed to the request by the Kingdom of Morocco for observer status with the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ).

24. Still at the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers took note of the request of the Republic of Colombia to be invited to accede to the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) and noted that the Committee of Ministers agreed in principle to granting this request.

25. Finally, on 19 June, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the President of the Venice Commission, Mr Gianni Buquicchio, and took note of the Commission’s annual activity report for 2012.

26. Under its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, Armenia will host, with the support of the Venice Commission, a Conference on “European Standards on the Rule of Law and the Scope of Discretion of Powers in the Member States of the Council of Europe” in Yerevan, from 3 to 5 July.

3. Social cohesion

27. In the field of health, the Deputies, in their composition restricted to representatives of the States Parties to the Convention on the Elaboration of a European Pharmacopoeia,1 adopted in June a Resolution on metals and alloys used in food contact materials and articles and took note of the technical guide relating thereto. The technical guide is intended to assist national policy-makers with their national regulations and enforcement activities on food contact materials made from metals and alloys with a view to harmonising regulations and their implementation at the European level.

4. Education, culture, youth and sport

28. In the framework of its priorities, the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers takes a keen interest in questions relating to education, culture and youth.

29. Armenia is currently responsible for the Secretariat of the Bologna Process Follow-up Group. It will host the forthcoming ministerial conference of the European Higher Education Area, in Yerevan, and, with this in mind, will organise, in the context of its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, a regional meeting of Ministers of Education.

30. It will also organise a Youth Policy Symposium, which will provide a platform for exchanges and an opportunity to discuss in greater depth youth participation and education for democratic citizenship in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus, placing particular emphasis on rural and disadvantaged young people.

31. Where the field of culture and protection of the cultural heritage is concerned, the Armenian Chairmanship will organise the official launch of the 2013 European Heritage Days programme and the Communications Platform in Armenia.

32. During the period covered by this report, the Committee of Ministers took a number of decisions about the future of the North-South Centre. On 29 May, it endorsed the report written on this subject by its ad hoc Working Party, the GT-CNS, in the work of which the Parliamentary Assembly played an active part. The Committee of Ministers agreed that the North-South Centre should continue to operate, setting it a deadline of the end of 2015 to implement, in the framework of its plan of activities, the guidelines set out in the aforementioned report. That deadline should also give more member and non-member States an opportunity to become members of the Centre. The Committee of Ministers will regularly monitor developments at the North-South Centre and will take stock at the end of 2015.

33. Where sport is concerned, the Committee of Ministers, in its composition restricted to the representatives of the States members of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS)2, adopted Resolution CM/Res(2013)8 on the integration of a network of national regulators of the sports betting market within the programme of activities of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS), and took note of the Explanatory Note thereto.

34. It authorised the Governing Board of EPAS to grant observer status to three sports organisations and to involve them in its Consultative Committee. It also authorised Canada to participate in the negotiation process conducted by EPAS relating to a possible Council of Europe Convention to combat the manipulation of sports results and notably match-fixing.

5. Specific co-operation

35. With regard to Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Ministers' Deputies agreed, on 7 May 2013, that the monitoring of the honouring of commitments by these countries would henceforth take place within the regular work of their Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM) and decided accordingly to end the special procedure which they had put in place at their 1101st meeting (8 December 2010). The Deputies asked the GR-DEM to report back to them within one year.

36. With regard to Georgia, the Committee of Ministers took note, at its meeting on 11 and 12 June 2013, of a report on the implementation of the Council of Europe programme of assistance for elections in this country. It encouraged the Georgian authorities to make the best possible use of this programme to ensure that the presidential elections scheduled for October 2013 were free and fair. It instructed the Secretariat to pursue implementation of the programme in close cooperation with the Georgian authorities and in coordination with the other relevant international organisations and to report back in due course to its Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM).

37. In addition, at its meeting on 29 May, the Committee of Ministers took note of the Secretary General’s seventh consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia.

38. Concerning Belarus, in accordance with a Committee of Ministers decision, the Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-EM) held an exchange of views at its meeting on 2 May with the representative of Belarus to the Council of Europe on that country's request for observer status with the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI). This request is still under consideration.

39. Finally, regarding Kosovo3, the Committee of Ministers adopted on 19 June a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2006(2013) on ‘The situation in Kosovo3 and the role of the Council of Europe”, in which the Committee reiterated that irrespective of the status of Kosovo3, all the people living there should have a European perspective and benefit of European standards for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. The Committee also encouraged the Secretariat to continue its efforts in helping to enshrine and implement Council of Europe standards in Kosovo3.

6. Organisational development and reform, programme and budget

40. On 7 May 2013, the Deputies decided to apply a zero nominal growth (i.e. budget not adjusted to take account of inflation) to the Programme and Budget 2014-2015, in view of the difficult budgetary situation in member States. The GR-PBA (Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on Programme, Budget and Administration) is currently considering the budgetary implications of this decision.

41. On 24 May 2013, the GR-PBA held an exchange of views with Mr Rudy Salles, Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly, on the budgets and priorities of the Council of Europe for 2014 and 2015. Mr Salles presented the Assembly’s draft opinion and draft resolution in this respect, which have since then been adopted by the Standing Committee of the Assembly.

42. The Secretary General will present the draft Programme and Budget for the next biennium before the end of the summer, which should be adopted by the Committee of Ministers before the end of 2013.

43. The Secretary General also presented his proposals for a reform of the contractual policy, which aim at ensuring the best possible fit between the Organisation’s contractual policy and its needs. Such a new contractual policy is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2014 at the latest.

7. Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations

44. Within the framework of preparation of the 123rd Session of the Committee of Ministers, the Ministers' Deputies examined a report on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union describing recent developments confirming the strategic importance of the partnership between the two organisations. At its 123rd Session, the Committee of Ministers noted with satisfaction the development of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, as reflected in this report.

45. Concerning the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Rapporteur group on External Relations (GR-EXT) held an exchange of views with Mrs Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, independent person appointed by the Council of Europe to sit on the organs of the Agency, on 28 May 2013.

46. Regarding co-operation with the OSCE, the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Mr Edward Nalbandian, presented the priorities of the Armenian Chairmanship to the Permanent Council of the OSCE on 6 June 2013.

47. Finally, at its 123rd Session, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the progress made in implementing the policy of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions and encouraged its further development. A review of the implementation of the co-operation priorities agreed with Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan will soon be presented to the Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT). This group is also pursuing its consideration of the Secretary General’s proposal to establish a new partnership for those neighbouring countries which are interested in a more structured relationship with the Council of Europe.

1 States concerned: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey and United Kingdom.

2 Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

3 All reference to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.



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