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CM/Inf(2009)49addrev  / 31 March 2010 

Ministers’ Deputies
Information documents

CM/Inf(2009)49 3 November 2009
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Priorities of the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(18 November 2009 – 11 May 2010)

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Switzerland attaches paramount importance to respect for the values underlying the European identity. Continuing the previous Chairmanships’ efforts, Switzerland will maintain the emphasis on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, identified at the Warsaw Summit in 2005 as the Council of Europe’s core objective.

Given the huge economic and political challenges currently facing all the Council of Europe member states, the defence of its fundamental values must be further reinforced. In a difficult financial situation, the Council of Europe must be able to fulfil its core mission more and more efficiently and transparently.

The priorities of the Swiss Chairmanship will therefore be in the following fields:

      I. Guaranteeing human rights protection and the rule of law

      II. Strengthening democratic institutions

      III. Increasing the Council of Europe’s transparency and efficiency

I. Guaranteeing human rights protection and the rule of law

Securing the future of the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is the central institution guaranteeing respect for human rights in Europe. Since the enlargement of the Council of Europe following the end of the division of Europe and the establishment of the current full-time Court system (Protocol No 11 of 11 May 1994), this institution has been confronted with extraordinary challenges which go considerably beyond its current capabilities. Support for the ratification of Protocol No 14 by all member states is a priority, as recalled at the 119th Session of the Committee of Ministers in Madrid. The Swiss Chairmanship will continue to affirm this. Even after Protocol No 14 has come into force, the Council of Europe’s court system in the field of human rights protection will still be in a precarious situation. The Court is in danger of losing its credibility if it cannot complete its own proceedings within a reasonable time. The urgent decisions already taken in the light of the rapid deterioration in the situation will need to be implemented during the Swiss Chairmanship. Above and beyond these short-term measures, it is essential to take the political decisions which will guarantee the Court’s smooth functioning in the long term. It is for this reason that Switzerland is organising a High-Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights, to be held in Interlaken on 18 and 19 February 2010. The purpose of the conference is to bring together the Council of Europe member states, represented by their Ministers responsible for matters relating to the European Convention on Human Rights, with the following aims:

    1. A solemn re-affirmation by the states parties to the European Convention on Human Rights of their commitment to guarantee the rights defined in the Convention and to make its protection machinery as effective as possible;

    2. Support by the states parties for the efforts made by the European Court of Human Rights to improve its efficiency in the short term on the basis of established law, ie without altering the text of the Convention;

    3. Reinforcement and implementation of the longer-term structural reform process.

Switzerland proposes that the Ministers present at the conference adopt a political declaration embodying those aims. With this in mind, consultations will shortly be held with a view to drawing up a draft declaration.

The need to enhance the ability of the Council of Europe member states to implement the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the Court cannot be stressed enough. All the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms and assistance programmes have a crucial role to play. As regards the Committee of Ministers, it goes without saying that our own function as supervisory body under Article 46 of the Convention warrants our full attention. The Committee of Ministers must see to the smooth functioning of all Council of Europe mechanisms which have implications for the implementation of the Convention. Particular attention will be focused on the operation of the justice system in each member state. With this in mind, Switzerland will be organising in particular a meeting of the European Committee for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), which will be held in Geneva from 12 to 14 April 2010. Switzerland will also be seconding a specialist to the CEPEJ for one year.

The Council of Europe’s goal must be to create a continent-wide area of respect for human rights and the rule of law. The Swiss Chairmanship will continue to promote the organisation’s efforts to strengthen the structures of the rule of law all over Europe, including in Belarus. It will support the efforts to prepare the accession of that State.

II. Strengthening democratic institutions

Democracy is, together with human rights and the rule of law, one of the Council of Europe’s fundamental values. A special role in promoting democracy close to the citizen falls to civil society, which works inter alia at local and regional level. It is therefore necessary to promote channels of citizen participation, build up the management capacity of democratic authorities and foster good governance at all levels. Democracy, whether at national, regional or local level, is an essential feature of governance in Europe. To strengthen the democratic idea, Switzerland will be organising, jointly with the University of St Gallen and the Venice Commission, a conference on democracy and decentralisation which will be held on 3 and 4 May 2010.

Switzerland, a country which possesses a long experience of participatory democracy, undertakes to strengthen democratic structures for citizen participation. To this end, Switzerland will give financial support to the Council of Europe project to strengthen local and regional governmental structures in Albania.

The Parliamentary Assembly, as the central pillar of the Council of Europe, confers unquestionable democratic legitimacy on our Organisation. The Swiss Chairmanship will strive to enhance dialogue and co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. To this end, it will undertake in particular to ensure that work to revise the rules and procedures for the election of the Secretary General is undertaken immediately and vigorously and that the measures identified for enhancing dialogue are implemented according to the agreed timetable. In order to intensify dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, Switzerland will invite the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly to meet in Bern on 19 and 20 November.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, an important forum of regional and local democracy, also warrants our full attention. The Bureau of the Congress will be holding a meeting in Ticino on 15 and 16 January which will be attended by representatives of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a leading role in voicing civil society’s aspirations. They contribute to many activities in each country, particularly at regional and local level.

III. Increasing the Council of Europe’s transparency and efficiency

The Swiss Chairmanship will strongly encourage reforms designed to enhance transparency and efficiency in the Council of Europe, in accordance with the decision of the Warsaw Summit. It will continue not only to apply the streamlining policy embarked upon a few years ago, but will seek to intensify it. This will be essential for the sustainable funding of expenditure related to the operation of the Court, priority activities and salary increases. Expenditure provided for in the ordinary budget will have to be concentrated even more on funding of the Council’s priority activities which serve to reinforce fundamental values. With a zero-growth budget in real terms, the Council of Europe must consolidate the readjustment of resources and achieve increased efficiency.

The time is particularly opportune for undertaking this concentration and readjustment process. One of the main tasks of the new Secretary General will be to increase the Organisation’s efficiency still further, which will call for new budgetary and reorganisation measures. Switzerland will fully support the Secretary General on all measures that will help to achieve real focus, consolidation and increased efficiency at the Council of Europe. In this connection, the Swiss Chairmanship will support a more concentrated allocation of resources to programmes serving to defend fundamental values.

The Council of Europe has a long tradition of dialogue on human rights and the rule of law among international organisations and through bilateral contacts, particularly with states and regions bordering on Europe. Human rights protection systems at global and European level are already closely linked, but can derive much additional benefit from a strengthening of institutional links. The Swiss Chairmanship attaches great importance to co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, and in particular to the latter’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. It will also endeavour to enhance the Council of Europe’s co-operation with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and with the United Nations. Enhanced co-operation with the UN can be achieved in particular through the setting up of a Council of Europe Liaison Office in Geneva, which will be promoted by the Swiss Chairmanship.


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