CM/Inf(2013)31 13 November 2013
Stocktaking of the Armenian Chairmanship
of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(16 May -14 November 2013)
On 16 May, the Republic of Armenia assumed its first Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe since Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe in January 2001. It was an important task, opportunity, challenge and responsibility for the country.
Armenia, as a nation, whose European identity has been defined and shaped by common values, ideals and heritage, confidently took this responsibility and did its best in streamlining joint activities of member States to further strengthen and advance human rights, rule of law and democracy on the continent. For the last six months, Armenia was at the forefront of the Council of Europe’s common efforts to contribute to democratic development of Europe.
During their successive Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers, Andorra, Armenia and Austria strove to advance the core mission of the Council of Europe and to conduct concrete initiativesto this end.
The priorities as well as objectives of the Armenian Chairmanship were defined in response to the challenges that the Council of Europe member States are facing today with regard to the protection of human rights, the further strengthening of democracy and respect for the rule of law. During its Chairmanship, Armenia brought its contribution to strengthening the capabilities of the Organisation and to maximising the efforts in addressing the challenges in the Council of Europe’s fields of excellence, with specific focus on the most pertinent and pressing issues.
The Armenian Chairmanship also supported the ongoing reform process of the Organisation initiated by the Secretary General.
The Armenian Chairmanship main goals were:
· 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.
Combating racism and xenophobia in Europe; promoting European values through intercultural dialogue
Despite various efforts undertaken at international and regional levels to fight against hatred, intolerance and racial discrimination, it is evident that manifestations of racism and intolerance are still frequent and give rise to serious concern in Europe. The widespread use of social networks and the Internet for abusive rhetoric makes this task even more complex.
The Council of Europe has been continuously engaged in the fight against these phenomena through standard-setting, monitoring and awareness raising. A strong political will and determined action are needed to fight those challenges. This idea was also confirmed by the Ministers’ Deputies during the thematic debate on “The Role of the Council of Europe in Addressing the Rise of Extremisms in Evolving Societies” held on 17 September 2013 and then reflected in the follow-up decision of 16 October.
In this context, the Armenian Chairmanship organised a High-Level Conference on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe on 21-22 October, in Yerevan which brought together more than 130 representatives from Council of Europe member and observer States, international organisations, including CoE, UN, OSCE, EU and League of Arab States, independent and governmental experts, civil society. The participants of the conference had an opportunity to reflect upon several issues such as expression of racism and hate speech in political discourse, the role of political leaders and civil society in combating such processes, the intensive use of preventive measures, overcoming racial stereotypes, exclusion of manifestations of xenophobia and intolerance and spread of hate speech, etc. The conclusions of the Conference will be examined with a view to deciding on the possible follow-up to be given thereto.
The Armenian Chairmanship welcomed the No Hate Speech Movement launched by the Secretary General and supported activities in this framework. In order to raise the visibility of the campaign, the Chairmanship devoted special attention to it during the above-mentioned Conference and called on member States to promote the implementation of the youth campaign No Hate Speech Movement across all the Council of Europe territory. The European campaign conference took place on 7-9 November and constituted the major institutional activity of the No Hate Speech Movement.
The aim of the voluntary contribution of Armenia is the implementation of the project entitled “Young People Combating Hate Speech in Cyberspace’’.
The Council of Europe has been playing an essential role in promoting and fostering intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding in European societies. Armenia in its turn is convinced that the promotion of European and universal values through intercultural dialogue, including the religious dimension, must remain a priority for our societies. In this context, on 2-3 September Armenia hosted the 2013 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue: "Freedom of religion in today's world: challenges and guarantees". The 2013 Yerevan exchange was the sixth one and addressed such important issues as freedom of religion as a fundamental human right, the protection of religious minorities, the fight against intolerance and hate speech, and youth education. The activities undertaken in this field by different partners of the Council of Europe, particularly the European Union and the International Organisation of La Francophonie, are encouraging. We hope that future Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers will continue to provide their support and contribution to these exchanges. At the same time the conclusions and proposals of the Yerevan Exchange, which the Ministers` Deputies took note of, could serve a good basis for an informal review of the results and the impact of the Exchanges.
Strengthening European standards on human rights and on the rule of law
European Convention on Human Rights
The Armenian Chairmanship built upon the efforts of previous Council of Europe Chairmanships aimed at strengthening the application of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The promotion of human rights is an ongoing process and it is our common responsibility to ensure that the European Convention remains the effective instrument of European public order that it has become over the years. The consolidation of the Council of Europe system of human rights protection is becoming a topic of great importance. Armenia is pleased that during its term of office, major initiatives have been carried out to reinforce the Council of Europe’s action - the adoption and opening for signature of Protocol No. 15 to the European Convention on Human Rights on 24 June and subsequently of Protocol No. 16 on 2 October are particularly worth underlining.
Protocol No. 15 gives effect to certain provisions of the Brighton Declaration. Protocol No. 16 establishes a platform for judicial dialogue between the Court and the national superior courts and should contribute to the resolution of complex problems at national level, such as the prevention of repetitive applications, thus reducing the backlog of the Court.
Effective implementation of the Convention at the national level is a necessary precondition for securing the rights and freedoms of all citizens of the member States of the Council of Europe. In the Brighton Declaration, it is explicitly mentioned that to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention at the national level, we need to provide “appropriate information and training about the Convention in the study, training and professional development of judges, lawyers and prosecutors”. To this end, the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) Network Conference, which was organised on 18 June in Strasbourg under the auspices of the Armenian Chairmanship, focused on cross-cutting aspects of the issue of capacity building for legal professionals.
In the context of the follow-up to the Brighton Declaration, on 16 September the Committee of Ministers adopted a “Toolkit” to inform public officials about the State’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and a Guide to Good Practice in respect of Domestic Remedies. It also took decisions on the translation and dissemination of these documents.
The Armenian Chairmanship continued the campaign launched by the Andorran Chairmanship to promote the European Convention on Human Rights. It encourages people to read one or more articles of the Convention on the Internet and seeks to raise the profile of the Council of Europe and its work. http://human-rights-convention.org/nurturing-human-rights/
Execution of judgments
With regard to the supervision of the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers' Deputies held their 1172nd meeting in June and 1179th meeting in September 2013. 780 cases have been closed since the beginning of the year (until 30 September).
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
The Armenian chairmanship further reflected on the European standards on the rule of law against the background of the most recent developments regarding the implementation of the principles of the rule of law by Council of Europe member States. On 3-5 July, a conference on, “The European legal standards of the rule of law and the scope of discretion of powers in the member States of the Council of Europe” was held in Yerevan. The conference discussed the judicial review of the laws and other legal acts by independent judicial bodies, and co-operation of human rights defenders with state and local self-government bodies in ensuring the effective implementation of the principle of the rule of law. Discussion on discretion as an element of the rule of law gave the Conference the opportunity to contribute to the further development of the value system within the Council of Europe member States and to provide practical approaches on how discretion could be aligned with the requirements that stem from the principle of the rule of law, including the hierarchy of norms. The conference adopted a memorandum.
On June 11, 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).
The Committee of Ministers has acceded to the request by Belarus for observer status with the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI) on the understanding that the matter will be followed in the light of developments in Belarus with respect to Council of Europe values.
In July, the Committee of Ministers decided to transmit the draft Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs and its Explanatory Report to the Parliamentary Assembly. It invited the Assembly to give its opinion on the draft Convention.
In September, the Committee of Ministers took note of the “Guidelines on the creation of judicial maps to support access to justice within a quality judicial system” elaborated by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). It invited member States to ensure a wide dissemination of the Guidelines among the relevant political and judicial authorities, including through their translation into non-official languages of the Council of Europe.
An awareness raising conference on the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (Warsaw Convention, 2005) and a training course for evaluators of the above-mentioned Convention were held in the Training and Research Centre of the Central Bank of Armenia in Dilijan, from 1 to 4 October 2013.
In the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the 8th plenary meeting of Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) took place in Yerevan on 8 to 9 October 2013. During the meeting, the opinion on the relationships between prosecutors and the media was discussed and adopted. The subject of the relationships between prosecutors and the media is particularly sensitive because it requires a framework fixing the balance between the values defended by the Council of Europe: on the one hand the right and freedom of expression, freedom of press and media and, on the other hand, the presumption of innocence, the right to defense and the protection of privacy.
Other questions concerning human rights
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.
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.
In the media field, in July, the Committee of Ministers adopted a number of decisions in relation to a report by the Secretary General on the implementation of the Committee’s Declaration on measures to promote the respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 4-5 July, the Council of Europe Gender Equality Commission, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, organised a Conference entitled "Media and the Image of Women" which took place in Amsterdam with the aim of raising awareness of the general public on gender equality issues in the media and discuss the challenges posed by reconciling the media’s freedom of expression and upholding the principle of gender equality. This conference was actively supported by the Chairmanship.
Fostering democratic societies
With a view to fostering European democratic societies, the Armenian Chairmanship gave particular attention to the further development of local democracy, to education issues – including education for democratic citizenship – as well as to the preservation of cultural heritage.
Local democracy remained high on the agenda of the Armenian Chairmanship.
The meeting of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities was held in Yerevan on 18 June 2013, in the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship.
On 19 June 2013, a Conference on Participatory Democracy at Local Level was held in Yerevan. The conference was organised under the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, in close co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. The Conference addressed issues related to participatory democracy at local level, in particular the current situation in member States, the role of participatory democracy in improving the efficiency of local authorities and ways of strengthening participatory democracy at local level. Conclusions from the three sessions were drawn at the end of the conference, which could be a good basis for further reflection on the fundamental issue of citizen participation in the decision-making process as one of the prerequisites for a well-functioning democratic society. The Conclusions were taken note of by the Bureau of the Congress at its meeting on 17 September.
An international Conference of capital cities of the Council of Europe member States “Making the metropolis citizen-friendly: a challenge for public authorities” took place in Yerevan on 11 October, 2013, under the Armenian Chairmanship and in close cooperation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. The participants discussed the challenges that capital cities of the Council of Europe member States face today when current global developments dictate the necessity to be more flexible in order to have a sophisticated system of municipal governing. The crucial role of citizens’ participation in local self-government was especially underlined as a way to make it more effective and more responsive to the challenges of the day. The conclusions of the Conference could be helpful in addressing those challenges.
On 29 October 2013, Mr Armen Gevorgyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration of Armenia, addressed on behalf of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers the 25th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. In his communication to the participants in the Session, he presented the activities undertaken by the Committee of Ministers regarding the issues related to local and regional democracy. He also informed the Congress members of the activities of the Armenian Chairmanship in the area of local democracy
Education, culture, youth and sport
The Armenian Chairmanship paid special attention to education related issues, particularly through increased co-operation and policy dialogue in the field of higher education.
Having in mind that the Bologna Follow-Up Group Secretariat is now held by Armenia, the regional meeting of Ministers of Education on the implementation of the European Higher Education Area was held in Yerevan on 17-18 October 2013, under the aegis of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. The meeting reflected on different parts of the Bologna structural higher education reform process, with a particular focus on the self-certification and implementation of national qualifications frameworks and student participation in the higher education governance. In the declaration adopted at the end of the meeting, Ministers stressed inter alia their commitment to promote student-centered learning based on learning outcomes and recognised the importance of facilitating student participation in higher education governance. They underlined the need to continue regular exchanges of information and good practice at ministerial level on the progress of higher education structural reforms in the region and called upon the Council of Europe as well as on the European Union and other international institutions to support and contribute to the promotion and implementation of bilateral and regional co-operation, including through the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Co-operation, in the field of higher education structural reform process.
Armenia also pays special attention to the area of education for democratic citizenship and youth participation. In close co-operation with the EU- CoE Youth Partnership, a Youth Policy Symposium was held on 13-14 November 2013, in Yerevan, with the aim of better understanding, demonstrating and promoting the role of youth work in education for democratic citizenship and participation.
As a country which is highly sensitive to culture and to the preservation of cultural heritage, Armenia gave high importance to the cultural dimension of the Council of Europe activities aimed at raising awareness of European citizens about the richness and cultural diversity of Europe. In this context, the 2013 European Heritage Days Programme and Communication Platform was officially launched in Armenia on 30 August.
In the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship, a Conference on the rights of people with disabilities "Towards inclusive society" was held in Yerevan on 15 October. In line with the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 the meeting which gathered officials and experts from the Council of Europe, as well as representatives of the relevant governmental structures and NGOs contributed to awareness raising of the needs of people with disabilities, dissemination of knowledge and capacity building for stakeholders involved, as well as consolidation of efforts to ensure progress in this area.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a Workshop entitled “Building Europe through Human Rights: Acting together against Extreme Poverty” was organised in Strasbourg on 17 October and supported by the Armenian Chairmanship. The Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies addressed the participants where he outlined, in particular, the steps undertaken by the Committee of Ministers to fight against poverty, exclusion and any form of marginalisation.
World Forum for Democracy
The Armenian Chairmanship attaches great importance to the World Forum for Democracy and considers it to be a useful framework for strengthening the relevance and the efficiency of the Council of Europe’s efforts in the field of democracy. The 2013 World Forum for Democracy, which will take place on 27-29 November in Strasbourg, will bring together political personalities and representatives of civil society, the media and academia from around the world to discuss the issue of “Re-wiring Democracy: connecting institutions and citizens in the digital age”. A considerable amount of a preparatory work on the draft programme has been carried out. The format of discussions at the forum has also been changed following proposals and suggestions from member States.
Organisational development and reforms, programme and budget
Against the background of the successfully implemented reforms of last years, the Armenian Chairmanship continued to fully support ongoing reform efforts to make the work of the Council of Europe more streamlined and more effective. The further improvement of the intergovernmental committee structure of the Council of Europe is a welcome initiative by the Secretary General. Within the framework of the draft Programme and Budget, the Secretary General submitted the draft terms of reference of the intergovernmental committees for 2014-2015 for consideration.
On 31 August 2013, the Secretary General presented the draft Programme and Budget for 2014-2015. In accordance with the Deputies’ decision of 7 May 2013, a zero nominal growth (i.e. budget not adjusted to take account of inflation) was applied to this draft Programme and Budget. Discussions on the programme and budget for the coming two years are well under way.
Another important development is the review of the contractual policy for staff of the Council of Europe. On 19 June, the Committee of Ministers adopted a decision on this matter, inviting the Secretary General to submit draft regulatory amendments.
With regard to the external presence of the Council of Europe in the field, the Deputies decided that the Council of Europe offices and liaison offices established since 1 January 2010 under Resolution CM/Res(2010)5 will operate in accordance with the terms of reference defined in this same resolution until 31 December 2015. In December 2015, the Deputies will decide on the possible prolongation with respect to each office.
Relations with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers attached great importance to the effective working relations with the Parliamentary Assembly. We are convinced that close co-operation between all the statutory organs of the Organisation, particularly the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, is imperative if we are to achieve our common goal – reinforcing our shared values across the continent and beyond. Regular exchanges of views of the Ministers’ Deputies with the PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon, who presents the outcomes of the PACE sessions, is evidence of the improvement and strengthening of the political dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. There were two such exchanges of views with President Mignon following PACE III and IV part sessions held respectively in July and October 2013.
We were pleased to host the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly on
31 May 2013 in Yerevan during which the parliamentarians held an exchange of views with the Armenian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian, as Chairman of the Committee of the Ministers presented two communications on the activities of the Committee of Ministers to the PACE on 24 June and 30 September respectively.
President Serzh Sargsyan addressed the Parliamentary Assembly on 2 October presenting inter alia the achievements of Armenia’s reform efforts and vision for future development. President Serzh Sargsyan also attended the official gift presentation ceremony conducted in the framework of Armenia’s Chairmanship. Armenia’s gift to the Council of Europe is a stained glass window which was put on display at the Parliamentary Assembly Hall.
Council of Europe policy towards its neighbouring regions
The implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions continued to be on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers. On 3 July, within the package of decisions related to the Council of Europe external presence, the Committee of Ministers decided to establish Council of Europe offices in Rabat and Tunis. This operational presence is instrumental in strengthening co-ordination and co-operation with the partners and donors, along with raising the Council of Europe’s profile in the countries of the Mediterranean area.
Reinforcing the role of the Council of Europe in the European architecture
Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations
The Armenian Chairmanship contributed to the Council of Europe’s co-operation with international and regional organisations on the basis of existing documents in order to ensure a better co-ordination and synergy of their efforts.
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 and confirming the strategic importance of the partnership between the two organisations.
The Committee of Ministers closely followed the process of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. We are convinced that the European Union’s accession to the Convention will contribute to the creation of a single European legal space and strengthen the protection of human rights in Europe. Negotiators for the Council of Europe and the European Union finalised the draft instruments, paving the way for accession. The European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg has been asked to give its opinion on the text.
The OSCE remains one of the main partners of the Council of Europe in our efforts to promote respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The level of co-operation between the two organisations, with a regular pattern of consultations and high-level meetings, is yet more evidence of that. The Armenian chairmanship contributed to the promotion of targeted and result-oriented co-operation between the Council of Europe and 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. An exchange of views between the Ministers’ Deputies and Mr Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of the OSCE, on co-operation with the OSCE was held on 9 October.
On 25 October, the Secretary General made a presentation to the OSCE Permanent Council and met with the Chairman of the Permanent Council. The 18th meeting of the Coordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE was held in Vienna, on 25 October 2013. The fight against terrorism and the fight against trafficking in human beings were on the agenda.
Calendar of activities
16 May, Strasbourg: 123rd Session of the Committee of Ministers: handover of the Chairmanship from Andorra to Armenia
30-31 May, Yerevan: Meeting of the Bureau and the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly
6 June, Vienna: Presentation of the Armenian Chairmanship priorities to the Permanent Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
18-19 June, Strasbourg: HELP Network conference
18 June, Yerevan: Meeting of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
19 June, Yerevan: Conference on “The Development of Participatory Democracy on Local Level”
24 June, Strasbourg: Address by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
3-5 July, Yerevan: Conference on "The European Standards on the Rule of Law and the Scope of Discretion of Powers in the member States of the Council of Europe"
4-5 July, Amsterdam: Conference on Media and the Image of Women
31 August – 1 September, Yerevan: Official launch of the 2013 European Heritage Days Programme and Communication Platform
2-3 September, Yerevan: Council of Europe 2013 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue
30 September, Strasbourg: Address by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
1-4 October, Dilijan, Armenia: Awareness raising conference on the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism
2 October, Strasbourg: Address by the President of Armenia to the Parliamentary Assembly
8-9 October, Yerevan: Plenary Meeting of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE)
11-12 October, Yerevan: International Conference of Capital Cities of the Council of Europe member States
15 October, Yerevan: Conference on the rights of people with disabilities "Towards inclusive society"
17-18 October, Yerevan: Regional meeting of the ministers of education on the implementation of the European Higher Education Area
21-22 October, Yerevan: High Level Conference on Combating Racism and Xenophobia in Europe
25 October, Vienna: 18th meeting of the Coordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE
29 October, Strasbourg: The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration of Armenia addressed the 25th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
7-9 November, Strasbourg: Conference – Mobilising, Planning and Networking for Campaigning Effectively with Young People against Hate Speech Online
13-14 November, Yerevan: Youth policy symposium: The role of youth in education for democratic citizenship and participation
14 November, Strasbourg: Meeting of the Committee of Ministers: handover of the Chairmanship from Armenia to Austria