Future action to be taken by the Council of Europe in the field of environment protection – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1431 (1999)


Ministers' Deputies
Notes on the Agenda

CM/Notes/729/9.2 (Restricted) 3 November 2000
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729 Meeting, 15 November 2000
9 Sustainable development

9.2 Future action to be taken by the Council of Europe in the field of environment protection – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1431 (1999)

Draft reply prepared by the Rapporteur for the Environment



Reference documents

CM/Del/Dec(1999)689/3.1
Recommendation 1431 (2000)

CM(2000)56

CM(2000)113
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Action
The Deputies are invited to examine, with a view to its adoption, a draft reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1431 (1999).

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Recommendation 1431 (1999) on “Future action to be taken by the Council of Europe in the field of environment protection” was adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 4 November 1999.

 

In this Recommendation the Assembly underlines the important role of the European Convention on human rights for the protection of democracy and basic rights of individuals and considers that the Convention could include the right to a healthy and viable environment as a basic human right. It recommends to the Committee of Ministers to examine the feasability of drafting  an amendment or an additional protocol to the Convention concerning this basic human right.

 

The Assembly also asks the Committee of Ministers to examine the feasability of developing, possibly through a European charter for the environment, general obligations of states to apply the precautionary principle and promote sustainable development, protect the environment and prevent transfrontier pollution.

 

 

The Deputies, at their 689th meeting (24 November 1999, item 3.1), adopted Decision CM/733/241199, assigning ad hoc terms of reference to its European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and its European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), asking them to give an opinion on this Recommendation.

 

These Committees have adopted their opinions (see CM(2000)56 and 113 respectively).

 

The draft reply prepared by the Rapporteur for Environment, Ambassador M. Rybicki, Permanent Representative of Poland, is based on these opinions.

 

The Rapporteur leaves it to the Committee to decide on the question of possible elaboration of the European Charter for the Environment. Both options are presented in square brackets and in bold. The first option is set out in italics to distinguish it from the second one. In case the first option is chosen, the Secretariat will prepare the necessary terms of reference for one of the forthcoming meetings of the Deputies.

 

 


DRAFT DECISION

 

 

729th meeting – 15 November 2000

 

 

Item 9.2

 

Future action to be taken by the Council of Europe in the field of environment protection – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1431 (1999)

(CM/Del/Dec(1999)689/3.1, Recommendation 1431 (2000), CM(2000)56, CM(2000)113)

 

 

Decision

 

The Deputies adopted the following reply to Recommendation 1431 (1999):

 

“The Committee of Ministers has carefully studied Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1431 (1999) on “Future action to be taken by the Council of Europe in the field of environment protection”.

 

The Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly's concern over the increasing threats to the global environment resulting from the continuing release of damaging substances into the environment and the degradation of nature in general. 

 

The Committee of Ministers recalls the Council of Europe Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats (ratified by 43 States, comprising 37 Council of Europe member States, and 5 non-member States and the European Community) and also the European Landscape Convention which was opened for signature on 20 October 2000.  It believes, like the Assembly, that the legal instruments drawn up within the Council of Europe form an important contribution to efforts to secure a healthy environment, in the context of sustainable development.

 

The Committee notes that, to date, the Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law (ETS No. 172) has been signed by 11 States and the Convention on Civil Liability for Damage Resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment (ETS No. 150) has been signed by 9 States. No State has so far ratified these Conventions. In both cases, the number of  ratifications needed for these Conventions  to enter into force is fixed at three.

 

The Committee of Ministers is convinced that the member States, which actively participated in drawing up of these two Conventions, fully realise their importance and have not lost sight of the need for signing or ratifying them to ensure their entry into force.  The Committee is also aware of the obligations imposed by these conventions on the Contracting Parties and the need for the States to take all the necessary steps, prior to ratification, to ensure that these instruments are fully complied with, which explains the slowness of the ratification process.


The Committee of Ministers is also aware of the proposal within the European Union to draw up a legal instrument similar to Convention ETS No. 172. The existence of this proposal also explains the hesitancy of the Council of Europe member States, especially of those which are also members of the European Union, where Convention ETS No. 172 is concerned.  Any clarification of the situation could be but beneficial for the signature and ratification process for that Convention, which is slow-moving at present.

 

The Committee of Ministers notes that the recognition of the individual and legally enforceable nature of the human right to a healthy and viable environment meets at present certain difficulties, legal and conceptual. Consequently, it believes that at present the conditions are not ripe to initiate a study geared to drawing up such a right for inclusion in an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights .

 

The Committee of Ministers agrees that the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice constitutes another important text which reflects the concerns of the Assembly.  That convention has not yet entered into force either.

 

[In these circumstances, the Committee of Ministers, nonetheless, agrees to ask one of its specialised Steering Committees to study the feasibility of elaborating a European Charter for Environment].  [In these circumstances, the Committee of Ministers is not in favour of undertaking work to draw up new international legal instruments, such as a  European Charter for the Environment, as long as the treaties already concluded have not proven their worth and revealed any loopholes that should be filled – since obviously no new international instruments could be devised which offered lower levels of protection than those currently available.] 

 

The Committee of Ministers also wishes to draw the Assembly's attention to the fact that the reduction of negative impacts on the environment appears among the ten principles of the sustainable development policy for Europe adopted by the 12th European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT - Hanover, 7-8 September 2000).

 

Finally, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that Recommendation 1431 (1999) has been forwarded to the governments of the member States.”

 



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