Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
GR-AB(2003)CB8 21 November 2003
Meeting of 13 November 2003
The Rapporteur Group on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (GR-AB) met on 13 November 2003, with Ambassador Numan Hazar, Permanent Representative of Turkey, in the chair. The Group considered the following items in the light of the draft annotated agenda (document GR-AB(2003)21).
1. Draft Budgets for 2004
1.1. Introducing this item, the Chairman referred to the extract of the draft notes on the agenda for the Deputies 862nd Budget meeting (GR-AB(2003)20). He recalled that the GR-AB was to continue its examination of the draft budgets with a view to seeing what recommendations could be made to the Deputies.
Volume 1 – General Budgets
CM(2003)93 Vol.I and Corrigendum and Addendum and Addendum II and CM(2003)93 Vol.II and Corrigendum
Part 1 - Ordinary budget, Service budgets1 and Subsidiary budgets2
1.2. He further recalled the preliminary debate on the Ordinary Budget which had taken place at the last GR-AB meeting on 30 October 2003 (GR-AB(2003)CB7rev). At that meeting one delegation suggested that a compromise of €180 500 000 should be aimed for, which could be arrived at by following the Budget Committee's recommendation with regard to web-casting3 and further savings to be found by the Secretary General. At the same time, some delegations stated that before taking a decision on web-casting public hearings of the European Court of Human Rights, they wished to hear representatives of the Court on this matter.
1.3. A short memorandum prepared by the Registry of the Court (document GR-AB(2003)22revised) had since been issued setting out the arguments for the Court's request to transmit public hearings over the internet.
1.4. In the debate that followed, a number of delegations appreciated the arguments of the Registry and saw an interest in exploring such a development in the future. However, delegations believed that, due to current budgetary constraints, it would not be possible to realise this in the near future. A number of delegations stressed that resources of the ECHR should be targeted to priority areas, such as to absorbing the backlog in applications. One delegation, supported by one other, also questioned the timing of these proposals, considering that it might be better to look into the matter after the reform of the Court system was finalised. This delegation also felt that awareness-raising in its country might be better achieved through other means, such as measures to improve the education of judges and the public.
1.5. Summing up the discussion at this point, the Chairman noted that the GR-AB could not support the web-casting proposals. In this light, he raised the question of the total level of contributions to the Ordinary Budget for 2004 and the readiness of the Secretary General to compromise along the lines proposed by the one delegation, i.e. at € 180.5 million. After consultation with the Secretary General, the Chair was now in a position to make the following proposal:
Revised total contributions as in CM(2003)93 Vol. I, Addendum II € 181 512 000
Less: appropriations for web-casting public hearings of the ECHR4 - € 720 000
Less: reduction in appropriations for the field mission reserve5 (see also §1.9 below) - € 250 000
Less: reduction in appropriations for the Secretary General's colloquy6 - € 42 000
Revised total contributions € 180 500 000
1.6. Delegations welcomed this compromise proposal, although some delegations noted that they had not yet received any instructions. The Chair asked these delegations to inform him of their position within the next week.
1.7. Working through the draft Notes, and based on the premise that the above compromise could be acceptable, the Chair noted that the GR-AB could agree to the Secretary General's draft proposals, as amended in §1.5 above, subject to the following comments:
- financing the proposed additional activities (CM(2003)95 Corrigendum) – delegations could agree in principle to finance the additional activities by increasing the negative reserve by € 655 000 (to a total of € 3 155 000) rather than through the savings proposed by the Secretary General, although some delegations expressed concern that this measure would reduce the surplus in 2004 and would not necessarily be translated into savings. The Secretary General stated that to be able to cope with this level of negative reserves, concrete savings would need to be made throughout the Secretariat and that he would be obliged himself to take account of the savings already proposed. Two delegations referred the Chair of the GR-AB to the reservations expressed on certain of the additional activities during the meeting of the RAP-PROG earlier that day7.
- Head 2622 (CPT) – sub-head 0000001bis – changes in permanent staff –some delegations informed the GR-AB that they could not support the proposal to create two new posts (1 A2/3 and 1 B2). Whilst they did not question the need for the CPT to have the two additional posts to be able to effectively carry out its mandate, they believed that this should be met by a redeployment of posts. They strongly opposed the proposal to create the two new posts. The Secretary General stated that if the Deputies were to follow this position despite the Budget Committee's recommendation, it would affect other activities in terms of quantity and/or quality. There was no consensus reached on this matter.
- Vote VIII – investment expenditure – CM(2003)93 Volume I, Appendix III Corrigendum – in view of the discussions (see §1.5 above), the programme of expenditure should be reduced by € 600 000. Some delegations also referred to the Budget Committee's comment on the replacement of directional signs for an amount of € 150 000 and tended to agree that changing all sign posts in the Palais de l'Europe might not be a priority for 2004. The Director General of Administration and Logistics stressed that adequate signposting was essential for visitors and experts to find their way in the building, as well as in the context of fire safety standards. Sign posting had not been changed in the course of the last decades and it was completely out of date. The CAHB had agreed to the need and costs would be kept to a minimum. There was no consensus reached on this matter.
- Steering Committee meetings held outside of Strasbourg - decision 188 on page 6 of GR-AB(2003)20 – one delegation asked that the list referred to under this decision include the additional cost of holding meetings of Steering Committees outside of Strasbourg.
1.8. The Chair noted that the draft decisions (page 5 – 6 of the draft Notes) would be revised in light of the discussions at this meeting and at the RAP-PROG meeting earlier that morning.
1.9. In the framework of the compromise proposal in §1.5 above, the Secretary General proposed that an amount of € 250 000 of the unspent balance of the 2003 Field Mission Reserve be allocated to a special account set up for this purpose. The use of this amount would be subject to prior authorisation of the Committee of Ministers in the same way as the present Field Mission Reserve. The Secretary General stated that it might be useful to build up a special account in this way over the years and so reduce the annual credit included in the budget. One delegation, supported by one other, drew the GR-AB's attention to the fact that allocating unspent amounts like this to special accounts would decrease the amount of the overall unspent balance for 2003, which might make discussions harder for 2005.
Part 2 – Extraordinary budget relating to building expenditure
1.10. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 3 A – the Pensions budget and Part 3 B – the Pension Reserve Fund
1.11. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budgets to the Deputies.
Part 4 – the budget of the European Youth Foundation
1.12. The Chair noted that a number of delegations could not agree to the proposed increase in this budget and would be inclined to follow the Budget Committees advice in paragraph 15 of CM(2003)131 bearing in mind that a political decision to boost its activities had not been taken by the Committee of Ministers. The Director General of Administration and Logistics pointed out that the Secretary General's proposals followed the minimum recommendations of an evaluation study commissioned at the request of the Committee of Ministers9 and that it was up to this organ to take the final decisions during the budgetary discussions for 2004.
Volume II - Budgets of the Partial Agreements
CM(2003)93 Vol.II and Corrigendum
1.13. During the debate on the draft budgets of the Partial agreements a number of general comments were made during the discussion, including, inter alia:
- one delegation expressed reserves as to holding meetings outside of Strasbourg if this was to lead to any extra cost for the budgets of the Council of Europe;
Part 5 – Social and Public Health Field
1.14. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies subject to the comment by two delegations that adoption of the budgetary aspects of this Partial Agreement does not signify agreement to the transformation of the CD-P-RR as set out on page 11 of Volume II, bearing in mind that the Committee of Ministers has not yet taken any decisions to this effect.
Part 6 – European Pharmacopoeia and Subsidiary Budgets
1.15. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budgets to the Deputies.
Part 7 – Council of Europe Development Bank
1.16. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 8 – Pompidou Group
1.17. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 9 – Disasters
1.18. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 10 – Eurimages
1.19. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 11 European Commission for Democracy through Law
1.20. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 12 – Youth Card
1.21. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies.
Part 13 – European Centre for Modern Languages (Graz)
1.22. The Chair noted that the GR-AB could recommend the draft budget to the Deputies, subject to one delegation receiving instructions.
2. Reports of the September and October 2003 sessions of the Budget Committee
2.1. Introducing this item, the Chair referred to the reports of the Budget Committee in documents CM(2003)121 and 131. In addition to the points covered in the budget debate (cf. GR-AB(2003)20), the following comments were made:
- some delegations thought that it would be useful in the future to discuss the reports of the Budget Committee before the detailed examination of the draft budgets10;
- some delegations supported the recommendation of the Budget Committee with regard to extending computer life cycles; the Secretariat explained that this recommendation had been already been taken into account by the Secretary General in the proposed savings in document CM(2003)93 Vol. I Addendum II;
- one delegation referred to the importance of results based budgeting (cf Budget Committee meeting report for its October session in CM(2003)131;
- one delegation, supported by one other, proposed to add a draft decision inviting the GR-AB to examine the alternatives raised in paragraph 7 of the meeting report of the September 2003 session (CM(2003)121) in the context of preparation for the 2005 budget.
3. Any other business
3.1. Consultants - the Chairman proposed to postpone this item to the next meeting of the GR-AB, for discussion in the presence of the Secretary General. At the same time, he invited concerned delegations to submit written proposals or suggestions for the GR-AB to consider.
4. Date of the next meeting
Note 1 Translation, Interpretation and Documents
Note 2 European Youth Centres and Publications
Note 3 Cf. CM(2003)121: Meeting report of the Budget Committee – September 2003 session, §17 and §18.
Note 4 Reduction of € 600 000 and € 120 000 on sub-heads 0403/0000053 – Information technology and 0403/0000064 – Operating the public hearings web-casting system respectively.
Note 5 Sub-head 3900/6004900 – Reserve for field missions
Note 6 Sub-head 0108/0000176 – Secretary General's colloquy
Note 7 cf. RAP-PROG(2003)CB2.
Note 8 The English version of GR-AB(2003)20 should read Steering Committee meeting and not Committee of Ministers' meeting. The French version is correct.
Note 9 CM/Del/Dec(2003)824/8.1.
Note 10 NB. The draft Notes on the Agenda (GR-AB(2003)20) indicated the specific recommendations of the Budget Committee for each of the 2004 draft budgets.