Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Democracy
GR-DEM(2006)CB4 29 March 20061
Meeting of 23 March 2006
1. Moldova: Exchange of views with Ambassador William Hill, Head of the OSCE Mission in Moldova, and Mr Vladimir Philipov, Special Representative of the Secretary General in Moldova
1. The Chair informed the Group that this exchange of views was postponed until the next meeting, owing to the unavailability of Ambassador Hill.
a. Review of the situation and possible action by the Council of Europe
2. The Group was informed that the document which it had asked the Secretariat to draw up on possible future Council of Europe action in Belarus was not yet available. It was therefore decided to postpone consideration of this item to the next meeting.
b. Situation in Belarus on the eve of the presidential election - Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1734 (2006) – Elements for a draft reply
3. The Director General of Political Affairs introduced the elements for a draft reply (see document GR-DEM(2006)11), stressing that they could be expanded and updated in the light of developments in the situation in Belarus.
4. The Representative of Austria made a statement on behalf of the Presidency of the European Union on the presidential election in Belarus. The statement was supported by several delegations who considered that this election had not been conducted in a free and democratic manner. In this connection, they referred to the preliminary findings of the Election Observation Mission deployed by the OSCE, noting in particular the many obstacles encountered by the opposition during the election campaign and the lack of scrutiny over the many votes cast before 19 March. Another delegation felt, on the contrary, that the election result fully reflected the will of the Belarusian people and pointed out that the OSCE Mission’s assessment had not been shared by all the international observers, including some members of the Mission itself. This delegation considered that its earlier proposal to draft a legally binding international instrument setting standards for free and democratic elections was more topical than ever in the circumstances as a means of avoiding any subjective evaluation of the conduct of elections in a particular country.
5. The same delegation argued that it would be probably be difficult to reach agreement on the draft reply to the Assembly Recommendation if an attempt was made in that reply to assess the way in which the election had been conducted. In this connection, the delegation stated that it could not support the text prepared by the Secretariat where it said that the Committee of Ministers fully shared the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly with regard to the situation in Belarus. Moreover, it felt that, contrary to what was suggested in paragraph 8 of the draft prepared by the Secretariat, Belarus could not be blamed for the lack of co-operation between itself and the Council of Europe. Rather, this should be attributed to the Parliamentary Assembly’s decision to suspend all contacts with the authorities of Belarus. Lastly, this delegation voiced doubts as to the desirability of referring in the draft reply to the usefulness of resuming the activities of the parliamentary troika on Belarus, since Belarus was a member of the OSCE but not of the Council of Europe and the European Union.
6. This delegation noted that, on the other hand, it should be easier to reach agreement on possible future Council of Europe activities in Belarus. It therefore suggested giving an interim reply to the Assembly Recommendation, which would be limited in scope and not contain any assessment of the situation in Belarus, and then giving a more substantial reply at a later stage once the range of possible future activities had been agreed.
7. All the other delegations which took the floor felt, however, that the text prepared by the Secretariat represented a sound basis for a reply from the Committee of Ministers, subject to the inclusion of certain additions or amendments. In particular, it was suggested that an addition be made to the first paragraph of the elements prepared by the Secretariat emphasising that the elections had not been free and democratic and that their result therefore did not reflect the will of the Belarusian people. These delegations were against the idea of a two-stage approach mentioned by the previous delegation. With regard to the evaluation of the situation in Belarus, some delegations argued that it should be possible for all the delegations to reach agreement if the Council of Europe’s standards and values were taken as the starting point.
8. In conclusion, the Group asked the Secretariat to prepare a draft reply in time for its next meeting taking due account of the various delegations’ comments. This draft would need to give a clear assessment of the conduct of the elections and the problems identified in that connection. It would also need to look ahead to future Council of Europe action in Belarus.
9. The Chair asked whether the Representative of Belarus should be invited to attend the discussion at the next meeting. A majority of delegations was in favour of extending such an invitation. However, one delegation underlined that representatives of non-official circles in Belarus and of bodies such as the OSCE should be invited at the same time as the Belarus Representative. Following a discussion, the Chair concluded that the Representative of Belarus would be invited, on an ad hoc basis, to participate in the Group’s discussion on the draft reply, on the understanding that other figures might also be invited in future, again on an ad hoc basis, to an exchange of views on the situation in Belarus with the Group, if the latter considered this appropriate. The representative of the Parliamentary Assembly Secretariat indicated that ODIHR, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE and the European Parliament had been invited to participate in the meeting which the Parliamentary Assembly’s sub-committee on Belarus would be holding during the next Assembly session.
3. Russian Federation
Human rights violations in the Chechen Republic: the Committee of Ministers’ responsibility vis-à-vis the Assembly’s concerns - Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1733 (2006) – Elements for a draft reply
10. The Director General of Political Affairs explained that the elements for a reply which had been submitted for consideration were a compilation of the contributions provided by the directorates concerned and by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. The present text was a working basis, to be refined, if necessary, in the light of the views expressed during the discussion.
11. The Representative of the Russian Federation felt that it was a good working basis, which would need to be condensed, clarified and updated with regard to implementation of the co-operation programme with the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic and the recent initiatives by the Commissioner for Human Rights. He proposed that the Russian delegation should work on this with the Secretariat.
12. The delegations which took the floor in the ensuing discussion approved these elements for a reply and welcomed the Russian Federation’s constructive attitude. They emphasised the importance attaching to the human rights situation in Chechnya and drew attention to the work carried out by the Commissioner for Human Rights in this field. They were in favour of regular updates on implementation of the co-operation programme with the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic. The Director General of Political Affairs indicated that an updated version of the report on this co-operation programme published at the end of 2005 was to be prepared and could be appended to the reply to the Assembly.
13. In conclusion, the Group agreed in principle with the elements for a reply prepared by the Secretariat and welcomed the Russian Federation’s constructive attitude. It asked the Secretariat to draw up an updated and more concise draft reply in time for consideration at the next meeting of GR-DEM.
4. Other business
a. Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro) – Forthcoming census
14. The Director General of Political Affairs recalled the decisions taken by the Deputies in July and December 2005 on Council of Europe monitoring of the pilot census in Kosovo and its budgetary implications. In accordance with these decisions and given that the pilot phase was now planned for May 2006, the GR-DEM was invited to recommend the use of the field mission reserve up to the amount of 25,000 € to cover the funds required for monitoring this exercise. It was understood that, following the pilot phase, the Secretariat would report to the Group before any decision was taken by the Committee of Ministers on possible Council of Europe involvement in the next steps of the census.
15. The Group agreed to submit a recommendation to this effect to the Committee of Ministers.
b. Moldova: Functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova - Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1721 (2005) – Revised draft reply
16. The Chair reported to the Group on the informal consultations he had held since the last meeting, with the delegations concerned, on the wording of paragraph 16 of the above-mentioned draft reply and presented the text resulting from these consultations (see document GR-DEM(2006)7 revised 2).
17. Following a discussion, the Group agreed on a new wording for paragraph 16, on which two delegations reserved their position until the end of the day.
c. Declaration by the Moldovan delegation – Human rights in the Transnistria region
18. The Representative of Moldova drew attention to the statement he had made at the Deputies’ 959th meeting on 22 March, about a decree issued in the Transnistria region “prohibiting foreign funding of non-commercial organisations”. He considered that the Council of Europe, as the human rights defence organisation par excellence, should analyse this decree, which was contrary to the Constitution and legislation of the Republic of Moldova and to the relevant international standards, and make an assessment of the human rights situation in Transnistria.
19. Two delegations felt that it would indeed be useful to discuss this matter in the light of a document to be drafted by the Secretariat, providing a comprehensive survey of the human rights situation in Transnistria. Another delegation voiced reservations regarding this proposal.
20. After the Director General of Political Affairs had reminded the Group that an exchange of views was planned at the next meeting of GR-DEM with Ambassador William Hill, Head of the OSCE Mission in Moldova, and Ambassador Vladimir Philipov, Special Representative of the Secretary General, the Group agreed to take the opportunity offered by this exchange of views to gather information on this question before contemplating any possible follow-up action.
5. Date of the next meeting
21. The Group would hold its next meeting on 20 April 2006 at 10.30am. This meeting would be preceded by a meeting organised by the Thematic Co-ordinator on Local and Regional Co-operation (TC-LARC), which would start at 9.30am.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.