Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Democracy
GR-DEM(2009)CB2 16 February 20091
Meeting of 10 February 2009
1. The Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM), chaired by Ambassador Eberhard KÖLSCH, Permanent Representative of Germany, considered the following items appearing in the convocation
(cf. document GR-DEM(2009)OJ2rev).
1. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”:
a. Exchange of views with Mr Erwan Fouéré, Special Representative of the European Union
2. In the course of an introductory address, Mr Fouéré said that, in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the year 2008 had been marked by difficulties, particularly stemming from the irregularities and violence which had occurred during the parliamentary elections in June. That said, progress had been made by the country in several fields. The European Commission had recognised this in a report published in November 2008, while noting that progress still remained to be made in several areas. Where the year 2009 was concerned, Mr Fouéré emphasised the importance of the forthcoming presidential and local elections in the country. He felt that efforts still needed to be made with this in mind, particularly in order to bring to justice the perpetrators of the irregularities committed during the June 2008 elections, to implement the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR, to train the members of local electoral boards and to give the Broadcasting Council sufficient resources to monitor media coverage of the election campaign. The behaviour of the political parties would be a major determining factor.
3. Mr Fouéré mentioned several other challenges facing “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, including the strengthening of political dialogue, effective implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the fight against segregation in education, which was a disturbing problem, the continuation of reform of the judicial and penitentiary systems, the fight against corruption, the reform of public administration, the involvement of civil society in the preparation of public authorities’ decisions, and media freedom. Finally, Mr Fouéré referred to the frustrations engendered in the country by the question of the efforts to achieve liberalisation of the visa system. He considered it important to respond to the efforts made by this country to follow up the European Union’s demands for reform. Mr Fouéré hoped that a decision on the liberalisation of the visa system would be taken by the end of the year.
4. In conclusion, Mr Fouéré emphasised the close co-operation which he maintained with the Council of Europe and noted that the complementary nature of the work of the Council of Europe and the European Union enabled the two organisations to provide each other with mutual support and to strengthen synergies.
5. The Representative of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” presented the initiatives taken by her authorities to progress along the path to integration in the European Union, to take forward the various reforms to which Mr Fouéré had referred and to promote dialogue between political forces in the country. She confirmed the high expectations which existed in respect of the liberalisation of the visa system and about the opening of accession negotiations with the European Union. She emphasised in this context the progress made in implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.
6. During the ensuing discussion, some questions were put to Mr Fouéré about the precise extent of his co-operation with the Council of Europe, the impact and possible limits of the Organisation’s action on the ground, to which extent the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms are taken into account in his activities, the measures likely to be taken by the national authorities and the European institutions in the fight against educational segregation.
7. Several delegations welcomed the progress made by “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” notwithstanding the difficulties encountered, especially on the economic front. At the same time, it was noted that progress still remained to be made by this country. Continuation of the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, promotion of its acceptance by the population, the holding of free and fair elections and media freedom were highlighted in this context.
8. In conclusion, the Chair noted that some progress had been made by “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. That said, progress still remained to be made by this country in several fields, not only in terms of legislative reform, but also in practical terms, particularly in the matter of implementation of legislation and of political culture. He observed that the Council of Europe could play a useful role in this respect, particularly by developing the public authorities’ capacity for action.
b. Draft programme of co-operation for 2009-2010
9. The Director of Strategic Planning presented the draft co-operation programme contained in document DSP(2009)4. He drew attention to the fact that this draft, which reflected a high degree of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, had been prepared on the basis of the conclusions of the Organisation’s monitoring mechanisms, including the Commissioner for Human Rights, and in consultation with the authorities of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. He reviewed the various component parts of the draft, emphasising that it was a pragmatic proposal taking account of the needs identified, the coherence with the Programme of Activities and the capacity for implementation. The new phase of co-operation will rely to a large extent on two joint programmes with the European Union in the priority fields which concern the penitentiary system and security services and education in democratic citizenship.
10. The Representative of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” said that the draft programme would help her country to pursue the democratic reforms undertaken. She emphasised in this context the importance of several elements, particularly those relating to democracy and good governance with a view to the forthcoming elections. She indicated that the procedure for ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was progressing well, and concluded by emphasising the importance of regional co-operation.
11. Several delegations expressed support for the draft programme, saying that it was well targeted on the priority fields in which activities were to be carried out, thanks to the taking into account of the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms. That said, some delegations expressed regret that not enough importance was given to the project on the media. Furthermore, a number of delegations wondered about the financial aspects of the draft, in view of the estimated fall in the contribution from the Organisation’s budget and the parallel rise in the voluntary financial contributions expected. They wondered whether such a prospect was realistic in the current difficult economic climate. The importance of having a sound funding basis to ensure that the activities could continue was emphasised in this context.
12. The Director of Strategic Planning underlined that the financing of the draft programme was to a large extent secured (more than 85%) as the priority activities would be financed from the ordinary budget and joint programmes with the European Commission. The remaining activities were, for the time being, partly financed - or remained to be financed - through voluntary contributions. He drew the attention of the delegations to the fact that no pluriannual co-operation programme could be presented if the prior requirement was that its financing should be fully secured. He also underlined that, as indicated in the document, the contribution from the ordinary budget for 2010 was only a preliminary estimate.
13. It was suggested that the planned activities should be prioritised to a greater extent so as to tailor them to the available funds. In the view of some delegations, priority should be given to the activities in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Other delegations, however, pointed out that the activities proposed in the fields of social cohesion and culture and intercultural dialogue should not be reduced. Attention was drawn inter alia to the project relating to Roma and travellers.
14. One delegation also noted that the financial information about the different projects should be harmonised. Other delegations said that they would like to obtain more details about the beneficiaries of the activities and their expected impact.
15. Following the discussion, and without calling into question the advisability of continuing the assistance provided to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the Group agreed that the question of the financial planning of the draft programmes of assistance for member states would benefit from being discussed in terms of principles within the Rapporteur Group on Programme, Budget and Administration (GR-PBA). In the light of the conclusions of that discussion, the Group would return to the draft programme at a subsequent meeting.
2. Moldova: State of co-operation with the Council of Europe
16. The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation presented a report on the state of co-operation between the Council of Europe and Moldova (document SG/Inf(2009)1), prepared following a visit to that country in October 2008. She thanked the Moldovan authorities for the assistance provided for the organisation of the visit, and for the openness which they had shown during the discussions which had taken place on that occasion.
17. She pointed to four questions which raised concern, namely: the preparation of the parliamentary elections which were to take place on 5 April 2009, freedom of the media and access to information, local self-government and follow-up to the expert opinions on legislation drawn up by the Council of Europe. In the face of these questions, already raised in a previous report, she emphasised the importance of further developing the co-operation between the Council of Europe and Moldova.
18. The Representative of Moldova thanked the Secretariat for its balanced report. She welcomed the intensification of co-operation with the Council of Europe which had occurred in 2008, particularly thanks to the joint Council of Europe/European Commission programmes addressed to her country. Supplementing the comments distributed in writing in document DD(2009)46, she emphasised her authorities’ wish to hold free and democratic elections. She also mentioned the measures taken by her authorities to ensure that judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights concerning Moldova were executed and to improve the functioning of the judicial system. Finally, she indicated that the conclusions of the Secretariat report would be studied with the greatest attention by her authorities with a view to progress along the path of European integration.
19. Several delegations welcomed the intensification of co-operation between the Council of Europe and Moldova, as well as the progress made by this country, for example in the fight against corruption. That said, major efforts remained to be made, particularly in the spheres of the media, reform of the judicial system and local self-government. Follow-up to the Council of Europe’s expert opinions on legislation and implementation of the recommendations of its monitoring mechanisms were also mentioned. A large number of delegations emphasised that the elections of 5 April 2009 would be a crucial test. They expected the Moldovan authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that the elections took place in accordance with the relevant international standards, including during the campaign which would go before, particularly ensuring equitable access to the media. They also emphasised the importance of full implementation by the Moldovan authorities of the recommendations of the Venice Commission with a view to the revision of Moldova’s electoral legislation.
20. One delegation noted that the spheres in which progress still remained to be made by Moldova had already been pointed out in previous Secretariat reports. It therefore wondered about the impact of the assistance activities carried out in these spheres. The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation noted that this impact depended on the commitment of the Moldovan authorities to implement the expected reforms. The political support of the Committee of Ministers was particularly important from this standpoint. Furthermore, some delegations indicated that they would like the Secretariat reports to list all the assistance activities organised by the Council of Europe, and not only those financed by the joint programmes with the European Commission. The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation said that this would be done.
21. In conclusion, the Group endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Secretariat report and instructed the Secretariat, on this basis and in the light of the discussions, to prepare draft decisions for examination by the Ministers’ Deputies at their 1049th meeting, on 18 February 2009.
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22. The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation then presented a report on some pilot projects conducted as part of the Council of Europe’s contribution to the implementation of confidence-building measures in the context of the process of resolution of the Transnistrian conflict (see document DPA/Inf(2009)2). She drew attention to the fact that the third planned activity, namely a seminar on European electoral standards, had had to be cancelled at the last minute because of Tiraspol’s decision not to take part in it. She indicated that the Secretariat nevertheless thought that it would be useful to continue the implementation of confidence-building measures, aimed at civil society in Transnistria. The support from the Moldovan authorities to this respect is important.
23. The Representative of Moldova pointed out that resolution of the question of Transnistria was a priority for her authorities. It was therefore important to continue implementation of the confidence-building measures between the two banks of the Dniestr, with the assistance of the Council of Europe.
24. The Group took note of the Secretariat report. It encouraged the Secretariat to continue implementation of the confidence-building measures and asked it to report to it in due course.
3. Russian Federation: Programme of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic/Outcome of the programme in 2008 and plan of activities for 2009
25. The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation presented a document on the results of the co-operation programme between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic in 2008 and on the projects planned for 2009 (document DPA/Inf(2009)3). Where the activities carried out in 2008 were concerned, she emphasised that they had given rise to very active participation by the representatives of the Chechen Republic and were a means of promoting in concrete fashion the implementation of the Council of Europe’s standards in the fields of human rights and local democracy. Representatives of civil society in the Chechen Republic had emphasised the usefulness of these activities and expressed the wish for them to be continued, with an extension to the university world. As to the projects for 2009, these were intended to consolidate the positive results achieved. The Group’s attention was drawn to the fact that the objective was to open two of the planned activities to representatives of other federal entities of the Southern Federal District of the Russian Federation. In conclusion, the Director of Political Advice and Co-operation welcomed the good co-operation of the authorities of the Russian Federation in the implementation of the activities and underlined the essential role played by the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation as a federal coordinator of the programme.
26. The Representative of the Russian Federation also welcomed the good co-operation with the Council of Europe and the results of the activities carried out in 2008. He emphasised that the projects for 2009 were intended to bring about practical rehabilitation of the post-conflict situation in the Chechen Republic on the basis of the proposals made by the Republic.
27. Several delegations noted the importance of the activities carried out by the Council of Europe in the Chechen Republic, given that it is the only European organisation engaged in this type of co-operation in the region. That said, some delegations wondered about the reasons for which most of the activities were organised in Moscow, and not in the Chechen Republic. In reply, the Director of Political Advice and Co-operation indicated that the place of activities was chosen in liaison with the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, in the light of the advantages and disadvantages of the various possible places, with participants generally preferring the activities to take place outside the Chechen Republic. She also provided some clarification about the financial aspects of the programme, pointing out that, thanks to the savings made, it should be possible to carry out the same number of activities in 2009 notwithstanding the smaller budget. Nevertheless, some arrangements concerning the number of activities could occur in the course of the year depending on the resources available and on the number of participants in the activities. Finally, following questions raised by some delegations, she indicated that, while the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights was not involved in the implementation of the activities, his conclusions and recommendations, as well as those of the Parliamentary Assembly, were nevertheless taken into account during their preparation. Furthermore, the non-governmental organisations associated with the activities were selected in liaison with the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation and the responsible departments of the Secretariat.
28. At the end of the discussion, the Group agreed to forward the draft programme of activities for 2009 to the Ministers’ Deputies for endorsement.
4. European Committee on local and regional democracy (CDLR)
a. Abridged report of the 42nd meeting (Strasbourg, 8-10 December 2008)
29. The Director for Democratic Institutions briefly presented the report. During discussions, the Group took particular note of the Opinion of the CDLR on Recommendation 240 of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on a “Draft European Charter of Regional Democracy” and of the state of play as regards the preparation of a draft additional protocol on democratic participation to the European Charter on Local Self-Government. With regard to Congress Recommendation 240, the Chair recalled that a representative of the Congress would be invited to an exchange of views with the Group on this item at its meeting on 31 March 2009.
30. To conclude this item, the Group agreed to forward the draft decisions as prepared by the Secretariat on this item to the Ministers’ Deputies for adoption at their 1050th meeting (11 March 2009).
b. Draft Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the evaluation, auditing and monitoring of participation and participation policies at local and regional level
31. The Secretariat briefly introduced the draft Recommendation mentioned above, the aim of which was to raise the visibility and lend credibility to the CLEAR tool which had already been extensively tested in over 36 municipalities in over 9 countries, and was currently being used in a second round.
32. Following discussions, during which one delegation reserved its position on the text, the Group agreed to forward the draft Recommendation to the Ministers’ Deputies for consideration and possible adoption at their 1050th meeting (11 March 2009).
5. Activities on e-democracy / e-voting
a. Ad hoc Committee on e-democracy (CAHDE), Abridged report of the 4th plenary meeting (Strasbourg, 13-14 November 2008)
33. The Secretariat introduced the abridged report of the fourth and final meeting of the CAHDE. It drew particular attention to a set of proposals for the Committee of Ministers on possible future work in the field of e-democracy which CAHDE had prepared in conformity with its terms of reference. These covered in particular three dimensions: the regulatory dimension of e-democracy, bottom-up e-democracy initiatives and e-consultations.
34. During the discussions which ensued, the Group expressed its satisfaction for the work that had been carried out by CAHDE, which has been innovatory in its field. With regard to proposals for future work, the majority of delegations which voiced an opinion considered that it was important for the Council of Europe to secure follow-up to the Recommendation on e-democracy, once adopted, in particular with regard to promoting and assessing its implementation. However, one delegation expressed its position that it did not consider that the establishment of legislative rules on e-democracy were needed or were practical – and that such initiatives may in fact create barriers to the contributions of civil society, which has been a leader in e-democracy. Other delegations also raised the question as to the exact manner in which future work would be carried out, for example under the responsibility of which committee, and the budgetary implications.
35. At the request of one delegation, which was supported by others, it was agreed that in the second draft decision prepared by the Secretariat, it would be more appropriate if the Deputies were just to take note of the proposals and not “endorse” them.
36. In conclusion, the Group agreed to transmit the draft decisions, as amended, to the Ministers’ Deputies for adoption during their 1049th meeting (18 February 2009).
b. Draft Recommendation on e-democracy and draft explanatory memorandum thereto
37. The Group examined the draft Recommendation on e-democracy and the draft explanatory memorandum thereto. It was pointed out that whilst the Recommendation on e-voting had been technical, the present draft Recommendation was a more political text which aimed to bring a unique contribution as the first comprehensive international instrument in this field. The Group took note of the participation and support of a wide range of international organisations in the work of CAHDE on this text, as well as of the other main bodies of the Council of Europe.
38. Several delegations strongly supported the adoption of the Recommendation, considering it an excellent and complete tool in this area. One delegation, however, could not support the recommendation to member states outlined in paragraph 3 to introduce legislation in this field. It would prefer to remove the word “legislation” or introduce the word “consider” at the beginning of the sentence.
39. One other delegation considered that given the number of new concepts introduced in the document, its authorities would require further consideration of the implications involved. Several delegations pointed out that the draft Recommendation had been finalised by the CAHDE with representatives from member states and advised against re-opening discussion on a text which was specialist in nature.
40. To conclude, the Chair noted that the Group could agree to transmit the draft Recommendation to the Ministers’ Deputies for consideration and possible adoption at their 1049th meeting on 18 February 2009.
c. Second biennial meeting to review developments in the field of e-voting and the application of Rec(2004)11 on e-voting (Madrid, 16 October 2008)
41. The Group considered the report mentioned above and decided to transmit it to the Ministers’ Deputies to take note of at their 1049th meeting (18 February 2009), in particular of the proposals resulting from it with regard to priority issues for the Council of Europe’s future work in this field.
6. Forum for the Future of Democracy: Report of the last meeting of the Advisory Board (30 January 2009)
42. The Group took note of the information contained in document FFD/AB(2009)3, on the understanding that this item would be discussed at the level of the Ministers’ Deputies.
7. Any other business
8. Date of the next meeting
44. The next meeting of the Group will be held on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 10 am.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.