Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Democracy
GR-DEM(2010)CB10 16 November 20101
Meeting of 9 November 2010
The Group of Rapporteurs on Democracy (GR-DEM), chaired by Ambassador Margaret Hennessy, Permanent Representative of Ireland, considered the following items appearing in the convocation
1. Exchange of views with Mr Pieter Everaers, Director, External Cooperation, Communication and Key Indicators, EUROSTAT, regarding the state of the monitoring of the population and housing census in Kosovo 2
At the invitation of the Chair, Mr Pieter Everaers informed the participants about the work and recommendations of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO) launched in 2005 to supervise the preparation and implementation of the census. The text of his contribution appears in document DD(2010)547.
The Serbian delegation made a statement, the text of which is reproduced in document DD(2010)572.
One delegation said that it shared Serbia’s doubts about the conditions surrounding the organisation of the census operation scheduled for spring 2011. Some delegations considered that the fears expressed by Serbia should be taken into account in preparing and organising the operation and that it was for the Council of Europe to facilitate dialogue among the parties involved, notably through the International Monitoring Operation.
The European Union delegation recalled that good neighbourly relations were the cornerstone of the European Union. It referred to the first consultation which had been conducted in the context of the EU-facilitated dialogue following the adoption of the resolution by the UN Assembly General on 9 September 2010. It pointed out that the work of preparing the census operation was proceeding in full conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and recalled that it was in the interests of all member States to facilitate the implementation by the Council of Europe of activities geared to promoting its values in Kosovo(2). This position was supported by several delegations, which welcomed the fact that the IMO had given its go-ahead for organising the census.
In reply to a number of questions, Mr Everaers stressed the importance of organising the census at the regional level at the same time in order to avoid the risk of “dual registration”. He recalled that census operations were completely separate from and without effect on the installation of registers of properties or population registers. He considered that the necessary information programmes have been implemented to ensure a very extensive participation in the census. He also mentioned that the IMO’s work of observation, supervision and evaluation covered all the stages in the census, from the preparatory phase to the publication of the final results.
In conclusion, the Chair noted that the census was still a sensitive issue which had to be treated with great care and precision in order to help build trust in the region. She pointed out that the Group would come back to the subject in due course.
2. Azerbaijan: Report on the implementation of the pre-electoral assistance programme
The Group was invited to consider the report prepared by the Secretariat on the implementation of the pre-election assistance programme as set out in document DPA/Inf(2010)35. The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs specified that this report constituted an intermediate assessment and that a final evaluation report would be presented after the elections. This future report would not be a purely descriptive document but should also help gauge the impact of the activities on the running of the 7 November elections and propose new activities taking account of the lessons learnt from these elections. At this stage, he observed that only the activities relating to legislative aspects had not been implemented.
The Azerbaijani delegation stressed the efforts of its authorities to prepare and guarantee the smooth running of the elections. It mentioned in particular the participation of the opposition parties in the electoral process and the large number of national and international observers. It highlighted its country’s desire to co-operate with the Council of Europe in continuing to improve the electoral system.
The European Union delegation distributed a declaration by Ms Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (see DD(2010)555).
Several delegations welcomed the positive aspects emerging from the international observers’ initial conclusions and the sound co-operation with Azerbaijan in implementing the pre-election assistance programme. Some delegations also stressed the need to continue to co-operate with Azerbaijan in the electoral field and to encourage this country to press on with its democratisation process in order to reinforce the political stability of the region. One delegation considered that priority should be given in the future to the implementation of activities on legislative aspects.
The Chair concluded this item by pointing out that the Group would be considering the final evaluation report at the beginning of 2011 in the light of the mission report drawn up by the Parliamentary Assembly, which had observed the 7 November elections.
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Report on the implementation of the pre-electoral assistance programme
The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation presented document DPA/Inf(2010)36. She took stock of progress in the implementation of the assistance programme since 15 September 2010 and stressed the excellent co-operation with the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the Central Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Education. She also presented proposals for projects based on a preliminary analysis of the 3 October 2010 elections.
The delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed the fact that the elections had gone off satisfactorily and in accordance with international standards. It added that the overall turnout had been the highest since 2002 (57,06%), and that many national and international observer missions had participated, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The new government of Bosnia and Herzegovina could be formed at the beginning of 2011, and the various political forces in the country were aware of the need for an early amendment to the Constitution to bring it into line with the judgment given by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sejdić and Finci, whose enforcement the Committee of Ministers was mandated to supervise.
The EU delegation made a statement, the text of which appears in document DD(2010)557.
One delegation considered that in the four future projects proposed in document DPA/Inf(2010)36, particular importance should be attached to activities targeting first-time voters and the on-line election campaign.
In conclusion, the Chair noted that the Council of Europe was continuing to contribute to the process of democratic reforms in hand, and pointed out that the Group would continue its discussions in due course.
4. Serbia: Stocktaking of co-operation with the Council of Europe
(DPA/Inf(2010)34 and DPA/Inf(2010)34add)
The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs presented document DPA/Inf(2010)34. He said that Serbia had made significant progress in the implementation of its statutory obligations and of those subscribed when joining the Council of Europe. In particular, there had been a major improvement in regional co-operation, positive developments in the areas specified by the Committee of Ministers in its decision of 10 June 2009 and Serbia's ratification or signature of a large number of Council of Europe conventions. Nevertheless, he referred to a number of new or continuing concerns in such areas as electoral legislation, the functioning of parliament and the process of re-electing judges and prosecutors. Finally, he welcomed the excellent co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union in the preparation and implementation of co-operation activities, the financial support that member states had given for certain activities and the role of the Council of Europe office in Belgrade.
The Serbian delegation referred to its country's numerous achievements over the period under consideration and reaffirmed its authorities' commitment to continuing the reforms under way. It informed the group of developments in the implementation of its statutory obligations. Its statement appears in document DD(2010)571.
Several delegations welcomed the undoubted progress achieved by Serbia, particularly its efforts to improve regional co-operation and promote reconciliation. They stressed the need for continued Council of Europe support for the country in its reform process. Some speakers thought that the recent decision of the Council of the European Union to transmit Serbia's candidature for Union accession to the Commission for an opinion offered clear evidence that the country had honoured a considerable proportion of the undertakings it had entered into in its bid to join the Union.
Nevertheless, certain delegations emphasised the need for it to continue its efforts, in particular in such areas as protecting and promoting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, ensuring full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), strengthening the fight against corruption and human trafficking and guaranteeing the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law.
In conclusion, the Chair concluded by noting that there was agreement in the Group on the report's conclusions and recommendations. She invited the secretariat to prepare draft decisions on this basis for adoption by the Deputies at their 1098th meeting (17 November 2010).
5. Russian Federation: “Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North-Caucasus Region” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1922 (2010) – Examination of a draft reply
(CM/AS(2010)Rec1922 prov2, DD(2010)433, 448, 530 and 539)
The Russian delegation said that it would shortly be circulating proposed amendments to the draft reply in CM/AS(2010)Rec1922 prov2 and therefore asked for discussion to be deferred to the group's following meeting.
The Georgian delegation thought that it would be helpful to have an information document indicating when and why the monitoring procedure concerning Russia decided on by the Committee of Ministers on the basis of its "Declaration on compliance with commitments accepted by member states of the Council of Europe" of 10 November 1994 had been started and then terminated.
Several delegations supported the amendment proposed by the German delegation (see DD(2010)539).
The Chair said that discussion would continue at the group's next meeting.
6. Forum for the Future of Democracy: Examination of the results of the 2010 Forum Session in Yerevan
Several speakers expressed satisfaction that the 6th Forum, in Yerevan on 19 and 21 October 2010, had given rise to detailed discussions of a high standard and a very intense dialogue, which had been substantially assisted by the changes to the organisation of the Forum. They thanked the Armenian authorities, and in particular the representative of Armenia to the Council of Europe, for their welcome and the perfect organisation of the event, and for their major commitment to the intellectual preparation of the session.
In the discussion, speakers raised such issues as the level of participation, which was much higher on the part of the Parliamentary Assembly than at government level, the importance of expert contributions and the role of civil society and student representatives.
The Armenian delegation saw the Forum not as an isolated event but as part of a process that was fully consistent with the reforms initiated by the Secretary General.
The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs said that contributions could still be made to the Forum's draft conclusions and that a final version would be distributed subsequently. The Director of Political and Legal Affairs at the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly said that the Bureau of the Assembly will hold an initial discussion on the draft conclusions during its meeting this week and that the different commissions, notably the commission on political issues, will examine it in view of its follow-up.
The Chair referred to the success of the Forum and the quality of the draft conclusions and suggested that Mr Harutunyan, the Forum's Rapporteur General, be invited to a future meeting. The group would also be invited at some stage to consider the revised guidelines adopted by the Deputies on 7 July 2010, which had been tested before and during the Forum's 2010 session.
7. “Lobbying in a democratic society (European Code of conduct on lobbying)" – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1908 (2010) – Examination of a draft reply
The group approved the draft reply prepared by the secretariat in CM/AS(2010)Rec1908 prov and decided to forward it to the Deputies for adoption without further discussion (item placed in the box) at their 1098th meeting (17 November 2010).
8. Other business
None at this stage.
9. Date of the next meeting
The next meeting would be on Thursday 9 December 2010 at 3 p.m.
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.
Note 2 All reference to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.