Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Democracy
GR-DEM(2010)CB11 15 December 20101
Meeting of 9 December 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. Belarus: Review of the preparation of the Presidential elections
The Group supported the proposal by the Chair of the GR-DEM to invite the Representative of Belarus to the Council of Europe to hold an exchange of views on the preparation of the presidential elections of 19 December 2010.
The representative of Belarus made a preliminary statement, reproduced in document DD(2010)627. The representative of the European Union called on the Belarus authorities to ensure that the elections took place in a free and democratic manner. The text of her statement is reproduced in document DD(2010)633.
Several delegations underlined the need to ensure compliance with international standards at all stages of the electoral process. They voiced their concerns regarding the very limited number of representatives of opposition parties on the local electoral committees, the training of members of those committees, access to the media in the election period, the fairness of early voting, participation of observers in the counting of votes and the widespread use of administrative resources for one of the candidates. Some delegations welcomed the progress made by Belarus in the preparations for the elections, as evidenced in various preliminary reports by international observation missions.
In conclusion, the Chair asked the Belarus representative to inform his authorities of the Group’s expectations and concerns. She thanked him for the information on statements by the President of Belarus regarding the abolition of the death penalty and for Belarus’s replies regarding its participation in GRECO and its accession to the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. She said that these areas would be looked at in greater detail in a general discussion on co-operation between the Council of Europe and Belarus at the Group’s next meeting. The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs indicated that the exhibition organised in Minsk with the European Union entitled “Death is not justice”, was due to end on 11 December 2011.
2. Montenegro: Fourth report on the honouring of commitments
(SG/Inf(2010)22 and SG/Inf(2010)22 add)
The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs presented the report under reference (see SG/Inf(2010)22 and SG/Inf(2010)22 add) saying that it concurred with the conclusions of the opinion recently issued by the European Commission, which recommended granting Montenegro the status of candidate country. He underlined the significance of the progress made by that country in honouring its commitments but also pointed to certain issues of concern highlighted in the report, such as reform of electoral legislation, the independence and effectiveness of justice and the protection of minorities.
The representative of Montenegro welcomed the fact that the report contained a clear and precise overview of the honouring of commitments and provided a number of points which would be of considerable value for pursuing the efforts undertaken by his authorities. He indicated that on 8 December 2010, Montenegro had deposited with the Secretary General the instruments of ratification of the two Conventions, specified in Opinion No. 261 by the Parliamentary Assembly, which had not yet been ratified.2 He said that the parliamentary action currently under way could result in the adoption of electoral reform in conformity with the opinion issued by the Venice Commission before the next meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies. He emphasised that his country set great store by cultural diversity and respect for the rights of minorities. Several measures had recently been taken to combat discrimination more effectively and to strengthen the institution of protector of human rights. He also mentioned several initiatives to improve the fight against corruption.
All delegations that subsequently contributed to the discussion welcomed the progress made by Montenegro in honouring its commitments and obligations and called for the current monitoring procedure applied to this country to be replaced by a new stage based on observation of the progress made, by means of dialogue and regular assessment by the Committee of Ministers.
Some delegations pointed out that a number of difficulties remained in various fields and expressed their concern about the situation regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, the fight against corruption, strengthening of institutions and the independence of the media and their regulatory authority.
At the end of the discussion, the Group agreed to ask the Secretariat to prepare draft decisions reflecting the conclusions and recommendations made in the report and the outcome of the discussion with a view to their transmission to the Ministers’ Deputies for adoption at their 1102nd meeting (12 January 2011).
3. “The situation in Kosovo3 and the role of the Council of Europe” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1923 (2010) – Examination of a draft reply
The Group examined the draft reply drawn up by the Secretariat in document CM/AS(2010)Rec1923 prov. The delegations of Serbia, Germany and the United Kingdom presented their proposed amendments to the text, reproduced respectively in documents DD(2010)623 and DD(2010)624.
The delegation of Serbia made a statement reproduced in document DD(2010)634.
Following the discussion, the Group concurred with the compromise proposed by the Chair in document DD(2010)626 and agreed to forward the draft reply thus amended to the Ministers’ Deputies for adoption at their 1102nd meeting, on 12 January 2011, without further debate (item placed in the box).
4. “Democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1928 (2010) – Examination of a draft reply
The Group examined the draft reply drawn up by the Secretariat in document CM/AS(2010)Rec1928 prov. The delegations of the Netherlands and Spain presented their proposed amendments to the text, reproduced in documents DD(2010)622 and DD(2010)629.
The delegations that contributed to the discussion expressed their support for the various amendments except for the appeal to member states contained in the last sentence of the text proposed by the Netherlands. The Group also expressed its preference for a shorter and consolidated version of the proposed amendments.
The Chair asked the Secretariat to prepare a revised version of the draft reply in the light of the Group’s comments, for examination at the next meeting.
5. European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR)
a. Abridged report of the 46th meeting (Strasbourg, 12-14 October 2010)
The Secretariat presented the abridged report of the CDLR’s 46th meeting, held in Strasbourg from 12 to 14 October 2010 (see document CM(2010)157).
Referring to the CDLR’s comments on Congress Recommendation 280 (2010) – “The role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of human rights”, one delegation, supported by another, drew attention to the risk of confusion and duplication which could arise from the possible involvement of the Congress in monitoring the honouring of human rights obligations and commitments entered into by member states.
The Group agreed to transmit the abridged report to the Deputies for adoption of the relevant decision at their 1102nd meeting on 12 January 2011, without further debate (item placed in the box).
b. Preparation of the 17th session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government (Kyiv, 2011)
The Secretariat pointed out that the preparation of the Conference had been discussed on several occasions by the CDLR, which had identified four themes to be addressed by the Conference (see DD(2010)546). Other themes could, if appropriate, be suggested subsequently.
The representative of Ukraine said that a national committee tasked with preparing the Kyiv conference, and placed under the direct authority of the Cabinet of Ministers, had held an initial meeting on 18 November last. In addition, a conference organisational plan had been adopted.
The Chair indicated that the Group would continue to be kept informed about the preparation of the Conference.
6. Other business
The Chair reported on her attendance of the meeting of the Stakeholder’s Platform on the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level, held on 7 December 2010. She welcomed the decision taken at the Platform to accede to Bulgaria’s request for accreditation of the committee with authority for awarding the Label of Innovation and Good Governance at Local Level.
7. Date of the next meeting
The next meeting would be held on Thursday 13 January 2011 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.
Note 2 European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (ECTS No. 106) and European Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitation to Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes (ECTS No. 82).
3 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. / Toute référence au Kosovo mentionnée dans ce texte, que ce soit le territoire, les institutions ou la population, doit se comprendre en pleine conformité avec la Résolution 1244 du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations-Unies et sans préjuger du statut du Kosovo.