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GR-DEM(2010)CB9corrE  / 07 October 2010 

Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
GR-DEM
Rapporteur Group on Democracy

GR-DEM(2010)CB9 4 October 20101
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Synopsis
Meeting of 28 September 2010

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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
(see GR-DEM(2010)OJ9).

1. Bosnia and Herzegovina: State of implementation of the pre-electoral assistance programme
(DPA/Inf(2010)29

The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs presented document DPA/Inf(2010)29 and indicated that the programme was being implemented satisfactorily in the run-up to the general elections of 3 October. He emphasised the innovative nature of the "first time voter" project. One activity in the media field which was to have taken place in Republika Srpska (see document DPA/Inf(2010)29, appendix, point 4.4) had been cancelled owing to insufficient participation. He welcomed in particular the excellent co-operation with the Central Electoral Commission.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina delegation expressed satisfaction with the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the various national and international stakeholders in the implementation of the activities. It thanked Norway, Switzerland and Germany for their voluntary contributions to the programme's funding. It recalled that a Parliamentary Assembly delegation had carried out a pre-electoral visit to evaluate the political and electoral climate and that the Assembly was to send a delegation to observe the elections. It emphasised the serene conditions in which election campaigning was taking place. It was pleased with the standard of preparation of the elections and the work carried out by the Central Electoral Commission. It was supported in this view by several delegations, which also welcomed the progress made in preparing the elections.

During the discussion, some delegations voiced concerns over the risks of irregularities during vote counting, the lack of transparency in the functioning and financing of the political parties and the limited involvement of civil society in the election campaign. In addition, several delegations stressed the importance of the role of the media and of equal access to them, particularly for women and small political groupings.

In the light of the European Court of Human Rights judgment of 22 December 2009 in the Sejdić and Finci case and the authorities' subsequent failure to amend the Constitution and electoral legislation accordingly, several delegations deplored the fact that the elections would be run under rules that did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs pointed out that there was a consensus between the country's political forces to execute the judgment but, beyond that consensus, there was no agreement on the content and extent of constitutional reform.

In conclusion, the Chair observed that improvement of constitutional and electoral standards would require further input from the Council of Europe and the group would continue to follow this question after the implementation of the post-electoral activities provided for in the assistance programme.

2. Moldova: Report on the implementation of the pre-electoral assistance programme and possible orientations for the future
(DPA/Inf(2010)30)

The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs presented the interim report on the implementation of the pre-electoral assistance programme set out in document DPA/Inf(2010)30. The Secretariat was preparing a final evaluation report, which would include details of funding for the activities. He informed the Group that further voluntary contributions amounting to 106,000€ were still needed to fund implementation of all the proposed activities.

The representative of Moldova expressed satisfaction with the report. She indicated that the elections would take place at the end of November (28 November 2010). Regarding the reliability of voter lists, her authorities would run a pilot test of the computerised lists in 41 polling stations. They also intended to devise new initiatives aimed at raising voter awareness.

The report was broadly supported during the discussion. Delegations thought that the report clearly identified the weaknesses in the preparation of the 5 September referendum and voiced their support for the activities under way. Several delegations stressed the particular importance of the activities aimed at assessing accuracy of voter lists and at the media. Furthermore, a number of delegations were especially in favour of the activities geared to voter information, including those living abroad, with a view to ensuring a high turn-out for the elections. One delegation informed the Group of its intention to make a voluntary contribution with a view to making up part of the deficit of the programme and other delegations were invited to consider possible additional financing.

The group noted that, at the request of the Moldovan authorities, the organisation of five regional seminars planned in the programme (see document (DPA/Inf(2010)30, appendix, point 4.2) would be replaced by the publication and dissemination of information brochures.

In conclusion, the Chair indicated that the group would continue to follow the situation in Moldova after the elections.

3. Belarus: Review of the state of cooperation
(DPA/Inf(2010)31 and DPA/Inf(2010)32)

The Chair noted that there was a lack of a consensus in the group as to whether the representative of Belarus to the Council of Europe might participate in the meeting.

The Director General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs reported orally on the round table on "Steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus" organised in Minsk on 23 September 2010 in
co-operation with the House of Representatives of Belarus. This had been a mission of a technical nature intended to forge a climate of trust between the Council of Europe and Belarus on the issue of the abolition of the death penalty. He emphasised the high quality of the exchanges between the experts and the participants, who had included the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor General, members of the parliamentary committee set up to consider the introduction of a moratorium on executions, representatives of the presidential administration, parliamentarians, judges of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and also representatives of civil society and the diplomatic community in situ. The round table had received extensive media coverage.

Several delegations welcomed the success of the round table and stressed the need for the Council of Europe to pursue its efforts to secure a moratorium and subsequently the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus. It was stated in the course of discussion that the Belarusian authorities should draw inspiration from the experience of other countries whose authorities had shown the political courage necessary to introduce a moratorium in the face of unfavourable public opinion.

Some delegations deplored the fact that executions were still carried out and death sentences still passed in Belarus. The European Union representative reiterated that the European Union and the Council of Europe shared the ambition of a European continent free of the death penalty and announced that the opening of an exhibition “Death penalty is not justice” is foreseen in Minsk for the "European Day against the Death Penalty" (10 October 2010).

The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs outlined the document DPA/Inf(2010)31: "Belarus: Update on the state of cooperation". Recalling that no developments had taken place regarding the parliamentary ratification of the agreement on privileges and immunities of the experts, necessary for accession to GRECO (as well as to GRETA), he drew delegations' attention to the letter sent by the Council of Europe in 1993, inviting Belarus to accede to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, and also to the application by Belarus for observer status on several intergovernmental committees and/or funding for the attendance of experts. Finally, he recalled that the implementation of the support programme for civil society was being continued. During the week of the Parliamentary Assembly Session, two delegations from Belarus would be in Strasbourg, one made up of representatives of civil society, the other of journalists and media professionals.

The Director of political and legal affairs of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly indicated that the Assembly rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, Mrs Hurskainen (Finland), had reported back to the Political Affairs Committee on her visit to Minsk on 22-25 August 2010. Mrs Hurskainen had not found any progress in Belarus on such important issues as the moratorium, political freedoms, freedom of association, freedom of the media and missing persons. Mrs Hurskainen's report might be presented to the Parliamentary Assembly in April 2011. Representatives of the Parliament, the extra-parliamentary opposition and independent media of Belarus will be heard by the Political Affairs Committee during a hearing in November 2010.

In the ensuing discussion, a number of delegations expressed the view that the human rights situation in Belarus did not show any progress. They furthermore noted that responses were awaited from Belarus with regard to its participation in GRECO and its accession to the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Some delegations mentioned the desirability of closer co-operation between the Council of Europe and Belarus. One delegation reiterated that there should be no pre-conditions for closer relations between them.

In conclusion, the Chair noted that there was agreement that the invitation previously extended to Belarus to accede to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats should not be withdrawn. Concerning the application of Belarus for observer status with several intergovernmental committees, the group would give further consideration to the matter after the presidential elections of 19 December 2010.

4. Russian Federation: “Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North-Caucasus Region” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1922 (2010) – Examination of elements for a reply
(CM/AS(2010)Rec1922 prov, DD(2010)433)

The group discussed the elements for a reply set out in document CM/AS(2010)Rec1922 prov, bearing in mind a written proposal by one delegation to add a paragraph (see document DD(2010)433).

Several delegations suggested amendments to paragraphs 1, 3, 4 and 6 of the document. The Russian Federation delegation felt that the elements for a reply provided a good basis for preparing a draft reply. None of the delegations expressed a view on the last paragraph of the document, which sought the group's opinion regarding follow-up to the final recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The Chair asked the Secretariat to prepare a draft reply in the light of the comments made. The draft would be examined at the group's next meeting. One delegation pointed out that, given the nature of the matters dealt with in the Assembly Recommendation, the opinion of the Rapporteur Group on human rights (GR-H) should be sought.

5. Activities in the area of local and regional democracy:

a. Fourth annual report of the Centre of Expertise for Local Government reform

    (CM(2010)118)

The Secretariat presented the report, emphasising the Centre's achievements despite its modest resources and its ability to forge fruitful contact with its international partners.

The Group agreed to transmit the draft decisions, as set out in the annotated agenda, to the Ministers' Deputies for adoption without further debate (item in the box) at their 1095th meeting (13 October 2010).

b. Stakeholders’ Platform on the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance at local level

    (DPA/Inf(2010)26)

The Secretariat presented document DPA/Inf(2010)26. It recalled that the Strategy for Innovation and Good Governance was intended to promote effective democratic governance in line with twelve principles which local authorities were encouraged to put into practice. The decisions taken by the Platform at its meeting on 12 July would pave the way for further developing the Strategy.

The Group agreed to transmit the draft decisions, as set out in the annotated agenda, to the Ministers' Deputies for adoption without further debate (item in the box) at their 1095th meeting (13 October 2010).

6. Other business

The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs drew attention to the changes made to the programme of the Forum for the future of Democracy to be held in Yerevan (Armenia), now over three days instead of two (19-21 October 2010).

7. Date of the next meeting

The next meeting would be held at 10 am on Tuesday 9 November 2010. The Chair reminded the participants that the group would hold an informal exchange of views with Mr von Sydow, Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly Political Affairs Committee and Rapporteur on Kosovo2, on 7 October 2010 at 2.30 pm.

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 to 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.


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