Ministers’ Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Democracy
GR-DEM(2011)CB1rev 19 January 20111
Meeting of 13 January 2011
The Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM), chaired by Ambassador Margaret Hennessy, Permanent Representative of Ireland, considered the following items appearing in the convocation (see GR-DEM(2011)OJ1).
1. Ukraine: Review of the state of implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2008-2011 – progress report
The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs presented the above report and underlined that the funding for the Action Plan had largely been ensured through the support of the European Union. He welcomed the excellent co-operation that had been established in the country with the European Union delegation in Kyiv and indicated that the smooth implementation of the Action Plan was due in large part to the Council of Europe’s presence in the field. A number of positive results were worth noting, in particular concerning the application at domestic level of the European Convention on Human Rights, Ukraine’s accession to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and several legislative initiatives. At the same time, important questions remained, in particular concerning implementation of the anticorruption legislation, electoral reform and reform of the judicial system. The possibility of drawing up a new Action Plan for the period from 2011 to 2014 was now under consideration. The question would be discussed again with the Ukrainian authorities in the spring at the next meeting of the steering committee on the basis of the conclusions of a review of the results of the existing Action Plan and of the process of drawing up and implementing the Action Plan as such.
In addition to the written information circulated in document DD(2011)21, the representative of Ukraine underlined the positive assessment of the co-operation with the Council of Europe made by all Ukrainian institutions and agencies involved in implementing the Action Plan. It had brought about significant progress in terms of strengthening the operation of democratic institutions, the protection of human rights and the rule of law in his country. His authorities’ objective was to see to the implementation of the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms and, in this connection, the President of Ukraine had set up a working group responsible for completing in co-operation with the relevant Council of Europe bodies the reform of the judicial system, the criminal justice and the improvement of electoral legislation. On 12 January 2011, the President of Ukraine issued Decree N° 24/2011 on the Action Plan on Implementation of Obligations and Commitments of Ukraine Arising from its membership in the Council of Europe.
In the ensuing discussions, the group welcomed the link established in the Action Plan between the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms and the projects identified for responding to them. It also welcomed the results obtained, thanks in particular to the close involvement of the Ukrainian authorities in implementation. The progress made by Ukraine with various reforms was also underlined. At the same time, it was pointed out that progress still had to be made in several areas, in particular concerning constitutional reform, media freedom, the promotion of civil society, the fight against corruption and the protection of national minorities, including Roma, as well as electoral legislation and the administration of elections. On this last point, one delegation suggested that the Secretariat prepare a draft pre-electoral assistance plan for Ukraine. In addition, the expert opinions provided by the Council of Europe needed to be followed up more effectively. Some delegations considered that there was a need for further progress in relation to projects on local government reform. In reply, the representative of Ukraine drew attention to the steps taken by his authorities and to the difficulties encountered in certain areas.
In conclusion, the group expressed the hope that a new Action Plan could be drawn up for the period after 2011 with a view to continuing to assist the Ukrainian authorities with the reforms undertaken. It looked forward with interest to the conclusions of the evaluation of the existing Action Plan. The hope was expressed by some delegations that the new Action Plan would continue the practice of identifying activities on the basis of the conclusions of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms. The Chair noted that it might be useful at some point in the year for a delegation from the group to visit Ukraine to see how the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Ukrainian authorities worked on the ground.
2. 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 prov4, DD(2010)433, DD(2010)448, DD(2010)530, DD(2010)539)
The group considered the new draft reply prepared by the Secretariat in document CM/AS(2010)Rec1922 prov4, in the light of the proposed amendments submitted by the delegations of the Russian Federation and Georgia. Given the lack of consensus on these various proposals, the Chair concluded that consultations would be held with the delegations concerned with a view to trying to agree a compromise text which could possibly then be submitted to all delegations for adoption by written procedure before the next session of the Parliamentary Assembly. If that proved impossible, the group would come back to the matter at its next meeting.
3. Belarus: State of co-operation with the Council of Europe
In view of the declaration adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 January, the Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs referred to four points on which guidance was expected from the group regarding future co-operation with Belarus: 1) the continuation or otherwise of discussions with the Belarus authorities on the question of the country’s possible accession to Council of Europe conventions, 2) the request by Belarus to be allowed to send observers to meetings of certain Council of Europe committees of experts, 3) the continuation or otherwise of the Council of Europe Info Point in Minsk and, 4) the possible carrying out of actions in Belarus through the “facility” recently signed by the Secretary General and European Commissioner Füle under the Eastern Partnership. The activities aimed at civil society (including the activities of the School of Political Studies) in Belarus would be continued in any case.
In the ensuing discussions, there was broad consensus in the group in favour of continuing and, if possible, boosting the activities for civil society and independent media and continuing and stepping up the work of the Information Point in Minsk. On the other hand, it was felt that the time was not right for allowing new observers from Belarus to attend meetings of Council of Europe committees of experts. A large number of delegations took the same stance regarding the issue of accession by Belarus to Council of Europe conventions. Some did, however, point out that it should not be forgotten that accession by Belarus to conventions could be of benefit to the country’s population. Reference was again made to the benefits of accession by Belarus to the Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
With regard to the fourth question raised by the Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs, the representative of the European Union indicated that it would be premature to take a stance for the time being, as the European Union itself had not yet taken a decision on the attitude to take towards the Belarus authorities following the events in December 2010.
One delegation said that the Belarus authorities had made progress in terms of organising the elections on 19 December in accordance with the recommendations made by various international bodies, including the Council of Europe, and believed that co-operation should continue with Belarus at all levels, including with the country’s authorities, in particular regarding the question of the country’s accession to Council of Europe conventions and the sending of observers from Belarus to meetings of committees of experts.
In conclusion, the Chair asked the Secretariat to implement the guidance which had emerged from the discussions and indicated that the group would return to the matter of co-operation with Belarus in due course, preferably at an early date, depending on developments in the country. The views of the group would be communicated to the representative of Belarus to the Council of Europe.
4. “Europe’s forgotten people: protecting the human rights of long-term displaced persons” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1877 (2009) – Examination of a draft reply
The group considered the draft reply prepared by the Secretariat in document CM/AS(2011)Rec1877 prov, in the light of proposed amendments submitted by the Georgian delegation in document DD(2011)3. It endorsed these amendments, while retaining the adjective “informed” in paragraph 3. The text as amended would be forwarded to the Rapporteur Group on Legal Co-operation (GR-J) so that it could consider the text, in accordance with the decision taken by the Committee of Ministers, and, if appropriate, amend it before forwarding it to the latter for adoption.
5. “Democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives” – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1928 (2010) – Examination of a draft reply
The group considered the draft reply prepared by the Secretariat in document CM/AS(2010)1928 prov2. At the suggestion of one delegation, it agreed to amend the first sentence in paragraph 1 so as to refer to democracy in the member states rather than in Europe, while noting at the same time that it would be inappropriate to restrict the reference to participatory democracy alone, especially since the Assembly recommendation concerned representative democracy.
The group also agreed to remove the square brackets around the last sentence of paragraph 2. It was agreed that the draft reply as amended would be forwarded to the Ministers’ Deputies for adoption without further debate at their 1103rd meeting (19 January 2011).
6. Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Recommendation 290 (2010) “The reform of the Congress: structure and working methods” – Examination of a draft reply
In an introductory statement, Mr Keith Whitmore, President of the Congress, referred to the steps which the Congress had taken to reform its activities, structure and working methods so as to increase their effectiveness in line with the overall reform of the Council of Europe initiated by the Secretary General. He then presented the changes which the Congress wished to make to the statutory resolution governing its operation and which would have to be adopted by the Committee of Ministers. The group then held an exchange of views with Mr Whitmore, during which many delegations welcomed the reform process undertaken by the Congress and called for it to be continued. At the same time, some delegations put a number of questions to Mr Whitmore or made comments about the work of the Congress. At the close of the discussion, the group agreed to recommend that the Committee of Ministers adopt the changes proposed by the Congress to its statutory resolution and the draft reply to Congress Recommendation 290 (2010), as revised at the meeting.
7. Other business
The Director General of Democracy and Political Affairs announced that the Albanian central electoral commission had requested assistance from the Council of Europe with the preparation of the local elections to be held in the country in May 2011. A corresponding draft action plan would be submitted to the group for approval in February.
8. Date of the next meeting
The next meeting would be held on Tuesday 8 February 2011 at 10 am.
Note 1 This document was 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.