Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
GR-SOC
Rapporteur Group for Social and Health Questions

GR-SOC(2007)CB2 2 April 20071
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Synopsis
Meeting of 27 March 2007

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1. The Rapporteur Group on Social and Health Questions (GR-SOC), chaired by Ambassador Zurab Tchiaberashvili, Permanent Representative of Georgia, discussed the following items in the light of the notes on the agenda (document GR-SOC(2007)2).

1. Communication by the Director General of DG III

2. The Director General’s written presentation of DG III’s main activities in recent months as well as future activities was distributed under the reference DD(2007)148.

2. European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) –

    a. Statement on the role and future activities of the European Committee for Social Cohesion

3. The Chair of the CDCS, Mr Jerzy Ciechanski, presented the statement (cf. CM(2007)35) which had been submitted on behalf of the CDCS Bureau in response to the message of the Committee of Ministers of 27 September 2006 requesting committees involved in intergovernmental co-operation to provide contributions for a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Warsaw Action Plan, for submission to the 117th Ministerial Session in May 2007.

4. The Chair thanked Mr Ciechanski for his informative presentation and invited the Group’s reactions. The discussions which followed focused on both the content of the statement and on the procedure which was followed in its preparation prior to its submission to the GR-SOC.

5. With regard to the actual content of the message, some delegations considered it useful to recall the specific requirements of the Committee of Ministers as outlined in its above-mentioned message: these request intergovernmental committees to report on the measures taken and the actions carried out with a view to implementing the Warsaw Action Plan, information as to how these actions pursue the core objective to preserve and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law and finally a critical evaluation of committees of their work carried out in recent years, both in terms of its relevance and its added value. In the light of these requirements, some delegations did not consider that the statement in its current form responded to the expectations of the Committee of Ministers. In particular, they considered that the links of the work of the CDCS to the fundamental objectives of the Council of Europe were not evidenced in a convincing manner, including with regard to the new challenges listed in part IV of the statement. Other concerns which were raised, referred, inter alia, to the lack of a critical element it the evaluation of its work and the need for more consideration to be given to the work of the High Level Task Force, as well as the need for a short, concise and focussed document. One delegation also mentioned the desirability of highlighting the uniqueness of the committee in Europe in the field of social cohesion and its added value, in particular with regard to non EU member States.

6. With regard to the procedural element, some delegations raised objections to the fact that the text had not been examined nor discussed by the CDCS in a plenary meeting. They considered that it was vital for all members of a Steering Committee to have the opportunity to discuss and provide input and criticism on an important text of this nature. A number of delegations very clearly expressed their position that as the text had not benefited from such a discussion, they would not be able to consider recommending its transmission to the Committee of Ministers.

7. In response to the discussions, the Chair of the CDCS acknowledged the need to bear in mind in the future the work being carried out by the high level task force and informed the Group that the CDCS was fully aware of the possible need to adjust its work plan accordingly in the light of the final report of the task force which should be available by the end of the year. The list of new challenges as listed in Part IV would in particular be subject to revision in this context.

8. In the light of the discussions, the Chair concluded that the statement in question should be referred to the upcoming plenary meeting of the CDCS for examination in the light of the observations made during the present meeting. The text could then be resubmitted to the GR-SOC, possibly to a special meeting of the group to be arranged in April.

    b. Guidelines on access to housing for vulnerable groups

9. The Chair invited the Group to examine the draft Guidelines on access to housing for vulnerable groups (cf. CM(2007)35), as approved by the CDCS at its 17th meeting (Strasbourg, 7-8 November 2006). Two delegations having expressed possible reservations on this text, it was decided to postpone the item to the next meeting of the group. The Chair invited the delegations to submit their written observations so that the CDCS could consider them at its next meeting and report back to the group.

    c. Draft terms of reference of the Committee of Experts on empowerment of the most deprived people (CS-MDP)
    d. Draft terms of reference of the Committee of Experts on improving the situation of low-income workers (CS-LIW)
    e. Draft terms of reference of the Committee of Experts on family policy (CS-FP)
    CM(2007)35 and CM(2007)35 add

10. The GR-SOC was invited to examine the above mentioned draft terms of reference, as they appear in document CM(2007)35. With regard to the terms of reference of the first two committees, the CS-MDP and the CS-LIW, a number of delegations expressed the wish that consideration be given by the CDCS to the feasibility of merging the two to form one single committee, possibly composed of scientific experts, and report back to the GR-SOC. One delegation also underlined the need for a clear definition of the terms used for the sectors of society targeted in these two sets of terms of reference, and the need to ensure that the activities to be carried out are clearly linked to the projects as outlined in the Programme of Activities and to the core values of the Council of Europe. Two other delegations raised the question as to whether the specific situation of children would be included in the mandate of the CS-MDP. Requests were also made for a more precise reference to the revised European Social Charter under paragraph 4 of the CS-MDP terms of reference given its specific relevance on this issue, for the preamble of the terms of reference to refer to the replies of the Committee of Ministers to Assembly recommendations and for the source of the terms of reference to be clarified.

11. With regard to the draft terms of reference of the CS-FP, one delegation considered that the link with the project that it was being tasked to carry out, as outlined in the Programme of Activities, was not sufficiently clear, for example as regards the involvement of parents and children. Delegations also requested that, in the light of its previous discussions, that the reference “ensure inter-faith and intercultural dialogue in its field of activity as well as co-operation with the media” be deleted from the terms of reference.

12. The Chair also drew the Group’s attention to the proposal submitted by the Russian Federation, as distributed under the reference DD(2007)149, that Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) be added to the intergovernmental organisations listed under 5.C.ii. in the terms of reference, as well as in all terms of reference of other Council of Europe committees. In this respect the Secretariat recalled that discussions are currently underway between the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the Mr Vladimir Rushailo, the Executive Secretary of the CIS and that it would be premature to consider this proposal from the Russian Federation until those discussions have been concluded.

13. In conclusion, Chair noted that the Group considered that the terms of reference should be referred back to the plenary meeting of the CDCS for further consideration in the light of the issues raised during its discussions. This would allow the terms of reference and the statement to be finalised by the CDCS to be part of a coherent package from the CDCS. They would be reconsidered by the GR-SOC, possibly at a special meeting in April. This was agreed.

3. European Health Committee (CDSP) –

    a. Statement on the role and future activities of the European Health Committee
    CM(2007)36 add
    b. Draft terms of reference of the European Health Committee
    CM(2007)36

14. Dr José Perez Lazaro, Vice-Chair of the European Health Committee, presented the above mentioned statement which had been submitted to the Group on behalf of the CDSP Bureau in response to the message of the Committee of Ministers of 27 September 2006 mentioned above.

15. During the discussions that ensued, some delegations expressed their appreciation of the role of the CDSP and highlighted the relevance and importance of its work in the field of health. However, a number of delegations voiced similar concerns as those raised during the discussions on the statement from the CDCS, particularly with regard to the need for the CDSP to be more explicit as to its contribution to the implementation of the Warsaw Action Plan and the procedural requirement that the whole of the Steering Committee have the opportunity to comment on and contribute to the statement under consideration, which had not been the case.

16. With regard to the draft terms of reference (cf. CM(2007)36) as submitted to the Group, support was voiced from delegations. However, a number of delegations referred to paragraph 4.ii of the terms of reference, expressing concern as to possible overlap with the mandate of the CDBI and requesting that the wording be revised to exclude any such risk, drawing on the wording used in the Warsaw Action Plan. One delegation asked that the paragraph be deleted but stated that it did not exclude the possibility of agreeing to a compromise text. The question of budgetary and human resources was also raised, also in view of assessing whether the terms of reference were too ambitious in the light of resources available, and one delegate requested that the financial information provided, be more detailed and include interpretation and translation costs. Finally, in referring to some of the wording used in the terms of reference, one delegation recalled that steering committees are not tasked to work in the light of the texts adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly but rather in accordance with the responses provided by the Committee of Ministers to those texts.

17. In response to the discussions the Vice-Chair informed the Group that, in his opinion, the statement in question reflected the conclusions that had resulted from brain-storming sessions carried out during the recent plenary meetings. He acknowledged the concerns raised with regard to paragraph 4.ii. and his readiness to find an alternative wording. The Secretariat recalled that there was now only one annual plenary meeting of the CDSP which understandably resulted in practical difficulties when a text demanded discussion by the committee as a whole.

18. The Group agreed, after appropriate consultations on the draft terms of reference to be revised in the light of discussions, they could be submitted to the Ministers’ Deputies at their 993rd meeting on 11 April. It was agreed to refer the statement on the role and future activities of the CDSP to the steering committee for discussion at its next plenary meeting.

4. Public Health Committee (Partial Agreement) (CD-P-SP)2

    a. Abridged Report of the 78th session (Strasbourg, 23 November 2006)
    b. Draft Resolution ResAP(2007)… on the legal classification of medicines as regards their supply (superseding Resolution AP(2000)1 on the classification of medicines which are obtainable only on medical prescription)
    CM(2007)32

19. The Chair noted that in the absence of reservations as to the substance, the item could be transmitted to the Deputies for adoption at their 993rd meeting on 11 April. One delegation asked that information be provided for the next GR-SOC meeting on the partial agreement’s budgetary situation and its human resources, giving the split between the two sectors of activities. One delegation reiterated its concerns as regards decision making in partial agreements.

5. Mass arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s Southern shores - Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1767 (2006)

    REC_1767 (2006), CM/AS(2007)Rec1767 prov of …

Item postponed.

6. Other business

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7. Date of next meeting

[Tuesday, 24 April 2007 at 3 p.m.]
Wednesday, 30 May 2007 at 10 a.m.

Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.

2 States concerned: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.



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