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

GR-SOC(2007)CB8 26 November 20071
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Synopsis
Meeting of 20 November 2007

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1. The Rapporteur Group for Social and Health Questions (GR-SOC), chaired by Ambassador Yevhen Perelygin, Permanent Representative of Ukraine, considered the following items in the light of the notes on the agenda (document GR-SOC(2007)18).

1. Report of the High-level Task Force on Social Cohesion (TFSC) – Exchange of views with Mrs Mary Daly, Chair and other members of the TFSC

2. The Chair welcomed Professor Mary DALY (Ireland), the Chair of the High-level Task Force on Social Cohesion as well as other members of the Task Force: Mr Aurelio FERNANDEZ LOPEZ (Spain), Dr Sunay Ferai KEÇECI (Turkey), Mr Michel LAROQUE (France), Mr Jørgen SØNDERGǺRD (Denmark, Vice Chairman), Dr Peter TATÁR (Slovak Republic), to the meeting with the exception of Dr Werner TEGTMEIER (Germany) and Ms Tatyana YARIGUINA (Russian Federation) who were unable to attend.

3. He recalled that the High-level Task Force in the 21st Century was created in autumn 2005 as part of the follow-up to the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government, and entrusted with a review of the Council of Europe’s Strategy for Social Cohesion by the preparation of a report and recommendations on promoting social cohesion in Europe. Taking account of the differing concepts of social cohesion found in different countries, the Task Force was invited to propose innovative and practical ways in which social cohesion could be promoted within the changed European and world environment of the 21st century.

4. Mrs Daly briefly presented the work of the Task Force. She recalled that their main objectives had been to enquire into the continued relevance of the social cohesion concept today, and for the future, in the light of the many and diverse changes affecting modern societies. The Task Force, having affirmed the relevance of social cohesion, had then sought how best to bring concrete substance to the concept, which policy makers could use to advance in this field. Mrs Daly also highlighted the importance given by the group to produce a vision which could apply to all 47 member states, in their diversity, in the long term.

5. Mrs Daly informed the GR-SOC that in producing the report, the group had first analysed the reasons for which it was necessary to strengthen social cohesion, in particular the effects of demographic changes, of globalisation and the ensuing economic changes and the kinds of policy response that have been brought to the effects of globalisation, which, it was concluded, had not, to date, given enough attention to social construction. The report also highlighted the importance of social cohesion as a foundation for democracy and continued economic progress. The report makes a series of recommendations both to member states and to the Council of Europe. The first specific recommendation is that member states should adopt social cohesion as a specific and active policy concern.

Secondly, and mindful of the EU’s work in the field of social inclusion, the Task Force regarded the Council of Europe as the most appropriate organisation to continue to assume an active space in strengthening social cohesion in Europe, which is a valuable and central enabling factor for the organisation to achieve its core objective. Thirdly, Mrs Daly also mentioned the need for political commitment to social cohesion, which could be demonstrated through a Ministerial Conference to take place every three years where the new risks to social cohesion in the light of globalisation and other changes could be examined.

6. Fourthly, the Task Force considered that there were 4 core elements for promoting social cohesion. The first of these are social rights, some of which exist and many of which are still to be developed. The second element is the need to develop a stronger sense of social responsibility in all sectors of society (citizens, public authorities, companies, social partners, etc.). The third element is the need to improve the functioning of democracy, ensuring that different sectors of society actively participate in democratic processes. In this respect, the need to promote social dialogue and civil dialogue was highlighted. The fourth aspect mentioned was the need to promote a sense of security and confidence in the future for all sectors of society, given that their absence was often the source of many problems in social cohesion. In particular, attention should be given to intergenerational relationships, the promotion of social mobility and the integration of migrants. As a last point, Mrs Daly signalled the fact that the idea of transversality was greatly developed in the report, as it was considered that bureaucratic divisions needed to be broken down to create common platforms on such issues such as social rights, responsibility, democratic cohesion and security. This was relevant to both the Council of Europe as an organisation and at state level.

7. Finally, Mrs Daly pointed out that a programme of action had been proposed, with an indication as to which actors would be implicated in carrying out different actions. She, and the Task Force as a whole, very much hoped that concrete follow-up action would be given to the report by the Council of Europe and member states in the years to come.

8. In the discussions which ensued, delegations thanked the Task Force for an excellent, comprehensive and well written report, which provided rich material for debate regarding the future activities of the Council of Europe in the field of social cohesion. Although a preliminary discussion, a number of elements were already identified as being of particular interest such as the emphasis put on the need for coherence, mainstreaming and transversality in social cohesion activities, and in particular the importance of the revised European Social Charter in this field and the need for a strong link to be established between the monitoring and standard-setting work of the Council of Europe and policy making. It was considered that this element should also be borne in mind when discussions take place on restructuring.

9. Appreciation was also expressed for the successful attempt to identify elements with a view to defining a European model of social cohesion, given the very divergent policies in member states; in this respect the genuinely European nature of the social cohesion concept was underlined. The flexible nature of the recommendations was also considered valuable with regard to their possible implementation at national level. The clear indication of the added value of the Council of Europe was regarded as useful – the Council of Europe’s approach being one which focuses on social cohesion through social rights and democratic participation, and is complementary to other international institutions.

10. The close connection between strengthening social cohesion and promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue was also referred to, and the need to seek synergies between the two objectives and to avoid duplication. Another element mentioned was the recommendation concerning the establishment of indicators, which was considered a workable idea, although it was suggested that these would benefit from being more precise and concrete.

11. A number of delegations cited issues or approaches which were not, or not wholly, reflected in the report. For example, whilst the attention given to issues on migration was welcomed, some delegations felt that it could have been developed further, addressing questions such as the right for migrants to learn their native language, reunification policies, migrant’s votes in local elections or dual citizenship. Some delegations were concerned that some policy areas such as gender equality, disability, children and children’s rights and also social protection could have received more attention. Another delegation mentioned the need for a greater prioritisation in the identification of activities, and the desirability to consolidate partnerships and ensure coordination with other international actors.

12. Finally, the question regarding the budgetary implications of implementing the programme suggested by the Task Force was raised. In this respect, the Task Force considered that an increase in resources was not essential as it considered that a multi-disciplinary approach, together with the creation of more common joint platforms, reform in structures and perhaps redeployment in some cases would largely assist in the pursuit of the objectives outlined.

13. In conclusion, the Chair thanked Mrs Daly and the Task Force for their participation in the discussion. The Chair proposed to transmit the report to the attention of the Deputies at their 1014th meeting (12 December 2007) with a view to welcoming the report, inviting relevant rapporteur groups and steering committees to examine it thoroughly and make proposals for follow-up action, at the latest in the framework of the 2009 Programme of Activities, and lastly, to transmitting the report to other relevant bodies or institutions. Draft decisions to this effect were distributed (cf DD(2007)618). The Chair invited delegations to submit any amendments they might have, before midday on Friday, 23 November 2007.

2. European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) – Abridged report of the 19th meeting (Strasbourg, 20-21 September 2007)

    CM(2007)168

14. With the exception of one delegation, the group agreed to recommend that the Deputies take note of the report without further debate at their 1014th meeting on 12 December 2007.

3. European Health Committee (CDSP) – Draft recommendation CM/Rec(2007)… of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the inclusion of gender differences in health policy

    CM(2007)169

15. The group examined the draft Recommendation on the inclusion of gender differences in health policy. A first delegation proposed two amendments to the text, the first of which was accepted (to add the word “appropriate” between “collection of” and “sex-disaggregated data” in paragraph 4 of the recommendation, on page 2). The second proposed amendment was to replace the word “establish” in paragraph 1 of the specific measures in the appendix to the Recommendation with the words “encourage the establishment of”. The group considered that it required further reflection on this proposal. Another delegation requested that the whole of that paragraph be deleted. It was decided to postpone this item to the next meeting of the GR-SOC in January.

4. Committee on the Rehabilitation and Integration of People with Disabilities (CD-P-RR) – Abridged report of the 30th session (Strasbourg, 17-19 October 2007)

    a. Draft Resolution ResAP(2007)… “Achieving full participation through Universal Design”
    b. Draft Resolution ResAP(2007)… on the education and social inclusion of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder
    CM(2007)170

16. The group, with the exception of one delegation, agreed to recommend that the Deputies, in their composition restricted to Representatives of the States members of the Partial Agreement,2 adopt the resolutions and take note of the abridged report of the meeting without further debate at their 1014th meeting on 12 December 2007.

5. European Co-ordination Forum for the Council of Europe Disability Action Plan 2006-2015 (CAHPAH) – Revised terms of reference

    CM(2007)171

17. The group agreed to recommend that the Deputies adopt the terms of reference at their 1014th meeting on 12 December 2007.

6. “Child victims: stamping out all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse” –
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1778 (2007)

    REC_1778 (2007), CM/AS(2007)Rec1778 prov2, GR-SOC(2007)10, GR-SOC(2007)10 corr

18. The group examined a revised draft reply, prepared in the light of discussions at a previous meeting. Discussions also took place on a proposed amendment to the text (cf. DD(2007)606) during which it was highlighted that violence can take many forms, some of them (such as grooming, trafficking, violence in detention centres) particularly affecting children between the ages of 14 and 17. Other forms of violence (like bullying and violence in schools) affect younger children whilst babies are more exposed to domestic violence and trafficking for adoption. Very often it is not the age that puts children in a vulnerable position, but the kind of violence and the situation. In addition it was recalled that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to all children below the age of 18 and as a whole. In the light of the discussions, the proposed amendment was not supported and the delegation concerned expressed its readiness to approve the revised draft as set out in document CM/ASRec1778prov2, ad referendum. One other delegation then expressed its objection to the penultimate sentence in paragraph 3 of the revised draft reply, in particular to the reference to the meaningful participation of children. It was pointed out that this wording was based on that already approved by the Deputies in the programme “Building a Europe for and with Children”. The Group agreed to resume consideration of this item at its meeting in January.

7. Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field3 (cosmetics, nutrition, food packaging and flavourings): results of informal consultation meetings
GR-SOC(2007)6, GR-SOC(2007)6 add1, GR-SOC(2007)6 add2, GR-SOC(2007)16 rev, DD(2007)614

19. The group examined the draft decisions as set out in the annotated agenda which were prepared following an informal consultation meeting on 31 October 2007. The Secretariat informed the Group that the CD-P-SP during its meeting on 6 November 2007, and following a consultation by e-mail with the other experts not present at the meeting, could recommend that the work carried out on food flavourings be discontinued. Although one delegation did not support this conclusion, it was agreed to recommend that the draft budget therefore reflect only three activities; cosmetics, nutrition and food packaging. One further amendment was made to the third draft decision, with the deletion of the words “body or institution”. In conclusion, the group decided to recommend the adoption of the draft decisions, as amended.

8. The European Roma and Travellers Forum - Partnership agreement with the Council of Europe

    DD(2007)458 rev, GR-SOC(2007)14, GR-SOC(2007)CB6, GR-SOC(2007)CB7, CM/Del/Dec(2004)902/6.1, CM/Del/Dec(2004)902/6.1/Appendix8, DD(2007)582, DD(2007)607, DD(2007)612, DD(2007)613

20. The GR-SOC examined draft decisions which, the Chair recalled, had been prepared in a spirit of compromise and in the light of discussions during an informal consultation meeting which had taken place on 31 October 2007. During discussions, delegations expressed their political support for the renewal of the Partnership Agreement and the continued support and assistance of the Council of Europe and its Secretariat, to the Forum, in its various forms, as reflected in the draft decisions. In addition, in the light of various documents that had recently been circulated relating to the Forum, the majority of delegations expressed the view that whilst it was the wish of the Group that any internal problems of the Forum be resolved as rapidly as possible by the Forum, most considered that it was not the role of the Committee of Ministers to get involved in any manner, in the general functioning of the Forum.

21. On the other hand, a number of delegations considered that the expectations of the Committee of Ministers to receive confirmation, through standard auditing and reporting procedures, of the proper usage of the Council of Europe contribution to the Forum, and as provided for in the Partnership Agreement, were entirely legitimate. As these had not yet been adequately met, it was considered necessary that these concerns should also be reflected in some way in the draft decisions. To this end, a compromise agreement was reached as reflected in the draft decisions (cf CM/Del/Dec(2007)1011/6.1).

22. The Chair thanked the group for the substantial efforts that had been put into finding this compromise solution and concluded that the Group could recommend the adoption of the draft decisions at the Deputies’ 1011th meeting (21 November 2007).

9. Communication by the Director General of DG III

    DD(2007)615

23. The Director General’s communication on DG III’s main activities in recent and coming months was distributed during the meeting.

10. Other business

-

11. Date of next meeting

15 January 2008 at 3.00 pm

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.
Note 2 States concerned: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom
Note 3 States concerned: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom


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