Ministers' Deputies/ Working Parties
GT-REF.INST
Working Party on Institutional Reforms

GT-REF.INST(2006)CB4 26 September 20061
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Synopsis
Meeting of 20 September 2006

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The Working Party on Institutional Reforms (GT-REF.INST), chaired by Ambassador Joseph, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, examined the following items in the light of agenda GT-REF.INST(2006)OJ4.

1. Follow-up to the Third Summit (Warsaw, 16-17 May 2005) – Implementation of the Action Plan, Chapter V

Rationalisation of intergovernmental structures and their functioning
(GT-REF.INST(2006)5 rev and GT-REF.INST(2006)7)

The Chair apologised for the late distribution of the document containing his draft conclusions which was to be the basis of today’s discussion. He explained that the document was the fruit of intensive informal consultations undertaken in the week of 11-15 September 2006, organised around 4 half-day sessions devoted to the intergovernmental committees of Directorates General I to IV, as set out in part I of document GT-REF.INST(2006)5 revised. These sessions had provided an opportunity for delegations to put their questions directly to the secretariat on the functioning, activities, frequency, membership etc, of the various committees and subsidiary groups, as well as informal discussion on suggestions and ideas for rationalisation. Document GT-REF.INST(2006)7 attempted to present a succinct summary of the outcome of the discussions.

The Chair went through the document to explain the reasoning behind each paragraph. He then opened the floor for general remarks from delegations on the draft conclusions as a whole. In the ensuing exchange of views the main observations may be summarised as follows:

- delegations’ initial reactions to the Chair’s draft conclusions were very positive and supportive of the suggested procedure and general measures contained in the document. A number of delegations emphasised that the intergovernmental sector was at the heart of the Council of Europe and that it was important not to look at this exercise merely from a budgetary angle but from the perspective of ensuring the most efficient way of achieving the goals set at the Third Summit in Warsaw;

- delegations were encouraged by the apparent reduction in the number of committees in the draft 2007 Programme of Activities and felt that this was already a significant step;

- many speakers emphasised the importance of the link between the activities of committees and the core objective of the organisation as well as their added value. It was suggested that the paragraph [7] dealing with these aspects could perhaps be developed into a check list or linked to the criteria for projects document currently under discussion. The speakers also noted that the question of evaluation would need to be broached at a later stage;

- one delegation felt that whilst the draft conclusions were a good starting point they could have gone even further and referred the group to its “non-paper” on the reform of the structure of working committees2. In particular it noted that one of its ideas had not found a reflection in the draft conclusions: the terms of reference should indicate their financial implications and source of financing;

- it was emphasised that the specific suggestions listed under paragraph 15 were ideas put forward during the informal consultations and were not recommendations from the GT-REF.INST. The recommendation of the GT-REF.INST was that the competent Rapporteur Groups be invited to consider them and, if appropriate, make recommendations to the Deputies in the framework of the future programmes of activities;

- in response to a request for statistics on the volume and cost of meetings, the Chair referred to the statistics contained in documents distributed in May 2006 under reference DD(2006)241 and Addendum in the framework of the work of the thematic coordinator on the examination of the system of reimbursement of travel and subsistence allowances of the government experts with a view to reducing expenditure (TC-INDEMN);

- it was suggested that better coordination of experts at a national level could be useful to ensure better articulation between the priorities of the Council of Europe and the work carried out in the committees; other delegations further emphasised the importance of establishing contacts between the Chairs of steering committees and the competent Rapporteur groups;

- it was suggested that it would be useful if the Committee of Ministers had prior knowledge of the draft texts to be adopted by the Conferences of Specialised Ministers;

- one delegation remarked that any reduction in the number of committees should not automatically lead to an increase in the recourse to external consultants;

Closing the floor for general comments the Chair thanked delegations for a very interesting tour de table. He noted that, whilst some delegations would have liked to go even further, on the whole there was agreement with his draft conclusions. He then invited delegations to make specific proposals on the drafting of the conclusions’ document. The main points may be summarised as follows:

Paragraphs 6-9 (suggested procedure)
- deletion of the last sentence of paragraph 6;
- consideration given to elaboration of a check-list in relation to paragraph 7;
- update paragraph 9 to take into account the [proposed] adoption of the message of the Committee of Ministers to intergovernmental committees;3

Paragraphs 10-14 (general measures)

- add a requirement to indicate financial implications of adopting terms of reference;

- deletion of paragraph 12 or placing in [ ] pending outcome of discussions currently underway in the GR-AB;

- reword the end of paragraph 13 to stress efficiency rather than participation, possibly by replacing the end of the sentence by a new sentence: “The meetings should be result oriented”;

Paragraph 15 (specific measures)

- consideration should be given to the use of groups of specialists with a view to increasing cost effectiveness;

- the committees themselves could be encouraged to look at their own working methods with a view improving efficiency;

- add critical examination of Cultural Routes activities;
- use more neutral language where possible;
- one delegation noted that the specific measures did not include suggestions made to end or merge certain committees (whose terms of reference expire in 2006). The Chair informed the group that this was because there was no proposal in the draft 2007 Programme of Activities to extend their terms of reference;4

The Chair thanked delegations for their constructive input. He proposed to revise the draft document, taking into account as many as the comments as possible, with a view to presenting the revised draft to the CM-SUIVI3 at a forthcoming meeting, and then to the Deputies for adoption. This was agreed.

Timetable for the implementation of the various other items included in the roadmap (Appendix to CM(2006)70 final)

It was agreed to come back to this at the next meeting. In the absence of a precise timetable, the Chair underlined the need for setting priorities for the implementation of the measures contained in the roadmap to ensure good progress before the Ministerial Session in May 2007.

2. Other business

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3. Date of the next meeting

Tuesday 28 November at 3 p.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.
Note 2 See DD(2006)509.
Note 3 To be adopted at the Deputies’ 974th meeting (27 September 2006 – item 1.5).

4 Concerns in particular: the Criminological Scientific Council (PC-CSC), Group of Specialists on Seeking Legal Solutions to Debt Problems (CJ-S-DEBT), Group of Specialists on the Legal Status of Non-Governmental Organisations (CJ-S-ONG), Working Party on the protection of the human embryo and fœtus (CDBI-CO-GT3).



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