Ministers' Deputies/Thematic co-ordinators
Thematic co-ordinator TC-ID1
TC-ID(2008)CB1 6 February 20082
Meeting of 31 January 2008
1. The agenda (SecCM/Out(2008)36) of the meeting convened by the Thematic Co-ordinator TC-ID was adopted. The INGO Conference is represented by Mr Nissim, Chair of the Human Rights Grouping and by Mr Mouchoux, Chair of the Education and Culture Grouping who the T-ID welcomed.
1. Split of participants by category and choice of participants for the “2008 Exchange”
CM(2007)77 final, TC-ID(2008)1, TC-ID(2008)2, TC-ID(2008) 2 add., DD(2008)40 and DD(2008)44
2. The Thematic Co-ordinator TC-ID invited delegations to refer to document TC-ID(2008)2 presenting a proposal for a breakdown of participants in the Exchange by category in line with the number of participants decided on in document CM(2007)77 final, which had been endorsed at the Committee of Ministers’ 117th Session in May 2007. The breakdown was intended to ensure appropriate representation of the different religious communities and other civil society bodies, within the set limits. It would also provide for appropriate representation within the NGOs/INGOs of atheist and humanist convictions, which, as components of civil society, were essential partners in the dialogue.
3. Furthermore, he drew attention to the suggestions submitted by one delegation (document DD(2008)40) to the effect that the three main religious persuasions should be represented by equal numbers of participants. On this subject the TC-ID pointed out that he considered it important to adhere to the number of participants and the breakdown of religious and other components of civil society as endorsed at the 117th ministerial session. He explained that the breakdown proposed had been formulated bearing in mind the fact that Christian religions represented the great majority of European citizens. In order to avoid jeopardising the delicate balance of the exercise and nevertheless to take account of the concerns expressed by this delegation, he proposed adopting a broader approach and ensuring wider Muslim and Jewish participation among the INGO or NGO representatives and among the experts. Further discussions could be held on the number and breakdown of participants for a possible “2009 Exchange” as part of the evaluation of the 2008 Exchange, notably in the light of the alternative suggestion submitted by the said delegation.
4. Where the choice of participants was concerned, the TC-ID welcomed the wealth and quality of the nominations received. He had personally made several contacts and conducted informal consultations in order to identify potential candidates. All the nominations were listed in documents TC-ID(2008)2 and Addendum, complemented with document DD(2008)44. In view of the tight schedule for preparing the Exchange, there might not be time for a detailed individual discussion for each category of participant. The Thematic Co-ordinator therefore proposed, at least for the representatives of religious communities and the INGOs, that the delegations mandate him to draw up the list of participants in the Exchange. In the case of the experts, on the other hand, the profile of each candidate nominated could be considered on the basis of the curricula submitted, if the delegations so wished.
5. All the delegations thanked the TC-ID for all his efforts and the work he had put in. The vast majority agreed with his approach, in that they did not wish to challenge either the number of persons invited or the agreed breakdown of religions, NGOs and experts. Moreover, these delegations approved the detailed breakdown of the different religions proposed by the TC-ID, which they considered realistic in the light of European religious history and tradition. Introducing a statistical element into the choice of breakdown of religions was rejected as unlikely to meet the concern expressed in document DD(2008)40. Several speakers stressed that it was the quality of the representatives that would make the difference, not their number.
6. Some delegations expressed their understanding vis-à-vis the alternative breakdown proposed, and in that concept expressed their interest in the TC-ID’s compromise solution of reinforcing the Muslim and Jewish contingent in the NGOs and experts. They considered that any possible future exercise should be preceded by detailed discussion of the breakdown, and that a less traditionalist approach could then be chosen.
7. The representative of the delegation that had proposed the alternative breakdown pointed out that his authorities were not attempting to challenge the number of participants or the breakdown by category. As a representative of a secular State he said that his aim was not to favour one religion over another but on the contrary to guarantee a perfectly balanced representation of the three major religious movements invited to the “Exchange”. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, comprised numerous tendencies which might be represented. The exercise was geared to promoting the European values, intercultural dialogue and mutual knowledge and understanding. He did not consider the overall approach proposed by the TC-ID as an acceptable solution, and could not, upon instrucctions by his authorities, give his agreement to the detailed breakdown of the different religions set out in document TC-ID(2008)2.
8. The TC-ID thanked the delegations for their broad support and the virtually unanimous approval of his proposals. He took careful note of the divergent position of one delegation, which he would duly mention when he reported to the Deputies. Nevertheless, in view of the very broad support for the detailed breakdown of participants by category as set out in document TC-ID(2008)2, he would propose the latter to the Deputies for adoption at their 1017th meeting (6 February 2008).
9. Where the choice of participants was concerned, the delegations noted the difficulty of this exercise. They invited the TC-ID to complete this difficult task of choosing all the participants using the basic criteria set out in document CM(2007)77 final (attachment to the Council of Europe’s fundamental values, openness to dialogue and expertise in the selected theme), while bearing in mind the fundamental objectives of the Exchange. The delegations raised a number of additional points to be taken into account by the TC-ID, namely geographical and gender balance, appropriate representation of the different approaches within the INGOs, prioritising expertise rather than religious hierarchy and, lastly, the representativity of participants and their capacity for sharing their experience with a network or community.
10. The TC-ID thanked the delegations for the trust they had placed in him and the leeway they had granted him. He would carry out this task, endeavouring to take account of all the views expressed. He would submit this recommendation to the Deputies at their 1017th meeting (6 February 2008) so that the latter could assign him the formal terms of reference for effecting the final selection of participants in the three categories, in accordance with the breakdown decided on and with a view to enabling the Chairman of the Deputies to send out formal invitations by mid-February.
2. Draft information document and draft programme
TC-ID(2008)1 and TC-ID(2008)3
11. The delegations approved the structure and content of the draft information document (document TC-ID(2008)1), which was to help participants to prepare more effectively for the Exchange. After discussions, they decided to amend paragraphs 5 and 19 to bring them more into line with the wording of document CM(2007)77 final, and also paragraph 13 in order to strengthen the concept of promoting and protecting human rights. Furthermore, at the suggestion of one delegation, it was decided to prepare a reference document setting out the international standards and Council of Europe acquis in fields connected to the discussion theme. The information document would refer to this latter document.
12. The delegations considered the draft programme very complete but perhaps a little too wide-ranging for a meeting lasting only one day. A proposal to set up discussion groups on the various sub-themes was rejected in favour of prolonging the meeting time and refocusing the draft programme by devoting the first session to the principles of the educational mission and to relations between schools, the State and the religions, illustrated with examples of best practice, and centring the second session on the challenges and prospects of teaching about religions and other convictions. The Secretariat was instructed to revise the draft programme accordingly.
13. In conclusion the TC-ID noted that the delegations agreed to the draft information document and programme as amended in the light of the views expressed. He would therefore present these revised documents for approval at their 1017th meeting (6 February 2008).
3. Date of the next meeting
14. The next meeting of the TC-ID devoted to examining the criteria for evaluation would take place at
3 pm on Tuesday 19 February 2008. The TC-ID invited delegations to submit their written proposals to him in time for the meeting.
Note 1 CM/Del/Dec(2007)998/1.7 – “Thematic Co-ordinator (TC-ID) to prepare, in close co-operation with the GR-C, the “Council of Europe annual exchanges on the religious dimension for intercultural dialogue” to take place in spring 2008 on an experimental basis”.
Note 2 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.