Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
GR-AB(2004)CB3 23 March 2004
Meeting of 18 March 2004
The Rapporteur Group on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (GR-AB) met on 18 March 2004, with Ambassador Zoltan Taubner, Permanent Representative of Hungary, in the chair. The Group considered the following items in the light of the draft annotated agenda (document GR-AB(2004)4).
1. Co-ordinating Committee on Remuneration (CCR) – Regulations concerning the Co-ordination system – 154th report – Report by the CCR Chairman
(CM(2004)14 and GR-AB(2004)CB2)
1.1. The Chair recalled that the Group had undertaken a preliminary examination of this question at its last meeting (24 February 2004). It was noted that none of the other co-ordinated organisations had yet formally approved the new regulations.
1.2. During the discussion, one delegation made the following proposals:
- that paragraphs 11 and 12 of the report by the CCR Chairman be deleted;
- to amend Article 2.b of the new regulations. It suggested that the Chair of the CCR be rotated on a yearly basis according to objective criteria instead of being elected for a three mandate; and
- include draft decisions to reflect:
- that the final authority to issue recommendations lay with the member states of the Co-ordinating committee; and
- the need to revise the remuneration adjustment method to introduce flexibility and reduce automaticity. It was generally felt that a revised method should more closely reflect the real trends in salaries in national civil services and include performance related criteria as well as cost of living criteria.
1.3. The text of this delegation - as distributed during the meeting - is included in appendix 1.
1.4. With regard to the proposal to modify certain paragraphs of the report by the CCR Chairman, the Chair noted that the report was issued under the responsibility of the CCR Chairman and as such the Group could not take a decision on that aspect. With regard to the new Regulations, the Chair noted that they would have to be adopted in identical terms by the six co-ordinated organisations. One delegation re-iterated its reserves concerning the new regulations. This delegation believed the new regulations would change the nature of the co-ordination system and could worsen the budgetary situation of this Organisation.
1.5. Summing up the discussion, the Chair noted that:
- there appeared to be majority support for the approval of the new regulations;
- an overwhelming majority of delegations supported the proposal to send a clear message to the CCR – in the form of draft decisions - stressing the final authority of member states to make recommendations and the need to revise the remuneration adjustment method.
1.6. On this basis, the Chair would propose draft decisions for consideration by the Group at its next meeting. This would appear in the draft annotated agenda for that meeting.
2. Co-ordinating Committee on Remuneration (CCR) - Co-ordination: 2003 Activity report
Report by the Chairman, Mr. David Brighty
2.1. Introducing this item the Chair referred to the information in the draft annotated agenda and invited comments from delegations on the 2003 activity report by the CCR Chairman (document CM(2004)39). One delegation stated that paragraph 9 of the report on education allowances was not very clear. This delegation – supported by one other – also underlined that, in its opinion, paragraph 11 on the reform of co-ordination did not faithfully reflect the situation within the CCR.
2.2. Summing up the discussion, the Chair, taking due note of the above comments, concluded that the Group could recommend the draft decision as set out in paragraph 2.2 of the draft annotated agenda.
3. Co-ordinating Committee on Remuneration (CCR) - Annual adjustment of remuneration of the Staff of the Co-ordinated Organisations at 1st January 2004 – 152nd Report
(CM(2004)3, Addendum and Corrigendum, GR-AB(2004)3 and GR-AB(2004)CB2)
3.1. Introducing this item, the Chair recalled that the Group had undertaken a preliminary examination of this item at its last meeting (24 February 2004). He further recalled that the Secretary General's proposals for the 2004 salary adjustment were set out in document GR-AB(2004)3. In application of the salary adjustment method the CCR has recommended an increase of 3.2% for staff based in France. The 2004 budgetary provisions - based on an increase of 2.5% - would allow at this stage for the CCR recommendation to be put into effect from 16 March 2004. In this context and for reasons of administrative simplicity, the Secretary General had proposed that the recommended increase be given effect on 1 April 2004 and the question of awarding an increase at a date earlier than 1 April be considered at a later stage on the basis of the 2004 budgetary situation during or after the close of the 2004 financial year.
3.2. In the ensuing debate the following points were made:
- delegations favoured the proposal made by one delegation that the recommended salary adjustment be given effect from 16 March 2004 since budget provisions would allow for this;
- one delegation suggested that the salary scales be approved also from the same date;
- the affordability of granting the salary adjustment at a date between 1 January and 15 March 2004 should not be at the detriment of the priorities agreed by the Deputies (an amendment to the draft decisions to this effect had been proposed at the last meeting – c.f. draft annotated agenda, paragraph 3.5) ;
3.3. Furthermore, in response to a question by one delegation, the Secretary General informed the
GR-AB that staff costs accounted for approximately 54% of the Organisation's budget. It was also noted that staff members would be fully informed of the Deputies' decisions.
3.4. Summing up, the Chair noted that a number of delegations reserved their position subject to the receipt of formal instructions. He proposed to resume consideration of this item at the GR-AB's next meeting, in light of the comments made by delegations, with a view to reaching a conclusion.
4. Group of Specialists on Gender Budgeting
(CM(2004)7 - Appendix II and CM/Del/Dec(2004)873/4.1)
4.1. Introducing this item, the Chair referred to the Deputies decision (CM/Del/Dec(2004)873/4.1) inviting the Rapporteur on Equality between Women and Men and the GR-AB to consider the terms of reference for a group of specialists on gender budgeting as recommended by the CDEG (document CM(2004)7 – Appendix II).
4.2. The Rapporteur on Equality between Women and Men informed the Group that he had issued his report to the Deputies (document RAP-EG(2004)2) – a copy of which had been distributed during this meeting – and he briefly gave an oral presentation of his conclusions. He informed the GR-AB that, at the close of an informal meeting on 8 March 2004, delegations agreed on revised draft terms of reference of the group of specialists, as appended to his report, and decided to submit the draft to the Ministers' Deputies for adoption. He also recalled that this activity was included in the programme of activities for 2004 which was adopted by the Deputies at their 862nd meeting on 27 November 2003 and as such its financing was assured.
4.3. Summing up the discussion, the Chair noted that the Group did not appear to have any objection from a budgetary point of view and he invited those delegations which had made comments during this debate on the draft terms of reference to clarify these with the Rapporteur on Equality between Women and Men.
5. Oral report by the Representative of the Committee of Ministers to the Restaurant Committee
5.1. The Group took note of the oral report by the Representative of the Committee of Ministers to the Restaurant Committee (an open sub-group of the Health and Safety Committee) following a recent meeting of this Committee.
6. Any other business
6.1. The Chair recalled that the Deputies, at their 876th meeting (17 March 2004), had invited the GR-AB “to continue the discussion on the question of consultant experts and to present draft decisions on this matter at their 877th meeting (24 March 2004)”. The Chair also referred to a letter he had received from the Turkish delegation on this matter (see Appendix 2).
6.2. At the Chair's request the Director General for Legal Affairs gave the Group a brief presentation on the role of the Data Protection Commissioner of the Council of Europe and the regulations to which she referred in the opinion appended to the Secretary General's Communication of 17 March 2004. The text of his intervention is appended (Appendix 3).
6.3. In the debate that ensued, there was a clear wish expressed by delegations for the information requested to be made available to the Committee of Ministers. It was generally felt that as the decisional body of this Organisation, the Committee of Ministers should be able to obtain such information concerning the administration of the Organisation. Delegations further stressed that the Committee of Ministers was responsible for adopting the budgets of this Organisation. In this context, delegations underlined the internal use of any such document. The discussions of the Committee of Ministers were held in private and the information would not be made public and so giving information to the Committee of Ministers does not mean “publication”. The information would be treated as confidential. Some delegations also stated that they could understand receiving partial information in certain circumstances – for example for questions of security.
6.4. Delegations noted that a certain confusion could have arisen due to the language used by the Secretariat in its first e-mail to the Data Protection Commissioner which spoke of making public certain information concerning consultants. The Secretariat pointed out that this was clarified in a second e-mail to the Data Protection Commissioner informing her that the information would be for communication to the Committee of Ministers.
6.5. Some delegations informed the Group that they had sought the opinion of their national experts who, after a preliminary examination, thought that the information requested could – under certain circumstances – be distributed to the Committee of Ministers and that there was room for further analysis.
6.6. Summing up the debate, the Chair noted that delegations had clearly expressed their wish to receive the information requested. He also noted that there were still some questions marks concerning the legal situation which merited further clarification. On this basis, he proposed the following draft decision, which was agreed:
“The Deputies invited the Secretary General, in the context of the budgetary management of the Organisation, to provide all information requested in relation to external consultants (identity, nationality, fees, nature of service, subject of the consultation, budget source) to the Committee of Ministers in accordance with the relevant regulations not later than 31 March 2004.”
6.7. He pointed out that, in this context, the Secretary General would be able to further clarify the situation and either provide the information requested or provide partial information together with a sound legal argument why not all the information could be given. On this basis, the debate could then be continued.
6.8. Following a short exchange, the Chair proposed to include an item on interpretation on the agenda of one of the GR-AB's forthcoming meetings.
6.9. The Group was informed that the electronic version of the Staff Regulations would be made accessible through a specific link on the Committee of Ministers' web-site by the end of March 2004.
7.1. Friday, 23 April 2004, at 10 a.m.
Item 1 – Co-ordinating Committee on Remuneration (CCR) – Regulations concerning the Co-ordination system – 154th report – Report by the CCR Chairman
Italian proposals (translation)
Italy is not intending for the moment to propose to the Committee of Ministers that the Council of Europe leave the Co-ordination System and has no objection to approving the new Regulations proposed by the Secretary Generals and the majority of the CCR. We would, however, like to submit the following proposals:
154th Report by the CCR Chairman
Paragraphs 11 and 12: delete both paragraphs. This subject is not mentioned in the draft Regulations, and the CCR Chairman cannot express any particular position in his report, not even an ostensibly interpretative one.
Amendments to the draft Regulations
Article 2 (b): In order to guarantee full participation by the Delegates on an equal footing, the CCR Chairman and Vice-Chairman must not be elected but appointed for a one-year mandate on the basis of objective criteria (geography, alphabetical order or other).
Proposals to be inserted into the draft decision by the Committee of Ministers
- The Committee of Ministers reaffirms that the system implemented by the Co-ordinated Organisations must remain centred on the CCR, which must retain the power to make decisions and proposals. This power must be attributed neither to the CRSG nor to any other bodies, but must remain with the national Delegates. Reports by the CCR Chairman have neither standard-setting nor interpretative status.
- The Committee of Ministers invites the CCR to revise urgently the methods for calculating remuneration with a view to establishing the flexibility recommended by the Committee of Ministers at its 818th meeting and cutting back on automatic adjustment mechanisms. The proposals should be tied to developments in national wage policies, where the trend is toward eliminating such automatic adjustment mechanisms. In particular, salaries should be divided into one section indexed to local costs of living and another based on the results obtained by members of staff.
Item 6 – Any other business
Text of the letter, dated 10 March 2004, from Ambassador Numan HAZAR, Permanent Representative of Turkey to Ambassador Zoltan Taubner, Chairman of the Deputies' Rapporteur Group on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
The GR-AB has been considering the item of the "consultants" for a year now and there has been intense discussions on the issue. However a great number of delegations including ours have still not received the necessary information, which was requested from the Secretariat.
My Government is of the opinion that there is a tendency to designate more and more experts and consultants for specific topics on a variety of issues. During my tenure as the Chairman of GR-AB, I witnessed that this impression of my authorities was shared and similar views were expressed by a large number of delegations.
My delegation is of the opinion that, the recourse to outside expertise should remain the exception rather than the rule and it should be confined to cases where neither the members of the Secretariat nor the relevant Committee members can offer required specific expertise.
In this respect, my delegation welcomes the proposal and the initiative by the Secretariat to update the existing framework and procedures of appointing experts and consultants from outside Council of Europe, and we hope to receive comprehensive information on that purpose as well as the procedures and financial implications of commisioning and reforming the existing framework.
The principle of transparency should be the key aspect of the reform process and if needed delegations should be allowed to have access to information, such as:
- Who was commissioned?
- What was the reason behind commissioning an outside expert?
- What are the principles or guidelines for selecting or appointing experts/consultants?
- How much money is paid?
I would like to stress that some concerns on the commissioning of experts/consultants were also mentioned by the External Auditors and the Budget Committee.
Please accept Mr. Chairman, the assurances of my high consideration.
Signed: Ambassador Numan HazarAppendix 3: Item 6 – Any other business – Consultants
Statement by Mr De Vel, Director General of Legal Affairs
I should like to remind you that, at your 425th meeting on 13 April 1989, the Deputies approved the adoption by the Secretary General of a regulation outlining a data protection system for personal data files in the Council of Europe. The regulation included an appendix establishing the position of Data Protection Commissioner and setting out the Commissioner's terms of reference.
I would add that the regulation was, of course, modelled on the European Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, which is one of the Council of Europe's key legal instruments and very directly concerns the protection of human rights. Moreover, the convention draws on the provisions of the Human Rights Convention with regard to respect for private and family life, and takes account of the case-law of the Court. I would also point out that our Data Protection Convention was copied almost word for word in a European Union directive (95/46 EC). So we are right to talk about European standards. I would also stress that, in a difficult economic environment, both the European Union and the Council of Europe are trying hard to prevent their standards being eroded.
Data protection is, indeed, a sensitive issue. Disclosing names can pose problems if you think, for instance, of areas where I am active such as combating organised crime and terrorism. There is no point in going into the details, but disclosing names can pose problems.
I would also like to point out that, under the appendix to the above-mentioned regulation of 13 April 1989, the Data Protection Commissioner is elected by the Consultative Committee established under Article 18 of the Data Protection Convention, on the basis of his or her genuine independence as well as experience and knowledge of the problems connected with data protection. I can assure you that, to date, we have found leading figures for the position who have performed the relevant duties to the satisfaction of all concerned.
To come back to the regulation itself, to which Data Protection Commissioner Kotschy referred in the opinion she submitted to the Director General of Administration on 24 October 2003 and which was appended to the Secretary General's communication of 17 March 2004, I would just quote the relevant articles.
The collection, storage and use of personal data shall only take place for the performance of the necessary internal administrative tasks of the Organisation or for the discharge of the functions envisaged in the Statute.
1. Personal data shall be collected, stored and used fairly and lawfully with the knowledge of the person concerned.
2. The collection, storage and use of personal data, including their communication to third parties, for purposes other than those stated in Article 2, may only take place with the express and written consent of the person concerned or in accordance with safeguards laid down in regulations already existing within the Organisation or to be adopted notably pursuant to Article 6 (b) and (c) of the Appendix to this Regulation.”
The Commissioner referred to this article and said that insufficient justification had been provided for the request for the communication of certain data.
Apart from the sensitive nature of the communication of personal data, I would like to draw your attention to the risks facing us. If we communicate the information in question, there is a risk of legal action being taken against the Council of Europe.
Firstly, there is a risk of cases being brought in national courts. Of course, we could cite the privileges and immunities, but in this area I would have some difficulty with that and I believe that you yourselves would be somewhat reluctant to invoke the privileges and immunities. Moreover, the Administrative Tribunal of the Council of Europe has already referred in its judgments to the Human Rights Convention and the Court's case-law on access to courts.
Obviously, provision could be made for future correspondence or contracts relating to the appointment of consultants to indicate that certain data could be passed on to the Committee of Ministers. In the meantime, I would refer to the Commissioner's opinion. Indeed, you might wish to ask her to present her opinion to you herself.