Ministers’ Deputies / Bureau
15 October 20091
Strasbourg, 14 October 2009
The following items were discussed by the Bureau at its meeting on 14 October 2009.
1. 1068th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies
The Bureau recommended that the 1068th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies be brought forward to start
on Tuesday 20 October 2009, at 4:30pm, due to the fact that the Secretary General will be attending the
Fifth session of the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Kyiv on Wednesday 21 October.
2. Exchange of views with the Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland
The Bureau discussed ways of improving and streamlining the relevance of the item on the Deputies'
meetings' agendas: "Communication from the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General"
(see appendix). It discussed the question with the new Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, on
15 October 2009.
3. Date of next meeting
Monday 19 October 2009, 10.00am.
Communication from the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General
1. According to Article 14 of the Rules of Procedure for the meetings of the Ministers’ Deputies, ”the Secretary General or his representative may, at any time, make a written or oral statement on any subject under discussion.”
2. Before the late 1970s there was not systematically an item on “Communication of the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General" on the agenda of the Deputies. It is only a regular feature since 1977, when it became customary for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General to make a statement at each meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (except DH meetings). This practice has survived even though the frequency of the Deputies’ meetings has evolved over the years (from 1 meeting per month before 1997 to in general 3 meetings per month today). 2 The Secretary General has, in the past, also made use of the possibility of convening informal meetings of the Deputies when circumstances warranted it.
3. The purpose of the regular agenda item is twofold: first to provide information on the Secretary General or Deputy Secretary General‘s activities, and any other matter. Secondly, to allow the Secretary General/Deputy Secretary General to seek the views of delegations or to get their reactions on questions of substance or staff matters3. The latter aspect is confirmed by the fact that the item appeared in 1977 under the title “dialogue with the Secretary General” and dealt with policy questions, which were raised either at the request of the Secretary General or of member states.
4. As to the form of the communication, this has varied according to the Secretary General. In the past it was frequent for the Secretary General to report orally to the Deputies and then distribute a synoptic written version after. Under the last Secretary General, this practice has evolved, with a written communication (from both the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General) being distributed one or two days in advance of the Deputies’ meeting. During the meeting itself, the Secretary General would limit his intervention to an oral statement on the most salient items and answering questions or reacting to comments from delegations on other items.
5. In general, the communication takes place in the normal restricted format within the Deputies, except for staff matters which take place in camera.
6. Bearing in mind that the aim of the communication is both to provide information on the Secretary General’s activities and to provide him an opportunity to seek the views of delegations on matters of political importance, it would be useful to distinguish clearly between the two. It is therefore proposed:
- that the communication be divided into two parts:
- a short written communication to inform of the main official visits and activities since the last communication, together with the list of future visits. This should be distributed one or two days in advance of the Deputies’ meeting and links to speeches and relevant documents included as appropriate. This should not give rise to discussion, unless a delegation specifically requests. However, protocol matters, such as expressions of gratitude for official visits or attendance at various events, should not be raised during the meeting; if necessary they could be dealt with in a letter;
- an oral communication for the Secretary General to broach matters of particular political relevance or staff matters to allow him to get reactions from delegations. Depending on the aspects the Secretary General wishes to raise, discussions could be held in camera, as appropriate;
- to revert to the title “Dialogue with the Secretary General” to underline what is expected of the exercise;
7. The Secretary General should inform the Chair in advance at which Deputies’ meetings he will be present.
8. Mutatis mutandis the above proposals would apply to the Deputy Secretary General.
At the meeting between the Secretary General and the Bureau on 15 October 2009, the Secretary General shared the views of the Bureau on the format of the communication. He also welcomed the possibility of convening extraordinary meetings of the Deputies when circumstances warranted it.
Note 1 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.
Note 2 In March 2004, the name of the item was changed from “Communication from the Secretary General” to “Communication from the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General” although the practice was well established many years before.
Note 3 Article 25 – Procedure for appointment to grades A6 and A7 (Appendix II to the Staff Regulations: Regulations on appointments): the Secretary General shall make an appointment after an informal exchange of views with the Committee of Ministers, during which he or she shall make known his or her intentions and the reasons for his or her choice.