CM/Inf(2011)20 revised 5 May 2011
Stocktaking of the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(10 November 2010 – 11 May 2011)
1. In assuming the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 10 November 2010, Turkey took on this responsibility for the seventh time since the foundation of the Council of Europe.
The main aim of the Turkish Chairmanship was reinforcing the political role, the visibility and the relevance of the Council of Europe. Accordingly, the Turkish Chairmanship set its priorities in five fields: the reform of the Council of Europe, securing the long-term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights, strengthening the independent monitoring mechanisms of the Council of Europe, facilitating the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and addressing the challenges of multicultural European societies.
2. The Turkish Chairmanship undertook initiatives and organised several events in order to display the comparative advantage of the Council of Europe in the fields of standard-setting and effective monitoring through a variety of specialised mechanisms. The calendar of these events is appended, the detailed information of which is given below. Turkey also made a financial contribution of 605.000 Euros to support the activities of the Council of Europe and to finance specific projects to be carried out by its specialised bodies and mechanisms.
3. The Turkish Chairmanship continued to lend support to the standard-setting work, notably through the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
4. The political agenda of the organisation was loaded during the Turkish Chairmanship. The recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East called for a rapid reaction of the Organisation as well as a thorough review of Council of Europe’s relations with the neighbouring regions. The Turkish Chairmanship, convinced of the relevance of the Council of Europe’s values and counting on its expertise, offered assistance to these countries in establishing a democratic transition process.
5. The priorities of the Turkish Chairmanship were defined with a view to reinforcing the political role, the visibility and the relevance on the European and international scene of the Council of Europe, as the oldest pan-European organisation. In this regard, the Turkish Chairmanship had set itself the following priorities: Reform of the Council of Europe, securing the long-term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights, strengthening the independent monitoring mechanisms, facilitating the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights and addressing the challenges of the multicultural European societies.
Support for the Council of Europe Reform Process:
6. The Turkish Chairmanship endorsed the continuation of the Secretary General’s efforts to reform the Council of Europe. In November 2010 and February 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted decisions towards moving to a biennial programme and budget as of 2012. The preparation of a comprehensive report on the review of Council of Europe Conventions was agreed upon, and is currently in progress. Further on, in the month of April, the decisions were adopted on the priorities of the first biennial programme and budget (2012-13). Finally, after an extensive period of consultation, the new intergovernmental committee structure of the Organisation was approved.
7. As part of the ongoing reform process of the Organisation, following a proposal by the Turkish Chairmanship, the Committee of Ministers decided on 2 February 2011 to hold substantial discussions on topical questions of pan-European significance on a regular basis. The first of such discussions by the Deputies was held on 2 March 2011 on the theme “Council of Europe’s neighbourhood”, which resulted in a Chair’s Statement. The Turkish Chairmanship supports the continuation of this exercise which considerably enhances the role of the Committee of Ministers as a political forum.
Human Rights, Rule of Law and Legal Cooperation:
8. Securing the long-term effectiveness of the Court was one of the priorities of the Turkish Chairmanship. In line with this priority and continuing the previous Chairmanships’ efforts, Turkey hosted the “High-Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights” in Izmir on 26-27 April 2011.
9. The Izmir Conference had three main goals: making an assessment of the impact of Protocol No: 14, taking stock of what has been achieved by the ongoing reform process and providing concrete impetus for pursuing this reform process, also taking into account recent developments since Interlaken.
10. The Izmir Conference was attended by Ministers and Deputy Ministers responsible for matters relating to the European Court of Human Rights as well as other senior officials and representatives of specialised organisations or institutions. The Conference resulted in the unanimous adoption of a political declaration backed by a “Follow-up Plan” as an instrument, laying down guidelines for pursuing the reform process of the Court and ensuring the long-term effectiveness of this supervisory machinery.
11. On a related separate note, considering the important role of the judges, the Turkish Chairmanship actively worked, through the Resolution CM/Res(2010)26, for the creation of the advisory panel of experts on candidates for judge. The panel functions to advise the Contracting Parties whether the candidates for election meet the criteria stipulated in Article 21 of the Convention, before the candidatures proposed are submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly.
12. Another priority of the Turkish Chairmanship was to facilitate the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Chairmanship has encouraged the process of negotiations continuing at the expert level on technical problems, while also drawing attention to the need for high-level political involvement in eliminating the basic hurdles which came up during the expert-level discussions.
13. The EU’s accession to the Convention as a distinct legal entity will mean its joining together with all its institutions, to an external judicial monitoring for the first time in its history. Turkey hopes that the upcoming Chairmanships will continue to attribute to this issue the importance it deserves with a view to facilitating the conclusion of the negotiations without further delay, so that a coherent system of fundamental rights protection throughout the continent can be provided for all the Europeans, thus forming a common legal space in the continent.
14. The 30th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice “Modernising Justice in the Third Millennium: transparent and efficient justice; prisons in today’s Europe” was held in Istanbul on 24-26 November 2010. The Conference adopted resolutions on a modern, transparent and efficient justice; prison policy in today’s Europe and data protection and privacy in the third millennium.
15. Also within the framework of the Turkish Chairmanship, a Council of Europe Conference on “Prevention of Terrorism: Prevention Tools, Legal Instruments and their Implementation” was organised in Istanbul on 16-17 December 2010. The Conference, which followed the 19th meeting of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), brought together national and international experts and offered participants insight into how better to combat terrorism by addressing issues relating to its changing nature, the incitement and recruitment for terrorism and the prevention of its financing.
16. As part of the Turkish Chairmanship’s priorities, namely, highlighting the significance of the independent monitoring mechanisms, three seminars were also organised in co-operation with the ECRI, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the CPT, in January, February and March of this year respectively. Involvement of other European or international actors active in the same field provided a broad perspective on specific issues and also helped promoting the comparative advantage of the Council of Europe mechanisms.
17. The Turkish Chairmanship and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) organised a seminar in Ankara on 10-11 January 2011, which brought together national and international experts to discuss implementation of ECRI’s recommendations to combat discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious or other bias. This seminar was also a discussion-oriented forum for exchanging information, experiences and ideas on ECRI’s mandate and for exploring ways to increase synergy between ECRI, the only monitoring body established in Europe to monitor combating racism and racial discrimination, and its international partners.
18. The Turkish Chairmanship, together with the Commissioner for Human Rights, organised another seminar on 17-18 February 2011 in Istanbul, on the human rights dimension of migration in Europe. This provided a valuable opportunity to debate the main divergences between migration law and practice in Europe and human rights protection standards and also to discuss the best ways of helping States review their migratory policies and develop them. The seminar also led to a productive discussion of the question of respect for migrants’ rights and the ways in which states manage migration flows.
19. The seminar organised in Antalya on 17 - 18 March 2011, in co-operation with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), focused on improving detention conditions. The seminar considered the scope and content of the Council of Europe’s activities in the penitentiary field, with special focus on the role of the CPT. Four workshops discussed priority issues such as detention conditions, the provision of healthcare in prisons, prisoners’ rights and safeguards and the treatment of particular groups of prisoners.
20. During the Turkish Chairmanship, the standard-setting work of the Council of Europe continued with a milestone instrument: The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011, with a view to its opening for signature at the Ministerial Session in Istanbul on 11 May. Turkey, as a country attaching special importance to preventing and combating violence against women, actively participated in the drafting of the Convention and provided strong support for its adoption. Turkey hopes that this Convention will become a major standard setting instrument in this important area in Europe.
Social cohesion and intercultural dialogue:
21. Our continent has recently witnessed a resurgence of intolerance and discrimination. Over the past few years, all Council of Europe member states have been affected by deteriorating social ties, radicalisation and polarised perceptions and bias towards other cultures or faiths within our societies. The Turkish Chairmanship remains convinced that the Council of Europe, which has carried out a special mandate for more than 60 years in Europe, is the most relevant international actor to deal with these challenges. Yet, it requires a collective political will and a concerted effort within the Organisation.
22. With this aim, a “Group of Eminent Persons” chaired by Mr. Joschka Fischer, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, was created with the joint initiative of the Secretary General and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu. The group consisted of nine prominent members who have the expertise and a particular interest in the subject. The Group, in the course of September 2010-April 2011 gathered six times in various European cities in order to formulate their recommendations for tackling the major problems facing contemporary multicultural societies. Their exchanges culminated in a report on a new concept of “living together” for the European societies which will be presented to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of 47 member States during the Ministerial Session in Istanbul.
23. Furthermore, the recurrence of tragic events in our continent and beyond has shown that individuals of all religious confessions are increasingly becoming victims of discrimination and aggression – sometimes at the cost of their lives – simply because of their religious beliefs. As a response to such incidents of incitement to religious hatred and violence, under the Turkish Chairmanship, the Committee of Ministers unanimously adopted a Declaration, on 21 January 2011, emphasising the essential nature of religious freedom.
24. In line with the Council of Europe’s commitment to improve the situation of Roma in Europe, on 16 February 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted the terms of reference for an Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma Issues (CAHROM) with a view to further advancing this issue. CAHROM held its first meeting in Strasbourg on 30-31 March 2011. The second meeting will be held in Turkey this autumn. Other work carried out on this issue is summarised in the first progress report on the implementation of the “Strasbourg Declaration”, submitted by the Secretary General to the Ministerial Session in Istanbul.
25. With regard to persons with disabilities, in the framework of the Turkish Chairmanship, a conference took place on 9-10 December 2010 with a view to carrying out a mid-term review of the Organisation’s Disability Action Plan. The conference was also attended and addressed by the Spouse of the President of the Republic, Mrs. Gül.
Education, Youth and Sport:
26. In the framework of the Turkish Chairmanship, in relation to the “Speak Out Against Discrimination” Campaign of the Council of Europe, a European Media Encounter was held in Istanbul from 29 November to 2 December 2010 on the theme “Media, Intercultural Dialogue and Fight against Discrimination – Cross-reports from Turkey”. The event, which focused on alleviating prejudices and fighting against discrimination through the production of media reports based on a real and inclusive intercultural approach, brought together Council of Europe member states’ media professionals and journalism students. Media professionals from print press, internet, radio and television prepared and produced more than 30 media reports reflecting various points of view on diversity, discrimination and intercultural issues.
27. Acknowledging the important role NGOs play on many issues concerning our societies, such as combating the resurgence of intolerance and discrimination, an international forum was organised in the framework of the Turkish Chairmanship by the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe on the theme "New multicultural challenges: how can NGOs play their part?" in Istanbul on 24-25 March 2011. Around 80 national and international NGOs and 20 experts from international organisations and institutions participated in the Forum, which took stock of the NGOs’ practical experience and highlighted the importance of the civil society dimension in projects and initiatives promoting living together in Europe. In that respect, the Forum was complimentary to the work of the Group of Eminent Persons. Furthermore, a transversal group was set up at the Forum to prepare a toolkit to serve as a guide for the implementation of intercultural dialogue on the basis of the White Paper.
28. During the Turkish Chairmanship, the unprecedented developments in North Africa and the Middle East called for a review of Council of Europe’s existing relations with its neighbours. In this regard, on 2 March 2011, during their first "Dialogue on thematic issues", the Deputies held an exchange of views on the Council of Europe's neighbourhood. As a follow-up to this discussion, the Secretary General submitted a paper to the Deputies on “Council of Europe Neighbourhood Policy” including his operational proposals and strategic priorities about the way Council of Europe’s relations with its neighbours should develop in the future. The paper and the policy proposals contained therein were welcomed by the Deputies at their discussion on 19 April 2011 and subsequently at the meeting on 4 May 2011 the Secretary General was invited to develop action plans for the implementation of this policy.
29. The Turkish Chairmanship viewed the events unfolding in Council of Europe’s immediate neighbourhood as an opportunity for the Organisation to offer on demand the countries of this region, and more generally all its neighbours, its unmatched expertise in the fields of democratisation, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. With this in mind, the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers paid a visit to Tunisia, upon invitation, with the Secretary General on 21 February 2011, to offer the assistance of the Organisation in the process of launching democratic transition in this country. These proposals have become concrete through the Venice Commission’s mission to Tunisia and the Tunisian authorities' decision to undertake, with its assistance, a training programme for electoral personnel for the elections to be held in the country in July 2011. Turkey made a voluntary financial contribution to this effort.
30. Also in connection with recent events in North Africa, the Deputies discussed in March 2011 possible Council of Europe actions in the event of the mass arrival of asylum seekers and migrants from the neighbouring regions, on the basis of specific proposals drawn up by the Secretary General. At the meeting, the Ministers’ Deputies insisted that action must be taken on the basic principles of solidarity and burden-sharing between member states in close co-ordination with other relevant international actors. The examination is under way.
Relations with other international organisations:
31. Concerning co-operation with the European Union, a High-Level Council of Europe – European Union Meeting with the participation of the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu and Secretary General Jagland and the EU Vice-President and High Representative Catherine Ashton, was held in Brussels on 4 March 2011. This first high-level meeting after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty inter alia focused on the developments in the southern Mediterranean. The participants also held an informal and constructive exchange on other topics of common interest, in particular co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union, as well as the prospects regarding accession by the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights.
32. Concerning relations with the UN, the Turkish Chairmanship, in close co-operation with the previous Chairmanship, played a sponsoring role for the adoption, without vote, by the UN General Assembly of the Resolution on the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the UN numbered A/65/L.41 at its autumn session. Turkey believes that the Resolution will encourage the development of co-operation between the two Organisations in a number of fields of common interest, including the prevention of torture, the promotion of the rights of the child, the fight against racism as well as the combating of terrorism, transnational organised crime, cyber crime, corruption and money laundering.
33. Another important partner for our Organisation is the OSCE. The Turkish Chairmanship continued the already existing co-operation with the OSCE. In this context, the Coordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE held a meeting on 11 March 2011 to review progress of co-operation concerning the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination.
34. During the Turkish Chairmanship, the situation in Georgia following the August 2008 conflict continued to retain the close attention of the Committee of Ministers. In April 2011, the Secretary General presented to the Ministers’ Deputies his new consolidated report for the period from October 2010 to March 2011, covering the situation on the ground and the activities carried out by the Organisation.
35. The report underlines the substantial progress achieved in the implementation of the pilot projects proposed by the Council of Europe for addressing the consequences of the August 2008 conflict. The first of these projects, designed for the training of journalists from Abkhazia and other parts of Georgia on standards and principles of balanced coverage of politically sensitive events, took place in Istanbul on 15-19 November 2010. Turkey would like to see the continuation of such projects which make a difference on the ground and remains ready to contribute to them in the future.
36. South-East Europe remained another area of prior attention for the Committee of Ministers. In November 2010, the state of implementation of the commitments and obligations undertaken by Serbia upon its accession was reviewed. It was decided that the post-accession monitoring procedure be replaced by a dialogue-based regular stocktaking of co-operation and progress. In January 2011, the Deputies conducted the same review for Montenegro and the post-accession monitoring procedure has been changed in the same vein. In the case of Albania, the Committee of Ministers has adopted an action plan to contribute to establishing and strengthening election administration machinery on a long-term basis, ahead of the 8 May 2011 local elections. Another country remaining on the political agenda was Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Deputies reiterated their call on the authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to work with the common aim of bringing the country’s Constitution and its electoral legislation in line with the Convention.
37. In January 2011, the Deputies adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1923 (2010) on “The situation in Kosovo1 and the role of the Council of Europe”, in which they confirmed their commitment to the European perspective of all the people living there, who should benefit from the same level of standards for democracy, human rights and the rule of law as all other Europeans. To achieve this goal, the Committee of Ministers instructed the Secretariat to prepare a feasibility study in order to implement new Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms in Kosovo2.
38. Finally, concerning Belarus, the Committee of Ministers adopted on 12 January 2011 a Declaration calling for the immediate release of the presidential candidates, journalists and human rights activists arrested in the wake of the presidential elections of 19 December 2010. The Declaration, being the first Committee of Ministers Declaration since 2006, also indicated that the Committee will continue supporting the establishment of closer relations between the Council of Europe and Belarus only on the basis of respect for European values and principles.
39. The Turkish Chairmanship hopes that, through continued co-operation, Belarus will make the necessary efforts to join the family of European countries brought together around the values championed by the Council of Europe, by demonstrating tangible signs of political will to this end.
Relations with the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress:
40. During the Chairmanship, the Parliamentary Assembly Standing Committee was convened in Antalya on 12 November 2010. In addition to the regular communications by Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, as the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, President Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan attended the first and second parts of the Assembly’s 2011 Ordinary Session respectively. Both the President and the Prime Minister expressed their support to the work of the Assembly and commended the parliamentarians for their contributions to the further development of democracy, human rights and rule of law in Europe. The President and the Prime Minister, in their addresses to the Assembly, underlined the main challenges facing European societies today and strongly reiterated Turkey's commitment to the values and standards of the Council of Europe, which they viewed as the most relevant remedies to these problems not only in Europe, but also in its neighbourhood.
41. Also during the first part-Session, the Joint Committee meeting was held, bringing together the parliamentarians and the heads of the permanent representations so that they could discuss the possibilities to further improve the co-ordination and co-operation between the two major organs of the Council of Europe.
42. The Turkish Chairmanship also supported the continuation of relations with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities as well as its reform process with a view to improving its functioning. In this context, Turkish Director General of Local Authorities of the Ministry of Interior participated in the 20th session of the Congress in March 2011 and addressed the plenary on behalf of the Turkish Chairmanship.
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43. The Turkish Chairmanship believes that through these activities, it has moved forward the priorities it had set out for itself when assuming the Chairmanship.
Calendar of Activities
Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
10 November 2010 – 11 May 2011
10 November 2010 Transfer of the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
11-12 November 2010 PACE Mini Session (Antalya)
The Standing Committee and the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly joint meeting was held in Antalya.
24-26 November 2010 30th Conference of Ministers of Justice (Istanbul)
The theme of the conference was: “Modernising Justice in the Third Millennium:
-transparent and efficient justice;
-prisons in today’s Europe”
29 November-2 December 2010 Media Encounter (Istanbul)
European media encounter was organised in Istanbul in cooperation with the Directorate General of Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport (DG IV), Turkish Radio Television (TRT) and Bahçeşehir University Journalism School.
9-10 December 2010 Conference on Review of the Disability Action Plan (Istanbul)
Mid-term review conference was organised in Istanbul in cooperation with the Directorate General of Social Cohesion (DG III).
15-17 December 2010 Meeting of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) and Council of Europe Conference on “Prevention of Terrorism: Prevention Tools, Legal Instruments and their Implementation” (Istanbul)
Following the 19th meeting of CODEXTER held in Istanbul from 15 to 16 December (till noon), a Conference on “Prevention of Terrorism: Prevention Tools, Legal Instruments and their Implementation” was organised on 16-17 December in cooperation with the Council of Europe Counter Terrorism Task Force.
10-11 January 2011 ECRI Seminar on Fight against Discrimination (Ankara)
A Seminar on “Fight against Discrimination Based on Racial, Ethnic, Religious and Other Bias” was organised in Ankara in cooperation with ECRI and with the participation of CERD, ODIHR and FRA representatives.
13-14 January 2011 Group of Eminent Persons meeting (Istanbul)
The Group of Eminent Persons held a meeting in Istanbul and, in the margins of the meeting, exchanged views with the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu. The Group also held meetings in various European cities.
17-18 February 2011 Human Rights Commissioner Seminar on Human Rights Dimension of Migration
A Seminar on “Human Rights Dimension of Migration” was organised in Istanbul in cooperation with the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights with the participation of international experts in this field.
17-18 March 2011 Seminar on Prison Conditions and Standards (Antalya)
A Seminar on “Improving Detention Conditions Through Effective Monitoring and Standard-setting” was organised in Antalya in cooperation with the CPT and issues such as detention conditions, the provision of healthcare in prisons, prisoners’ rights and safeguards and the treatment of particular groups of prisoners were discussed in four separate workshops within the seminar.
24-25 March 2011 INGOs event (Istanbul)
A Symposium on “The role of civil society in promoting intercultural dialogue: How can NGOs play their part in addressing the challenges of multicultural European societies?” was organised by the Conference of INGOs in co-operation with the DG IV.
26-27 April 2011 High Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights (Izmir)
The Izmir Conference was convened to make an assessment of the impact of Protocol No. 14 and; to take stock of what has been achieved by and to lend impetus to the reform process launched in Interlaken. It concluded its work with the adoption of the “Izmir Declaration” on the future of the European Court of Human Rights.
11 May 2011 121st Meeting of the Committee of Ministers (Istanbul)
Opening for signature of “the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”; adoption of Istanbul Declaration and handover of the Chairmanship from Turkey to Ukraine.
1 All reference to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
2 See footnote n° 1.