CM/AS(2012)1 20 January 2012
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(November 2011 – January 2012)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Execution of judgments
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
Education, culture, youth and sport
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations
1. The United Kingdom is proud to have taken over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 7 November 2011. As a founder-member of the Organisation and the first country ever to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Kingdom takes very seriously the responsibility of the Chairmanship, an office which it last held in 1993. It regards its term of office as an opportunity to play a leading role in the vital work of the Council of Europe in promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent.
2. As the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, stated at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Assembly held in Edinburgh on 25 November 2011, the overarching theme of the UK Chairmanship will be the promotion and protection of human rights, with a particular focus on the following areas:
a. reforming the European Court of Human Rights and strengthening implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights;
b. supporting Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland’s programme of reform of the Council of Europe as an organisation;
c. strengthening the rule of law;
d. Internet governance, including freedom of expression on the Internet;
e. combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity;
f. streamlining the Council of Europe’s activities in support of local and regional democracy.
3. In addition to these priorities, the UK Chairmanship will of course work to achieve progress in other important areas of Council of Europe business. The present report gives an overview of the activities and achievements of the Committee of Ministers since the last session of the Parliamentary Assembly.
4. The UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers organised a Conference “2020 Vision for the European Court of Human Rights” on 17-19 November 2011 at Wilton Park, United Kingdom. At the Conference representatives of Council of Europe member States met with judges and officials of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly representatives and judges, and legal experts from civil society to look beyond the immediate problems facing the Court and begin to develop ideas for its long-term future. Ms Bemelmans-Videc introduced a report on “The Court’s relationship with national parliaments, including how to decide whether an issue is one for decision by the highest democratic bodies or by the Court“.
5. The Committee of Ministers has been pursuing its work on the reform of the Convention system in the working party established for that purpose. The Steering Committee on Human Rights will submit a final report on measures requiring amendment to the Convention to the Committee of Ministers at the beginning of February 2012, which will be a basis for the preparation by the UK Chairmanship of a draft Declaration on the next steps of the reform for consideration at a high-level conference to be organised by the Chairmanship in April.
6. In mid-November 2011, the Committee of Ministers took note of the report of the CDDH on the elaboration of legal instruments for the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. The matter is now under consideration within the Committee.
7. The Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the President of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) at the beginning of December 2011. On the same occasion, it took note of the 21st general report on the activities of the CPT, for the period 1 August 2010 to 31 July 2011.
8. In the context of the 50th anniversary of the European Social Charter, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration in which it reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated and solemnly reaffirmed the paramount role of the Charter in guaranteeing and promoting social rights on the European continent. It also agreed to invite the President of the European Committee of Social Rights to an annual exchange of views.
9. In December 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1958 (2011) on the “Monitoring of commitments concerning social rights”.
10. In October 2011, the Committee of Ministers reiterated its strong and urgent call on the Russian Federation, as the only member state which has not yet abolished the death penalty, to take without delay all the necessary steps to transform the existing moratorium on executions into de jure abolition of the death penalty and to ratify Protocol No. 6. It took note of the information provided by the Russian Federation on measures taken to this effect. The Committee also took note of the information provided by Poland on measures taken regarding the ratification of Protocol No. 13, welcomed the adoption by the Latvian Parliament of legislation providing for the ratification of Protocol No. 13, and regretted that the other countries concerned had not yet responded to their invitation to provide further information on measures taken to this effect.
11. At the beginning of December 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association with regard to privately operated Internet platforms and online service providers.
12. At its meetings on 15 December 2011 and 11 January 2012, the Committee of Ministers held a Thematic debate on media freedom with the participation of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chairman of the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC). Following this debate, the Committee of Ministers adopted a series of decisions at its meeting on 18 January 2012. Building on its Declaration on Measures to Promote the Respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee agreed that the Council of Europe should strengthen the impact and visibility of its activities in the field of media freedom through a wider co-ordination among the various competent structures and mechanisms, as well as through reinforcing co-operation with other international bodies active in this area, in particular the European Union, the OSCE and the UN. In order to guarantee freedom of expression and information, the Committee called on member States to take all appropriate steps to ensure the protection of journalists, other media professionals and bloggers, both as regards preventive measures and effective investigation. It also agreed to devote one of its thematic debates annually to a relevant aspect of media freedom in Europe on the basis of a discussion paper to be prepared by the Secretary General.
13. On 18 January 2012, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1950 (2011) on the protection of journalists’ sources.
14. On the same date, the Committee adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1933 (2010) “Fight against extremism: achievements, deficiencies and failures” and 1956 (2011) “Preventing harm to refugees and migrants in extradition and expulsion cases: Rule 39 indications by the European Court of Human Rights”.
15. On the occasion of the presentation of the first General Report of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), covering the period from February 2009 to July 2011, the Ministers' Deputies on 12 October 2011 held an exchange of views with the President of GRETA.
16. Concerning the field of equality between women and men, the Committee of Ministers on 11 January 2012 adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1949 (2010) on "Promoting the most favourable gender equality laws in Europe".
Execution of judgments
17. Concerning the supervision of the execution of the judgments of the European court of Human Rights, the Ministers’ Deputies held their 1128th meeting (DH) in November- December 2011. On this occasion, the Committee decided to continue to apply the working methods adopted in December 2010 in response to the Interlaken Declaration and Plan of Action.
18. The Deputies examined among others the case of Sejdic and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and adopted Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2011)291 in which they reiterated their “call on the authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the necessary measures aimed at eliminating discrimination against those who are not affiliated with a constituent people in standing for election to the House of Peoples and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to bring its constitution and electoral legislation in conformity with the Convention requirements without any further delay”.
19. Having regard to the numerous cases concerning the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy, the Deputies, expressing once more their “utmost concern as regards the repetitive delays in paying the sums awarded by national courts under the “Pinto Act”, as also highlighted by the Court in the quasi-pilot judgment Gaglione and others”, underlined “that the effectiveness of the remedy provided by the “Pinto Act” is currently at risk, as domestic judicial decisions awarding damages for lengthy proceedings cannot be executed within a reasonable time due to a lack of sufficient budgetary resources” and “considered that this situation creates a serious threat to the effectiveness of the system of the Convention and of the European Court”. They urged the Italian authorities to follow closely the situation in the field of civil justice and to update without delay their action plan with reference to criminal, administrative and bankruptcy proceedings,
and decided, in the light of the seriousness of the issues raised by these group of cases, to resume their consideration at their next DH meeting in March 2012.
20. The Deputies also considered the group of cases concerning the action of the security forces in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation and adopted Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2011)292 in which they noted with satisfaction the continuous improvement of the institutional, legal and regulatory framework for domestic investigations but expressed deep concern that, notwithstanding the measures adopted, no decisive progress has been made in domestic investigations carried out in respect of the grave human rights’ violations identified in the judgments in the vast majority of cases and urged the Russian authorities to enhance their efforts so that independent and thorough investigations into all abuses found in the Court’s judgments are conducted, in particular by ensuring that the investigating authorities use all means and powers at their disposal to the fullest extent possible and by guaranteeing effective and unconditional co-operation of all law-enforcement and military bodies in such investigations.
21. At the end of November 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1955 (2011) on the “Implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights”.
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
22. In October, the Committee of Ministers agreed to transmit the draft Fourth Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition (ETS No. 24) and its Explanatory Report to the Parliamentary Assembly. It invited the Assembly to give an opinion on the draft Additional Protocol.
23. In November 2011, the Committee of Ministers agreed to the request by the Republic of Kazakhstan to join the Enlarged Agreement establishing the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and invited Kazakhstan to appoint a member to sit on the Commission.
24. An exchange of views was held on 18 January 2012 with the presidents of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) and Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE). The Committee of Ministers also took note of Opinion No. 14 (2011) of the CCJE on “Justice and information technologies (IT)”, of a Situation report on the judiciary and judges in the different member states, and of Opinion No. 6 (2011) of the CCPE on "the relationship between prosecutors and the prison administration".
25. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1960 (2011) on “The need for a global consideration of the human rights implications of biometrics”.
26. On 16 November 2011, the Ministers Deputies adopted three significant texts in the field of social cohesion. With regard to children’s rights, the Ministers’ Deputies adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on children’s rights and social services friendly to children and families. This recommendation addresses children’s rights in social services planning, delivery and evaluation which must be adapted to their needs as well as to those of their families. It aims in particular to ensure that social services are delivered upon individual assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances and take into account the child’s own views, considering his or her age, level of maturity and capacity.
27. As far as people with disabilities are concerned, the Deputies adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)14 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. The objective of the Recommendation is to propose to member States principles and measures to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life at all levels − local, regional, national and international and to remove barriers and create conditions for active citizenship, without discrimination, for all and in all life settings. The Recommendation stresses that all persons with disabilities should be able to express their views. No person should be deprived of the right to vote or stand for election on the grounds of disability.
28. The Deputies also agreed to renew the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Europe and the European Roma and Travellers’ Forum for one year.
29. Finally, the Deputies adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on mobility, migration and access to health care.
Education, culture, youth and sport
30. The Ministers' Deputies on 26 October held a second thematic debate on the report of the Group of Eminent Persons on "Living Together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe", in the light of proposals submitted by the Secretary General (document SG/Inf(2011)25) and a matrix linking the recommendations made in the report of the Group of Eminent Persons with the relevant Council of Europe activities, structures and documents (document SG/Inf(2011)22).
31. The 2011 "Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue", organised by the Committee of Ministers, took place at the invitation of the Luxembourg Government in Luxembourg, on 28 and 29 November, with the participation of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, the President of the Congress and Mrs Anne Brasseur, one of the members representing Luxembourg in the Parliamentary Assembly. This Exchange, the fourth, took further the subject first discussed in 2010 in Ohrid ("the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"): "the role of the media in fostering intercultural dialogue, tolerance and mutual understanding: freedom of expression of the media and respect towards cultural and religious diversity". The Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) is to examine in the near future, with the participation of Mrs Anne Brasseur and of Mrs Sue Caro, General Rapporteur, the conclusions to be drawn from this Exchange and the follow-up action to be proposed.
32. On 11 January 2012, the Deputies adopted the revised Operational Regulations of the European Youth Foundation, which will come into force on 1 January 2013.
33. Finally, the Deputies adopted replies to the following recommendations of the Assembly relating to the field of education, culture and the environment: on 7 December 2011, Recommendation 1964 (2011) on "The need to assess progress in the implementation of the Bern Convention, and on 11 January 2012, Recommendations 1962 (2011) on "The religious dimension of intercultural dialogue" and 1965 (2011) on "Education against violence at school".
34. Early in January the Ministers' Deputies approved an assistance programme for the elections to be held in Georgia over the period 2012-2014. They instructed the Secretariat to implement these activities in close contact with the Georgian authorities and other international organisations, with a view to adjusting the activities, as appropriate, in the run-up to the elections.
35. Concerning Belarus, in December 2011 the Ministers' Deputies adopted a Declaration firmly condemning the bombing of the Minsk metro on 11 April and deploring the numerous deaths and injuries caused by this terrorist attack, but expressing deep regret about the sentencing to death of Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov on 30 November. They called on the authorities of Belarus to commute these sentences and reiterated their appeal to establish a formal moratorium with a view to abolition of the death penalty. More recently, the Deputies invited Belarus to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. They approved the agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the Council of Europe concerning the privileges and immunities of the members of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and of the other members of country visit delegations and authorised the Secretary General to sign it. The Deputies agreed that the signature of this agreement should take place, at the latest, at the time of deposit of the instrument of accession by Belarus to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Committee of Ministers will follow with attention the debate which the Parliamentary Assembly will hold during its session on the situation in Belarus.
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
36. On 24 November 2011, the Committee of Ministers approved the Organisation’s Programme and Budget for the biennium 2012-2013. This is the first biennial Programme and Budget in the history of the Organisation, and marks an important milestone in the reform process. Member states’ contributions to the Ordinary budget for 2012 amount to € 233 million, based on the principle of zero real growth. In view of the economic and financial crisis affecting all member states, the Committee of Ministers also requested the Secretary General to identify additional substantial savings for the 2013 budget.
37. The Ministers’ Deputies, through their working party, GT-REF.Inst, held an exchange of views on 12 January 2012 with Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, Rapporteur on the follow-up to the reform of the Council of Europe, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Chair of the Assembly’s Rules Committee, and Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Rapporteur on the follow-up by the Committee of Ministers to the work of the Parliamentary Assembly, on the basis of the Assembly’s recommendation 1951(2011) on the “Follow-up to the reform of the Council of Europe”.
38. The Deputies have provisionally agreed a draft competence framework for the post of Deputy Secretary General and to the Secretary General’s proposal to shorten on an exceptional basis the duration of the term of office of the next Deputy Secretary General to three years in order to ensure a sequence in the elections of Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General, allowing complementarity between the profiles of the two post holders. They will consult the Parliamentary Assembly in the Joint Committee on this basis. They have also adopted the timetable for the procedure for the election of the Deputy Secretary General.
Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations
39. Co-operation with the European Union remains an area to which the Committee of Ministers gives particular attention. Early in November 2011, the Rapporteur Group of the Ministers' Deputies on External Relations (GR-EXT) held its annual exchange of views with Mrs Ilze Brands Kehris, Chairperson of the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, and Mr Morten Kjaerum, Director of the Agency. This exchange of views revealed that co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Agency covered a large number of subject areas of mutual interest and was now part of a constructive regular practice. At the same time, it was noted that there were some areas in which this co-operation could be further developed. Subsequently, the Ministers' Deputies took note of a summary report prepared by the GR-EXT on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. They invited the GR-EXT to prepare a report on the progress of that co-operation to enable them to conduct an annual examination of it. Lastly, the Deputies in November 2011 adopted a detailed reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1971 (2011) on "The impact of the Eastern Partnership of the European Union on governance and economic development in eastern Europe".
40. Co-operation with the OSCE, for its part, was the subject of detailed examination within the GR-EXT in January 2012. The group had an exchange of views with representatives of the previous and current Chairmanships of the OSCE.
41. Finally, concerning relations between the Council of Europe and its neighbouring regions, the GR-EXT in November 2011 held a very constructive exchange of views on this subject with Mrs Anne Brasseur, former rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly's Political Affairs Committee on the situation in Tunisia. This exchange gave Mrs Brasseur an opportunity to present the initiatives taken by the Assembly, particularly through the "Partner for democracy" status granted in recent months to Morocco and to the Palestinian National Council. The very positive dialogue begun on that occasion continued the following week at a meeting between the Assembly's Political Affairs Committee and the Chairs of the GR-EXT and the Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM).
42. Early in January 2012, the Ministers' Deputies endorsed a number of priorities for co-operation with Kazakhstan and Morocco for the period 2012-2014. On the basis of these priorities, they asked the Secretariat, in close co-operation with the countries concerned and in co-ordination with the other relevant players, to prepare specific proposals for activities and for their implementation arrangements, including operational presence. The Parliamentary Assembly will be kept informed of the progress of this work and of the plans for co-operation with other countries situated in the Council of Europe's neighbouring regions. Concerning Kazakhstan, the Deputies had, back in November, accepted that country's request to join the Venice Commission. Concerning Tunisia, the Assembly's attention is drawn to the detailed reply given by the Committee of Ministers in November 2011 to its Recommendation 1972 (2011) on the situation in that country.
43. In its efforts to take forward major reforms to enable the Council of Europe to continue to play a key role in the European political architecture, the United Kingdom Chairmanship will work closely with the governments of the other 46 member states of the Organisation. It knows that it can rely on the Parliamentary Assembly to support these efforts. It will ensure that close liaison with the Assembly is maintained over the coming months.