Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM(2011)96 final     15 February 2012

1134 Meeting, 15-16 February 2012

1 General questions

1.6 Revised guidelines for the reform and modernisation of the Committee's working methods

Item prepared by the GT-REF.INST at its meeting on 12 January 2012 and written procedure

1. Ministers' Deputies meetings

1. The Committee of Ministers should be concerned primarily with the strategic and political orientation of the Council of Europe. To this end, agendas should mainly include items of a political nature and/or items requiring a decision.

The draft agendas are prepared by the Chair and the Secretariat.

2.. The Chair, with the support of the Bureau, ensures that draft agendas for meetings contain items ready for decision and take into account the time available. It should avoid including items that are not urgent or which could usefully be prepared by the relevant subsidiary body.

3. To enhance the role of the Committee of Ministers as a political forum, substantial discussions on topical questions of pan-European significance are in principle held on a regular basis (total of 4-6 per year). Member states suggest topics for discussion to be included in the agenda and may provide documents to introduce a thematic discussion.

4. Meetings of the Deputies are organised along the following lines, whilst maintaining some flexibility:

    · 3 Deputies’ meetings per month;

    · The Deputies’ Human Rights (DH) meetings, devoted to the supervision of the execution of judgments of the Court in compliance with Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, take place at least 4 times a year for a duration of two or three days. They do not take place in the same week as other CM meetings;

    · extraordinary meetings may be convened by the Chair on urgent matters following proposals by one or more delegations or the Secretary General;

    · the Deputies in principle meet on a Wednesday;

    · the morning session begins with political issues and allows for a brief report from the Secretary General and/or the Deputy Secretary General. The afternoon session generally should not exceed 3 hours, and is devoted to the remaining items as necessary. ;

    · hearings and exchanges of views on topics of strategic and political orientation of particular significance to the Council of Europe, in principle, take place at the beginning of the afternoon (not more than one per meeting);

    · items prepared by Rapporteur Groups are placed "in the box" for adoption without debate in cases where they were approved without objection at subsidiary group level. Delegations might make an explanatory statement without reopening discussion;

    · CM statements on major events are encouraged;

    · use of silent procedures/adoption of decisions ad referendum is encouraged. The normal deadline is one and a half working days.

5. The Chair acts in a neutral way and ensures that the rules, including these guidelines, are respected.

He/she discourages the removal of items from “the box” for discussion without sound justification. Delegations wishing to do so are encouraged to inform the Chair two working days before the meeting. If the question is not urgent and having consulted with the relevant chair as appropriate, the item may be referred back to the competent subsidiary group.

To open an item, the Chair may give a short introduction and indicate the maximum length of time available. Three minutes speaking time is allocated to each intervention, on the understanding that the Chair uses flexibility, depending on the agenda item. The Chair should announce the number of delegations asking for the floor and give the names of at least the next two on the list.

The Chair guides the discussions towards an operational result, in particular by requesting delegations to react to compromise texts or specific proposals. When it appears that a consensus is emerging, the Chair may ask if there are any delegations which do not share the same position, with a view to concluding the discussion.

With regard to the time available, the Chair may close the speakers’ list or the discussion, requesting further contributions for the record.

At the end of an item and/or meeting, the Chair should conclude briefly on the outcome (substance and/or procedure).

The Chair avoids opening drafting exercises during the Deputies’ meetings. If the issue is not ready for a decision the Chair postpones the item. If the item concerns only a small number of delegations the Chair may invite them, with the assistance of a mediator and the Secretariat, as appropriate, to resolve the question in the margins of the meeting.

Between meetings, the Chair takes the necessary steps, especially when there is disagreement on the substance, to advance work in hand by conducting consultations with delegations. The results are presented by the Chair, whenever possible, in writing.

6. Whenever appropriate, delegations are encouraged to communicate to the Chair the positions they are likely to take in a forthcoming meeting. When that includes proposals for amending texts, delegations are encouraged to suggest specific wording in writing beforehand.

Delegations are encouraged to limit the use of courtesies during meetings.

When formal statements of some length have to be made, they should ideally be summarised briefly drawing attention to highlights and conclusions, the full written text being distributed separately as early as possible before the meeting and included, if appropriate, in the records of the meeting.

7. As far as modalities of conducting exchanges of views with different personalities are concerned, delegations are encouraged to submit questions in writing in advance, which will enable the personalities to answer them in their introductory comments.

2. Subsidiary bodies

8. Rapporteur groups/Ad hoc working parties/Thematic coordinators prepare decisions for the Committee of Ministers for adoption, ideally without debate.

9. The current list of Rapporteur Groups is: GR-DEM, GR-EXT, GR-PBA, GR-C, GR-H, GR-J and GR-SOC1.

10. Thematic coordinators (“TC”) are appointed by the Committee of Ministers to follow certain areas of importance to the Organisation. TCs should have a mandate approved by the Committee of Ministers and be limited in time (two years); the Committee of Ministers will take a decision to continue, redirect or discontinue a TC towards the end of each mandate. The mandates should be readily accessible on the CM web-site.

The work of Thematic coordinators should be coordinated with that of the Committee of Ministers. In particular:

    · all TCs will inform the Committee of Ministers of their plans (at least once a year);
    · all TCs will keep the Committee of Ministers regularly informed of their activities and seek its guidance, as appropriate.

11. All ad hoc working parties (GTs) should have mandates and be limited in time. The mandates, approved by the Committee of Ministers, should be readily accessible on the CM web-site.

There are currently two ad hoc working parties:

    · GT.SUIVI.Interlaken: its mandate expires on 30 June 2012; the need to continue this GT will be assessed at that point and a mandate be determined for another limited period of time. The GT will be renamed GT-REF.ECHR (Reform of the Human Rights Convention system).
    · GT-REF.INST: the need to continue or discontinue the GT-REF.INST will be considered in September 2013.

12. The CL-CEDH will be discontinued from July 2012 and the dialogue with the Court will be continued at Committee of Ministers’ level, in principle two times per year (at the end of January (before the opening of the judicial year) and early July), without duplicating the work in the framework of the GT-REF.ECHR. The Court would distribute an information document shortly before each meeting, so that Deputies can have an informed exchange of views. Either party could request additional exchanges of views if necessary.

13. A timetable of meetings should be prepared, as far as possible well in advance, according to the following guidelines:

    · meetings should only be convened when the agenda justifies it; as appropriate, the GR-DEM may hold a meeting every 3-4 weeks; the GR-PBA and GR-H every 4 weeks; the other GRs every 6 weeks; GTs as their task requires; additional meetings may be organised if necessary;

    · Mondays and Fridays should generally be meeting-free days;

    · meetings should be no longer than 3 hours;

    · the GR-J and GR-H should in principle not take place during the same week;

    · whenever possible, meetings should be avoided during school holidays.

Paragraph 5 above applies mutatis mutandis to the Chairs of Rapporteur groups, ad hoc working parties and to Thematic coordinators.

The conduct of meetings should follow these guidelines and include:

    · advance knowledge of items for the agenda, planned timetable and timely distribution of documents;

    · in principle, documents for discussion should be distributed 15 workings days in advance;

    · delegations should ideally present proposed amendments in writing 3-5 working days before the date of the meeting;

    · preliminary debates or exchanges of views in the groups should not take place if the documents were not distributed on time;

    · in principle, information documents are not discussed unless a delegation so requests;

    · group synopses should be distributed no later than 4 working days after the meeting.

3. Presentation of documents supporting the decision process

14. The presentation of documents should be standardised according to the following principles: concise, clear, and short. They should include at the beginning a summary, clearly defined recommendations for action to be taken, resource implications (financial and human) and a contact point.

15. Documents should be presented within the deadlines set by the Committee of Ministers. In very exceptional and urgent cases, documents should be submitted no later than 24 hours before their consideration.

16. Steering and expert committee reports and reports from conferences should be presented in the first instance to the competent Rapporteur Groups/Thematic coordinator within one month of the meeting; it being understood that the work of the Steering Committees will not be duplicated.

4. The handling of Parliamentary Assembly recommendations/questions in the work of the Committee of Ministers

17. Recommendations and written questions should receive a reply within 3 months whenever possible2. The Ministers’ Deputies should concentrate on giving timely replies to Recommendations. Draft replies to written questions or Recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly shall be as short, concise and result-oriented as possible.

18. Comments or opinions on a recommendation requested by the Committee of Minister from steering committees or other bodies may assist the Committee in drafting its reply and are not, unless agreed otherwise, appended.

19. During the preparation of draft replies to recommendations, the Chair of the Deputies and/or Rapporteur Groups should take the necessary steps, especially when there is disagreement on the substance, to advance work by conducting consultations with delegations.

20. Questions should be in the remit of the Council of Europe in so far as they deal with controversial bilateral questions. Priority should be given to questions tabled by groups of Parliamentarians and to questions on subjects immediately relevant to the Council of Europe’s activities. The Chair of the Deputies may resort to a letter of reply to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly if no agreement can be reached3. Use should be made by the Secretariat of the written procedure in the preparation of draft replies to written questions, before including a draft reply on the agenda for adoption by the Deputies.4

1 The summary of the main fields of activity as of December 2011 is contained in Appendix 2 of document GT-REF.INST(2011)11.

2 The Deputies made a commitment at their 825th meeting – item 1.6 (22 January 2003) with regard to the adoption of replies to Assembly Recommendations. This commitment introduced new deadlines for replying in principal in time for the second part-session following that at which they were adopted that is to say within less than six months whenever possible, instead of nine months, (the nine-month time limit becoming a maximum for exceptional cases).
In 1984, the Deputies agreed that written Questions submitted to the Committee of Ministers by members of the Assembly should not be left without a reply for a period of more than six months after they have been communicated to the Committee. (CM/Del/Concl(84)373 item 2)

3 At their 1015th meeting (16 January 2008), the Deputies adopted a simplified procedure for dealing with written questions from members of the Parliamentary Assembly (cf. CM(2008)4 final).

4 Procedure agreed at the Deputies’ 1033rd meeting (3-4 September 2008).



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