Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2012)3         20 April 2012


Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(February - April 2012)



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Human rights
   Execution of judgments
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
Social cohesion
Education, culture, youth and sport
Specific co-operation
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations
Conclusion

 

Introduction

1. The three months which have elapsed since the last presentation of the activities of the Committee of Ministers by the United Kingdom Chairmanship to the Parliamentary Assembly have been marked by major developments and in particular by the High-level Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights held in Brighton from 18 to 20 April 2012. Information about the results of the Conference will be given on the occasion of the statement to be made by Mr David Lidington, Minister for Europe of the United Kingdom, before the Assembly on 23 April.

2. This report presents a summary of the decisions taken and the actions carried out by the Committee of Ministers on other matters.

Human rights

3. In respect of the Reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers exchanged views with Sir Nicolas Bratza, President of the European Court of Human Right, on 22-23 February. It also reviewed the current work on the reform of the Court conducted by the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) including the adoption by the CDDH of a final report on measures requiring amendment of the Convention and of a contribution to the Brighton Conference.

4. Also in the context of the reform of the Convention system, the Committee of Ministers adopted Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers on the selection of candidates for the post of judge at the European Court of Human Rights in March. These guidelines address the selection procedure of candidates at the national level before a High Contracting Party’s list of candidates is transmitted to the Advisory Panel of Experts on Candidates for Election as Judge to the European Court of Human Rights and later to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The following week, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the Chairman of the Advisory Panel of Experts, Mr Luzius Wildhaber.

5. Mid-February, the Committee of Ministers, with the participation of experts from capitals, held an exchange of views on the United Nations and human rights. The agenda included the developments and the general results of the 66th session of the General Assembly, an overview of the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, the major themes for the Human Rights Council in 2012 and the contribution of the Council of Europe to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

6. Mid-March, the Committee of Ministers had an exchange with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on his 4th quarterly activity report 2011, his annual activity report for 2011 and his 1st quarterly activity report 2012. With the term of office of Mr. Thomas Hammarberg ending, the Commissioner was thanked for his important contribution to promoting the respect for human rights in Europe and beyond.

7. The Council of Europe Strategy 2012-2015 on Internet Governance to protect and promote human rights, the rule of law and democracy online, was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on

14 March. On that occasion, the Committee of Ministers invited their Thematic Co-ordinator on Information Policy (TC-INF) to follow the Strategy closely and invited the Secretary General to provide them with a mid-term report on the Strategy by 31 January 2014. The strategy, which forms a part of one of the priorities of the UK Chairmanship, contains more than 40 lines of action structured around six areas (Internet’s openness, the rights of users, data protection, cybercrime, democracy and culture, and children and young people). It will be carried out over a period of four years, from 2012 to 2015, in close co-operation with partners from all sectors of society, including the private sector and civil society.

8. In February, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration and a recommendation to member States on public service media governance. The aim of these texts is to renew and adapt the governance framework for public service media to the modern communication environment, where the relationship with the public is based on transparency, openness and dialogue.

9. On 28 March 2012, the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate on the protection of journalists. In this context, reference was made to the decisions taken in January 2012, in which 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 and tasked the relevant steering committee to examine possible initiatives to be taken within the framework of the Council of Europe to strengthen this protection, taking into account the work conducted by other international organisations, as well as to foster ethical journalism, and to report back in due course.

10. The following week, also in the context of freedom of expression and information, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of human rights with regard to search engines and Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of human rights with regard to social networking services.

11. As regards the question of the death penalty, the Committee of Ministers adopted on 22 March a declaration deploring that the Belarusian authorities executed Dimitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev, following their sentencing to death. It underlined that such actions ran counter to its objective to bring Belarus closer to the Council of Europe and strongly urged Belarus to establish a formal moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty.

12. In another statement on 4 April 2012, the Committee of Ministers deplored the three executions which took place on 29 March 2012 in Japan, an observer State to the Council of Europe. It stated that these executions went counter to the growing trend against the death penalty at the international level. The Committee of Ministers reaffirmed its unequivocal opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, expressed its determination to continue its efforts for the global abolition of the death penalty and called on the Japanese authorities to put an end to this practice.

13. Concerning equality between women and men, the Committee of Ministers recently adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1977 (2011) on “More women in economic and social decision-making bodies”. Furthering the work on the prevention of torture, the Committee also adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1968 (2011) on “Strengthening torture prevention mechanisms in Europe”.

14. Finally, in late March, the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers hosted a conference “Combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity across Europe: sharing knowledge and moving forward”, which brought together activists and politicians, including ministers. It looked at how to implement Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, focusing on protection from hate crime and bullying, on education and employment, and on family life and transgender equality.

Execution of judgments

15. Having regard to the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers’ Deputies met during the first week in March. At that meeting they examined the state of progress in executing a number of judgments, including that of Sejdic and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina. In view of the expiry of a number of internal deadlines set for progress with the constitutional and legislative reform required to fulfil this judgment, the Deputies expressed their concern about the lack of progress and agreed to resume examination of this case at their next regular meeting in the expectation of receiving information from the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

16. The Deputies also examined the cases of excessive length of judicial proceedings against Italy. In this connection, they recalled their previous decisions underlining that this situation constituted a serious danger for the respect of the rule of law resulting in a denial of rights enshrined in the Convention, and created a serious threat to the effectiveness of the system of the Convention. They welcomed the commitment expressed by the Italian authorities to further strengthen co-operation with the Committee of Ministers, as well as with the Court, on these issues.

17. In two cases against Turkey, Hulki Günes and Ülke, the Deputies recalled the political will and determination of the Turkish authorities, expressed at the highest political level, to take all the necessary measures to execute these judgments and strongly urged the Turkish authorities to translate this political will into concrete action and to inform the Committee on the progress of the necessary legislation, and in the case of Ülke, of measures taken to redress the individual situation of the applicant.

Rule of law and judicial co-operation

18. In the middle of February, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015) which focuses on the implementation of existing children’s rights standards. The programme will concentrate on four strategic objectives: promoting child-friendly services and systems; eliminating all forms of violence against children; guaranteeing the rights of children in vulnerable situations; and promoting child participation. The Committee of Ministers also took note of the non-exhaustive list of activities contained in the Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy. It invited its Thematic Co-ordinator on Children (TC-ENF) to follow closely the implementation of the Strategy and instructed the Secretariat to provide it with alternative options for the setting-up of a children’s rights commission.

19. At its last meeting in February, the Committee of Ministers renewed the terms of reference of the Committee of Experts on Trafficking in Human Organs, Tissues and Cells (PC-TO). It is recalled that this Committee, which performs its duties under the authority of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), will have finalised its work by the end of 2012.

20. In April, the Committee of Ministers took note of the activity programme for 2012-2013 of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ).

21. The Committee of Ministers also held an exchange of views with the Chairman of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), and took note of the annual report for 2011 of the Chair and Executive Secretary of MONEYVAL.

22. At its last meeting in April, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the European Code of Ethics for Prison Staff. The Code sets out common European principles for the overall objectives, performance and accountability of prison staff to safeguard security and the rights of individuals in democratic societies governed by the rule of law.

23. On the same occasion, the Committee held an exchange of views with the Mr Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator.

Social cohesion

24. With regard to the situation of Roma, in February the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on the Rise of Anti-Gypsyism and Racist Violence against Roma in Europe. They also took note of an Implementation Report on Recommendation Rec(2001)17 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on improving the economic and employment situation of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.

25. In March the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1976(2011) on “The role of parliaments in the consolidation and development of social rights in Europe”.

Education, culture, youth and sport

26. The Committee of Ministers informed the Assembly that the Council of Europe 2012 Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue would be held in Albania on 3 and 4 September 2012, following Albania’s offer to host the event in the context of its forthcoming chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

27. On 28 March the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)2 on the participation of children and young people under the age of 18 in decision-making. This Recommendation is the outcome of co-operation between the Council of Europe children’s rights programme and its youth sector and is a follow-up to Recommendation 1864 (2009) of the Parliamentary Assembly “Promoting the participation by children in decisions affecting them”. A reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1978 (2011) “Towards a European framework convention on youth rights” was also adopted.

28. The Committee of Ministers also considered a report on member states’ implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)13 on gender mainstreaming in education. Among other things, it encouraged member states to take account of the conclusions of the report, in particular the need to improve the dissemination of the recommendation, in their future activities and asked the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice (CDPPE) and the Gender Equality Committee (GEC) to take account of the conclusions and implications identified in the report in their future programmes of activities.

29. It should also be noted that, at its meeting on 13 March 2012, the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and the Environment (GR-C) held an exchange of views with the Executive Director of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on the European Centre for Modern Languages (the Graz Centre). This provided the opportunity to present the Centre’s programme for 2012- 2015 and to highlight its potential and the importance of its activities in strengthening language skills in Europe.

Specific co-operation

30. The situation in South-East Europe has continued to retain the attention of the Committee of Ministers over the last few months. In March, the Committee reviewed the state of of co-operation and the fulfilment of statutory obligations by Montenegro. On this occasion, it welcomed the substantial progress achieved by Montenegro in fulfilling its Council of Europe accession commitments and statutory obligations, and in particular the adoption of a number of important laws in the field of human rights, rule of law and democracy. The Committee of Ministers encouraged the Montenegrin authorities to give priority attention to the efficient implementation of these laws. It also called on them to take a number of measures, in particular regarding the independence of the judiciary and of the Ombudsman, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the independence of the media, the respect for national minorities’ rights and the fight against discrimination, in particular with regard to the LGBT community.

31. A similar review was conducted regarding the statutory obligations of Serbia. On this occasion, the Committee welcomed the significant progress and important reforms carried out by Serbia in fulfilling its Council of Europe accession commitments and statutory obligations, as well as Serbia’s messages and actions in fostering bilateral and multilateral relations, contributing to an improved political climate in the region, and the improved co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the arrest and transfer of the two remaining fugitives to the ICTY. At the same time, the Committee of Ministers called on the authorities of Serbia to take a number of steps, in particular concerning the reform of the justice system, the fight against intolerance and homophobia in parts of society and the continuation of the improvement of the situation of persons belonging to national minorities.

32. Concerning the Republic of Moldova, the Committee of Ministers adopted on 15 February a new programme for confidence-building measures across the river Nistru/Dniester in 2012 and 2013 and invited the Secretariat to explore the possibility to develop this programme. An in-depth discussion was held on this subject during an exchange of views which the Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM) had at the beginning of February with Mr Eugen Carpov, Vice-Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova.

33. As far the Russian Federation is concerned, the Committee of Ministers approved in March the co-operation programme between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation for the Chechen Republic in 2012 and instructed the Secretariat to implement it. This programme will be centred around two axes: on the one hand, ensuring protection and promoting human rights, countering threats to the rule of law and ensuring justice and, on the other hand, promoting good governance and stability at local level.

34. The Committee also approved an action plan concerning the assistance which the Council of Europe will provide to Armenia from 2012 to 2014 in order to support the country in fulfilling its statutory obligations and the specific commitments which it has undertaken. The priority areas of the action plan, which has been designed in close collaboration with the Armenian authorities, include the continuation of the reform of the judiciary and of the penitentiary, media freedom, the fight against corruption, reforms in the education sector, further reform and strengthening of local self-government as well as support for free and fair elections.

Organisational development and reform, programme and budget

35. Following the adoption of the Programme and Budget 2012-2013 by the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General continues his efforts to reform the Organisation. In this framework, the Committee of Ministers is currently examining proposals for reform of the Organisation’s pension schemes, and of the remuneration adjustment method for staff of the Co-ordinated Organisation 2013-2016.

Co-operation with the European Union and the OSCE and external relations

36. As far as co-operation with the European Union is concerned, the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly is drawn to the fact that the Committee of Ministers adopted in March a substantive reply to its Recommendation 1982 (2011) on “The impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the Council of Europe”. While noting the strengthening of the partnership between the Council of Europe and the EU, the Committee considered that the two organisations need to join forces in order to better address relevant challenges facing Europe and its neighbourhood. In this context, the Committee welcomed the improved co-operation of the Assembly with the European Parliament, and its resolve to further enhance their relations, including pursuing the work of their joint informal body created to improve information sharing between the two parliamentary institutions.

37. On the occasion of a meeting held in Strasbourg on 9 March 2012, the Coordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE reviewed the state of co-operation between the two organisations regarding the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination. The Group welcomed the continuation of regular co-operation in these two areas, while encouraging its further development, in particular in the field of civic and inter-cultural education, in order to further promote peaceful interethnic relations, as well as concerning freedom of religion, the religious dimension of inter-cultural dialogue and the fight against discrimination and hate crimes based on religious considerations. At its next meeting in Vienna in the second half of 2012, the Group will examine co-operation between the two organisations regarding the fight against terrorism and trafficking in human beings.

38. Regarding the Council of Europe policy towards the neighbouring regions, the Committee of Ministers approved in March a number of priorities for co-operation with Tunisia and took note in April of a number of changes made to those previously approved concerning Morocco. The Committee will conduct an initial review of this new policy at its next Session on 23 May in Strasbourg.

Conclusion

39. The next important stage in the proceedings of the Committee of Ministers will in fact be its 122nd Ministerial Session, which will also mark the transfer of the Committee’s Chairmanship to Albania. The United Kingdom will remain resolutely committed after that date to enhancing the effectiveness of the Council of Europe. It wishes to thank the Parliamentary Assembly for its support during the United Kingdom Chairmanship.



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