Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2012)5 25 June 2012



Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(May – June 2012)



TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

* * *

Introduction

1. It was with pride and a sense of strong commitment to the Council of Europe, its comprehensive goals and its future that Albania took over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on 23 May, for the first time since its accession. Albania’s Chairmanship will be guided by the overarching interest of the Organisation as a whole, aiming at strengthening its ongoing political reforms. It will focus on the following priorities:

1. promoting sustainable democratic societies;

2. strengthening local and regional democracy;

3. strengthening the rule of law in Europe;

4. bringing forward the political reform of the organisation;

5. guaranteeing the long term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights;

6. guaranteeing the promotion of human rights;

7. stimulating intra- and inter-institutional dialogue.

United in diversity will be the guiding motto of the Albanian Chairmanship.

2. In carrying out its work, the Albanian Chairmanship intends to continue and further develop the excellent co-operation established with the Parliamentary Assembly under previous Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers. It is pleased to present here its first report to the Assembly on the Committee’s work.

Human rights

European Convention on Human Rights

3. At its 122nd Session (23 May 2012), the Committee of Ministers endorsed the Declaration adopted in April at the Brighton Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights and adopted a number of decisions on the follow-up to it. In particular, it instructed the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to submit by 15 April 2013 a draft protocol amending the European Convention on Human Rights on the questions dealt with in paragraphs 12b, 15a, 15c, 25d and 25f of the Brighton Declaration and a draft optional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights relating to advisory opinions, following up paragraph 12d of the Brighton Declaration. The Parliamentary Assembly will be invited in due course to give an opinion on these drafts.

4. Given the importance of measures to be taken at national level to ensure the implementation of the Convention, the Committee of Ministers invited member States to take those measures which the Brighton Declaration requires of them and to report to the Committee of Ministers by 15 March 2014. It also invited the Court and the Secretary General to implement the part of the Brighton Declaration which concerns them directly and to inform the Committee of Ministers of the progress made in this respect by 15 October 2013. The Ministers’ Deputies will report to the Committee of Ministers at its next Session (16 May 2013) on the measures taken.

5. At the informal working lunch held at the close of the Session, Ministers discussed ways of remedying the shortcomings in human rights protection in Europe.

6. Concerning the EU accession to the ECHR, the Committee of Ministers instructed the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to continue negotiations with the European Union in the framework of an ad hoc 47+1 group in order to finalise the legal instruments establishing the details of accession. In view of the urgency of the matter, this mandate should be executed without delay. The Committee of Ministers also instructed the CDDH to report to it regularly on the negotiations with the European Union.

Death penalty

7. At the beginning of May, the Ministers’ Deputies held their regular six-monthly review of the situation regarding the abolition of capital punishment in Council of Europe member States. On that occasion they once again called on the Russian Federation to take, without delay, all the necessary steps to transform the existing moratorium on the death penalty into de jure abolition of the death penalty and to ratify Protocol No. 6. In addition, while welcoming the recent ratification of Protocol No. 13 by Latvia, they encouraged those States which have not yet signed or ratified Protocol No. 13 to do so rapidly. Lastly, they adopted a Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the death penalty re-affirming their unequivocal opposition to this punishment in all places and in all circumstances and welcoming the fact that no executions have been carried out on the territory of Council of Europe member States for the last fifteen years. They called on all countries which still apply the death penalty, including those holding observer status with the Council of Europe, to immediately apply a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition.

Execution of judgments

8. As regards the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers’ Deputies met on 4-6 June 2012. At that meeting, the Deputies examined in particular the following cases: in the case of Sejdic and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina, regretting that no tangible progress had been achieved in the execution of this judgment and that no proposal had yet been presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina with regard to the constitutional and legislative amendments, they once again urged the authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach a consensus on the constitutional and legislative amendments necessary to execute the judgment without any further delay and decided to resume examination of the case at their meeting on 4 July 2012.

9. In the case of Ülke against Turkey, the Deputies noted with satisfaction the decision given on 4 June 2012 by the Eskişehir Military Court to lift the arrest warrant for desertion against the applicant and invited the Turkish authorities to provide a copy, together with an assessment of its impact on the applicant’s current situation, in particular as to whether the applicant is still subject to further prosecution or conviction and whether he can exercise his civic rights without hindrance. They also noted that consultations are currently ongoing among the relevant Turkish authorities with the aim of identifying the general measures required to execute the present judgment and urged the Turkish authorities to keep the Committee informed on the ongoing consultation process and to provide a precise timetable for the adoption of the general measures required.

10. The Deputies also considered the cases of Hulki Günes and others against Turkey and, noting with satisfaction the information provided by the Turkish authorities regarding the content of the draft law allowing the reopening of proceedings in the applicants’ cases and also the fact that they are seeking alternative solutions in case difficulties were to arise in the adoption of the draft law in question, invited the authorities to keep them informed of the ongoing legislative process.

11. Regarding the case of Alekseev against the Russian Federation, the Deputies, having listened to information provided by the delegation of the respondent State, especially recalled the fundamental importance of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Convention. They noted with concern that since the Court’s judgment, the applicant had not been able to organise Gay Pride marches in Moscow and invited the Russian authorities to provide detailed information on the reasons for this. They also invited the Russian authorities to provide further examples demonstrating the effectiveness of the domestic remedy to which they had referred.

12. The Deputies also considered the group of cases against Ukraine concerning the failure to execute domestic judgments (Zhovner/Ivanov group). They welcomed the adoption, on 5 June 2012, of the Law on State guarantees concerning execution of judicial decisions and invited the Ukrainian authorities to provide the Committee of Ministers with the text of the law as adopted by Parliament and information on its entry into force, as well as with information on its compliance with the requirements of the Convention as set out in the pilot judgment in the case of Yuriy Nikolayevich Ivanov.

Other questions concerning human rights

13. At the beginning of May, the Committee of Ministers took note of the annual report (2011) of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). This report describes the main trends in the area of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Europe, the activities conducted by ECRI in 2011 to combat these phenomena and the Commission’s co-operation with national bodies specialising in action against racism and racial discrimination.

14. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers adopted replies to a series of Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations: Recommendation 1984 (2011) on “The protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet and online media”, Recommendation 1986 (2011) on “The Declaration of Principles on Equality and activities of the Council of Europe”, Recommendation 1986 (2011) on “The Declaration of Principles on Equality and activities of the Council of Europe”, Recommendation 1993 (2012) on “Protecting human rights and dignity by taking into account previously expressed wishes of patients”, Recommendation 1979 (2011) on “Prenatal sex selection”, Recommendation 1967 (2011) on “The large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe's southern shores”, Recommendation 1969 (2011) on “Unaccompanied children in Europe: issues of arrival, stay and return”, Recommendation 1973 (2011) on “Asylum seekers and refugees: sharing responsibilities in Europe” and Recommendation 1983 (2011) on “Abuse of state secrecy and national security: obstacles to parliamentary and judicial scrutiny of human rights violations”.

15. As far as the rights of the child are concerned, the Albanian Chairmanship organised in Tirana on 14 and 15 June a regional seminar on the theme “Democracy must work for children”. It took also an active part in the First Round Table on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 organised in Strasbourg on 19-20 June 2012.

Rule of law and judicial co-operation

16. In May, the Committee of Ministers acceded to Israel’s request for observer status with the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ).

17. It has also taken note of the General Activity Report (2011) of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). This report describes GRECO’s mission and working framework, results and impact, partnerships, its future focus, its governing structures and management, and a thematic article on corruption as a factor in eroding human rights protection.

18. The Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers stresses the importance which it attaches to the elaboration of Council of Europe standards. It welcomes the adoption by the Committee of Ministers on 13 June last of the Fourth Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Extradition and its Explanatory Report, modernising a number of provisions of the European Convention on Extradition (ETS No. 24) and making some additions, in view of the development of international co-operation in criminal matters since the Convention and its additional protocols came into force. The new Protocol will be opened for signature on 20 September 2012 on the occasion of the 31st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice in Vienna (Austria) from 19 to 21 September 2012.

19. In mid-June, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the Chairperson of the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI).

20. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1980 (2011) on “Combating “child abuse images” through committed, transversal and internationally
co-ordinated action” and Recommendation 1953 (2011) on “The obligation of member and observer States of the Council of Europe to co-operate in the prosecution of war crimes”.

Social cohesion

21. In the field of social cohesion, the Committee of Ministers, at its meeting on 13 June 2012, adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)6 on the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls with disabilities. The recommendation, in particular, aims to identify and eliminate any obstacles impeding the participation of women and girls with disabilities in society and to prevent the creation of any new obstacles. It also invites member States to take appropriate measures with a view to guaranteeing equal and democratic rights in society for all individuals by recognising that society as a whole benefits from diversity and equal participation of all.

Education, culture, youth and sport

22. During the reference period, the Committee of Ministers continued its work on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. It took note of the conclusions and proposals for operational follow-up emerging from the 2011 Exchange, and agreed to transmit them to the steering committees concerned so that they can take account of them, if necessary, in any relevant project included in the 2012-2013 Programme and Budget. The Committee of Ministers also decided that the 2012 Exchange, which will take place on 3 and 4 September 2012 in Durrës, Albania, upon the invitation of the Albanian authorities in the framework of the Chairmanship, will address the theme “Taking responsibility for tomorrow’s Europe: the role of young people in the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue”.

23. Furthermore, on 13 June, the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate entitled “Living together implies having a level of common competences as regards intercultural and democratic dialogue, as well as a system of attitudes, behaviour and common values. Can these be taught?”, which allowed member States to express their views on possible future Council of Europe initiatives in this field. The possible follow-up to this debate will be discussed by the Committee of Ministers on 4 July.

24. On 20 June, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1975 (2011) on “Living together in 21st-century Europe: follow-up to the report by the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe”. Furthermore, the topics “Diversity in Europe, an asset for the future”; “Promoting intercultural dialogue – a task for society as a whole in Europe and beyond” and “The role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration in society”, as important elements of the “living together”, will be the themes of a High-level Conference to be organised by Albania in November 2012, in Tirana, in the framework of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

25. In the educational field, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec (2012)7 on the responsibility of public authorities for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and approved the holding of the 24th Session of the Council of Europe Standing Conference of Ministers of Education on 26 and 27 April 2013 in Helsinki, Finland.

26. In connection with activities in the sports field, the Committee of Ministers took note of the Secretary General’s report on the 12th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport in Belgrade on 15 March 2012. In this connection, it took a series of decisions, including that to invite the EPAS, if necessary in co-operation with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), Moneyval and other relevant bodies, and in co-ordination with the European Union, to open negotiations on a possible Council of Europe convention against the manipulation of sports results, particularly match fixing. The EPAS will report to the Committee of Ministers on the process with a view to holding consultations as soon as possible, and will submit to the Committee of Ministers the draft consolidated instrument, which might be finalised as a convention or other type of instrument. The Committee of Ministers also invited the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), in co-operation with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the EPAS, to consider the feasibility of an additional protocol to the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS No. 173), which could extend the scope of its provisions to the non-profit private sector, including sport. Lastly, it should be noted that on 20 June the Committee of Ministers invited Israel to accede to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS).

Organisational development and reform, programme and budget

27. The Secretary General continues his efforts to reform the Organisation. In this framework, on 13 June 2012, the Committee of Ministers adopted the remuneration adjustment method for staff of the
Co-ordinated Organisation 2013-2016, as well as a new affordability clause. On 20 June 2012, the Committee of Ministers also adopted a reform of the Organisation’s pension schemes.

28. The Secretary General has submitted an adjusted budget for 2013, in accordance with the Financial Regulations and the Committee of Ministers’ prior decisions. The adjustments take into account the difficult economic situation in many member States. Budgetary resources have been adjusted at 2%, below the actual inflation rate (2.4%), bringing about a reduction in real terms in all budgets of the Organisation. This reflects further efforts by the Secretary General to reduce costs, while maintaining the Organisation’s operational capacity and meeting the Committee of Ministers’ requests concerning the level of member States’ contributions. The Committee of Ministers is in the process of examining this proposal.

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

29. In connection with co-operation with the European Union, the Committee of Ministers took note of a report on this subject in June, as prepared by its Rapporteur Group on External relations (GR-EXT), showing that political consultation between the Council of Europe and the European Union on issues of common interest had continued at the highest level in 2011. At the operational level, the report notes that in 2011 the joint CoE/EU programmes had remained the largest source of funding for Council of Europe co-operation and technical assistance projects in support of democratic stability throughout Europe. Lastly, the report pointed out that both organisations had continued their contacts geared to ensuring coherency between EU legislation and Council of Europe standards, as well as synergies with the Council of Europe’ monitoring mechanisms, including setting up an Informal mutual information mechanism to provide information on respective normative initiatives at an early stage.

30. Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers has appointed Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio as the independent member of the bodies of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, for a term of office ending on 1 July 2017. Ms de Boer-Buquicchio will take over from Mr Guy de Vel, whose term of office expires in July 2012.

31. Where co-operation with the OSCE is concerned, the reinforcement of which is an objective of the Albanian Chairmanship, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers had the opportunity to suggest ways of reinforcing it, in particular in the context of the assistance provided to Mediterranean countries undergoing a phase of transition to democracy, when presenting the priorities of the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 14 June last. The exchange of views which the Ministers' Deputies will have on 19 September with Mr Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, will be an opportunity for intensifying discussions on the means of promoting such co-operation in the fields for which the High Commissioner is responsible.

32. On the occasion of its 122nd Session (23 May 2012), the Committee of Ministers held an informal discussion on the Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions. It welcomed the measures adopted in this field over the past year, especially the co-operation priorities which have been agreed with Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. It expressed its determination to continue expanding this policy on the basis of the Council of Europe’s values, and instructed its Deputies to take the requisite decisions to this end with a view to reporting to it at its next Session.

33. At the beginning of May the Ministers' Deputies adopted a Declaration on the situation in Syria, in which they condemned in the strongest possible terms the violations of international human rights law which had continued to be committed since the beginning of hostilities in Syria. They voiced their full support to the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria and to its endeavours, and called on all parties in Syria to cease immediately all forms of violence. They urged the Syrian Government to honour its commitments and to apply immediately, completely and unconditionally the six-point plan devised by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, Kofi Annan. Lastly, they commended Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, Syria’s neighbours, for the humanitarian assistance they were providing to the Syrian refugees.

34. More recently, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed his indignation at the massacres committed in Syria, especially in the city of Houla. He urged the Syrian authorities to put an immediate end to military actions against the civilian population, to withdraw the army and to allow the UN observers to complete their mission without any hindrance.

Conclusion

35. The Albanian Chairmanship looks forward to working with the Parliamentary Assembly in the coming months to advance the values of the Council of Europe. It welcomes the exchange of views which took place between the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Ministers’ Deputies at their meeting on 20 Juune and looks forward to the new encounter which they will have on 4 July. Among the many events it will organise during this period, the Chairmanship takes special interest in the meeting to be held in Tirana on 13 and 14 September 2012 on "The role of parliaments and parliamentarians in signing, ratifying and implementing international treaties”.



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