Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM/AS(2013)1 17 January 2013



Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers

Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(October 2012 – January 2013)



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Human rights
European Convention on Human Rights
Execution of judgments
Other questions concerning human rights
Rule of law and judicial co-operation
Social cohesion
Education, culture, youth and sport
Local democracy
Specific co-operation
Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
Co-operation with the European Union, the United Nations and the OSCE

Introduction

1. Since 9 November 2012, Andorra has been chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the first time in its history. To carry out this task, Andorra has worked with the two countries due to succeed it in the chair, Armenia and Austria, to set a series of objectives in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Andorra has also made it one of its priorities to take practical steps in relation to education for democratic citizenship and human rights, promotion of the European Convention on Human Rights and youth issues.

2. In addition to these priorities, the Andorran Chairmanship is working to achieve progress in other important areas of Council of Europe business. This report gives an overview of the activities and achievements of the Committee of Ministers since the last Parliamentary Assembly session.

Human rights

European Convention on Human Rights

3. In October, in the context of the follow-up to the Brighton Declaration, the Committee of Ministers took note of the final report of the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) on a simplified procedure for amendment of certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and agreed to return to this issue once work has been completed on the priority issues set out in the Committee of Ministers’ decisions for the current biennium.

4. In January, the Deputies agreed to transmit to the Parliamentary Assembly and to the European Court of Human Rights the text of draft Protocol No. 15 to the European Convention on Human Rights, as adopted by the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), for opinion. They also took note of a report by the CDDH containing elements to contribute to the evaluation of the effects of Protocol No.14 and the implementation of the Interlaken and Izmir Declarations on the Court’s situation, and invited the CDDH to continue following up this question with a view to reporting again by 15 March 2015. They also took
note of a report by the CDDH on measures taken by the member states to implement relevant parts of the Interlaken and Izmir Declarations. They endorsed the recommendations contained therein and invited member States to consider acting on those addressed to them. They also invited the CDDH to take account of the report and its recommendations as it deems appropriate in preparing its proposals for work regarding possible follow-up in the 2014-2015 biennium, bearing in mind its existing mandates. Finally, they agreed to take account of the recommendations for the attention of the Committee of Ministers when determining the Council of Europe Programme and Budget for the biennium 2014-2015.

5. On 10 October, the European Day against the Death Penalty, the Committee of Ministers considered the abolition of the death penalty in all member States of the Council of Europe. It reiterated its 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 the death penalty into de jure abolition of the death penalty and to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights. In this context it took note of information provided by the Russian Federation on measures taken to this effect. It also took note of information provided by Poland on measures taken regarding the signature and/or ratification of Protocol No. 13 and regretted that the other countries concerned had not yet responded to the invitation to provide further information on measures taken. Finally, on the occasion of this sixth European Day against the Death Penalty, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration on the death penalty.

Execution of judgments

6. Concerning the supervision of the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers’ Deputies held their 1157th meeting (DH) in December 2012. On this occasion, they decided to close the examination of 185 cases (decisions and judgments of the Court).

7. The Deputies in particular adopted Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2012)233 in the case of Sejdic and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina in which they strongly urged the authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to amend the Constitution and the electoral legislation and to bring them in conformity with the Convention requirements without any further delay. They decided to examine this case at each of their “Human Rights” meetings until the political leaders and authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina reach a consensus on the measures required for the execution of this judgment.

8. In addition, the Deputies resumed consideration of the case of A., B., C. against Ireland concerning the lack of effective and accessible procedures allowing pregnant women to establish whether or not they are entitled to a lawful abortion in accordance with the Constitution. The Deputies noted with satisfaction that in November 2012 the expert group tasked with advising the Irish authorities on how to implement the judgment, had submitted its report which identifies four options and that the authorities would decide on the option to be pursued to implement the judgment before 20 December 2012. The Deputies further underlined again their concern regarding the situation of women who, pending the introduction of the legislation required, are of the opinion that their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy and invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures in that respect. They decided to resume consideration of these issues at the latest at their 1164th meeting (March 2013) (DH).

9. The Deputies decided to resume consideration of the Garabayev group against the Russian Federation after having been informed by the Court of the disappearance of another applicant, who was subject to an interim measure indicated by the Court under Rule 39 in connection with his planned extradition to Tajikistan. They consequently called upon the Russian authorities to address without further delay this worrying and unprecedented situation, in particular by adopting protective measures in respect of other persons who may be subject to an interim measure indicated by the Court and ensuring that all such incidents are effectively investigated in strict compliance with their Convention obligations.

10. Finally, the Deputies pursued their examination of the Hirst group against the United Kingdom. They noted with great interest that the United Kingdom authorities had introduced legislative proposals to Parliament in November 2012 to amend the electoral law imposing a blanket restriction on voting rights of convicted prisoners in prison, which include a range of options for a Parliamentary Committee to consider. The Deputies endorsed the view expressed in the Explanatory Report to the draft bill, that the option aimed at retaining the blanket restriction criticised by the European Court cannot be considered compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. They decided to resume consideration of the case at the latest at its 1179th meeting (September 2013) (DH).

Other questions concerning human rights

11. In October 2012, the Committee of Minister took note of the information provided by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) concerning its forthcoming fifth monitoring cycle.

12. In mid-November 2012, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views with the President of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). At the same time, it took note of the second General Report of GRETA covering the period from August 2011 to July 2012.

13. In late November 2012, 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). On the same occasion, it took note of the CPT’s 22nd general activity report.

14. In the autumn 2012, the Committee adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1974 (2011) on “The interception and rescue at sea of asylum seekers, refugees and irregular migrants”, 1985 (2012) on “Undocumented migrant children in an irregular situation: a real cause for concern”, 1996 (2012) on “Equality between women and men: a condition for the success of the Arab Spring” and 2004 (2012) on “Human rights and foreign policy”.

15. In early January 2013, the Committee of Ministers adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1995 (2012) on “The International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance” and 1994 (2012) on “An additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights on national minorities”.

Rule of law and judicial co-operation

16. The Committee of Ministers held its annual exchange of views with the Chair of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) in October 2012. On the same occasion, it took note of the 2011 activity report of the CEPEJ and of its report on “European judicial systems – Edition 2012: efficiency and quality of justice”: It agreed to ensure a wide dissemination of the above-mentioned report among the relevant national institutions and organisations.

17. In October, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)12 to member States concerning foreign prisoners. The Committee of Ministers furthermore adopted Resolution CM/Res(2012)6 on the participation of the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man in the mutual evaluation processes and procedures of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL).

19. In the autumn 2012, the Committee of Ministers invited the Kingdom of Morocco to sign the Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes Involving Threats to Public Health (CETS No. 211). A request by the Kingdom of Morocco to be invited to accede to several other Council of Europe conventions was also given a favourable response by the Committee of Ministers which invited the Kingdom of Morocco to accede to:

– the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches (ETS No. 120),

– the European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights (ETS No. 160),

– the Convention on Contact concerning Children (ETS No. 192),

– the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (CETS No. 198), and

– the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201).

19. The Committee of Ministers also agreed in principle to granting the request of the Kingdom of Morocco to be invited to accede to the Anti-Doping Convention (ETS No. 135) and to the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185). It decided to undertake the necessary consultations with non-member States which are Parties to these two conventions.

20. In November, the Committee of Ministers took note of an information document containing proposals relating to the implementation of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015) and invited their Thematic Coordinator on Children to examine the feasibility of the creation of an ad hoc committee under the authority of the Committee of Ministers, drawing on the expertise of the Network of National Focal Points on Children’s Rights, to make proposals for the next Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child and make any suggestions in the context of the preparation of the next biennial Programme of Activities and Budget. It also invited the Secretariat to continue to redefine and reinforce the Network of National Focal Points on Children’s Rights and to prepare a progress review report of the Strategy in the first quarter of 2013. Finally, it welcomed the invitation by the Croatian authorities to hold a High-level Mid-Term Review Conference of the Strategy in March 2014 in Croatia.

21. With respect to the draft recommendation on the rights and legal status of children and parental responsibilities prepared by the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ), the Committee of Ministers decided in November that consideration of the item could be resumed when it is felt that a consensual solution can be obtained.

22. The follow-up to the 31st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice (Vienna, 19-21 September 2012), was considered by the Committee of Ministers in late November. The Committee took note of the Resolution on responses of justice to urban violence adopted at the Conference and decided to transmit it to a number of steering and ad hoc committees, giving instruction in particular to the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) to continue to conduct the work on the follow-up to the Conference.

Social cohesion

23. In the field of social cohesion, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2000 (2012) on “Decent Pensions for all” aiming to ensure the sustainability and adequacy of pension systems, in particular in times of ageing populations and economic and financial crisis.  In so doing, it drew particular attention to the importance of the relevant provisions of European Social Charter and Revised European Social Charter and the European Code of Social Security.  It also pointed to the Council of Europe’s New Strategy for Social Cohesion and Action Plan (2010) which encourages stakeholders and other actors to be committed to the long-term financial and qualitative sustainability of social rights, also stating that public pension schemes must be refocused to ensure their long-term sustainability.

24. The Committee of Ministers also agreed to renew the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Europe and the European Roma and Travellers Forum for a further year. 

25. The Minister of Tourism and Environment of Andorra, as representative of the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, participated in the Seminar on “The European Social Charter: discretion of the States” organised by the Council of Europe and the International Institute of Human Rights René Cassin in Strasbourg on 6 November 2012. This event was an opportunity to pay tribute to the outgoing members of the ECSR and to exchange views on the question of social rights.

Education, culture, youth and sport

26. In October, the Committee of Ministers took note of the conclusions of and proposed follow-up to the 2012 Council of Europe Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. These conclusions were conveyed to participants in the conference organised by the Albanian Chairmanship in Tirana in November 2012 on “Diversity in Europe, a strength for the future”. In December, the Committee of Ministers agreed to hold the 2013 Exchange in Armenia, on a date and theme to be determined later.

27. Furthermore, in December the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate on “Freedom of religion and the situation of religious minorities”.

28. In the field of education, three conferences have, or will have, been held during the six months of the Andorran Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

29. Firstly, the Chairmanship organised, in late November, a conference on “Human Rights and Democracy in Action – Looking Ahead: The impact of the European Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights”, with the participation of the Minister of Education and Youth of Andorra. This event afforded an opportunity to take stock of the results obtained and to plan possible future co-operation and strategies.

30. In February, the Chairmanship will be organising in Andorra-La-Vella a high level conference on “Skills for a culture of democracy and intercultural dialogue: a political challenge and one of values”. This conference will enable thought to be given to the objectives of education and to education’s potential role in training future citizens to live in culturally diverse, democratic and sustainable societies. It will have a particular focus on education for democratic citizenship and human rights and on other skills needed for intercultural dialogue. The conclusions of the conference should help the Council of Europe defining its strategic orientations for its 2014-2015 work programme in the field of education.

31. Lastly, Andorra welcomes the holding of the 24th Conference of Ministers responsible for Education, to be held during its Chairmanship in April 2013 in Helsinki, on the theme of “Governance and quality education” and hopes that the conclusions of the high level conference on “Skills for a culture of democracy and intercultural dialogue: a political challenge and one of values” will contribute to the preparation of this conference.

32. Still in the field of education, the Committee of Ministers in December adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)13 to member States on ensuring quality education.

33. Where Council of Europe action in the field of sport is concerned, the Committee of Ministers took note in December of information submitted by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) about the process of negotiation of a possible Council of Europe Convention against the manipulation of sports results and notably match-fixing. In November it adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1997 (2012) on “The need to combat match-fixing”.

34. During the same period in the youth field, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2002 (2012) on “The young generation sacrificed: social, economic and political implications of the financial crisis”. It examined adraft recommendation on access to social rights for young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, a draft prepared by the Joint Council on Youth (CMJ), and decided to forward this to several committees for opinion and then to instruct the CMJ to re-examine the text. It will resume its examination once this procedure has been completed.

35. Furthermore, in December the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2001 (2012) on the “Protection of and access to the audio-visual cultural heritage”.

36. Finally, in November the Committee of Ministers decided to set up an open ad hoc working party on the future of the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre). This group is tasked with considering the future of the North-South Centre and making proposals in this respect by the end of May 2013. Membership of the group is open to North-South Centre member States, to the European Union, to observer States and to the North-South Centre quadrilogue partners (Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, EU Committee of the Regions, Conference of INGOs).

Local democracy

37. Where local and regional democracy is concerned, the Committee of Ministers entrusted to the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) the task of carrying out a number of activities following the 17th Session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government, which had taken place in Kyiv in November 2011. Those activities relate to the impact of changing economic fortunes on local budgets, the raising of awareness of the human rights dimension of local and regional governance, the principles of good democratic governance at local and regional levels and the overcoming of obstacles to transfrontier co-operation.

Specific co-operation

38. At the end of October, the Ministers’ Deputies approved a co-operation programme designed to assist the Albanian authorities in their efforts to fulfil the outstanding obligations and commitments entered into by Albania on its accession to the Council of Europe. They instructed the Secretariat to implement this programme over the period 2012-2014. They also invited member States to consider providing voluntary contributions in order to supplement the financing of the said programme.

39. Where Ukraine is concerned, the Deputies examined the implementation of the Council of Europe Action Plan for the period 2011-2014 which they had adopted last July. They invited the Secretariat, in co-operation with the Ukrainian authorities, to draw up an updated version of the Action Plan, and instructed the Secretariat to continue implementing the Action Plan as thus revised. They also further invited the Secretariat to explore the means of supplementing the current financing and invited member States to consider providing voluntary contributions for this purpose.

40. At their 1154th meeting, on 14 November 2012, in the presence of Mr D. Zalkaliani, the new Deputy Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, the Deputies discussed the Secretary General’s sixth consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia.

Organisational development and reform, programme and budget

41. On 21 November 2012, the Committee of Ministers adopted the adjusted budget for 2013 in the framework of the first biennial Programme and Budget of the Organisation (2012-2013). The budget was adjusted by 2% – a reduction in real terms – taking into account the difficult economic situation in many member States.

42. On 12 December, a set of measures were adopted to put into effect the reform of the Council of Europe’s pension schemes which had been agreed earlier in the year. Implementation of the reform will continue in 2013.

Co-operation with the European Union, the United Nations and the OSCE

43. In the context of the regular high-level exchanges between the Council of Europe and the European Union on issues of common interest, representatives of both Organisations met on 20 November 2012. The Council of Europe was represented by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Andorran Foreign Minister Gilbert Saboya Sunyé and Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcoullis took part on behalf of the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. Participants held an exchange of views in particular on the state of co-operation between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean. They stressed that democratic reforms in the Southern Mediterranean are in Europe’s interests, as well as those of the region itself. They pledged to continue working together to help support the reform process, notably in the areas of constitutional and judicial reform, as well as holding free and fair elections and promoting human rights.

44. With regard to co-operation with the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, the Rapporteur Group of the Ministers' Deputies on External Relations (GR-EXT) held in November an exchange of views with Ms Maija Sakslin, the newly elected Chairperson of the Management Board of the Agency, and Mr Morten Kjaerum, the Director of the Agency. The exchange of views showed that co-operation was constantly on the increase, making it possible to avoid duplication and ensure that the work of the two institutions was complementary. It also highlighted potential new areas of co-operation for the future.

45. With regard to the United Nations, it should be recalled that a draft Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on co-operation between the two organisations had been submitted by the previous Chair of the Committee of the Ministers (Albania) to the United Nations Secretary General. The draft Resolution was adopted by the General Assembly on 12 December 2012.

46. Furthermore, in a Declaration on the death penalty (see also paragraph 5 above), the Committee of Ministers welcomed the fact that an unprecedented number of states in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly had adopted a draft resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

47. The Deputies continued to pay particular attention to co-operation with the OSCE. Firstly, in October 2012, the Co-ordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE took stock of co-operation between the two organisations on measures to combat terrorism and trafficking in human beings. Secondly, the Deputies invited the Chairmanship to present the Chair of the OSCE Permanent Council with a series of proposals for measures to stimulate co-operation so as to ascertain the OSCE’s views on them. They invited the Chairmanship to report back to them in due course on the results of its consultations with the Chair of the Permanent Council.



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