CM/AS(2014)1 24 January 2014
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
Report by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
(October 2013-January 2014)
Table of Content
1. Human rights
2. Rule of law and judicial co-operation
3. Social cohesion
4. Education, culture, youth and sport
5. Specific co-operation
6. Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
7. Co-operation with other organisations and external relations
1. On 14 November, for the sixth time since its accession to the Council of Europe on 16 April 1956, Austria took over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. As a strong advocate of a comprehensive system for the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Austria intends to promote the role of the Organisation on the European stage in pursuance of these values, in consultation with the member states and with the support of the various Council of Europe institutions and bodies, particularly the Parliamentary Assembly.
2. This report on the Committee of Ministers’ activities since the last session of the Assembly also describes some of the measures which Austria intends to take during its Chairmanship. The Parliamentary Assembly’s contribution to these measures will be keenly anticipated.
1. Human rights
a. European Convention on Human Rights
3. In November, in the context of the follow-up to the Brighton Declaration, the Committee of Ministers took note of a report by the Secretary General on follow-up to paragraph 9g of the Brighton Declaration, in which the Secretary General had been invited to propose practical ways to improve the delivery of the Council of Europe’s technical assistance and co-operation programmes, co-ordination between the various Council of Europe bodies involved in providing assistance and the targeting of relevant technical assistance available to each State Party on a bilateral basis, taking into account particular judgments of the Court.
4. In November, the Committee of Ministers also decided to extend the term of office of the members of the Advisory Panel of Experts on Candidates for Election as Judge to the European Court of Human Rights up to 30 June 2014. The work of the Panel will shortly be reviewed by the Committee of Ministers in accordance with the decision it took when the Panel was set up in November 2010 to review its functioning after an initial three-year period.
5. Questions relating to the work of the European Court of Human Rights were the main focus of the Committee of Ministers’ exchange of views on 15 January 2014 with the President of the Court, Mr Dean Spielmann. The Committee of Ministers took note of the most recent statistics from the Court and welcomed the positive results achieved in 2013.
b. Execution of judgments
6. With regard to the supervision of the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, the Ministers' Deputies held their 1186th meeting (DH) in December 2013. On this occasion, they decided to close the examination of 336 decisions and judgments of the Court (1378 cases were closed in 2013).
7. In the group Mahmudov and Agazade against Azerbaijan, the Ministers’ Deputies noted with serious concern that the information provided by the Azerbaijani authorities shortly before the meeting only partly responded to the calls made in the Committee’s interim resolution, adopted on 26 September 2013. They invited the authorities to take due account of the Opinion of the Venice Commission adopted on 11 October 2013, on the legislation in Azerbaijan pertaining to the protection against defamation. In view of the importance of rapidly achieving concrete results, the Deputies decided to resume consideration of these cases at their 1188th meeting (15 January 2014).
8. On this occasion, they expressed their serious concern that no timetable had been provided for the speedy adoption of the long overdue reform pertaining to defamation and noted further that the information provided does not alleviate the need to urgently adopt measures ensuring that prison sanctions may not be resorted to save in exceptional circumstances. The Deputies decided to invite the member of the government responsible for these issues for an exchange of views on the implementation of the judgments to be held at their 1193rd meeting (March 2014) (DH).
9. The Ministers’ Deputies adopted a third interim resolution (CM/ResDH(2013)259) in the case of Sejdić and Finci against Bosnia and Herzegovina. While noting that political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina are presently investing intensive efforts to negotiate rapidly a consensus on the constitutional reform, the Ministers’ Deputies firmly called upon all authorities and political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that the constitutional and legislative framework is immediately brought in line with the Convention requirements so that the elections in October 2014 are held without any discrimination against those citizens who are not affiliated with any of the “constituent peoples”.
10. In the case of Kurić and others against Slovenia, the Ministers’ Deputies held another exchange of views with the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Slovenia. They welcomed that on 21 November 2013, the Slovenian Parliament adopted, the Act on Compensation for Damage to Persons Erased from the Permanent Population Register and decided to transfer this case from enhanced to standard supervision procedure.
11. The Ministers’ Deputies examined the recent judgment delivered in the case of Del Rio Prada against Spain. They noted that in response to that judgment the applicant was immediately released following a decision given by the Audiencia Nacional. Concerning the recourse to the rules for the application of remissions of sentence, the Deputies noted that the practice of the criminal courts is now aligning with the European Court’s findings and therefore decided to classify this case under standard procedure.
12. In the case of Tymoshenko against Ukraine, the Ministers’ Deputies urged the Ukrainian authorities to move forward in their reflection by thoroughly considering all available options with a view to rapidly ensuring that redress is provided to the applicant in an appropriate form. They took note of the measures under way, in particular the efforts to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system, including the reform of the prosecution service and the constitutional reform to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
13. In the Hirst No. 2 group against the United Kingdom, the Ministers’ Deputies welcomed that the Secretary General attended to give evidence before the parliamentary committee on 6 November 2013. They urged the authorities to rapidly comply with the judgment by adopting legislation to ensure that future elections are held in compliance with the Convention and decided to resume consideration of these questions at their 1193rd meeting (March 2014) (DH).
c. Other questions concerning human rights
14. The Committee of Ministers continues to give particular attention to the question of the abolition of the death penalty. In October it again examined the situation in member States, after which it reiterated its appeal to the Russian Federation to take all necessary steps without delay to move from the current moratorium on capital punishment to de jure abolition of the death penalty, and to ratify Protocol No. 6. The Committee took note of the information provided by the Russian Federation about the steps taken to this end, and of that provided by Armenia and Poland about the measures taken concerning signature and/or ratification of Protocol No. 13. The Committee decided that its future exchanges of views on the subject would include all European countries, and asked the Secretariat to prepare, in contact with Belarus, an information document containing factual information about the death penalty in Belarus, as well as trends in government and public opinion concerning this issue. It will resume consideration of the subject in April 2014 at the latest.
15. On 18 December, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration deploring recent executions in Japan and the United States. The Committee again called on the Japanese and US authorities to put an end to this inhumane practice by introducing a moratorium on implementation of the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition, and to respect the values and principles of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, on 22 January, the Committee adopted a declaration regretting that new death sentences were pronounced in Belarus at the end of 2013 and calling upon the President of Belarus to commute them.
16. In December, 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), after which it took note of the 23rd general report on the CPT’s activities, covering the period from 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2013.
17. Where the fight against the trafficking of human beings is concerned, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views in November with the President of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) on the basis of the third general report on GRETA’s activities, covering the period from 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2013. Previously, in October, the Committee had adopted Resolution CM/Res(2013)28 on the Rules on the election procedure of the members of the GRETA, which came into force with immediate effect.
18. The fight against trafficking in human beings is a top priority for the Austrian Chairmanship. In order to promote the ratification and implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, Austria will host, on 17 and 18 February 2014, the Council of Europe-OSCE Conference “Not For Sale – Joining Forces against Trafficking in Human Beings”.
19. In the sphere of gender equality, the Austrian Chairmanship will promote the rapid entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. In this context, Ambassador Ursula Plassnik, on behalf of the Austrian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, pronounced the closing speech of the hearing on “Access to Justice for Women Victims of Violence”, held in Paris, on 9 December 2013, at the initiative of the Council of Europe and the French authorities. The Austrian Chairmanship will also work to target the causes and consequences of poverty among women in old age, a problem which exists in a number of member States, and will, in this context, host a conference which will examine ongoing pension reforms and possible ways of tempering this trend. Also in the equality sphere, the Committee of Ministers in November adopted the Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017.
20. Where the fight against racism and xenophobia is concerned, the Committee of Ministers in October adopted a resolution amending Resolution Res(2002)8 on the Statute of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. Complementing this, the Committee adopted a number of decisions, particularly in order to encourage member States to select their ECRI members through a transparent procedure and to invite them to take due account of the need for gender balance within ECRI when appointing their members of the Commission. At the end of October, the Committee held an exchange of views with the President of ECRI and took note of ECRI’s report on its activities in 2012. Finally, the Committee of Ministers took note, in December, of the conclusions of the High-Level Conference on Combating Racism and Xenophobia in Europe, held in Yerevan on 21 and 22 October 2013, and agreed to forward these conclusions to the Parliamentary Assembly for information.
21. The Austrian Chairmanship will likewise be turning its attention to this area, with the focus on prevention through education for democratic citizenship (see also under 4. below).
22. In respect of freedom of expression and media freedom, which are another of the Austrian Chairmanship’s priorities, the Committee of Ministers held a thematic debate in December entitled “Safety of journalists – Further steps for the better implementation of human rights standards”. Mr Gvozden Flego, Rapporteur on Protection of media freedom in Europe of the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, took part in this debate. Following the debate, the Secretary General has submitted to the Committee proposals for action aimed at enhancing the protection of journalists, which will be implemented in the coming months. These initiatives include the preparation by the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) of guidelines on the safety of journalists.
23. Also in December, the Committee of Ministers adopted, on the basis of a report by the Secretary General, a number of decisions on follow-up to the texts adopted at the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society (Belgrade, 7 and 8 November 2013). Those decisions inter alia instruct the CDMSI to carry out a number of tasks. The texts adopted by the ministerial conference were forwarded to the Parliamentary Assembly for information.
24. With regard to the rights of the child, on 22 January 2014, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to PACE Recommendation 2013 (2013) on “Parliaments united in combating sexual violence against children: mid-term review of the ONE in FIVE Campaign”.
2. Rule of law and judicial co-operation
25. In October, the Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution amending the Statute of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), which came into force immediately.
26. Also in October, the Committee decided to set up a Council of Europe Programme Office on Cybercrime in Bucharest, Romania, which would be staffed and resourced from extra-budgetary projects. The Secretary General was invited to report annually on the activities of this office and on its cost, including a proposal regarding the continuation of its functioning, and to present quarterly overviews of its activities.
27. As to the fight against corruption, following a decision by the Committee of Ministers, Kazakhstan was invited to accede to the Enlarged Agreement on the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). The possible accession of Kazakhstan will only take effect once an agreement on the privileges and immunities of the representatives of members of GRECO and members of evaluation teams has been concluded and has entered into force, and upon receipt by the Secretary General of a notification of accession by Kazakhstan, pursuant to Article 4, paragraph 4, of the Statute of GRECO.
28. In January 2014, the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2019 (2013) on “Corruption as a threat to the rule of law”. On the same occasion, it replied to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2018 (2013) on “Promoting alternatives to imprisonment”.
29. Lastly, with regard to the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), in December, the Committee of Ministers instructed the Secretariat to work with the relevant EU departments to draft and conclude a contract enabling the CEPEJ to provide the European Commission with country-specific information, based on CEPEJ methodology, on the functioning of the judicial systems of EU member states in areas other than criminal justice. The CEPEJ will be expected to report regularly to the Deputies on the implementation and results of this co-operation.
3. Social cohesion
30. With regard to persons with disabilities, in December 2013 the Committee of Ministers adopted a recommendation to member States on ensuring full, equal and effective participation of persons with disabilities in culture, sports, tourism and leisure activities.
31. In the field of health, two resolutions were also adopted in December related, the first on the development and optimisation of live kidney donation programmes and the second on establishing procedures for the collection and dissemination of data on transplantation activities outside a domestic transplantation system.
32. At the same meeting, the Committee of Ministers adopted replies to Assembly recommendations 2020 (2013) on “Equal access to health care” and 2017 (2013) on “Nanotechnology: balancing benefits and risks to public health and the environment.”
33. As regards Roma, the Committee of Ministers examined and took note of the Second Progress Report (May 2011–April 2013) of the Secretary General on the follow-up to the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma, encouraged its continued implementation and agreed to transmit it to other bodies in the Organisation, including the Assembly, for information.
34. The Deputies also agreed to renew the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Europe and the European Roma and Travellers’ Forum (ERTF) whilst, inter alia, inviting the Secretary General to prepare a general overview of Council of Europe co-operation with Roma organisations, especially the ERTF and other relevant NGOs, exploring options and making proposals for future co-operation.
35. On 22 January 2014, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation on a Council of Europe Charter on shared social responsibilities.
4. Education, culture, youth and sport
36. During its chairmanship, Austria will hold various events in the field of education, culture and youth. Accordingly, in order to promote education for democratic citizenship and its role in preventing racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, it will organise Citizenship Days, to be held around Europe Day on 5 May.
37. It will also hold a High-Level Conference on Quality Education with the support of the European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz and a conference entitled “WWI in the memory of Central Europe – Traditions of Memory in a Transnational Perspective”, aimed at teachers at both university and high school level and authors of history books.
38. In addition, Austria invited the Compendium Experts to meet in Vienna on 12 and 13 December to discuss cultural governance.
39. Austria also hosted the 2013 Cultural Routes Advisory Forum on 21 and 22 November in Innsbruck. In this context, the Austrian Chairmanship welcomes the adoption by the Committee of Ministers, on 18 December 2013, of the Resolution confirming the establishment of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes and the Resolution revising the rules for the award of the “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” certification.
40. During the reference period, the Committee of Ministers adopted a number of other decisions in the field of education, culture, youth and sport.
41. It took note of the conclusions and proposals resulting from the 2013 Council of Europe Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue and included them in the meeting file of the transfer of the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
42. It adopted replies to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 2014 (2013) on “Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge” and 2015 (2013) on “Young people's access to fundamental rights”.
43. It invited Morocco to join the European Audiovisual Observatory and adopted a Resolution amending Resolution Res(88)15 setting up a European Support Fund for the Co-production and Distribution of Creative Cinematographic and Audiovisual Works ("EURIMAGES"), thus enabling the partial agreement to be extended to include states which are not members of the Council of Europe.
44. The Committee of Ministers awarded the Council of Europe Landscape Award to the project entitled “Preserving ecological value in the landscape of the Szprotawa river valley, Lower Silesian Association of Landscape Parks, Poland” and awarded special mentions to three other projects.
45. In the field of sport, the Committee of Ministers invited New Zealand to accede to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport. In addition, in the light of the study on the merits and desirability of updating the European Convention on Spectator Violence, it decided to instruct the Standing Committee of the Convention to proceed with its revision.
5. Specific co-operation
46. In October, the Committee of Ministers adopted an action plan for Georgia aimed at providing assistance in the form of technical projects to the Georgian authorities for the period 2013-2015. The action plan covers a wide range of issues relating to human rights, the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, the reform of the prison system and the police force, democracy and good governance and promoting tolerance and combating discrimination, together with measures to restore confidence through personal contacts in the areas affected by the conflict of August 2008.
47. As to Ukraine, on 18 December the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration on the situation in Ukraine in which it called for dialogue between all the political forces in Ukraine, urging them to resolve the current crisis in a spirit of mutual respect and through democratic and peaceful means. It welcomed the fact that a dialogue had begun in the form of National Round Tables involving all of Ukraine’s political forces and that a number of people arrested during the clashes in Kyiv on 30 November and 1 December 2013 had been released. It also expressed its full support for the Secretary General’s recent initiative, accepted both by the authorities and by the opposition in Ukraine, to promote confidence through an independent investigation into these incidents. In November, the Committee of Ministers approved a revised version of the Council of Europe’s Action Plan for Ukraine over the period 2011-2014.
48. With regard to the Republic of Moldova, in October, the Committee of Ministers examined a report by the secretariat which took stock of the co-operation between this country and the Council of Europe. The Committee welcomed the progress achieved by the Republic of Moldova on its reform programme and the efforts that the Moldovan Government had made to carry out the reforms in the sphere of justice, police, human rights and anti-discrimination, and took note of the commitment to continuing the reform process. At the same time, it emphasised that a number of important issues had not yet been addressed and called for continued co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Republic of Moldova in priority areas including the improvement of the electoral legal framework and constitutional reform, reform of the judiciary and law enforcement bodies, the fight against corruption, freedom of the media, local democracy and confidence building measures between the two sides of the Nistru river. For this purpose, the Committee asked the Secretariat to work in close co-operation with the Moldovan authorities to draw up an action plan providing a framework for assistance designed to support reform in the Republic of Moldova. The Action Plan, which is intended to support democratic reforms in the Republic of Moldova up to 2016, was approved by the Committee of Ministers in November.
49. Lastly, in October the Committee of Ministers adopted a reply to Recommendation 2022 (2013) of the Parliamentary Assembly on “Post-monitoring dialogue with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia””.
6. Organisational development and reform, programme and budget
50. At their 1185th (Budget) meeting on 19-20 November 2013, the Deputies approved the Council of Europe’s Programme and Budget 2014-2015. This is the Organisation’s second biennial programme and budget. The principle of zero nominal growth has been applied to the total of member States' contributions to the Ordinary Budget. The Ordinary Budget amounts to €244 million for 2014 and 2015 respectively. The total annual resources of the Council of Europe in 2014 and 2015 will total approximately €400 million. In approving the budgetary decisions, the Deputies also invited the Secretary General to prepare a document setting out the long-term budgetary sustainability and efficiency of the Organisation, as part of its continuing reform process.
51. At the same meeting, the Deputies approved the terms of reference of the intergovernmental committees for 2014-2015, within the framework of the Programme and Budget. The new intergovernmental structure takes account of lessons drawn from the first biennium, with the aim of ensuring the continued involvement of specialised ministries in the work of the Organisation, which is one of its key comparative strengths.
52. At their 1187th meeting, on 11 December 2013, the Deputies adopted the new Resolutions relating to the Reform of the Contractual Policy of the Council of Europe. The aim of this reform is to increase the Organisation’s flexibility while at the same time guaranteeing contractual stringency and certainty, attracting the best qualified staff and ensuring that performance management is efficient and talents are developed. The Resolutions amending the Staff Regulations and the appendices thereto will come into force on 1 January 2014.
53. On 11 December 2013, the Deputies appointed Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (NIK) (Supreme Audit Institution of Poland) as the External Auditor for a five year period beginning with the audit of the 2014 financial year.
7. Co-operation with other organisations and external relations
54. As regards relations with the European Union, in November the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) held an exchange of views with Ms Frauke Seidensticker, a member of the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, and Mr Morten Kjaerum, Director of the Agency. This exchange provided an opportunity to review the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Agency from an institutional and a technical viewpoint. The possibility of establishing synergies in various fields was also discussed.
55. On 9 October 2013, the Committee of Ministers held an exchange of views on co-operation with the OSCE with its Secretary General, Mr Lamberto Zannier. The meeting of the Co-ordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE to be held in Strasbourg on 28 March 2014 will be an opportunity to conduct a detailed review of co-operation on the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination.
56. In December, in the context of the Council of Europe's policy towards neighbouring regions, the Committee of Ministers approved priorities for co-operation with Kazakhstan for the period 2014-2015. Co-operation activities will be carried out in this context with a view to preparing the possible accession of Kazakhstan to the Council of Europe’s conventions in the criminal field, in which it has expressed an interest. In November, the Rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) held an exchange of views with representatives of Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan on the state of and prospects for co-operation with these countries.