Priorities of the Luxembourg Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe1 (3 May - 7 November 2002)
CM/Inf(2002)21 3 May 2002
During its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Luxembourg will follow several main lines which will determine its approach to the Organisation’s fields of activity and which will shape its priorities in respect of the work now in progress or to be carried out.
The Luxembourg authorities will unreservedly support the gradual creation of a Europe which is united around the same values, through:
■ the promotion of democracy and human rights;
■ the rule of law and the principles of good governance;
■ the use of the instruments of political dialogue, co-operation and the promotion of good practice;
■ assistance programmes and the provision of expertise.
As the Council of Europe’s main objectives in pursuance of its Statute are the upholding of human rights and the promotion of pluralist democracy and the rule of law, the contribution of the Luxembourg Chairmanship will be intended to gradually bring together all European states around the same values and objectives of peace, dialogue, co-operation and the creation of a common area of law and of respect for the human being.
The concept of “good governance” underlies all the Organisation’s co-operation and assistance activities and all its projects which bring its member states together. The concept applies to all member states’ structures. It also extends to good management of the Institution and the increased attachment to cross-disciplinary internal aspects in the conduct of projects and programmes. The Chairmanship will support the Secretary General’s efforts to restructure and to define short and medium-term priorities, as well as to achieve sound and balanced budgetary management. The Organisation verifies that “good governance” is being practised through its various procedures for monitoring the honouring of its members states’ commitments, as well as through supervisory machinery introduced ipso jure through decisions taken by the heads of state or government or by the Committee of Ministers, or in pursuance of European conventions.
The Chairmanship encourages reference to the Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) in the constitutional and legislative spheres. It reserves the right to request advice from the Commission on subjects which may fall within its ambit.
It supports the action of the Commissioner for Human Rights, under whose terms of reference it is possible specifically to examine and to remedy situations which are not satisfactory, through the drawing up of reports, the preparation of recommendations and the introduction of consultation, training and assistance initiatives. It welcomes the Commissioner’s efforts relating to ombudsmen.
The Chairmanship intends to develop and expand the political dialogue between member states, especially the exchanges of views which take place at formal and informal ministerial sessions and at meetings of the Deputies and Political Directors, so as to promote cohesion among all the member states, by which is meant bringing them together ever more closely in the pursuit of the objectives laid down in the Statute (in pursuance of Committee of Ministers Resolution (84)21). “Good governance” is also measured, and develops, within the framework of this dialogue and through co-operation and the promotion of good practice.
The Council of Europe is well known for its targeted assistance activities in the context of the reforms and improvements needed in all member states, in accordance with the situation faced by each. This assistance is generally based on the regular work of the Committee of Ministers, but also on findings made during the monitoring exercise.
Monitoring is one of the most effective manifestations of the inclusive approach. It is a vital and continuous cross-disciplinary activity deserving the full attention and support of every Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. The Luxembourg Chairmanship will continue to develop the procedures for checking that the commitments entered into (before and after accession, but also in the general sphere) are complied with, and that appropriate instruments and machinery are effectively used.
The debates and initiatives of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) cover a whole range of questions facing our societies. The Assembly provides valuable political impetus. The Committee of Ministers’ task is to take up the challenge with a view to achieving closer co-operation and an institutional synthesis enabling the Council of Europe to take up a clear position on the European stage. Bearing in mind the statutory role of the Parliamentary Assembly in the accession processes (monitoring prior to and subsequent to accession), and in order to exchange views with the authorities about the progress achieved, the Chairmanship envisages making visits according to need, in consultation with the Secretary General and the President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Luxembourg undertakes to guarantee the permanence and the intangibility of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is fundamental to:
■ the gradual creation of a common European area of law and of respect for the human being.
The ECHR also underlies and backs up other instruments which take further and refine its main principles, intended in particular to achieve:
■ the protection of minorities, the eradication of manifestations of racism, intolerance and xenophobia, the promotion of non-discrimination and the combating of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Chairmanship will uphold the intangibility of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as the essential obligation to comply with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and undertakes to ensure that the system of conventions operates in its entirety. It is vital - in this context, and on the basis of the decisions taken by the Ministers at their 109th session - to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights is reformed in a way which is sufficiently ambitious to cover the medium term.
To this activity of medium-term conceptual reform and structural improvement, the Chairmanship intends to add the start of a process of reflection on the future of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly in the context of the drafting of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, but also in that of the various proposals made for the consolidation and development of the ECHR made during previous Chairmanships. On 17 September 2002, the Chairmanship will be organising, in Luxembourg, a symposium to be attended by judges, in their individual and personal capacity, of both the Court of Justice of the European Communities and the European Court of Human Rights. The informal conclusions of this symposium will be sent by the Chairmanship to the responsible organs of the Institution and deposited into the EU convention.
Wishing - through a critical and open discussion - to evaluate the state of freedom of expression Europe-wide (Article 10 of the ECHR), the Chairmanship will be organising, in Luxembourg on 30 September and 1 October 2002, a conference on freedom of the media in Europe, which will be mainly for members of the CM and PA, but to which experts from other institutions will also participate.
Economic and social rights and civil and political rights are interdependent. This is the reason for the adoption of the 1961 European Social Charter (and its additional protocols, as well as the revised Charter), which supplements the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. The Chairmanship will strive to promote the objectives of social justice on which the Council of Europe prides itself.
Several other supervisory, evaluation and assistance mechanisms complete this system of ongoing verification and challenge represented by the Court and Convention, in particular the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which was created under the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
It is important for the Chairmanship to ensure that persons who belong to national minorities are better protected, inter alia through implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and of other instruments, such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and that of Local Self-Government.
The situation of Roma, gypsies and travellers constitutes a major challenge for European societies: in spite of the undertakings which have been entered into, much remains to be done in order to guarantee their rights. The Chairmanship encourages dialogue between the EU, OSCE and Council of Europe so as to improve the relevant co-ordination and co-operation, inter alia in the sphere of social cohesion. The EU’s 1999 guiding principles, initially outlined by the Council of Europe, for improving the situation of the Roma in candidate countries are a point of reference, as are the support activities undertaken by the three organisations. In view of the complexity of the question, Luxembourg will support the efforts now in progress intended objectively to analyse the scope for setting up a Roma advisory body (bringing together the main associations of this unusual and dispersed community), which could be attached to the PACE and/or the CLRAE. It will be important to associate the Commissioner for Human Rights with these efforts.
In the light of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and of the committed and responsible attitude shown by the Europeans on that occasion, the Chairmanship urges continuation - at pan-European level - of the collective effort, so as to ensure that the relevant recommendations made in Durban in autumn 2001 and those of the European preparatory conference held in 2000 are effectively put into practice.
The ongoing strengthening of co-operation with the other organisations and institutions requires unrelenting work on:
■ relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union;
■ the division of tasks between global, European and regional organisations (EU, OSCE, Council of Europe, UN).
The main considerations are:
Greater interoperability (in the field, in programme planning and in the conceptual sphere) is conducive to co-operation between, and to the complementary nature of the action of, institutions working in fields which are often closely related or overlapping. In the view of the Chairmanship, institutional partnership is a cornerstone.
The Chairmanship will work for the development of the Council of Europe’s relations with the European Union, and the European Commission in particular. It will uphold the achievements which result from co-operation between these two selected institutional partners and will encourage the giving of consideration to additional joint activities in fields which lend themselves particularly to this. Existing channels will be highly useful (quadripartite meetings, other exchanges of views and good practice and other existing links, in the light of the texts and of the fields being dealt with…). As Luxembourg is a member of the EU, it will be in contact with the successive EU Presidencies.
The Chairmanship will encourage legal co-operation of an ever-closer nature between the Council of Europe and the EU, so as to ensure the homogeneity of the conventions which exist at European level.
Constant consideration of the compatibility and conformity of the legislative corpus of member and applicant states with the European Convention on Human Rights and with other major legal instruments, with a view to the development of the common European legal area, is a fundamental aspect of the Council of Europe’s work perfectly complementing the creation of the European area of freedom, security and justice on which the EU has been working since the European Council in Tampere.
The Chairmanship will continue the activity begun by its predecessors in terms of consultation, rapprochement and improved mutual understanding between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, through the consultation machinery established between the two organisations (“2+2/3+3” meetings) and the Common Catalogue of co-operation modalities.
Where the UN is concerned, the Chairmanship takes the view that the existing meetings must be turned to good advantage so as regularly to evaluate the substance, and the methods intended to achieve complementarity, of the activities to promote human rights and of those designed to achieve legal co-operation and the consistency of convention-related activities. It believes that the legal foundations at pan-European level should strengthen and enrich those of the global organisation. In this spirit, the Chairmanship will act through its national delegations in its relations with UN bodies, and will make use of the observer status held by the Council of Europe in the United Nations General Assembly.
At inter-institutional level, the Chairmanship will take soundings to assess the extent to which, and how, the Council of Europe, European Union and OSCE might co-operate better in the fields of education, culture, youth, sport and the environment. The Chairmanship envisages starting work through the possible holding of a select “trilateral” meeting between Chairmanships/Presidencies and secretariats, a meeting at which the existing possibilities and/or future ones to be defined might be evaluated.
The Chairmanship intends resolutely and with commitment to share the ambitions of the Council of Europe in respect of its contribution to dealing with the problems of society faced by European states, and more particularly:
■ the international fight against terrorism;
■ the dialogue between civilisations;
■ the work centred on the European identity and cultural diversity in Europe.
In the wake of the tragic events of 11 September 2001, priority will be given to international co-operation in the fight against terrorism and to developing this co-operation. The Council of Europe helped to initiate such co-operation at the special meeting held on 21 September, and the Ministers of Justice of Council member states took up the subject again in Moscow on 4 and 5 October, with endorsement by the 109th meeting of the Committee of Ministers following on 8 November. The Multidisciplinary Group on International Action against Terrorism (GMT) deserves wholehearted support. The interim report which it submitted to the 110th meeting of the Committee of Ministers, in Vilnius, will serve as a point of reference. This being so, the Chairmanship will continue to promote the signature and ratification of those Council of Europe conventions, treaties and other instruments which may, in one way or another, help to combat terrorism on the legal front.
In the new security context resulting from the events of 11 September 2001, the Chairmanship will be organising a European conference on mayors’ and local authorities’ responsibility in the face of terrorism, which it will host in Luxembourg on 20 and 21 September 2002.
Also subsequent to the events of September 2001, it is important that terrorism should be combated in a way which fully respects human rights, on the one hand, and which provides real scope for human dignity, on the other. This requires efforts over a long period and ongoing and in-depth “political teaching” activity. Dialogue with and among the various members of “civil society” who play an active role will provide one of the main instruments to be used in these efforts. Public authorities are duty bound to promote this process, designed to produce the human rights culture towards which the Council of Europe in practice directs its main aspirations.
The Chairmanship will take part in the wide-ranging discussions started by the Committee of Ministers relating to multicultural and inter-religious dialogue, a process complementing that begun by the UN involving a dialogue between civilisations.
In view of the impetus given by the Secretary General and the preceding Chairmanships (Latvia, Liechtenstein and Lithuania), further work will have to be done on defining the concept of European identity. A colloquy organised by the Secretary General in three parts held between April 2001 and April 2002 has examined the complex subject of European identity and produced some elements which might be able to be used in a political declaration by the Council of Europe on the subject. It is the Chairmanship’s task to gather the raw material and, on the basis of the conclusions of the three sessions of the colloquy, to do the conceptual and drafting work.
It is also the Chairmanship’s intention to make progress in those projects and programmes which are intended to lead to greater social cohesion. An asset in this context will be the continuing and significant strengthening of the assistance policy of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) for the Stability Pact countries and the transition countries in general. DG III (Social Cohesion) will have to continue its activities in symbiosis with the CEB. A further advantage would be increased co-operation between the CEB and the EIB/European Commission, with a view to avoiding overlaps and to seeking new synergies.
Where relations with civil society are concerned, the Chairmanship intends to mark the 50th anniversary of consultative status for non-governmental organisations with the Council of Europe and to develop further the reflection with a view to strengthening the present consultative status towards, if possible, a formula for participatory involvement.
Seeking policies and projects which are close to citizens:
■ The Europe of education, culture, youth and sport
■ Local and regional authorities
Some meetings of youth sector bodies (CDEJ, Joint Council) have already taken place in Luxembourg. These meetings were held between 21 and 24 January 2002 and, inter alia, started preparations for the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth, scheduled to be held in Thessaloniki from 6 to 8 November 2002.
Following European Year of Languages 2001, the Council of Europe and EU are looking at ways of following up this excellent project in a continent which depends for coherent development partly on the ability of Europeans to speak several languages. Preparation and implementation are being done jointly with the European Commission. The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers will organise a European seminar to promote the European Language Portfolio in Mondorf-les-Bains, from 17 to 19 October 2002.
A co-operative effort in the sectors of education, culture and the heritage, youth and sport, the general policy for which would need to be defined, might be used to assist the countries of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe (where these fields are under-represented) and other countries of Greater Europe. The key would be the building of a civil society which can look to the future with confidence.
Where the cultural and natural, the built and the non-built heritage are concerned, the Chairmanship has undertaken consultations with a view to the reform and consolidation of the cultural routes, and of the European Institute of Cultural Routes. In agreement with the Secretary General, the Luxembourg authorities and the Institute’s administrative council are giving thought to a change - through the creation of a new kind of partial agreement - altering the policies and programmes relating to the routes and the management, advisory and forward-looking research structure based in Luxembourg, currently governed by an agreement between the Luxembourg Government and the Council of Europe. The new partial agreement would be open to member states and would define a way in which the Parliamentary Assembly, the CLRAE, regional and local authorities closely involved in the heritage and appropriate private institutions could participate. This would strengthen the influence and the transfrontier, but also regional and European, impact of the cultural routes. The plan is for the structure to be networked and to extend to external “relay points”. The parent Institute could expand and take in experts from other member states, so as to train instructors and thereby pass the message on.
The activities of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe play a decisive part in reducing citizens’ apprehension about a Europe which seems increasingly complex institutionally and where decision-taking is concerned. Local democracy will prosper if responsibilities are clearly divided between the state and the regional and/or municipal authorities, if the necessary funds are granted to decentralised authorities and if the values of local democracy - responsibility, transparency and citizen participation - are safeguarded.
Where the themes on which the CLRAE works are concerned, the Chairmanship intends to promote in particular follow-up action relating to urban security. It has noted with interest the conclusions and recommendations of the Enschede Conference on Local Authorities and Transfrontier Crime, held in September 2001. The concerns expressed in the final declaration (covering terrorism, cybercrime, urban crime and transfrontier co-operation on crime prevention) coincide with those of the Committee of Ministers.
In the context of the political and assistance activities of the Committee of Ministers and of the Council of Europe as a whole, the Chairmanship will bear in mind the need to follow up politically sensitive situations in some member and applicant states:
■ in South-Eastern Europe
It will support:
- the continuation of Council of Europe activities under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe (covering member states and applicants);
- the democratic anchoring of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Council of Europe structures and the carrying out of the main reforms, including implementation of an electoral provisions law, the functioning of the common institutions, the return of refugees and displaced persons, co-operation with the ICTY and with the national and international institutions which exist to protect human rights, the bringing into line of the entities’ legislation with the standards of the ECHR and of other major instruments, and the application of the general principles of local democracy;
- the implementation and adaptation, where necessary, of assistance programmes for the "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM) in support of the Ohrid agreements of 13 August 2001 and of other subsequent decisions by the legislature, in co-operation with other competent institutions, where appropriate;
- the consolidation of developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), future Serbia and Montenegro, which needs the Council of Europe’s help with the reform and adaptation of federal and national constitutional and legislative provisions to comply with European standards. Support will be given to its accession to the Organisation as it carries out reforms, as a unified and democratic state built on the efforts of its component parts to define appropriate constitutional relationships, in accordance with the interim solution negotiated by the EU High Representative, Mr Javier Solana, on 14 March 2002. The Chairmanship will support, in this framework, the efforts made in favour of local and regional democracy. In addition, the Chairmanship will encourage the Council of Europe to continue its assistance activities for Kosovo, in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
■ in Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus)
It will support:
- the application of the action plan for the media and of the programmes and projects to reinforce civil society and parliamentary democracy in Ukraine;
- the implementation of the action plan for judicial reforms in Moldova, basing the future Council of Europe assistance activities for this member state on the results of the fact-finding and advisory visit by the Secretariat to Chisinau in April 2002. In addition, the Chairmanship will continue to make available, within the limits of the mission and responsibilities of the Council of Europe, of the services of the Venice Commission for the resolution of the Transnistria dispute.
It notes at this stage that:
- developments in the situation in Belarus hardly bring any hope of substantial and rapid change. The attitude of the international community has not changed appreciably, other than to note that the country’s continued isolation was not the best approach, although the opening signals should come from the Belarus authorities themselves. The Council of Europe is currently mainly supporting the efforts of the OSCE’s assistance and observation group. The Chairmanship will follow with interest the discussion which could possibly take place within the PA.
■ in the Southern Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan)
It will take action to promote policies intended to:
- commence efforts to achieve a more homogeneous treatment of the trans-Caucasian region as a whole and, as a result, a concerted approach between the institutions concerned (CE, OSCE, EU, UN);
- define assistance, through the monitoring of the honouring of the commitments entered into by the new member states, Armenia and Azerbaijan (the specific monitoring in the CM context), and make available, if so requested by the parties, within the sphere of competence of the Council of Europe, expert advice relating to solutions to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
■ in the Northern Caucasus (Chechnya-Russian Federation)
It will attach great importance to the continuation of the Council of Europe experts’ activities in the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Human Rights in Chechnya, and the preparation of an appropriate assistance and advice policy, in close consultation with the authorities of the Russian Federation (and with the European Commission, within the framework of the joint programmes); decisions on the extension of the experts’ term of office and on the gradual extension of the activities of the Council of Europe will be implemented in the light of the situation on the ground.
Finally, the Chairmanship, aware as it is of the efforts made by its predecessors and by the Secretary General, intends to work for a strengthening of links with the observer states. It is a welcome development for these partners to be invited more consistently to attend plenary meetings - on subjects of mutual interest.
The Chairmanship does not, at this stage, make any proposal to create a new status of associated state, but it intends to invite interested non-European states to associate themselves more, and more often, with conventions and instruments of similar status which have stood the test of time within the Council of Europe and beyond. The states of central Asia, for example, and those from the southern shore of the Mediterranean might, according to the interests of each state, become parties to the main Council of Europe conventions which are open to non-members. Existing and future instruments in the fight against terrorism are among those which could be opened in priority to such an approach.