The reform of the Council of Europe is the main priority
of Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Organisation
since September 2009.
The reform pursues the following main objectives:
• To revitalise the Council of Europe as a political body and an innovative Organisation;
• To concentrate its work on fewer projects, selected according to the highest added value and comparative advantage;
• To develop a more flexible Organisation, both visible to and relevant for Europeans.
This phase of reform focuses on the Organisation’s strategic developments and should result in a better definition of the Council of Europe’s role within the European architecture. Its focal point is the definition of priorities for the Council of Europe for the current decade and, more specifically, for the first budget biennium 2012-213. The second phase of reform also emphasises the translation of priorities into specific and effective actions through new tools and working methods. The priority setting for the Organisation is also likely to result in structural adaptation.
With the objective of creating the conditions for improved internal governance and preparing further strategic action on reform the first phase of reform covered a large number of issues ranging from new strategic directions for the Council of Europe to the implementation of administrative simplification measures.
The objectives were accomplished with new internal management tools and a rationalised external presence, allowing the Secretary General to better anticipate and address member States concerns, The Interlaken process, launched during this phase (see section 2 below), brought a new drive to the reform process of the European Court of Human Rights.
Objective: Unifying the budget and programme management processes and ensuring one comprehensive document which covers the budget and the programme for the whole of the Council of Europe, to ensure more transparency, efficient use of Secretariat resources and, overall, a better understanding of what the Organisation does, how and with what cost.
One of the first decisions taken to improve working methods and tools was the preparation of a completely new, streamlined programme and budget for 2011 which, for the first time, links the budget and activities of all the Organisation’s statutory organs and institutions into one single document. Budget and Programme services were combined and a new, single-volume Budget Programme prepared for 2011. The new Budget Programme is based on a straightforward three-pillar operational structure (Human Rights, Rule of Law, Democracy), supported by a fourth pillar of central and support services.
Other budget reform measures were also taken, for instance a decision that the credit balance from a previous year would be returned to Member States rather be injected as a lump sum in a future budget.
Objective achieved: Introducing a biennial programme and budget, to ensure a more strategic programme and a modernised budget procedure.
The first biennial budget programme will cover 2012-2013. It will be prepared during the reform’s second phase, based on revised strategic priorities for the Organisation. The move to two-year programming and budgeting will enable the Council of Europe to become more oriented towards strategy and efficient in managing its resources, creating the best possible conditions in which to implement its programmes. It also entails a revision of the Financial Regulations of the Organisation. The decision-making body of the Organisation, the Committee of Ministers, may still re-open budget discussions for a specific calendar year, if it deemed necessary.
Objective: Enhancing the long-term effectiveness of the Court and improve its functioning (the Interlaken process).
The current reform of the Court started back in 2001 with the drafting of Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. The purpose of this instrument’s purpose was to guarantee the long-term efficiency of the Court by optimising the screening and processing of applications. Protocol No. 14 entered into force on 1 June 2010.
A Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights was organised during the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in February 2010 in Interlaken (Switzerland). The Conference resulted in an agreement on the need to reduce the volume of outstanding cases as well as to guarantee that new appeals are dealt with in a reasonable time-frame. Moreover, the national implementation of the Court's judgments is to be improved and the Committee of Ministers will guarantee an effective supervision of the implementation process. The Action Plan of the Final Declaration includes a list of short and middle-term measures and an agenda for their implementation.
A Committee of Ministers Ad-hoc working party (GT- SUIVI.Interlaken) is entrusted with the follow-up process to the Interlaken Declaration. A follow-up conference will be held in Izmir (Turkey) in April 2011.
Objective: Overhauling the Council of Europe’s operational capacity in the field.
The rationalisation and reinforcement of the Council of Europe’s operational capacity in the field are crucial elements for making the Council of Europe a more visible and competitive Organisation. With this in mind, a complete overhaul of its external presence was initiated as from spring 2010. Previously the Council of Europe presence included six different types of offices. They are now called Council of Europe Offices and are tailored to respond to new and changing needs.
Following the changes, the Council of Europe will have a presence in: Baku, Belgrade, Brussels, Chisinau, Geneva, Kyiv, Moscow , Paris, Pristina, Sarajevo, Tbilisi, Tirana, Vienna, Warsaw and Yerevan. All these 15 external offices will be fully operational as from March 2011. In addition, the existing structures in Lisbon, Graz, Budapest and Ankara continue to function in their present form. This also applies to the Information Point in Minsk.
Objective: Creating a qualitative change in relations with relevant international Organisations.
Since the start of the reform process, closer contacts have been developed with other relevant Organisations including the UN, OSCE and the European Union. The Secretary General met with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon three times during the autumn of 2010.
The EU Lisbon Treaty has entered into force, outlining EU accession to the Council of Europe's European Convention on Human Rights. Currently, the preparatory work is underway in this respect.
Closer ties with the European Union are also being forged by ensuring joint co-operation on a high political level than ever before. In the framework of Council of Europe - European Union relations, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland already met the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy; the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso; with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton; and with the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.
As a latest example, the Secretary General and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Štefan Füle signed a 4 facility of four Million euro in the framework of the Eastern Partnership initiative in December 2010, marking a more strategic approach to co-operation between the two Organisations. The facility will translate in activities on electoral standards, support to the judiciary, fight against corruption and cybercrime in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
Objective: Create the conditions for improved involvement with civil society.
Civil society plays an invaluable role as a major opinion-shaper, as an expertise provider, as an advocacy group and a watchdog, as an agent of early warning and awareness-raiser and, in many areas, as a direct partner implementing Council of Europe activities on the ground. Furthermore, it is a key player in promoting the norms and values of the Council of Europe. Hence, the importance of setting up renewed broader and more strategic relations with civil society. In November 2010 the Secretary General presented the Committee of Ministers with his new concept on relations with civil society. This concept is being further developed and will result in more efficient interaction with relevant civil society organisations.
Objective: Adapt structures to new challenges and ensure better governance.
Strategic planning and early-warning
A Policy Planning Directorate has been created to assist the Secretary General in identifying upcoming challenges and developments in Europe for which the Council of Europe can play a leading and innovative role in Europe, and to respond these challenges through into the Council of Europe’s strategy for the medium and longer-term.
The creation of a Directorate of Internal Oversight entrusted with oversight responsibilities on the effective management of the Organisation’s resources. Besides the already existing internal audit function, the new Directorate provides independent and impartial evaluation and will contribute to create an evaluation culture based on international quality standards. The first evaluation reports produced, such as on Council of Europe’s migration activities, will be determining in prioritising activities under the reform process.
The creation of more flexible initiation/termination conditions for Partial Agreements.
Adapted internal structures and improved co-ordination
- The dissolution of the Strategic Planning Directorate, the creation of a new Budget and Programme Department within the Directorate General of Administration, and the linking of External Relations and political advice within the Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs.
- Strategic co-ordination meetings, for example between the Presidents of the different Institutions of the Organisation.
 A number of Council of Europe activities are currently carried out by Partial Agreements, which in country composition may vary from more than the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to only a much smaller group of member states interested in the particular activity. These activities do not form a part of the Ordinary Budget of the Organisation [for example: the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law]
Objective: Adapt human resources policies to the reform process.
The more than 2 400 staff members are one of the main assets of the Council of Europe is its. An initial set of measures aimed at ensuring that human resources policies encompass the reform process was adopted during the first phase of reform. The purpose of these measures is:
- to foster mobility, in particular by the internal publishing of any vacant post of position as a “mobility notice”;
- to increase flexibility, in particular by reducing the advertising time for external recruitment procedures;
- to simplify administrative procedures, in particular by harmonising the length of staff members’ probationary periods.
Objective: Re-balancing staff and operational expenditure.
Controlling the overall staff expenditure, which has been growing in recent years to the detriment of operational spending, is also a priority, in particular at a time of budgetary constraints in member States. The measures introduced, such as doubling the interval between staff seniority salary increments (or “steps”), have already produced tangible savings for the Organisation: the increases in obligatory expenditure are expected to be 83% lower for 2012, compared to 2011.
Objective: Proposals on priority reform subjects
An internal governance structure - the Group "Agenda 2020" - was set up in June 2010 under the leadership of the top management and involving a large number of staff (more than one hundred staff members) through four change workshops and fifteen task forces; its mandate was to put forward proposals on several priority reform subjects. A part of the recommendations put forward by this structure is already being implemented or will be included in the forthcoming reform proposals.
Staff members have also been invited to contribute to the reform by expressing their ideas through an on-line blog ("blog for change"), available for staff between September and December 2010, which was consulted over 4000 times. The blog will be re-opened soon to allow staff members to continue to share ideas on reform proposals. Furthermore, the Secretary General has been able to discuss his reform ideas with staff through a live web chat held in November 2010 and he will continue this practice throughout 2011.
Objective: Setting out clear strategic priorities for the Council of Europe for the current decade.
The time has come for an in-depth analysis of the Council of Europe’s contribution to Europe based on shared values, standards and norms with the overall objective of achieving more collective security and stability in Europe, a united Continent without dividing lines.
Based on in-depth consultations with member states and discussions with senior management, the Secretary General will submit an outline of priorities for the current decade to the Committee of Ministers by March 2011. The main criteria for the development of these priorities will be their political impact and comparative advantage. The political priorities for the decade should be adopted at the Ministerial meeting to be held in May 2011 in Istanbul under the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
The Group of Eminent Persons has been established by the Committee of Ministers at the proposal of the Turkish authorities, to reflect on the pan-European challenges of living together in today’s complex and changing societies. The reflections of this group will be taken into account for the definition of strategic priorities for the current decade.
Objective: Translate strategic priorities into specific and effective actions.
Strategic priorities will determine the contents of the Programme of Activities for 2012-2013. In this new programme, the Council of Europe’s action should be more integrated, it should benefit from more focused resources and the total number of operational programmes should be substantially reduced.
Along the biennial programming and budgeting, the timeframe for new programmes will be clearly limited to the 2-year budgetary cycle, with appropriate mechanisms for revision or continuation beyond this timeframe following an appropriate review. With the help of proper strategic planning, the Council of Europe should also better ensure in the future that it has a leeway to respond rapidly to new developments.
Objective: Concentrate resources on priority programmes.
In the past, the Council of Europe has succeeded with the design of new programmes, playing a pioneering role in many fields, but did not always succeed in the sun-setting of activities with decreasing impact. Today, pulling together resources around priorities has become a necessity.
The reduction in the total number of operational programmes will result in internal redeployment of both financial and human resources to achieve a sustainable critical mass for the relevance of each programme. It will, above all, be determined by the activities’ added value and comparative advantage.
Intergovernmental committees will be subject to an overall review in line with priorities. The creation of new, or the renewal of existing intergovernmental structures, should respond exclusively to a need regarding the implementation of programmes.
The increase of resources devoted to Roma activities, decided as a follow-up to the High-Level Meeting on Roma, held on 20 October 2010, reflects this new approach, aimed at achieving political relevance and tangible end results.
Objective: Pursuing the work to ensure the Court’s efficiency.
The work undertaken in Interlaken regarding the Court’s effectiveness will continue to be a priority during the second phase of reform. Further progress on improving the Court’s functioning is expected at the high-level meeting on the future of the European Court of Human Rights which will take place in Izmir (Turkey) in April 2011, under the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
Objective: Action Plan for Europe’s Conventions.
The Council of Europe produced over 200 international Treaties. Besides the core Conventions, constituting the basis of Council of Europe membership and an essential part of the Human Rights “acquis” in Europe (such as the European Convention of Human Rights), a few other conventions may have lost their full relevance. A comprehensive review of the existing Conventions, including an Action Plan, will be worked out in 2011.
Objective: Continue adapting human resources’ policies and containing the increase of staff costs.
Adequate human resources policies will continue to be developed to support the reform process. One of the challenges of reform is to further develop a culture of trust, empowerment and accountability within the Secretariat based on staff competencies and performance. The Committee of Ministers will be invited to consider measures to achieve this goal, based on competencies and performance by March 2011. It will also be invited to approve further measures to contain staff costs, through the revision of certain allowances.
Objective: Fighting red tape.
A significant number of simplified administrative measures aimed at facilitating the staff’s daily work, and at making the Council of Europe a more effective and innovative Organisation, have already been put in place or were launched in early 2011.