Doc. 9837

23 June 2003

Positive experiences of autonomous regions as a source of inspiration for conflict resolution in Europe

Opinion1

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Mr Erik Jurgens, Netherlands, Socialist Group

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

1. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights fully supports the draft resolution and recommendation tabled by the Committee on Political Affairs, but would like to table some amendments aimed mainly at easing the reading of the text and reinforcing the legal impact of it.

II.        Proposed amendments to the draft resolution and draft recommendation

Amendment to the draft resolution:

Amendment A:

In the French version of paragraph 11, delete the words “d’un territoire”.

Explanation: the words are superfluous.

Amendment to the draft recommendation:

Amendment B:

In paragraph 5, second sentence, replace the words “the European Charter of Regional Self-Government” by the words “the European Charter of Local Self-Government”.

Explanation: the European Charter of Regional Self-Government is only a draft adopted by the CLRAE in 1997 and does not yet exist.

III.       Explanatory memorandum

      By Mr Jurgens, Rapporteur

1.       I should like to thank the Rapporteur for his report as much for the conceptual thoughts about the idea of autonomy as for the case studies therein, as well as for the basis it offers for the solution of European conflicts, which, it may be said in passing, goes beyond the strict debate about autonomy.

2.       It is nevertheless not very clear in what way the example of Sri Lanka, which covers two full pages, is a source of inspiration for conflict resolution in Europe. Furthermore, the Rapporteur has merely glossed over the crucial issue of the Northern Ireland independence process, which is submerged in a two-line paragraph forming a single sub-chapter (paragraph 153 of the explanatory memorandum). This is all the more curious for the fact that Mr Atkinson, who wrote the motion for a resolution which led to the report, had himself requested that particular attention be given to the Northern Ireland agreement.

3.       Nor do I completely share the Rapporteur's thoughts about the status of Kosovo within Serbia and Montenegro. The current status of Kosovo is precisely that of autonomy within the borders of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The real difficulty stems from the fact that the devolution of the powers of the entity which administers Kosovo to the autonomous institutions is a fiction.

4.       I also think it imprudent to include Corsica among the examples of conflict resolution measures in paragraph 16, for the case of Corsica is currently under review in France, and a vote is to be held on 6 July in Corsica to decide on its institutional future, ie whether or not to set up a single authority.

5.       I do, on the other hand, share the Rapporteur's conceptual ideas about the definition of autonomy, which he has clearly distinguished from that of federalism, although Mrs Lapidoth disagrees (paragraphs 146 et seq of the explanatory memorandum).

6.       Where the reference to minorities is concerned, the main things have already been said in the Committee’s report on the rights of minorities, which is to be discussed at the next part-session, and which is bound to become authoritative in this context. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the draft resolution, in particular, appear to me to be in conformity with Article 3 of the Framework Convention, which deals with the principle that there should be no discrimination. This is why I shall not examine this issue in greater detail.

7.       I am submitting two amendments to the Committee, one purely editorial, the other referring to the current legal situation.

* * *

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Doc 8425, Reference 2404 of 21 June 1999

Opinion approved by the committee on 23 June 2003

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Coin, Mr Schirmer, Mr Ćupina, Mr Milner


1 See Doc 9824 tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.