For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure

Doc. 10644

7 July 2005

Membership of past Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly in the Political Affairs Committee

Report

Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities

Rapporteur: Mr Gerd Höfer, Germany, Socialist Group

Summary

The report reviews the current status under the Rules of Procedure of the past Assembly President as long as he remains an Assembly member. For this purpose, in accordance with an introduction from the Bureau of the Assembly, the practical implications of the existing provisions (Rule 18.3.) were taken into account.

While the knowledge and experience of past Presidents of the Assembly would be useful for the Political Affairs Committee, the report considers that there are other ways and possibilities for making use of them other than providing past Presidents with ex officio membership of the Political Affairs Committee.

Therefore, it is proposed that the immediate past President should no longer be an ex officio member of the Political Affairs Committee.

I.       Draft resolution

§ 1.       The Parliamentary Assembly recalls that, following the adoption of Resolution 1284 (2002), the Assembly’s immediate past President became an ex officio member of the Political Affairs Committee as long as he/she remained an Assembly representative or substitute without interruption (Rule 18.3. of the Rules of Procedure).

§ 2.       The Assembly considers that there exist other possibilities than those foreseen in Rule 18.3. to let the Assembly benefit from the knowledge and experience of immediate past Presidents who remain Assembly members. In addition, the Assembly notes that as from 24 January 2005 this provision is no longer applied in practice, since the former President decided not to exercise this right.

§ 3.       In this connection, the Assembly recalls that it is always possible for the Bureau and, if appropriate, for Assembly committees to invite past Presidents of the Assembly and former Chairpersons of political groups, whether they remain Assembly members or not, to a meeting if their advice is needed.

§ 4.       Consequently, the Assembly decides

§ 4.1.       to delete Rule 18.3. of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure and to give Rule 18 the        following new heading "President”;

§ 4.2.       that these modifications shall enter into force on their adoption.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Höfer

A.       THE STATUS OF PAST ASSEMBLY PRESIDENTS CURRENTLY MEMBERS OF THE        ASSEMBLY

1.       Before 2002 the past Assembly Presidents, as long as they remained Assembly members, had no special status under the Rules of Procedure. Sometimes they became Chairpersons of major Assembly committees, of political groups, of their national delegation or Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.

2.       During their office the Presidents of the Assembly gain a particular knowledge and acquire experience of the Assembly and the Council of Europe. This is mainly due to their carrying out of the following functions.

3.       The President of the Assembly maintains contacts with other organs and institutions of the Council of Europe. He/she attends Summits of Heads of State or Governments of Council of Europe member States, ministerial sessions of the Committee of Ministers and chairs the Joint Committee.

The President may participate in conferences of specialised Ministers held in the framework of the Council of Europe and in meetings of special Council of Europe bodies, like the Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy through Law).

In the framework of the Assembly’s external relations policy, guided by its Bureau, the President represents the Assembly as a whole. He/she co-presides joint meetings between the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament. He/she heads the Assembly’s delegations participating at sessions of other international parliamentary institutions (OSCE Assembly, IPU, Assembly of the CIS,...).

The President makes official visits to Council of Europe member states and receives distinguished guest speakers at the Assembly, etc.

4.       On 21 January 2002, the Bureau requested the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities (Rule 65.2.) to amend the Rules to enable the immediate past President of the Assembly, provided he/she still was a member of the Assembly as well as the Chairpersons of political groups to become ex officio members of the Political Affairs Committee including participation as rapporteurs, but without the right to vote, in case they were not appointed members of this committee by their delegation.

5.       On 24 April 2002, the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities adopted unanimously a preliminary draft resolution, based on a text approved by the Presidential Committee, requesting that a new paragraph 3 in Rule 18 be inserted which would read as follows:

“The immediate past President as long as he/she remains a representative or substitute of the Assembly without interruption, shall be an ex officio member of the Political Affairs Committee including appointment as rapporteur but may not take part in votes, nor be elected to the bureau of that committee”.

6.       On 29 May 2002 in Lucerne, the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, adopted the draft resolution with an amendment excluding the past President from the right to become a rapporteur (Resolution 1284 (2002), Doc. 9455); however, this right was granted to political group chairpersons.

7.       It is to be noted that in connection with this Rule change the differentiation thus made between the past Assembly President and other Assembly members (particularly those having held other important posts than that of President) had deliberately not been discussed. The reason for this was that the very precise instructions received from the Bureau (Presidential Committee) on 21 January 2002 gave the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities no room for such considerations. Furthermore, the committee had not examined other ways and possibilities for making use of the knowledge of the past President than by providing him with ex officio membership of the Political Affairs Committee.

8.       The rapporteur should like to recall in this context that in the WEU Assembly the Presidential Committee includes past Presidents as long as they remain representatives or substitutes of the Assembly (Rule 13, paragraph 1 of the Assembly's Rules).

B.       INITIAL PROPOSALS FOR A MODIFICATION OF THAT STATUS

9.       A new motion for a resolution, presented by Mr Eörsi and others on 27 August 2003 (Doc. 9891) on the subject and aiming at a revision of the decision taken by the Standing Committee in Lucerne in line with the original proposal from the Presidential Committee, was referred by the Bureau of the Assembly to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities for report.

10.       The Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities reconsidered the matter. The rapporteur proposed that the Political Affairs Committee could make better use of the Assembly’s past President’s knowledge and his/her experience gained during his/her presidency, if he/she had the possibility to be appointed as rapporteur.

11.       Furthermore, the rapporteur considered that the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities could propose that membership of and rapporteurship in the Political Affairs Committee be extended to all past Assembly Presidents provided they remain Assembly representatives or substitutes without interruption. It is obvious that not only the immediate past President, but also his/her predecessors gained a particular knowledge and experience at the helm of the Assembly.

12.       Without having examined these proposals in depth the committee considered on 28 January 2004 that because of its limited scope, a specific report might not be justified. It expressed the wish to possibly include the proposed Rule change in a general report on the up-dating of several provisions of the Rules of Procedure.

C.       NEW INSTRUCTIONS RECEIVED FROM THE BUREAU OF THE ASSEMBLY

13.       On 8 October 2004 the Bureau asked the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities to analyse the practical implications of Rule 18.3. of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure and to inform the Bureau accordingly.

14.       Since 29 May 2002 the then immediate past Assembly President, Lord Russell-Johnston, was a member of the Political Affairs Committee on the basis of Rule 18.3. However, he ceased to be such a member on 24 January 2005, when the term of office of President Schieder ended. In the meantime Mr Schieder was appointed a member of the Political Affairs Committee by his national parliamentary delegation as he did not wish to avail himself of the possibility provided for in Rule 18.3. As a consequence until January 2008 Rule 18.3. will not be applied in practice.

15.       Admittedly, membership of the Political Affairs Committee for the immediate past President is of major interest, particularly in the current situation when a Council of Europe Summit was just held and appropriate follow-up will have to be secured.

16.       However, such membership could be achieved by a simple appointment to the Political Affairs Committee of the outgoing President by the national delegation concerned according to Rule 43.6., as is the case for Mr Schieder.

D.       NEW PROPOSALS

17.       At the meeting of the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities on 27 April 2005 the members who took part in the discussion, did not consider it necessary to maintain the provision in the Rules of Procedure (Rule 18.3) which gives the immediate past Assembly President a special status in the Political Affairs Committee. Consequently, the proposal to extend this status to all former Presidents who remain Assembly members, was not supported.

18.       However, some members considered that not only the knowledge and experience of the immediate past President may be useful for Assembly organs, but also those of all former Presidents and of other members who formerly occupied leading Assembly posts (such as Chairpersons of Assembly Political Groups).

19.       The rapporteur also considers that the advice of former Secretaries General of the Council of Europe may be useful for Assembly bodies on certain occasions.

20.       As has been underlined above, it is not necessary for making use of the advice and knowledge of past Assembly Presidents to offer them ex officio membership of Assembly organs.

21.       In this connection it is recalled that nothing in the Rules prevents the Bureau and Assembly committees to decide to invite a former President or Chairperson of a Political Group to participate in a meeting, if this was appropriate and justified by the knowledge or experience of the persons concerned.

22.       This also applies to former Presidents and Chairpersons of Political Groups if they are no longer Assembly members.

23.       Finally, it may occasionally be appropriate for the Bureau to draw on the experience of past Assembly Presidents and Chairpersons of Political Groups to appoint them as Assembly representatives to Council of Europe institutions and other bodies.

24.       It has to be admitted, however, that invitations of former Presidents or Chairpersons of Political Groups to meetings of Assembly organs may raise problems because of current budgetary restraints of the Assembly. This will in particular be the case if they are no longer Assembly members. In these circumstances the Assembly's budget could only exceptionally bear the travel and subsistence expenses of such members to attend meetings. The same is true for missions to represent the Assembly at meetings of Council of Europe institutions and of other bodies.

25.       On 23 June 2005 the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities agreed with the rapporteur's proposals to:

-       delete Rule 18.3. of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure;

-       give Rule 18 the following new heading "President";

-       include in the draft resolution contained in this draft report a paragraph recalling that the Bureau and, if appropriate, Asssembly committees may always decide to invite former Presidents and Chairpersons of Political Groups to a meeting if their advice is needed.

E.       CONCLUSIONS

26.       The Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities adopted the draft resolution contained in this report and agreed to present it to the Standing Committee on 1 September 2005.

27.       The proposed Rule changes should enter into force upon their adoption by the Standing Committee.

Committee responsible for the report: Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities

Reference to committee: Doc. 9891, Reference No. 2870 of 8.09.2003

Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 23 June 2005

Members of the committee: Mr Andreas Gross, (Chairperson), Mr Andrea Manzella, Mrs Ganka Samoilovska-Cvetanova (Vice-Chairpersons), Mr Sándor Albert, Mr Gulumhuseyn Alibeyli, Mr Ioannis Bougas, Mrs Anne Brasseur, Mr Aslan Cebeci, Mr Jonas Čekuolis, Mr Manlio Collavini, Mrs Helen D'Amato, Mrs Krystyna Doktorowicz, Mr Miljenko Dorić, Mr Vangjel Dule, Mr Mats Einarsson, Mr Herbert Frankenhauser, Mr Tihomir Gligorić (alternate: Mr Ivo Lozančić), Mrs Arlette Grosskost, Mr Gerd Höfer, Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Mr Tomáš Jirsa, Mr Armand Jung, Mr Erik Jurgens, Mr Tibor Kékesi, Mrs Mojca Kucler-Dolinar, Mr Markku Laukkanen, Mrs Ana Catearina Mendonça, Mr Per Erik Monsen, Mr Jacob-Axel Nielsen, Mr Alexey Ostrovsky, Mr Julio Padilla, Mr Ivan Pavlov, Mrs Sólveig Pétursdóttir, Mr Christos Pourgourides, Mrs Valentina Radulović Šćepanovic, Mr Armen Rustamyan, Mr Peter Schieder, Mr Yuri Sharandin, Mr Christophe Spiliotis-Saquet, Mrs Rodica Stănoiu, Mr Victor Stepaniuc, Mr Karim van Overmeire, Mr Rudolf Vis, Mr David Wilshire (alternate: Lord Kilclooney), Mr G.V. Wright.

NB: The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in bold.

Secretary of the committee: Mr Mario Heinrich.