5 October 2005
The Council of Europe and the European Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union
Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Rapporteur for opinion: Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Lithuania, European Democrat Group
I. Conclusions of the Committee
1. The Monitoring Committee strongly supports the draft recommendation presented by the Political Affairs Committee. Since the idea lying behind the European Neighbourhood Policy dates back to the end of 2002, it was indeed time that the Council of Europe express its official position towards this complex policy framework.
2. The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is designed to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged European Union and its neighbours. It offers these countries the chance to participate in various EU activities, through greater political, security, economic and cultural co-operation. The ENP is a major tool of the European Union to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the Mediterranean and the Eastern EU Neighbourhood.
3. At the same time, these are values and principles which have been the very essence of the Council of Europe for more than 50 years. Our Organisation has as members all the European countries covered by the ENP, with the sad exception of Belarus; moreover, all its action is geared by the only legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of human rights protection for all the 46 member states, including those which are members of the European Union: the European Convention of Human Rights. Through its European Court of Human Rights, its monitoring procedures, its expertise and its assistance programmes, the Council of Europe ensures that all these states comply with the values and standards they have commonly agreed upon.
4. Therefore, the relationship between the Council of Europe and the ENP should not be described as a simple contribution of the former to the latter. The values and standards of the Council of Europe should be at the core of any activity promoting democracy, rule of law and human rights. The abidance by any European country by its commitments and obligations towards the Council of Europe has to be a sine qua non precondition for any further European integration, including the one offered in the framework of the ENP.
5. While welcoming the launch of the ENP, the Council of Europe should insist on the importance of a coherent EU policy towards the states in its neighbourhood. Such coherence can only be achieved if the two Organisations engage in close partnership regarding the Council of Europe's core areas of excellence.
6. The Council of Europe and the European Commission jointly issued a Declaration on cooperation and partnership on 3 April 2001, in which they stressed that the two organisations "share the same values and pursue common aims with regard to the protection of democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law". In fact, effective co-operation has existed for more than a decade under the numerous Joint Programmes. It has proven that solid results can be achieved when the two organisations combine their resources and respective strengths.
7. Good co-operation at Secretariat level has allowed the existing Action Plans within the ENP to make numerous references to the Council of Europe. However, if the two Organisations really care about the values and standards that they promote, such a random, individual, approach is not sufficient. A political agreement at the highest level needs to be reached that the ENP Action Plans would stipulate compliance with the Council of Europe obligations and commitments as a point of reference for any country on the path to further European integration. Furthermore, the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the ENP needs to be institutionalised.
8. We should call upon the European Union to make the issues of concern for the Council of Europe as regards democracy, rule of law and human rights an integral part of the Country Action Plans of the EU Neighbourhood policy and to include the results of Council of Europe monitoring into the evaluation of the progress on ENP Action Plans in the countries concerned.
9. A specific mention should be made of Belarus, which is formally included in the ENP and is the only European country which is not a member of the Council of Europe. Due to the catastrophic situation as regards democracy under the present regime, Belarus, is not able to benefit from the ENP. There was no Country Report on Belarus and there will not be any Action Plan prepared by the European Commission, at least for now. However, the EU and the Council of Europe should not "forget" this country, as next year's presidential elections might bring a breakthrough or, on the contrary, bring the country to a deadlock.
10. A number of specific co-ordinated actions, which would be mutually beneficial to the Council of Europe and the ENP and could support peaceful democratic changes in Belarus, can be envisaged. For instance, the Venice Commission could prepare and present an opinion on the legal aspects of Mr Lukashenko's eligibility to participate in the forthcoming presidential elections in 2006. At the same time, the EU could block the regime from access to financial and political means before the 2006 election, while, at the same time, support civil society promoting democratic reforms.
11. In addition, the Mediterranean and East-European dimension of the ENP should not be favoured one against the other either financially, or in any other aspect.
12. All the EU Institutions, the Parliament, the Commission and the Council should be called upon to co-operate more closely with the Council of Europe in exchanging information and expertise in the field. Only then would the evaluation made by both the EU and Council of Europe be more coherent and reflected in the policy of the two Organisations towards the ENP countries.
II. Proposed amendments to the draft resolution
The committee proposes the following amendments:
Replace paragraph 4 with the following paragraphs:
"The Council of Europe and the European Union have repeatedly declared that they share the same values and principles and pursue common aims with regard to democracy, the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Assembly recalls that the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe is the only legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of human rights protection for all 46 Council of Europe member states, including those which are members of the European Union.
The Assembly therefore believes that the ENP has to be based on co-operation between the EU and the Council of Europe, and that this implies that the ENP fully integrates the values and standards of the Council of Europe and uses its expertise in its core areas of excellence. Lack of co-ordination would not only result in duplication of efforts. Worse, it would create the risk of sending incoherent political messages to the countries concerned and especially to those which have undertaken specific commitments as Council of Europe members."
At the end of paragraph 9, add the words "the rule of law and ensuring respect for human rights".
After paragraph 9, insert a new paragraph as follows:
"The Council of Europe has been monitoring the specific obligations and commitments of all Council of Europe member countries covered by the ENP since their accession. The compliance of these countries with their obligations and commitments towards the Council of Europe should be a sine qua non precondition for any further European integration within the ENP."
Reword paragraph 13 as follows:
"If the commitment of the European leaders to ensure complementarity within European organisations is not to remain wishful thinking, the Council of Europe and the EU have to reach a political agreement that the values and standards of the Council of Europe should be given full political recognition in the ENP Action Plans. Moreover, the expertise, monitoring procedures and assistance know-how of the Council of Europe should be widely used in the implementation of the ENP in the form of an institutionalised partnership."
Reword paragraph 14.1 as follows:
"urge the relevant authorities of the EU:
- reach a political agreement with the Council of Europe on making its values, standards and legally binding mechanisms in the field of democracy, rule of law and human rights a point of reference in the ENP Action Plans;
- institutionalise partnership in this field."
After paragraph 14.1.1., insert a new paragraph as follows:
"for the countries covered by the ENP which are members of the Council of Europe, making compliance with Council of Europe commitments and obligations a pre-condition for any further European integration;"
At the end of paragraph 14.1.2., delete the words "as added value".
In paragraph 15.2., replace the word "connect" by "assign".
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee
Committee for opinion: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Reference to committee: Doc. 10535, Reference No. 3136 of 1 September 2005
Opinion approved by the committee on 4 October 2005
Secretaries to the committee: Mrs Ravaud, Mrs Theophilova-Permaul, Mrs Odrats
1 See Doc. 10696 tabled by the Political Affairs Committee.