20 January 1993

Doc. 6744

1403-18/1/93-1-E

REPORT

on the general policy of the Council of Europe

(Rapporteur: Mr SZENT-IVANYI,

Hungary, Liberal)


Summary

      A new policy should be defined to allow the Council of Europe to fully assume its pan-European role, since opening the Organisation to Central and East European countries is leading to the admission of a certain number of new members.

      The Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government, to be held in Vienna on 8 and 9 October 1993, should give new impetus to the Organisation and adapt it to the challenges of the new Europe.

      This adaptation should include institutional reforms to strengthen the democratic character of the Organisation, in particular through enhancing the role of the Assembly.

      Meanwhile, the Assembly should make full use of its existing prerogatives.

      I. Draft resolution

1.       In Recommendation 1193 (1992) on the future of European construction, the Assembly stressed the need to adapt the Council of Europe to the new situation created by the changes that have taken place in Europe.

2.       A new policy should be defined to allow the Council of Europe to fully assume its pan-European role, particularly since opening the Organisation to Central and East European countries is leading to the admission of a certain number of new members.

3.       The Assembly endorses the position of the Committee of Ministers that states having applied for Council of Europe membership should be gradually involved in the Organisation's activities pending a decision on their request.

4.       It considers that its own parliamentary co-operation programme forms an integral part of this involvement.

5.       It expresses its firm belief that, in the context of the new Europe, its own role as the democratic guarantor of the Council of Europe, should be reinforced.

6.       The Assembly considers that it should not only examine the situation in states having applied for membership but that it has a duty regularly to monitor the human rights situation in all member states as well as in states whose legislative assemblies hold special guest status.

7.       The Assembly reaffirms that the Council of Europe is the Organisation best placed to develop international legal instruments regarding the protection of minorities as well as on combatting racism and xenophobia.

8.       The Assembly welcomes the readiness of the Committee of Ministers to establish a close co-operation for the preparation of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of member states to be held in Vienna on 8 and 9 October 1993.

9.       It considers that this Summit provides a unique opportunity to give the Organisation political impetus, and to adapt its terms of reference to the challenges of the new Europe. This adaptation should include institutional reforms to strengthen the democratic character of the Organisation.

10.       The Assembly will endeavour to make specific proposals on the themes that will be on the Summit's agenda. It expects that its President will be given the opportunity to present these at the Summit itself.

II. Draft order

1.       The Assembly refers to its Resolution ... (1993) on the general policy of the Council of Europe.

2.       It instructs its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to report, when problems arise, to the Assembly on the situation of human rights in member states, including their compliance with judgments by the European Court of Human Rights.

3.       It instructs its Political Affairs Committee to report regularly to the Assembly on the situation of human rights in states whose legislative assemblies enjoy special guest status, and, in particular, on their compliance with the requirements laid down in Rule 55.a of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure and instructs the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member States to give an opinion on this report.

III. Explanatory memorandum

by Mr SZENT-IVANYI

CONTENTS

Paragraphs

I.       INTRODUCTION       1-5

II.       CONSEQUENCES OF ENLARGING THE

      COUNCIL OF EUROPE

a.       Relations with Central and Eastern Europe       6-9

b.       The protection of human rights       10-13

c.       Relations with non-European countries and

      international organisations       14-16

III.       THE ROLE OF THE ASSEMBLY

a.       Areas in which the Assembly already plays an

      important role       17-20

b.       Increasing the Assembly's role       21-27

IV.       CONCLUSIONS       28-29


I.       INTRODUCTION

1.       The Assembly's Rules of Procedure provide that "Each part-session shall normally include a debate on general policy" (Rule 16). Traditionally, the Political Affairs Committee appointed a general rapporteur to present these reports during one or more sessions. In the light of the major political upheavals in Europe over the past years, it was felt that this led to the general rapporteur being solely responsible for the presentation of the committee's most important reports. Consequently, it was agreed to change the general rapporteur's mandate and ask him to present only one report during one Assembly session. However, in order to continue to comply with Rule 16, reports on various political issues could be presented by different rapporteurs during other part-sessions.

2.       In his speech to the Assembly on 4 May 1992, French President Mitterrand set out his views of the Council of Europe's role in the changing Europe. In order to meet the new challenges he proposed that the heads of state or government of member states of the Council meet every second year. He also suggested, among other things, more regular meetings of the Committee of Ministers.

3.       The proposal to hold a Council of Europe Summit was taken up by the Austrian Government which extended a formal invitation to the Committee of Ministers. At their special ministerial meeting in Istanbul (10-11 September 1992), the Committee of Ministers "accepted with gratitude the invitation of the Austrian Government to hold a summit in Vienna in October 1993 to discuss the future role of the Council of Europe at pan-European level and the implications thereof".

4.       In Recommendation 1193 (1992) on the future of European construction, adopted by the Assembly on 5 October 1992, specific proposals on themes for the Summit were made. The Committee of Ministers have not yet replied to this recommendation, but included it in the file of its working party on the preparation of the Summit.

5.       The Summit is a unique event in the Council of Europe's history and will hopefully lead to clear decisions on the Organisation's general policy in the coming years. The Assembly will have the opportunity to discuss its contribution during the coming sessions. This report deals with some of the implications of enlarging the Council of Europe and focuses on the role of the Assembly, as well as on possibilities to increase the latter's importance. Finally, the Rapporteur presents certain proposals regarding the Summit and suggests new tasks for certain Assembly committees.

      This report does not address the particular problems concerning the enlargement as such of the Council of Europe, or the revision of its Statute. These will be the subject of separate reports.

II.       CONSEQUENCES OF ENLARGING THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

a.       Relations with Central and Eastern Europe

6.       In recent years membership of the Council of Europe has increased rapidly. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Bulgaria have already joined and membership has been requested by no less than nine countries (Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine). The dissolution of Czechoslovakia as of 1 January 1993 means that the Organisation's membership has been temporarily reduced. However, both the Czech and the Slovak Republics have declared that they wish to become members of the Organisation as soon as possible. It is hoped that the Assembly, following its regular procedure, will soon be able to give a positive opinion in both cases.

7.       The requirements for full membership are found in the Council of Europe's Statute, in particular in Article 3 which reads as follows:

"Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council as specified in Chapter I."

8.       In addition, the Assembly considers that a willingness to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, including acceptance of the right of individual petition and the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, is to be regarded as a condition for membership. The discussion of membership applications in the Assembly further shows that treatment of minorities is to be regarded as an important indication of respect for human rights.

9.       At their special meeting in Istanbul on 10-11 September 1992, the Committee of Ministers reaffirmed that there could be no question of lowering the Council of Europe's standards and that "in considering applications for membership, particular attention should be paid not only to respect for our statutory requirements but also to the evolution to the actual implementation of political reforms throughout the applicant countries". The Committee of Ministers announced itself in favour of a "gradual involvement" in Council of Europe activities by applicant states. Adherence to the Council of Europe is thus perceived as a process, to include the ratification of certain conventions and to be accompanied by appropriate assistance programmes. This view was also reflected in Opinion No. 162 (1992) on the programme budget for the Assembly's 1993 operational expenditure. In this opinion, the Assembly expressed the wish to develop its own co-operation with parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe. The Rapporteur is pleased to note that the Committee of Ministers recently decided to allocate funds for this purpose.

b.       The protection of human rights

10.       The Council of Europe is certainly best known for its promotion of human rights. The protection offered under the European Convention on Human Rights is unmatched anywhere in the world. Its protection, not limited to nationals, but extended to everyone within member states' jurisdiction, is supervised by a Commission and Court of Human Rights. Their extensive case-law has made the Convention a corner-stone of the European legal system. However, as the Assembly noted in Recommendation 1194 (1992) on the reform of the control mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights, this system has become a victim of its own success. The enlargement of Council of Europe membership has made reform of its control mechanism even more imperative. The Assembly has pronounced itself clearly in favour of the creation of a single court as a full-time body, replacing the existing, part-time, Commission and Court.

11.       While the Council of Europe's reputation was established through the protection of the classic civil and political human rights, developments in the former Yugoslavia and in the Caucasus have painfully demonstrated the consequences of the absence of adequate protection of minorities. The creation of a credible international legal instrument may well be the only way to overcome existing distrust. The opening for signature of the European Charter for Regional Minority Languages was a first step in the right direction. It is to be hoped that the Assembly will also agree on the proposals for an additional protocol on minority rights to the European Convention on Human Rights prepared by Mr Worms on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Mr de Puig has prepared an opinion thereon for this committee.

12.       In addition to minorities, the fighting in the former Yugoslavia has drawn the world's attention to the need to arrive at a better protection of refugees and displaced persons. The Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees only aims at protecting victims of individual persecution and it does not deal with the victims of civil war

13.       Radical nationalism is not confined to Central and Eastern Europe as recent tragic events in Germany, but also in other West European countries, have demonstrated. The Council of Europe urgently needs to address the causes of the rise in violent racism and xenophobia. It is the organisation ideally placed for co-ordinating legislative measures taken in member states to combat these trends. This committee has been asked to prepare a report on the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

c.       Relations with non-European countries and international organisations

14.       In addition to being an organ of the Council of Europe, the Assembly also acts as the parliamentary forum for other international organisations. Every autumn it organises a debate on the activities of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the participation of parliamentary delegations from OECD member states not belonging to the Council of Europe. Since September 1992 these delegations participate with equal rights.

      Following a visit by the President of the Assembly to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in September 1992, it was agreed that the Assembly would henceforth hold an annual debate on the Bank's activities. Other forms of cooperation include Asembly's participation in EBRD seminars and participation of EBRD representatives in Assembly delegations observing election in Central and Eastern Europe.

15.       While the Council of Europe rightly devotes a large percentage of its resources to co-operation with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, it should not be forgotten that the standards set by our Organisation also serve as a model for many non-European democracies in developing countries. The Strasbourg Conference, organised jointly by the Assembly, the European Parliament and the non-European OECD members (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States of America) has so far met three times. In September 1991, it brought 500 participants from ninety countries to Strasbourg to discuss particular aspects of democracy. The Council of Europe also set up the European Centre for Global Interdependency and Solidarity. This Centre, based in Lisbon, aims at raising public awareness in Europe of global independence. At the same time the Centre simply advocates pluralist democracy and respect of human rights as fundamental elements of sustainable development. Many developing countries, both at governmental and NGO level, participate in the Centre's activities.

16.       The political role of the United Nations in Europe has increased because of the conflict in former Yugoslavia. In addition, it should be recalled that the United Nations Secretary General for many years has been trying to find a solution to the Cyprus question. The Political Affairs Committee's decision to create a sub-committee on relations with the United Nations should facilitate the Council of Europe's co-operation with the United Nations as well as enable parliamentarians to be better informed. As regards other organisations, your Rapporteur would refer to the excellent report prepared recently by Mr Flückiger on the future of European construction (Doc. 6671).

III.       THE ROLE OF THE ASSEMBLY

a.       Areas in which the Assembly already plays an important role

17.       Although the Council of Europe's Statute originally foresaw a mainly consultative function for the Assembly, subsequent practice and new legal instruments gave the Assembly both political and decision-making power. Already in 1951, the Committee of Ministers decided that it would henceforth first consult the Assembly before inviting a state to become a member of the Council of Europe. Several of these requests are currently being examined by the Assembly. The existing practice is that the Bureau refers the request to the Political Affairs Committee for report and to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries for opinion. In addition, the Bureau asks a member of the Commission and of the Court of Human Rights to prepare a report on the compatibility of the legislation in the applicant state with the standards of the Council of Europe. The Assembly's opinions on applications for membership have as a rule been adopted quasi-unanimously which has gradually increased their political impact. The Committee of Ministers clearly bases its invitations to join the Council to a very large extent on the position of the Assembly.

18.       Special guest status was "invented" by the Assembly in 1989. The enlarged Bureau of the Assembly may grant this status to national legislative assemblies of European non-member States. It was originally intended to promote the democratic reforms in formerly totalitarian states. Although the aim of supporting reforms is still present, special guest status has increasingly come to be regarded as a first step towards full membership. This led the Assembly to lay down specific requirements such as the application and implementation of CSCE instruments as well of the two United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Rule 55.a).

      The Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries and the Political Affairs Committee give an opinion on requests for special guest status to the enlarged Bureau. Recent reports from the Political Affairs Committee demonstrate that the compliance with the formal requirements is being carefully examined.

19.       The Assembly has decision-making power as regards the appointment of the Organisation's senior officials. It elects the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and Clerk of the Assembly. It also elects the members of the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore, the Assembly makes proposals to the Committee of Ministers for the appointment of members of the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It also makes proposals for the award of the Council of Europe's Human Rights Prize.

20.       Apart from the Assembly's opinion on applications for membership, the Committee of Ministers also regularly requests the opinion of the Assembly on draft conventions as well as on the budget of the Council of Europe. Finally, the Assembly is regularly invited to be represented at ministerial conferences.

b.       Increasing the Assembly's role

21.       The forthcoming Vienna Summit offers the Assembly an unprecedented opportunity to present its views to the heads of member states and governments. Recommendation 1193 (1992) on the future of European construction, based on the aforementioned report by Mr Flückiger, contains specific proposals for themes to be submitted to the Summit. The Bureau of the Assembly has set up an ad hoc committee, consisting of the leaders of the political groups, to prepare the Assembly's contribution to the Summit. A joint meeting with the Committee of Ministers' Working Party set up for the same purpose is likely to be organised during the forthcoming February part-session. The Committee of Ministers have expressed an interest in closely co-operating with the Assembly on this issue and this possibility should be fully used. In this context, the Assembly should insist that its President presents to the Summit participants the Assembly's proposals. The participation of the European Parliament's President at the Summit of the Twelve could be used as a precedent.

22.       The Assembly debate on the report on enlargement to be submitted by the Chairman of the Political Affairs Committee, Mr Reddemann, should result in a clear position on the geographical and political framework of the Organisation which should be presented to the Summit. Closely linked to the Assembly's position on enlargement is the question of amending the Council of Europe's Statute. The Bureau's ad hoc Committee for the Revision of the Statute will submit its final report to the Bureau in January. The Bureau will probably refer to the matter to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and to the Political Affairs Committee for opinion. This would enable the Assembly to adopt a position prior to the Summit. Within the European Community major institutional reforms and genuine progress were often the result of summit meetings. It is to be hoped that this will also be the case for the Council of Europe.

23.       As Mr de Puig put it in his opinion on the rights of minorities, the Assembly rightly anticipated the Committee of Ministers' lethargy in preparing a document on minorities and instructed the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to prepare a draft legal instrument. This procedure should be increasingly followed in the future. Too often the Committee of Ministers fails to give a substantive reply to recommendations adopted by the Assembly when it refers recommendations to its expert committees; results are often only available years later. The Assembly should assert its right to a substantive reply from the Committee of Ministers. It should not hesitate to put critical questions to the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers when the latter makes his communication during a part-session. At present, this exercise is often far more diplomatic than parliamentary.

24.       Another field in which the Assembly could well reinforce its impact is the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights. Although this is an area where the Assembly should assert its prerogative, at present it would appear that it all too easily follows the proposals made by governments. Therefore, the Rapporteur proposes that the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights organise proper parliamentary hearings of candidates. This would have the double advantage of underlining the Assembly's role and enabling members to assess the relative merits of the candidates. The importance of the decisions by these judges for the legal developments in Europe can hardly be overstated.

25.       Another activity that the Assembly could undertake in the field of human rights is a regular assessment of the situation of human rights in member countries, as well as in states where assemblies enjoy special guest status. Such reports have in recent times only been presented as regards one member country and it is true that problems also arise elsewhere. In this context, this Assembly, through its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, could also monitor the compliance of member states with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. There are sufficient indications that such compliance is not always satisfactory and the Committee of Ministers is reluctant to discuss any matter that might involve criticism of a member state.

26.       Finally, the Assembly is only participating at present in a limited number of intergovernmental committees (20 out of nearly 120). It would certainly reinforce the democratic content of our Organisation if such participation were more generalised. The debate on the revision of the Statute should provide an opportunity to ask for this.

27.       Giving the Assembly a greater say in budgetary matters, and particularly as regards its own budget, is another issue to be considered in the context of the revision of the Statute.

IV.       CONCLUSIONS

28.       By accepting to hold a Summit of Heads of State and Government for the first time in the Council of Europe's history, member states clearly demonstrated their awareness of the need to take decisions at the highest political level to adapt the Organisation to the challenges of the new Europe. This adaptation should include institutional reforms to strengthen the democratic character of the Organisation, especially through enhancing the role of the Assembly.

29.       The Assembly also has to adapt its own procedure if it wants to increase its role. On the basis of the proposals mentioned in Chapter III.b, the Rapporteur proposes specific instructions to committees:

-       regular reports on the situation of human rights in member states, including their compliance with judgments of the Court of Human Rights, by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, with opinion of the Political Affairs Committee;

-       organisation of hearings of candidate judges for the European Court of Human Rights by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights;

-       regular reports by the Political Affairs Committee, with opinion of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries, on the situation of human rights in states whose legislative Assemblies hold special guest status, and, in particular, their compliance with the requirements of Rule 55.a of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure.

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None.

Reference to committee: Standing mandate.

Draft resolution: Unanimously adopted by the committee on 13 January 1993.

Members of the committee: MM. Reddemann (Chairman), Sir Dudley Smith, Mrs Baarveld-Schlaman (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Agnelli, Alvarez Cascos (Alternate: Fabra), Andreotti, Antretter, Baumel, Björn Bjarnason, Bokov, Bratinka, Caro, Cem (Alternate: Maruflu), Cimoszewicz, Espersen, Fahey, Lord Finsberg, MM. Fiorini, Flückiger, Galanos, Mrs Haller, Mrs Halonen, MM. Hardy, Hellström, Irmer, Kelchtermans, König, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM. van der Linden, Machete, Martins, Masseret, Mimaroglu, Moya, Oehry, Pangalos, Panov, Papadogonas, Psaila Savona, Schieder, Seeuws, Mrs Suchoka (Alternate: Moczulski), MM. Szent-Ivanyi, Tarschys, Thoresen, Trabacchini.

N.B. The names of those members who took part in the meeting are in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: MM Sorinas and Kleijssen.