3 March 1995

Doc. 7264

COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

Reply to Recommendation 1249 (1994) on co-operation in the Mediterranean basin

(adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 21 February 1995 at the 529th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)


      The Committee of Ministers thanks the Parliamentary Assembly for its contribution to the debate on the Council of Europe's relations with States on the southern shore of the Mediterranean which are not eligible to join the Organisation. The Committee notes the many initiatives taken within other bodies to promote the sense of a shared destiny between the two shores of the Mediterranean ("Mediterranean Forum", "Euro-Arab dialogue", "Euro-Mediterranean partnership"), and is fully aware both that the future of these nearby countries has a vital bearing on Europe's democratic security and stability, and that it is essential to promote their political, economic, social and cultural development, in order to contribute to greater respect for Human Rights in the region.

      The Committee of Ministers has decided to set up an ad hoc working party of the Deputies to follow the development of the Council of Europe's relations with the States concerned. It has identified a number of areas where contacts and exchange seem potentially useful, and could thus be developed if these States so wish. The main ones are: the establishment of democratic institutions, the promotion of the rule of law and Human Rights (including minority rights and equality between women and men), migration, the fight against drug-trafficking and drug-use, action against racism and intolerance, as well as the environment and the common cultural heritage.

      The Committee of Ministers recalls, however, that the countries of the southern Mediterranean have so far taken a very limited interest in the Council's work -judging by the fact that they have rarely followed up their expressed intentions of acceding to certain Council conventions (none of which can be considered fundamental), even when the Committee has positively invited them to do so. It accordingly considers that the status of observer or associate member of these legal instruments is probably the best formula for such co-operation in cases where this is legally possible. Any further applications will be looked at carefully, taking account of the benefits to both sides.

      In its specific area of responsibility, the North-South Centre has also been encouraged to play a full role in the region, and States which have not yet acceded to the Partial Agreement which governs it are urged to do so, for the purpose of increasing the funds at its disposal. There are also plans to invite non-European Mediterranean States to accede, thus demonstrating their desire for an organic framework for co-operation with the Council.

      The Committee of Ministers is aware both of the limited financial resources at the Council's disposal and of its priorities in Central and Eastern Europe, and will bear the Parliamentary Assembly's other comments in mind in its work, particularly when examining the Intergovernmental Programme of Activities for 1996, which should duplicate none of the work decided by other international institutions. Any contacts which could be made in this connection by the Secretary General are to be encouraged.