Setting up of an Assembly committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Doc. 7722
8 January 1997

REPORT[1]

Rapporteur: Mrs Marcelle LENTZ-CORNETTE, Luxembourg, Group of the European People's Party


Summary

Several of its committees are currently competent for monitoring the obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe.

The Assembly considers that the importance and long-term nature of the monitoring function has meant that these committees are faced with a considerable workload which will further increase in the future.

The Assembly therefore believes that it is necessary to create a new committee for this task.

I. Draft resolution [link to adopted text]

The Parliamentary Assembly stresses that it is important for the Council of Europe to ensure full compliance with the undertakings made by all its member states, in a spirit of co-operation and non-discrimination.

At present the Assembly procedure for monitoring the obligations and commitments of member states is governed by Order No. 508 (1995).

It emphasises that several general committees are competent for many questions relating to member states' obligations and commitments and that the monitoring procedure established by Order No. 508 has created a considerable workload for the committees concerned.

It therefore decides to constitute an Assembly committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe ("Monitoring Committee").

This committee, whose terms of reference are appended, shall be composed of 40 members of the Assembly and of the Chairpersons of the three following committees: Political Affairs, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Relations with European Non-member countries.[2] In derogation of Rule 45, paragraph 13 of the Rules of Procedure, each member shall have a fixed alternate, i.e. only the designated alternate can replace the member and only when the member is absent.

Nominations shall be drawn up by the political groups of the Assembly and addressed to the President of the Assembly who shall submit them to the Bureau. To enable the Bureau to arrive at the desired balance in drawing up the final list, more names can be proposed than the number of places on the list.

On the basis of the list of candidates, the Bureau shall appoint the 40 members (and 40 alternates) by applying the apportionment ratio based on the so-called "D'Hondt principle". The Bureau shall also aim at ensuring a regional balance. The appointments shall be submitted to the Assembly for ratification.

The Monitoring Committee shall appoint two of its members co-rapporteurs for the purpose of preparing a written opinion to the Bureau on whether a monitoring procedure should be opened or not. The appointment of the co-rapporteurs shall aim at ensuring a political and regional balance.

When a monitoring procedure is initiated, two members of the parliamentary delegation of the member state concerned (to represent the governing majority and the opposition) shall be invited to take part, without the right to vote, in the relevant debates of the committee unless one or both are already represented on the committee. By analogy with Rule 6, paragraph 6, no member of the parliamentary delegation of the member state concerned shall participate in a vote on any question concerning this state.

The Monitoring Committee shall appoint two of its members co-rapporteurs in respect of each member state for which a monitoring procedure is initiated. When rapporteurs are engaged in monitoring a particular country, they shall remain members of the committee until the Assembly takes a decision on the relevant report, provided they are still members of the Assembly.

The Assembly may sanction persistent failure to honour obligations and commitments accepted, and lack of co-operation in its monitoring process, by adopting a resolution or by the non-ratification of the credentials of a national parliamentary delegation at the beginning of its next ordinary session, in accordance with Rule 6 of the Rules of Procedure. Should the member state continue not to respect its commitments, the Assembly may address a recommendation to the Committee of Ministers requesting it to take the appropriate action in accordance with Articles 8 and 9 of the Statute of the Council of Europe.

From the committee's constituent meeting onwards, no subsequent monitoring procedure may be initiated on the basis of Order No. 508. Any monitoring procedures still pending in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report and in the Political Affairs Committee and the Committee on Relations with European non-member countries for opinion, shall be handed over to the Monitoring Committee and concluded by it.

The Assembly also decides to amend as follows its Rules of Procedure:

i. in Rule 43, at the end of para. 1, to add the following text:

"Committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) (number of seats: 40[3])."

ii. in Rule 43, after para. 2, to add the following new paragraph:

"3. In accordance with Resolution ... (1997), the Assembly shall set up a committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)."

This resolution abrogates Order No. 508.

Terms of reference of the Assembly Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe
(Monitoring Committee)

The committee is responsible for seeking to ensure:

  1. the fulfilment of the obligations assumed by the member states under the terms of the Council of Europe Statute, the European Convention on Human Rights and all other conventions concluded within the Organisation to which they are parties;

  2. the honouring of the commitments entered into by the authorities of member states on their accession to the Council of Europe.

An application to initiate a monitoring procedure may originate from:

  1. the general committees of the Assembly and from the Monitoring Committee by reasoned written application to the Bureau,

  2. not less than ten members of the Assembly representing at least two national delegations and two political groups, through the tabling of a motion for a resolution or recommendation,

  3. the Bureau of the Assembly.

Applications (other than those made by the Monitoring Committee itself) are to be considered by the Monitoring Committee which, after the appointment of two co-rapporteurs and after carrying out the necessary investigations, will prepare a written opinion for the Bureau. In the light of the committee's opinion, the Bureau will take a decision whether to initiate a monitoring procedure and if so will refer the matter, subject to ratification by the Assembly, to the Monitoring Committee for report. At the same time or subsequently, the Bureau, subject to ratification by the Assembly, will decide when strictly necessary on the committee(s) to which the matter is possibly referred to for an opinion. A negative decision by the Bureau needs to be confirmed by the Assembly. The Monitoring Committee may also be instructed to carry out a monitoring procedure by decision pursuant to a text adopted by the Assembly or the Standing Committee.

Except in special circumstances, a monitoring procedure should not commence until six months after a member state's accession to the Council of Europe.

In accordance with Rule 46, the Monitoring Committee may set up sub-committees on the monitoring of specific obligations and commitments of member states or groups of member states.

The committee's conclusions should contain a summary of its position and give rise to an official Assembly document including a draft resolution or recommendation as appropriate (see Rule 47).

The committee will state in its reports whether the monitoring procedure in respect of a given country is to be considered completed.

Memoranda and drafts by the Monitoring Committee, unless the Bureau decides otherwise, will be treated as confidential until the competent authorities of the country concerned have had reasonable time (up to three months) to submit their comments and until these have been discussed in the Monitoring Committee.

The Monitoring Committee may establish contacts with the subsidiary bodies of the Committee of Ministers which are competent to monitor member states' obligations and commitments, the European Commission for Democracy through Law ("Venice Commission"), and the relevant international institutions.

II. Explanatory memorandum by Mrs LENTZ-CORNETTE

A. Introduction

At the level of the Parliamentary Assembly, the monitoring of member states' compliance with the obligations and commitments which they have accepted is performed on the basis of Order No. 508. In 1995 the Committee on Rules of Procedure, in accordance with Reference No. 2009 (of 28 April 1995), considered the procedural implications of Order No. 508 and made proposals to the Bureau of the Assembly, which also received comments and proposals from three committees concerned by the implementation of the order (Political Affairs, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Relations with European Non-Member Countries). On 23 April 1996 a meeting of the Bureaux of these three committees, chaired by Mrs Lentz-Cornette, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, discussed the three options for the implementation of Order No. 508 presented in a document of the Assembly Bureau but did not reach a consensus on a revised procedure although the majority supported the idea of an ad hoc committee.

At its meeting on 26 April 1996 the Bureau of the Assembly voted in favour of setting up an Assembly ad hoc committee on monitoring and asked the Committee on Rules of Procedure to draw up a report for the Assembly.

At its meeting on 25 June 1996 the Committee on Rules of Procedure examined a working document prepared on the instructions of the committee Chairperson. While some members of the committee were opposed to the decision in principle to set up an ad hoc committee and rather favoured a reform of Order No. 508, the majority approved the document and agreed to forward it to the Bureau of the Assembly before its adoption.

On 28 June 1996, the Bureau was informed of the Committee on Rules of Procedure's draft report on the creation of an ad hoc committee. On that occasion, it was also informed that the Chairpersons of the political groups had put forward new ideas on this subject at a meeting held on 27 June. After a brief exchange of views, the Bureau instructed the Clerk of the Assembly to prepare a memorandum on the basis of those new ideas with a view to the continuation of its discussion at its next meeting on 3 September 1996 in Paris.

On 3 September, the Bureau approved the ideas contained in the document prepared by the Clerk of the Assembly with a view to the creation of an ad hoc committee of the Assembly.

At its meeting on 26 September 1996, the Committee on Rules of Procedure was informed of further discussions by the political groups from which it resulted that a majority was in favour of the creation of a permanent committee on monitoring instead of an ad hoc committee. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, following a vote, supported this proposal and asked the Rapporteur to present a revised draft report.

At its meetings on 5 November 1996 and 7 January 1997, the committee confirmed its proposal to create a permanent monitoring committee, adopted a draft resolution and approved the present report.

B. Conditions for setting up an Assembly committee
(Rule 43 of the Assembly Rules of Procedure)

Rule 43 of the Assembly Rules of Procedure governs the appointment of committees. It distinguishes between general committees (currently 13 in number), ad hoc committees of the Assembly (none existing at present) and ad hoc committees of the Bureau (currently 6 in number). Whereas several conditions are imposed as regards the setting-up of ad hoc committees, no such conditions exist for the creation of a permanent Assembly committee (see Rule 43, paras. 1 to 3). It is therefore for the Assembly to judge whether it is opportune in the particular circumstances to set up a new committee.

The initial discussions on the creation of an ad hoc committee (see Introduction above) focused on the fact that the formation of an ad hoc committee would mean that the committees concerned (Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Political Affairs, Relations with European Non-Member Countries) would be stripped of the responsibilities conferred by Order No. 508. In past Assembly practice, this has been allowed in cases where:

At the meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly on 26 April 1996, these issues were specifically discussed and a decision was reached, following a vote, in favour of the creation of a new committee. Thereafter, on several occasions the Bureau re-affirmed its views on the purpose and the expediency of creating an Assembly committee to be responsible for the fulfilment of member states' obligations and commitments.

Further discussions within the political groups during September 1996 also re-affirmed the need for the creation of a new committee. However, in addition to the two factors mentioned in paragraph 9 above, stress was laid on the importance and long-term nature of the monitoring function which meant that the new committee should be of a permanent nature rather than an hoc committee. It was on this basis that the Committee on Rules of Procedure, at its meetings on 26 September and 5 November 1996, voted in favour of the creation of a permanent committee.

C. Terms of reference of the new committee and working methods

The basic principle is that from its constituent meeting onwards the new committee would perform the functions hitherto assigned to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in connection with the monitoring of obligations and commitments. The final adoption of the draft resolution contained in the present report thus implies the abrogation of Order No. 508. The procedures already opened and pending in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report and the Political Affairs Committee and the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries for opinion, would be handed over to the Monitoring Committee and concluded by it. At its meeting on 3 September 1996, the Bureau asked that, pending the preparation of the present report by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, no new monitoring procedure be opened under Order No. 508.

The proposal to start a monitoring procedure could originate from:

The requests (other than those made of its own motion) would be submitted directly to the Monitoring Committee, which would urgently prepare a written opinion for the Bureau, if appropriate after having carried out the necessary investigations to confirm the validity of the reasons stated in the applications. In the light of the committee's opinion, the Bureau would take a decision whether to initiate a monitoring procedure and, in that event, would refer the matter for report to the Monitoring Committee. In accordance with Rule 15 (2) of the Rules of Procedure, this referral would be subject to ratification by the Assembly. At the same time or subsequently, the Bureau, subject to ratification by the Assembly, would decide when necessary on the committee(s) to which the matter is possibly referred to for an opinion. A negative decision by the Bureau needs to be confirmed by the Assembly. Obviously the Monitoring Committee could also be instructed to carry out a monitoring procedure on the basis of a text adopted by the Assembly[5]. For the details of this procedure, see paragraph 16 below.

Unless exceptional circumstances apply, a monitoring procedure should not commence until six months after a member state's accession to the Council of Europe.

The committee's working methods should take account of the principles agreed upon during the discussions in the Bureau and the Committee on Rules of Procedure. This concerns the following aspects in particular:

The committee may also create sub-committees on the monitoring of the obligations and commitments of specific member states or groups of member states.

The committee would establish contacts with the competent subsidiary bodies of the Committee of Ministers, the European Commission for Democracy through Law ("Venice Commission") and the relevant international institutions as required.

Lastly, it should be borne in mind that the monitoring procedures are to be conducted in a spirit of co-operation and non-discrimination and that this approach must be combined with backing for the reform efforts made by the country concerned.

D. Composition of the Monitoring Committee

Rule 43, paras. 1 and 2 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure specify how committees should be constituted. However, in view of the specific nature and composition of the new committee, it is proposed to insert a new provision after Rule 43, para. 2., which would inter alia regulate the composition of the committee (see paragraph 5 of the draft Resolution above and paragraph 28 below).

It is important to ensure that the composition of the new committee is founded on objective criteria and meets the needs of its assignment. Furthermore, in order to be effective, it should not be too large.

At its meetings on 19 March and 3 September 1996, the Bureau accordingly considered several options and expressed itself in favour of a committee with 40 members and the Chairpersons of the three following committees: Political Affairs, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Relations with European Non-Member Countries.[6]

At its meeting on 26 September 1996, the Committee on Rules of Procedure decided that, with a view to limiting the size of the Monitoring Committee and in derogation of Rule 45, para. 13, it should have "fixed alternates", i.e. only the designated alternate can replace the member and only when the member is absent.

Nominations for the committee would be submitted to the Bureau by the political groups. To enable the Bureau to arrive at the desired balance when drawing up the final list, more names can be proposed than the number of places on the list.

On the basis of the list of candidates, the Bureau would appoint 40 members (and 40 alternates) by applying the apportionment ratio based on the so-called "D'Hondt principle" (see Appendix). The reference date for establishing the number of members of the political groups could be 30 September of the previous year, determined after the last part-session of the year. This date would reflect the most up-to-date information which could be used in practice at the opening of the next session of the Assembly.

When making the appointments, the Bureau would aim at ensuring a regional balance and should try to take into consideration the fact that some members of the Assembly do not belong to any political group. These appointments would be submitted to the Assembly for ratification (Rule 43 para. 5 of the Rules of Procedure).

Once a monitoring procedure is applied to a member state, two members of the parliamentary delegation concerned (to represent the governing majority and the opposition) will be invited to take part, without the right to vote, in the relevant debates of the committee unless one or both are already represented on the committee. By analogy to Rule 6, para. 6, no member of the parliamentary delegation of the member state concerned shall participate in a vote on any question concerning this state. When rapporteurs are engaged in monitoring a particular country, they shall remain members of the committee until the Assembly takes a decision on the relevant report, provided they are still members of the Assembly.

E. Amendment of the Rules of Procedure and entry into force of the new provisions

The proposal to set up a Monitoring Committee with a specific composition entails that the Rules of Procedure should be amended accordingly. In Rule 43, at the end of para. 1, the following text should therefore be added:

    "Committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) (number of seats: 40[7])."

Furthermore, in Rule 43, after para. 2, the following new paragraph should therefore be added:

    "3. In accordance with Resolution ... (1997), the Assembly shall set up a committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)."

It should be mentioned in this context that the Assembly will also consider proposals to amend paragraphs 1 and 2 of Rule 43 as part of the report submitted by Mr Laakso on the "committee structure of the Assembly" (see Doc. 7723).

As regards the entry into force of the new provisions, it is recalled that at its meeting of 3 September 1996, the Bureau expressed the view that the constitution of the committee should take place during the 1997 parliamentary year. Following the opening of the first part-session of 1997, nominations for Monitoring Committee can be drawn up as the designations of national delegations to the Assembly are known. In addition, possible uncertainties at the opening of the session as regards the affiliation of new members to a political group will have been cleared up.

On the assumption that the draft resolution contained in the present report is adopted at the beginning of the first part-session of the Assembly in 1997 (27 January 1997), nominations to the new committee could be drawn up by the political groups during the same part-session at their meetings on Wednesday morning (29 January 1997), enabling the Bureau to make the appointments at its meeting on Friday morning (31 January 1997). The Assembly could then ratify those appointments at the opening of its sitting on Friday morning (31 January 1997). Otherwise, the ratification could take place by the Standing Committee in March or by the Assembly in April 1997.

Finally, there is a need to include the adopted resolution in the complementary texts to the Rules of Procedure. In addition, cross-references to this resolution need to be provided for under other relevant rules of the Rules of Procedure (e.g. Rule 47).

F. Transitional arrangements

Following the entry into force of the new monitoring procedure, there is clearly a need to provide for transitional arrangements in order to ensure that the handing over and conclusion of pending monitoring procedures initiated under Order No. 508 are carried out as efficiently and speedily as possible. The committees concerned and the political groups will be called upon to show their good faith and good will in implementing the new procedure. Any transitional arrangements will therefore necessarily be more in the nature of a "Gentleman's Agreement" reflecting practical good sense. The following factors should in particular be taken into account:

G. Concluding remarks

The Committee on Rules of Procedure decided that the present report should be submitted to the Assembly at its first part-session in 1997 (27-31 January 1997) and proposed that the new provisions should enter into force immediately. It is recalled in this context that, under Rule 36.a, the setting-up of a committee requires a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast, comprising at least one-third of the Representatives of the Assembly.


APPENDIX

Apportionment table[8]

(1) D'Hondt system

Divisor

SOC

EPP

EDG

LDR

UEL

1

163

139

93

92

36

2

81.50

69.50

46.50

46

18

3

54.33

46.33

31

30.66

12

4

40.75

34.75

23.25

23

9

5

32.60

27.80

18.60

18.40

7.20

6

27.16

23.16

15.50

15.33

6

7

23.28

19.85

13.28

13.14

5.14

8

20.37

17.37

11.62

11.50

4.50

9

18.11

15.44

10.33

10.22

4

10

16.30

13.90

9.30

9.20

3.60

11

14.81

12.63

8.45

8.36

3.27

12

13.58

11.58

7.75

7.66

3

13

12.53

10.69

7.15

7.07

2.76

14

11.64

9.92

6.64

6.57

2.57

15

10.86

9.26

6.20

6.13

2.40

(2) Composition of delegations in the Monitoring Committee

No. of members

SOC

EPP

EDG

LDR

UEL

10

3

3

2

2

-

20

7

5

4

3

1

30

10

8

5

5

2

40

13

11

7

7

2

(3) Priority of numbers in Table 1 in descending order

No. of seats

SOC

EPP

EDG

LDR

UEL

1

1

2

3

4

12

2

5

6

8

10

<-- 28

3

7

9

15

16

41

4

11

13

20

22

57

5

14

17

25

26

68

6

18

21

31

33

76

7

19

24

<-- 37

<-- 38

82

8

23

29

43

45

88

9

27

32

48

49

89

10

30

35

53

55

90

11

34

<-- 39

60

61

91

12

36

44

64

66

92

13

<-- 40

47

69

70

93

14

42

51

72

73

94

15

46

54

74

75

95

Explanation of the functioning of the D'Hondt system

On the assumption that there are 40 seats in total to be allocated for the Monitoring Committee, the first seat is allocated to the Group with the highest number of members and substitutes of the Assembly following the division of seats, i.e. the Socialist Group (SOC:163). The second seat is allocated to the Group of the European People's Party having the next highest number (EPP:139), the third to the European Democratic Group (EDG:93), the fourth to the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group (LDR:92), the fifth to the Socialists (SOC:81.5), etc. In this way, every seat down to the 40th seat is allocated and the number of seats for each political group is then added up. By adding up all the seats in Table 3 up to and including number 40, the composition of each delegation can be determined.


Reporting committee: Committee on Rules of Procedure

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: None

Reference to committee: Reference No. 2009 of 28 April 1995

Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 7 January 1997

Members of the committee: Mrs Lentz-Cornette (Chairperson), Mr Rewaj (Vice-Chairperson), Mr Verbeek (Vice-Chairperson), MM. Açba, Alloncle, Bianchi (Alternate: Giannattasio), Brancati, Cummings (Alternate: Sir Russell Johnston), Dias, Djerov, Sir Anthony Durant, MM. Fenech, Frankl, Gabrielescu, Gjellerod, Goovaerts (Alternate: Mrs Maximus), Mrs Holand, Mrs Iotti (Alternate: Lorenzi), MM. Korakas, Kovacevic, Kostiutkin, Kyprianou, Laakso, Magnusson, Marten, Masson, Molnár (Alternate: Eörsi), Proriol, Pukl, Mrs Pulgar, Mr Pyatnitsky (Alternate: Averchev), Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM. Schieder, Schloten, von Schmude, Seiler, Sinka, Slobodnik, Spahia, Stretovych, Tahiri (Alternate: Vangelov), Wallace.

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

Secretary of the committee : Mr Schade.


[1] by the Committee on Rules of Procedure.

[2] Subject to the decision on the abolition of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries (see the report submitted by Mr Laakso on the "committee structure of the Assembly", Doc. 7723).

[3] Plus the ex officio members (see paragraph 5 above).

[4] Depending on the adoption of the draft resolution contained in the report submitted by Mr Laakso on the "committee structure of the Assembly", see Doc. 7723.

[5] Cf. Recommendation 1298 (1996), para. 9.

[6] See footnote 2 above.

[7] Plus the ex officio members.

[8] Drawn up on the basis of September 1996 figures of members and substitutes of the Assembly belonging to political groups, determined after the last part-session of the Assembly in 1996.