10 April 1997       Doc. 7792

ADOC7792

REPORT1

on the request by the Canadian Parliament

for observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly

(Co-Rapporteurs: Mr René VAN DER LINDEN,

Netherlands, Group of the European People's Party

and Mr. Ismail CEM,

Turkey, Socialist Group)

_____

Summary

      Canada has enjoyed observer status with the Council of Europe since May 1996, when the Assembly found that it met the requirements of Statutory Resolution (93) 26.

      The Canadian parliament has formally requested observer status with the Assembly. The Bureau expressed itself in favour.

      It is proposed that the Assembly grant observer status to the Canadian parliament and attribute six seats to the delegation.

I. Draft resolution

1.       Canada was invited by the Committee of Ministers to become an Observer with the Council of Europe by Resolution CM (96) 9. This resolution entered into force on 29 May 1996, following the Assembly's adoption of Opinion No. 196, stating that Canada met the requirements as set forth in Statutory Resolution (93) 26.

2.       On 18 June 1996, the Presidents of the two Chambers of the Canadian Parliament, in a joint letter, requested observer status with the Assembly.

3.       The Bureau of the Assembly, having considered a memorandum of the Political Affairs Committee, decided on 18 March 1997 that a positive reply should be proposed to the Assembly.

4.        The Assembly, therefore, resolves

i.       to grant observer status to the Canadian Parliament;

ii.       to allocate six seats to the observer delegation, which should be composed so as to ensure the equitable representation of the political parties or forces present in parliament.

II. Explanatory memorandum

by the Rapporteurs

I.       Introduction

1.       The Committee of Ministers, on 3 April 1996, adopted Resolution CM (96) 9 (Annex 1) inviting Canada to become an Observer with the Council of Europe in accordance with Statutory Resolution (93) 26 (Annex 2). This Resolution entered into force on 29 May 1996, following the Assembly's adoption of Opinion 196 (Annex 3). On 18 June 1996, the Presidents of the two Chambers of the Canadian Parliament addressed a joint letter (Annex 4) to the President of the Assembly requesting observer status with the Assembly.

2.       On 18 March 1997, the Bureau expressed itself in favour and referred the issue to the Political Affairs Committee for report.

II.       The Political Situation in Canada

3.       Canada is a federal State composed of 10 provinces and two territories.

4.       Canada has a parliamentary democracy with the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as Head of State. Parliament consists of a House of Commons (295 members elected for 5 years) and the Senate, whose 104 members are appointed by the Prime Minister. The composition of both Houses is set out in Annex 6.

5.       The current Prime Minister, following the elections of 1993, is Mr. Jean Chrétien, Liberal Party. The opposition consists of the Bloc Québécois, which represents only the province of Quebec, and the Reform Party, whose members are mainly from the Western provinces.

6.       The major domestic political issue concerns the sovereignty of Quebec. On 30 October 1995, a referendum rejected sovereignty by 50.6% against 49.4%. Participation in the referendum was very high, 93.5%. The Quebec government, led by Mr. Lucien Bouchard, has clearly stated that if re-elected in 1999, it will again propose that it become sovereign through a new referendum.

III.       Present Situation Concerning Observer Status with the Assembly

7.       Rule 55 para. 1 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure (Annex 5) stipulates that "the Assembly may, on the proposal of the Bureau, admit as permanent observers official representatives of non-member states of the Council of Europe appointed with the approval of their national parliament".

8.       This rule was first applied in 1961 when the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, was granted observer status. In 1965, the Standing Committee decided that in future this status should only be given to representatives of European non-member states. Since then, observer status was only granted to the parliaments of Liechtenstein and San Marino, before their countries acceded to the Council of Europe in 1978 and 1988 respectively.

9.       On 23 September 1996, the Assembly repealed the decision of the Standing Committee of November 1965, on the proposal of the Bureau.

10.       It is now clear that observer status applies to the parliaments of non-European non-member states (Rule 55 of the Rules of Procedure), whereas special guest status (Rule 55a of the Rules of Procedure), created in 1989 in response to developments in Central and Eastern Europe, is limited to national legislative assemblies of European non-member states.

11.       In the context of a general revision of the Rules of Procedure it would be preferable that Rule 55 in future makes it clear that only official representatives of parliaments of states fulfilling the conditions of Statutory Resolution (93) 26, appointed with the approval of their parliament, can be observers in the Assembly.

12.       In the case of Liechtenstein and San Marino, the number of members of the respective observer delegations corresponded to the number of seats that would be attributed in the case of accession to the Council of Europe.

13.       The Israeli Parliament, however, always had less observers (initially two, since 1993 three observers and three substitutes) than it would have been able to claim as a member of the Council of Europe (four seats).

IV.       Results of the Rapporteurs' Visit

14.       The Rapporteurs' visit took place from 10 to 11 February 1997 (Annex 6). They would like to thank the Canadian Parliament, and in particular the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, for the organisation of an excellent programme and for their warm hospitality.

A.       Modalities of Observer Status

15.       As regards modalities of observer status for the Canadian Parliament, discussions centred on four themes: number of seats, attendance, possible special events and timing.

      a.       Number of seats

16.       The Canadian side considered that the attribution of a certain number of seats was a decision for the Parliamentary Assembly to take. However, it argued in favour of a delegation of a reasonable size, bearing a relationship to Canada's population (now close to 30,000,000). The Canadian Parliament would wish to compose a delegation of members of both houses (1/3 of the Senate, 2/3 of the House of Commons) in which the main political parties could be represented.

17.       It is to be noted that at present a Canadian delegation already participates in the annual OECD debate. Under the special rules of procedure for this debate (adopted by the enlarged Parliamentary Assembly on 2 October 1992 and amended on 6 October 1994) the Canadian delegation is entitled to twelve seats. There are no substitutes. In practice, however, the Canadian delegation consists of six members. There is no separate ratification of credentials for this debate.

18.       In order to keep the number of observers at a reasonable level, also in view of practical constraints such as speaking time and seating possibilities, the Rapporteurs propose to grant observer delegations half the number of seats they would be entitled to as full members. In the case of Canada this would six seats.

19.       Since the credentials of members of observer delegations are not individually ratified, there would appear to be no need for substitutes. It would be up to the Canadian Parliament to appoint members of its delegation for each part-session or committee meeting. This would give the observer parliament a maximum flexibility. Generally the requirement would be that the Bureau be informed that the representative(s) were appointed with the approval of their national parliament and satisfied that the delegation's composition ensured an equitable political balance. The Canadian side indicated that it would wish to combine a certain continuity, i.e. permanent observers with some flexibility, that is a certain pool of people attending from time to time.

20.       If this option were maintained, the Bureau would have to re-examine the case of the Israeli observer delegation. The Rapporteurs consider that if this delegation were given two (non-nominal) seats in future there would be no need for substitutes and the Israeli parliament would have sufficient flexibility to send different observers to committee meetings. In practice there are seldom more than two Israeli parliamentarians present during part-sessions.

21.       It should be noted that the specific rules of procedure for an enlarged debate of the Parliamentary Assembly on the activities of the OECD would be maintained, entitling Canada to twelve seats. This is, of course, justified by the fact that in this particular debate Canada participates as member of the OECD.

      b.       Attendance

22.       There was considerable interest in the Canadian Parliament to attend Assembly sessions. Nearly all debates in recent part-sessions were considered to be of particular interest to Canada. It was felt that the Canadian delegation could learn much, but would also be able to contribute to these debates. There was also very keen interest expressed in attending meetings of, at least, certain committees. It was, however, conceded that the actual possibility of doing so would depend on the budgetary situation.

      c.        Special Events

23.       The Canadian Parliament would welcome the organisation of special meetings of the Standing Committee to discuss matters of common interest. Proposals for items could certainly be expected from the Canadian side.

24.       In addition, the practice followed by the Israeli Parliament, to invite, on a regular basis, an Assembly committee to meet in Israel, was taken note of with great interest. It was indicated that the Canadian Parliament would in principle be willing to organise similar meetings in Ottawa, or indeed elsewhere in Canada.

25.       The Rapporteurs suggest that the Bureau consider the possibility of organising special meetings of the Standing Committee, for instance once yearly in Paris, to discuss, for instance in the framework of a current affairs debate, matters of particular interest to observer parliaments.

26.       In addition, it is to be noted that the Secretary General, Mr. Tarschys, visited Canada from 5-8 February 1997. The Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade agreed to hold, together with the Council of Europe, an information seminar in Ottawa on the implications of Canada's observer status with the Organisation later this year. The Assembly should ensure its participation in this event.

      d.       Timing

27.       The Canadian Parliament expressed no particular preference for a specific date on which observer status could be granted. It was obvious, however, that it would welcome a rapid decision.

B.       Other issues

      a.       Canada's specific contribution

28.       It was repeatedly stressed that the Canadian Parliament would very much welcome the possibility to make Canada's contribution to European affairs better known. In this context it was mentioned that Canada's contribution to the Allied efforts in both World Wars was often underestimated. Moreover, it was felt that Canada's major contribution to peace-keeping in Bosnia (at one point Canada fielded the second largest contingent after France) was not, or only insufficiently, known and appreciated.

29.       It was interesting to note that the Foreign Affairs Committees of both House and Senate were also responsible for international trade. In this context a direct link with the observance of human rights was mentioned. It was suggested that, within the Council of Europe, there could be increased emphasis on the human rights aspects of international trade, as well as of international financial organisations. In this respect it was felt that the Canadian delegation could make a useful contribution.

      b.        Quebec

30.       Representatives of the Bloc Québécois stressed that the question of Quebec's sovereignty was part of the Canadian delegation's contribution to international fora. It was pointed out that within the Council of Europe considerable expertise already existed as regards sovereignty issues, but it was felt that a Canadian observer delegation, including members of the Bloc Québécois, could contribute to the discussion also in Europe. The anglophone minority in Quebec was cited as an excellent example of protection of rights of a linguistic minority.

31.       It was stressed that the sovereignty movement in Quebec was not directed against Canada. Instead it was felt that a solution to the issue would benefit both Quebec and Canada.

32.       However, it should be noted that the representatives of other parties strongly disagreed with the view described above. While not excluding sovereignty for Quebec, it was thought that it was not a realistic prospect.

V.       Conclusions

33.       The Canadian Parliament clearly indicated that, as an observer, it would be very interested in participating regularly in Assembly part-sessions and in certain committee meetings.

34.       In order to enable the Canadian Parliament to compose a delegation of the two Houses reflecting the various currents of opinion, it is proposed that the observer delegation be given half the number of seats to which it would be entitled if Canada were a member. This would mean six seats. As the credentials of observers are not ratified by the Assembly, it would suffice that the Canadian Parliament inform the President of the Assembly of the composition of the delegation for each part-session. The Bureau would, of course, have to be satisfied that the members were appointed with the approval of the national parliament and that the delegation's composition ensured the equitable representation of the political forces present in the parliament. The same would apply to attendance at committees.

Annex 1

Annex 2

Annex 3

Annex 4

Annex 5

Rule 55

Parliamentary Observers

1.       The Assembly may, on the proposal of the Bureau, admit as permanent Observers official Representatives of non-member States of the Council of Europe appointed with the approval of their national Parliament.

2.       Such Observers shall sit in the Assembly without the right to speak, except with the authorisation of the President of the Assembly.

      They may take part in committee meetings, unless the convening notice for a meeting specifies that it shall be held in private. Meetings of the Joint Committee, the enlarged Joint Committee, the Committee on Rules of Procedure and of the Committee on the Budget and the Intergovernmental Work Programme shall not be open to observers.

3.       The Bureau may also, by a three-quarters majority, invite representatives of parliaments of other non-member States to attend and take part in a debate in the Assembly.

Annex 6

Visit by the rapporteurs of the Political Affairs Committee

of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

on Canada's request for observer status

Programme of Mr. René van der Linden and Mr. Ismail Cem

Monday, 10 February 1997

09h30 -11h00       Meeting with the Executive Committee of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association

11h00-11h30       Meeting with the Hon. Alasdair B. Graham, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

12h00-14h00       Luncheon given by the Hon. Gilbert Parent, Speaker of the House of Commons

14h00-14h30       Visit of the Library of Parliament

14h30-15h15       Question Period, House of Commons, Speaker's Gallery

15h15-16h00       Meeting with Mrs Francine Lalonde, M.P., Representative of the Leader of the Official Opposition

16h00-16h30       Meeting with the Hon. John Lynch-Staunton, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

16h45-17h30       Meeting with Senator John B. Stewart, Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs

Tuesday, 11 February 1997

09h30-10h30       Meeting of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee

12h00-14h00       Luncheon given by the Hon. Gildas Molgat, Speaker of the Senate

14h00-14h30       Question Period, The Senate, South Gallery

15h00-15h30       Meeting with Mr. Charles Caccia, M.P., P.C., President, Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association

Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none

Reference to committee: Reference No. 2179 of 19 March 1997

Draft resolution adopted unanimously by the committee on 2 April 1997.

Members of the committee: Mr Bársony (Chairman), Sir Anthony Durant (Vice-Chairman) (Alternate: Mr Atkinson), Mr van der Linden (Vice-Chairman), Mrs Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson), MM Aloglu, Antretter, Bakke, Baumel, Mrs Belohorska, MM Belyaev, Bergqvist, Bernardini, Björck, Bloetzer, Bokov, Büchel, Bühler, Cem, Cerqueda Pascuet, Chircop (Alternate: Mr de Marco), Chornovil, Deasy, Diacov, Domljan (Alternate: Mr Meštrovic), Eörsi, Evangelisti, Galanos, Gjellerod (Alternate: Mr Severinsen), Gotzev, Hardy, Irmer, Iwinski, Kalus, Kaspereit, Kautto, Kuzmickas, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM Lopez Henares, Lupu, van der Maelen, Maginas, Martínez, Masseret, Medeiros Ferreira, Melescanu, Mota Amaral, Muehlemann, Oliynik, Pahor, Popovski, Prusak, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, MM Risari, Schieder (Alternate: Mr. Fuhrmann), Schwimmer, Selva, Sinka, Sir Dudley Smith, Mr Spahia, Mrs Štěpová, Mrs Suchocka, MM Urbain, Vrettos, Woltjer, Ziuganov (Alternate: Mr. Zhebrovsky).

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

Secretaries of the committee : Mr Hartland, Mr Kleijssen, Mr Gruden.


1 1 by the Political Affairs Committee