Enlargement of the Council of Europe: the budgetary and administrative powers of the Assembly

REPORT

Doc. 7900

8 September 1997

Rapporteur: Mr Miguel Angel Martínez, Spain, Socialist Group


 

Summary

Following the budgetary and administrative proposals made in Recommendations 918 (1981) and 1155 (1991) which have had no follow-up to date, the Assembly believes that the time has come to make proposals that will give the Assembly the budgetary and administrative powers that correspond to its statute as parliamentary and political organ of the Council of Europe.

Therefore the Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to give it the control over its own budget and its working conditions, as well as its due role in the budgetary affairs of the Organisation as a whole.

 

I. Draft recommendation

1. The Assembly considers that its present budgetary and administrative powers are unsatisfactory and do not correspond to the normal prerogatives of a parliamentary assembly.

 

2. The Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1155 (1991) on the powers of the Assembly in budgetary matters and regrets that the implementation of the new budget procedure - as promised by the Committee of Ministers in its reply to the Recommendation 1155 (1991) - as well as the amendment of the article of the Statute on the Assembly's establishing its own expenditure have been delayed.

 

3. The Assembly recalls its Recommendation 918 (1981) on the duties and responsibilities of the Clerk of the Assembly and the inter-relationship between the Assembly, the Clerk and the staff placed at the disposal of the Assembly and considers that, with regard to its administrative powers, the time is ripe for a formal recognition of the existing practices deenoting the special nature of the Office of the Clerk.

 

4. Therefore, the Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers:

i. with regard to the general budget of the Council of Europe:

  1. to follow a budgetary timetable which would allow the Assembly's opinion be taken fully into account;
  2. to communicate, at the appropriate time, to the Assembly all relevant budgetary information ;
  3. to consult the Assembly before fixing the overall ceiling;

ii. with regard to the budget of the Assembly (Vote III of the Ordinary Budget of the Council of Europe):

  1. to set up a mecanism for a direct consultation with the Assembly so as to reach agreement on the total appropriations allocated to the Assembly each year.

iii. with regard to the administrative powers of the Assembly:

  1. to amend the staff regulations so that appointment of staff to the Office of the Clerk would be subject, either to the approval of the President or the Clerk of the Assembly or, in the case of the highest-ranking posts (A6 or A7) to the Bureau's approval;

 

II. Draft order

The Assembly,

1. Referring to its Recommendation ....... (1997) on the budgetary and administrative powers of the Assembly and in particular paragraph 3;

 

2. Recalling its Recommendation 918 (1981) on the duties and responsibilities of the Clerk of the Assembly and the inter-relationship between the Assembly, the Clerk and the staff placed at the disposal of the Assembly;

 

3. Instructs its Committee on Rules of Procedure to amend the Assembly's Rules of Procedure so as to confirm that the Clerk performs his duties under the authority of the Assembly and is accountable to the President of the Assembly and to provide that the Deputy Clerk stand in for the Clerk of the Assembly, in the absence of the latter.

 

III. Explanatory memorandum by Mr Martínez

 

A. INTRODUCTION

1. Almost six years have passed since the Assembly adopted Recommendation 1155 (1991) on the powers of the Assembly in budgetary matters, which I tabled on the Committee's behalf. In that recommendation the Assembly asked the Committee of Ministers, inter alia, to draw up a budgetary timetable, so the Assembly could better prepare its opinions on its own budget and the general budget of the Council of Europe, and to amend the Statute of the Council of Europe, empowering the Assembly, as the organisation's parliamentary body, to establish the amount of its own expenditure.

 

2. In its reply to the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers informed the Assembly that it intended to introduce a new budget procedure, including in particular a budgetary timetable that should allow more involvement of the Assembly in the budgeting process and greater openness, especially with regard to the Committee of Ministers' initial guidelines for the next budget year. A copy of this budgetary timetable is appended.

 

3. Implementation of the new budget procedure has been delayed by the successive accessions of new member States, since discussions about the amounts of new member States' contributions have directly affected annual budgetary prospects and made it impossible to meet the time-limits laid down in the timetable.

 

4. As to amendment of the Article of the Statute on the Assembly's establishing its own budget, no progress has been made. In this connection it should be pointed out that two years later, in its Recommendation 1212 (1993) on the adoption of a revised Statute of the Council of Europe, the Assembly reiterated its request that the Statute include an Article providing for the Assembly to determine the amount of its own expenditure, the rate of growth being agreed between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. To date no action has been taken in response to that specific request.

 

5. With regard to the Assembly's administrative powers, in particular concerning its own secretariat, the situation has changed little since 1981 when, following a debate on a report by Mr Margue (Doc. 4640), it adopted Recommendation 918 (1981) on the duties and responsibilities or the Clerk of the Assembly and the inter-relationship between the Assembly, the Clerk and staff placed at the disposal of the Assembly. To date the Assembly still does not have a secretariat appointed by procedures of the Assembly's own choosing and accountable to the Assembly and its President alone, as is the case with other European parliamentary bodies.

 

6. The purpose of this report is therefore to take stock of the present situation, allowing for the development of our organisation, and to make realistic proposals with the aim of endowing the Assembly with the budgetary and administrative powers it should enjoy as the organisation's parliamentary and political organ. I will of course refrain from repeating the arguments which I advanced six years ago, although some of them remain fully valid today. However, I can but underline the imbalance between the Assembly's important political role within the Council of Europe and the minor role it plays with regard to the organisation's budget, its own budget and its own secretariat.

 

 

B. THE PRESENT SITUATION

a. The Assembly's budgetary powers

7. Article 38 of the Statute of the Council of Europe assigns all budgetary powers to the Committee of Ministers. It is true that over the years the Assembly has acquired a modicum of consultative power in budgetary matters. However, in respect of the organisation's general budget, the effect of the opinions it addresses to the Committee of Ministers is negligible. The situation is somewhat different with regard to its own budget (Vote III of the ordinary budget). In 1975 the Committee of Ministers agreed that the Assembly's budget should consist of two separate sets of appropriations, one covering appropriations for staff and the other all appropriations for the Assembly's operating expenses (the "budgetary package"). The latter takes the form of a global appropriation, within which the Assembly is free to alter the amounts under the different sub-heads. Two other heads have since been added to the Assembly's budget, for grants to the Assembly's political groups and the interparliamentary co-operation programme.

 

8. I see no point in reiterating a detailed description of the budget procedure in this report. I provided such a description in the previous report (Doc. 6455), and, despite the adoption of the budgetary timetable, the procedure remains virtually the same as six years ago. The following is therefore only a very brief outline of the current procedure.

 

9. With regard to the Council of Europe's general budget, the Secretary General and the Ministers' Deputies hold an informal meeting each year in February to examine the main lines and overall growth margin of the budget for the following year. At the same time, the Secretary General gathers information on the future requirements of the organisation's different bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly, and prepares a document summarising the main lines of the draft budget for the following year, which later becomes the Ministers' Deputies working document on the budgetary outlook for that year.

 

10. That document is formally examined by the Ministers' Deputies at a meeting in April and, at the same time, the overall margin of budget growth is decided, without the Assembly being consulted. The Secretary General then begins to draw up a draft budget on the basis of the decisions taken by the Ministers' Deputies and the priorities defined for the intergovernmental sector.

 

11. In May/June the Assembly adopts an opinion on its own budget (Vote III of the general budget), after discussing the budgetary outlook for the following year with the Ministers' Deputies at the Joint Committee meeting in May.

 

12. After consulting the President and the Clerk of the Assembly, the Secretary General includes in the draft general budget those of the Assembly's proposals which he thinks should be given priority and regards as acceptable in view of the budgetary growth envisaged.

 

13. The draft ordinary budget is usually finalised in September. It is subsequently examined by the Budget Committee, which comprises eleven experts appointed by the Committee of Ministers upon nomination by the governments of the Member States, for a renewable term of three years. This Committee issues recommendations to the Ministers' Deputies, who formally adopt the budget in December.

 

14. In order to give an opinion, the Assembly should, in theory, be in possession of the draft budget before it is adopted by the Ministers' Deputies. The procedure followed in 1996 to draw up the general budget for 1997 did not enable the Assembly to have access to the information needed to form its opinion, a fact which it regretted in Opinion No. 199 (1996) on the budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial years 1996 and 1997, which it adopted on 7 November 1996.

 

15. With regard to its own budget, the Assembly plays a slightly more active role. The Committee on the Budget and the Intergovernmental Work Programme submits a draft opinion to the Assembly - usually in June - setting out reasoned proposals as to the appropriations needed for the Assembly's functioning the following year. As mentioned in paragraph 12, the Secretary General is not obliged to accept all of the Assembly's requests, although its opinion is included in the draft budget.

 

16. As I pointed out in my earlier report, the Assembly's opinions on its own budget and on the organisation's general budget for forthcoming years are more of a 'wish list', which might possibly be taken into account by the Secretary General in the draft budget and, later, by the Deputies when the final budget is adopted.

 

b. The Assembly's administrative powers

17. As mentioned in paragraph 5, in March 1981 the Assembly adopted Recommendation 918 (1981) on the duties and responsibilities of the Clerk of the Assembly and the inter-relationship between the Assembly, the Clerk and staff placed at the disposal of the Assembly.

 

18. The reference texts are the same today as they were sixteen years ago when that Recommendation was adopted. On the basis of Articles 10, 36 and 37 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, the principle has been established that the Council of Europe has a single secretariat, all of whose members are placed under the Secretary General's authority and accountable to him or her. The regulatory procedures reflect this principle, and consequently, in appointment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary matters concerning staff assigned to the Assembly, decision-making power belongs not to the Assembly or the Clerk of the Assembly but to the Secretary General who, under the Statute (Article 37(b)), is accountable solely to the Committee of Ministers.

 

19. It should nevertheless be said that Statutory Resolution (49) 20, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 November 1949, already stated that, pending the amendment of Articles 36 and 37 of the Statute, the Assembly would be authorised to appoint, on the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers, a "Chief" of the Administrative Services of the Assembly (Clerk), having the rank of Deputy Secretary General. In 1955, Resolution (55) 29 stipulated "pending the amendment of Article 36(a) of the Statute, the Secretariat shall consist of the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, the Clerk of the Assembly and such other staff as may be required." This reference to an amendment of the Statute shows that, from the organisation's earliest years, the question of the role and powers of the Clerk of the Assembly within the Secretariat was a matter of concern to both the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly.

 

20. The Assembly clarified the situation to some extent in its Rules of Procedure. Rule 58, paragraph 2 reads: "The Clerk shall be under the authority of the Secretary General. He shall be responsible for the organisation of the Assembly's work, and shall be accountable to the President in this respect." Through this rule the Assembly establishes that responsibility for organising its proceedings lies with the Clerk whom it elects and that it is to the Assembly's President that the Clerk is accountable for the performance of his duties. It follows that any authority which the Secretary General may have over the Clerk of the Assembly must therefore be considered purely administrative in nature.

 

21. This point of view has moreover been borne out by practice, since for many years the Clerk has been carrying out his duties independently under the direct responsibility of the President and the Bureau of the Assembly. A similar trend can be noted with regard to staff in the Clerk's Office, since the Secretary General and the Clerk of the Assembly consult each other on recruitment, transfer and promotion of staff members, in accordance with the regulatory procedures. In the case of appointments to the highest-ranking posts in the Office of the Clerk, the Regulations on Appointments provide that the Secretary General shall inform the Bureau of the Assembly of his or her intentions at an informal exchange of views, in which the Clerk participates.

 

22. In order to take account of the fact that the Assembly is served by its own Secretariat, in Recommendation 918 (1981) the Assembly also requested that the Committee of Ministers amend Resolution (55) 29 on the functions of the Clerk of the Assembly and the Deputy Secretary General in such a way that they no longer stood in for each other and it would be the Deputy Clerk of the Assembly who stood in for the Clerk. With this recommendation the Assembly was pursuing the same aim of securing recognition of the special nature of the Office of the Clerk of the Assembly. Its request has not been acted upon to date. However, this is another area where practice has moved ahead faster than the texts, and for many years the Deputy Clerk has stood in for the Clerk in the event of the latter's unavailability or absence.

 

23. With regard to appointments, in Recommendation 918 (1981) the Assembly also recommended amending the Regulations on Appointments so that appointment of staff to the Office of the Clerk would be subject to the Bureau's approval. This request has not been acted upon, including for the highest-ranking posts within the Office of the Clerk.

 

24. In this connection it should be noted that the Regulations on Appointments lay down special appointment procedures for staff of the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Secretariat of the European Pharmacopoeia Commission. The Registrar and the Deputy Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights are elected by the Plenary Court, after the President has obtained the opinion of the Secretary General, who subsequently makes the appointments. Staff members of the Court registry are appointed by the Secretary General with the agreement of the President of the Court or the Registrar. Staff of the Secretariat of the European Pharmacopoeia Commission are appointed by the Secretary General on the advice of the Commission.

 

C. THE SITUATION IN OTHER EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY BODIES

25. To bring the Assembly's present administrative and budgetary powers more into perspective, it is useful to take a brief look at the situation in other European parliamentary bodies, while allowing for each body's distinctive characteristics. I have deliberately limited this analysis to two parliamentary bodies that closely resemble our own: the European Parliament and the Assembly of the Western European Union (WEU).

 

a. The European Parliament

26. The European Parliament examines the European Union's general budget in accordance with the budgetary provisions of the treaties establishing the European Communities. It is empowered to amend the general budget and is responsible for its final adoption. The European Parliament also monitors the implementation of the budget in force, through its Committee on Budgetary Control, and grants the Commission a "discharge" in this respect.

 

27. With regard to its own budget, each year the Parliament adopts draft estimates for the coming year on the basis of a report submitted by its Committee on Budgets. That committee prepares the draft budget on the basis of preliminary draft estimates transmitted to it by the Bureau of the Parliament. Authority to incur and settle expenditure is vested in the President of the European Parliament, which in fact enjoys budgetary powers similar to those of a national parliament.

 

28. As to the European Parliament's administrative powers, they are laid down in Rule 164 of its Rules of Procedure, which provides "Parliament shall be assisted by a Secretary-General appointed by the Bureau". The Secretary-General heads a secretariat, the composition and organisation of which are determined by the Bureau of the European Parliament.

 

b. Assembly of the Western European Union

29. The WEU Assembly expresses its views on the organisation's general budget in the form of recommendations or opinions addressed to the WEU Council. Its involvement in the procedure is therefore very limited.

 

30. The same is not true of its own budget. Each year, on the basis of a report by its Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration, drawn up in collaboration with the Presidential Committee, the WEU Assembly approves a provisional statement of its expenditure for the coming year.

 

31. The President of the Assembly transmits this document to the WEU Council, which gives an initial opinion. Where that opinion entails reductions in appropriations, the Committee on Budgetary Affairs and Administration may, after consulting the Presidential Committee, submit a draft budget at variance with the Council's initial opinion, in which case the report must be approved with a number of votes exceeding half the number of representatives in the Assembly.

 

32. If the WEU Council refuses to adopt the draft budget approved by the Assembly, the Presidential Committee is responsible for settling the dispute with the Council and requests the convening of a joint meeting to that end. The Presidential Committee reports to the Assembly on the outcome of that meeting and may propose that the Assembly ratify the measures it deems necessary, including acceptance of the budget as amended by the Council.

 

33. With regard to the secretariat of the WEU Assembly, it should be noted that the Clerk is elected by the members of the Assembly, as is the case in our own Assembly. The Clerk is accountable to the President and to the Assembly for the performance of his duties. Members of the Assembly secretariat, recruited for a period of more than one year, are appointed by the Presidential Committee on the proposal of the Clerk. The Clerk of the WEU Assembly is also responsible for providing the Assembly and its committees with any assistance they may need in order to function.

 

D. PROPOSALS

34. I consider that the Assembly's present budgetary and administrative powers are entirely unsatisfactory. The Assembly has a very minor role with regard to the general budget of the Council of Europe. This can be seen from the fact that, as I have already mentioned, the Assembly was unable to issue an opinion on the budget for the 1997 financial year for lack of the necessary information, but that did not prevent the Ministers' Deputies from proceeding with the budget's final adoption. No member of the Assembly would accept such a situation in his or her own parliament, a situation which is reflected in particular in the fact that budgetary documents drawn up by the Secretary General for the Committee of Ministers cannot be communicated to the Assembly because they are confidential.

 

35. In respect of its own budget, the Assembly is subject to an outrageous degree of supervision. Although it has power to make proposals, it in fact depends, firstly, on the Secretary General's discretion in allowing its requests and, secondly, on the goodwill of the Committee of Ministers, which decides the appropriations accorded to the Assembly on a proposal from the Secretary General.

 

36. With regard to its own secretariat (the Clerk's Office), the Assembly's powers are again extremely limited, as pointed out above. The time is ripe to bring them into line with the Assembly's role within our organisation, while also taking account of the fact that the Clerk is elected by the Assembly.

 

37. I have to say that this state of affairs places me in a dilemma. On one hand, I am tempted to restate the budgetary proposals I made in my 1991 report, which were not followed up at Committee of Ministers level. On the other hand, the need for pragmatism prompts me to make new proposals, far more concerned with the functioning of the Assembly itself. In the end, I have opted for the latter approach.

 

38. With regard to the general budget of the Council of Europe, it is absolutely essential that the Committee of Ministers should ensure that a budgetary timetable - either that appended to its reply to Recommendation 1155 (1991) or any other it may deem better suited to present requirements - is adhered to. There is also a need for real consultation in the budget preparation procedure. This means, among other things, that the Assembly be consulted with regard to the ceiling foreseen for the coming financial year and receive the same information as the Committee of Ministers.

 

39. As to the budget of the Assembly (Vote III of the general budget of the Council of Europe), I propose that we draw our inspiration from the procedure followed by the WEU Assembly in adopting its own budget. Such a procedure naturally entails setting up machinery for consultation between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, so as to reach agreement on the total appropriations allocated to the Assembly each year.

 

The procedure for the adoption of the Assembly's budget could be as follows:

 

40. With regard to its secretariat, I believe the Assembly should be more involved in the appointments procedure. It could be made a general rule that staff assigned to the Office of the Clerk of the Assembly would be appointed by the Secretary General with the agreement of the President or the Clerk of the Assembly, according to a procedure similar to that followed when appointing staff members of the European Court of Human Rights. In the case of the highest-ranking posts (A6 and A7), appointments made by the Secretary General would be subject to approval by the Bureau of the Assembly.

 

41. As to the Clerk's duties, I believe it is for the Assembly to clarify the matter. It should immediately ask the Committee on Rules of Procedure to amend the rules to provide, on the basis of paragraph 20, that the Clerk performs his or her duties under the authority of the Assembly and is accountable to its President. The rules should also specify that the Deputy Clerk stands in for the Clerk when the latter is absent or unavailable.

 

E. CONCLUSIONS

42. In conclusion, I wish to point out that throughout this report I was guided by the idea of giving the Assembly not only control over its own budget and its working conditions, but also its due role in the budgetary affairs of the Organisation as a whole, in keeping with the political weight it has acquired within our organisation in recent years. At the same time, I have tried to be pragmatic and, for realism's sake, I have deliberately confined myself to proposals that do not involve changes to the Statute.

 

43. However, in the longer term, revision of the Statute of the Council of Europe, as already requested by the Assembly, will become unavoidable. The 1949 Statute is showing its age. Would not the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe be the right time to equip ourselves with a Statute that answers member States' needs in the 21st century?

 

APPENDIX

 


Reporting committee: Committee on the Budget and the Intergovernmental Work Programme.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none

Reference to committee: Order No. 499 (1994).

Draft recommendation and draft order adopted unanimously by the committee on 2 September 1997.

Members of the committee: MM Schreiner (Chairman), Cox, Theis, Goovaerts (Vice-Chairmen), Aleffi, Behrendt, Mrs Bieliková, Mr Bugli, Mrs Calner, MM. Cangemi, Cherep (Alternate: Pasko), Fernandez Aguilar, Galanos, Sir John Hunt, MM. Jónsson, Kaalund, Kamhi, Mrs Karamitro, MM. Koulouris, Kriedner, Mrs Luhtanen, MM.  Luís, de Marco, Mel_ák, Melescanu, Muravschi, Obuljen, Oorzhak, Pante__jevs (Alternate: Mr Sinka), Pattison, Piatkowski, Plattner, Popovski, Mrs Ringstad, Mr Rupar, Mrs Schicker, Mrs Stoyanova, MM. Szalay, Valk, Vishnyakov.

 

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

Secretary of the committee: Ms Nollinger.