Doc. 9491

19 June 2002

Links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin

Recommendation 1410 (1999)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 799th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (12 June 2002)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has considered Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1410 (1999) on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries of origin.

2.       The Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to achieving “greater unity between member States, with a view to building a freer, more tolerant and just European society based on common values, such as freedom of expression and information, cultural diversity and the equal dignity of all human beings”1. To attain this goal, it relies on a strategic plan designed to promote a European cultural identity while taking account of diversity.

3.       Valuing diversity in all areas of society is an innovative approach which, ever since the report on “Diversity and cohesion: new challenges for the integration of immigrants and minorities” was launched, in September 2000, has guided the Council of Europe’s work on inter-community relations. In this context it appears more and more clearly that successful integration implies that the host countries make the effort to meet the countries of origin. This same key idea lay behind the decision to invite countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, on an equal footing with the member states, to the Athens Conference on the prevention of irregular migration and the dignity of migrants.

4.       The Committee of Ministers has committed itself to helping member states to meet the challenge of integration by working to promote tolerance and social cohesion and by stressing the role of education in strengthening mutual understanding. It deems it useful for member States to bear in mind the presence of Europeans of foreign origin on their territory when devising and implementing their language education policies.

5.       Where culture is concerned, the Declaration on “Cultural diversity” adopted by the Committee of Ministers in December 2000 stresses that, in the context of globalisation, one of the major challenges consists in defining democratic cultural policy in relation to diversity, and proves the Organisation’s intention of ensuring a democratic environment for the development of culture and the constant expression of cultural diversity, at both national and international level.

6.       The provisions of European law and of the conventions concluded within the framework of the Council of Europe, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter, the European Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level, the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers and the European Convention on Social Security have helped to give a growing number of European citizens fair access to employment, welfare benefits, education, health care and elected political office. The Committee of Ministers acknowledges that it is important in this field to continue efforts to combat discrimination in every form. It encourages member States to take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to this end and thereby to improve the expatriates’ legal and social status. It takes note of the Assembly’s recommendation that member States should take account of expatriates’ interests in policy-making regarding their right to vote in local elections in the host country.

7.       The Committee of Ministers takes note of the Parliamentary Assembly’s view that emigration may serve as a bridge between states and cultures. It further notes the Assembly’s position indicating that, by maintaining close links with their expatriates in Europe and elsewhere, the countries of origin may encourage their integration as well as the fostering of mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence between states and between peoples.

8.       As regards the recommendations submitted to it by the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers stresses the importance of close co-operation between governments, members of parliament and associations in strengthening links with nationals living abroad, while noting that such co-operation is a matter for the interested parties.

9.       Similarly, from a legal standpoint it is for each member state, in accordance with domestic law and within the limits established by the general principles of international law, particularly with regard to avoiding cases of statelessness, to lay down its own rules for acquiring nationality; it may be possible to do so while retaining the nationality of the country of origin. In this connection, the Committee of Ministers draws attention to the relevance of certain provisions of the European Convention on Nationality (ETS No. 166) concerning dual nationality, the right to renounce nationality, the recovery of nationality and the avoidance of statelessness, and to Recommendation No. R(99)18 on the avoidance and reduction of statelessness.

10.       Strasbourg has hosted two European conferences on nationality. Their work contributed to the search for answers to questions on nationality issues and on the situation of Europeans living abroad. The first, in October 1999, considered the status of “Europeans living abroad” from various angles raised in the recommendation and gave decisive impetus to the task of helping states to co-operate in the search for peaceful solutions to questions of nationality. The second conference, in October 2001, focused inter alia on existing links between integration and acquiring nationality.

11.       The Committee of Ministers could envisage, when drawing up the Organisation’s future programmes of activities, the advisability of exploring further some of the approaches favoured by the Parliamentary Assembly in Recommendation 1410 (1999).

1 . Final Declaration of the Second Summit of Heads of States and Government of the Council of Europe, October 1997.