Doc. 9544

13 September 2002

The Council of Europe and the new issues involved in building Europe

Report

Political Affairs Committee

Rapporteur: M. Ghiorghi Prisăcaru, Romania, Socialist Group

Summary :

The current debate on the future of Europe, launched by the Convention in particular, will bring about major changes in the institutional architecture of Europe. As part of this debate, and in view of the gradual transformation of the European Union’s and OSCE’s initial aims, the Council of Europe must clarify the part it intends to play in the process of building Europe across the continent.

As a result of the accession of many central and east European states, there have been far-reaching changes in the Council of Europe’s membership and it has reinforced its political dimension by developing expertise in new areas (protection of minorities, democratic security, monitoring of member states’ obligations and commitments). The Council of Europe must therefore reassert its aims in the service of democratic transition in a reunified Europe while consolidating its fundamental role as a pan-European political forum.

Among the series of measures that it advocates, the Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers take steps to make it possible for the European Union to accede to the Statute of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights and open an office in Strasbourg. The Assembly also invites the governments of the member states to institutionalise the holding of Council of Europe summits and to set up a “troika”, comprising the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE, which would determine each organisation’s particular contribution to specified activities.

I.       Draft recommendation

1.       The debate on the future of Europe launched by Declaration No. 23 appended to the Treaty of Nice (December 2000) and the setting up of the Convention, at the Laeken Summit, will bring about major changes in Europe’s institutional architecture.

2.       The proliferation of European institutions and organisations since the end of the second world war and the gradual transformation of their initial aims should encourage the Council of Europe to position itself more effectively in the European arena by fully clarifying the part it intends to play in the process of building Europe across the continent.

3.       The Assembly notes that since the early 1990s there have been far-reaching changes in the Council of Europe’s membership and objectives following the accession of many central and east European states. The two summits of heads of state and government (Vienna in 1993 and Strasbourg in 1997) have strengthened the Council of Europe politically, by developing its new expertise with regard to the protection of national minorities, democratic security, political stability and the monitoring of member states’ obligations and commitments. Over the past decade the Council of Europe has confirmed its expertise in drawing up legal standards, monitoring their application and building up democratic institutions.

4.       The European Union, with its growing range of responsibilities (see the 1992 Maastricht Treaty) and its Charter of Fundamental Rights signed at the Nice Summit (December 2000), is becoming increasingly active in sectors hitherto considered to be the statutory expertise province of the Council of Europe. New organic ties involving co-operation between the Council of Europe, the European Union and other European organisations such as the OSCE must be proposed to avoid unnecessary overlapping of their activities.

5.       In view of its fundamental principles on pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe must reassert its primary aim which is to ensure peaceful unification and democratic stability in Europe, while consolidating its role as a pan-European political forum. It must continue to emphasise the indispensable contribution its Assembly makes in representing the parliamentary dimension in this forum for the Greater Europe. It must continue to promote the components of a European democratic identity based on the protection of human rights and the development of a culture of peace and dialogue, which it embodies and guarantees.

6.       The Assembly notes that the Council of Europe is a highly effective and indeed irreplaceable forum for political contact between the EU member countries and countries that will probably not join the European Union. It is the only truly European and continent-wide organisation in which all European countries co-operate on an equal footing.

7.       The Parliamentary Assembly takes a positive view of the Council of Europe’s work and deeply regrets that its achievements are not better known internationally. It also regrets the inadequacy of the resources granted to the Council, which is likely to undermine the effectiveness of its work.

8.       To promote its image and meet the public’s expectations, the Council of Europe should regularly organise public events and develop educational and other programmes which encourage respect for human rights, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and the promotion of the common European values that shape our societies and identities. The Parliamentary Assembly accordingly declares its willingness to hold a colloquy to identify new perspectives reflecting the issues involved in the building of a united Europe, in the light of the aims pursued so far by the Council of Europe.

9.       The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Opinion No. 208 (1999) on the report entitled “Building Greater Europe without dividing lines” by the Committee of Wise Persons, which states that the European Union must be regarded as the Council of Europe’s natural partner. The Council of Europe and the European Union share the same ideals - the building of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Europe - and should therefore develop closer co-operation and institutional ties.

10.       The Parliamentary Assembly consequently recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       reinforce the Council’s contribution on the basis of the new challenges facing Europe and shift the main focus of its activities to the area in which it has the most to offer: democratic security. Activities relating to monitoring, election rules, the European Court of Human Right’s judicial activity and the protection of minorities should be stepped up, in particular, because they concern areas in which the Council of Europe possesses recognised and indeed unequalled expertise;

ii.       take the necessary steps to allow the European Union to accede to the statute of the Council of Europe which would ultimately ensure a more effective sharing of responsibilities and consolidate the Council of Europe in its role as the organisation covering the democratic area around the European Union;

iii.       propose that the European Union / European Community:

a.       accede to the European Convention on Human Rights in order to harmonise human rights protection systems and ensure that respect for the fundamental rights enshrined in the European Court of Human Rights is guaranteed for all EU citizens;

b.       open an office in Strasbourg to ensure closer contact with the Council of Europe and make more active use of the opportunities for co-operation afforded by the existing texts;

iv.       invite the governments of the European Union member states to co-ordinate their policies more fully so as to, on the one hand, avoid duplication of activities developed by the European Union and the Council of Europe and make optimum use of the complementary nature of their work, and on the other hand, convey clear, consistent messages on European policy to the citizens of their member countries;

v.       institutionalise the holding of Council of Europe summits to benefit from the political impetus they give at the highest level, with a view to promoting the Organisation’s activities and reasserting its unique position on the international scene. In this connection the Assembly draws attention to its Recommendation 1568 (2002) that a third summit should be convened to assess the Council of Europe’s position in the future institutional architecture of Europe. The summit should be held in 2003, on the eve of the first stage in the Union’s enlargement towards the east;

vi.       reinforce and rationalise co-operation and co-ordination between the OSCE and the Council of Europe, in the light of their specific tasks and respective advantages, so that the international community may convey consistent messages. The most suitable way of doing this would seem to be to draw up a general outline agreement on co-operation and specific memoranda of agreement;

vii.       take the initiative in setting up a “troika” comprising the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE, which would determine each organisation’s particular contribution to specified activities in the light of their basic aims.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur

I.       Introduction

1.       The debate on the future of Europe, launched by Declaration No.23 appended to the Treaty of Nice (December 2000) and by the work of the Convention set up at the Laeken Summit (December 2001) to draw up a common project for the European Union, will undoubtedly bring about major changes in Europe’s institutional architecture.

2.       The proliferation of European institutions and organisations since the end of the second world war and the gradual transformation of their initial aims should encourage the Council of Europe to position itself more effectively in the European arena by fully clarifying the part it intends to play in Europe in the future.

3.       Europe as a whole must find solutions to a number of problems relating to developments in the process of building a united Europe. The enlargement of the European Union, the consequent strengthening of the common foreign and security policy, the quest for a social and economic development model consistent with the principle of fair and sustainable development and the building of Europe on the basis of freedom, security and justice are priority issues for all European countries.

4.       In view of its fundamental principles on pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe must reassert its aim of ensuring peaceful unification and democratic stability in Europe, while consolidating its role as a pan-European political forum. In line with the public’s expectations, the Council should contribute to the process of building Europe by developing policies and programmes which encourage both respect for human rights and the promotion of the common European values that shape our societies and identities. More specifically, the Council should boost its contribution to intercultural and interreligious dialogue by carrying out more activities in the spheres of culture and education for democracy on a pan-European scale.

II.       Rationalising the sharing of responsibilities between the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE

5.       In recent years the European Union and the OSCE have been carrying out more and more activities in areas hitherto considered to be the statutory expertise of the Council of Europe. The current debate on the future of Europe must therefore serve as an opportunity for the Council of Europe to reassess its tasks and place them in order of precedence, redefine its role and priorities and, above all, initiate a discussion with the other European institutions and organisations on ways of avoiding any duplication of their work.

A.       Relations with the European Union

i.       Changing relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union

6.       Since the 1990s relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union have changed. Until the early 1990s, the respective responsibilities and geographical areas of the Council of Europe and the European Community were quite clearly defined. In the 1950s, the Council of Europe devised a wide range of projects conducive to the fuller integration of Europe’s democratic countries and took part in the process of setting up the European Community. The Council of Europe’s reputation derived not so much from its political role as from its expertise in harmonising legislation and resolving problems facing society. Over the years, the Council thus performed a key function in setting human rights standards and carrying out intergovernmental programmes. It has made a crucial contribution to the development of international law by adopting more than 180 legally binding multilateral conventions.

7.       The change in relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union is partly due to the emergence of two major trends: the enlargement of the Council of Europe as a result of accession by many countries of central and east Europe and the fact that treaties have assigned new responsibilities to the European Union.

8.       The democratic revolution that took place in the central and east European countries as from 1989 radically changed the Council of Europe’s political role and mode of operation. The Council of Europe demonstrated a considerable talent for rapidly responding to the far-reaching changes in its geopolitical environment, thus enhancing its political and operational importance. This new political dimension was bolstered by the Assembly’s introduction of special guest status in 1989 and by the first summit of heads of state and government in Vienna in 1993. There have also been profound changes in the Council’s internal organisation: in the space of a decade its membership has risen from 21 to 44 countries. By 2004, all European countries should be members of the Council of Europe, which will make it fully pan-European. The enlargement process has also generated qualitative changes in the Council’s work and responsibilities: it has acquired new tasks such as the protection of national minorities, democratic security and the monitoring of member States’ obligations and commitments.

ii.       Increased overlapping of responsibilities

9.       Recent treaties confer new responsibilities on the European Union1. The European Union is now tackling spheres of activity that were hitherto a matter for the Council of Europe. Article 6, para.1 of the Treaty on European Union, as revised in Amsterdam, lists the values that member States undertake to respect as “freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the rule of law, principles common to the member States”. This trend towards incorporating fundamental rights into European Union law, with the status of basic principles, firmly positions the EU’s activities in this area within the Council of Europe’s remit. The trend gathered momentum with the adoption of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights at the Nice Summit (December 2000). The purpose of the Charter is to strengthen the protection of fundamental rights and give it a higher profile in the European Union’s member States.

10.       The overlapping of activities is exemplified by the parallel establishment of similar organisations: the Council of Europe set up the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE)2 and the Community set up the Committee of the Regions; likewise, to combat racism and anti-semitism, the European Union set up the Vienna Observatory while the Council of Europe set up ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance).

iii.       Strengthening the partnership with the European Union as part of its accession policy

11.       As they share the same ideals - the building of a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Europe - the Council of Europe and the European Union must develop closer co-operation and institutional ties so as to make the most of their complementary activities. The Council of Europe has indisputable assets which must be turned to better account: its unique pan-European dimension, its varied experience of drawing up legal standards and monitoring their application and its major role in building up democratic institutions and harmonising legislation. It is a highly effective and indeed irreplaceable forum for contact between the EU member countries and countries that will probably not join the European Union: it is the only truly European and continent-wide organisation to possess that advantage. Once the European Union has completed its current enlargement phase, its member States will form a majority of the Council of Europe’s members. The Council’s recognised skills have in fact facilitated the successive stages in the European Union’s enlargement: the Council has provided applicant countries with an introduction to and preparation for accession to the European Union.

12.       The Council of Europe’s contribution to the European Union’s enlargement policy could be the expertise it has acquired through its monitoring activities and in judicial matters, domestic affairs and institutional reform. Once this enlargement process is completed, almost half the countries in Europe will remain outside the European Union. The Council of Europe will thus become the only pan-European organisation in which all European countries co-operate on an equal footing.

B.       Relations with the OSCE

i.       Shared responsibility for democratic security

13.       The tasks assigned to the OSCE in matters of preventive democracy, early warning, security, conflict management and post-conflict recovery partly overlap with the Council of Europe’s spheres of activity. In institutional and operational terms, the OSCE has adopted its 1990 Copenhagen Declaration listing all the rights designed to preserve the identity of national minorities, and also set up bodies such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, whose activities also overlap with those of the Council of Europe concerning observation of elections, protection of human rights and support for consolidating democratic institutions. Although its primary task is not crisis or conflict management, the Council of Europe performs a special function in member or applicant countries when democracy and human rights are under threat. A case in point is its role in the settlement of the recent crisis in Moldova.

14.       Admittedly, this duplication is not basically open to criticism because the two organisations differ in membership, structure and working methods. Nor do they pursue exactly the same aims or targets. The OSCE is traditionally security-oriented, while the Council of Europe’s statutory principles are democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

ii.       Better co-ordination with the OSCE

15.       Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE must be improved so that the international community can convey consistent messages when conflict situations arise. The two organisations have specific advantages which deserve to be turned to better account: the OSCE has more substantial resources for field activities associated with conflict management, while the Council of Europe has considerable experience of policy-building and legal co-operation. The Council has in fact acquired greater authority since it broadened its membership to include the central and east European countries, and especially since Russia became a full member.

16.       Numerous initiatives have been taken to determine arrangements for interaction and optimise the use of resources, such as the 1999 platform establishing instruments and mechanisms for monitoring information and promoting concerted action, the Common Catalogue of Co-operation Modalities drawn up in 2000 and the holding of regular co-ordination meetings. It nevertheless must be acknowledged that the Council of Europe and the OSCE continue to carry out similar activities.

17.       It must be advocated that the best manner to guarantee an efficient repartition of tasks, for which the two organisations are solicited, would be a pragmatic institutional co-operation which would consider, on a case by case basis, the partnership or the division of tasks. In this way, a greater participation of Council of Europe experts to OSCE missions and the setting up of mechanisms to exchange information and for planification are measures which would ensure a better use of resources. However, the duplication observed in many aspects of the two organisations’ work ultimately raises the question of the consistency of the instructions they receive from the member governments and the manner in which the latter intend to co-ordinate their policies on Europe. Given that all the Council of Europe member States are also members of the OSCE, responsibility for more efficient co-operation rests first and foremost with the governments.

18.       It is regrettable that the Committee of Ministers has not acted on the proposal to draw up a general outline agreement on co-operation and specific memoranda of agreement between the two organisations. Such agreements would ensure more pragmatic co-operation and avoid duplication.

C.       Setting up of a Troïka

19.       In recent years, high level meetings between European and international organisations have been held on a regular basis. Bi-lateral meetings, therefore, exist between the OSCE and the Council of Europe; meetings on particular topics with enlarged participation (European Commission, International Organisation for Migration and International Committee of the Red Cross, ODIHR, HCNM), as well as “parliamentary troikas” with specific goals made up of representatives of the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE. These meetings are crucial as they permit an exchange of information, setting of common priorities and the implementation of co-ordinated actions. It could be envisaged, on the basis of these positives experiences, to convene regular meetings, at an interval to be defined, between high-level representatives from the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. This proposal would constitute a decisive step towards a clearer repartition of missions between the three organisations while guaranteeing coherence in the activities which have been developed.

III.       The Council of Europe should step up its activities in the fields where it gives the greatest added value

i.       The Council of Europe needs a higher profile and additional resources

A.       A higher profile

20.       The lack of profile is partly due to semantic proximity with the European Council and public confusion between the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, both of which meet in Strasbourg. Furthermore, some people point to the excessive discretion shown by the Council of Europe when carrying out a number of activities, the implementation of some of which, it is true, depends on its member States. In order to boost the organisation’s image and promote its activities, major events able to capture media and public attention should be organised periodically. Multidisciplinary projects spread over several years could also be carried out in areas of major concern to the population of Europe.

21.       In this context, the expansion of the Council of Europe since 1990 is surely an asset, although some people take the view that the series of accessions over a relatively short period by countries which had hitherto not complied with certain fundamental democratic principles undermined the foundations of the Statute of the Council of Europe. On the other hand, your rapporteur considers that these accessions had the merit of strengthening the Council of Europe’s political role.

22.       Political dialogue needs to be stepped up at Committee of Ministers level, particularly through more regular exchanges relating to the implementation of standard-setting activity. Similarly, exchanges of views should be held more frequently between the intergovernmental committees and the committees of the Parliamentary Assembly. In order to increase the effectiveness and the credibility of the Council of Europe, the most important steps required are a reshaping of the internal decision-making process and improved co-ordination, particularly between the services of the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the Secretary General. The general practice of consensus and, in certain cases, the lack of transparency of decisions of the Committee of Ministers ultimately jeopardise the effectiveness of the Council of Europe.

B.       Additional resources

23.       The inadequate resources made available to the Council of Europe also weaken the organisation. The relevant rules differ from one European organisation to another: whereas the Communities are financed through own resources machinery, the financing of Council of Europe activities depends on contributions from member States. This method of financing makes it more difficult to plan and to distribute resources. Furthermore, the requirement for a consensus as an absolute precondition for any budgetary decision does not serve the Organisation’s interests well.

ii.       Establishing a hierarchy of Council of Europe activities

24.       Several steps have already been taken in order to promote the Council of Europe’s role: these include the declarations adopted at the two summits of heads of state and government, the first in Vienna in 1993 and the other in Strasbourg in 1997, the preparation of the report of the Committee of Wise Persons in 1998, and the adoption of a solemn declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe, on 5 May 1999.

25.       In the present context, the activities connected with democratic security, particularly those relating to monitoring and to the codification of electoral principles, should be given precedence, for these correspond to fields in which the Council of Europe has acknowledged and unrivalled expertise. The Council of Europe is indeed embarking on a new phase, during which priority needs to be given to ensuring that all member States comply with the Organisation’s values and standards and to providing new member States with technical assistance, so as to help them with their legal changes and remedy the shortcomings identified.

iii.       Expanding follow-up activities

26.       In order to strengthen the follow-up procedures developed by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, better use should be made of the standardisation activities of the Council of Europe carried out by the European Court of Human Rights, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the machinery set up to monitor conventions. Similarly, co-operation between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers should be increased, and the monitoring of member States’ obligations and commitments should appear regularly on the agenda of the Joint Committee, which brings together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and members of the Assembly.

27.       In order to solve the problems facing certain member States, the monitoring process should, where necessary, be accompanied, as it already is in the case of certain countries, by specific co-operation programmes or by technical assistance, particularly relating to constitutional matters, legal affairs and the setting up of democratic institutions. In this context, the Council of Europe could increase its presence on the ground, in politically sensitive areas, by setting up temporary missions and / or offices, as it already has in certain countries, which constituted the former Yugoslavia, and as is planned for the Republic of Moldova.

iv.       Expanding the Council of Europe’s role in the codification of electoral rules

28.       In the past decades, the Council of Europe has observed numerous legislative, presidential and local elections, as well as referendums, in member States or in States which had requested membership. The approach developed by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary observers, who benefit from comprehensive experience of the operation of the democratic system, is primarily a political one, whereas the ODIHR takes a mainly technical approach. In practice, the observation of elections by ad hoc Council of Europe delegations always takes place in a broader context, either that of the examination of applications for membership, or that of the monitoring of member States’ commitments and obligations.

29.       By setting up the ODIHR, the OSCE undeniably took on, in this context, a much higher profile than that of the Council of Europe or the European Parliament. In view of its presence on the spot well before the elections, its resources and the number of observers available to it, the ODIHR does in fact very often come forward as the main organiser of the observation of elections, and it seems to wish to take on responsibility for co-ordinating the observation activities of the other international institutions.

30.       The Council of Europe, because of its specific role as the guardian of democracy in Europe, as well as its experience in the electoral field, could and should play a pioneering role in respect of electoral assistance and in the codification of the rules and criteria applying to elections. Hitherto, there has been no European code of good practice in electoral matters, nor a standing European body for electoral monitoring. The drawing up of such a code would avoid the application of different standards to different States, and would make an important contribution to the monitoring of the commitments of new members.

31.       Following a Parliamentary Assembly initiative and the adoption of Resolution 1264, the recently set-up Council for Democratic Elections is intended to fill this gap. This Council, which brings together members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission, is intended to define Europe’s common electoral heritage. The European Union and OSCE hold Observer Status with this Council.

32.       The strengthening of Council of Europe activity in the electoral field, thanks both to the setting up of the Council for Democratic Elections and to the drafting of a standard code of good practice in electoral matters, would make it possible to give consideration, on a sound basis and on an equal footing, to agreements, or even practical arrangements, between the organisations involved in electoral assistance and the observation of elections.

IV.       Institutional proposals for strengthening the Council of Europe’s role

i.       The regular holding of summits

33.       In order to promote the specific character of its functions and to strengthen its political role in the European architecture of the 21st century, the Council of Europe should plan to hold summits regularly, for they make considerable political advances possible. For example, the Vienna and Strasbourg summits made possible the drafting of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the setting up of the European Court of Human Rights and the appointment of a Commissioner for Human Rights.

34.       This proposal is all the more justified by the fact that the Council of Europe’s main partners, namely the European Union (several times a year) and OSCE (once every two years) regularly hold such summits, fostering their dynamism and their development. The question of the regular holding of such summits could be discussed during the general debate on institutional reform of the Council of Europe, or at the next Council of Europe summit.

35.       The idea of holding a third summit has in fact already received support from Mr van der Linden, in his report on the Future of the co-operation between European institutions (Doc. 9483 and Recommendation 1568/2002). In this framework, it would be appropriate for the Parliamentary Assembly to be able to hold a colloquy in the near future which would set down, in the light of the functions already carried out by the Council of Europe, new forward-looking ideas appropriate to the issues involved in building a united Europe. Such discussion is vital, for the Council of Europe has now reached a turning point in its history, since the process of accessions of new member States will soon be completed. The conclusions of this colloquy would constitute the Assembly’s contribution to the preparatory work for the third summit.

ii.       Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights, so as to create a common legal area for Greater Europe

36.       Having adopted the European Convention on Human Rights as long ago as 1950, the Council of Europe is regarded as the initiator of the main European conventions relating to human rights. Following the adoption by the European Union of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the setting up of its “Convention”, the question of the Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights has - once again - become a topical issue3. The Laecken declaration in fact instructed the Convention to state its view of this possible accession and to consider the place of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights among the treaties. European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights has now become essential, so as to guarantee the Europe-wide consistency of the protection of fundamental rights and to avoid paradoxical situations in which acts of the Union would, indirectly, be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights, with the Union, unable to participate in the proceedings, being “represented” by its member States. The Community institutions should therefore agree to be subjected to the external supervision of the European Court of Human Rights, when they are accused of failing to comply with certain fundamental rights. Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights would give to the activities of the institutions of the European Union the same degree of legitimacy, credibility and legal responsibility currently enjoyed by its member States. Accession, of course, presupposes revision of the Convention and a number of amendments (particularly to Article 59 and to the arrangements for accession). Nevertheless, the essential question is that of political will, for it will always be possible to propose legal changes.

iii.       Strengthening institutional links with the European Union

37.       The institutional relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union are governed by a number of texts, declarations and exchanges of letters between the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the President of the Commission, the most recent of which, dated 5 November 1996, has something in common with the granting to the European Union of privileged observer status. The Committee of Ministers agreed “that the meetings and activities of the Committee of Ministers, Ministers' Deputies, rapporteur groups and any other working party convened by it will henceforth be open to the Commission at the invitation of competent Council of Europe authorities. The Commission will not enjoy voting rights and will not be involved in the Organisation’s decision-making process”. The aim was to consolidate a position already adopted by the European Parliament in a resolution of 1993 which affirmed that the Union should be permanently represented at the Council of Europe and in its organs, as was the case with the United Nations, and inviting the Commission to open a delegation to the Council of Europe. Greater participation in the Council of Europe’s activities “would enable the European Union to pursue further the recent experience of extending rules in Community legislation to the whole of Europe by transposing such provisions into Council of Europe conventions or agreements”.4

iv.       European Union accession to the Statute of the Council of Europe

38.       The question of the Community’s accession to the Statute of the Council of Europe also deserves to be discussed again. Such accession would enable tasks to be distributed in a more operational manner and would consolidate the existing forms of co-operation between the two organisations.

39.       As early as 1986, the Colombo report had suggested “that an essential step forward in European co-operation would be taken through the participation by the Community as such in Council of Europe activities, in ways to be defined in the spirit of Article 230 of the EEC Treaty: this might go as far as accession to the Statute of the Council of Europe”. In this field, too, an affirmed political will would enable the legal difficulties to be resolved. Why not, on this basis, explore ways in which the European Union could participate more in Council of Europe activities, including the right to vote in specific cases?

V.       Conclusion

40.       The Council of Europe has placed its skills at the service of the democratic transition of reunified Europe. It must be able to continue to promote the elements of a European democratic identity of which it is both the bearer and the guarantor. To this end, member States’ governments really must begin to give thought to making the activities (on the ground and programme-based) of the Council of Europe, European Union and OSCE complement each other better, and this requires a better distribution of skills and increased co-operation among the institutions.

41.       In order to guarantee the co-ordination and the coherence of activities which have been implemented, a ‘troïka’ could be envisaged comprising high-level representatives of the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE. This ‘troïka’ would determine each organisation’s particular contribution to specified activities in the light of their basic aims.

42.       The Council of Europe must now help to build a greater Europe without dividing lines, by developing its political role but also its activities where the honouring of commitments and the observation of elections are concerned. In order to increase its presence on the European stage, the Council of Europe should further develop multidisciplinary programmes in which European citizens would feel directly involved. Such projects could, for instance, foster citizens’ solidarity in the context of compliance with the fundamental principles of human rights or promote dialogue between European cultures, highlighting the diversity of territories, languages and traditions.

43.       The Assembly has already recommended that the Committee of Ministers hold a third summit. It in fact takes the view that such a summit needs to be organised “at a carefully-timed moment before the intergovernmental conference of the European Union, with a view to giving new political impetus to the Organisation at the highest level, to better take into account the political needs of its member States and to redefine its relations with other European institutions”. The years 2003 - 2004 would be the right time to hold the third summit, just before the first eastward enlargement of the Union. The Council of Europe should be ready to make its contribution to the current discussions about possible themes.

Reporting committee : Political Affairs Committee

Reference to committee : Doc 9108, Reference No. 2623, 25.06.01

Draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 9 September 2002

Members of the committee : Jakic (Chairman), Feric-Vac (Vice-Chairperson), Spindelegger (Vice-Chairperson), Aguiar (Alternate : Domingues), Aliyev (Alternate : Seyidov), Andican, Atkinson, Azzolini, Bakoyianni, Behrendt, Berceanu, Bergqvist, Bianco (Alternate : Danieli), Björck, Blaauw, Blankenborg, Bühler, Cekuolis, Clerfayt, Daly (Alternate : Enright), Dreyfus-Schmidt, Durrieu,  Eörsi, Frey, Glesener, Gligoroski, Gönül, Gross, Henry, Hornhues, Hovhannisyan, Hrebenciuc, Iwinski, Judd, Karpov, Kautto, Klich, Koçi, Kostenko, Lloyd (Alternate : Griffits), Loutfi, Margelov, Martinez-Casan, Medeiros Ferreira, Mignon (Alternate : Goulet), Mutman, Naudi Mora, Neguta, Nemeth, Oliynyk, Paegle, Pangalos, Pourgourides, Prentice (Alternate : Lord Kilclooney), Prisacaru, de Puig, Ragnarsdottir, Ranieri, Rogozin, Schloten (Alternate : Lörcher), Severinsen, Timmermans (Alternate : Zwerver), Toshev, Turjacanin, Vakilov, Vella, Volpirani, Voog, Weiss, Wielowieyski, Wohlwend, Wurm, Yarygina (Alternate : Nazarov), Zacchera (Alternate : Malgieri), Ziuganov (Alternate :Slutsky), Zhvania, ZZ……., Spain (Alternate : Solé Tura)

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

Secretaries of the committee : Mr Perin, Mr Chevtchenko, Mr Dossow, Ms Entzminger


1 Economic and monetary union, European security and defence policy, citizenship, development of tasks in which the EU’s action supplements that of the member States: education, vocational training, culture, health, employment, development co-operation.

2 The CLRAE took over from the Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, set up in 1957; the Committee of the Regions was set up by the Maastricht Treaty (1992).

3 Resolution 1290 (2002)

4 Convention on the Future of Europe, contribution of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (May 2002).