Doc. 9674

25 January 2002

The future of the co-operation between European institutions

Recommendation 1568 (2002)

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

Recommendation 1578 (2002)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 825th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (22 January 2003)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has taken note with interest of Recommendations 1568 and 1578 on “the future of the co-operation between European institutions” and “the Council of Europe and the new issues involved in building Europe”, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 26 June and 24 September 2002 respectively. It has also taken note of Resolution 1290 on the future of the co-operation between European institutions, adopted on 26 June at the same time as Recommendation 1568.

2.       The Committee of Ministers notes that most of the themes raised by the Assembly in the above-mentioned texts, particularly redefinition of the Council of Europe’s political priorities, its place in the European architecture and its relations with the other European institutions (especially the European Union and the OSCE, are at the centre of recent discussions regarding the forthcoming organisation of a Third Council of Europe Summit. In this respect, it refers to the report on the Proposal to hold a 3rd Council of Europe Summit (CM(2002)156 final), prepared by the Deputies for the 111th Session of the Committee of Ministers (Strasbourg, 7 November 2002), and to the decisions taken by the Ministers on that occasion, as reflected in the Communiqué issued at the close of the Session.

3.       The Committee of Ministers also notes that some of the issues raised by the Assembly in the above-mentioned texts, particularly the proposal that the European Union accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, are currently being discussed within the Convention on the Future of Europe, established by the Laeken European Council in December 2001. In this respect, it notes with satisfaction that Resolution 1290 has been distributed to the members of the Convention as a working document, and that two other substantive contributions to the Convention’s work have been made by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, via documents SG/Inf(2002)35 (“800 million Europeans: involving the Greater Europe in responding to key Laeken questions”) and SG/Inf(2002)42 (“Freedom, Security and Justice for the whole of Europe. Involving the Greater Europe in the realisation of an area of freedom, security and justice “).

Third Summit of the Council of Europe

4.       With regard to the positions adopted by the Assembly in Recommendation 1568 and in paragraph 10v. of Recommendation 1578 concerning the organisation of a 3rd Council of Europe Summit, the Committee of Ministers points out that, at the 111th Session, the Ministers agreed on the importance of holding such a Summit, in the context of an evolving European architecture. Noting that several Council of Europe member states had already declared themselves ready to host the Summit in their capital, they instructed their Deputies to continue their reflection on the various aspects of the 3rd Summit, with a view to defining their position on its theme and its organisational arrangements at their next Session in May 2003. Consequently, work on this issue is being pursued within the Working Group on Institutional Reforms (GT-REF.INST), in preparation for the Committee of Ministers’ 112th Session. In this context, a substantive contribution by the Parliamentary Assembly on questions that might be included on the 3rd Summit’s agenda, in line with the contributions made before the Vienna and Strasbourg Summits, would be welcomed.

In the report drawn up by the Deputies prior to the 111th Session, two options were put forward with regard to the possible scheduling of a future Summit:

- the first is to organise the 3rd Summit in the interval of some months which must elapse between the end of the proceedings of the Convention on the future of Europe and the start of the intergovernmental conference with which the final decisions on the future of the European Union will lie; in that eventuality, according to the foreseeable timetable, the Summit would take place between the end of summer 2003 and the beginning of 2004;

- the second is to organise the 3rd Summit once decisions have been taken in the European Union on its deepening as well as its widening; in that eventuality, the Summit would not take place before the spring of 2004 at the earliest.

The discussions on the time-table of the Summit are still going on, on the basis of these two options.

5.       In the same report, the basic arguments in favour of a 3rd Summit were summarised as follows:

“In order to continue to play a political role in the architecture of 21st-century Europe, the Council of Europe needs regular input at the highest political level, for three main reasons:

- the Summits in Vienna and Strasbourg have shown that there is no substitute for such input. Without them there would be today no framework convention for the protection of national minorities, no single Court of Human Rights and no Commissioner for Human Rights, to mention but a few of the more significant examples;

- the main partners of the Council of Europe, in particular the European Union or the OSCE, receive such input, which is essential to their vitality and development;

- meetings of the political leaders of the member states at the highest level are the clearest, most tangible sign of their interest in - and their support for - the Organisation; they are also an irreplaceable opportunity to enhance the Council of Europe's profile.

The upshot of these arguments is that from time to time (where warranted by current European affairs) it would be useful, and even necessary, for the Council of Europe's activities to receive an impulse at the highest political level. Through their capacity to arbitrate between the different areas of intergovernmental activity and the added value they offer in both political and media terms, the Summits of Heads of State and Government can indeed supplement and boost the organisation's institutional system, which is based on the twice-yearly sessions of the Committee of Ministers and the regular conferences of specialist ministers. This conclusion nevertheless stops short of proposing the institutionalisation of the Summits: the Committee of Ministers in fact made a clear pronouncement on this question in the position paper approved at the 108th Ministerial Session (see CM(2001)72 para. 10)1.”

6.       With regard to the other specific proposals made by the Parliamentary Assembly in paragraph 10 of Recommendation 1578, the Committee of Ministers has agreed on the following points:

Reinforcing the Council of Europe’s contribution/ Shifting the focus of its activities

With regard to the idea of reinforcing the Council of Europe’s contribution to meet the new challenges and refocusing its activities on the fundamental objective of the democratic security of the continent, the Committee of Ministers shares the approach taken by the Assembly, and also believes it is necessary to focus the Organisation’s resources on fields in which it has the most to offer. It draws the Assembly’s attention to the fact that, with this aim in mind, the Secretary General has set up a Secretariat working group responsible for working out proposals on how to refocus and reorganise the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental programme of activities. The Secretary General’s priorities for 2004, on which he will address the Assembly at its forthcoming session, should be based on this working group’s initial conclusions. These proposals will be considered by the Ministers’ Deputies in spring 2003 so that they can be used as a basis for drawing up the 2004 Programme of Activities, which would thus be focussed on activities with a high added value.

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union

With regard to proposals aimed at reinforcing co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers:

-       notes that the question of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is currently being discussed by the Convention on the Future of Europe. In this connection, attention is drawn to the fact that the relevant Working Group chaired by Commissioner Vitorino came out with a large majority in favour of accession and that its recommendation was endorsed at the Convention’s plenary meeting on 29 October 2002;

-       points out that the CDDH has carried out a study on the legal feasibility of accession, concluding that there was no legal obstacle to accession (Document DGII(2002)06). The CDDH report has been forwarded to the above-mentioned working group of the Convention;

-       agrees with the Assembly that a permanent Commission presence in Strasbourg would strengthen links between the Council of Europe and the European Union and optimise existing co-operation, particularly by making it easier for the Commission to attend the meetings of the Committee of Ministers and the Organisation’s other bodies, although it is aware that such a decision can only be taken by the relevant authorities of the Union.

With regard to the importance of improved co-ordination of the policies of European Union member states to avoid duplication of efforts and reinforce complementarity between the European Union and the Council of Europe and convey clear, consistent messages on European policy to the citizens, the Committee of Ministers first wishes to draw attention to the quality of existing co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union and to recent progress, particularly following the signature of the Joint Declaration on partnership and co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Commission in April 2001. It is convinced that the current process can only be reinforced if it is more systematically followed up in member states, including in the dialogue between parliament and government in each country.

Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE

With regard to the wish to reinforce and rationalise co-operation and co-ordination between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, the Committee of Ministers fully agrees with this objective. It points out that a “Common Catalogue of Co-operation Modalities” was concluded in April 2000. This Catalogue, which was signed by the two Secretaries General, provides for many different types of co-operation and high-level consultation between secretariats and in the field.

In addition, co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE on a number of countries has been developing considerably both in the field and at headquarters level. More recent examples of close interaction between the two organisations have included “co-location” arrangements for Council of Europe Special Representatives based in the OSCE missions (Armenia and Azerbaijan), joint work between the Council of Europe and the OSCE-ODIHR on electoral issues (FRY, Caucasus). The practice of field co-operation is constantly evolving, therefore no need is felt for the conclusion of specific memoranda to fix the modalities for such co-operation.

With regard to the setting up of a “troïka” comprising high-level representatives of the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE, the Committee of Ministers has noted this proposal with interest. In this context, it first wishes to express its satisfaction with the progress recently achieved by the three organisations with a view to greater coherence in the messages they send out and in their action, thanks in particular to co-ordination in the field, to regular contacts at all levels and to the practice of holding regular high-level (quadripartite, “2+2/3+3”) meetings. Moreover, when necessary, informal tripartite (Council of Europe, European Union and OSCE) meetings can be organised, such as the one held in Vilnius on 3 May 2002 in the framework of the 110th Session of the Committee of Ministers.

The Committee of Ministers also draws attention to the high-level tripartite meetings held between the United Nations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe since 1993. The International Organisation for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross are invited to take part in these meetings. Since 2001 the European Commission has also taken part. In addition, the Secretariat of the Council of the European Union will be invited to the next high-level tripartite meeting, which will take place in Geneva on 14 February 2003.

Within the European Commission matters relating both to the Council of Europe and the OSCE are now handled by the same unit in the External Relations Directorate General. In the EU Council the mandate of the Working Party on the OSCE and the Council of Europe (COSCE) has been extended to matters related both to the OSCE and to the Council of Europe, notably those pertaining to the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This facilitates a more coordinated approach from the EU side.

1 “Institutionalisation, in addition to the ministerial sessions, of Summits of Heads of State and Government does not enjoy a consensus. During their preliminary discussion of the proposal for a third Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government in 2002, the Deputies emphasised the importance of the Vienna and Strasbourg summits for the Council of Europe and agreed that a Third Summit should be organised if there was felt to be a need for a further top-level meeting, without reference to institutional considerations.”