B Explanatory memorandum,
by Lord Tomlinson
1. The Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe (PACE) is the oldest and largest European parliamentary
institution and one of the two statutory organs of the Council of
Europe, along with the Committee of Ministers.
The Assembly is composed of full members and substitutes elected
by the national parliaments (NPs) of the 47 Council of Europe member
states from among their own members or appointed according to the procedure
that each NP may decide.Note
composition of each national delegation must reflect the representation
of the different parties within the respective parliaments. The
credentials of the delegation or of its members may be contested
by the Parliamentary Assembly in accordance with the Rules of Procedure
of the Assembly.Note
3. As a common home of the parliaments of Europe, PACE is a pan-European
forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue, where the major political
issues of our society, which concern all European parliamentary democracies,
can be debated. It is a unique place where common solutions can
be found and where political initiatives can be launched.
4. The participation of PACE members, through their role and
function, in both national and European parliamentary activities
has great potential. It constitutes an important political link
and an element of mutual enrichment. It not only entails exposure
to other political traditions but above all also accustoms PACE members
to a culture of co-operation. This participation also enables members
of the Assembly to familiarise themselves with standards of democracy,
the rule of law and human rights, the fundamental values of the Council
5. Moreover, for parliamentarians, their participation in the
Council of Europe carries an added value. PACE provides representatives
from the whole of Europe with a platform for political expression
and political action at international level which does not exist
within any other European body.
6. This double role implies the double responsibility of informing
citizens at both national and international levels; being a spokesperson
of PACE’s work as well as of NPs’ work. The twofold European responsibility gives
members an opportunity to commit themselves to the European cause,
familiarise themselves with the situation in other European countries
and become involved in parliamentary diplomacy. On returning to
their parliaments, Assembly members can extend Council of Europe
action to the national level and make their parliaments aware of
major European developments. It is essential to the Council of Europe
that Assembly members should be determined to pursue their European
activities at a national level.
7. Furthermore, the two-way responsibility offers national parliamentarians
the possibility of taking up the challenges of a greater Europe
and acquiring experience of parliamentary work with Council of Europe
member states wishing to join the European Union. They thus become
forerunners in the efforts to build the united Europe of tomorrow
and can, in their NPs, contribute to the essential debate on the
enlargement of the European Union.
8. However, this double role also implies extra work for the
parliamentarians; a double effort, in so far as they need to be
aware of the issues dealt with at national level as well as of those
related to PACE. In addition, their commitments at both national
and European levels do not make it easy for them to attend all Assembly and
committee activities. Some members also serve simultaneously as
delegates to other international or regional interparliamentary
institutions. Furthermore, it is not easy for very small national
delegations in the Assembly to be represented in all these activities.
9. Over the years, PACE has adopted several decisions with important
political consequences for Council of Europe member states. The
impact of these decisions depends to a large extent on the level
of co-operation and partnership between PACE and NPs. The present
report will seek to suggest ways in which such co-operation and
dialogue can be enhanced, as well as ways in which PACE members
can contribute to this process.
10. To ensure that proposals and recommendations have a chance
of being implemented, they have been discussed with national delegations
and individual parliamentarians to gain their support and commitment. There
is no point in developing excessively ambitious ideas which may
be adopted by the Assembly, but not followed up in practice.
11. On the other hand, I am convinced that there are a number
of concrete measures which would have considerable impact on the
efficiency of our action as parliamentarians in a double capacity,
at both national and European level, and it is worthwhile to identify
and implement them. We should be modest but realistic, taking full
account of the views received in the consultation process.
2 Relations between PACE and NPs
12. The relations between PACE
and NPs have always been fruitful. PACE and NPs both have every interest
in co-operating and becoming more familiar with one another. European
institutions are growing in importance and making decisions that
have far-reaching political, legal, economic and other implications
for citizens. Interaction between national and European parliamentary
bodies is one of the principal means whereby governments can fulfil
their obligation to report on their action at European level.
13. To be effective, the Assembly must be well aware of the concerns
and needs of NPs and adapt its priorities accordingly. One of the
Assembly’s main challenges is to adopt texts that provide guidelines
for national governments and parliaments and otherwise meet the
latter’s needs. The support of NPs is also important for the implementation
of PACE texts. The resolutions the Assembly adopts commit only the Assembly
itself but contain important recommendations addressed to the member
states and, in particular, the NPs. It is through such recommendations
that PACE may influence more directly governments.
14. However, it is worth asking to what extent PACE is using the
resources at its disposal to strengthen its dialogue with NPs and,
at the same time, whether NPs are sufficiently aware of PACE’s potential.
15. One of the key opportunities of reinforcing parliamentary
democracy lies in “revitalising” relations between PACE and NPs
by strengthening the dialogue between them.
16. “Revitalising” the relations between PACE and NPs presupposes
creating more efficient channels of communication and rationalising
17. It should also be said that improvement of working methods
alone will not drive this dialogue – a real political engagement
from both sides is needed.
18. The selective exchange of relevant information between PACE
and NPs is one important element to be taken into account when dealing
with the effectiveness of channels of communication. Political will
to use the information so communicated is necessary to make the
process effective. The form of that political will cannot be prescribed;
it must lie within the discretion of each NP and their delegation
to the Council of Europe.
After each part-session, the President of PACE transmits a
selection of PACE adopted textsNote
via a mailing list which includes,
among others, presidents of NPs, political groups, secretaries general
of the NPs, observers to PACE, secretaries of national delegations
and libraries (of both NPs and universities). By this means, PACE
seeks to inform not only NPs but also those who have a say in parliamentary
activity about its work. At national parliamentary level, these
texts may be forwarded to the appropriate national parliamentary committees,
depending on national procedure. The theory is sound but the practice
20. In order to increase the efficiency of this exchange of information
after part-sessions, when a small number of texts adopted by the
Assembly are singled out and communicated to NPs, delegations should
be asked to take appropriate follow-up commitments regarding the
implementation of those texts at national level. I believe that
chairs of national delegations could bear special responsibility
for this task.
21. Leaders of national delegations and their delegations secretariats
could co-ordinate any action deemed necessary to give effect to
PACE texts. Meetings of members of national delegations could be
used to ensure that delegation members are kept informed concerning
any action deemed necessary or useful to follow-up texts after each
22. Since PACE has no legislative powers, its adopted texts are
not legally binding at national level. Parliamentarians are able
to have some influence on the detailed application of a PACE text
at national level. PACE might wish to consider the possibility of
introducing for example, systematic reports on action taken at national
level (questions to the government, legislative initiatives, etc.).
23. An effective way of informing NPs of PACE work could be the
preparation of a progress report by national delegations. These
reports could be presented after each part-session to a committee
of the NP. However, for some years now, certain delegations have
not prepared such reports. This lends weight to the idea of a distant
Europe, where nothing is decided.
24. In addition, several governments or Council of Europe member
states submit reports on Council of Europe activities to their NPs.
However, these reports are factual and rarely make mention of the
follow-up to PACE texts.
25. Research and documentation services of NPs also play a considerable
role in disseminating information relating to PACE’s work. In the
framework of research for the preparation of national reports, they
are better placed to take into consideration texts adopted by PACE
on the same subject.
26. In the same context, it is also worth welcoming and encouraging
the work of the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation
(ECPRD) which is a useful tool for inter-parliamentary co-operation
and information exchange. Parliaments can only benefit from such
a tool in that it facilitates the exchange of ideas and makes the
retrieval of data and the circulation of studies easier between
27. Over recent years, many parliaments have updated their structures
and working methods to make them more accessible to citizens and
to those who have a say in parliamentary work by improving the work
of committees and by simplifying parliament’s agenda, voting systems,
etc. These parliamentary experiences could be of important value
to PACE when improving its structures and working methods. A fruitful
exchange of information on these concrete issues could help to better
establish mutual co-operation. Sharing NPs’ good practices could
be an advantage in helping both institutions carry out parliamentary
practices more easily, making them more understandable for all concerned.
28. Progress reports can help spread PACE work in NPs. In some
NPs they are published as documents of the NP and in some cases
extracts of Assembly resolutions or recommendations are included
or a list of adopted texts is appended to the document, thus giving
rise to discussions in the corresponding fora. In addition, some
NPs have an information bulletin where PACE work is mentioned. However,
this practice still needs to be introduced on a broader scale with
the backing of national delegations and their secretariats.
29. However, problems can be encountered. For instance, progress
reports may be out of date by the time they are submitted. On burning
issues such as the Middle East or various political crises, time
is of the essence. Information technology is hence the most appropriate
means of dealing urgently with certain subjects. For that reason,
it is important that PACE and NPs keep abreast of all the technological
resources available in order for them to have access to the information
rapidly and securely.
Along with the electronic newsletter,Note
provides online information on PACE and its committees’ activities,
the PACE website helps to disseminate its work. National parliaments’
documentation services could accordingly more systematically consult
the PACE website.Note
would thus have access not only to the texts adopted by the Assembly
in an online version but also to other PACE documentsNote
well as verbatim records of the Assembly’s proceedings.Note
addition, the websites of the NPs should clearly display a hyperlink
to the PACE website.
31. Over the years, PACE has consistently sought that its resolutions
be discussed and given the necessary and appropriate follow-up in
NPs. The aim is to put pressure on governments to implement PACE recommendations.
At the same time, PACE has always encouraged its members to take
individual steps to support resolutions and recommendations in dealings
with the ministers concerned and to put parliamentary questions
to the government.
32. Council of Europe issues are normally followed at national
level by foreign affairs committees, as opposed to European affairs
committees. The latter committees rarely adopt conclusions on activity
reports of the Council of Europe or PACE. Moreover, national delegations
to PACE do not normally have an opportunity to express their views
on European affairs in parliament. As long as their terms of reference
remain limited to European Union affairs, it will not be possible
for European affairs committees to focus on PACE texts. For that reason,
NPs should extend the terms of reference of existing committees
responsible for European or EU affairs in order to include the activities
of the Council of Europe, and especially those of PACE.
33. Indeed, it is to be regretted that PACE adopted texts, when
they reach NPs and are transmitted for discussion, are only sent
to the foreign affairs committee. PACE texts often relate to specific
issues, such as human rights, equal opportunities, environment,
economy, migration, health, family, education, local government
or cultural affairs. This has the restrictive effect of preventing
parliamentarians who might be interested in the PACE work and activities
from accessing the relevant information. To ensure some consistency
in the work carried out, there is a need for close co-operation
between the specialised national committees and the PACE committees.
The NPs should no longer perceive the work of the PACE as being confined
to foreign affairs, but, on the contrary, as an extension of their
work at national level.
34. In response to the decline in the number of written questions
and progress reports, the Assembly and some NPs introduced new co-operation
methods. In particular, PACE tried to bring about targeted action
in NPs on some Council of Europe issues such as the preparation
of Council of Europe summits and follow-up to them at national level,
Council of Europe campaigns, the execution of judgments of the European
Court of Human Rights, and the Council of Europe’s budgetary resources.
35. Moreover, it is of prime importance that NPs hold debates
on the state of ratification, as well as on the state of implementation
of Council of Europe conventions at national level. Members of national
delegations should be able to report on these debates to PACE.
Special attention should also be paid to the issue of national
implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
In this particular case, NPs and parliamentarians have an important
role to play. NPs can ensure that governments table legislation
consistent with international agreements. The experience acquired
within the Assembly transforms the parliamentarians concerned into
their countries’ “watchdogs” in matters of respect for human rights
and democracy. What is more, parliamentarians should also use their
constitutional right to initiate legislation and themselves table
bills taking into account the Court’s case law. This will lead to
the adoption of laws in line with Council of Europe core values.
Mention should be made here of PACE Resolution 1226 (2000)
on execution of judgments of the European Court of Human
Rights and 1268 (2002)
on implementation of decisions of the European Court
of Human Rights.
37. Where possible, PACE should try to involve members of NPs
who are not PACE members in its conferences and events in order
to bring its activities to the attention of a wider audience. The
more members of NPs are aware and involved in PACE debates and discussions,
the more they are likely to actively engage in the implementation
of PACE resolutions at national level. A good example of such an
approach is the holding of the Forums for the Future of Democracy.
38. In this context, why should Assembly committee meetings in
member states not be accessible to interested national parliamentarians,
who are not necessarily PACE members? Parliamentarians with scant awareness
of European issues and of the PACE approach to debating and co-operation
would find these meetings a very enriching experience. Committee
meetings could also be held on NP premises to encourage non-member
parliamentarians to attend. In addition, part of the meeting could
be devoted to issues of topical interest to the member state in
39. If PACE is to improve its awareness of the interests and needs
of NPs, a closer and more regular interaction between PACE and NPs
is needed. This interaction would ensure European-level debates
on issues helpful to national legislators in their day-to-day work.
For this to be achieved, an examination of the situation in NPs,
in cooperation with national delegations, would be required.
40. PACE has always maintained a number of institutional relations
aimed at establishing and enhancing relations with NPs.
In that context it is worth mentioning the 1st Conference
of Presidents of European Parliamentary Assemblies, which took place
in Paris in 1963. Since 1975,Note
this conference, renamed “European
Conference of Presidents of Parliaments”, has met regularly. In
1981, it was agreed to organise a conference of parliaments of EU
member countries and the European Parliament. The conferences of
presidents have always provided an excellent forum for addressing
issues concerning relations between NPs and international parliamentary institutions
in Europe. The latest European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments
took place on 22 and 23 May 2008.
For some years a committee for parliamentary and public relations
existed, the successor to a Working Party on Parliamentary and Public
This committee, among other
issues, considered ways in which the Assembly’s work could be brought
to the attention of NPs and the general public. To this end, it
developed close links between the Parliamentary Assembly and NPs.
In collaboration with national delegations, it reported to the Assembly
every year on the actions taken in NPs as a result of the Assembly’s
work and on measures taken to increase public awareness of the Assembly’s
work. On 26 June 2000, the Assembly adopted a resolutionNote
the number of its committees from 14 to 10. The activities of the
committee for parliamentary and public relations concerning relations
with NPs and the public were transferred to the Bureau, while those
concerned with the functioning of democratic institutions were transferred
to the Political Affairs Committee. With such a dichotomy of responsibility
is it not understandable that we fail to establish the necessary
impact for our work?
43. Given the disappearance of the committee for parliamentary
and public relations, the Bureau could be committed to deal with
all activities related to the strengthening of dialogue between
NPs and PACE on a more regular basis.
44. In the framework of their parliamentary activity within PACE,
rapporteurs regularly go to NPs to obtain first-hand information.
They co-operate closely with NPs’ delegations and parliamentary
bodies concerned and establish contacts in order to draft their
In addition, the President of the Assembly and the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe often exchange views, during their
official visits, with parliamentary delegations to the Assembly.Note
their part, Speakers of NPs regularly attend plenary sessions in
46. PACE committees, as well as its Standing Committee, have always
sought to establish contacts with their counterparts in NPs. Committee
meetings are therefore occasionally held in the capitals of Council
of Europe member states. These committee meetings provide an opportunity
for contacts and exchanges of views with representatives of the
government and parliament of the host country. They also lead to
the organisation of conferences or hearings. Standing Committee
meetings should be used by the host country as an opportunity to
disseminate information on the follow-up given to PACE adopted documents.
Moreover, issues of major relevance to the host country could also
be dealt with at these meetings, with a view to attracting the attention
of the national media.
47. In the framework of the meetings between PACE committees and
its national counterparts, the aforementioned visits could further
enhance co-operation between both institutions. As a good example
of this, the meeting held between the Committee on Migration, Refugees
and Population of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and
the Greek Parliament’s Migration Committee on 11 May 2007 in Athens
may be mentioned, where the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Migration
Observatory was called for in an adopted joint statement.
48. Meetings between the President of PACE and presidents of national
delegations (a practice followed for some time now on the occasion
of the January and June part-sessions in Strasbourg) should be encouraged. These
meetings should provide on the agenda an opportunity for the President
of PACE to discuss issues he feels should be significantly drawn
to the attention of NPs and for national delegation leaders to respond.
One of the Assembly’s concerns is to involve NPs more closely
in the drafting of major resolutions and recommendations. According
to PACE Resolution 1177
, the Assembly resolves “to reinforce its relations with national
parliaments, particularly by submitting to their relevant national
committees draft recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers
before they have been finally adopted and invite those who do not already
do so, to hold once a year a debate on Council of Europe activities”.Note
being so, a consultation procedure of this kind could also include
draft Assembly opinions on major draft conventions of the Organisation.
National parliamentary delegations to the Assembly could be intermediaries
for this purpose.
50. In terms of visibility, the dual responsibilities of our parliamentarians
could be better exploited through different actions, such as:
51. Media: it should be recalled that rapporteurs are primarily
responsible for the follow-up at national level (in their own country)
to their work through interviews, press articles, participation
in conferences, etc. Therefore, some efforts at national level,
especially from press departments of NPs, could be further developed in
order to avoid the current lack of visibility of PACE’s work. Parliamentary
gazettes, newsletters or television programmes should be devoted
in part to PACE’s decisions.
52. PACE publications: it is important to stress that parliamentarians
play an active role in defending Council of Europe values and principles.
Conceived with the aim of giving ideas to parliamentarians in order
to promote PACE texts at national level, these publications are
a very useful tool for parliamentarians and their use can only be
encouraged at national level.
As an example of a current publication, it should be recalled
that the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly launched the
project Parliaments united in combating domestic violence against
women, which is the parliamentary dimension of the Council of Europe’s
campaign to combat violence against women, including domestic violence
This campaign aims at denouncing
domestic violence as an assault on human dignity and a violation
of human rights. It calls on governments, parliaments, local and
regional authorities and the civil society to take action. In the
framework of this campaign, a handbookNote
has been produced aimed at being
a practical tool for parliamentarians. It sets out practical ideas
for elected representatives who want to support the campaign and
help fight the source of domestic violence against women. This handbook
not only overviews the problem but also sums up good practices for
parliaments regarding this matter.
In the same vein, handbooks for parliamentarians explaining
in detail some conventions are being published, such as the handbook
on the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking
in Human Beings.Note
These initiatives are to be welcomed
since they contribute to promoting Council of Europe instruments
at national level, through parliamentarians. These handbooks are
designed to suggest working approaches for elected representatives
who want to promote this legal instrument and convince their respective
government and parliament of the importance of signing such a convention.
55. The Parliamentary Assembly
members’ dual role plays an important role in potentially strengthening
the dialogue between the Assembly and NPs. The key to reinforcing
this dialogue lies in mutual co-operation between both institutions,
and each being convinced that such dialogue can be of ever-increasing
56. Thanks to their dual role, PACE members facilitate the flow
of information at both national and European level. They also act
as spokespersons for PACE work and, at a more general level, as
defenders of the Council of Europe’s values and ideals.
57. This report describes some of the measures which should be
further developed both at national and international levels to give
the Council of Europe the visibility, attention and impact it deserves.
PACE members, through their unique double role, are very well placed
to contribute to this objective. There should be no organisational
or communications obstructions to strengthening national parliamentary
understanding of what is done by their representatives in their
name. The results depend on our political will.
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Reference to committee: Doc. 10672, Reference No. 3140 of 3 October 2005.
Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 25
Members of the committee: Mr Göran Lindblad (Chairman),
Mr David Wilshire (Vice-Chairman),
Mr Björn Von Sydow (Vice-Chairman),
Mrs Kristiina Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Fátima Aburto Baselga, Mr Françis
Agius, Mr Miloš Aligrudić, Mr Claudio Azzolini,
Mr Alexander Babakov, Mr Denis Badré, Mr Ryszard Bender, Mr Fabio Berardi, Mr Radu
Mircea Berceanu, Mr Andris Bērzinš, Mr Aleksandër Biberaj, Mrs Guðfinna Bjarnadóttir,
Mr Giorgi Bokeria, Mr Predrag Bošković, Mr Luc Van den Brande, Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Mr Lorenzo Cesa, Ms Elvira
Cortajarena, Ms Anna Čurdová, Mr Rick Daems, Mr Dumitru Diacov, Mr Michel
Dreyfus-Schmidt, Ms Josette Durrieu, Mr Frank Fahey, Mr Joan Albert
Farré Santuré, Mr Pietro Fassino, Mr Per-Kristian Foss (alternate:
Mr Vidar Bjørnstad), Ms Doris
Frommelt, Mr JeanCharles Gardetto, Mr Charles Goerens, Mr Andreas Gross, Mr Davit Harutiunyan, Mr Joachim Hörster, Mrs Sinikka Hurskainen, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński, Mr Bakir Izetbegović,
Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Mrs Birgen Keleş, Mr Victor
Kolesnikov (alternate: Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk),
Mr Konstantin Kosachev, Ms Darja Lavtižar-Bebler, Mr René van der Linden, Mr Dariusz Lipiński,
Mr Younal Loutfi, Mr Mikhail Margelov, Mr Dick Marty, Mr Frano Matušić
(alternate: Mrs Marija Pejčinović-Burić),
Mr Mircea Mereuţă, Mr Dragoljub
Mićunović, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon,
Ms Nadezhda Mikhailova, Mr Aydin Mirzazada (alternate: Mr Sabir Hajiyev), Mr João Bosco Mota Amaral, Mrs Miroslava Nĕmcová,
Mr Zsolt Németh, Mr Fritz Neugebauer, Mr Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Mr Theodoros Pangalos,
Mr Aristotelis Pavlidis, Mr Ivan Popescu,
Mr Christos Pourgourides (alternate: Mr Andros Kyprianou), Mr John Prescott, Mr Gabino
Puche, Mr Andrea Rigoni, Lord Russell-Johnston, Mr Oliver Sambevski,
Mr Ingo Schmitt (alternate: Mr Eduard Lintner),
Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Leonid Slutsky, Mr Rainder Steenblock, Mr Zoltán Szabó, Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu, Mr Han Ten Broeke (alternate:
Mr Tuur Elzinga), Lord Tomlinson, Mr Mihai Tudose, Mr José
Vera Jardim, Ms Birutė Vėsaitė, Mr Wolfgang Wodarg, Ms Gisela
Wurm (alternate: Mr Albrecht Konečný),
Mr Boris Zala (Mr Eduard Kukan).
Ex officio: MM. Mátyás
Eörsi, Tiny Kox.
NB: The names of the members present at the meeting are printed
The draft resolution will be discussed at a later sitting.