B Explanatory memorandum by Mr Van den
1. The motion for a resolution entitled “Need for a
Council of Europe neighbourhood policy” on which this report is
based, was presented by the former chair of the Political Affairs
Committee, Mr Ateş. It concerns the European Neighbourhood Policy
(ENP) launched by the European Union (EU) in 2004 with the aim of increasing
prosperity, stability and security in regions with land or sea borders
with the EU.
2. The motion also notes that certain elements of the ENP, such
as the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human
rights, are areas in which the Council of Europe is a reference
point. It also points out that, from the geographical point of view,
some countries involved in the ENP are also neighbours of the Council
of Europe. However, our Organisation has a larger neighbourhood.
3. In conclusion, the motion states that the Council of Europe
also needs a coherent policy for relations with neighbouring countries
and advocates the drawing up of such a policy, which should be co-ordinated
with the EU so as to avoid unnecessary duplications and promote
the same set of standards.
4. On the basis of this motion, I presented a preliminary outline
report to the committee in June 2008 and an introductory memorandum
in December 2008. In this latter document, I set out a number of
ideas and questions concerning the relevance, benefits and feasibility
of a Council of Europe neighbourhood policy. During the discussion
in the committee, several of my colleagues expressed the same doubts.
5. After this discussion and two fact-finding visits that I made
to Brussels (European Commission) and Vienna (Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe – OSCE), I reached the conclusion that
this was not the right time to consider a new and ambitious Council
of Europe policy concerning the neighbourhood of our Organisation.
The activities carried out in the context of the various existing
co-operation mechanisms – which can naturally be stepped up subject
to the availability of the necessary resources – are already making a
useful contribution to the promotion of the Council of Europe’s
fundamental values beyond its borders.
6. However, in view of the interest expressed by several of the
neighbouring countries’ parliaments in strengthening ties with the
Parliamentary Assembly, I propose the creation of a new status with
the Assembly that will enable interparliamentary co-operation with
these partners to be developed within an appropriate institutional
7. I therefore propose modifying the title of the report so as
to properly reflect the content of the initiative.
2 Is a new Council of Europe neighbourhood
It needs to be pointed out that the Assembly has
stated on several occasions in the past that it supports the more
active opening-up of the Council of Europe to non-member states.
In particular, Resolution
on external relations of the Council of Europe
called for the development of co-operation with neighbouring regions
as a means of consolidating their democratic transformation and
promoting stability, good governance, respect for human rights and
the rule of law.
9. Resolution 1598
on strengthening co-operation with the Maghreb
countries and Resolution
on the situation in the republics of central
Asia also contain concrete proposals for intensifying relations with
these two regions of the world that are close neighbours of Europe.
10. This desire to open up the Council has also been confirmed
by the Organisation’s heads of state and government of the Council
of Europe: the action plan adopted at the Warsaw Summit in May 2005
contains a commitment to encouraging a new intercultural and interreligious
dialogue with the neighbouring regions – the southern shore of the
Mediterranean, the Middle East and central Asia – based on respect
for universal human rights.
However, the Committee of Ministers has expressed a more reserved
view. In its response to Recommendation
on external relations of the Council of Europe
it stated that:
2. Whilst acknowledging
the importance of external relations for the Council of Europe,
and of the contribution from the Organisation to the enhancement
of universal values outside of Europe, the Committee of Ministers
is nevertheless convinced that the priority must be placed on the
European dimension of the Organisation’s mission.
12. I find this approach fully justified in the present circumstances.
In fact, while being in favour of a global, coherent and more active
initiative at the level of the Organisation, I am convinced that
it is not the right time for an ambitious external relations initiative,
especially given the serious problems that need to be addressed in
Europe. I recall, however, that in the past, the Assembly has also
often played the role of pioneer which has led to activities of
the Council of Europe in new areas of current events.
13. At the same time, we should not underestimate the results
already achieved and the potential for co‑operation between the
Council of Europe and non-member states that has been developing
for some years now and can take various forms depending on the actual
needs expressed by the partners and the Organisation’s priorities.
14. The Council of Europe is an organisation based on the values
and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and
on all related standards. Its main achievement is its conventions.
It should be reiterated, that most of the conventions of the Council
of Europe are open to non-member states. I welcome the interest they
generate in the neighbouring regions.
15. It is also necessary to underline the important role played
by the enlarged partial agreements in the promotion of the Council
of Europe’s principles, especially the European Centre for Global
Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre) and the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), as well
as the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA).
These activities are very much appreciated both by our partners
in the participating non-member states and the Council’s institutional
partners, especially the European Union and the OSCE.
16. With regard to the North-South Centre, I note with satisfaction
that it has recently considerably stepped up these activities and
I welcome, in particular, Morocco’s recent application to join this
instrument of co-operation.
17. As far as the Venice Commission is concerned, it should be
noted that among its full members are several non-member states
of the Council of Europe, including those in neighbouring regions
(for example Algeria, Morocco, Kirghizstan and Tunisia).
18. The Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
in Drugs (Pompidou Group) has also developed co-operation with the
neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean region. Since 2006,
the MedNET Mediterranean network for co-operation on drugs and addictions
(including alcohol and tobacco) has been created to promote co-operation,
exchange and two-way knowledge transfer between countries of the Mediterranean
and European member countries of the Pompidou Group. Algeria, Lebanon,
Morocco and Tunisia participate already in this network, and contacts
have been established with Egypt.
19. In view of the foregoing, and while remaining a supporter
of a global approach at the level of the Council of Europe, I consider
the time is not right for the Assembly to propose launching a new
Council of Europe neighbourhood policy at the intergovernmental
level. This idea could perhaps be taken up later on if the potential
partners demonstrate a clear interest and conditions allow. It has
to be said that this is not the case at the moment, so in the meantime
better use should be made to stimulate and promote all the potential provided
by the existing co-operation mechanisms.
20. On the other hand, I think it is worthwhile and timely to
propose the creation of an institutional framework for intensifying
co-operation with the neighbouring countries’ parliaments at the
level of the Parliamentary Assembly in order to promote dialogue
on the essential values and in this way encourage progress in the reforms
in the countries concerned. If this experience shows itself to be
useful at parliamentary level and if it arouses interest, we could
envisage an extension to other levels.
3 The case for a new status aimed at strengthening
the parliamentary dimension of co-operation
3.1 The importance of the parliamentary dimension
21. Parliamentary democracy is one of the fundamental
aspects of European societies. Parliaments have made a key contribution
to the democratic reform process throughout Europe and are continuing
to promote and protect these universal values at the national level.
22. The European parliamentary experience generates considerable
interest in many neighbouring countries, which are endeavouring
to draw on it in order to make progress with reforms on the road
to better governance based on these values and universal principles.
23. In this area, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly,
as a direct offshoot of European countries’ parliaments, occupies
a unique place in that it brings together the national parliamentary
experience of the whole of Europe, and sharing that experience is
a key aspect of the promotion of the common universal values of
democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
3.2 The role of parliamentary co-operation in the
changes of the 1990s
24. In this connection, it is necessary to reiterate
that contacts, political dialogue and co-operation between the Assembly
and the parliaments of the countries of central and eastern Europe
played an important role in the democratic reform process in the
early 1990s and, with activities of other bodies of the Organisation,
have laid the foundations for bringing those countries’ political
systems and institutions closer to European standards, thus making
it possible for them to join the Council of Europe.
25. In order to enable the parliamentarians of the countries of
central and eastern Europe to participate in its work and to help
them reach the level of democratic development necessary to become
a member, the Assembly set up an institutional framework in the
form of special guest status, which gave them an opportunity to
familiarise themselves with the European parliamentary culture,
traditions and practices, while at the same time taking part in
the political debate.
26. This experience could be taken into account in order to respond
appropriately to the desire to intensify and provide a better framework
for co-operation with the Assembly, a desire expressed by some neighbouring countries’
parliaments with which the Assembly already has ongoing contacts
to varying degrees. However, it is worth remembering, as indicated
in paragraph 39 below, that the special guest status in its existing
form is not adapted to the actual situation, as it had been conceived
in the sense of accession to the Council of Europe.
3.3 Existing co-operation and partners’ expectations
27. As already indicated, for several years now, the
Assembly has attached great importance to promoting working relations
with the parliaments of certain neighbouring countries of the Council
It should be reiterated that in its Resolution 1598 (2008)
co-operation with the Maghreb countries the Assembly said it was
“determined to step up co-operation with the parliaments of the
three Maghreb countries by inviting parliamentary delegations to
attend plenary sessions of the Assembly and to be heard by the Political
29. In turn, the parliaments of the three Maghreb countries (Algeria,
Morocco and Tunisia) have shown interest in intensifying contacts
already in existence and strengthening co-operation with the Assembly.
They accepted the Assembly President’s invitation to appoint representatives
to attend the January and April 2009 part-sessions, which enabled
Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian parliamentarians to familiarise
themselves with the Assembly’s work and engage in exchanges of views
with the rapporteurs of the various committees responsible for dealing
with issues relating to their countries.
30. The Political Affairs Committee also organised, through its
Sub-Committee on External Relations, a more in-depth exchange of
views on relations with the Maghreb countries’ parliaments. The
representatives of these parliaments indicated their desire to benefit
from the European experience when establishing standards and safeguarding
the values to which they are aspiring to subscribe and expressed
their clear support for intensifying co-operation with the Assembly
as a way of achieving these objectives.
31. The representatives of the three parliaments of the Maghreb
countries clearly indicated their desire to obtain observer status
with the Assembly, although to this day no formal application has
yet been made.
In Resolution 1599
on the situation in the republics of central Asia,
the Assembly declared “its readiness to contribute to establishing
political dialogue with central Asia at the parliamentary level
aimed at the strengthening of democratic principles and standards”.
It decided to consider a series of measures to initiate this dialogue,
including inviting representatives of these parliaments to participate
in the plenary sessions, committee meetings and other activities
dealing with matters of common interest.
33. Of the five central Asian countries, it is the Kazakhstan
Parliament that has shown the most interest in co-operation with
the Assembly. Since 2004, the Kazakhstan Parliament has been developing
its relations with the Assembly on the basis of a co‑operation agreement.
Parliamentarians representing the two chambers regularly attend
the Assembly’s plenary sessions and participate in the work of some
of the committees. In November 2006, the Kazakhstan Parliament officially
asked to be granted observer status with the Assembly.
34. The Assembly is also developing contacts with the Palestinian
Legislative Council, most of which are in the context of the Assembly’s
efforts to help contribute to the creation of suitable conditions
to bring about a settlement of the Middle East conflict, since the
Israeli Knesset has had observer status with the Assembly since
1957. Representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council have
been unofficially asking to be granted observer status for some
time now in order to put them on a equal footing with their Knesset
colleagues, even if no official demand has been submitted.
35. Accordingly, we note that there are a number of formal or
informal requests for observer status with the Assembly to be granted
to some parliaments that are already co-operating with it but think
that the institutionalised recognition of that co-operation could
make it more visible, more coherent and more effective.
36. I share the view that the Assembly’s co-operation with the
parliaments of the neighbouring countries could become more coherent,
more effective and more visible if it were provided with an institutional
basis. However, that basis should be precisely determined and fully
reflect the aims and conditions of the co-operation.
3.4 Existing regulatory framework
on the enlargement of the Council of Europe,
the Assembly estimated that:
bordering directly on Council of Europe member states should be
able to enjoy privileged relations with the Parliamentary Assembly,
if they so wish. This applies in particular to the states on the
eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.
38. The Assembly’s Rules of Procedure provide for two forms of
institutionalised co-operation and association with the parliaments
of non-Council of Europe members: special guest status (Rule 59)
and observer status with the Assembly (Article 60). However, I do
not think that either of these two statuses are appropriate for
the situation of the above-mentioned parliaments.
39. The aim of special guest status (which was introduced in 1989)
is to foster closer relations with the national parliaments of the
European non-member states. Although the description of this status
makes no direct reference to joining the Council of Europe, granting
it has always been considered an intermediate stage in the accession
process, because it enables the parliament concerned to be represented
in, and work with, the Assembly, especially in determining the accession
It is clear that the countries belonging to Europe’s neighbouring
regions cannot be considered as potential applicants for membership.
It is worth recalling, in this regard, Recommendation 1247 (1994)
on the enlargement
of the Council of Europe, as well as the document on external relations
of the Assembly approved by the Bureau in 2003. As a consequence
special guest status cannot be granted to the parliaments of these countries,
especially as Rule 59 expressly refers to the parliaments of the
41. As far as observer status with the Assembly is concerned,
it must be seen in the historical context and in connection with
observer status with the Council of Europe, introduced by the Committee
of Ministers’ Statutory Resolution (93) 26, which sought to create
an institutional framework to enable non-European democratic states,
such as the United States, Canada and Japan, to participate in the
Council’s activities, aimed at contributing to democratic change
and institutional reforms in the countries in transition towards democracy.
42. Observer status with the Assembly serves to ensure the parliamentary
dimension of this co-operation, and the initial condition for granting
it was obtaining observer status with the Organisation.
43. It should be stressed that the Assembly, which has been asked
for its opinion on applications by states and parliaments interested
in being granted observer status, has been very much aware that
those states have made a significant contribution, including financially,
to the Council’s activities in the transition countries. Moreover,
several observer states continue to bring their financial contributions
to projects and programmes of the Council of Europe.
44. It is to be assumed that the interest of the neighbouring
countries’ parliaments in obtaining observer status with the Assembly
does not so much arise because of their intention to contribute
to reforms in central and eastern Europe but rather because of their
desire to benefit from the experience of implementing standards and
democratic values and to participate in the political debate.
45. It should be reiterated that the granting of observer status
is subject to compliance with the principles of democracy, the rule
of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms – a
compliance which is assessed by the Assembly when it considers the
application. To this day, the United States of America, Canada,
Japan, Mexico and the Holy See benefit from observer status to the
Council of Europe. In addition the parliaments of Canada, Mexico
and Israel have observer status with the Assembly. While it is to
be hoped that compliance with these principles in the future constitute
the main objective of applications for observer status, then the
countries concerned are probably not yet able to provide a full
guarantee that these principles are implemented.
46. I therefore conclude that observer status is not the appropriate
option for the needs and expectations of the neighbouring countries’
The parliaments of the countries bordering the Council of
Europe member states also have the possibility of concluding special
co-operation agreements with the Assembly. This option is based
on Recommendation 1247
on the enlargement of the Council of Europe. It
is also mentioned in the para-regulatory document on the Assembly’s
external relations approved by the Bureau of the Assembly.
48. However, this form of co-operation has not generated much
interest among the parliaments concerned, which suggests that it
does not offer sufficient clarity and visibility. At the moment,
only the Kazakhstan Parliament takes advantage of it.
49. I can therefore only observe that the present Rules of Procedure
of the Assembly do not provide an appropriate framework for institutionalising
parliamentary co-operation with the Assembly’s partners in the Council
of Europe’s neighbourhood.
3.5 Proposal for a new status
50. In order to remedy this situation, I propose the
creation of a new formal status with the Assembly. The aim of this
status should be to gradually reinforce institutional relations
with the parliaments of non-member countries situated in geographical
regions close to Europe who wish to benefit from the Assembly’s
experience with regard to strengthening democracy and to participate
in the political debate on common issues that extend beyond the
European borders. These parliaments may already co-operate with
the Assembly within the framework of a working agreement.
51. This new status could be called “Partner for democracy” in
order to highlight its main objective, which is to contribute to
the construction, consolidation and optimisation of democracy, as
well as to safeguard the principles of respect for human rights
and the rule of law, which must be an integral part of any genuine democracy.
52. Given this objective of fostering and assisting with transitions
towards democracy, I think the new status could be broadly based
on the special guest status, but without opening the prospect of
membership to the Organisation. However, a number of important modifications
would have to be made.
53. The procedure for granting special guest status is decided
on by the Bureau after consulting the Political Affairs Committee.
It would, in my opinion, be more appropriate for the decision to
grant “Partner for democracy” status to be taken by the Assembly
following a plenary debate based on a Political Affairs Committee
report and an opinion by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights. That would ensure greater visibility and transparency and
make the procedure more solemn in nature – as in the case of a state’s accession
to the Council of Europe.
54. Similarly, if circumstances were to compel us to review the
status granted to a parliament with a view to suspending or withdrawing
it, it should also be for the Assembly to take such a decision,
on the proposal of the Political Affairs Committee with an opinion
from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Rule 59.2 of the Rules of Procedure states that “any formal
request for Special Guest status shall be addressed to the President
of the Parliamentary Assembly by the President of the parliament
concerned” but does not specify the content of that request. In
view of the main objective of the new status, I believe it is important
that such a request should contain a number of general commitments
as to the aims to be achieved. These commitments could consist of
the following elements among others:
55.1 an explicit reference to the aspiration of the parliament
concerned to take on board the universal values which the Council
of Europe defends: those of pluralist democracy, the rule of law
and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
55.2 a commitment to take action and encourage the competent
authorities to introduce a moratorium on executions and to abolish
55.3 a declaration that the parliament concerned intends to
draw on the Assembly’s experience and on the expertise of the Venice
Commission in its institutional and legislative work;
55.4 a commitment to organise free and fair elections conforming
to the international standards in the matter;
55.5 a commitment to encourage its country’s competent authorities
to accede to the relevant Council of Europe conventions that can
be signed and ratified by non-member states, especially those relating to
human rights, the rule of law and democracy;
55.6 an obligation to inform the Assembly on a regular basis
on the progress achieved in implementing the Council of Europe’s
56. Having regard to the particular situation of each country
whose parliament wishes to obtain the “Partner for democracy” status,
the Assembly could, on the proposal of the committees concerned,
set out specific conditions to be met before or after the status
has been granted.
57. Amongst these conditions, taking into account the commitment
of the Assembly to the principle of pluralist democracy, during
the examination of a demand for “Partner for democracy” status,
particular attention should be given to the existence of representation
of different political parties in the parliament concerned and to
the respect of the rights of the opposition.
58. As it is proposed that the decision to grant “Partner for
democracy” status will be taken by the Assembly, it is logical that
the number of members of a delegation benefiting from this status
should also be laid down by the Assembly. Besides the criteria of
fair representation of parties and political groups at the heart
of the delegation (such as defined in paragraph 59.5 of the Rules
of Procedure), the criteria of gender equality must be respected.
59. It is important that admission to “Partner for democracy”
status should not be seen as a single act but as the beginning of
a long-term process. The Assembly must therefore have the possibility
of periodically reviewing the progress achieved by the parliaments
concerned in connection with this status. The Political Affairs
Committee could, for example, be asked to present periodical reports
on this subject and discuss the implementation by the parliament
concerned of the general commitments contained in the formal request,
as well as, wherever necessary, any specific conditions laid down
by the Assembly.
60. In my opinion, the national parliaments of all the states
of the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East participating
in the Barcelona Process – the Union for the Mediterranean, including
the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the central Asian OSCE
participants (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan) should be able to apply for “Partner for democracy”
status with the Assembly.
61. However, should there be applications for this status from
parliaments of other states, the Bureau should be given the task
of assessing, on a case-by-case basis, whether such applications
could be accepted.
My main conclusions may be summarised as follows:
62.1 Although proposing a new and
ambitious Council of Europe neighbourhood policy might be an interesting
idea, subject to the availability of resources and the confirmed
interest on the part of the potential partners, it has to be said
that this is not the right time to pursue this.
62.2 The activities carried out at the intergovernmental level
in the context of the various existing mechanisms for co-operating
with partners that are not members of the Council of Europe – such activities
can, of course, be intensified subject to the availability of resources
– are already making a useful contribution to the promotion of the
Organisation’s fundamental values beyond its own borders.
62.3 However, at the parliamentary level the potential exists
for intensifying co-operation with the parliaments of certain Council
of Europe neighbours. In order to respond to the need for a better framework
for this co-operation, I propose the creation of a new “Partner
for democracy” status with the Assembly.
Reporting committee: Political
Reference to committee: Reference
3378 of 5 October 2007
Draft resolution adopted
by the committee on 28 April 2009
Members of the committee: Mr Göran Lindblad (Chairperson),
Mr David Wilshire (Vice-Chairperson),
Mr Björn Von Sydow (Vice-Chairperson),
Mrs Kristiina Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson),
Mrs Fátima Aburto Baselga, Mr Françis Agius,
Mr Alexander Babakov (alternate: Mr Sergey Markov),
Mr Viorel Badea, Mr Denis
Badré (alternate: Mr Laurent Béteille),
Mr Ryszard Bender, Mr Andris Bērzinš, Mrs Gudfinna Bjarnadottir,
Mr Pedrag Boškovic, Mr Luc Van den Brande,
Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Mr Lorenzo
Cesa, Mr Titus Corlătean, Ms Anna Čurdová,
Mr Rick Daems, Mr Dumitru Diacov, Ms Josette Durrieu, Mr Frank Fahey,
Mr Joan Albert Farré Santuré, Mr Pietro Fassino,
Mr Per-Kristian Foss, Mr György Frunda, Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto,
Mr Marco Gatti, Mr Charles Goerens, Mr Andreas Gross, Mr Michael Hancock, Mr Davit Harutiunyan (alternate:
Mr Avet Adonts), Mr Joachim Hörster, Mrs Sinikka Hurskainen, Mr Tadeusz Iwiński,
Mr Bakir Izetbegović, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Mr Miloš Jevtić
(alternate: Mr Miloš Aligrudic),
Mrs Birgen Keleş, Mr Victor
Kolesnikov (alternate: Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk),
Mr Konstantin Kosachev, Mr Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Ms Darja Lavtižar-Bebler, Mr René van der
Linden (alternate: Mr Tuur Elzinga),
Mr Dariusz Lipiński, Mr Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Mr Younal Loutfi,
Mr Gennaro Malgieri, Mr Dick Marty, Mr Frano Matušić, Mr Dragoljub Mićunović, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, Ms Nadezhda Mikhailova
(alternate: Mr Ivan Ivanov),
Mr Aydin Mirzazada (alternate: Mr Sabir Hajiyev),
Mr Joāo Bosco Mota Amaral, Mr Gebhard Negele,
Mrs Miroslava Nemcova, Mr Zsolt Németh, Mr Fritz Neugebauer, Mr
Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Mr Theodoros
Pangalos, Mr Aristotelis Pavlidis, Mr Ivan Popescu,
Mr Christos Pourgourides, Mr John Prescott,
Mr Gabino Puche, Mr Ilir Rusmali, Mr Oliver Sambevski, Mr Ingo Schmitt, Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Leonid
Slutsky, Mr Rainder Steenblock, Mr Zoltán Szabó,
Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu, Mr Han Ten Broeke, Lord Tomlinson (alternate:
Mr Denis MacShane), Mr Petré Tsiskarishvili,
Mr Mihai Tudose, Mr Ilyas Umakhanov, Mr José Vera Jardim, Mr Luigi Vitali, Mr Wolfgang Wodarg (alternate:
Mr Johannes Pflug), Ms Gisela
Wurm, Mr Boris Zala, Mr Emanuelis Zingueris
Ex officio: Mr Mátyás
Eörsi, Mr Tiny Kox
NB: The names of the members who took part in the meeting
are printed in bold
Secretariat of the committee:
Mr Perin, Mrs Nachilo, Mr Chevtchenko, Mrs Sirtori-Milner, Ms Alléon