memorandum by Mr Cebeci, rapporteur
1 When he addressed the Parliamentary Assembly in January
2010, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn
Jagland, announced his intention to implement a comprehensive reform
package to “revitalise the Council of Europe”. In his address to
the Assembly on 24 January 2011, the Chairperson of the Committee
of Ministers, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu, spoke of a “new political impetus”
given to the Organisation.
2 From January to December 2010, a series of measures were implemented
with a view to creating conditions for improved internal governance
and preparing for future strategic action on reform. These initial measures
concerned internal governance, the merger of the programme and the
budget and the rationalisation of certain internal Secretariat bodies.
The Council of Europe's external presence was also reorganised.
Lastly, human resources policy measures were taken, which made it
possible, in particular, to control staff expenditure.
3 The challenges to be met by the Secretary General in the second
phase of the reform consist in defining strategic priorities for
the coming decade and translating them into concrete and efficient
actions. This will necessitate the introduction of new tools and
working methods. There are three main thrusts to the Secretary General's
new measures: the introduction of a biennial programme and budget,
a review of the intergovernmental sector and the examination of
the relevance of Council of Europe conventions.
4 At the meeting of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development
held in Paris on 16 March 2011, the Deputy Secretary General, Ms
de Boer-Buquicchio, and Ambassador of Finland, Ms Ertman, Chairperson of
the Rapporteur Group on Programme, Budget and Administration (GR-PBA),
were able to share with committee members their vision of the challenges
confronting the Organisation in the coming years.
5 On this occasion, Ambassador Ertman officially invited the
Assembly's rapporteur on the budget to present at a GR-PBA meeting
in June 2011 the draft opinion on the budgets and priorities of
the Council of Europe for 2012-2013 and the draft resolution on
the expenditure of the Assembly for the same period, as approved
by our committee at its meeting in May 2011 in Lamezia Terme, Italy.
6 As in previous years, my intention is to comment on the Secretary
General's priorities and the new measures he has taken for 2012
and 2013. However, before getting to the heart of the matter, I
will address the audit of the Council of Europe's accounts for 2009
and the main events of 2010.
of the 2009 accounts
The French Cour des Comptes has replaced the National
Audit Office (United Kingdom) as external auditor of the Council
of Europe. The auditing procedures performed on the 2009 accounts
led the external auditor to conclude that the consolidated financial
statements were IPSASNote
and gave a true and fair view of the financial position of the Council
of Europe as at 31 December 2009. The auditor accordingly issued an
unqualified opinion on the Organisation's accounts.
8 The auditor also noted that the deficit on the Council of
Europe's operational activities had grown by 33% between 2008 and
2009. Staff expenditure nonetheless increased by 12% over the same
period and represents 69% of operational expenditure. It must, however,
be said that this increase in staff expenditure is a consequence
of the reinforcement of two key sectors – the European Court of
Human Rights (“the Court”) and the Office of the Commissioner for
Human Rights. Excluding the Court, total staff expenditure has in
fact remained stable over the last five years.
9 As for the Pension Reserve Fund, the auditor stated that its
value had increased by 74%, from €52 476 000 as at 31 December 2008
to €91 140 000 as at 31 December 2009, thanks to a surplus of acquisitions
over sales and a positive fair value adjustment. This is worth noting,
as it shows that the Fund has succeeded in eradicating the unrealised
and realised losses noted at the time of the audit of the 2008 accounts.
10 A new actuarial study to assess the level of member states'
contributions to the Pension Reserve Fund for the next three years
(2012-2014) is to be published before the summer of 2011. In this
context, I wish to remind the Committee of Ministers of the caveat
I made in the previous opinion, concerning the rate of return set
for the actuarial study. This is because the improvement in the
Fund's financial situation should not lead the Committee of Ministers
to impose a virtual rate of return that is too high, simply so as
to minimise the member states' future contributions to the Fund.
I would also like the Fund's Management Board to continue to exercise prudence
when selecting investments.
11 It is moreover surprising that no link is envisaged between
the Pension Reserve Fund and the Council of Europe's sole financial
body, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB). I believe that
the Bank's expertise in investment matters could be put to use by
the Fund's Management Board. In this connection, the Committee of
Ministers could consider the advisability of granting a seat on
the Management Board to the CEB and of drawing on the Bank's expertise
concerning financial investments in devising the strategy for investing the
Stocktaking of the first phase
of the reforms:
12 From January to December 2010 a series of measures
were implemented with a view to creating conditions for improved
internal governance and preparing for future strategic action on
reform. During this initial phase seven measures were launched.
The first measure consisted in merging the programme of activities
and the budget so as to present a more readable, better structured
and more streamlined document. This new programme and budget covers
the entire Organisation and all of its resources (including obligatory
contributions by the member states and financing obtained from the
European Union). In this document the Assembly is included under
the “Democracy” pillar. In its Opinion 279 (2010)
on the budgets
and priorities of the Council of Europe for the 2011 financial year,
the Assembly objected to this, in view of its role and position
as a statutory organ of the Organisation.
14 The second measure relates to the reform of the European Court
of Human Rights, following the ratification by all Council of Europe
member states of Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights
(CETS No. 194 and ETS No. 5), and the measures to enhance the long-term
effectiveness of the Court and improve its functioning, known as
the “Interlaken Process”. In particular, the objective is European
Union accession to the Convention mechanisms, made possible by the
ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Assembly's Political Affairs
Committee and Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights are dealing
with this matter and will shortly be submitting proposals.
The third measure concerns rationalisation and reinforcement
of the Council of Europe's operational capacity in the field. In
2010, the Organisation's external presence was completely overhauled,
so as to establish 15 Council of Europe Offices.Note
structures in Lisbon (North-South Centre), Graz (modern languages),
Budapest (European Youth Centre) and Ankara will moreover continue
to exist in their present form. In its Opinion 279 (2010), the Assembly
expressed reservations, on account of their potential cost, concerning
the creation of the Geneva, Vienna and Warsaw offices, which are
not directly linked to the implementation of co-operation programmes.
The fourth measure concerns relations with external partners,
in particular civil society. On this specific point, I would like
to learn more about the Secretary General's policy in relation to
INGOs and their status with the Council of Europe. In this connection,
it is to be welcomed that the Secretary General has taken tangible action
in response to the call issued by the Assembly in its Recommendation 1886 (2009)
the future of the Council of Europe in the light of its sixty years
of experience to set up an annual Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg,
a sort of Davos for democracy with strong participation by civil
society and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs).Note
17 With regard to the INGOs and their links with the Council
of Europe, the situation absolutely must be clarified. In October
2010, the Conference of INGOs drew our attention to its situation
as the initial consequences of the reform had entailed a 50% cut
in the Conference's budget for 2011, which means that it cannot
hold sessions in parallel with those of the Assembly. In this context,
it would be desirable to obtain more information on the strategy
of the Council of Europe with regard to civil society in general
and the INGOs enjoying participatory status in particular.
18 The fifth measure consisted in putting in place internal governance
structures, with the creation of a Policy Planning Directorate and
a Directorate of Internal Oversight and other measures to enhance
in-house inter-institutional dialogue.
19 The sixth measure was doubtless the most sensitive, since
it directly affected the Organisation's staff. It was aimed, firstly,
at adapting human resources policy to the reform process, with a
view to enhancing staff mobility, increasing flexibility and harmonising
the length of probationary periods, and, secondly, at controlling overall
staff expenditure, by doubling the waiting time to obtain seniority-based
salary increments (“steps”).
20 The seventh measure was the establishment, in June 2010, of
an internal governance structure – the “Agenda 2020” group – with
the mandate of putting forward proposals and recommendations for
implementing the reform.
21 As can be seen, the Secretary General has thoroughly committed
himself to this exercise, which is a difficult one but essential
for the future of our Organisation. Moreover, in his address to
the Assembly on 24 January 2011, he referred to the creation by
the Committee of Ministers, on a proposal by the Turkish Chairmanship,
of a Group of Eminent Persons presided over by Mr Joschka Fischer,
tasked with producing a report on “Living together in 21st-century
This is not the first time that leading figures have been
invited to give their views on our Organisation. I might cite the
in 1986, the Committee of Wise PersonsNote
set up in 1998 following
the Second Summit of the Council of Europe and, lastly, the Juncker
in 2006. The eminent persons'
report was presented on the occasion of the Committee of Ministers
session in Istanbul on 11 May 2011.
Other key activities:
23 The High-Level Conference on the future of the European
Court of Human Rights held in Interlaken on 18 and 19 February 2010
was undoubtedly one of the key events of the year. At this conference,
organised under the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers,
decisions were taken with a view to ensuring the effective functioning
of the Court in the long term. A declaration and an action plan
were adopted. The Committee of Ministers also set up an ad hoc working
party to monitor the Interlaken process (see the conclusions of
the Izmir Conference in April 2011), a process which also encompasses
European Union accession to the Convention following the ratification
of the Treaty of Lisbon by the European Union member states.
With regard to conventions, mention must also be made of the
adoption, in March 2010, of a Protocol amending the Convention on
Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (CETS No. 208),
concerning which our Assembly gave a detailed opinion.Note
convention is a joint instrument of the Council of Europe and the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Furthermore, in December 2010, the Committee of Ministers
adopted the Council of Europe Convention on counterfeiting of medical
products and similar crimes involving threats to public health.
This legal instrument is the outcome of a process launched by the
Assembly through its Recommendation
on the quality of medicines in Europe. The
signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 of the Council of Europe Convention
on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic
violence (CETS No. 210), which was firmly supported by our Assembly,
should also be noted,
26 Lastly, the situation of Roma in Europe was central to the
Organisation's action in 2010. Our Assembly paved the way for this
by examining, at its June part-session, a report on the situation
of Roma in Europe followed, at the October part-session, by a debate
under urgent procedure on the recent rise in national security discourse
in Europe. This debate preceded a high-level meeting on the Roma,
convened by the Secretary General in Strasbourg on 20 October 2010.
27 The Strasbourg Declaration on Roma was adopted at the close
of this high-level meeting. It sets out guiding principles and priorities
concerning: non-discrimination and citizenship (including women's
rights, gender equality and children's rights); social inclusion
(encompassing education, employment, housing and health care); and,
lastly, international co-operation.
4 Priorities for
28 The challenges to be met by the Secretary General
in the second phase of the reform consist in defining strategic
priorities for the coming decade and translating them into concrete
and efficient actions. This will necessitate the introduction of
new tools and working methods.
29 The new measures include the switch to a biennial programme
and budget. The biennial programme put in place by the Secretary
General for 2012-13 is indeed consistent with the Assembly's frequently
voiced desire to break out of the yoke of the annual budget, which
has so far been the rule at the Council of Europe.
30 The introduction of a biennial programme and budget will constitute
a major step forward on condition that the rules of implementation
are adapted so as to permit management over a two-year cycle, namely
to permit the adoption of a budget for the coming year (N) and the
following year (N+1) and flexible use of appropriations for years
N and N+1.
31 In concrete terms this means that it should be possible to
carry forward without restriction to year N+1 any unspent appropriations
from year N, just as it should be possible, under certain conditions
to be determined, to draw on the funds earmarked for year N+1 if
expenditure overruns the amounts budgeted for year N or in order
to make investments that will permit the reduction of certain expenditure
items in future. This kind of management could be termed flexi-security
in the budget process, or making investments today to achieve greater
The adoption of this type of budget will require an adaptation
of the Financial Regulations of the Council of Europe. In this connection,
thought might be given to amending the current Article 70 so that
any unspent balance at the year end will be left at the Organisation's
disposal and placed in a reserve account, as the Assembly suggested
in its Opinions 268 (2008)
and 279 (2010)
budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial years 2009 and
33 Another aspect of the second phase of the reform that I wish
to broach concerns the restructuring of the programme of activities.
As the Secretary General pointed out in his address last January,
it is becoming extremely difficult to implement some 130 programmes
(leaving aside legally binding activities) with an annual budget
restricted to €40 million.
34 In view of the relatively small budget, the Secretary General
wishes to restructure the programme of activities by reducing to
38 the number of operational programmes and in particular by discontinuing programmes
without the critical mass to have a sufficient impact. Similarly,
there are plans to review the intergovernmental structures (committees
of intergovernmental experts) so as to reduce their number, and
also to review all of the conventions prepared within the Council
of Europe to assess their real impact.
With regard to the conventions, the Secretary General's aim
to “take stock of the situation by conducting a critical review
of their relevance” must be supported.Note
In this connection, reference
should be made to Assembly Recommendation
on reinforcing the effectiveness of Council
of Europe treaty law, in which it requested the Committee of Ministers
to instruct the relevant steering committees to examine the treaties
falling within their respective spheres of competence with a view
to identifying conventions that are still relevant but require updating.
As the Assembly was the instigator of many Council of Europe conventions,
it would be a good thing that it should itself be very closely involved,
together with the national parliaments, in the implementation of
the action plan approved by the Committee of Ministers.
36 The new organisation of the intergovernmental sector is fully
consistent with the priorities for 2012-2013, as defined by the
Secretary General. The new steering committees and their subordinate
bodies will be organised under the three pillars of the co-operation
programme, namely human rights, the rule of law and democracy. This
will make it possible to reduce the number of steering committees
from 23 to 15, and the number of subordinate bodies from 28 to 6,
thereby permitting a saving of about €900 000 per year.
37 With particular regard to the second pillar – the “rule of
law” –, the Committee of Ministers has mentioned the ongoing threats
to collective and individual security, notably organised crime,
corruption and money laundering. In this connection, attention must
be drawn to the importance of monitoring the follow-up given to the
Council of Europe Convention on counterfeiting of medical products
and similar crimes involving threats to public health, adopted in
This refocusing of activities is doubtless necessary, but
it must be well thought through and correspond to the aims of all
Council of Europe member states (not just the objectives of the
Committee of Ministers – that is to say the ministries of foreign
affairs – but also those of the other specialised ministries concerned).
Indeed, the priorities of the capitals and the ministries are not
always the same. Lastly, it is important that this restructuring
exercise be implemented taking full account of the position adopted
by the Assembly in its Resolution
on follow-up to the reform of the Council
39 At the same time, it can be noted that the Council of Europe
also receives voluntary contributions of about €29 million per year
(including some €20 million from the European Union). These contributions
are essential to keep afloat the Organisation's co-operation and
technical assistance activities. For 2011, extra-budgetary resources
requirements have been estimated at about €37 million. In this context,
it would be desirable that the Secretary General of the Council
of Europe negotiate with the European Commission the establishment
of a stable, sustainable system of funding joint programmes with
European Union resources.
Concerning these joint programmes with the European Union
and their substance, the past experience of the Organisation's various
bodies and their respective advantages could be better utilised
and promoted. In its recommendations and resolutions, the Assembly
has frequently underlined that the democratic functioning of national
parliaments in certain member states continues to pose a considerable
challenge. I have accordingly asked the Assembly secretariat to
give thought to a co-operation programme concept that could be financed
with external contributions, so as to offer an appropriate response
to the specific needs of the parliaments of Council of Europe member
states or for states with “partner for democracy” status.Note
41 In view of the importance of these additional resources, the
structure within the Council of Europe secretariat in charge of
fundraising should be reinforced. It would also be desirable to
encourage the ministries of foreign affairs to pay greater heed
to the Council of Europe's calls for funding. Regular meetings between the
authorities of the foreign ministries of the member states and of
the Council of Europe could foster better understanding of the system,
its improved functioning and better use of the funds.
I moreover note with satisfaction that the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe intends to “pursue ... work in support
of fair and democratic elections”.Note
In this respect,
it is important to note that the Assembly was behind the introduction
of institutionalised observation of elections in Europe. Since 1989,
the Assembly has observed over 130 parliamentary or presidential
elections in European countries, and some 1 700 Assembly members
have been deployed as observers. The Assembly has played a leading
role in developing Europe's electoral heritage. It instigated the
Council of Europe's standard-setting work concerning elections, which
served as a basis for improving national electoral legislation.
With the Venice Commission as its institutional partner, the Assembly
is capable of playing an efficient and effective role in observing
legislative or presidential elections in the field.
43 To cover the obligatory adjustments, a general reduction has
been applied to the budgets of the major administrative entities
and institutional bodies of the Council of Europe (the Committee
of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local
and Regional Authorities, the Office of the Commissioner for Human
Rights and, solely for non-case processing activities, the European
Court of Human Rights). The Assembly's budget will therefore be
cut by 0.75% (or €109 100) compared with the appropriations allocated
to it in 2011, and €72 700 of this reduction must be made in 2012.
The cut in appropriations will have to apply to staff expenditure
so as to ensure that there is no growth in the ratio of staff to
44 The Secretary General's reform priorities continue to include
the modernisation of human resources policy, in particular containment
of staff costs. The Committee of Ministers, acting on a proposal
by the Secretary General, has amended the Staff Regulations so as
to modernise the system of staff allowances and adapt conditions
for start-of-career promotions. These measures will eventually result
in the elimination of certain allowances that do not come under
the co-ordination system (education, language and housing allowances).
Before I conclude, I wish to say a final word on the expatriation
allowance paid to non-resident staff working for the co-ordinated
allowance constitutes a key component of the pay structure under
the co-ordinated system. The Co-ordinating Committee on Remuneration
(CCR) is considering cutting this allowance. The Committee of Representatives
of the Secretaries-General (CRSG) and the staff representatives
have strongly criticised the CCR's proposals. Without going into
the details of these proposals, our Assembly must remind those concerned
that it attaches the greatest importance to the principles of negotiation
and respect for the rules governing the co-ordination system, which
must be abided by.
46 The purpose of all these measures is to adapt the Council
of Europe to cope with the new challenges of the modern world. However,
it seems clear that the primary objective is to reduce the cost
of the Organisation. The staff of the Organisation are under constantly
growing pressure. It would be desirable that the sacrifices consented
to (or suffered) by staff should not be in vain, but should help
breathe new life into the Council of Europe for the coming decades.
47 In conclusion, current geopolitical developments in the Mediterranean
basin are confronting Europe, the European Union and the Council
of Europe with their political, financial, social and moral responsibilities.
The Council of Europe is duty-bound to take a stance on this issue
and assist the setting up of these new emerging democracies, while
placing a premium on rights, whether concerning access to freedoms
(social, economic, political), respect for human rights or the establishment
of the rule of law, which have been the Council of Europe's fundamental
values since its foundation in 1949, as the Secretary General pointed
out in a recent speech. This is a huge challenge to which the Council
of Europe must respond in the coming years.