B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Cebeci, rapporteur
1. The main purpose of the Parliamentary Assembly’s
annual opinions on the budgets of the Council of Europe is to improve
parliamentarians’ understanding of the Organisation and of political
developments within it, to make recommendations concerning the Council
of Europe’s future policy directions and activities and, lastly,
to give an opinion on the political implications of decisions taken
by the Committee of Ministers regarding the Organisation’s general
2. In September 2009, the Assembly elected Mr Thorbjørn Jagland
as the Council of Europe’s new Secretary General whose ambition
is to revitalise the Organisation. In his statement to the Assembly
on 25 January 2010, Mr Jagland announced his intention to introduce
a “comprehensive package of reform” to re-energise the Council and
help it to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
3. One of the first measures that Mr Jagland has implemented
is to move towards substantial and active dialogue with both the
Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. On 25 April 2010, in his
second statement to the Assembly, he reaffirmed that he wanted to
hear our opinions and reactions on the reform, which concerned the
Council of Europe as a whole.
4. At the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development meeting
in Paris on 19 March 2010, it was decided to wait for the Secretary
General to present his priorities for 2011 to the Committee of Ministers
so that the Assembly could react to specific proposals and adopt
an opinion in June, before the finalisation of an initial draft
budget for 2011.
5. This report and the draft opinion it contains are consistent
with this new approach. Taking account of people’s reactions, I
have attempted to prepare a critical draft opinion that is as comprehensive
as possible. I sincerely hope that the Assembly’s wishes will be
taken into account before the finalisation of the draft 2011 budget,
which will be submitted to the Committee of Ministers for adoption
in the autumn.
6. Like my predecessor, I will comment both on the Secretary
General’s priorities for 2011 and on the main events of 2009, together
with the audit of the Council of Europe’s accounts for 2008.
2 Audit of the 2008
7. For the second year running, the External Auditor
issued an unqualified opinion on the Council of Europe’s financial
statements and confirmed that the 2008 accounts are in full compliance
with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
Overall, he found that the Council’s financial management and reporting
had considerably improved in recent years.
8. With regard to the Council of Europe’s financial situation,
I would like to highlight a particular point mentioned by the External
Auditor, namely liabilities for future staff benefits (pensions),
which amounted to €1.21 billion as at 31 December 2008, significantly
exceeding the Council of Europe’s total assets (€492 million).
9. To cover these future liabilities and modulate member states’
contributions, the Council of Europe has set up a Pension Reserve
Fund. Unfortunately, this fund suffered the impact of the 2008 financial
crisis, leading to significant realised and unrealised losses. However,
since the 2008 accounts were closed, the health of investments has
improved and a good proportion of the unrealised losses have now
10. Nonetheless, it is important for the Council of Europe and
the fund’s Management Board in particular, to take full account
of the External Auditor’s recommendations, particularly regarding
the investment guidelines, aimed at promoting more effective, more
prudent management of the fund’s assets to reduce its risk exposure.
11. In this connection, I hope that the Committee of Ministers
will take a realistic approach and will not instruct the Management
Board to seek high, and hence risky, yields so as to minimise future
contributions to the fund.
12. Summing up 2009 will be no easy task and I do not
intend to paint a complete picture of all of the Organisation’s
activities. I prefer instead to concentrate on the three major events
which left their mark on the year, namely the commemorations of
the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 50th anniversary of
the European Court of Human Rights and the election of the new Secretary
General of the Council of Europe.
13. The event which most certainly caused the greatest controversy,
and it must be acknowledged, a considerable degree of tension between
the Council of Europe’s two statutory organs, was the procedure
for the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Fortunately, the strained relations which marked the first half
of the year faded over time, as the Committee of Ministers and the
Assembly realised that tension between the two statutory bodies
was detrimental to the Organisation as a whole.
14. In this connection, the Spanish and Slovenian chairmanships
of the Committee of Ministers are to be congratulated on their commitment
and their tactful and persistent efforts to re-establish dialogue
between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, which made
it possible to reconcile the two sides’ views and resulted in agreement
on a series of measures intended to strengthen dialogue and co-operation
between the two bodies.
15. This enhanced dialogue between the Committee of Ministers
and the Parliamentary Assembly permitted the election in September
2009, by a large majority, of the new Secretary General of the Council
of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland.
The other outstanding event of 2009, which can be linked with
the 50th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights, was
the action taken by the member states’ governments to improve the
situation of the Court and, in particular, the signature on 12 May
2009, at the 119th ministerial session in Madrid, of Protocol No.
14 bis to the European Convention on Human Rights providing for
the provisional application of some of the provisions of Protocol
No. 14, namely:
- a single judge
could now reject manifestly inadmissible applications, whereas previously
this could only be done by a committee of three judges;
- the powers of the committees of three judges were extended
to allow them to declare applications admissible and hand down judgments
on the merits for manifestly well-founded applications and repetitive
cases if there was already an established Court case law on the
subject. Previously, such cases had been dealt with by chambers
of seven judges.
17. This decision, along with the resolve of the Secretary General,
the Swiss chairmanship of the Ministers’ Deputies and the Russian
parliamentary delegation, undoubtedly contributed to the State Duma’s
decision to ratify Protocol No. 14 to the Convention in February
2010, thus paving the way for it to come into force in respect of
all the states parties on 1 June 2010.
18. Apart from these key events, 2009 was marked by other important
proceedings. I would cite, in particular, the Conference of Ministers
responsible for Social Cohesion, held in Moscow in February 2009, during
which the participants reaffirmed the member states’ commitment
to promoting equal opportunities, not least within the most vulnerable
19. Lastly, another event to be welcomed is the International
Conference on Rehabilitating our Common Heritage, held in Ljubljana
in November 2009, with the adoption of the Ljubljana Declaration,
which constitutes a major landmark in the conservation of Europe’s
common cultural heritage.
4 Priorities for 2011
At his meeting with the Committee on Economic Affairs
and Development, on 19 March 2010, the Secretary General talked
of the difficult circumstances in which he had to prepare the Council
of Europe’s budgets for 2011 and the reasons why he had asked the
Assembly and other Council of Europe entities (apart from the Court)
to make savings of 2% compared with their 2009 budget appropriations.
The Assembly’s proposal regarding its expenditure in 2011 is set
out in Resolution 1734
, which it adopted at the Standing Committee meeting
in Skopje on 21 May 2010.
21. This report is the outcome of some broad-ranging thoughts
on the Secretary General’s proposals as to the reform strategy in
general and his priorities for the 2011 financial year in particular.
I intend therefore to focus on these two aspects of the Secretary
22. With regard to the reforms aimed at revitalising the Council
of Europe and building a flexible, higher-profile organisation,
I wish to repeat the words of the President of the Assembly, who
said that they are vital for the future of our Organisation. In
this connection, I wholeheartedly support Mr Jagland’s approach
concerning the governance structure which he wishes to establish
within the Council of Europe, particularly his idea of holding inter-institutional
meetings during each part-session, involving the Chair of the Committee
of Ministers, the presidents of the Assembly, the Congress and the
Court and the Commissioner for Human Rights. It is indeed important
that the Council’s main statutory and other bodies should be fully
involved in the reform process if it is ultimately to be successful.
23. On the subject of reform, the human resources aspect cannot
be overlooked when it represents over 60% of ordinary budget expenditure.
This is a fundamental factor but one that is complex to deal with.
That is because if staff expenditure has escalated over the last
ten years, this is certainly not the outcome of any particularly
lax approach but stems instead from a desire to bolster priority
sectors, namely the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights,
the Secretariat of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Department for
the Execution of Judgments of the Court.
24. However, unlike sectors carrying out operational activities,
most of the expenditure in these sectors (over 85%) corresponds
to staff costs. This would be true of any other administrative body.
It is accordingly somewhat paradoxical to express astonishment at
the increase in the wage bill which is, in the final analysis, merely
the result of strategic decisions. We should neither lose sight
of the fact that the Council of Europe is first and foremost an
organisation based on “grey matter”!
25. There are not many options when it comes to containing the
growth in staff costs. From this viewpoint, the Secretary General’s
proposals concerning human resources show good sense. The proposed
measures to promote mobility, flexibility and skills development,
to control increases in expenditure and to increase the efficiency
of the Secretariat should safeguard the most important thing, which
is to be able to continue to rely on a skilled, devoted staff, essential
to the Organisation’s proper functioning. However, it is important
that the measures to be taken scrupulously abide by existing regulations
and procedures both within the Council of Europe and under the co-ordinated
system to which it belongs. Any move to question the Council’s membership
of the co-ordinated mechanism would, moreover, be unacceptable.
Otherwise, a targeted, limited and agreed reduction in the
number of staff in non-priority sectors could also be considered.
For this reason I entirely agree with the new plan for early termination
of service of permanent staffNote
by the Secretary General. On the other hand, the situation of temporary
staff reaching the end of their contracts shows that there is a
need to identify means of granting financial support to temporary
staff whose contracts are no longer renewed, such as some form of
severance pay, concerning which the arrangements and funding would
remain to be determined.
27. With regard to the work programme, I can endorse, on the whole,
the new presentation based on the three thematic pillars of human
rights, rule of law and democracy, along with an extra pillar covering
the governing bodies, general services and sundry expenditure. However,
I do have one observation concerning the place of the Assembly.
Including the Assembly in the “democracy” pillar under the heading
of parliamentary democracy seems to me to somewhat undervalue the
role that the Assembly plays and its position as a statutory organ
of the Council.
28. The Assembly’s role and functions are cross-sectoral, covering
areas other than just democracy. It has responsibilities in the
sphere of human rights (such as the election of judges, under Article
22 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and of the Commissioner
for Human Rights, under Articles 9 to 11 of Resolution (99) 50 of
the Committee of Ministers) and the rule of law (including enlargement,
under Statutory Resolution (51) 30 A of the Committee of Ministers,
and member states’ compliance with their accession obligations and commitments,
under the “Halonen” Order of 1993 and subsequent instruments). The
Assembly could therefore be included in the 4th pillar, whose title
would then become “Statutory Bodies, General Services and Other” (see
the table in the appendix).
As to the priorities, I perfectly understand the reasoning
of the Secretary General, whose response to the current political
context and financial situation is to concentrate the Council of
Europe’s activities on the areas in which the impact of the Organisation
is clear and recognised. This thinking is also in keeping with the approach
that the Assembly has already advocated, particularly in its Opinion 259 (2006)
The future of the European Court of Human Rights is an absolute
priority. In this connection, I would refer to Resolution 1726 (2010)
, adopted by the Assembly at its April session, entitled
“Effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights:
the Interlaken process”. I would also invite colleagues who are members
of parliament of the member states of the European Union to do everything
in their power to enable the European Union to accede to the Court’s
mechanisms as soon as possible.
The Secretary General’s decision to suspend the transfer of
funds from other sectors of the Secretariat to the Registry of the
Court is in keeping with the Assembly’s requests in previous opinions.
However, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General could
take this further and adopt the proposals set out in the Assembly’s Opinion 259 (2006)
concerning the establishment of a separate budget for
32. As to the other priorities for 2011, such as reinforcement
of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, critical review
of the relevance of Council of Europe conventions, targeted co-operation
and work in the field, they are all moves in the right direction.
33. With regard to the Council of Europe’s external presence,
each situation needs to be looked at carefully. The Secretary General
proposes to close all the Information Offices (IOCEs) and the Office
of the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Montenegro
and establish two new types of body called “Council of Europe Offices”
(CEOs) and/or “Council of Europe Liaison Offices” (CELOs). I concur
with the idea of rationalising the Council of Europe’s presence,
particularly in countries in which the Council implements major co-operation
programmes (including joint programmes with the European Commission).
34. I am more sceptical, however, about the idea of having liaison
offices – apart from the one that already exists in Brussels – in
capitals where numerous international organisations are based, such
as Geneva, Vienna and Warsaw. Instead, the Secretary General could
negotiate reciprocal agreements with certain international organisations
with which the Council of Europe has established full and active
co-operation, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees,
for example arranging that the organisation in question would make an
office available for an official representative sent/appointed to
it. Any other more substantial structure would probably give rise
to significant logistical costs, which cannot really be contemplated
at a time when funds are scarce.
35. As to the discontinued or suspended activities, two matters
need to be clarified. The first relates to the activities connected
with the implementation of the convention on counterfeiting of medicines
and similar crimes (MEDICRIME Convention), which could very well
be continued under the auspices of the European Directorate for
the Quality of Medicines (European Pharmacopoeia). The second relates
to the subject of migration, which should be given more than merely
marginal consideration, through the activities of the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) or the Commissioner for Human
36. I, moreover, support the Secretary General’s idea of transferring
certain non-priority activities to partial agreements and the amendment
of Resolution (96) 36 of the Committee of Ministers so as to reduce
the minimum number of member states required to establish such agreements.
With regard to the outstanding balance of the previous year’s
budget, the Secretary General’s proposal to use the credit balance
from 2009 to finance a contingency reserve is in line with the desire
expressed by the Assembly in Opinion
, where it recommended that the Committee of Ministers
amend Article 70 of the Financial Regulations so that any unexpended
balance would systematically be left at the Organisation’s disposal,
to be placed in a reserve account and utilised as may be decided
by the Committee of Ministers.
38. Lastly, it is regrettable that the Secretary General’s reform
proposals and priorities for 2011 do not include plans to move to
a two-year or multi-annual budget process, despite the fact that
this idea has been championed by the Assembly since at least 2003.
In conclusion, the Council of Europe certainly needs to be
reformed so that it is better placed to meet the challenges confronting
European society. In Opinion
, the Assembly called for a political strategy to give
the Organisation a new ambition and proposed to make the Council
of Europe a European centre of excellence for democracy and human
rights. In its Recommendation
, it reiterated this wish, borrowing the phrase coined
by leader-writer Daniel Riot when he referred to a “Davos of democracy”.
This is clearly the objective I would propose to set for the Council
of Europe since, as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker,
said in his report, the Council of Europe is “a full-scale factory