C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Mignon,
1 Origin and aim of the report
On 1 October 2009, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1689 (2009)
and Recommendation 1886 (2009)
the future of the Council of Europe in the light of its sixty years
of experience, which were intended to provide some food for thought
about the changing role of the Council of Europe, to identify problems
in its functioning and to suggest measures to be taken to ensure
that the Organisation remains a key institution in the process of
building a united Europe based on the principles and values of democracy,
human rights and the rule of law and thereby helps to guarantee
the effective promotion and protection of these principles and values.
2 On 29 September 2009, the Assembly elected Mr Thorbjørn Jagland
as the new Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Throughout
his election campaign, Mr Jagland had emphasised the need to reform
the Organisation in order to make it more flexible and more appropriate
to current challenges.
3 It is quite natural that the Assembly, which has itself given
thought to ways of making the Council of Europe more relevant and
effective, wishes to follow the reform process initiated by the
Secretary General, and to make a contribution to it.
4 I therefore tabled a motion for a resolution entitled “Follow-up
to the reform of the Council of Europe”, which led to the decision
to have the present report drafted, my twofold aim being to keep
colleagues informed about the progress of the Secretary General’s
reform and to give the Assembly an opportunity to express its views
and exercise its influence on the political decisions to be made
during this process.
5 In my view, it is not our Assembly’s role to scrutinise every
last detail of issues relating to the day-to-day functioning of
the Council of Europe. On the other hand, it rightly feels concerned
when the intention is to define the Organisation’s strategic objectives
for the years ahead.
6 I should like to point out that, when he first outlined to
the Assembly his programme for change, on 25 January 2010, the Secretary
General emphasised the political nature of the reform process. As
one of the Council of Europe’s two statutory organs, the Assembly
is, like the Committee of Ministers, vested with overall responsibility
for the Organisation’s future. It is therefore vital for the Assembly
to be consulted and allowed to contribute when political decisions
are to be taken which will affect that future. Like most of my fellow
members of the Assembly, I am resolutely in favour of reform of
the Council of Europe and resolutely opposed to a reduction in our
Organisation’s political role.
2 Moving towards the second phase of reform
In January 2010, the Secretary General began the
first stage of the reform process, the main aims of which were stated
- to revitalise the Council
of Europe as a political body and an innovative organisation;
- to concentrate its work on fewer projects, selected on
the highest added value and comparative advantages;
- to develop a flexible organisation that is also more visible
and relevant for the citizens of Europe.
8 The first stage of reform entailed measures for immediate
implementation, mainly relating to priority needs connected with
internal governance and operational measures, such as reform of
the budget process and format, initial measures to rationalise the
programme of activities, the introduction of a new concept for the Council
of Europe’s external presence, the treatment of financial questions
and the control of pay costs.
The Assembly examined this first wave of measures in Opinion 279 (2010)
the budgets and priorities of the Council of Europe for the 2011
financial year (on the basis of a report by the Committee on Economic Affairs
and Development). It expressed its support for the process begun
by the Secretary General and called for a political strategy that
would give the Organisation a new ambition.
10 At the same time, the Secretary General set up within the
Council of Europe Secretariat the “Agenda 2020 Group”, a think tank
tasked with preparing for the second phase of reform, which should
cover matters relating to the Organisation’s strategic position
vis-à-vis the major present and future challenges.
11 The work of the Agenda 2020 Group is not public. I have, however,
been able to discuss its main lines with its chairperson, Mr Gérard
Stoudmann, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Organisational
Development and Reform, and to have access to some of the ideas
under discussion in the group. Mr Stoudmann also represented the
Secretary General, who had been invited to participate in an exchange
of views with the committee, at our meeting in Paris on 18 November
2010. On that occasion, he set out the main lines of the discussion
under way in preparation for the second phase of the reform.
The Agenda 2020 Group, composed of the main senior officials
of the Secretariat’s structural units, bases its work on that of
the 15 Task Forces which are active in four Change Workshops:
(Task Forces on Transversality; Convention Review; Monitoring; Evaluation);
- Relations with the European Union (Task Forces on Standard-Setting
and Monitoring; European Union in Council of Europe Structures;
Council of Europe in the European Union’s External Policies; a new strategic
- Competitiveness (Task Forces on External Presence; Civil
Society; External Funding; Communication);
- Strategy for Internal Excellence (Task Forces on Human
Capital; Fighting Red Tape; Intergovernmental Structures).
The Group is pursuing a threefold aim:
- to define priorities for 2010-2020;
- to define priorities for the 2012-2013 programme of activities;
- to co-ordinate and present the recommendations drawn up
by the 15 Task Forces.
According to the information obtained, the following should
be taken into account where the strategic objectives for the decade
by 2020 of a common pan-European platform of norms and standards;
- meeting through practical projects of the societal challenges
arising, particularly including the growing risks of loss of cohesion
- use of the Council of Europe as a forum for the discussion
of current affairs relevant to the Organisation’s remit.
The following would be the main priorities to be adopted when
the 2012-2013 programme of activities is defined:
- establishment of a biennial
budget from 2012 onwards, accompanied by a detailed review of the intergovernmental
programme of activities, in future linked to the two-year budgetary
- a focus on the priorities to be defined, with a reduction
in the overall number of programmes;
- establishment of a new framework for co-operation with
the European Union;
- adoption of a transversal approach whenever possible,
especially where working methods are concerned (project groups,
16 According to the latest information, the four Change Workshops
have forwarded their recommendations to the Agenda 2020 Group, which
is now examining and finalising them. The Agenda 2020 Group’s proposals should
serve as a basis for the second phase of reform, which the Secretary
General plans to present at the beginning of 2011.
3 Major challenges to be met
17 The exchange of views with the Special Representative
of the Secretary General which took place on 18 November 2010 gave
members of the committee an opportunity, on the one hand, to obtain
general information about the reform process and, on the other hand,
to inform him of Assembly members’ observations and concerns. But
at the time of writing this report, we do not yet have precise information
about what the second phase of reform will entail. I cannot therefore
comment on the substance of that phase! However, it is clear that
this new phase will have to go much further than a mere improvement
of working methods, and will entail political decisions and a redefinition
of the role of the Council of Europe so as to restore it as a priority
on the European political agenda. I therefore feel that it would
be useful at this stage to point to certain challenges and to reconsider
certain ideas – including those expressed by my colleagues on the committee
– which need to be taken into account if the Council of Europe is
to become more effective and operational.
These challenges are not new, and a good many of them have
already been set out in Resolution
, and in a number of other relevant Assembly
texts. I have to say that too little progress has been made – and
probably too little will shown – in the search for ways of dealing
with these problems.
3.1 Decline in member states’ commitment
The Assembly, in Resolution 1689 (2009)
concern about some tendencies which could indicate a decline in
member states’ commitment to the Council of Europe (such as the
low level of participation by ministers in ministerial sessions
of the Committee of Ministers; the zero growth of the budget in
real terms; member states’ reluctance to accede to legal instruments;
attempts to minimise the importance of monitoring mechanisms, or
even to call them into question).
20 Notwithstanding solemn declarations, these tendencies have
not been reversed. Of course, the Organisation needs to change the
way it works and offer operational responses to member states’ needs
– and this is one of the fundamental challenges for the reform process.
It is nevertheless the case that, without strong support from its
states, the Council of Europe has little chance of meeting their
expectations and will have to curtail its activities even further.
This disengagement is all the more difficult to understand because
it coincides with the multiplication, in our states, of dangerous
and destabilising tendencies which threaten the cohesion of society
and which manifest themselves as much within the European Union
as in the countries which are outside of it. The Council of Europe,
with its analytical and anticipatory capacities, is the preferred
framework for sharing national experience and preparing joint responses
to problems which, albeit in different forms, concern Europe as
21 The Secretary General’s proposal to use the Partial Agreement
formula to enable interested states to continue co-operation in
certain specific fields deserves to be given attention. Care should
nevertheless be taken not to break the Council of Europe up any
further and to avoid transforming it into a loosely linked network of
isolated pockets of activity. Quite the contrary, greater synergy
between the Council of Europe’s organs, institutions and mechanisms
is essential in order to respond effectively to the challenges facing
society and to member states’ needs.
22 The Secretary General’s recent initiative on Roma could serve
as an example of speedy mobilisation of the expertise and intellectual
resources available within the Council of Europe, on the one hand,
and of the political will of member states, on the other, in the
face of an urgent situation.
23 The success of such initiatives will depend on the Organisation’s
ability to translate its potential into operational decisions and
to provide practical solutions useful to member states. In order
to be able to mobilise them, however, the Council of Europe needs
to continue to have available sufficient funds, intellectual resources
and a recognised degree of expertise.
The greatest caution is therefore required when consideration
is given to ending any activity. However, once an activity proves
to be no longer of interest, there should be no hesitation about
putting an end to it, even if that may call into question certain
established situations. That said, a decision to discontinue activities
is, by its very nature, a political one, and I believe that the
Assembly should be consulted. In this respect, the motion for a
resolution tabled by Mr Konečný and other colleagues, entitled “Broadening
the Parliamentary Assembly activities: scrutinising of Council of
Europe’s activities” (Doc. 12324
which proposes periodical scrutiny by the Assembly of the Council
of Europe’s activities and programmes, deserves to be studied closely.
25 I should also like to draw your attention to two proposals
made by the Assembly in its report on the future of the Council
of Europe in the light of its sixty years of experience. The first
is the regular holding of summits, which would enable the necessary
impetus to be given to the Organisation and a high degree of responsibility for
states as regards their commitments to be maintained. In the present
situation, in which the discrepancy between solemn declarations
and effective acts is so obvious, and in which discussion of a possible
redefinition of the Council of Europe’s role is on the agenda, this
possibility should be given serious consideration.
26 The Assembly also declared itself to be in favour of enhancing
the role of conferences of specialised ministers and their impact
on the Organisation’s everyday activities. The second proposal is
that consideration be given to arrangements enabling member states’
different specialised ministries to be involved in the choice of
priorities for intergovernmental activities and contribute to the
funding of certain Council of Europe activities. This last aspect
is not negligible in the current budgetary situation to which I
refer below. I feel that this idea is of great relevance in the
context of the Secretary General’s wish to make the Council of Europe
more operational, with a focus on solving practical problems in
the interest of member states. Furthermore, the Assembly should
more frequently invite specialised ministers to address its members
to make them more aware of the actual problems facing society, and
also as part of their duty to report back at European level.
3.2 General vocation or a new focus on the three pillars?
27 It is not the first time that we have had to face
up to a dilemma about the Council of Europe’s vocation: should we
limit our activities to the three fundamental pillars, namely democracy,
human rights and the rule of law, or should we continue to regard
our Organisation as a broader framework for co-operation?
28 It has to be acknowledged that there is no consensus on this
matter either among member states or within the Assembly. The states
which are members of the European Union and those which have embarked on
the process of becoming European Union members tend to favour the
Union framework for their projects relating to European co-operation
29 A debate is taking place between those who would like to reduce
Council of Europe activities to the monitoring of the commitments
of the countries which are not members of the European Union in
the fields relating to the three aforementioned pillars and those
who emphasise the importance of culture, education and social cohesion.
In many respects, this is the wrong debate. What would a democracy
be without culture and without social cohesion?
30 Let us be realistic: a good proportion of the 20 Council of
Europe states which are not members of the European Union will,
for many more years, and possibly for ever, remain outside the Union.
They will nevertheless have to face up to societal problems which
go beyond national borders and therefore require international and
European co-operation. The presence of these countries in the Council
of Europe is a major asset for our Organisation, and their role
in our activities is destined to grow.
31 On this point I share the view of the Secretary General that
there is a need in Europe, alongside NATO, which deals with “hard
security” issues, and the European Union, which is developing a
far-reaching integration project, for a forum which ensures “soft
security” based on respect for common values, enabling every part
of Europe to co-operate on solving problems which affect all our
countries and extend beyond the borders of the 27-member Union,
and also to participate on an equal footing in the building of a
common European legal and cultural area, in other words a greater
Europe without dividing lines. Europe was divided for too long to
allow itself to be divided again!
32 Of course, the main emphasis must remain on our Organisation’s
priority fields: upholding its fundamental values and principles,
on which European unity is based. In this context, how can we fail
to wonder why the European Union’s member states have given it parallel
structures which duplicate the Council of Europe’s mechanisms and
instruments, thereby compromising this unity?
3.3 Budgetary problems
33 We have noted the new, more readable, formula for
presentation of the Council of Europe budget introduced by the Secretary
General. Also to be welcomed is the decision taken by the Committee
of Ministers on 23 November 2010 to move to a biennial budgetary
process – something that the Assembly has been recommending for
several years. The fact remains, however, that the Organisation
is in a dramatic budgetary situation which jeopardises its very
existence. Leaving aside the costs connected with the functioning
of organs and institutions (such as the Court, the Parliamentary
Assembly, the Congress, etc.), two thirds of the remaining budget
is allocated to various monitoring mechanisms, and only one third
to operational activities, these latter very much depending on external
, the Assembly urged the Committee of Ministers
to “review the Council of Europe’s budgetary strategy in order to
provide it with the resources it needs to carry out its tasks”.
35 We are perfectly well aware of the current context of a crisis
affecting our member states, making this question even more difficult.
We nevertheless maintain that the Council of Europe’s budgetary
situation is not acceptable, and certain strategic decisions on
budgetary matters should be reviewed. The Assembly has said so in
its opinions on several occasions.
36 The budgetary problem is a consequence of political decisions
and is, in turn, becoming a political problem. Member states’ refusal
to review the Council of Europe’s “zero growth budget” policy, while
at the same time spending increasing amounts on other institutions
(including for the setting up of parallel mechanisms and structures
duplicating those of the Council of Europe) eloquently demonstrates
those states’ lack of genuine commitment to our Organisation and
to the values that it defends.
37 Without sufficient funding for operational activities, the
Organisation lacks the means to help member states to honour their
commitments and obligations. Taking the Court as an example, it
is clear that it is not enough to accede to a convention; states
must be helped to comply with it. At the same time, the increasing amount
of extra-budgetary funding undermines the Organisation’s activity,
as well as having consequences for the selection of priorities.
Finally, it is a shame that the Organisation’s officials, instead
of devoting themselves to substantive political work in the interest
of Europeans, are reduced to chasing funding to save the remaining programmes!
38 Of course, the Council of Europe’s budgetary management can
and must be improved. It is therefore probably desirable for a study
to be made of the possibility of mutual use of certain monitoring
mechanisms. However, the Committee of Ministers must face up to
its responsibilities and give the Organisation a budget more appropriate
to its role. In this context, it is regrettable that, in contrast
with previous practice whereby the budgetary balance was reinjected
into activities, member states now ask for savings made on the functioning of
the Council of Europe to be repaid to them. Regarding the Organisation
solely in terms of bookkeeping blatantly contradicts the attachment
to its political role that our member states proclaim, and leaves
its future in jeopardy. Such a policy is also demotivating for the
Council of Europe, since it deprives it of all the benefit of the
improvements which could be made to its management.
39 At the present time, several states’ contributions to the
Council of Europe budget do not even cover the salaries of their
judges in the European Court of Human Rights. This situation is
3.4 Rationalising activities
40 In the dramatic budgetary situation to which I have
already referred, it is not surprising that there is a need to make
a critical assessment of the Organisation’s activities and to seek
to avoid all wastage and duplication. I shall confine myself here
to two fields in which, in my opinion, there is food for thought.
41 Should there not to be a grouping together of the structures
which support the various monitoring and steering mechanisms (committees,
secretariats, etc. …) which exist in the Council of Europe in the
context of its conventions, the number of which is constantly rising?
42 Furthermore, could there not be a review of the functioning
of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council
of Europe, several of whose activities duplicate the work of our
Assembly, and whose members, meeting in two Chambers, attend sessions
at the Council of Europe’s expense, whereas the members of our Assembly
attend sessions at their parliaments’ expense?
3.5 Reform of the Human Rights Convention and Court
43 I draw attention to the fact that this issue is the
subject of a report currently being prepared by the Assembly’s Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (rapporteur: Mrs Bemelmans-Videc),
and that the specific responsibilities of each of the committees
should therefore be respected.
44 However, without wishing to anticipate our colleagues’ conclusions,
it is difficult to avoid noting that, bearing in mind the seriousness
of the Court’s problems, it is the survival of the European justice
system in the field of human rights protection that is at stake.
The Court, even with its considerably increased staff, is unable to
keep pace with the growing numbers of applications. Even with the
entry into force of Protocol No. 14, which will have a positive
effect which is not negligible, the tendency remains negative and
the congestion at the Court is steadily increasing. It is clear
that it cannot remedy every injustice committed (or thought to have
been committed) by the authorities of member states – and this was
never intended to be its role. Some brave decisions are therefore
needed in the framework of the Interlaken Process. A “technical”
approach will be unable to solve an eminently political problem,
almost 80% of applications coming from 10 states.
45 The Court’s real difficulties, in fact, stem from the weakness
of member states’ domestic courts, the absence or inadequacy of
effective remedies, the problems in respect of the enforcement of
judicial decisions, including the judgments of the Court, and so
on. The main effort should therefore be devoted to rectifying the systemic
shortcomings of national justice mechanisms, the only way of restoring
the individual’s confidence. This task lies outside the powers of
the Court and requires efforts to be made in synergy by the Committee
of Ministers and the Assembly, as well as carefully targeted and
made-to-measure assistance programmes. At the same time, let us
be lucid: where are the budgets making it possible to fund the assistance
necessary for upgrading? When it is not a budgetary matter, what
is to be done? National parliaments should play a far more active
46 At the same time, it is clear that the previous practice of
increasing the Court’s budget by making budget cuts in other Council
of Europe sectors was counter-productive and has been taken as far
as it can go. The Secretary General’s decision to put an end to
budgetary transfers to the Court to the detriment of the other activities
of the Council of Europe is fully justified. Furthermore, there
is nothing to prevent the Court, like the rest of the Organisation,
from giving thought to optimising its management, which would be
facilitated through the obtaining of greater administrative and
47 I cannot allow myself to leave unmentioned here the problem
of the election of the Court’s judges. We note the introduction
by the Committee of Ministers of a mechanism for prior assessment
of the candidates for judges’ posts by a panel of experts, before
a national list is forwarded to the Assembly. It remains to be seen whether
this innovation will make it possible to ensure that candidates
are of a very high quality – which is crucial to the Court’s authority,
particularly with a view to the accession of the European Union.
This being so, I, like several of my colleagues, am convinced that
a critical eye will also have to be cast on the procedure whereby
the Assembly itself assesses and elects candidates.
3.6 Strengthening the democracy pillar
Attention should be drawn to the Assembly’s idea
that Council of Europe activities relating to democracy should be
stepped up, have greater synergy and be better highlighted. The
aim would be to set up, on the basis of various mechanisms and bodies
in this field, such as the annual Forum for the Future of Democracy,
the Assembly’s biennial debates on the state of democracy in Europe,
the Venice Commission, the Summer University for Democracy and the
Council of Europe’s Schools of Political Studies Network, a veritable laboratory
of ideas and expertise, which could become a hub of excellence and
a reference point with a high international profile. This proposal
was reiterated in Recommendation
on democracy in Europe: crisis and perspectives.
49 Bearing in mind the current discussion of the role and future
activities of the Forum for the Future of Democracy, as well as
the interest in the Assembly’s idea shown by the City of Strasbourg
authorities, it would be perfectly appropriate to revive this idea
so as to give it tangible substance in 2012, the year in which the next
biennial debate on the state of democracy in Europe will take place.
It is a welcome development that the Secretary General
has taken up the idea of strengthening the Council of Europe’s system
of conventions by drawing up an inventory of all the conventions
in order to optimise their implementation – as the Assembly has
been proposing for several years now. I refer specifically to Resolution 1732 (2010)
reinforcing the effectiveness of Council of Europe treaty law (report
by Mr Prescott, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights).
3.8 Partnership with the European Union
51 The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has brought
new opportunities for strengthening the partnership between the
Council of Europe and the European Union, and has opened up the
prospect of the accession of the European Union to the European
Convention on Human Rights, as well as to other Council of Europe conventions
and mechanisms. Negotiations on European Union accession to the
Convention are already under way.
52 How can this new situation be put to the best possible use?
The Assembly is currently continuing to give thought to this question
(reports by Mrs Lundgren on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the
Council of Europe, for the Political Affairs Committee, and by Mr
Holovaty on accession of the European Union to the European Convention
on Human Rights: Election of judges, for the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights).
53 It is also the Assembly’s intention to substantially strengthen
its partnership with the European Parliament. The decision by the
Bureau of the Assembly in favour of the establishment of an informal
joint European Parliament/Parliamentary Assembly body to co-ordinate
the sharing of information relating to the accession of the European
Union to the European Convention on Human Rights is one step towards
this aim. In addition, the Political Affairs Committee and Committee
on Legal Affairs and Human Rights are developing ever closer relations
with the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign
Affairs of the European Parliament on a number of issues of common
interest ranging from the consequences of the entry into force of
the Lisbon Treaty to matters relating to the political situation
and human rights in the Balkans.
54 We also note the new arrangements for co-operation in respect
of the funding of activities in the framework of the Eastern Partnership
in the form of a “global allocation” (facility) which should enable
the Council of Europe to be more flexible in its action and to affirm
its priorities, defined in the light of our member states’ needs.
I emphasise the need for a true partnership in deciding on these
priorities, one which goes well beyond the subcontracting relationships
that we have seen in the past.
4 Parliamentary Assembly: coming up with ideas and
playing a part in change
55 Reform of the Assembly itself will be the subject
of a specific report which I have been asked to write as a member
of the ad hoc committee set up by the Bureau. It therefore seems
inappropriate to anticipate that committee’s discussions.
56 I shall confine myself to saying here that a move must be
made towards a more political and more reactive Assembly which continues
to play its role as a producer of ideas for the future, while giving
greater attention to following up the implementation of its ideas
and positions. The Assembly must be in the vanguard of the reform,
and we, as members of national parliaments, have a particular responsibility
to provide political support for this process.
57 Reform of the Council of Europe has become a necessity.
It is now entering a phase in which major political decisions will
have to be taken.
58 The Secretary General has set ambitious objectives so that
the Council of Europe can continue to fulfil its role and meet the
challenges of a changing society. In order to attain these objectives,
however, the determination which it has displayed and the powers
that it holds will not be enough.
59 Strong political will from the member states is essential.
The Secretary General’s role is to bring that political will into
play. The Assembly should be ready to support his efforts. But it
could be a true ally for the Secretary General only if it feels
fully involved in the definition of the strategic objectives of
60 In this context, I consider that a Council of Europe summit
should be held to give the Organisation fresh political impetus,
make its member states more responsible towards it and, if need
be, redefine its current role.
61 The Assembly should support the Secretary General’s objective
of making the Council of Europe a more efficient instrument capable
of transforming its potential into operational decisions and providing
practical and speedy answers to member states on the challenges
facing them. To this end, I would propose greater synergy between
the Organisation’s organs, institutions and mechanisms, as well
as a functional grouping together of the structures which support
the various monitoring and steering mechanisms which exist in the
context of Council of Europe conventions.
62 The increasing congestion at the European Court of Human Rights,
jeopardising the continuity of the European justice system in the
field of human rights protection, is another subject of great concern
to the Assembly. It is following the Interlaken Process closely
and is preparing to make its contribution towards finding courageous
political solutions. In this context, it should not be forgotten
that the situation at the Court is a consequence of the systemic
problems of member states’ domestic courts, and that the main effort
should therefore relate to remedying the deficiencies of national
justice mechanisms. The Assembly should therefore call for efforts
to be made in synergy with the Committee of Ministers, so as to
strengthen assistance programmes targeted on those member states
which are the source of the greatest numbers of applications to the
Court. While noting the introduction by the Committee of Ministers
of a mechanism for prior assessment of the candidates for the position
of judge by a panel of experts, before a national list is forwarded
to the Assembly, the Assembly should, in turn, resolve to consolidate
its own procedure for the election of judges, particularly with
a view to the accession of the European Union to the European Convention
on Human Rights.
63 Despite the current reform process, the structures of the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
remain excessively heavy. In my view, its activities and working
methods need to be thoroughly reviewed. In particular, Congress
activities should represent an added value for the Council of Europe
and practical usefulness for the local and regional authorities
of the member states, and avoid duplicating the other bodies’ work.
Furthermore, the current practice whereby members of the Congress participate
in its activities at the Council of Europe’s expense is difficult
to justify and should be stopped.
64 As far as the holding of conferences of specialised ministers
of the Council of Europe is concerned, I reiterate my belief that
specialised ministers, who are directly acquainted with large numbers
of societal problems, should play a more active role in defining
the priorities of the Council of Europe. In addition, the Assembly
should, when this is appropriate, invite specialised ministers of
member states of the Council of Europe to address plenary sittings.
65 I also wish to reiterate my proposal concerning the need to
strengthen the Council of Europe’s Democracy pillar by grouping
together the various relevant activities on this subject within
a “Strasbourg Democracy Forum”, as a generic structure.
66 The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has brought new
opportunities for strengthening the partnership between the Council
of Europe and the European Union, and has opened up the prospect
of accession by the European Union to the European Convention on
Human Rights, as well as to other Council of Europe conventions
and mechanisms. In this context, the Assembly should strongly encourage
the European Union to take full advantage of these opportunities
so as to move towards a truly united Europe on the basis of the
same values and drawing on the same standards. A veritable strategic
partnership between the European Union and the Council of Europe
should be one of the main aims of the latter’s reform, and the Assembly
should call on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to
work to this end. For its part, the Assembly should substantially
increase its co-operation with the European Parliament, inter alia through the informal
joint European Parliament/Parliamentary Assembly body which is to
be established to co-ordinate the communication of information,
particularly in the context of the accession of the European Union
to the European Convention on Human Rights. I also emphasise the
benefits which may also come from closer relations between the political
groups of the two European parliamentary assemblies.
67 It is my firm conviction that the Assembly should follow closely
the next phases of the Organisation’s reform and make an even greater
contribution, through all its activities, to ensuring that the Council
of Europe remains a reference institution in its fundamental fields
of competence and a driver of multidimensional pan-European co-operation
in other sectors of its activities. The Assembly should, finally,
make a periodical and detailed examination of the Council of Europe’s
activities and programmes in order to assess their political relevance,
and should be consulted on the choice of priorities and on decisions
not to renew certain activities.