C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Díaz
Tejera, rapporteur for opinion
“One aspect of the immense
and wonderful colour and mystery of life is that groups of people
differ from each other in their customs, their way of life, their
faith, the colour of their skin and their way of dressing and so
on … This ‘otherness’ of different communities can of course be
accepted with understanding and tolerance as something that enriches
life; it can be honoured and respected, it can even be enjoyed.”Václav Havel, President of the
1. The rapporteur agrees with the Political Affairs
Committee that the report of the Group of Eminent Persons of the
Council of Europe is timely. It is not too late for Europe to tackle
the issue of “living together” in a way that builds bridges rather
than having to repair them, which remains a real concern.
2. The Council of Europe is in the middle of a reform process.
The wealth of ideas put forward in the report of the Group of Eminent
Persons provides a platform for the Council of Europe to use its
expertise, diversity and strength to tackle many of the issues raised.
3. The rapporteur will confine himself to addressing a limited
number of key issues which are of particular concern to the Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Population. These are instances where
the rapporteur considers that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary
Assembly can produce added value to the work already under way in
Europe, and where the Council of Europe and its Assembly can have
a significant impact.
The crisis of leadership
4. The crisis of leadership has been highlighted by
the Group of Eminent Persons and by the Political Affairs Committee
as something which has to be overcome. It is essential that the
Assembly, as “the conscience of Europe”, leads the way in this matter,
and that the Committee of Ministers, while taking into account national
positions, manages to develop strategies for the common good of
the people living in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
5. What does it mean to be a hyphenated European? For
the rapporteur, it is the ties that bind and not the differences
that are important. The concept of a hyphenated European provides
a positive starting point for building bridges. It is a concept
worthy of exploring and the rapporteur considers that the Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Population, and the Assembly as a whole,
should keep the concept in mind in its work. It could even examine
the concept in a future report.
Excluded population / Europe’s
6. The rapporteur welcomes the fact that the Group of
Eminent Persons have tackled this matter and considers that the
Assembly’s own concerns on the issue should be given further attention;
see, for example, Resolution 1509 (2006) on the human rights of
irregular migrants and Resolution 1568 (2007) on regularisation programmes
for irregular migrants.
7. It should be recalled that the issue is one of both human
rights and the rule of law. The rapporteur understands perfectly
the political difficulties of tackling irregular migration, both
from the perspective of the rights of irregular migrants and also
that of returning irregular migrants to their country of origin.
It is for this reason that “leadership” on the matter is required.
However, if an organisation such as the Council of Europe, with
its human rights stamp, is not willing to or cannot make progress
on this matter, then one has to ask the question, “Who can?” The
Assembly should be ready to continue its work on this and to encourage
the Committee of Ministers to adopt a transversal approach in attempting
to solve at least some of the most difficult and important human
rights issues faced by irregular migrants and their children.
8. The rapporteur fully supports the calls to strengthen
the work carried out by the Council of Europe. This work is built
on the solid foundation of two conventions which need to be ratified
by more member states and made better known: the European Convention
on Nationality (ETS No. 166) and the Convention on the Participation
of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144). The rapporteur
recalls that the Assembly gave prominence to this issue of the democratic
participation of migrants during its debate on the state of democracy
in Europe in 2008. The rapporteur fully supports the idea of launching
a campaign by the Assembly to bring about further signatures and
ratifications of the two Council of Europe instruments mentioned
above. Any such campaign should, however, be carried out hand in
hand with parallel initiatives supported by the Committee of Ministers.
9. The Group of Eminent Persons’ report is peppered
with references to the need to raise awareness of the different
issues highlighted therein. To give some examples, greater awareness
is needed that diversity is here to stay, that rising intolerance
has to be tackled, that prejudice against Roma cannot continue,
that popular attitudes towards migrants are largely based on distorted
views, and so on.
10. The Council of Europe has a great deal of experience in running
campaigns such as the “All different – all equal” campaigns and
the “Dosta!” (“Enough!”) campaign. The rapporteur fully supports
calls to build on these experiences, mobilising not just youth through
the European Youth Centre but also local authorities, through the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, parliamentarians through
the Assembly, governmental representatives through the steering
committees and other committees, and non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) through the international NGO network of the Council of Europe,
but also using the high profiles of the different monitoring bodies,
such as the European Committee of Social Rights, the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance and the Advisory Committee on the
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS
No. 157). Furthermore, one should not ignore the high-profile work of
the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the contribution
he could make.
11. By bringing into play all of these different actors the Council
of Europe can ensure a major impact and relevance for such a campaign
on the theme of “living together”.
12. Concerning the Roma, the rapporteur highlights the
steps taken by the Assembly to encourage political participation
by the Roma, including the agreement signed in early 2011 between
the European Roma and Travellers Forum and the Assembly, which aims
at enhancing co-operation. Recently the Assembly once again noted
“with concern that Roma remain extremely under-represented in elected
bodies and that their participation in public and political life
is limited” and urged member states to “enhance political participation and
representation of Roma both at national and local level, inter alia,
by providing Roma with the necessary identity documents, removing
institutional discrimination and legal barriers and/or by allocating
reserved seats to Roma representatives in parliament as well as
in local and regional elected bodies” (Resolution 1740 (2010)).
Member states need to take steps at the local, regional and national
levels to ensure meaningful political participation of persons belonging
to this group. The Council of Europe, including its Parliamentary Assembly
and Congress, can do a lot to promote this.
Detention of irregular migrants
and asylum seekers
13. Once again, the rapporteur is pleased that this issue
has been taken up by the Group of Eminent Persons’ report. This
is a high priority for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and
Population, and reference can be made to the recent work of the
Assembly on this in Resolution 1707 (2010) on the detention of asylum seekers
and irregular migrants in Europe.
14. European detention rules are needed to supplement the European
Prison Rules (which only apply to criminals). The Council of Europe,
through its experience with the European Prison Rules and through
the work of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
(CPT), is in a good position to prepare these. Similarly there are
very good reasons for looking further at the issue of alternatives
to immigration detention and possible best practices in Europe.
Another idea which merits further attention is that of better equipping
parliamentarians to carry out individual detention visits in their
own countries. This is a right many parliamentarians have, but they
are ill-equipped to carry out this work. The Committee on Migration,
Refugees and Population has already worked on this issue in the
past and could easily follow this up.
Standard setting on living together
15. The Group of Eminent Persons’ report recommends that
the Council of Europe should, in its future standard-setting activities,
develop guidelines addressing both rights and responsibilities,
and the links between them. It also recommends a code of good practice
on “living together in diversity and freedom in Europe”. The rapporteur
fully supports these proposals. The rapporteur is highly conscious
of the difficulties, particularly in Europe, of examining the issue
of rights of migrants, as well as the failure of relevant international or
European instruments to attract signatures and ratifications. There
is thus an important gap which somehow needs to be addressed and
filled. One ambitious way in which this could be done is through
a framework convention on integration/living together, covering
both rights issues and responsibilities issues. Drawing on the experience
on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities,
which created the frame around which national minority issues are
now examined in Europe, would allow an examination of rights and responsibility
issues in the context of integration and living together. This is
important not just for migrants but also for the host society. The
rapporteur considers that this issue, even if it may be politically
ripe for dealing with at the moment, merits further consideration.
16. As a first step, the rapporteur fully supports the proposal
for the issue to be examined though a code of good practice on living
together, but considers that there is a need and a place for the
Council of Europe to be more ambitious in the long term.
High level meeting / Conference
17. The rapporteur welcomes the proposal to convene a
conference involving the Secretary General, representatives of the
Committee of Ministers and of the Group of Eminent Persons and the
Assembly. He considers, however, that this must not be seen as the
end of a process, but rather the beginning of the process of implementing
many of the ideas that have been put forward by the Group of Eminent
Persons and by the Political Affairs Committee, along with further
ideas that could come out of the proposed conference. It is essential
that there is a strong intergovernmental follow-up, and thus, the
rapporteur suggests that the issue should be considered at a ministerial
session, and should also be pursued as a priority in any future
summit of heads of state and government of the Council of Europe.
Conclusions of the rapporteur
18. The rapporteur considers that the Parliamentary Assembly
– and the Council of Europe in general –has to seize upon the Group
of Eminent Persons’ report as a golden opportunity to tackle the
issue of living together in Europe.
19. The dangers of divisiveness and of living in social isolation
are obvious. The Council of Europe, with its panoply of human rights
responses at different levels (civil, political, and governmental),
can play a major role, in particular if the work of its different
bodies can be combined and focused in the same direction.