C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Moriau,
rapporteur for opinion
1. The rapporteur notes with concern that a recurrent
source of potential and current conflicts lies in a clash between
the principles of territorial integrity and the right to self-determination.
Mainly at issue is the clash between secession based on self-determination
and the international community’s predilection towards maintaining
territorial integrity for the sake of order, peace and stability.
2. The rapporteur takes the view that this kind of confrontation
involves law, politics, economics and identity. He observes that
in many cases, but not all, secession claims are rooted in a history
of repression, an exclusionary vision of governance, the denial
of rights of minority groups, territorial disputes and different perceptions
of economic and political viability.
3. The very propagation of the idea of human rights intensifies
demands for greater recognition – including independent statehood
– among minority groups which invoke human rights violations to
support their demands. Often, however, self-determination claims
may lead to the use of violence and result in serious violations
of human rights.
4. The rapporteur firmly believes that self-determination is
a right that must initially be fulfilled at national level, thus
imposing on sovereign states serious obligations regarding democracy
and the protection of human rights and minority rights.
5. In the rapporteur’s view, it is of paramount importance to
adopt a conflict-prevention approach. Inclusive governance provides
the best protection against secession claims of national minorities
and the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection
of National Minorities (ETS No. 157) represents a useful framework
in this respect and a tool which is worthy of further promotion.
However, it has to be said that when secessionist claims turn
violent, the international community, when faced with a total breakdown
of the rule of law, cannot blindly support the monopoly on the use
of force by those governments which repress or brutally deny the
rights of minority groups. Territorial integrity cannot be maintained
at any price, and in particular not by the brutal repression of
a people in violation of its right to self-determination, which
requires national political space for the free pursuit of a people’s
social, economic and cultural development.Note
7. On the other hand, the rapporteur observes that the goal of
world and regional peace and stability has often ranked higher than
the defence of human rights, and this policy risks having effects
which are contrary to the desired goal. Groups seeking independence
quickly realise that by using violence their demands are more likely
to be satisfied, or at least addressed by states, in the name of
promoting peace and regional stability.
8. In the face of the growing number of self-determination movements,
establishing a clear definition of the right to self-determination
and statehood is necessary, although agreement on such a definition
will not be easy and even then it is not likely to be conclusive
and unequivocal. Instead, a proactive and preventive approach must
be taken to promote the full respect by national governments of
the right of the people to self-determination, including by providing
some form of political autonomy and participation, so as to avoid
the emergence of secessionist claims.
9. As stressed by the ICISS in its 2001 report, “it is more than
high time for the international community to be doing more to close
the gap between rhetorical support for prevention and tangible commitments
... and to exhaust prevention options before rushing to embrace
10. Against this backdrop, it is worth recalling that, during
the January 2010 part-session, the Political Affairs Committee established
a sub-committee on conflict prevention through dialogue and reconciliation,
with a view to implementing the recommendations of the Forum on
early warning in conflict prevention, which took place in Strasbourg
on 24-25 September 2009.
11. The committee will play its part in this debate by making
use of its sub-committee to keep under review potential or actual
situations of tension or conflict in the member states of the Council
of Europe, with a view to identifying possible Assembly contributions
and working out possible rapid reaction mechanisms when crises arise.
12. With regard to paragraph 6.2 of the draft resolution, the
rapporteur wishes to point out that the majority of European Union
member states have, in practice, abandoned their sovereignty in
economic and monetary affairs, but have retained their sovereignty
in fiscal and social affairs. However, it is acknowledged that European
Union policies increasingly affect fiscal and social policy choices
at national level.
13. Finally, as far as the amendment to paragraph 7 is concerned,
it seems that in certain countries the nationalist and independent
movements are usually to be found at the heart of the majority of
the population of the state and with regard to the minority of the
same state. For example, in Belgium, the nationalist movements are
stronger in Flanders than in the French- and German-speaking regions
of the country, whilst paradoxically Flanders does not constitute
a national minority, the movement being linked more to Flemish history.