The Council of Europe and the Convention on the Future of Europe
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 26 June 2003 (22nd Sitting) (see Doc.9846, report
of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Pangalos; and Doc. 9849, opinion
of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur:
Mr Spindelegger; and Doc.
9850, opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities
for Women and Men, rapporteur: Mrs Err). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 26 June 2003 (22nd Sitting).
1. For the first time in its history,
the European Union is on the verge of acquiring its own constitution.
In this context, the Parliamentary Assembly congratulates the members
of the Convention on the Future of Europe, who, after sixteen months’
work, have reached agreement on a draft treaty establishing a constitution for
2. This draft, which was officially presented by Valéry Giscard
d’Estaing to the European Council meeting in Thessaloniki on 20
June 2003, was favourably received by the heads of state and government
of the European Union. It is now to be discussed at the next Intergovernmental
Conference (IGC) due to start in October this year, which will be
responsible for approving the final version of the constitution.
The Assembly hopes that the heads of state and government who will
take the final decision on the constitution will agree to remain
as close as possible to the text drawn up by the Convention.
The work of the Convention was followed very closely by the
Council of Europe. Two memorandums by the Secretary General of the
Council of Europe were distributed as Convention documents (CONV
157/02 and CONV 427/02). The Assembly, for its part, has adopted
two Resolutions (1290
) and two Recommendations (1568 (2002)
and 1578 (2002)
4. These contributions and the efforts of many members of the
Convention worked in favour of the inclusion in the draft constitution,
in Article I-7, of a legal basis allowing the European Union to
accede to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Assembly
welcomes this, and considers that the wording finally adopted, “The
Union shall seek accession to the ECHR” reflects a stronger commitment
on the part of the European Union to accession, but that the IGC
should nevertheless be asked to support that wording in the final
version of the text.
5. The Assembly remains concerned that the incorporation of the
European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into the proposed
constitution in a legally binding form will lead to dual standards
on the interpretation of the ECHR. It agrees to refer this concern
to the European Committee for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)
for analysis and an early response.
6. The Assembly also welcomes the extension of the scope of co-operation
with the Council of Europe to all fields of activity falling within
the competence of the European Union under Article III-224 of the
draft constitution, on “Relations with international organisations
and third countries and Union delegations”, and the retention of
the reference to the Council of Europe in the sections devoted to
culture and education respectively (Articles III-176 and III-177).
7. The Assembly considers that the constitution’s approach to
the question of the regions of Europe is still incomplete, particularly
with respect to recognising the existence and the role of regions
with legislative powers in European integration.
8. The Assembly regrets, however, that the draft constitution
does not refer explicitly to the Council of Europe in its Article
I-56, on “The Union and its immediate environment”, despite the
amendments to this effect proposed by a number of Convention members.
9. The Assembly recalls that the Council of Europe is a pan-European
Organisation, in which the representatives of forty-five European
states can co-operate on an equal footing at parliamentary, governmental,
local and regional levels, and that it plays a key role in building
a Europe without dividing lines, in particular through its standard-setting
work (with over 190 conventions) and its various monitoring mechanisms,
of which the candidate countries for accession to the European Union
are the prime beneficiaries.
10. The Assembly is concerned that the acquis communautaire risks
being undermined in some crucial human rights areas, despite the
envisaged inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the
European Union in Part II of the draft constitution proposed by
the Convention. In particular, equality between women and men should
stay a priority objective of the European Union.
The Assembly therefore asks the states which will be participating
in the next Intergovernmental Conference:
11.1 to support the wording adopted by the Convention on the
Future of Europe in Article I-7 of the constitution: “The European
Union shall seek accession to the ECHR”;
11.2 to make the European Union’s accession to the ECHR subject
to the same qualified majority as the conclusion of other international
11.3 to involve themselves, within the Council of Europe, in
the preparation of the legal instruments necessary for accession
by the European Union to the ECHR;
11.4 to support the European Union’s accession to the European
11.5 to support the proposal for a paragraph 3 in Article I-56,
worded as follows: “3. In developing such special relationships,
the Union shall make full use of the Council of Europe and the other
international organisations of which such states are members”;
to include in the constitution:
a a reference to the Council of Europe’s conventional acquis,
which has contributed to the establishment of an area of liberty,
security and justice in Europe, a shared objective with the European
b a reference to the Council of Europe’s work in preventing
conflicts and consolidating peace, in the common foreign policy
and security context;
c a reference to the Council of Europe’s work on the monitoring
of obligations and commitments accepted by the member states on
accession, which they must fulfil in order to comply with the Organisation’s
standards in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of
12. The Assembly requests its President to transmit this resolution
to the governments of the member states which will be taking part
in the IGC, and to the presidents of the European Council, the European
Commission and the European Parliament, so that due account may
be taken of the Assembly’s proposals.
13. The Assembly also urges its President to transmit this resolution
to the speakers of member states’ parliaments, inviting them to
support the proposals of the Assembly aimed at giving greater coherence
to European construction continent-wide.