Budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial year 2010
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Text adopted by the Standing Committee,
acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 29 May 2009 (see Doc. 11911, report of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development,
rapporteur: Mr Wille).
1. The Parliamentary
Assembly is aware of the difficult situation in which all member
states of the Council of Europe find themselves as a result of the
consequences of the most serious economic and financial crisis the
world has known since the end of the Second World War and the Organisation’s
2. In these circumstances, the Assembly acknowledges the difficulties
encountered by the Secretary General in drawing up his budget proposals
for 2010 and the need for him to ask the various administrative entities
of the Council of Europe General Secretariat to make a special savings
3. Nonetheless, the Assembly cannot accept that the impact of
this crisis may serve as a pretext for the Committee of Ministers
to weaken the Council of Europe by starving it of resources through
the maintenance of a policy based solely on the principle of zero
real growth in the Organisation’s budgets.
4. On the contrary, the Assembly believes that the Organisation
must be reinforced in these troubled times. The Council of Europe,
with its history, legislative acquis and
experience, possesses the necessary instruments to respond to today’s
challenges, as it is a guarantor of essential values and a sounding
board for the concerns of the people of Europe, at national, regional
and local levels.
5. In this period of economic and financial instability, while
states and citizens are seeking to reinstate the key principles
of morality, good governance and ethics in their relations, the
Council of Europe’s role as a pillar of a European democratic framework
based on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law
must be reaffirmed.
6. In this context, the Assembly recognises the importance of
the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) to the Council of
Europe and to the people of Europe, but has to observe that the
Court, a victim of its own success, is placing the other sectors
of activity of the Council of Europe under growing pressure.
7. At the same time, to enable it to fulfil its obligations,
the Court has benefited from various programmes to enhance its resources,
not least the establishment of a fifth section responsible in particular
for the backlog of pending cases. It has also been the subject of
many reports and audits aimed at evaluating and improving its functioning
and its working methods.
8. It must nonetheless be recognised that, despite all the efforts
to build up the Court, whose budget has grown from €35.4 million
in 2003 to €57 million in 2009 and whose staff has almost doubled
over the same period, the number of cases awaiting processing has
constantly increased and has now reached 100 000. The Assembly does
not believe that the potential full or partial implementation of
Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, amending
the control system of the Convention (CETS No. 194), will solve
for good the problem of the Court’s excess workload and effectiveness.
Moreover, an ever-growing number of people are calling for a reform
of the reform.
9. The Assembly therefore considers that granting the Court additional
financial resources is not the right answer to its problem. The
issue of the Court’s future is a political matter and must be dealt
with as such. In this connection, the Assembly fully endorses the
mission defined by the Spanish chairmanship, which addresses the
question through two parallel actions – ensuring that the Court’s
work is carried out as efficiently as possible and ensuring that
the Court’s judgments are effectively implemented by member states
– and it invites the next chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers
to pursue the efforts along these lines.
10. The Assembly is moreover aware that the increase in the number
of staff at the Court registry engenders other very significant
costs, especially in terms of investments (particularly additional
office space and information technology equipment). All of these
costs will even further weigh down the ordinary budget, the pensions
budget and the investments budget of the Council of Europe.
11. The Assembly notes that, since 2006, all new financial efforts
in favour of the Court have invariably resulted in a weakening of
other important sectors of the Organisation. As it already stated
in its previous opinions, this constant pressure is not acceptable.
12. For this reason, the Assembly would deem it inappropriate
for the Committee of Ministers to accept the Court’s new requests
and the subsequent increase in its budget, if this were to lead
to a reduction in the other entities’ resources. The Assembly therefore
calls on the Committee of Ministers to take this aspect into consideration,
even if that entails postponing the requests submitted by the Court
for 2010 or financing it with extrabudgetary resources.
13. The Assembly also would like the Committee of Ministers to
initiate, without delay, an in-depth debate, to which the Assembly
is ready to contribute, on the future of the human rights protection
system in Europe and the role of the European Court of Human Rights.
In this connection, the Assembly welcomes the initiative aimed at
holding as soon as possible a high-level conference on the Court’s
future and takes note of the Committee of Ministers’ intention to
apply certain provisions of Protocol No. 14 to the Convention on
a provisional basis.
14. The Assembly considers that the sustainability of the Court
system requires a reinforcement of co-operation programmes with
the states chiefly concerned by applications, so as to assist them
in establishing the essential conditions for fair and effective
justice and thus help slow the inflow of applications to the Court.
15. To this end, the Assembly suggests that the Committee of Ministers
use the resources available in the Human Rights Trust Fund, set
up in March 2008, to finance targeted co-operation and assistance
programmes specifically aimed at the four countries concerned by
the largest number of applications.
16. Although the Assembly acknowledges that the European Court
of Human Rights is one of the finest achievements of the Council
of Europe, it nonetheless considers that the Organisation’s work
should not be confined solely to the major pillars constituted by
human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The Council of Europe’s
activities must be maintained in other fields in which the Organisation
is often a European leader and at which it excels, namely education,
culture and intercultural dialogue, youth, sport, social cohesion,
public health and local and regional democracy, which, just like
human rights and the rule of law, are matters of concern for the
member states’ citizens.
17. From this standpoint, the Assembly fully concurs with the
measures taken by the Committee of Ministers to rationalise the
intergovernmental structures so as to enhance their efficiency and
thereby contribute to the efforts being made to reinforce the impact,
effectiveness and usefulness of the work of the entire Organisation.
With regard to the Council of Europe’s field presence, the
Assembly considers that the recent decision by the authorities of
Belarus to facilitate the creation of a Council of Europe information
office in Minsk is consistent with the wishes it expressed in its Opinion 259 (2006)
on the Budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial
year 2007. The Assembly is convinced that such a presence will make
it possible to resume reinforced co-operation with this country,
a precondition for its future integration within the Council of
The Assembly considers that effective policy must go hand
in hand with a vision for the Organisation in the medium to long
term, including in budgetary terms. It accordingly calls on the
Committee of Ministers to prepare the 2010 budget in a multi-annual
framework. In this connection, the Assembly invites the Committee of
Ministers to refer to its Opinion
on the budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial
year 2006, in which it set out the benefits that argue in favour
of such a measure.
20. The Council of Europe’s ordinary budget increases automatically
each year by several million euros on account of the full-year effect
of earlier decisions by the Committee of Ministers, compulsory adjustments
to the salary scales of the Organisation’s staff and other expenditure
on buildings maintenance and modernisation.
For this reason, in view of these obligatory increases and
the member states’ desire to stabilise their contributions, the
Assembly would like the Committee of Ministers to amend the Organisation’s
Financial Regulations in order to establish a reserve fund to which
any credit balance on closing the accounts for a financial year
would be transferred, as it suggested in its Opinion 268 (2008)
on the budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial
Lastly, given the current exceptional circumstances, the Assembly
is ready to make an effort by proposing a 2% reduction in its expenditure,
as compared with the appropriations allocated to it in 2009. The Assembly
refers to its Opinion
on the expenditure of the Parliamentary Assembly for
the financial year 2010, which contains more details on this proposal.
23. The Assembly is also concerned about a deterioration in social
dialogue within the Organisation and the proposals to reform the
Council of Europe’s staff pension schemes. It accordingly invites
the future Secretary General to be open to dialogue with his staff
and calls on the Committee of Ministers to exercise extreme prudence
in matters relating to the pension schemes and to adhere to the
practices existing in other organisations belonging to the co-ordination
system and the relevant rules of the International Labour Organization.
24. The Assembly points out that the Council of Europe staff pension
scheme is part of the essential conditions of employment at the
Council of Europe. It accordingly reaffirms its concern to ensure
that the staff of the Council of Europe is not considered a mere
accounting variable that can be adjusted to balance the Council
of Europe’s finances.
25. In this context, the Assembly calls on the member states to
honour their financial commitments in respect of the pension reserve
fund, despite the present difficulties, so as to guarantee the sustainability
of the Council of Europe staff pension scheme. The Assembly also
reaffirms its attachment to the Council of Europe’s continued membership
of the existing co-ordinated system, as already set out in its previous
26. Lastly, the Assembly notes with interest the resource management
and mobilisation strategy being implemented. The aim of this strategy
is to seek external resources for activities contributing to the
Council of Europe’s fundamental objective which cannot be funded
by the ordinary budget. It nonetheless has reservations about the
purpose of this strategy, which could relieve the member states
of their responsibility for honouring their obligations in respect
of the Organisation’s programme of activities. Experience has indeed shown
that external resources are limited in their amounts and duration.
They do not necessarily allow the implementation of coherent programmes
of activities in the long term.
27. The Assembly, which gives the Council of Europe its political
impetus, is also the European parliamentary institution that allows
the national parliaments of the 47 member states of the Council
of Europe to debate and work together with a view to finding answers
to the challenges confronting Europe today and to their citizens’
concerns. It is a unique political forum for the whole of Europe
and must remain one of the great voices of democracy.