Budgets and priorities of the Council of Europe for the 2011 financial year
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 21 June 2010 (20th Sitting) (see Doc. 12280, report
of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, rapporteur:
Mr Cebeci). Text adopted by the Assembly on
21 June 2010 (20th Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly is following
with close attention the reforms initiated by the Secretary General
of the Council of Europe. It supports the process launched to revitalise
the Council of Europe in order to give the Organisation greater
political effectiveness and influence in Europe, so as to deal with
the realities and challenges of the 21st century.
2. The Council of Europe, by virtue of its history, the standards
it has set and its experience, is the guarantor of its member states’
fundamental values and has the requisite instruments at its disposal
to face the current challenges and respond to the concerns of European
citizens at national, regional and local levels.
3. In this period of economic and financial instability, while
European states and citizens are endeavouring to put back on the
agenda the major principles of good governance and ethics in their
relations, a reaffirmation is needed of the Council of Europe’s
position as a pillar of a democratic European architecture founded
on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Assembly, recalling its Resolution 1689 (2009)
on the future
of the Council of Europe in the light of its sixty years of experience,
hopes for a political strategy that will give the Organisation a
new ambition and calls on the Secretary General to strive to ensure
that the Council of Europe plays the central role in a European hub
of excellence for democracy and human rights in Strasbourg.
5. The Assembly is convinced that the success of the reforms
proposed by the Secretary General can but be based on true, substantial
and permanent dialogue, not only between the two statutory organs
but also with other entities of the Organisation. The Assembly shares
the Secretary General’s view that “this is not about our respective
influence or status, it is for the sake of the mission we were given
sixty years ago to defend and extend human rights, democracy and
the rule of law in Europe”. In this context, the Assembly fully
supports the governance structure set up within the Council of Europe
by the Secretary General.
6. The Assembly considers that “soft security” should be a key
part of the Council of Europe’s political strategy, for this is
a matter of individual security and human rights protection, the
Organisation’s raison d’être. In
this area, it is “grey matter” which determines progress. The Council
of Europe’s staff is in fact the keystone of the Organisation. The
staff must therefore be fully informed and involved as a motivated
partner with an interest in the success of the reforms.
7. During a period of financial difficulty for all member states,
the Assembly calls on members of staff to show solidarity and understanding
about certain reforms which could affect them directly. The Assembly nonetheless
underlines that these reforms must comply with current Council of
Europe regulations and procedures. It will ensure that any measures
which may be taken are fair and that the staff is not treated less well
than those of other European institutions.
8. With regard to the work programme, the Assembly supports the
new budget-programme structure based on the three thematic pillars
– human rights, the rule of law and democracy – along with an extra
pillar covering the governing bodies, general services and sundry
expenditure. However, it considers that including the Parliamentary
Assembly under the democracy pillar, under the heading of parliamentary
democracy is inappropriate considering its position as a statutory
organ of the Council of Europe.
9. The Assembly’s role and functions are indeed cross-sectoral,
and not limited to democracy. It has responsibilities in the sphere
of human rights (such as the election of judges, under Article 22
of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), and of the
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, under Articles
9 to 11 of Resolution (99) 50 of the Committee of Ministers) and
the rule of law (including enlargement, under Statutory Resolution
(51) 30 A of the Committee of Ministers, and member states’ compliance
with their obligations and commitments, under Order No. 488 (1993)
(the “Halonen” Order) and subsequent instruments). The Assembly
should therefore be included under the fourth pillar, whose title
would then become “Statutory bodies, general services and other”.
10. With regard to priority areas for 2011, the Assembly can endorse
the choices made by the Secretary General, particularly with regard
to areas requiring special focus in 2011 and to reducing the number
of projects and refocusing the activities programme of the Organisation
under the three thematic pillars, bearing in mind the Action Plan
of the Warsaw Summit.
11. The Assembly welcomes, in particular, the Secretary General’s
decision to reinforce the capacity of the Commissioner for Human
Rights, whose commitment to defending values of the Council of Europe
is exemplary, and to stop transferring funds from the programmes
budget to the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) and, at
the same time, to exempt it from any budget cuts in order to enable
it to meet certain increases.
However, this short-term measure does not solve the fundamental
problem of adequate and enduring financing of the Court. The Assembly
calls on the Committee of Ministers to study possible ways of introducing a
budget separate from the ordinary budget for the Court, while keeping
the Court within the Council of Europe structure. In addition, the
Assembly reaffirms its full support for the Interlaken process,
as expressed in its Resolution
on the effective implementation of the European
Convention on Human Rights: the Interlaken process.
13. The Assembly fully supports the Secretary General’s intention
to strengthen the existing monitoring mechanisms, in order to ensure
“monitoring of the monitoring”, that is, to assist the countries
concerned and give them practical means of overcoming their difficulties.
In this respect, the Assembly points out that it was the instigator
of these mechanisms for monitoring the commitments made by states
on accession, particularly through the Halonen Order and subsequent
14. The Assembly, moreover, took the first steps in the field
of monitoring, as early as 1989, when it became the first European
institution to observe elections in Council of Europe non-member
and member states (more than 130 parliamentary and presidential
elections have been observed over a twenty-year period, with over 1 500
parliamentarians from member states being deployed) and, in this
way, it has made a great contribution to the “European electoral
heritage” on which a large number of activities of the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) are based.
15. Communication must constitute a vital part of the reform so
as to enhance the impact and visibility of the Council of Europe’s
activities. In this respect, it should be noted that plenary part-sessions
of the Parliamentary Assembly always offer the opportunity to place
the Council of Europe in the European media spotlight. Greater advantage
could be taken of this situation in preparing the Organisation’s
new communication policy.
16. Where the Council of Europe’s external presence is concerned,
while it understands the need to rationalise this presence, particularly
in the countries with which the Council of Europe is engaged in
major co-operation programmes, the Assembly has reservations about
the liaison offices in capital cities – apart from the existing
liaison office in Brussels – where numerous international organisations
are based, such as Geneva, Vienna and Warsaw.
17. The Assembly considers that creating structures such as the
one in Brussels in other capital cities would give rise to significant
logistical costs, which would be difficult to accept at a time of
budget recession. However, were this project to be maintained, the
Assembly would like this presence to be negotiated in the form of
a reciprocal agreement, with an office being made available within
the partner organisation, on the model of the current situation
in Strasbourg with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR).
18. The Assembly fully understands that reorganisation of the
Council of Europe’s external presence will lead to the closure of
the information offices. It calls on the Secretary General to find
a negotiated solution with the member states concerned, which would,
as far as possible, allow the retention of the staff of these offices, who
have given many years of dedicated service to the Council of Europe
and done much to boost the Organisation’s reputation. Furthermore,
the Assembly would like the info point set up in Minsk (Belarus)
to be preserved.
Where the activities which have been terminated or suspended
are concerned, the Assembly would like the follow-up activities
connected with implementation of the European convention on counterfeiting
of medical products and similar crimes involving threats to public
health (Medicrime convention) to be continued. Furthermore, the
subject of migration should be given more than marginal consideration
– through the activities of the European Commission against Racism
and Intolerance (ECRI) and/or the Commissioner for Human Rights
– in line with its Recommendation 1917
on migrants and refugees: a continuing challenge
for the Council of Europe.
20. Regarding the transfer of certain non-priority activities
to partial agreements, the Assembly concurs with the Secretary General’s
approach that makes it possible to continue certain activities on
a smaller scale, thereby allowing states which so wish to pursue
their co-operation in these fields. It therefore invites the Committee
of Ministers to amend Resolution (96) 36 so as to reduce the minimum
number of member states required to establish such agreements.
21. The Assembly, while taking note of the new budget presentation,
regrets that the Secretary General’s proposals do not include, with
effect from 2011, the idea that it has been advocating since 2003
of adopting for the Organisation a biennial budget or a pluriannual
22. With regard to the unexpended balance from 2009, the Assembly
supports the Secretary General’s proposal to use the credit balance
to finance a contingency reserve. This measure is in line with the
desire expressed by the Assembly in its opinion on the 2009 budget,
where it recommended that the Committee of Ministers amend Article
70 of the Financial Regulations so that any outstanding balance
would be left at the Organisation’s disposal, to be placed in a
reserve account and utilised as may be decided by the Committee of
23. The Assembly would finally like to draw the attention of the
Committee of Ministers to the fact that the increase in the proportion
of the Council of Europe budget represented by staff costs stems
from strategic decisions intended to strengthen the highly effective
sectors of the Council of Europe, particularly in the human rights
field. However, the various organs in this sector, such as the European
Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Department
for the Execution of Judgments of the Court, and even some convention
monitoring mechanisms, primarily incur pay-related expenditure.
It is for this reason that the Assembly invites the Committee of
Ministers not to make a dogma of maintaining a set ratio between operational
costs and staff costs.
In conclusion, in its Recommendation
on the future of the Council of Europe in
the light of its sixty years of experience, the Assembly suggested
that the Council of Europe become the “Davos of democracy”. It is
clearly towards this objective that the Organisation must move,
for as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in
his report entitled “Council of Europe – European Union: a sole
ambition for the European continent”, the Council of Europe is a
“full scale factory for democracy”.