Budgets and priorities of the Council of Europe for the financial years 2012-2013
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 20 June 2011 (20th Sitting) (see Doc. 12622, report of the Committee
on Economic Affairs and Development, rapporteur: Mr Cebeci). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 20 June 2011 (20th Sitting).
1 The Parliamentary Assembly supports
the reforms initiated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, to revitalise the Council of Europe and give
the Organisation a fresh political impetus in the years to come.
In particular, it can give its backing to the measures being taken
to rationalise structures and contain staff expenditure. It welcomes
the work done by the internal governance group (Group “Agenda 2020”),
responsible for putting forward proposals and recommendations on
the implementation of the reform.
2 The Assembly also endorses the Secretary General’s initiative,
in response to a proposal from the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee
of Ministers, to set up a Group of Eminent Persons, chaired by Mr Joschka
Fischer, to prepare a report on the Pan-European project “Living
together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe”.
It notes with interest that this report has been published and will
discuss its conclusions and proposals.
The Assembly takes note of the general reduction, proposed
by the Secretary General, applied to the budgets of the major administrative
entities and institutional bodies of the Council of Europe (the
Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress
of Local and Regional Authorities, the Office of the Commissioner
for Human Rights and, solely for non-case-processing activities,
the European Court of Human Rights) in the preparation of the budget
for the financial years 2012 and 2013. The Assembly refers to its Resolution 1817 (2011)
the expenditure of the Parliamentary Assembly for the financial
4 Concerning the Organisation’s structures, the Assembly acknowledges
the need for a rationalisation and reinforcement of the Council
of Europe’s field capacity, particularly through the creation of
15 Council of Europe offices in member states concerned by the implementation
of large-scale assistance and co-operation programmes. However,
the Assembly still has reservations, on account of their potential
cost, concerning the creation of the Geneva, Vienna and Warsaw offices,
which are not directly linked to the implementation of co-operation
5 Although the Assembly is strongly in favour of enhanced inter-institutional
co-operation, it would not like the creation of new structures to
weigh on the Organisation’s budgets at a time when very significant
efforts to rationalise and contain the expenditure of the Organisation
are being made on all sides, including by the Assembly itself.
6 Concerning the restructuring of the programme of activities,
the Assembly understands that it is becoming extremely difficult
to implement some 130 programmes (leaving aside legally binding
activities) with an annual budget restricted to €40 million. It
can accordingly accept the reduction to 38 operational programmes,
which means that certain programmes lacking the critical mass to
have a sufficient impact should be discontinued. However, it would
not want important activities to end because the resources necessary
to keep them going have been deployed elsewhere. The co-operation
programmes and related activities must indeed be geared to meeting
the challenges faced by the member states.
7 The Assembly considers that the same applies to the intergovernmental
sector (committees of intergovernmental experts). It can accordingly
comprehend that the new steering committees and their subordinate
bodies are being organised under the three pillars of the co-operation
programme, namely human rights, the rule of law and democracy. This
will make it possible to reduce the number of steering committees from
23 to 16, and the number of subordinate bodies from 28 to 6, thereby
permitting a saving of about €900 000 per year.
8 However, this refocusing of activities, which is doubtless
necessary, must be well thought through and correspond to the aims
of all Council of Europe member states (not just the objectives
of the Committee of Ministers – that is to say the ministries of
foreign affairs – but also those of all the other specialised ministries concerned).
Indeed, the priorities of the capitals and of the ministries are
not always the same.
9 Lastly, the Assembly wishes this restructuring exercise to
be implemented taking full account of the position it adopted in
its Resolution 1783 (2011) on follow-up to the reform of the Council
The Assembly itself has set up an ad hoc committee on its
own reform, whose proposals are set out in Resolution 1822 (2011)
on the reform
of the Parliamentary Assembly.
With regard to the conventions, the Assembly backs the Secretary
General’s intent to “take stock of the situation by conducting a
critical review of their relevance”. In this connection, the Assembly
refers to its Recommendation
on reinforcing the effectiveness of Council
of Europe treaty law, in which it requested the Committee of Ministers
to instruct the relevant steering committees to examine the treaties
falling within their respective spheres of competence, so as to
identify conventions that are still relevant but require updating.
12 On this subject, the Assembly, as the instigator of many Council
of Europe conventions, considers that it should itself be very closely
involved in the implementation of an action plan for the conventions.
13 The Assembly also welcomes the decision by the Committee of
Ministers and the Secretary General to introduce a biennial programme
and budget for 2012-2013. This is consistent with the Assembly’s
frequently voiced desire to throw off the yoke of the annual budget,
which has so far been the rule at the Council of Europe.
14 Nonetheless, the Assembly would emphasise that the introduction
of a biennial programme and budget will constitute a major step
forward on condition that the rules of implementation are adapted
so as to permit management over a two-year cycle, namely to permit
the adoption of a budget for the coming year (N) and the following
year (N+1) and flexible use of funds for years N and N+1.
15 In concrete terms, the Assembly considers that any unspent
funds from year N should be carried forward without restriction
to year N+1. Similarly, it thinks it should be possible, under certain
conditions to be determined, to draw on the funds earmarked for
year N+1 if expenditure overruns the amounts budgeted for year N,
for example so as to make investments that will permit the reduction
of certain expenditure items in the longer term.
16 For this reason the Assembly reiterates its call to amend
the current Article 70 of the Financial Regulations of the Council
of Europe so that any unspent balance at the year end will be left
at the Organisation’s disposal and placed in a reserve account,
as the Assembly suggested in its Opinions 268 (2008) on the budgets
of the Council of Europe for the financial year 2009 and 279 (2010)
on the budgets and priorities of the Council of Europe for the 2011
17 With regard to priorities, the Assembly continues to follow
with great interest the issue of human rights protection and the
future of the European Court of Human Rights, including the follow-up
process and action plan adopted by the Committee of Ministers in
the wake of the Interlaken Conference in February 2010. It has also
taken note of the Izmir Declaration of 27 April 2011, published
on the occasion of the High-Level Conference on the Future of the
European Court of Human Rights.
18 The Assembly is nonetheless surprised that, in view of its
historical role in ensuring the authority and effectiveness of the
Convention system and the part it plays in the election of the Court’s
judges, as the source of legitimacy of their mandates, it has not
been asked to participate in the long-term strategic reflections
about the future role of the Court.
19 The Assembly indeed attaches great importance to the good
functioning of the Convention system, particularly in the context
of the current negotiations on European Union accession to the European
Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) and the need to ensure the
effective implementation of the Court’s judgments.
20 With particular regard to the rule of law, the Assembly fully
concurs with the decision to target the programme towards combating
threats to collective and individual security, notably organised
crime, corruption and money laundering. Here, the Assembly underlines
the importance of ensuring the monitoring of the relevant Council
of Europe conventions. In particular, it invites the member states
swiftly to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the
Counterfeiting of Medical Products and Similar Crimes involving
Threats to Public Health, which was adopted in December 2010 and
of which it was the originator, as well as the Council of Europe
Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and
Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210), adopted in Istanbul on 11 May
21 The Assembly moreover notes with satisfaction that the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe intends to “pursue ... work in
support of fair and democratic elections”. In this respect, it recalls
that it was behind the introduction of institutionalised observation
of elections within Europe. Since 1989, the Assembly has observed
over 130 parliamentary or presidential elections in European countries,
and some 1 700 Assembly members have been deployed as observers.
22 The Assembly considers that it has played a leading role in
building Europe’s electoral heritage. It instigated the Council
of Europe’s standard-setting work concerning elections, which served
as a basis for improving national electoral legislation. With the
European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission)
as its institutional partner, the Assembly will continue to play
an efficient and effective role in the field, observing legislative
or presidential elections.
23 Concerning its relations with external partners, particularly
civil society, the Assembly wishes to obtain more information on
the strategy of the Council of Europe with regard to civil society
in general and the international non-governmental organisations
(INGOs) enjoying participatory status in particular. In October 2010,
the Conference of INGOs drew Assembly members’ attention to its
situation following the initial consequences of the reform, entailing
a more than 50% cut in the conference’s budget for 2011, which means that
it cannot hold sessions in parallel with those of the Assembly.
24 The Assembly also welcomes the tangible action taken by the
Secretary General in response to the call it issued in its Recommendation
1886 (2009) on the future of the Council of Europe in the light
of its sixty years of experience, to set up an annual forum for
democracy in Strasbourg: a sort of “Davos” for democracy with strong
participation by civil society and INGOs.
25 The Assembly notes that the Secretary General’s reform priorities
continue to include the modernisation of human resources policy,
in particular containment of staff costs. It has noted that the
Committee of Ministers, acting on a proposal by the Secretary General,
has amended the Staff Regulations so as to modernise – and in the
longer term abolish – certain staff allowances that do not come
under the co-ordinated remuneration system (education, language
and housing allowances) and to adapt conditions for start-of-career
26 The Assembly has also been informed of the governments’ wish
to decrease the expatriation allowance paid to non-resident staff
working for one or other of the Co-ordinated Organisations, despite
negative opinions from the Committee of Representatives of the Secretaries-General
and from staff representatives. The Assembly reminds those concerned
that it attaches the greatest importance to the principles of negotiation
and respect for the rules governing the co-ordination system, which
must be abided by.
27 Concerning the pensions of staff of the Council of Europe,
the Assembly has been informed that a new actuarial study to assess
the level of member states’ contributions to the Pension Reserve
Fund for the next three years (2012-2014) is to be published before
the end of 2011. In this context, the Assembly wishes to draw the
Committee of Ministers’ attention to the rate of return set for
the actuarial study, as the Committee of Ministers should not impose
a virtual rate that is too high, simply with a view to minimising
member states’ future contributions to the fund.
28 The Assembly is also surprised that there are no proposals
to link the Pension Reserve Fund and the sole financial body of
the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).
It considers that the bank’s expertise in investment matters could
be put to use by the fund’s management board. In this connection,
the Assembly invites the Committee of Ministers to consider the
advisability of granting a seat on the fund’s management board to
the CEB and of drawing on the bank’s expertise concerning financial investments
in devising the strategy for investing the fund’s assets.
29 The Assembly notes that the Council of Europe also receives
voluntary contributions of about €29 million per year (including
some €20 million from the European Union). These contributions are
important to keep afloat the Council of Europe’s co-operation and
technical assistance activities. For 2011, extra-budgetary resource
requirements have been estimated at about €37 million. In this context,
the Assembly invites the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
to negotiate with the European Commission the establishment of a
stable, sustainable system of funding joint programmes with European
30 In view of the importance of these additional resources, the
Assembly would like the structure within the Council of Europe Secretariat
in charge of fundraising to be reinforced. In this connection, it
also proposes holding regular meetings between the authorities of
the foreign ministries of member states and of the Council of Europe,
so as to foster better understanding of the system, its improved
functioning and better use of the funds.
31 In conclusion, the Assembly is aware that the purpose of all
these measures is to adapt the Council of Europe to cope with new
challenges. At the same time, current geopolitical developments
in the Mediterranean Basin are confronting Europe, the European
Union and the Council of Europe with their political, financial, social
and moral responsibilities.
32 For this reason, the Assembly would like the Council of Europe
to help these new democracies establish themselves, placing a premium
on rights, whether concerning access to freedoms, respect for human
rights or the establishment of the rule of law, which are the Council
of Europe’s fundamental values. This is a challenge to which the
Council of Europe absolutely must respond.