European Union and Council of Europe human rights agendas: synergies not duplication
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 3 October 2013 (35th Sitting) (see Doc. 13321, report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights, rapporteur: Mr McNamara). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 3 October 2013 (35th Sitting).
2. It stresses that the Council of Europe’s binding legal instruments
– first and foremost the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS
No. 5) – constitute an effective system of human rights protection
and promotion of the rule of law in all its member States, including
those which are also members of the European Union.
3. The Europe-wide common standards and the level of protection
set by the Council of Europe’s legal instruments must not be undercut
or undermined by member States of the Council of Europe or by the European
Union. At the same time, higher standards and stronger protection
are always welcome.
4. The Assembly reiterates its view that reinventing existing
norms and setting up parallel structures creates double standards
and opportunities for “forum shopping”, leading to new dividing
lines in Europe. Duplication of work also wastes limited budgetary
resources that are needed for improving the protection of human
rights and upholding the rule of law.
5. The Assembly is therefore worried that the accelerating expansion
of the European Union’s activities in the human rights field may
result in unnecessary duplication of the Council of Europe’s work.
In the wake of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Union
established the Agency for Fundamental Rights and created the position
of Special Representative for Human Rights, and is now considering
setting up a monitoring mechanism for its member States’ compliance
with common fundamental rights and rule of law standards.
6. The Assembly recalls that many issues stemming from the co-existence
of the legal orders of the Council of Europe and of the European
Union will be resolved by the accession, foreseen in the Treaty
on European Union, of the European Union to the European Convention
on Human Rights.
7. The Assembly recognises the need for the European Union to
ensure the implementation of its own legal standards by all its
member States. It recalls that the expertise of relevant Council
of Europe bodies, forged and funded to a large extent by the European
Union’s member States acting within the framework of the Council
of Europe, is at the disposal of the European Union.
8. In particular, the Council of Europe’s European Commission
for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) has recently demonstrated
its ability to provide a well-founded, objective assessment of the constitutional
and human rights implications with respect to the situation in Hungary.
The Assembly has followed up these findings in Resolution 1941 (2013)
on the request for the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect
of Hungary, based on a report by its Monitoring Committee, and has
invited the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media,
the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on
Political Affairs and Democracy to continue following relevant aspects
of the situation in Hungary.
In view of the above, the Assembly invites:
the European Union to:
9.1.1 explore possible synergies with existing Council of Europe
mechanisms in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule
of law before setting up new structures or further expanding the
activities of recently created bodies;
9.1.2 in particular, to continue to make use of the expertise
of relevant Council of Europe bodies such as the Venice Commission,
the Parliamentary Assembly and relevant specialised monitoring mechanisms,
including those set up under the European Convention for the Prevention
of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ETS
No. 126), the revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163), the
Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human
Beings (CETS No. 197), the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure
and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (ETS No. 141), as well
as the Group of States against Corruption and the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance;
9.1.3 explore modalities of co-operation with the Council of
Europe in promoting and implementing the above-mentioned Council
of Europe conventions and becoming a party to them as far as is
9.1.4 accelerate the accession of the European Union to the
European Convention on Human Rights;
9.2 the member States of the Council of Europe to facilitate
co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union
at all levels, including by ensuring that relevant conventions are
drafted or adapted in such a way as to facilitate accession by the
9.3 those member States of the Council of Europe which are
also members of the European Union to exercise their influence in
such a way as to minimise duplication and maximise synergies between
the European Union and the Council of Europe in the field of human
rights, democracy and the rule of law.
10. The Assembly condemns any proposal by the European Union and/or
the European Parliament to undermine or challenge the position of
the European Convention on Human Rights as the definitive European legal
instrument addressing human rights, democracy and the rule of law
in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe.
11. The Assembly invites the Committee of Ministers to report
back urgently to the Assembly on what it is doing to enhance the
Council of Europe’s role as the benchmark for human rights, the
rule of law and democracy in Europe, as is set out in the memorandum
of understanding between the Council of Europe and the European
Union concluded in May 2007.
12. The Assembly invites the Committee of Ministers to take all
necessary action to ensure that the European Convention on Human
Rights is not undermined as the foremost European legal instrument
which addresses human rights, democracy and the rule of law among
all member States of the Council of Europe, including those countries
which are also members of the European Union.