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Role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly: main challenges for the future

Report | Doc. 14863 | 09 April 2019

Committee
Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
Rapporteur :
Mr Tiny KOX, Netherlands, UEL
Origin
Reference to Committee: Bureau decision, Reference 4341 of 13 October 2017. 2019 - Second part-session

Summary

On the basis also of the findings of the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy reaffirms the important deliberative role of the Assembly and its role as Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy, political engine of the Council of Europe and pan-European forum for interparliamentary dialogue.

Referring to the challenges currently threatening the Organisation and noting that the Assembly has not yet been able to effectively assist in overcoming them, the report proposes measures to:

  • face these challenges and preserve the future of the Organisation;
  • streamline its own work and enhance follow-up to its resolutions;
  • develop synergies with the Committee of Ministers and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations;
  • step up the political dialogue with the European Union, underlining that promotion of European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights should remain at the forefront of this dialogue;
  • enhance its co-operation with other international parliamentary assemblies or organisations.

A Draft resolutionNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution 2186 (2017) on the call for a Council of Europe summit to reaffirm European unity and to defend and promote democratic security in Europe and reiterates that the Council of Europe, set up 70 years ago to achieve greater unity among its member States on the basis of common values and principles, is today more necessary than ever to help meet major challenges in and between the 47 member States, as well as to avoid creating new dividing lines.
2 The Parliamentary Assembly, as one of the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe, has itself played an essential role in developing European unity within diversity. It has largely contributed to the enlargement process of the Organisation since the fall of the Berlin Wall, in particular through the preparation of accession Opinions to the other statutory organ, the Committee of Ministers, including a list of specific commitments undertaken by the authorities of the candidate States following negotiations with Assembly rapporteurs.
3 Thus, the Assembly, with its pluralistic composition of members of national parliaments, has become a unique, permanent and structured pan-European forum for interparliamentary dialogue among representatives of the citizens from all 47 European States with an important deliberative role on the many issues which fall within the aim and scope of the Organisation (Articles 1 and 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe (ETS No. 1)).
4 The Assembly refers to its Recommendation 2114 (2017) “Defending the acquis of the Council of Europe: preserving 65 years of successful intergovernmental co-operation” and recalls that the Assembly, being “the political engine” of the Organisation, shares with the Committee of Ministers and member States the responsibility for the development of the unique convention system of the Council of Europe, which has substantially helped to “improve the functioning of democratic institutions in Europe, to develop the rule of law throughout Europe and to protect and promote the rights of all European citizens and inhabitants”.
5 Having the obligation, under the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), to elect the judges to the European Court of Human Rights, and having significantly contributed to the process of ensuring the execution of the Court’s judgments by member States, the Assembly plays – together with the Court and the Committee of Ministers, which has the primary responsibility for overseeing the execution of the Court’s judgments – a major role in the unique European system of the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, which has become a beacon to the rest for the world.
6 The Assembly’s role as Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy is further fulfilled through intensive fact-finding and election observation missions, as well as thematic or country-specific reports on the state of human rights, social rights, the rule of law and democracy in member States. This includes concrete recommendations to the governments and parliaments of the States concerned – either directly or through recommendations to the Committee of Ministers – for the purpose of ensuring compliance with their binding obligations stemming from the Statute, the European Convention on Human Rights, the judgments of the Court and all other conventions to which they are Parties.
7 However, 70 years after it was founded, the Council of Europe is in a deep political and financial crisis. It finds itself confronted with many challenges which seriously threaten the effectiveness of its statutory organs and of its mechanisms and instruments, and thus ultimately the statutory aims of the Organisation: dangerous conflicts in and between member States persist instead of being solved by using inter alia the means of the Organisation; the multilateral implementation of international human rights standards, including through the European Court of Human Rights, is increasingly being challenged in member States; the respect for the Organisation’s Statute and the European Convention on Human Rights is weakening; and the Assembly itself has not yet been able to effectively assist in overcoming these crises.
8 As regards the Council of Europe’s pan-European mission, the intended “unity within diversity” has, as of 2014, been seriously put into question following the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, an act considered as a clear violation of international law and the Council of Europe’s Statute. Russia’s decision, in reaction to the Assembly’s decision to apply sanctions vis-à-vis its parliamentary delegation, to stop participating in the activities of the Assembly, has led to a rift within the Organisation with one member State being present in one statutory organ, the Committee of Ministers, while being absent in the other, the Assembly. As of June 2017, the Russian Government’s decision, in reaction to this situation, to suspend payment of its contribution to the budget of the Organisation has led to a major budgetary crisis threatening the Council of Europe’s key activities.
9 To face these challenges, promote security in Europe, reinvigorate trust in the Council of Europe and among member States and preserve the future of the Organisation, the Assembly:
9.1 calls on all member States to reaffirm, 70 years after the foundation of the Organisation, their commitment to the ideal of European unity and the values and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and support and further strengthen the Council of Europe as a unique pan-European organisation which upholds these values for the benefit of European citizens;
9.2 underlines that Council of Europe membership implies an obligation of all member States to participate in both statutory organs;
9.3 calls on the Russian Federation, in accordance with its statutory obligations, to appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget, failure of which may lead to the suspension of its representation rights in both statutory organs, should the Committee of Ministers decide to apply Article 9 of the Statute;
9.4 calls for intensified dialogue among all actors concerned in order to preserve the pan-European mission of the Council of Europe and avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to, leave the Organisation with all the geopolitical implications this would have and also the concrete consequences for Russian citizens; welcomes in this respect the commitment and efforts made by the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers;
9.5 calls on the governments of member States to consider all available options to ensure the political relevance and financial sustainability of the Organisation so as to avoid seriously undermining its activities and thereby its effectiveness;
9.6 calls on its members to put this issue on the agenda of their national parliaments as a matter of urgency and urge their governments to act responsibly, in line with their obligations under the Council of Europe Statute, so as to ensure the Organisation’s financial sustainability.
10 For its part, during these challenging times for the Organisation, the Assembly resolves to streamline, restructure and modernise its work and focus its activities on issues within the aim and scope of the Organisation which are politically relevant and likely to have an impact on the work of the Organisation and/or in the member States for the benefit of European citizens.
11 Therefore, the Assembly, on the basis also of the findings of the Ad hoc Committee of its Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly, considers that its work and activities should primarily focus on:
11.1 promoting the strengthening and further development of the Organisation’s unique convention system, which has greatly contributed to the creation of a single legal space across the 47 member States, to the benefit of their citizens; this priority also includes the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and of recommendations issued by the Organisation’s standard-setting, monitoring and advisory bodies, as well as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights;
11.2 helping to identify to what extent the current Council of Europe legal instruments should be revised or whether new ones should be developed, old ones strengthened or implemented more effectively or suspended as having become obsolete, in order to better respond to new societal challenges or situations such as: artificial intelligence, the ever-increasing use of social media, disinformation, radicalisation and new phenomena linked to terrorism, climate change, migration and refugees;
11.3 promoting women’s rights and gender equality and applying a human rights and gender sensitive approach;
11.4 developing further and increasing its election observation tools and missions, in close co-operation with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), in order to improve the legal framework of its member States on elections and referendums, electoral practice and compliance by member States with relevant recommendations;
11.5 defending the Organisation’s system of values and standards against undemocratic and illiberal trends, political extremism and aggressive nationalism, discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech and other threats to the rule of law;
11.6 promoting the Council of Europe values of human rights, rule of law and democratic principles also in the Council of Europe’s neighbourhood as a means of improving living conditions and stability in these regions and thus contributing to security and stability on the European continent.
12 In light of the above considerations, the Assembly;
12.1 resolves to review, based on proposals by its committees, their mandate, work programme and institutional representation in intergovernmental committees and other Council of Europe bodies in order to verify political relevance and added value;
12.2 invites its committees to focus in their reports on proposals which can be translated into tangible action by the intergovernmental sector of the Organisation (standard-setting, advisory or monitoring bodies) so as to enhance their impact and visibility, and to accompany, where appropriate, criticism addressed to member States (on failures in the legislative field or in the implementation of legislation or violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law) with proposals for support activities aimed at addressing these shortcomings or lack of compliance; in both cases, such proposals should be forwarded to the other statutory organ, the Committee of Ministers, through recommendations adopted by the Assembly.
13 Enhanced impact and visibility of the Assembly’s work is only possible if the decisions it takes are being followed up, in particular by or through national parliaments. In this respect, the Assembly, on the basis of the findings of the Ad hoc Committee of its Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly, and referring also to its Resolution 1640 (2008) “Use by Assembly members of their dual parliamentary role – both parliamentary and European”, calls on:
13.1 the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly to ensure that Speakers of national parliaments are regularly informed about conclusions and proposals made in Assembly resolutions, especially those concerning their own country;
13.2 national parliamentary delegations to the Assembly to regularly report to their parliaments on their activities in the Assembly, preferably after each part-session, and to inform the Assembly’s Bureau on the national follow-up given to Assembly resolutions at least once a year;
13.3 Assembly rapporteurs, in case of follow-up to country-specific proposals, to prepare, with the active involvement of the national delegation concerned, a memorandum on the follow-up given by the national parliaments and governments to their report, at the latest one year after its adoption by the Assembly;
13.4 its committees to increase their contacts with the relevant committees of national parliaments, including exchanges of views between respective chairpersons and/or rapporteurs;
13.5 political groups in the Assembly to encourage their members to ensure appropriate follow-up of those resolutions the group considers relevant and to consider creating their own follow-up mechanisms;
13.6 all its members to promote awareness of and follow-up to Assembly and, more generally, Council of Europe activities by explaining to their electorate the direct impact these may have on their daily life and acting as catalysts to change their mindsets on a number of ethical issues.
14 Aware of the importance of local democracy and the central role that local and regional powers play in relationships with citizens, the Assembly undertakes to develop mechanisms for periodical consultation and permanent co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe – and their structures – in order to make the decisions and activities of the Council of Europe more effective and homogenous.
15 The Assembly notes that the Ad hoc Committee of its Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly underlined the need to step up the political dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. It would in particular be necessary to promote synergies between the two statutory organs while respecting each other’s prerogatives. In this respect, the Assembly:
15.1 welcomes the fact that contacts and dialogue with the Committee of Ministers have recently significantly intensified at different levels and in different formats;
15.2 referring also to its Resolution 2186 (2017) on the call for a Council of Europe summit to reaffirm European unity and to defend and promote democratic security in Europe, as well as to the 1998 Final Report to the Committee of Ministers by the Committee of Wise Persons, notes that there is an urgent need to develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values upheld by the Council of Europe;
15.3 proposes to put into place, in such situations, in addition, a joint procedure of reaction which could be triggered by either the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary General and in which all three of them would participate; this joint procedure could consist of a step-by-step process, starting from the notification of the member State concerned and including a number of concrete and well-defined steps such us a co-ordinated dialogue with the State concerned, the setting up of a special monitoring procedure enhanced by a joint task force, the publication of a public statement and ultimately the decision to act under Articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Statute within a fixed time-frame; this joint procedure would ensure enhanced legitimacy, credibility, impact, relevance and synergy of the measures to be taken, both regarding the member State concerned and within the Organisation, without prejudice to each organ’s existing separate powers and responsibilities; political action could also be combined, where appropriate, with technical support to the State concerned;
15.4 calls for a stronger and more structured co-ordination between the monitoring activities of the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights as well as of the various specialised monitoring and advisory bodies and mechanisms of the Organisation, without prejudice to their respective independence.
16 As regards the need to step up the political dialogue between the Assembly and the European Union, the Assembly:
16.1 considers that promotion of European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights should remain at the forefront of its political dialogue with the various European Union institutions as it will lead to a common legal space for human rights protection across the continent in the interest of all Europeans; welcomes the declared commitment, at the highest political level, from both the Council of Europe and the European Union institutions, in favour of this accession, which is a long-standing legal obligation for the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty with also undeniable political consequences; urges the European Commission to translate this commitment into concrete action by submitting without further delay to the Council of the European Union consolidated proposals in reply to the legal issues raised by the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2014, which would then be discussed in the framework of negotiations with the Council of Europe;
16.2 welcomes the Communication on the Rule of Law, published by the European Commission on 3 April 2019, which includes several references to the work of the Council of Europe, in line also with the 2006 report on “Council of Europe-European Union: a sole ambition for the European continent” and the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union, and opens the way for the Council of Europe to advance concrete proposals on how to enhance the European Union rule of law toolbox; these proposals should also refer to relevant work by the Assembly, emanating from its Monitoring Committee or its general committees, in particular country-specific findings and recommendations included in country-specific or thematic reports and resolutions;
16.3 encourages ongoing discussions about the possibility for the European Union to make a non-earmarked contribution to the Council of Europe’s work on the rule of law;
16.4 calls for increased participation of senior European Union officials, including European Commissioners, in relevant debates in the Assembly as well as for more frequent exchanges of views between its committees and relevant committees from the European Parliament;
16.5 recalls its Resolution 1836 (2011) on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the Council of Europe and reiterates the proposals to: set up an Assembly–European Parliament joint informal body to discuss topical issues of common interest, in a variable composition; organise, jointly with the European Parliament, interparliamentary conferences on specific topics of common interest; and enhance co-operation in joint electoral observation missions;
17 As regards co-operation with other international and/or regional organisations, the Assembly:
17.1 refers to its Resolution … (2019) on strengthening co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which commits the Assembly to regularly reviewing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and fully playing its role as a platform for exchanging national experiences and good practice, as well as to its Resolution … (2019) “Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: synergy needed on the part of all stakeholders, from parliaments to local authorities”, which seeks to mobilise national parliaments and local and regional authorities in support of Sustainable Development Goals;
17.2 welcomes the measures recently agreed with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which provide for a stronger and more efficient institutional relationship between the two organisations, streamline procedures and make better use of both organisations’ strengths;
17.3 considers it timely to evaluate its co-operation agreements with various international parliamentary assemblies or organisations with a view to possibly updating them and enhancing their effectiveness.

B Draft recommendationNote

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2019) “Role and mission of the Assembly: main challenges for the future” and notes that the Council of Europe, set up 70 years ago to achieve greater unity among its member States on the basis of common values and principles, is today in a deep political and financial crisis. It is confronted with many challenges which seriously threaten the effectiveness of its statutory organs and of its mechanisms and instruments, and thus ultimately the statutory aims of the Organisation.
2 To face these challenges, promote security in Europe, reinvigorate trust in the Council of Europe and among its member States and preserve the future of the Organisation, the Assembly calls on all member States to reaffirm their commitment to the ideal of European unity and the values and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, to support and further strengthen the Council of Europe as a unique pan-European organisation which upholds these values for the benefit of European citizens, and to consider all available options to ensure the political relevance and financial sustainability of the Organisation so as to avoid seriously undermining its activities and thereby its effectiveness. It also encourages in this respect ongoing discussions with the European Union about the possibility of the latter making a non-earmarked contribution to the Council of Europe’s work on the rule of law.
3 Considering that Council of Europe membership must imply an obligation of all member States to participate in both statutory organs, the Assembly calls on the Russian Federation, in accordance with its statutory obligations, to appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget, failure of which may lead to the suspension of its representation rights in both statutory organs, should the Committee of Ministers decide to apply Article 9 of the Statute of the Council of Europe (ETS No. 1).
4 The Assembly calls for intensified dialogue among all actors concerned in order to preserve the pan-European mission of the Council of Europe and avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to, leave the Organisation with all the geopolitical implications this would have and also the concrete consequences for Russian citizens. It welcomes in this respect the commitment and efforts made by the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers.
5 On the basis also of the findings of the Ad hoc Committee of its Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly, which underlined the need to step up political dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, while respecting each other’s prerogatives, the Assembly:
5.1 welcomes the fact that contacts and dialogue with the Committee of Ministers have recently significantly intensified at different levels and in different formats;
5.2 calls on the Committee of Ministers to ensure that its replies to Assembly recommendations address fully and substantially all issues raised and proposes to revive the practice of regular exchanges of views between Committee of Ministers Rapporteur Groups and Assembly rapporteurs and between Assembly committees and Chairpersons of Committee of Ministers Rapporteur Groups or intergovernmental experts during the drafting process of new Council of Europe conventions;
5.3 referring also to its Resolution 2186 (2017) on the call for a Council of Europe summit to reaffirm European unity and to defend and promote democratic security in Europe, as well as to the 1998 Final Report to the Committee of Ministers by the Committee of Wise Persons, notes that there is an urgent need to develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values upheld by the Council of Europe;
5.4 asks the Committee of Ministers to consider its proposal to put in place, in such situations, in addition, a joint procedure of reaction which could be triggered by either the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary General and in which all three of them would participate; this joint procedure could consist of a step-by-step process, starting from the notification of the member State concerned and including a number of concrete and well-defined steps such us a co-ordinated dialogue with the State concerned, the setting up of a special monitoring procedure enhanced by a joint task force, the publication of a public statement and ultimately the decision to act under Articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Statute within a fixed time-frame; this joint procedure would ensure enhanced legitimacy, credibility, impact, relevance and synergy of the measures to be taken, both regarding the member State concerned and within the Organisation, without prejudice to each organ’s existing separate powers and responsibilities; political action could also be combined, where appropriate, with technical support to the State concerned;
5.5 calls for stronger and more structured co-ordination between the monitoring activities of the two statutory organs, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights as well as of the various specialised monitoring and advisory bodies and mechanisms of the Organisation, without prejudice to their respective independence.

C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Tiny Kox, rapporteur

1 Origin, aim and scope of the report

1 The origin of the report lies in Resolution 2186 (2017) on the call for a Council of Europe summit to reaffirm European unity and to defend and promote democratic security in Europe, which was adopted with a large majority by the Assembly in October 2017, on the basis of a report prepared for the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy by Mr Michele Nicoletti (Doc. 14396).
2 “The Council of Europe and the values it upholds are today more necessary than ever”, held the Assembly in Resolution 2186 (2017) and went on to justify this conviction: “at the origin of European construction, bringing together almost all European States on the basis of common values and principles and thus a natural guardian of ‘unity within diversity’, offering a common legal space to 835 million Europeans, guaranteeing protection of their human rights, promoting social rights and democracy and contributing to the development of a European civil society, the Council of Europe is today best placed to help meet the challenges raised by growing nationalism and avoid the building of new walls.”
3 After enumerating the issues which, in its view, should be the priorities of a political and well-focused Summit, in the concluding paragraph of Resolution 2186 (2017) (paragraph 18), the Assembly resolved, for its part, “to continue its own reflection on its identity, role and mission as a statutory organ of the Council of Europe and a pan-European forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue which aims at having an impact on all member States”. By decision taken on 13 October 2017, the Bureau of the Assembly referred the follow-up to paragraph 18 of Resolution 2186 (2017) to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy or report and to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for opinion.
4 During the January 2018 part-session, in parallel to my appointment as rapporteur by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, the Bureau of the Assembly set up an Ad hoc Committee on the Role and Mission of the Parliamentary Assembly. The aim was to ensure a reflection on the issues raised by Resolution 2186 (2017) in a larger and inclusive composition to which I was invited to participate in my capacity of rapporteur for the Political Affairs Committee. From the outset, it was understood that the outcome of the work carried out in the Ad hoc Committee would feed into the report to be prepared by the Political Affairs Committee.
5 The Ad hoc Committee, chaired by Mr Nicoletti, former President of the Assembly, brought together parliamentarians from all 47 member States of the Council of Europe, including chairpersons of national delegations to the Assembly, chairpersons of political groups, chairpersons of committees, and, in line with the terms and spirit of Resolution 2186 (2017) and by decision of the Bureau, representatives of the Russian Parliament. In addition to discussions held during four meetings, participants representing two thirds of member States’ parliaments and all political groups, contributed to the reflection process in writing. Contributions were reproduced in extenso in two compendiums. An unprecedented consultation process, ensuring enhanced democratic legitimacy, has thus been held in the context of the work carried out by the Ad hoc Committee on the issues linked to the identity, role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly.
6 Concrete proposals made by participants were summarised in a Memorandum prepared by the Chairperson and subsequently appended to the report of the Ad hoc CommitteeNote which was approved and transmitted to the Bureau on 26 June 2018. On 28 June, a Joint Committee meeting was held which enabled an exchange of views with the Ministers’ Deputies on the issues raised in the Memorandum. The Bureau took note of the report by the Ad hoc Committee and made it public at its meeting of 29 June 2018, together with a list of follow-up decisions.
7 As the Ad hoc Committee had no decision-making power, its report was transmitted for follow-up action to the two competent committees, namely the Political Affairs Committee, to be taken into consideration in the context of the present report, and to the Rules Committee as regards issues requiring changes to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly. It will ultimately be for the Assembly to take any decisions on the basis of reports by the two committees.
8 The present report will cover all issues which were specifically referred to our committee by the Bureau decisions of 29 June 2018. At the same time, its scope is larger as it draws its origin from paragraph 18 of Resolution 2186 (2017) which puts emphasis on the double mission of the Assembly as “a pan-European forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue” but also as “a statutory organ of the Council of Europe”. Thus, the relations with the other statutory organ of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers, also fall within the scope of the report. The main issues which will therefore be specifically developed are the following:
  • the nature, identity and mission of the Assembly;
  • streamlining the Assembly’s work;
  • improving the follow-up given to Assembly texts;
  • enhancing the dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers;
  • strengthening the Assembly’s relations with the European Union and the European Parliament as well as with other international organisations or parliamentary assemblies.
9 The aim of the report is the same for all the issues to be dealt with: to enhance the Assembly’s impact both within the Organisation and in all member States.
10 A first discussion on the issues linked to the nature, identity and mission of the Assembly, as well as on the question of follow-up to Assembly resolutions, was held at the committee’s meeting on 11 September 2018. A second discussion, focusing on the need to streamline the work of the Assembly and enhance its dialogue with the Committee of Ministers took place during our meeting on 5 March 2019, also with the participation of the President of the Assembly and Ms Nina Nordström, Director at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, representing the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers. The present report includes, as announced, a final section on relations with the European Union as well as with other international organisations or parliamentary assemblies.

2 Identity, role and mission of the Assembly

2.1 Deliberative role

11 According to its Statute (ETS No. 1, Article 10), the Council of Europe has two statutory organs: the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.
12 The Assembly, which held its first session 70 years ago, on 10 August 1949, is the oldest international parliamentary Assembly with a pluralistic composition of democratically elected members of parliament established on the basis of an intergovernmental treaty. It is also the matrix of other European parliamentary institutions which came after it.
13 The Assembly’s identity, role and mission have been defined in the 1949 Council of Europe Statute.
14 On the basis of Article 22 of the Statute, the Assembly “is the deliberative organ of the Council of Europe” and, by virtue of Article 23, it has been given the right to “discuss and make recommendations [to the Committee of Ministers] upon any matter within the aim and scope of the Council of Europe”. This aim is defined in Article 1: “to achieve a greater unity between its Members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage”, that is the “principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within their jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Article 3). These principles, according to the Preamble to the Statute, “form the basis of all genuine democracy”.
15 The Assembly has also been given the prerogative to elect the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe (by virtue of Article 36 of the Statute). Furthermore, it elects the judges of the European Court of Human Rights (by virtue of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5), Article 22), the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (by virtue of Resolution (99) 50 of the Committee of Ministers, Article 9), and its own Secretary General (according to Statutory Resolution (49) 20).
16 The combination of its deliberative and its decision-making powers reinforce the Assembly’s importance as a parliamentary platform not only in Europe but also in the international arena.

2.2 Bringing Europe together

17 The Assembly has greatly contributed to the enlargement process of the Organisation as, before admitting any new member State, the Committee of Ministers must seek the Assembly’s Opinion (according to Statutory Resolution (51) 30). Thus, the Assembly has played an important role in bringing Europe together, after decades of a deep and dangerous divide of the continent.
18 The Assembly has further developed procedures to facilitate the integration of new member States within the Organisation, including the practice of asking new member States to undertake a number of specific commitments (in addition to the statutory obligations incumbent upon them on the basis of their membership), as well as a specific country-by-country monitoring procedure to follow up the respect by member States of the commitments they undertook upon accession.
19 Therefore, the Assembly is now the broadest pan-European parliamentary forum, to which (almost) all European States are represented through delegations of members of national parliaments, from both the majority and opposition forces, who participate in its activities.

2.3 Pan-European forum for political dialogue and Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy

20 Thus, the Assembly provides a unique, permanent and structured pan-European forum for political dialogue among parliamentary representatives of the citizens from the whole of Europe on the (many) issues which fall within the aim and scope of the Organisation, as formulated in Article 1 of the Statute.
21 During our meetings in Helsinki in November 2018, representatives of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament and former President Halonen underlined that the uniqueness of our Assembly lay precisely in the fact that it ensures a direct bridge with the national parliaments, including the opposition.
22 As the European Convention on Human Rights grants the Assembly the right to elect the judges of the European Court of Human Rights, the Assembly also plays – together with the Court and the Committee of Ministers, which oversees the execution of the Court judgments by the member States – a major role in the unique European system of protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, enshrined in the Convention and underpinned by the Court’s binding judgments. Therefore, the Assembly is often called Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy: through its fact-finding missions, election observations and reports on the state of human rights, rule of law and democracy in member States, the Assembly is able to signal positive and negative developments in these areas and to call on governments – directly or through recommendations to the Committee of Ministers – and parliaments of member States concerned to live up to their binding obligations stemming from the Statute, the European Convention on Human Rights, the judgments of the Court and all other conventions, which together form the cornerstone of the Council of Europe.

2.4 Political engine of the Council of Europe

23 As stated in its Recommendation 2114 (2017) (paragraph 6) “Defending the acquis of the Council of Europe: preserving 65 years of successful intergovernmental co-operation”,Note the Assembly, together with the Committee of Ministers and member States, “bears the responsibility for the creation, protection, implementation and further development of the Council of Europe convention-based system”. Through the adoption of specific recommendations to the Committee of Ministers, the Assembly has thus greatly contributed to the development of this system, which has created a single pan-European legal area from Reykjavik to Vladivostok for hundreds of millions of European citizens. The Assembly has notably been at the origin of the key Council of Europe conventions, starting from the European Convention on Human Rights, and has taken active part in their drawing up. It is therefore often called the political engine of the Council of Europe.
24 The Assembly has further promoted ratification and implementation of Council of Europe conventions by member States either through recommendations or through resolutions. A recent example is the Assembly’s active support of the elaboration of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210, “Istanbul Convention”) and its engagement in promoting its ratification and implementation by an ever-growing number of member States.Note

2.5 Findings of the Ad hoc Committee

25 The work of the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau offered a renewed opportunity for the parliaments of member States to offer their own vision on what they see as the main mission of the Assembly today. Three missions have been identified for the Assembly by the Ad hoc Committee, in line also with the above-mentioned reflections: deliberative organ of the Council of Europe, pan-European forum for dialogue and human rights and democracy watchdog. Whether to put the emphasis on one mission rather than on the others, or how to combine them in the best possible way, is first and foremost a political choice, rather than an institutional one, the Ad hoc Committee concluded.Note

2.6 Current challenges facing the Council of Europe and its Assembly

26 70 years after it was founded, the Council of Europe is in a deep political and financial crisis. It finds itself confronted with many challenges which seriously threaten the effectiveness of its statutory organs and of its mechanisms and instruments, and thus ultimately the statutory aims of the Organisation: dangerous conflicts in and between member States persist instead of being solved by using inter alia the means of the Organisation; the multilateral implementation of international human rights standards, including through the European Court of Human Rights, is increasingly being challenged in member States; the respect for the Organisation’s Statute and the European Convention on Human Rights is weakening; and the Assembly itself has not yet been able to effectively assist in overcoming these crises.
27 As regards the Council of Europe’s pan-European mission, the intended “unity within diversity” has, as of 2014, been seriously put into question following the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, an act considered as a clear violation of international law and the Council of Europe Statute. In reaction to the Assembly’s decision to apply sanctions vis-à-vis the Russian parliamentary delegation, the latter stopped participating in the activities of the Assembly. Since January 2016, Russia has not appointed a parliamentary delegation to the Assembly. This situation has led to a rift within the Organisation with one member State being present in one statutory organ, the Committee of Ministers, while being absent in the other, the Assembly. As of June 2017, the Russian Government’s decision, in reaction to this situation, to suspend payment of its contribution to the budget of the Organisation has led to a major budgetary crisis threatening the Council of Europe key activities.

2.7 Proposed measures

28 To face these challenges, promote security in Europe, reinvigorate trust in the Council of Europe and among member States and preserve the future of the Organisation, I propose that the Assembly:
a calls on all member States to reaffirm, 70 years after the foundation of the Council of Europe, their commitment to the ideal of European unity and the values and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and support and further strengthen the Council of Europe as a unique pan-European organisation which upholds these values for the benefit of European citizens;
b underlines that Council of Europe membership implies an obligation of all member States to participate in both statutory organs;
c calls on the Russian Federation, in accordance with its statutory obligations, to appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget, failure of which may lead to the suspension of its representation rights in both statutory organs, should the Committee of Ministers decide to apply Article 9 of the Statute;
d calls for intensified dialogue among all actors concerned in order to preserve the pan-European mission of the Council of Europe and avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to, leave the Organisation with all the geopolitical implications this would have and also the concrete consequences for Russian citizens; welcomes in this respect the commitment and efforts made by the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers;
e calls on the governments of member States to consider all available options to ensure the political relevance and financial sustainability of the Organisation so as to avoid seriously undermining its activities and thereby its effectiveness;
f calls on its members to put this issue on the agenda of their national parliaments as a matter of urgency and urge their governments to act responsibly, in line with their obligations under the Council of Europe Statute, so as to ensure the Council of Europe’s financial sustainability.

3 Streamlining the Assembly’s work

3.1 Input from the Ad hoc Committee

29 Written contributions and discussions within the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau showed a large consensus among delegations on the need to streamline, restructure and modernise its work and focus its activities on issues where it can have an impact within the Organisation and/or in the member States.
30 Against the background of the Organisation’s current budgetary crisis, it is important to clarify that, at least in my view, the objective of streamlining should not be linked to the financial difficulties the Organisation is facing at present. It is rather one of the main challenges our Assembly is facing if it wants to remain relevant both within the Organisation and, in particular, in the member States. Even if the budgetary problems are solved, one way or another, we should still ensure that our Assembly debates reports that fall within “the aim and scope of the Council of Europe” (see Article 23 of the Statute) and are likely to be politically relevant and have an impact on the work of the Organisation and/or in the member States, thus making the difference.Note
31 In this respect, there was general agreement within the Ad hoc Committee that the strengthening and the further development of the Organisation’s unique convention system should be the most relevant priority for the Assembly.Note Assembly activities should primarily focus on how to update Council of Europe conventions, including through additional protocols, propose new ones, accelerate ratification and enhance their implementation by member States, including the specific role played by parliaments in this process. The implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgments is of special importance in this respect. Assembly members also have an important role to play in explaining to their electorate the direct impact these legal texts have on their daily life, as well as to be the catalysts of changing the mindsets on a number of ethical or human dignity issues.
32 Strengthening the standard-setting, advisory and monitoring bodies and mechanisms of the Organisation and promoting implementation of their recommendations by member States, through resolutions and/or recommendations, has also been identified as a priority theme. I would add that our Assembly, with its unique composition, which brings together national parliamentarians from both the majority and opposition, is also best placed to promote concrete legislative changes within member States on the many issues covered by relevant Council of Europe conventions (to avoid national parliaments engaging in preparatory legislative work from scratch).
33 Interestingly enough, this priority coincides also with the first priority of the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, aimed at strengthening the system of human rights and the rule of law in Europe, including the convention system.
34 As the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers Timo Soini said to our Assembly during the January 2019 part-session, “at the present situation, it is very important to highlight the benefits that respect of universal human rights and rules-based multilateral co-operation has provided for people in Europe … [and] to communicate about the impact of the Court’s work to ordinary people”. For Finland, the added value of the Council of Europe, what makes the difference, is precisely that its work is for the benefit of the people.
35 At the same time, human rights and the rule of law are at the centre of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a regional Organisation, the Council of Europe has thus a unique opportunity to contribute to the implementation of this agenda. This would mean that any relevant work of the Assembly, and of the Council of Europe member States, would be reflected at global level through the United Nations system.
36 The development of the Organisation’s convention system should primarily aim at reacting to developments and new challenges arising in Europe, and beyond, as the Council of Europe system of human rights and the rule of law does not function in a vacuum but must be adapted to guarantee human rights also in the future. Thus, one of the recent challenges for the Organisation to which our Assembly should also respond (and it has already started doing so) is to check to what extent the current Council of Europe instruments are adequate and sufficient, or whether new ones should be developed, or old ones strengthened or implemented more effectively to respond to new situations.
37 One of the new societal challenges that has obtained increasing attention recently is artificial intelligence, which involves legal and ethical issues but also has implications for democracy, security and accountability. Climate change is another ongoing societal challenge which has already been extensively addressed by our Assembly and is still high on its agenda, due to the need for the Council of Europe to take an overarching leadership role in facilitating the implementation of the Paris Climate Change agreement, in particular at parliamentary level.
38 The advancement of technology and digitalisation and the ever-increasing use of social media also call for updating existing Council of Europe conventions. The Assembly should play a pioneer role in promoting such changes.
39 As the President of the Republic of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, said to the Assembly during the January 2019 part-session, “in order to remain relevant, like any organisation, the Council of Europe needs to be agile and able to address news issues as they arise. Living in time sounds commonplace as an objective, but it is not an easy task”. This is also true for the Assembly’s work.
40 Beyond the conventions strictly speaking, the Council of Europe acquis is also made up of non-binding legal instruments, namely recommendations and guidelines issued by the Committee of Ministers and other Council of Europe bodies, such as the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). They also need to be updated in the light of new challenges, such as the use of social media. Here again, we are at the heart of what the Assembly should be promoting and doing.Note
41 At the same time, the Council of Europe’s convention system is facing many challenges which do not emanate from technological developments but from negative trends likely to grow in 2019. I would like to quote the examples the President of our Assembly mentioned at the opening of the January 2019 part-session: “major attacks against freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly, undemocratic and illiberal trends and the rise of nationalist and populist rhetoric, threats to the rule of law and challenges to the authority of the Strasbourg Court”. As our President noted, this is especially alarming in view of important elections in several member States in the months to come, as well as elections to the European Parliament. It is our political responsibility and should be one of our Assembly’s priorities to defend our system of values and standards against undemocratic and illiberal trends, political extremism and aggressive nationalism, discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech, and other threats to the rule of law.
42 Another area that has been suggested as a priority for the Assembly within the context of the Ad hoc Committee is that of gender equality and namely ensuring that the Assembly work is gender sensitive. This theme also coincides with the second priority of the Finnish Presidency regarding support for equality and women’s rights. The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is a remarkable achievement of the Council of Europe and the Assembly should continue to promote its ratification and/or ensure its effective implementation by member States.
43 During discussions at the committee meeting on 5 March 2019 in Paris, members referred to the importance of the Assembly work in the election observation field. The Assembly should further develop its election observation tools, in close co-operation with the Venice Commission, in order to improve the legal framework of its member States on elections and referendums, electoral practice and compliance by member States with relevant recommendations.
44 The dramatic rise in terrorist attacks in the last years on the European continent made the prevention of radicalisation leading to terrorism and the fight against terrorism, while safeguarding human rights standards, also a priority of our Assembly and the whole Organisation. Prevention of radicalisation is explicitly mentioned in the third priority of the Finnish Presidency. Our Assembly has worked hand in hand with the intergovernmental sector of the Organisation on issues such as foreign fighters (promoting the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, CETS No. 217), human rights and the fight against terrorism, funding of Daesh and protection of victims of terrorism. The challenges raised by the unprecedented migratory and refugee crisis, a consequence, to a great extent, of the war in Syria, as well as of destabilisation and dire economic conditions in other parts of the globe, have also been the focus of the Assembly in recent years.
45 The Assembly’s work on migration and on terrorism has shown how closely interlinked the stability and security in Europe and the stability and security in its neighbourhood are. Our Assembly has been a pioneer in promoting relations with the neighbouring countries of the Council of Europe and has, in particular, developed the partnership for democracy tool for the purpose of promoting human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles in the neighbourhood as a means of improving life conditions and stability in these regions, also for the sake of Europe’s security. If, in the context of budgetary constraints, work on the neighbourhood should be primarily financed by other sources than the ordinary budget (for instance through joint programmes with the European Union, which is extremely interested in Council of Europe work in this field), this should not make us underestimate its political relevance. After 10 years of successful practice of the partnership for democracy status with parliaments from neighbouring regions, discussions have already started in our committee to re-assess the status with a view to possibly adapting the rules to the actual practice and underline the importance of political dialogue among partners (rather than any idea of “monitoring” of the partners), and also launch the idea of a status with the Organisation as a whole.
46 As regards other themes raised by delegations within the Ad hoc Committee, one delegation mentioned the need for the Assembly to be more active in the field of social rights (beyond civil and political rights) and another one mentioned the rights of national minorities. Also, for one delegation, streamlining the Assembly work should not deprive it of the opportunity to address conflicts in Europe and in its neighbourhood that could lead to serious violations of international law, democratic principles or human rights.

3.2 Proposed measures

47 On this basis of the above-mentioned considerations and discussions at the committee meeting on 5 March 2019, with the participation also of the President of the Assembly, I propose that the Assembly:
a resolves to streamline its work and focus its activities on issues where it can have an impact along the lines presented above;
b encourages committees to carefully scrutinise motions, even after they may have passed the filter of the Bureau and of the Assembly, in order to retain only those which seem politically relevant and for which the Council of Europe could have an added value and tangible impact. Topics which may be of interest for only a limited number of countries or a limited number of parliamentarians should not lead to the preparation of a report and an Assembly debate;
c resolves to review, based on proposals by its committees, their mandate, work programme and institutional representation in intergovernmental committees and other Council of Europe bodies in order to verify political relevance and added value;Note
d invites its committees to focus in their reports on proposals which can be translated into tangible action by the intergovernmental sector of the Organisation (standard-setting, advisory or monitoring bodies) so as to enhance their impact and visibility, and to accompany, where appropriate, criticism addressed to member States (on failures in the legislative field or in the implementation of legislation or violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law) with proposals for support activities aimed at addressing these shortcomings or lack of compliance; in both cases, such proposals should be forwarded to the other statutory organ, the Committee of Ministers, through recommendations adopted by the Assembly.

4 Improving the follow-up given to Assembly texts

4.1 Co-operation between the Assembly and national parliaments

48 The question of national-level follow-up to its adopted texts has always been a central concern of the Assembly. The Assembly, being an inter-parliamentary forum for dialogue without any legislative power, is reliant on the co-operation of national parliaments and governments for a follow-up to proposals made in its resolutions and recommendations. At the same time, the recommendations of the Assembly, the inter-parliamentary organ of the Council of Europe, have to be considered by the intergovernmental one, the Committee of Ministers, as the Statute stipulates.
49 As early as 1949, Recommendation 8 (1949) expressed the wish that Assembly recommendations be immediately discussed by national parliaments. In 1956, Resolution 104 (1956) led to the creation of a working party tasked with maintaining links between the Assembly and national parliaments and transmitting selected texts accordingly. This evolved into the Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations, which enjoyed some success. However, as the 1990s progressed, it was accused by some of being “overly bureaucratic” and its output was diminished. The committee did not survive structural reforms in 2000 that saw a reduction in the number of committees.
50 Resolution 1640 (2008) “Use by Assembly members of their dual parliamentary role – both parliamentary and European”has been one of the most important recent texts on enhancing the visibility and impact of the Assembly in national parliaments. It called on, inter alia, the Bureau of the Assembly to single out certain texts (as the Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations had done) to communicate to national delegations and parliaments, committees to monitor follow-up of adopted texts in national texts, members to promote Assembly work, and national parliaments to review implementation. However, a follow-up to Resolution 1640 (2008) in 2009 revealed that the main texts adopted by the Assembly were still not systematically transmitted to national parliamentsNote.
51 Since the dissolution of the Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations in 2000, there is no specific body for overseeing the dissemination of Assembly resolutions. Instead, it is mostly up to the individual parliamentarians to raise Assembly resolutions in parliamentary questions or the committees they belong to. Former Assembly rapporteurs have the obligation to report to the respective committee of the Assembly on the follow-up given to the resolution or recommendation which the Assembly adopted on the basis of their report one year after such adoption. However, this “reporting exercise” in most cases takes the form of a short oral intervention, leads to no discussion and receives no visibility as the former rapporteur is given no real means to verify the follow-up given by national parliaments or member States.

4.2 Survey on follow-up by national parliaments

52 Most recently, following discussions in the Ad hoc Committee upon a proposal by its Chairperson, a survey was issued to the parliaments of the 47 member States of the Assembly by the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD) in May 2018 on the follow-up by national parliaments to resolutions adopted by the Assembly. It sought to gauge whether or not parliaments were holding follow-up sessions and/or taking initiatives on resolutions adopted by the Assembly; if resolutions were referred to relevant parliamentary committees, and if any action was taken as a result; and whether national delegations drew up reports on the activities of the Assembly. Based on the 31 responses, the main conclusions are as follows:
a only a few parliaments have an automatic follow-up procedure for resolutions adopted by the Assembly. Instead, Assembly resolutions tend to feature incidentally in national initiatives, debates or parliamentary questions;
b around half of the parliaments which participated in the survey do refer resolutions to the appropriate parliamentary committees. However, this is usually only done on an ad hoc basis, at the initiative of individual MPs rather than as a result of an automatic procedure. It appears uncommon for national parliamentary committees to take direct action as a result;
c most Assembly delegations draw up reports and deliver them back to their national parliaments. However, the frequency of this varies considerably between delegations. Moreover, only a limited number of those reports are actively debated in parliament. It appears more common for them to be presented without discussion.
53 With respect to previous attempts at improving national follow-up to texts adopted by the Assembly and bearing in mind the results of the recent survey on national parliaments’ involvement, any attempt at improving the situation should be simple, systematic and sustainable as well as financially and practically feasible in the current circumstances. It must equally respect the nature and identity of the Assembly, being an inter-parliamentary forum for dialogue between representatives of the national parliaments of 47 member States, instead of a kind of “pan-European parliament”. The Assembly delivers conclusions and proposals which are put at the disposal of those who want to implement them. Lastly, the more focused the Assembly’s resolutions are, the better the chances that national parliaments take our conclusions and proposals more seriously.

4.3 Proposed measures

54 On the basis of discussions held at the committee’s meetings on 11 September 2018 and on 5 March 2019 and after taking into account also the views expressed by the President of the Assembly, I propose that:
a the Secretary General of the Assembly ensures that Speakers of national parliaments are regularly informed about conclusions and proposals made in Assembly’s resolutions, especially those concerning their own country;
b national parliamentary delegations to the Assembly regularly report to their parliaments on their activities in the Assembly, preferably after each part-session, and inform the Assembly’s Bureau on the national follow-up given to Assembly’s resolutions at least once a year;
c Assembly rapporteurs, in case of follow-up to country-specific proposals, prepare, with the active involvement of the national delegation concerned, a memorandum on the follow-up given by the national parliaments and governments to their report, at the latest one year after its adoption by the Assembly;
d Assembly committees increase their contacts with relevant committees in national parliaments, including exchanges of views between respective chairpersons and/or rapporteurs.
e political groups in the Assembly encourage their members to ensure appropriate follow up of those resolutions the group considers relevant and consider creating their own follow-up mechanisms;
f its members promote awareness of and follow-up to Assembly and, more generally, Council of Europe activities by explaining to their electorate the direct impact these may have on their daily life and acting as catalysts to change their mindsets on a number of ethical issues.

5 Enhancing the dialogue between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers

55 Another issue on which there was consensus in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau as regards the need to step up the political dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, while respecting each other’s prerogatives. The report of the Ad hoc Committee includes a useful list of new proposals and recalls older ones which have not yet been fully implemented or need to be revived.
56 Some of them are listed in Assembly recommendations adopted some 15 years ago and others are listed in the Report prepared by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on “Enhanced Dialogue and Co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers”, published in June 2010 (SG/Inf(2010)12), following the joint agreement reached between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.Note A follow-up to this exercise was conducted by the Assembly exploring ways to expand constructive co-operation, ensure better interaction between the two statutory bodies and co-ordinate their activities and positions.Note Questions related to specific instruments for dialogue with the Committee of Ministers at the Assembly’s disposal and the Assembly’s budgetary role have already been examined by the Committee on Rules of Procedure or will receive further emphasis in upcoming reports or in its opinion to the present report.
57 Since the publication of the report by the Ad hoc Committee and the decisions on follow-up taken by the Bureau of the Assembly, contacts and dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers have significantly intensified at different levels.
58 As the President of the Assembly said in her opening speech at the January 2019 part-session, just after her re-election, “there is a need to strengthen relations between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers and continue a frank and open dialogue, respecting each other’s prerogatives, but focusing on what unites us – the objectives of the Council of Europe defined by the Statute. It is our shared responsibility to strengthen our institutional mechanisms, so as to be able to speak with one voice when the future of the Organisation is at stake”.
59 For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, addressing the Assembly during the same part-session and referring to the issue of participation of member States in the work of the two statutory bodies of the Organisation, insisted that “only constructive co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly can bring answers and resolve deadlocks”. What the Minister proposed was “an enhanced dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly to form a process resulting in a solution to the question.”
60 Joint Committee meetings have been held at each part-session of the Assembly since June 2018 including on the report of the Ad hoc Committee and, in particular, the issue of relations between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.
61 Also, the frequency of informal meetings between the President of the Assembly and the President of the Committee of Ministers has significantly increased over recent years.
62 Last but not least, the practice of informal meetings between the Presidential Committee of the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers’ Bureau, with the participation also of the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General of the Organisation, has recently been revived.Note On 3 April 2019, the fifth such meeting in the last six months was held in Helsinki. To what extent these informal meetings should develop into a permanent contact body to ensure frequency and provide for structured communication between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers is an issue for the two bodies to address.
63 Without risking interfering in the process of dialogue between the two statutory organs as described above, it will be of high interest for our committee to discuss in more depth the proposals recently put forward by national delegations in the Ad hoc Committee but also, as said above, some older ones which may be put back on the table.
64 The first priority for us, as parliamentarians, is to ask the Committee of Ministers to ensure that its replies to Assembly recommendations address fully and substantially all issues raised. Since the above-mentioned 2010 report by the Secretary General, the Assembly has reduced the number of recommendations sent to the Committee of Ministers to issues which fall within the core activities of the Organisation so as to contribute to improving the substance of the replies. However, there still seems to be room for improvement as some replies fail to address all issues raised, as was noted in the Ad hoc Committee report.Note
65 As regards the requirement of transparency, the Committee of Ministers could consider introducing the practice of annexing to its replies to Assembly recommendations a dissenting opinion by one or more member States (similar to the practice of the Assembly or the European Court of Human Rights). This could save time in the adoption of the reply as one or a few member States which disagreed with the majority view would not block the adoption. At the same time, it would ensure that dissenters’ voices were heard and would allow the Assembly to know why and on which issues some member States disagreed with the majority view.Note
66 To improve communication and understanding, we should also consider reviving the practice of inviting Assembly rapporteurs to Committee of Ministers Rapporteur Groups and steering committees to present their reports and explain the content of recommendations. It would equally be useful to invite Chairpersons of relevant Committee of Ministers Rapporteur Groups to regularly exchange with Assembly committees to develop synergies on files of common interest.Note
67 Similarly, the proposal has been put forward in the Ad hoc Committee to enhance the practice of joint hearings between Assembly committees and intergovernmental experts during the drafting process of new Council of Europe conventions to ensure better support by national parliaments after the adoption of these conventions.
68 As regards the Joint Committee meetings between the two statutory organs, while welcoming their increased number (as said above, it has convened during each part-session since June 2018), what would be worth exploring is the possibility of setting up a “mixed working party” following an agreement between the Bureau of the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers “for the discussion of a particular item”, in line with Rule 58.1 of the Assembly Rules of Procedure.Note
69 When it comes to the political dialogue between the Assembly and the government of the member State holding the presidency of the Committee of Ministers, it should be welcomed that, in addition to an exchange of views with the Foreign Affairs Minister in his capacity of Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, dialogue has been, in practice, further enhanced by including an exchange of views with the Prime Minister or the Head of State concerned.
70 The proposal made in 2010 to consult the national delegation to the Assembly when preparing the future presidency and its priorities seems also to have been implemented and have contributed to ensuring closer co-ordination between governmental and parliamentarian components in the preparation of the presidency. For this purpose, the Assembly has provided in its Rules of Procedure (Rule 14.3) that the Chairpersons of national delegations of the member States holding the current, the previous and the next two presidencies of the Committee of Ministers shall be ex officio members of the Bureau entitled to vote.
71 Despite recent progress as regards the political dialogue between the two statutory organs, there has so far been no concrete follow-up to the proposals made in Resolution 2186 (2017) and in Recommendation 2113 (2017),Note aimed at the harmonisation of procedures in case of lack of compliance by a member State with its statutory obligations.
72 It is therefore still necessary and of utmost importance for the two statutory organs to engage in a joint reflection in order to set up a joint Council of Europe procedure of reaction to respond effectively to the lack of compliance by a member State with its statutory obligations. Such a mechanism should be able to deal with both political and legal aspects of the non-compliance by a member State of its statutory obligations and commitments, in particular with regard to conventions to which it is a Party (for instance as a follow-up to Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights and failure to abide by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights).
73 It is for the two statutory organs to decide on the principles and details of such a joint procedure of reaction. The main idea, however, should be to provide for a step-by-step process which would, as an ultimate aim, ensure enhanced impact and relevance of the measures to be taken, both on the member State and on the Council of Europe, thanks to the synergy and joint action by the two statutory bodies (“speaking with a common voice”).
74 Such a joint procedure of reaction could be triggered by either the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary General and all three of them would participate in it. It could consist of a step-by-step process, starting from the notification of the member State concerned and including a number of concrete and well-defined steps such us: a co-ordinated dialogue with the State concerned; the setting up of a special monitoring procedure, enhanced by a joint task force; the publication of a public statement, and ultimately the decision by the Committee of Ministers to act under Articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Statute within a fixed time-frame. Political action could also be combined, where appropriate, with technical support to the State concerned.
75 Providing for such a procedure would avoid situations in which one or the other of the statutory organs would take decisions without consulting the other and would ensure the synergy and coherence the Assembly had already referred to one and a half years ago in its Resolution 2186 (2017).
76 Of course, a number of issues have to be discussed and agreed between the two statutory organs (in appropriate fora), for instance the assessment of the circumstances which could trigger the joint reaction process.
77 From a procedural point of view, if agreement is reached in advance between the two statutory organs on precise terms, the new mechanism could be formally set up by a statutory resolution. In the past, several statutory resolutions were adopted by the Committee of Ministers either on the basis of a proposal made by the Assembly, or after consultation of the Assembly through a request for opinion. It is worth recalling that, more than twenty years ago, in its 1998 Final Report to the Committee of Ministers (CM(98)178), the Committee of Wise Persons,Note when making proposals aimed at “reinforcing decision-making within the Organisation and strengthening and consolidating institutional balance” (see paragraph 40), had suggested (in paragraph 41) that “the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly should agree on the text of a statutory resolution clarifying their relationship as the two main partners within the Organisation”. However, this has not yet happened, thus leaving room for misunderstanding and possibly conflicting decisions.
78 In light of the above-mentioned considerations, I propose that the Assembly:
a notes that there is an urgent need to develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values upheld by the Council of Europe;
b asks the Committee of Ministers to consider its proposal to put into place, in such situations, a joint procedure of reaction which could be triggered by either the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary General and in which all three of them would participate; this joint procedure could consist of a step-by-step process, starting from the notification of the member State concerned and including a number of concrete and well-defined steps such us a co-ordinated dialogue with the State concerned, the setting up of a special monitoring procedure enhanced by a joint task force, the publication of a public statement and ultimately the decision to act under Articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Statute within a fixed time-frame; this joint procedure would ensure enhanced legitimacy, credibility, impact, relevance and synergy of the measures to be taken, both on the member State concerned and within the Organisation, without prejudice to each organ’s separate powers and responsibilities; political action could also be combined, where appropriate, with technical support to the State concerned;
c calls for stronger and more structured co-ordination between the monitoring activities of the two statutory organs, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights as well as of the various specialised monitoring and advisory bodies and mechanisms of the Organisation, without prejudice to their respective independence.

6 Strengthening the Assembly’s relations with the European Union and European Parliament as well as with other international organisations or parliamentary assemblies

6.1 Relations with the European Union

79 The need to step up high-level political dialogue between the Assembly and the European Union, in particular with the European Commission and the European Parliament, in full respect of their respective areas of responsibility, and build up common synergies and partnerships to improve the Assembly’s visibility and prevent unnecessary duplication of work and resources, has been another issue on which consensus was reached within the Ad hoc Committee on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly.
80 Many new challenges regarding the relations between the two European organisations have emerged following the signing of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union, based on proposals by Mr Jean Claude Juncker in the report he presented in his capacity as then Prime Minister of Luxembourg, following a mandate he received at the Warsaw Summit, on “Council of Europe-European Union – A sole ambition for Europe”.Note If the 2007 Memorandum confirmed the central role of Council of Europe as “the benchmark for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe” and “Europe’s wide reference source of human rights”, the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 offered new opportunities for a reinforced partnership between the Council of Europe and the European Union, based on each other’s acquis and comparative advantages. The principal aim of such partnership has been and still is to ensure coherence and complementarity between the pan-European project promoted by the Council of Europe and the European Union’s integration progress, while avoiding duplication and conflicting messages.
81 European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Lisbon Treaty turned into a legal obligation for the European Union, as well as EU accession to other Council of Europe conventions, including the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which also provides for a monitoring mechanism, are expected to lead to a common legal space for human rights protection across the continent in the interest of all Europeans. However, EU accession to the Convention was halted following a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 18 December 2014 (Opinion 2/13) which held the draft Accession Agreement, prepared following lengthy negotiations between the European Union institutions and the Council of Europe, to be incompatible with EU Treaties, raising complex legal and political issues.
82 At the same time, the European Union’s ever-growing role in the key areas of activity of the Council of Europe (justice, freedom and democratic security) has increased the risk of duplication between the two organisations and hence the importance of developing synergies to ensure coherence of standards. Also, the European Union’s growing role in these areas affects the interaction between the European Union and its member States when participating in Council of Europe steering committees and when negotiating new Council of Europe conventions falling within these areas. Examples of good co-ordination are available in the framework of Council of Europe transversal multi-annual strategies, such as the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023 and the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021, which have been prepared in close consultation with the European Union to ensure complementarity and focus on each organisation’s specific added value in the area.
83 The Assembly has debated a number of reports on the relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, prepared mainly by its Committees on Political Affairs and Democracy and on Legal Affairs and Human Rights,Note underlining in its adopted resolutions or recommendations the above-mentioned challenges, reiterating similar messages and calling for the European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
84 It is no coincidence that the report of the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau also raised the need to promote EU accession to the Convention at the forefront of the Assembly political dialogue with the various EU institutions, namely the European Commission and the European Parliament. This is also the reason why I asked to meet Mr Juncker, President of the European Commission, and the legal services of both the European Commission and the European Council. My visit to Brussels took place on 4 April 2019 and I thank the Council of Europe office there for the excellent organisation.Note
85 I am particularly grateful to President Juncker for the time he devoted to our meeting, his hospitality and the assurances he gave me. President Juncker confirmed to me that, as he had also recently told the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, he had taken the initiative to reinvigorate work on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. He assured me that he would do everything that was possible so that the Commission, still under his presidency, would submit to the Council of the European Union the consolidated proposals in reply to the legal issues raised by the Luxembourg Court Opinion in 2014. President Juncker underlined that EU accession to the Convention was not only a long-standing legal obligation for the European Union under the Lisbon Treaty but had also important political consequences that should not be underestimated.
86 As the representatives of the legal services of the European Commission and of the Council of the European Union have also explained to me, following exchanges between the two of them, technical work has been completed on the Commission’s side, in the sense that for each issue raised by the Court an answer is proposed. Once the Commission’s proposals are submitted to the Council of the European Union, discussions will take place among the 28 or 27 member States of the European Union (depending on Brexit) and any agreed proposals will then be discussed in the framework of negotiations with the 47 member States of the Council of Europe. In my meetings with the legal services of the European Commission and the European Council, I also discussed EU accession to other Council of Europe conventions, in particular the Istanbul Convention and that on data protection, as well as possible EU participation in the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
87 Recent years have seen various EU institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, European Council, Court of Justice of the European Union) applying, establishing or proposing various rule of law procedures, mechanisms or initiatives, with different scope and effects. This relatively recent development has led to a new challenge as the Council of Europe is called to ensure, and our Assembly should fully support the intergovernmental sector in this effort, that any EU rule of law mechanism needs to be based on the existing rule of law standards of the Council of Europe, including the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, relevant recommendations of the Committee of Ministers, standards and opinions of the Venice Commission (including the “Rule of Law Checklist”), opinions and/or findings of the relevant Council of Europe advisory or monitoring bodies, and should not lead to any conflicting messages or forum shopping. For its part, the Assembly should in addition ensure that its own relevant work is also a source of reference for the European Union when assessing compliance with the values guaranteed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) in the framework of its various existing procedures or its initiatives. This should include the work of the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee but also relevant work by its general committees, in particular country-specific findings and recommendations included in country-specific or thematic reports and resolutions.
88 A report prepared by Ms Petra De Sutter on the “Establishment of a European Union mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights”Note highlights to this new challenge and reaffirms the need to ensure synergy of action and to avoid fragmentation of the understanding of fundamental values and their implementation on the European continent, through practical arrangements at all levels. For instance, the European Union is invited to provide safeguards in any existing or future mechanism to ensure that the assessment of action of the European Union will not affect existing procedures arising from Council of Europe advisory or monitoring bodies, along similar lines to Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
89 I support in particular the proposal made in this report to enhance dialogue with the national parliaments, under conditions favouring an open debate on the recommendations emanating from both organisations concerning the respect by the member States of human rights, the rule of law and democracy standards, and to use the Assembly platform to timely bring European decision-makers and representatives of national parliaments closer together. The details and precise format of such a debate should of course be carefully reflected and agreed. In my view, such a periodic debate (annual, as Ms De Sutter proposes, or biennial, for practical and logistical reasons) should be entitled “Debate on democracy, the rule of law and human rights” so as to make it clear that all three pillars of the Council of Europe are covered. In analogy to the biennial debate on the activities of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for which the Assembly sits in an enlarged composition to include parliamentary delegations from the member States of the OECD which are not member States of the Council of Europe, for a periodic debate on democracy, the rule of law and human rights, organised in co-operation with the European Union institutions, the Assembly could sit in a restricted composition reserved to the national parliamentary delegations from the member States of the European Union. The European Conference of Presidents of Parliament could also offer the platform for such a debate.
90 On the eve of my arrival in Brussels, on 3 April 2019, the European Commission published a Communication on the Rule of Law, which includes several references to the work of the Council of Europe and opens the way for the Council of Europe to advance concrete proposals on how to enhance the EU rule of law toolbox.
91 When I met President Juncker, I welcomed this recent development which was also in line with what he had proposed in his own report from 2006 when stating that “the European Union must base itself on the evaluations carried out by the Council of Europe. I also referred to ongoing discussions between the Council of Europe and the European Union about the possibility of the latter making a non-earmarked contribution to the Council of Europe’s work on the rule of law.Note Such a contribution would only be fair, as the EU institutions use relevant Council of Europe work when assessing respect for the rule of law in common member States or in States that are part of the enlargement process or the Eastern partnership. President Juncker said that he valued very much the contribution of the Council of Europe in the European Commission’s recent initiatives to address rule of law developments in some EU member States, in particular that from the Venice Commission, and agreed to consider ways for the European Union to be supportive to such Council of Europe work.
92 When discussing the Council of Europe’s role in the overall European architecture, President Juncker underlined that the Council of Europe was and should remain the place where all European nations can meet. He also fully supported the proposals which I have included in this report and which I briefly shared with him as regards the need to develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values upheld by the Council of Europe.
93 In Brussels, I also discussed the need to step up the dialogue and the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union with Ms Marja Rislakki, Permanent Representative of Finland to the European Union. Referring to the high commitment to supporting the Council of Europe shown by the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, I expressed my hope that Finland would be equally supportive to the Council of Europe when chairing the Council of the European Union as of 1 July 2019. Ambassador Rislakki assured me that Finland would do everything possible to push forward the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights if the file reached the Council of the European Union during its presidency.
94 The report of the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau also included the following proposals on how to enhance the dialogue between the Assembly and the European Union, some of which I have also included in the draft resolution:
a establish direct contacts between the Assembly and the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union member States (COSAC), including possible joint committee meetings;
b set up a network of European parliamentarism, comprising the Assembly, the European Parliament and national parliaments for the purpose of co-ordinating political action, streamlining communication and facilitating the flow of information, good practice, ideas and recommendations and thus enhancing the harmonisation of national legislations;
c organise regular hearings either in committee or in plenary with senior EU officials (European Commissioner for the rule of law and human rights, European Commissioner for justice and home affairs, Head of the Fundamental Rights Agency);
d organise frequent discussions between Assembly committees and European Parliament committees or otherwise foster co-operation between the Assembly and the European Parliament, for instance through the promotion of common projects;
e set up an Assembly–European Parliament Joint Informal Body to discuss topical issues of common interest, in a variable composition, depending on the topic, or organise, jointly with the European Parliament, interparliamentary conferences on specific topics of common interest;
f enhance co-operation in joint electoral observation missions;
g consider updating the 2007 agreement on the strengthening of co-operation between the Assembly and the European Parliament with a view to taking into account the most recent developments since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
95 It is clear that the issue of relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, including the European Parliament, should remain high on the agenda of our Assembly. As it goes beyond the scope of the present report, it would be timely for the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy to initiate a new report on the overall co-operation between the two organisations, following elections to the European Parliament in May 2019,

6.2 Relations with other international organisations or parliamentary assemblies

96 A number of participants in the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly referred to the need for the Assembly to enhance relations with other international and/or regional organisations or institutions and especially with their parliamentary assemblies. Reference was made in particular to the United Nations, the OECD and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and its Parliamentary Assembly. One delegation also referred to the need to fine-tune interaction with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA-CIS) and another delegation referred to the need to enhance co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
97 As regards co-operation with the United Nations, and in order to avoid unnecessary repetition, I refer to the report just adopted by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy on “Strengthening co-operation with the United Nations in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals”.Note The draft resolution commits the Assembly to regularly reviewing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fully playing its role as a platform for exchanging national experiences and good practice. Furthermore, in terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly should strengthen the parliamentary contribution to, and dialogue with, the United Nations, focusing on the implementation of SDGs and the complementarity between the Council of Europe and the United Nations. I also refer to the report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development on the “Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: synergy needed on the part of all stakeholders, from parliaments to local authorities”.Note This report seeks to mobilise national parliaments and local and regional authorities in support of SDGs. I fully support the proposals made in these reports.
98 As regards co-operation with the OECD, the Enlarged Assembly debates were introduced in 1993 to allow delegations of national parliaments of OECD member States which are not members of the Council of Europe or of the European Parliament, to participate. These debates take place in accordance with special rules, adopted by the Enlarged Assembly in 1992 and amended since. In this respect, concrete measures were recently taken, proposed by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and endorsed by the Bureau of the Assembly, following a meeting between the former President of the Assembly, Mr Nicoletti, and the Secretary General of the OECD, Mr Gurría, subsequent exchanges between the secretariats of the two organisations and an exchange of letters between their Secretaries General in January 2019. These measures, which I fully welcome, reduce the number of debates by the Enlarged Assembly on the OECD activities (passing from an annual to a biennial debate) but at the same time enhance the impact and visibility of co-operation between the two organisations by providing for a stronger and more efficient institutional relationship, streamlining procedures and making better use of both organisations’ strengths. They include inter alia the participation of an Assembly delegation, as an institutional partner, in the meetings of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network every second year (the year where there is no debate at the Assembly), the focusing of Assembly reports on specific themes to be defined by the rapporteur following contacts with the OECD, rather than on OECD activities in general, as well as regular exchanges of views between the Political Affairs Committee and OECD experts.Note
99 As regards the relations with the IPA-CIS, I recall that our two Assemblies are co-operating on the basis of an agreement signed in 1997. Our Assembly regularly participates in or even co-organises, with the IPA CIS, parliamentary conferences on topics of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism. These joint activities offer us an opportunity to emphasise, time and again, our strong commitment to fundamental values which the Council of Europe is duty-bound to uphold, and which are not necessarily a priority for some CIS States.
100 The topic of enhancing relations with the OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly as well as possibly with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which both have co-operation agreements with our Assembly, deserves further reflection and perhaps a separate report by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.
101 In general, it could be timely for the Assembly to evaluate its co-operation agreements with various international parliamentary assemblies or organisations with a view to possibly updating them and enhancing their effectiveness.

7 Conclusions

102 Set up 70 years ago to achieve greater unity among its member States, on the basis of common values and principles, the Council of Europe is today in a deep political and financial crisis, confronted with many challenges which seriously threaten the effectiveness of its statutory organs and of its mechanisms and instruments, and thus ultimately the statutory aims of the Organisation.
103 The Parliamentary Assembly, as one of the two statutory organs of the Organisation, has itself played an essential role in developing European unity within diversity. The report and draft resolution, on the basis also of the findings of the Ad hoc Committee of its Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly, recall and reaffirm the important deliberative role of the Assembly as well as its role as Europe’s guardian of human rights and democracy, political engine of the Organisation and pan-European forum for interparliamentary dialogue. However, the Assembly has not yet been able to effectively assist in overcoming the crisis currently threatening the Organisation.
104 Thus, the present report and draft resolution and recommendation propose measures to face the current challenges, promote security in Europe, reinvigorate trust in the Council of Europe and among its member States, and preserve the future of the Organisation.
105 During these challenging times for the Organisation, the report proposes that the Assembly streamlines, restructures and modernises its work and focusses its activities on issues within the aim and scope of the Organisation which are politically relevant and likely to have an impact on the work of the Organisation and/or in the member States for the benefit of European citizens. Strengthening and further developing the organisation’s unique convention system is considered to be the main priority for the Assembly. Concrete measures are proposed in the draft resolution.
106 Enhanced impact and visibility of the work of the Assembly is only possible if the decisions it takes are followed up, in particular by or through national parliaments. In this respect, the report and draft resolution propose concrete measures to improve the follow-up to Assembly resolutions.
107 Noting that the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau underlined the need to step up political dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, the report and the draft resolution and recommendation welcome the fact that contacts and dialogue with the Committee of Ministers have recently significantly intensified at different levels and in different formats and propose measures to further develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs in order to strengthen the Organisation’s ability to react more effectively in situations where a member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values upheld by the Council of Europe.
108 As regards the need to step up the political dialogue between the Assembly and the European Union, the report and draft resolution underline that promotion of the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights should remain at the forefront of this dialogue as it will lead to a common legal space for human rights protection across the continent in the interest of all Europeans. They further draw attention to new challenges in the relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe in the area of the rule of law and recall new or older proposals for closer co-operation with the European Parliament.
109 Last but not least, the report and draft resolution provide a brief overview of co-operation with other international and/or regional organisations, in particular the United Nations and the OECD, and propose an evaluation of the Assembly’s co-operation agreements with various international parliamentary assemblies or organisations with a view to possibly updating them and enhancing their effectiveness.
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