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Budgetary crisis at the Council of Europe: Rules Committee outlines impact on the work of the Assembly

The Rules Committee has today proposed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to remove Turkish from PACE’s list of working languages. According to the committee, “the draconian reduction” of the Assembly’s budget for 2018 and 2019 – which is a consequence, among other things, of the Turkish decision to return to its original status as an ordinary contributor to the Council of Europe budget – “calls for drastic measures”. The Assembly is expected to take a decision on this issue at its next meeting – at Standing Committee level – in Paris on 16 March.

According to the committee, the first of these measures is to end payment out of the Assembly’s budget for interpreting into Turkish in plenary and in committee meetings. The Turkish parliamentary delegation may however choose to return to the practice prior to 2016 and continue to benefit from interpreting in Turkish so long as the cost is borne by the Turkish Parliament.

Adopting a draft resolution based on a report by Petra de Sutter (Belgium, SOC), the committee recalled the clear position that the Assembly had taken in 2015, making the introduction of Turkish as a working language of the Assembly strictly dependent on the decision of the Committee of Ministers to approve Turkey’s request to become a major contributor to the Council of Europe budget, and to allocate the corresponding funds.

According to the parliamentarians, the budgetary difficulties of the Assembly have been amplified by the decision of the Committee of Ministers to maintain a strict policy of zero nominal growth for 2018 and 2019, and by the refusal of the Russian Federation to pay all or part of the first third of its contribution under the 2018 budget. With a total budget of just under 17.5 million euros, the Assembly must freeze 1.5 million euros in appropriations in 2018, corresponding to almost nine per cent of its budget.

In a draft recommendation also adopted today, the parliamentarians stressed that the Committee of Ministers must meet its obligations and defend the Council of Europe: member States “must be ready to pay the price for having an efficient Organisation that is unique in its areas of responsibility”. If one or more States fail to meet their obligations, the others must jointly ensure the funding of the Organisation’s basic expenses, they said.

The financial future of the Council of Europe “lies largely in the hands of the Committee of Ministers: this is a unique opportunity for member States to confirm their support for an irreplaceable Organisation,” the committee concluded.