Top officials and parliamentarians from the Council of Europe and the European Union have again discussed ways of strengthening co-operation between the two organisations, including greater dialogue between their two parliamentary arms, at a PACE hearing.
Participants at the hearing, the latest in a series organised by the Assembly’s Political Affairs Committee, focused on the importance of deepening the relationship at a time when Europe’s core values are being challenged, heard about EU plans for a Conference on the Future of Europe, and hailed the renewed negotiations on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Titus Corlăţean (Romania, SOC), who is preparing a report on this topic for PACE, recalled that the ultimate goal was “to further deepen the strategic partnership between the Council of Europe and the EU”, and urged “a more structured relationship” between PACE and the European Parliament, in particular in the framework of the 2021 EU Rule of Law report. He recalled proposals for joint debates between the two bodies, more meetings between relevant Chairs, and the possible creation of a Europe-wide network of parliamentary representatives involving PACE members, MEPs and national MPs. He again reiterated the importance of EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as other key Council of Europe conventions: “Our shared aim is to make sure that democracy, human rights and the rule of law lie at the heart of the European project.”
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, cited the contributions of the Venice Commission, GRECO, CEPEJ and other Council of Europe bodies as the EU sought to upgrade its monitoring of fundamental rights and the rule of law in its member states. The area of common interest between the two European bodies had “never been stronger”, he pointed out. He outlined his committee’s dialogue with EU member states on the rule of law and democracy, and suggested this was an area where parliamentarians from both bodies could work “hand in hand”. Finally, he expressed confidence that concerns expressed by the European Court of Justice about EU accession to the Convention could be overcome during the new round of negotiations.
Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography, said the partnership between the two organisations was “going from strength to strength”, since both were engaged in giving a voice to European citizens. They should work together more closely to ensure that people were empowered and engaged in driving policy forward. She outlined preparations for a forthcoming “Conference on the Future of Europe”, underlining that national parliaments and the Council of Europe would be invited to contribute to it. She briefed participants on the EU’s new strategy on the rights of children, shaped with input from children themselves, pointing to this as another area where co-operation could be deepened, including EU accession to the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Convention. “I value our common efforts to empower citizens, and I will work with anyone who wants to take that forward. Our common task is shaping the very future of Europe!”
The hearing will contribute to the drafting of Mr Corlăţean’s report, which is due to be debated by the plenary Assembly in due course.