Thursday 29 April 2010

PACE Rapporteur on Interlaken

The rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mrs Marie-Louise Bemelmans Videc, has drafted a report which is the basis of the Assembly's reaction to the Interlaken Conference. The Assembly's resolution (no. 1726) was adopted today. The report is entitled 'Effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights: the Interlaken process'. Although she applauds that the conference has been held, she is also critical of its format:

Not being a habitual participant in such ‘high level conferences’, I found it a pity that no opportunity was provided for a genuine discussion or exchange of views on subjects of importance; the texts prepared ahead of time were simply adopted by consensus. This left me with a flavour of missed opportunities ... as I had come to the Conference with the intention of listening to a real discussion.
Apart from that she calls for increased involvement of national parliaments to turn the primary responsibility for human rigths on the national level into a reality. This is of course a call aimed at her own colleagues, all of which also are members of national parliaments or senates. Indeed, one can say they could play a key role in persuading their fellow national parliamentarians at home to take a more active role. Another key aspect she points to is the financing of the Council of Europe's activities:

My second – more important – comment concerns member states’ need to give top priority to the Council of Europe’s budgetary predicament, in the light of the now entrenched real zero-growth rate. Here, do we parliamentarians not have an obligation to bring this matter to the attention of our respective countries’ political leaders? The present situation is simply untenable, not to say suicidal. I refer, in particular, to the Assembly’s Opinion 272 (2009) on Budgets of the Council of Europe for the financial year 2010,3 the Secretary General’s Interlaken contribution pinpointing (potential) difficulties in this respect, as well as Mrs Däubler-Gmelin’s observation: “considering that the Court is financed through the Council of Europe’s budget, state contributions are totally inadequate, not to say pathetic (several states’ contributions to the Council of Europe’s budget do not even cover – or only barely – the salary of a single judge on the Court!)”. Between 2003 and 2009 the Court’s budget grew from 35.4 million to 57 million euros. In 2003 the Court accounted for 19% of the Organisation’s ordinary budget, compared with 26.3% in 2009. If, as the Secretary General has indicated, money continues to be transferred from the Council of Europe’s Programmes of Activity budget to the Court, there will soon be no money left for programmes of activity. We must find other solutions. And yet, despite the urgency and imperative necessity for member states to deal with this matter, this subject is not even mentioned in the Interlaken Declaration.
Let's hope her incisive comments will be followed up in a serious way.