The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was established at a Conference of Foreign Ministers in Copenhagen in March 1992. The Copenhagen Declaration of 5 March 1992 lays down the objectives of the Council to strengthen existing cooperation among the states of the Baltic Sea area and serve as forum for intensified cooperation on such key issues as
The members of the CBSS are: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the European Commission.
The Council meets annually on the level of Ministers for Foreign Affairs in one of the capitals of the member states. Between the sessions of the Ministers the main working body is the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO). In addition, there are three permanent working groups, namely on assistance to democratic institutions, on nuclear and radiation safety and on economic cooperation.
THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER
During the Ill Ministerial Session in Tallinn, 24-25 May 1994, the member states decided to establish a post as CBSS Commissioner on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, including the Rights of Persons belonging to Minorities.
The aim of the CBSS Commissioner is to promote and consolidate a democratic
development and the protection of human rights, including the rights of
persons belonging to minorities in the member states, and to create favourable
conditions for applying generally accepted human rights standards.
The mandate of the Commissioner is based on universal and European human rights standards, among others the UN Charter, Council of Europe standards, the Helsinki Final Act and relevant documents of the OSCE and CBSS.
The mandate specifically foresees cooperation with national institutions for the protection of human rights, including national Ombudsmen, Chancellors of Law and non-governmental institutions and organisations.
The Commissioner's functions include:
The Commissioner exercises his functions independently of any national or sectional interests and may be considered as a regional "ombudsman" within the scope of his mandate.
The Commissioner maintains close contact with other international institutions including the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Council of Europe.
Council of the Baltic Sea States
III Ministerial Session
Tallinn, 24-25 May 1994
With the aim to promote and consolidate a democratic development and the protection of human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, in the member-states and in order to create favourable conditions for applying the Council of Europe standards in the field of human rights, the members decide to establish a CBSS Commissioner on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Including the Rights of Persons Belonging to Minorities.
The Commissioner will be an instrument for promoting and consolidating a democratic development and the protection of human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, in the member-states. The Commissioner will act independently and be accountable to the Council.
The Commissioner will be guided by the aims, principles and provisions
of the UN Charter, the Council of Europe standards as well as other relevant
international human rights standards, the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris
Charter for a New Europe, the Helsinki Document of 1992, the Copenhagen
Document and other relevant documents of the OSCE and CBSS.
The Commissioner will study and report on the situation of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, in member-states and may make recommendations to the Council on how to overcome obstacles and contribute to the further development of democratic institutions.
The Commissioner will provide the Council with his/her expert opinion on human rights in the member-states. The Commissioner may receive communications from individuals, groups and organizations regarding human rights concerns. These communications will be reviewed by the Commissioner confidentially. On communications regarding human rights concerns the Commissioner may present a report to the Council. The Commissioner's report to the Council will remain confidential. The Council may however decide to publish the full report or parts of it. If the communications indicate the need for technical assistance in the field of human rights, for example regarding strengthening of the national institutions, the Commissioner may propose concrete measures to assist CBSS member-states to such effect.
The Commissioner will seek to establish cooperation with national institutions for protection of human rights, in particular with the national Ombudsmen, Chancellors of Law, as well as such non-governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations as human rights centres and institutes.
The Commissioner will also closely cooperate with the Council of Europe, the OSCE ODIHR, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the UN Centre on Human Rights as well as other relevant international institutions. The Commissioner will draw upon the facilities of those institutions, as appropriate, in particular to enhance information exchange. The Commissioner will seek to establish cooperation with international non-governmental organizations.
The Commissioner will exercise his/her mandate in a manner to avoid duplication with other activities in this field.
Appointment and Support
The Commissioner will be an eminent international personality from whom impartial performance of the function may be expected.
The Commissioner will be appointed by the Council of the Baltic Sea States upon the recommendation of the CSO for a period of three years, after which period the Council shall review the future need and functions of a Commissioner.
Financing of the Commissioners activities will be carried out from the special Commissioners Fund which the member-states will contribute to in accordance with the established scale of distribution.
Sources of Information
The Commissioner has the right to collect the information he/she requires.
Member-states of the CBSS undertake not to persecute individuals and/or organizations for providing information to the Commissioner, and also to provide the Commissioner upon request with the information, that he/she requires.
Member-states of the CBSS will not prevent persons and organizations on their territory from communicating with the Commissioner.
Conditions for travel by the Commissioner
The Commissioner has the right to undertake working visits to the CBSS member- states.
Prior to an intended visit, the Commissioner will inform the state concerned about the purpose of the visit. Within two weeks, the state concerned will consult the Commissioner on the objectives of the visit which may comprise the promotion of dialogue, confidence and cooperation. After entry, the state concerned allows the Commissioner to travel and communicate freely.
During such a visit the Commissioner is entitled to receive confidentially from every individual, group or organization directly concerned information on matters regarding his/her mandate.
After termination of the involvement of the Commissioner in a particular issue, the Commissioner will report to the Council on the findings, results and conclusions.
The Commissioner will prior to the annual Ministerial Session of the CBSS present the Council with a report on his/her activities during the previous year.
The Commissioner will conclude his/her mandate by presenting the Council a final report in the field of democratic institutions and human rights in the region.
In May 1994 the CBSS appointed Dr. Ole Espersen (Denmark) as the first Commissioner for a three-year term of office. Ole Espersen commenced his duties in October 1994.
Ole Espersen is Doctor of Law and Professor of Constitutional Law at Copenhagen University. He is a former member of Parliament (1973-1994) and Minister of Justice (1981-1982). From 1965-1970 Dr. Espersen was a member of the Council of Europe Expert Committee on Human Rights and from 1976-1979 a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. From 1991-1994 he was chairman of the Danish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The secretariat of the Commissioner is located in Copenhagen. It is staffed with two resident assistants, office staff and seconded assistants from member states. In addition, short-term scholarships are made available from a private endowment.
Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9.00 - 16.00
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