Fwd: Debate in PACE on the Framework Convention

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From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>
Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2000 13:41:21 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: Fwd: Debate in PACE on the Framework Convention 

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Panayote Dimitras <panayote@greekhelsinki.gr>

Fwd: Debate in PACE on the Framework Convention  

>From the moderator: The following message is re-posted from the Balkan
Human Rights mailing list. I should agree with my friend Panayote
Dimitras, indeed, this is of interest to everybody involved in
minority related issues. I am sorry for not circulating this info
earlier - sometimes it is not easy to wear two hats, and to decide if
the content of the PACE debates (even ones I was personally involved
in) should be posted to the list... 
And in addition - good news. According to inofficial (so far)
information, two more states have recently ratified the Framework
Convention: Poland and Azerbaijan (the latter decision was taken on 16
June, according to information received from our Azerbaijani
colleagues Eldar Zeynalov and Nadir Kamaldinov). For more details,
let's wait for official release from the Council of Europe or the
states concerned. 

1. Parliamentary Question on Advisory Committee of the Framework
Convention on National Minorities (AC FCNM) 
2. Presentation by the President of AC FCNM to PACE Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights 


Council of Europe - Conseil de l'Europe 
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex 
Tel : +33 33 88 41 20 00 
Fax: +33 33 88 41 27 76 
E-mail: pace2coe-int 

AACRII 2000 
AS (2000) CR 11 
Provisional edition 

(Second part) 
Eleventh sitting 
Tuesday 4 January 2000 at 3 p.m. 


THE PRESIDENT.- We now come to the next question. 
"Question number 17: 

Mr Cilevics, 

Five years ago, the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities - the first ever legally binding
document in the field of minority rights - was opened for signature.
The convention envisaged the establishment of a monitoring body; the
Advisory Committee. The committee's work is indispensable, for it is
to establish a uniform interpretation of the rather vague provisions
of the convention and, correspondingly, clear European standards on
minority rights. However, it transpired that financial and human
resources allocated to the Advisory Committee are obviously
insufficient to allow it to properly carry out its duties to the
extent that the very significance of the Framework Convention might be

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, 

If the Committee of Ministers foresees providing the Advisory
Committee of the Framework Convention with the resources necessary for
proper fulfilment of its duties." 

Mr COWEN.- The framework convention is a key human rights convention
of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers agrees that the
proper functioning of its monitoring mechanism is of paramount
importance in ensuring its implementation. Adequate resources for the
Advisory Committee are therefore necessary. 

The Advisory Committee commenced its activities in 1998 with a minimum
level of human resources. Subsequently, these resources were slightly
increased and, at present, the committee is serviced by three
administrators. The Committee of Ministers is aware that the Advisory
Committee finds the current situation unsatisfactory. It is indeed
fair to say that the human resources of the Advisory Committee remain
modest when compared with its workload, which is constantly increasing
due to the remarkably rapid rate of ratifications of the Framework

For this reason, the Ministers' Deputies recently declared the
Advisory Committee's request for additional human resources - together
with those of other convention supervisory bodies - not only justified
but a matter of priority, and called for the release of additional
resources through redeployment of posts from non-priority sectors. The
Committee of Ministers will shortly be considering proposals of the
Secretary General for such redeployments, which we expect to be made
in the course of this year.

As regards other resources allocated for the Advisory Committee, I
understand that these have so far enabled the Advisory Committee to
organise the desired number of meetings, including meetings in the
territory of states parties. The Committee of Ministers will attempt
to ensure that this will continue to be the case in the future. 

THE PRESIDENT.- Do you wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr

Mr CILEVICS (Latvia).- We know that the committee has postponed the
submission of the first set of opinions because of the scarcity of
resources. When will that be submitted and considered by the Committee
of Ministers? 

Mr COWEN.- I have every sympathy with that request, but I have no
specific information. I can assure Mr Cilevics that the Committee of
Ministers should be considering this matter during debates on the 2001


It is an honour for me to address the Committee on Legal Affairs and
Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in
my capacity as the President of the Advisory Committee on the
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. As you
know, the main task of the Advisory Committee, which commenced its
work following the entry into force of the Framework Convention in
1998, is to examine state reports on the implementation of the
Framework Convention. On the basis of these reports and other
information, the Advisory Committee adopts an opinion on each State
Party. These opinions are transmitted to the Committee of Ministers,
which then adopts conclusions and possible recommendations. 

I should at the outset like to welcome the support of the
Parliamentary Assembly in general and this Committee in particular for
the Framework Convention, including your calls for a strong monitoring
mechanism. The fact that the Parliamentary Assembly has made speedy
ratification of the Framework Convention a condition of accession to
the Council of Europe has undoubtedly been instrumental in bringing
the number of the States Parties rapidly to 31. At the same time, the
Advisory Committee is well aware of the fact that the real challenge
lies not in the ratification but in the implementation of the
Framework Convention. In this connection, we have taken note of the
concerns expressed by members of the Parliamentary Assembly and others
that the monitoring mechanism may end up being too weak or too
politicised. I would like to stress that we at the Advisory Committee
are sincerely committed to making sure that we do our bit in ensuring
that the monitoring is as effective as possible, of course within the
limits of the rules that regulate our work. 

Please allow me to outline to you a few examples of the ways in which
the Advisory Committee has tried to address the expressed concerns
about the ultimate effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism. 

Emphasis on the independence, impartiality and expertise of the
Advisory Committee. I am pleased to report that the members see their
independence and impartiality as a key to the successful
implementation of the tasks of the Advisory Committee The members take
these requirements very seriously, as evidenced e.g. by the fact that
two Advisory Committee members recently resigned on their own
initiative following their appointment to posts within the executive
branch, arguing that their new positions would hurt their independence
and impartiality. It is of course equally important that the Committee
of Ministers has repeatedly highlighted the independence and
impartiality of candidates when electing members of the Advisory
Committee. In addition to independence and impartiality, the expertise
of the members of the Advisory Committee should help to prevent the
monitoring process from becoming too politicised. 

Frequent contacts with NGOs and other independent sources. The Rules
on the monitoring of the Framework Convention instruct the Advisory
Committee to inform the Committee of Ministers when it wants to seek
information from NGOs and other independent sources. Immediately after
commencing its work, the Advisory Committee felt that such contacts
with independent sources should be a regular feature of its work, and
that informing the Committee Ministers on every single occasion would
not be practical. Hence, the Advisory Committee made a blanket
notification to the Committee of Ministers, covering the entire
monitoring cycle. This was accepted by the Committee of Ministers,
and, as a result, written contacts with NGOs are now free and
frequent. Indeed, we have received a number of valuable contributions,
including in the form of so-called "parallel-reports", from various
NGOs. Some of these NGOs have established sophisticated Web pages
devoted to the Framework Convention monitoring and I can only welcome
the fact that a lively debate on the implementation of this convention
now extends to cyberspace. As concerns other sources information, it
is obvious that the reports of various committees of the Parliamentary
Assembly are also regularly consulted by the Advisory Committee. 

Commencing fact-finding visits to the State Parties. The Rules
regulating the monitoring mechanism are silent on the question of
country-visits by the Advisory Committee, but the Advisory Committee
has gradually built such a practice. Three country-visits have already
been conducted by delegations of the Advisory Committee (to Finland,
Hungary and Slovakia) and several additional visits are planned for
this year. The Advisory Committee finds these visits to be extremely
useful, but only if a significant portion of visiting-time is devoted
to contacts with NGOs, parliamentarians and others outside the

I have already noted that the remarkably rapid increase in the number
of State Parties is a welcome development, but I should also underline
that it produces a huge work-load for the monitoring mechanism. To
date, the Advisory Committee has received 17 reports for analysis and
opinion, the latest one being the report from the Russian Federation,
a country which alone represents a massive task for us. By January
2001, the Advisory Committee should have received 27 state reports
(for details see the attached chart, which also reveals the
regrettable fact that a number of States have failed to meet the
convention-based reporting dead-line). This pressure on the monitoring
mechanism has heavy consequences not only for the members but also for
the staff. From the outset of its activities, the Advisory Committee
has had inadequate human resources, and the current Secretariat of the
Framework Convention, which consists of only 3 administrators, is
clearly inadequate and needs to be augmented as a matter of urgency.
The recent events in Kosovo and elsewhere in Europe demonstrate all
too clearly the huge costs that result from ignoring minority
protection. If we do not provide consistent, vigorous monitoring, a
human rights problem may develop into a full-blown crisis, and by then
it is already too late for the monitoring mechanism of the Framework
Convention to intervene effectively. I would therefore think that a
decision to address our fairly modest resource needs should be an easy
one to take. 

Given the above-mentioned imbalance between the work-load and
resources, the Advisory Committee is currently not in a position to
meet the most optimistic expectations as concerns the timing of the
submission of the first opinions to the Committee of Ministers. But we
hope that by fall of this year a number of opinions have reached the
Committee of Ministers. I trust that the Committee of Ministers will
then rely on these opinions, when it subsequently draws up its
conclusions and recommendations. Indeed, I have confidence that the
stage when the country-specific monitoring reaches the Committee of
Ministers will also be a constructive one. This confidence is based on
the fact that the Advisory Committee and the Committee of Ministers
have so far carried out their respective functions under the Framework
Convention in a true spirit of co-operation and trust, and I count on
the continuation of this constructive atmosphere. 

But of course the process does not end with the adoption of the
decisions of the Committee of Ministers. On the contrary, what follows
then is the ultimate litmus-test of the effectiveness of the
monitoring mechanism, i.e. these conclusions and recommendations will
need to move from paper to practice in the countries concerned. It
goes without saying that the support of the Parliamentary Assembly
would be important in securing such an outcome. 

I have concentrated on the monitoring of the implementation of the
Framework Convention in the strict sense of the term, but I would like
to conclude my opening remarks by stressing that the Framework
Convention can be a useful reference document also in various other
fora where solutions to related themes are being sought, ranging from
initatives under the Stability Pact to the on-going process leading to
the World Conference on Racism. I believe that if these and other
similar initatives are designed so that they truly complement each
other, we will witness progress in our common efforts to secure
comprehensive protection of human rights, including protection of
minorities, and thereby also contribute to peace and stability in

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