Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Two thirds of the French voters are satisfied with their new head of state, reports Le Figaro on 26 May 2007.
More important, however, than honeymoon polls and an energetic image is if Mr Sarkozy is going to do the right things for France, Europe and the world.
For an eminent background story, turn to “In Sarkoland”, by William Pfaff in the New York Review of Books. Here, just a snippet on economic reform:
“He is not really an economic liberal in the European sense either, pro-business and a free-trade advocate – as in the liberal parties across Europe. He advocates some deregulation of the French labor market, cuts in bureaucracy, and reduction of debt, but he also believes in “economic patriotism” and government interventions in industries important to the French economy.”
Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform wrote a piece called “Nicolas Sarkozy: Turkophobe and protectionist?” where he reasoned:
“The other worry about Sarkozy is the apparent contradiction in his thinking. He supports Thatcherite policies at home – he promises to slim the state, cut taxes and liberalise the labour markets – but attacks the Commission’s trade and competition policies, as well as the monetary policy of the European Central Bank. In his first speech as president-elect, he asked France’s partners “to hear the voice of the peoples who want to be protected”. In his recent book, I was struck by his vehement opposition to foreign ownership of French companies.”
“If Sarkozy does try to combine economic liberalism at home with protectionism at EU level, he will be heading for a big clash with his EU partners – most of whom support the EU’s broadly liberal trade and competition policies.”
Then we have the delicate question of world trade negotiations (WTO) and their linkage to the common agricultural policy (CAP) of the European Union. Charles Grant assumed that “Sarkozy is unlikely to share Chirac’s visceral hostility to reform of EU farm policy”, but during his visit in Brussels Sarkozy said that “he would refuse to sell off the interests of French agriculture in WTO negotiations”. He would not risk Europe’s agricultural independence in exchange for a better opening-up of services. Mr Sarkozy expected Europe to take a much tougher stance in global trade talks (as reported by EurActiv, Le Monde, the Financial Times).
There have been mixed signals on agricultural reform. Philippe Ricard wrote in Le Monde that the government doesn’t look “hermetically closed” to CAP reform, but without haste. In the same newspaper Eric Le Boucher predicted that the ones who expected a liberal opening are going to be disappointed.
Other controversial statements by president Sarkozy include “a protective Europe”, plans to increase French government ownership in the ailing aerospace giant EADS, a veritable economic and fiscal shock for France (taking leave of budgetary restraint within the Eurogroup), while at the same time announcing coming initiatives on the Eurozone’s economic governance, which might include measures to harmonise indirect and company taxation.
Pessimistic assessments speak of coming clashes on economic policy with Mrs Merkel, Mr Brown and Mr Barroso.
If president Sarkozy breaks with the Lisbon agenda, the stability pact, vital internal market rules and main tenets of EC competition policy he is going to have a hard time forging alliances among the EU leaders. His stance on these things and world trade won’t endear him to Europe’s and France’s emerging trading partners.
Monday, 28 May 2007
Their policy brief “Debating the Constitution: between realism and revival” examines the background, the state of play and the prospects for treaty reform for the European Union.
In their view, the main challenge still lies in rapidly forging a deal that is sufficiently incisive to ensure that the enlarged EU functions efficiently, but is also capable of being accepted and ratified by all 27 Member States. EU governments must not forget to canvass public opinion and build support for the emerging deal during the negotiations.
Their policy brief “Why treaty change matters for business and for Britain” looks at the treaty reform the European Council is going to discuss in June.
Brady and Grant state that business should feel broadly satisfied with the way the EU is developing. However, treaty change is not an unnecessary distraction. Business in general, and the British in particular, have a strong interest in Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, striking a deal on a new treaty at the Brussels summit on June 22nd 2007.
British businesses have a clear interest in efficient EU institutions and procedures.
Outside direct business interests, the authors point out two areas where European Union institutions and procedures work poorly: foreign policy, and justice and home affairs.
Among the EU’s interior ministries, there is a growing realisation that international co-operation is essential in the fight against organised crime, illegal immigration and terrorism, but decision-making is hampered by unanimity.
A second area is the Common Foreign and Security Policy, where the rotating presidency and the split between the High Representative and the Commission pose serious problems.
If there is no treaty change, the authors see serious strategic damage for the EU, in three ways:
· For many countries treaty change and enlargement go hand in hand, because further enlargement without reform would weaken EU institutions, so they might block the enlargement process.
· A British veto on treaty change would lead to a loss of British influence. The creation of vanguard groups would gain momentum, and Britain would be marginalised.
· The Union would become less able to deal with its external challenges, and it would become more introspective.
The Union needs to strike a compromise on treaty change, and then move on to deal with the issues that matter, is the message of Brady and Grant.
Sunday, 27 May 2007
This paper deals with most of the questions on the table of European Union leaders ahead of the June European Council.
Open Europe discusses what is likely to be in the new treaty:
· An EU President
· An EU Foreign Minister, and more powers for the EU over foreign policy
· Reducing British ability to block legislation
· More majority voting?
Open Europe does not find a kind word to say about any of the reforms being discussed. It then moves on to demand a referendum.
For a European citizen it is fascinating to read arguments that totally ignore the interests of Europeans, the European Union and the good the EU could achieve in the world, given the tools.
In the end, it is difficult to avoid the impression that everything British is superior, anything European is inferior and every proposal from Brussels is a curse. Only thus can the real underpinning of the arguments be understood.
But is it really an ethical position to be member of a union only to maximise one’s chances to fly solo, to obstruct progress and to sabotage decision-making? Or is the purpose of Open Europe to beat a retreat behind the moat and to restart an era of “splendid isolation”?
Saturday, 26 May 2007
“So we should reject ideological approaches to Europe, in favour of a pragmatic and hard-headed approach that reflects the reality of Britain, Europe and the world in the 21st century: a successful Britain strengthened by its membership of the EU, and an outward-looking globally-focussed EU strengthened by the UK’s active engagement.”
In “Britain and Europe: A City minister’s perspective” (published by the Centre for European Reform) Ed Balls presents his reasoning for constructive engagement for the United Kingdom within the European Union.
His essay deals with:
The single market and beyond
Energy, climate change and the single market
Reforming the EU budget
Europe needs to take steps to ensure more outward-looking financial and other markets, ensuring Europe’s ability to compete in global markets.
The Lisbon Agenda should lead to a commitment to structural reforms matched with social policies to equip people for change: flexibility combined with fairness.
Full opening of European energy markets would lead to total savings running to tens of billions of euros.
The 2007 EU budget is outdated: 40 per cent of the total expenditure is still allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy, while more than 60 per cent of structural and cohesion fund expenditure is still transferred to rich member states.
For a European citizen interested in jobs, growth and prosperity, the economic reform agenda of Ed Balls sounds a lot more promising than a lot of what the “dynamic reformer”, the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said in the first days of his tenure.
But, European integration is more than enlargement and an ever wider internal market. The European Union needs effective institutions to enhance external and internal security, transparency, union level democracy for union level decisions, as well as legal protection for companies and individuals.
Hopefully the reform programme of Messrs Balls and Brown extends to overdue institutional reform of the European Union.
From a European citizen’s perspective each government defining its own “national interests” looks less convincing than the ones which would learn to ask: What is good for Europeans?
Friday, 25 May 2007
How little or how much is the European Union going to get? How much should it get?
Institutional changes already agreed upon are widely seen as necessary to give a Union with 27 member states some coherence in the world:
Less vetoes and more qualified majority voting.
A foreign minister for the Union.
A stable presidency for the Council.
A Union with legal personality within one pillar.
The citizens of the Union should at least preserve the improvements introduced by the Constitutional Treaty, including scrutiny by the European Parliament.
Even if it may be tempting to strive for a slimmer version than the Constitutional Treaty, the world has moved on since the revision process started in Nice in 2001. Should the Union be given the tools to tackle increasingly serious cross-border problems?
How about the environment and climate change, energy, immigration and terrorism?
Should countries willing and able to move ahead give themselves the means to advance, and let the recalcitrant few opt in at a later stage if they begin to see the advantages of more effective common action?
Thursday, 24 May 2007
There are national languages and national newspapers, but for anyone interested in Europe there is at least reporting on common themes, as a quick and selective online look on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Brussels shows.
Sarkozy – Wunderheiler für die gelähmte EU? Neue Zürcher Zeitung 24 May 2007
Henri Bresson et Philippe Ridet: Bruxelles attend les choix de M. Sarkozy sur la Turquie. Le Monde 24 May 2007
Alain Bockel et Ariane Bonzon: Turquie, le retour des vieux démons. Le Monde 24 May 2007
A Bruxelles, le gouvernement français laisse planer le doute sur ses intentions à l’égard de la Turquie. Le Monde 21 May 2007
Hannelore Crolly: Sarkozy will EU-Verfassung retten. Die Welt 24 May 2007
Katrin Bennhold: Sarkozy trip to Brussels gives a push to EU goals. International Herald Tribune 23 May 2007
Jean Quatremer: A Bruxelles, Sarkozy séduit avec son projet de mini-traité. Libération 24 May 2007
Charles Jaigu: Sarkozy donne la priorité au nouveau traité européen. Le Figaro 24 May 2007
Alexandrine Bouilhet: l’idée d’un texte institutionnel “simplifié” fait son chemin en Europe. Le Figaro 24 May 2007
M. Barroso estime qu’un “consensus” se forme autour du traité simplifié du president français. Le Monde 23 May 2007
Philippe Ricard: Les milieux européens attendant des assurances. Le Monde 23 May 2007
Sarkozy rejects Turkish EU place. BBC News 23 May 2007
Honor Mahony: Sarkozy to push for Turkey debate. EU Observer 24 May 2007
The list could be continued in different languages, but the main point is that it is possible to follow and to participate in the debate on Europe. All it takes is a bit of interest.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Tuesday’s speaker took the high road.
The Prime Minister of Italy, Romano Prodi, spoke for the 18 countries which have approved the Constitution.
He stressed that it is to achieve results that the EU needs stronger and more effective common institutions. Italy could not accept radical changes to the Constitutional Treaty of 2004. The only true realism is to build a Europe able to keep up with challenges.
Key points to be preserved were the strengthening of foreign policy and common security by means of a European Foreign Minister, a stable Presidency of the Council, the extension of qualified majority voting, the abolition of the three-pillar structure, and the Union’s legal personality.
If the resulting agreement is unconvincing, a vanguard of countries could advance towards a more integrated union, always keeping the door open to those countries willing to join later.
Wednesday’s guest speaker took the low road.
Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, spoke for one of the two countries where a national referendum in 2005 caused a constitutional crisis for the European Union. He noted that enlargement and deepening had advanced rapidly and that the citizens of the Netherlands needed time to adjust.
Calling the new treaty a constitution may have given voters the feeling of loss of say. EU intervention and regulation may have contributed to the negative reception of the treaty.
Mr Balkenende said that the last two years had seen improvements in how the European Union handled affairs, and he thought that it would be possible to find a solution for Europe, based on common ground and a constructive attitude.
The Prime Minister laid his foundations for an agreement: Treaty reform as one more step, not a Constitution. The democratic functioning of the EU, including subsidiarity and a voice for national parliaments. A more effective Union, able to tackle climate change, immigration and terrorism. Clear criteria for further enlargement.
Time will tell if the high road and the low road will join on common ground.
According to a press release from the EP, the committee said that it would reject any outcome which, if compared to the Constitutional Treaty, would lead to a diminution of the protection of the rights of citizens or to less democracy, transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the Union.
The committee called for the preservation of the basic principles of Part I of the Constitutional Treaty in the future agreement on the institutional reforms.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights, whose inclusion in the new treaty is still being debated by governments, is one of the reforms the committee deems indispensable.
In addition, the report lists the recognition of the Union’s values, the clarification of respective competencies at national and EU level, the respect of subsidiarity and an increased involvement of citizens in the EU’s political life among the crucial achievements of the draft Constitution to be upheld.
The plenary is going to debate and vote on the report on 5 and 6 June 2007.
The citizens of the Union have at least some friends in high places, namely in the European Parliament, but it is hard to know how much of a consolation that is going to be, when the governments of the member states start wrangling in earnest behind closed doors, each according to its perceived national interest.
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
On 5 November 2004 the European Council approved the “Hague Programme : strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union”. This multi-annual programme (2005 – 2010) – responding to a central concern of the peoples of the States brought together in the Union – is intended to build on past achievements and to meet the new challenges:
"The objective of the Hague programme is to improve the common capability of the Union and its Member States to guarantee fundamental rights, minimum procedural safeguards and access to justice, to provide protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention on Refugees and other international treaties to persons in need, to regulate migration flows and to control the external borders of the Union, to fight organised cross-border crime and repress the threat of terrorism, to realise the potential of Europol and Eurojust, to carry further the mutual recognition of judicial decisions and certificates both in civil and in criminal matters, and to eliminate legal and judicial obstacles in litigation in civil and family matters with cross-border implications. This is an objective that has to be achieved in the interests of our citizens by the development of a Common Asylum System and by improving access to the courts, practical police and judicial cooperation, the approximation of laws and the development of common policies. "
An overview of the 33 page Hague Programme (16054/04), which presents the guidelines for the improvements to be made, gives a picture of the problems to be tackled:
II. GENERAL ORIENTATIONS
1. General principles
2. Protection of fundamental rights
3. Implementation and evaluation
III. SPECIFIC ORIENTATIONS
1. STRENGTHENING FREEDOM
1.1. Citizenship of the Union
1.2. Asylum, migration and border policy
1.3. A Common European Asylum System
1.4. Legal migration and the fight against illegal employment
1.5. Integration of third-country nationals
1.6. The external dimension of asylum and migration
1.6.1. Partnership with third countries
1.6.2. Partnership with countries and regions of origin
1.6.3. Partnership with countries and regions of transit
1.6.4. Return and re-admission policy
1.7 Management of migration flows
1.7.1. Border checks and the fight against illegal immigration
1.7.2. Biometrics and information systems
1.7.3. Visa policy
2. STRENGTHENING SECURITY
2.1. Improving the exchange of information
2.3. Police cooperation
2.4. Management of crises within the European Union with cross-border effects
2.5. Operational cooperation
2.6. Crime prevention
2.7. Organised crime and corruption
2.8. European strategy on drugs
3. STRENGTHENING JUSTICE
3.1. European Court of Justice
3.2. Confidence-building and mutual trust
3.3. Judicial cooperation in criminal matters
3.3.1. Mutual recognition
3.3.2. Approximation of law
3.4. Judicial cooperation in civil matters
3.4.1. Facilitating civil law procedure across borders
3.4.2. Mutual recognition of decisions
3.4.3. Enhancing cooperation
3.4.4. Ensuring coherence and upgrading the quality of EU legislation
3.4.5. International legal order
4. EXTERNAL RELATIONS
Detailed measures under the different headings are set out in the “Council and Commission Action Plan implementing the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union”, adopted by the Council on 2 June 2005 (9778/2/05).
The objective of the Action Plan is to translate the Hague Programme into specific measures. The Council and the Commission reiterated the importance which they attach to the correct and timely transposition of legislative acts adopted, to the effective implementation of measures agreed, and to their evaluation in practice.
The Action Plan is a detailed “to do” list with deadlines, specifying the concrete proposals to be made.
The Commission presents annual reports on the implementation of the Action Plan. The Commission’s first assessment of progress in implementing the Hague Programme was presented in 2006. The assessment package included four communications: an implementation report, an evaluation of policies, a communication on the way forward and a communication on providing more effective judicial protection.
Monday, 21 May 2007
Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union mentions the objectives of the Union, among which “to maintain and develop the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, in which the free movement of persons is assured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime”.
Title IV (Articles 61 – 69) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community confers specified powers on the EC in the following fields, in addition to the free movement of persons:
abolition of internal border controls
external border controls
rules on visas
residence and travel of third country nationals within the Union
measures to prevent and combat crime
judicial cooperation in civil matters
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom do not participate fully.
Title VI (Articles 29 – 42) of the Treaty on European Union contains the provisions on the mainly inter-governmental fields of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (third pillar).
The Union’s objective is to develop common action among the member states in the fields of police and judicial cooperation in the fields of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and by preventing and combating crime, or otherwise.
The crimes specially mentioned in Article 29 are:
trafficking in persons
offences against children
illicit drug trafficking
illicit arms trafficking
Europeans in general support more effective EU measures to prevent and combat serious crime.
Saturday, 19 May 2007
Dr. Solana Madariaga, is Secretary-General of the Council and High Representative for the common foreign and security policy of the European Union.
At the reception ceremony Dr. Solana stressed the importance of the European project: unity in freedom, peace through openness and integration and a community of law.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
We seem to be heading towards a more minimalist text than the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, already agreed between all the 27 member states.
Most reports on the ongoing discussions the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union is going to be chucked out of the new treaty.
But why on earth do the rights of individual Europeans have to be among the first victims, as now looks highly probable?
The United Kingdom, once again, as well as some other governments even expend prestige and energy in order to restrict the freedoms and rights of their own and other European citizens. How can this be sold to reflecting parts of the public?
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
Since the European Parliament represents us Europeans, it is only natural that it shows concern for our fundamental rights.
One example of this primary task is the European Parliament resolution of 15 March 2007 on compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Commission’s legislative proposals. The resolution was based on a report by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (rapporteur: Johannes Voggenhuber; Green, Austria).
The EP notes that a genuine “fundamental rights culture” should include the Council and decisions in the field of intergovernmental cooperation.
The EP wants to establish the Charter of Fundamental Rights as legally binding.
The EP calls on the Commission to create a specific category entitled ‘Effects on fundamental rights’ in its impact assessments and it calls on the Commission to make more extensive use of independent external human rights bodies.
The EP contemplates the possibility to amend its own procedures to make its own monitoring more effective.
The Parliament calls on the Council to strengthen the systematic monitoring of fundamental rights also in areas covered by intergovernmental cooperation, to publish the results and likewise to secure the support of the Fundamental Rights Agency.
The European Parliament requests Member State parliaments, in particular in the fields of police and judicial cooperation and the common foreign and security policy, to verify the compatibility of all decisions and measures with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The European Parliament’s and the individual citizen’s viewpoint are more or less the same: more transparency, better protection of individuals’ rights and, especially, shedding light on the murkier corners of intergovernmental cooperation, which remain outside the scope of parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review.
There is, clearly, rising awareness within the EU institutions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Commission of the European Communities monitors compliance of its legislative proposals with fundamental rights according to the principles the Commission adopted in its 27 April 2005 Communication: Compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights in Commission legislative proposals – Methodology for systematic and rigorous monitoring, COM(2005) 172 final.
The Commission has integrated fundamental rights scrutiny into the pre-existing instrument of impact assessment, which looks at economic, social and environmental impacts of proposals.
Proposals with a special link with fundamental rights have a special recital, which formally state that they respect fundamental rights.
Further reasons may be given in an explanatory memorandum which accompanies the proposal.
Generally, the Commission guidelines have been welcomed, but many human rights activists have pointed out that fundamental rights ought to be made a fourth category (heading) in impact assessments, since economic, social or environmental aspects do not necessarily catch these aspects.
The interested reader can find an intelligent discussion in the House of Lords European Union Committee’s report: Human Rights Proofing EU Legislation (16th Report of Session 2005-06).
Monday, 14 May 2007
The European Community and its Member States must respect fundamental rights when implementing Community law.
This is one of the reasons mentioned in Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The Agency (acronym FRA) became operational on 1 March 2007, but expected to become fully operational next year.
The objective of the Agency is to provide the Community and its Member States with independent assistance and expertise relating to fundamental rights when implementing Community law.
Important references for the Agency’s work are Article 6(2) of the EU Treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Intergovernmental cooperation within the areas of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters has proved to by a touchy issue. EU institutions (read ‘the Council’) and Member States may benefit, on a voluntary basis, from the Agency’s expertise.
In order to avoid duplication and to ensure complementarity and added value, the Agency shall coordinate its activities with those of the Council of Europe.
The Agency, which is based in Vienna, shall cooperate with non-governmental organisations and with institutions of civil society. An exchange and information mechanism called the Fundamental Rights Platform is going to be set up.
One of the Agency’s tasks is to raise public awareness. The Agency shall be open to the participation of candidate countries as observers.
One of the recommendations of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, in his report on the relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, was to raise the visibility of the Council of Europe by electing a new type of Secretaries General in the future:
“The Council of Europe should move, in electing its Secretaries General, towards choosing leading political figures, whose past work for democratic security has already given them a high and positive profile among their peers and the people of Europe. Ideally, and following the EU’s example, it should envisage electing someone who has already served as a head of state or government.”
The 11 May 2007 Communiqué of the Committee of Ministers responded positively to this proposal in general terms: it was decided to revise the procedure concerning the appointment of the Secretary General in order to enhance the visibility of the work conducted by the Council of Europe and its relations with the European Union.
The high-level group entrusted with examining the follow-up of the Juncker report noted that the next election takes place in 2009 and it proposed that the Committee of Ministers agrees, concerning the procedure for election of the Secretary General, that it will henceforth present to the Parliamentary Assembly candidates who enjoy a high level of recognition, are well-known among their peers and the people of Europe, and have previously served as Heads of State or Government, or held senior ministerial office or similar status relevant to the post, and asks the governments of the member states to present candidates who match this profile.
The pan-European Council of Europe, with 47 member states and 800 million Europeans as beneficiaries, is an inter-governmental organisation, which makes its progress cumbersome even in its areas of excellence: human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
The European Union (including the European Community) has taken peaceful integration to new levels, including attributed legislative and executive powers in a number of fields.
A new type of Secretary General may enhance the visibility of the important work done by the Council of Europe, instil it with some new dynamism and place the relations with the EU on a more equal footing.
The search is on.
Sunday, 13 May 2007
The Memorandum of Understanding is a new framework for cooperation between the organisations, which share the same values: pluralist democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
The Memorandum contains a number of the recommendations made by Jean-Claude Juncker in his report on the relations between the organisations.
The Council of Europe and the European Union will develop their relationship in all areas of common interest: human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and good governance, democratic stability, intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity, education, education, youth and promotion of human contacts as well as social cohesion.
The Council of Europe will remain the benchmark for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe.
The Council of Europe norms will be cited as a reference in European Union documents in the fields of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Coherence with the relevant conventions of the Council of Europe will be ensured. This does not prevent Community and European Union law from providing more extensive protection.
The organisations are in agreement that early accession of the European Union to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms would contribute greatly to coherence in the field of human rights in Europe.
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights is deemed to strengthen the respect for fundamental rights within European Union and European Community law. A bilateral cooperation agreement will be agreed.
The Council of Europe and the European Union will try to establish common standards for a Europe without dividing lines. They will strive to respond to challenges like terrorism, organised crime, corruption and money laundering.
The case-load of the European Court of Human Rights exploded years ago, but putting remedies in place has proven to be a slow process.
The 11 May 2007 Communiqué of the Committee of Ministers adds very little towards rescuing the Court.
The Ministers, again, expressed their hope that Protocol No. 14 to the Convention (streamlining the proceedings) would come into force in the nearest future.
This is not going to happen without ratification from every member state, and Russia has not ratified the Protocol, as yet.
In addition, the Ministers were able to point out the work of the Group of Wise Persons, a recent high-level colloquy and to voice a general message of support for the long-term effectiveness of the unique protection system of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Saturday, 12 May 2007
Council of Europe standards concerning democracy, human rights and the rule of law form part of the political criteria towards EU membership.
Thus, membership in the Council of Europe is one step towards Montenegro’s goal to become member of the European Union.
Serbia, in turn, took over the presidency of the Council of Europe for six months among wide-spread concern over the country’s failure to hand over suspected war criminals to War crimes tribunal in the Hague.
Friday, 11 May 2007
to strengthen the protection of the rights and interests of the nationals of its Member States through the introduction of a citizenship of the Union;
Part two of the EU Treaty is called Citizenship of the Union, and it contains Articles 17 to 22.
Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall complement and not replace national citizenship (Article 17).
Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaty and by measures adopted to give it effect (Article 18).
Further provisions have been given in Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. The aim of the Directive is that Union citizenship should be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States when they exercise their right of free movement and residence.
Every citizen of the Union residing in another Member State has the right (on some conditions) to vote and to stand as candidate at municipal elections and in elections to the European Parliament, under the same conditions as nationals of that State (Article 19).
Every citizen of the Union is entitled to diplomatic and consular protection in a third country from any Member State, if his own country lacks representation there (Article 20).
Every citizen of the Union has the right to petition the European Parliament, apply to the Ombudsman and write to any of the EU institutions and bodies in any of the Treaty languages (Article 21).
One of the most important provisions of the Treaty Establishing the European Community is Article 12, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality:
Within the scope of application of this Treaty, and without prejudice to any special provisions contained therein, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.
The Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, may adopt rules designed to prohibit such discrimination.
This prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality is a fundamental principle of the European Community. Without it the exercise of the four fundamental freedoms would be impaired.
EC nationals have a right to expect to be treated in a non-discriminatory manner in other Member States.
On the other hand, we have to treat nationals of other EC countries fairly.
The principle is clear, but as in many other cases it takes a lot of effort to change attitudes and habits.
Thursday, 10 May 2007
The Charter encompasses freedoms as well as economic and social rights. Its 54 articles form the backbone of individuals’ rights within the European Union, and the Community institutions pay increasing attention to the compatibility of all new legislation with the provisions of the Charter.
The Court of Justice has affirmed that the Charter may be invoked before the Court.
A quick overview of the headings gives an impression of the scope of the Charter:
CHAPTER I DIGNITY
Article 1 Human dignity
Article 2 Right to life
Article 3 Right to the integrity of the person
Article 4 Prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Article 5 Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
CHAPTER II FREEDOMS
Article 6 Right to liberty and security
Article 7 Respect for private and family life
Article 8 Protection of personal data
Article 9 Right to marry and right to found a family
Article 10 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Article 11 Freedom of expression and information
Article 12 Freedom of assembly and of association
Article 13 Freedom of the arts and sciences
Article 14 Right to education
Article 15 Freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work
Article 16 Freedom to conduct a business
Article 17 Right to property
Article 18 Right to asylum
Article 19 Protection in the event of removal, expulsion or extradition
CHAPTER III EQUALITY
Article 20 Equality before the law
Article 21 Non-discrimination
Article 22 Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity
Article 23 Equality between men and women
Article 24 The rights of the child
Article 25 The rights of the elderly
Article 26 Integration of persons with disabilities
CHAPTER IV SOLIDARITY
Article 27 Workers’ rights to information and consultation within the undertaking
Article 28 Right of collective bargaining and action
Article 29 Right of access to placement services
Article 30 Protection in the event of unjustified dismissal
Article 31 Fair and just working conditions
Article 32 Prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work
Article 33 Family and professional life
Article 34 Social security and social assistance
Article 35 Health care
Article 36 Access to services of general economic interest
Article 37 Environmental protection
Article 38 Consumer protection
CHAPTER V CITIZENS’ RIGHTS
Article 39 Right to vote and to stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament
Article 40 Right to vote and to stand as a candidate at municipal elections
Article 41 Right to good administration
Article 42 Right of access to documents
Article 43 Ombudsman
Article 44 Right to petition
Article 45 Freedom of movement and of residence
Article 46 Diplomatic and consular protection
CHAPTER VI JUSTICE
Article 47 Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Article 48 Presumption of innocence and right of defence
Article 49 Principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties
Article 50 Right not to be tried or punished twice in criminal proceedings for the same criminal offence
CHAPTER VII GENERAL PROVISIONS
Article 51 Scope
Article 52 Scope of guaranteed rights
Article 53 Level of protection
Article 54 Prohibition of abuse of rights
The ones who rant against “Brussels” rarely point out that European integration is based on the rule of law, including protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Often the detractors’ point of view seems to be to banish one set of European Community “red tape” with 27 different national sets of discrimination based on nationality and 27 incompatible sets of bureaucratic obstacles to the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the treaties.
Is this progressive? Is it wise?
Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Today, on Europe Day, the Preamble reminds us of the basic values of the European Union, values which need to be upheld every single day of the year.
“The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values.
Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.
The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States and the organisation of their public authorities at national, regional and local levels; it seeks to promote balanced and sustainable development and ensures free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, and the freedom of establishment.
To this end, it is necessary to strengthen the protection of fundamental rights in the light of changes in society, social progress and scientific and technological developments by making those rights more visible in a Charter.
This Charter reaffirms, with due regard for the powers and tasks of the Community and the Union and the principle of subsidiarity, the rights as they result, in particular, from the constitutional traditions and international obligations common to the Member States, the Treaty on European Union, the Community Treaties, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Social Charters adopted by the Community and by the Council of Europe and the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and of the European Court of Human Rights.
Enjoyment of these rights entails responsibilities and duties with regard to other persons, to the human community and to future generations.
The Union therefore recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out hereafter.”
Democracy, human rights and the rule of law have to be at the centre of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.
Tuesday, 8 May 2007
Presently, the Treaty on European Union, Article 6(1 and 2) states:
The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States.
The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community law.
The Nice summit of the European Council on 7 December 2000 saw the solemn proclamation of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 18 December 2000; 2000/C 364/01).
The Proclamation is politically binding for the Union (Community) institutions, but it is not, strictly speaking, legally binding. In Nice the inclusion of the Charter in the Treaties was left open.
Even if the Charter draws heavily on, i.a. the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the drafting process of Charter made it possible to prepare one logical and updated document. Companies and private persons have a visible enumeration of their fundamental rights and freedoms at their disposal when they seek redress in their national courts or the European courts in matters pertaining to Community legislation.
If and when the ECJ includes the provisions of the Charter in its case-law, as general principles of Community law, they become legally binding.
”Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity…The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe…”, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman said on 9 May 1950.
The European Coal and Steel Community ceased after 50 years in existence, but the achievements of European integration have been impressive. Enlargement has created an area of 27 member states and about 480 million people.
Today the European Union is much more than a customs union and a common market. The EU has a common currency, the euro, and policies in about thirty different fields, including the beginnings of a common foreign and security policy as well as police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Each citizen of a member state benefits from his or her EU citizenship. We can choose to have multiple identities: local, regional, linguistic, ethnic, cultural, religious as well as national and European. There is no inherent contradiction.
The principles on which the European Union is founded are more than empty rhetoric.
The Treaty on European Union, Article 6:
The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States.
The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community law.
The Union shall respect the national identities of its Member States.
The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies.
Europe Day is a reminder of past achievements, but it should also help us take note that European solidarity needs words and deeds from us, not only towards us.
The biggest EU member states are no larger than former great powers. We need to think about the necessary means to attain internal and external security and enhance prosperity in a rapidly globalising world.
Friday, 4 May 2007
The Council of Europe Summit in Warsaw (2005) gave the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Mr. Claude Juncker, the task to prepare a report on the relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union. The report, which Juncker prepared in his personal capacity and presented on 11 April 2006, is called: Council of Europe – European Union: “A sole ambition for the European continent”.
Juncker’s recommendations were:
Open the door to EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Recognition of EU bodies of the Council of Europe as the Europe-wide reference source for human rights.
The EU and the CoE should refer to the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights in all human rights problems not covered by the existing monitoring and supervisory machinery, and the Commissioner’s Office should be given the resources needed.
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency should deal with respect for fundamental rights solely in connection with the implementation of Community law.
The EU and the CoE should together devise machinery to promote and strengthen democracy, making full use of the existing CoE expert bodies.
The EU and the CoE should place a pan-European legal and judicial area (minimum-standards area) at the service of a Europe without dividing lines.
Co-operation under the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy should focus on the member states of the CoE and Belarus.
The organisations should develop co-operation in the fields of youth, education, culture and inter-cultural dialogue.
The organisations should stimulate an intra-European inter-cultural dialogue.
The EU and the CoE should make their institutional relations more substantial.
Closer inter-parliamentary ties should be forged.
Future Secretaries General should be chosen among leading European political figures.
Increased involvement of Foreign Ministers is highly desirable.
Introduction of medium-term budget planning ensuring needed resources for the CoE.
EU membership of the CoE by 2010.
Since then, the organisations have underlined their resolve to complete the draft Memorandum of Understanding and their desire to report on action concerning the proposals put forward in the Juncker report at the Ministerial meeting of the CoE in May 2007.
They have agreed that the European Agency for Fundamental Rights shall not encroach on the CoE’s position as the chief source and interpreter of European human rights standards, and they have agreed to negotiate a co-operation agreement with regard to the Agency.
Both organisations find it essential to preserve the effectiveness of the unique system of protection of human rights offered by the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a weeks time we are going to see what the Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe are able to conclude.
Fifty years ago, in 1957, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community were established. The EEC evolved from a customs union and common market into a more political organisation, later becoming the European Community (EC) and, in 1992, the European Union. The EU has undergone two further treaty revisions (1997 and 2001) and a third one was unanimously signed by the member states in 2004, the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.
The European Union is difficult to classify exactly, since it is an international organisation with strong elements of inter-governmental co-operation, but with unique supra-national decision making powers in certain fields. It has federal traits without being a full-blown federation.
Institutionally, the EU is complicated. The most important institution is still the Council, where the governments of the member states are represented. The Council has both law-making and executive powers. The Commission is an executive in the fields covered by Community law (the so called first pillar). The European Parliament is based on direct elections and has become co-legislator in many fields of Community legislation.
Enlargement has, in successive steps, brought the number of member states from six to 27, with some 450 million inhabitants.
The more the EU has become involved in new fields, and the more its legislation has become binding not only for the member states, but their companies and individual persons, the more it has become important to guarantee these individuals basic rights and judicial review.
Human rights and fundamental freedoms have come to stay on the agenda of the European Union.
The European Union and the EC Court of Justice partially face the same questions as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
The Council of Europe has expressed its concern that the EU might encroach upon its core competencies, namely democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The CoE has pointed out that it has pan-European responsibilities, although EU members form a majority of its membership.
On the other hand, it looks clear that the European Union must enhance its own monitoring of proposed Community legislation and guarantee individuals judicial review.
How should the relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union developed?
The Council of Europe was created in 1949 by ten Western European states. The Statute of the Council of Europe excludes matters relating to national defence, but is otherwise broad in scope (Article 1):
The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.
This aim shall be pursued through the organs of the Council by discussion of questions of common concern and by agreements and common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Article 3 of the Statute lists the basic criteria for membership:
Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council as specified in Chapter I.
Democracy, human rights and the rule of law have become the core competencies of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe is an inter-governmental organisation, where the decisions are taken by the Committee of Ministers (representatives of governments). The organisation has been able to conclude a large number of Conventions (treaties) between the member states in a wide range of fields covering both human rights and other questions of common interest. The Committee of Ministers, assisted by the Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and specialist committees, monitors member states’ compliance with these Conventions and issues recommendations. This advisory and monitoring work is pursued in the inter-governmental sphere, largely outside public scrutiny.
Although it fell far short of the aspirations of the European federalists, the Council of Europe was attributed a Consultative Assembly, a deliberative organ with an advisory role. Nowadays known as the Parliamentary Assembly it gives the organisation some stature above strict inter-governmental co-operation. The members of the Assembly are chosen by the national Parliaments. It has been called a para-legislative body.
The most remarkable step outside the inter-governmental sphere has been the evolving Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, especially its control mechanism crowned by the supra-national European Court of Human Rights, which exercises judicial control leading to binding judgments.
Today the geographical scope of the Council of Europe is pan-European, encompassing 800 million individuals and 46 member states. The new state of Montenegro has applied for membership. Only Belarus is beyond the pale.
Of these members, 27 are also members of the European Union. In addition, the organisations share values and are active in the same or related fields.
Overlapping, duplication, competition or co-operation? There is, to say the least, cause for clarification leading to complementarity and synergy.
Wednesday, 2 May 2007
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The first ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights, were approved by Congress in 1789 and ratified effective 15 December 1791.
Whatever punishments were deemed to be “cruel and unusual” in late 18th Century Europe, the old Continent has moved towards the abolition of the death penalty.
In 1983 the members of the Council of Europe agreed on Protocol No. 6 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty.
Article 1 – Abolition of the death penalty
The death penalty shall be abolished. No-one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed.
But the prohibition was not total.
Article 2 – Death penalty in time of war
A State may make provision in its law for the death penalty in respect of acts committed in time of war or of imminent threat of war; such penalty shall be applied only in the instances laid down in the law and in accordance with its provisions. The State shall communicate to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe the relevant provisions of that law.
In 2002 the Council of Europe took the final step with Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.
Article 1 – Abolition of the death penalty
The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed.
Article 2 – Prohibition of derogations
No derogation from the provisions of this Protocol shall be made under Article 15 of the Convention.
Article 3 – Prohibition of reservations
No reservation may be made under Article 57 of the Convention in respect of the provisions of this Protocol.
Today a Europe of 46 states with 800 million inhabitants has freed itself from the death penalty.
How should “cruel and unusual” be understood in the 21st Century?
Subsequently the Convention has been amended according to various protocols, which have given the Convention more scope and instituted the supranational European Court of Human Rights, with jurisdiction extending to all matters concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention and the protocols thereto.
The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation of one of the member states of the rights set forth in the Convention or the protocols.
The member states have undertaken to abide by the final judgments of the Court. Final judgments of the Court are transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and the Committee supervises their execution.
The member states have promised to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention.
An overview of the substantive rights guaranteed by the Convention, as amended by Protocol No. 11:
Right to life
Prohibition of torture
Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
Right to liberty and security
Right to a fair trial
No punishment without law
Right to respect for private and family life
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
Right to marry
Right to and effective remedy
Prohibition of discrimination
Most articles declare a right in principle, and then mention the formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties, which are allowed (subject to the evolving interpretations of the Court).
There are some general clauses concerning these rights:
Derogations in time of emergency
Restriction on political activity of aliens
Prohibition of abuse of rights
Limitation on use of restrictions on rights
Substantive rights added by protocols are:
Protection of property
Right to education
Right to free elections
Prohibition of imprisonment for debt
Freedom of movement
Prohibition of expulsion of nationals
Prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens
Abolition of the death penalty (in peace time)
Procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens
Right of appeal in criminal matters
Compensation for wrongful conviction
Right not to be tried or punished twice
Equality between spouses
General prohibition of discrimination
Abolition of the death penalty
Protocol No. 14, amending the control system of the Convention, has not entered into force, because it is still one ratification short of the 46 ratifications needed.
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its control system headed by the European Court of Human Rights try to guarantee the basic human rights for 800 million individuals in Europe.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
During the Warsaw Summit (May 2005) the Council of Europe set up a Group of Wise Persons to examine the long term efficiency of the control mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Group stressed the need for Protocol No. 14 to enter rapidly into force and noted that only one more instrument of ratification was needed. The Group then proceeded to examine further reforms, because “the survival of the machinery for the judicial protection of human rights and the Court’s ability to cope with its workload are seriously under threat from an exponential increase in the number of individual applications which jeopardises the proper functioning of the Convention’s control system”.
The Group did not want to affect the unique feature of the supranational European Court, the right of individual application.
The Group proposed an amendment to the Convention allowing for future decisions on operating procedures of the Court to be taken by way of unanimously adopted resolutions of the Committee of Ministers, without amending the Convention itself each time. (Thus, lengthy ratification procedures could be evaded.)
The Group proposed adding more resources to the Court by the way of a judicial filtering body, the Judicial Committee, which could hear all applications raising admissibility issues and decide the applications which are either manifestly well-founded or manifestly ill-founded.
The Human Rights Court is meant to offer subsidiary control. Therefore it is important to improve the legal and judicial systems on the national level. The Group emphasised the importance of disseminating the Court’s case law and the recognition of its authority above and beyond the judgment’s binding effect on the parties.
The Group proposed opening up the possibility for national courts to ask the European Court for non-binding advisory opinions. Article 41 of the Convention should be amended in order to award compensation to the injured party on the national level.
The Group encouraged the Court to make the fullest possible use of the “pilot judgment” procedure in cases where structural or systemic problems affected large numbers of people.
In order to reduce the Court’s workload, the Group recommended more use of friendly settlements and mediation.
The Commissioner for Human Rights should actively work with the member states when there were serious violations of human rights.
In a little more than a week’s time these proposals are to be dealt with by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, when the Committee of Ministers convenes for its yearly meeting on the ministerial level. Actions are eagerly awaited.