Thursday 24 June 2010

The EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): EU fails proper coordination in the Council of Europe

It is rare that public EU documents actually give an insight into failures at diplomatic or bureaucratic level, and so the publishing of this Council document regarding the negotiations of the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is one of the few valuable exceptions.

The document makes clear that while the EU Council in Brussels has been deciding upon a negotiation mandate for the EU Commission regarding the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (for the background see all posts on this blog under the label "ECHR"), co-ordination outside Brussels seems to be bad.

The EU member states' experts of a major Council of Europe* steering committee (similar to a Working Party in the EU Council), the CDDH, seemed to be so poorly co-ordinated that some of them, if I read the above-mentioned document correctly, voiced positions in a committee meeting that were even against the EU negotiation mandate:
"[I]t should be noted that individual delegates of EU Member States at the CDDH meeting openly questioned in statements in particular the following negotiating directives (to be noted that the Ministers had adopted them 12 days before the meeting of the CDDH):

a) The principle contained in 1 e) – that the Union should be allowed to participate in the ECtHR as well as other Council of Europe bodies to the extent that their activities are linked to the purpose of the ECtHR on an equal footing.

b) Directive 6 that the EU should have its own judge with the same status and duties of the other Contracting Parties.

c) That an appropriate number of members of the EP should be allowed to participate in sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE when the latter exercises functions related to the application of the Convention (especially elections) (directive 7).

d) That the Union should be allowed to participate in meetings of the Committee of Ministers and to vote when the latter exercises its role in relation to the Convention (directive 8).

e) The necessity of having a co-respondent mechanism (directive 10 b).
Funny enough, this document thereby also reveals more details about the negotiation mandate that is kept secret by the EU.

And, when you read the rest of the text, you can also see that the Spanish EU Council presidency who has issued the document doesn't seem to understand the kind of special structure that is supposed to be created within the Council of Europe to sort out the legal questions linked to the EU's accession to the ECHR, which shows that the Presidency was unable to build or maintain proper information relations to its own national experts who are sitting in the respective committee in the Council of Europe.

In short, this special structure will be an informal sub-committee of the CDDH steering committee with 14 members, 7 from the EU and 7 from other Council of Europe member states plus someone from the EU Commission. Some more details are explained in paragraph 11 of this meeting document of the Bureau of the CDDH and the composition of the group is mentioned in the EU Council document.

For the Spanish presidency it seems to be unclear how this special committee will function in practice. I wonder why they only realise this now as the CDDH bureau meeting document is already from 7 April 2010, and the composition and tasks of the group are clearly mentioned in there. Spain should have had enough time to figure everything out - but apparently they are not able to manage this properly.

Now I suppose that for many of you this will have sounded like Chinese, but I assure you that if we knew more stuff of this kind through public documents we would actually understand why the EU and international organisations are often unable to deliver good results:

They have become so complex that a proper co-ordination is almost impossible - and let's not even speak about democratic control!

* Note: the Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg and is not part of the EU system but is the 47 member states strong international organisation built around the European Convention on Human Rights


Ralf Grahn said...


Congratulations on a good piece of blog writing.