Strasbourg, 15 July 2015


Thursday 25 June 2015


1. Opening of the meeting by the President of the Conference of INGOs

Anna Rurka welcomed all the INGO representatives to the summer session and urged them to take on board the action plan which the Standing Committee was proposing for the next three years so as to show the Council of Europe how useful the Conference of INGOs was.  The Conference had to play a full part in the “inclusive society” and in the fight against radicalisation, these being goals which had been reiterated by the Committee of Ministers.  “Living together” and “doing together” had to be the guiding principles for all the INGOs in the Conference, alongside the other pillars of the Quadrilogue.

2. Agenda: for adoption

·         Adopted unanimously.

3. Synopsis of the meeting of 29 January 2015: for adoption

·         An explanatory sentence was added to the section on the work of the Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee (page 3):

The urgent debate held by the committee following the terrorist attacks in Paris and the ensuing public mobilisation had focused on four types of action designed to promote the establishment of a more cohesive and inclusive society:

o    Subject to this change, the synopsis was adopted unanimously.

4. Appointment of the meeting rapporteur and four tellers for the elections

·         Jean-Michel Caudron was chosen as meeting rapporteur.

·         The four tellers for the elections were:

o    Jean-ClaudeGonon, European Association of Teachers;

o    Julianne Lagadec, VOLONTEUROPE (Committee to Encourage Unpaid Voluntary Action in Countries of Europe);

o    Simon Matthijssen, European Ombudsman Institute;

o    Gilbert Nersson, International Council B’nai B’rith.

5. Election of a rapporteur of the Conference of INGOs

·         One rapporteur still had to be elected following the Conference’s plenary meeting on 29 January 2015;

·         The President of the Verification and Dispute Committee, Salomon Levy, said that each candidate (of the three) had two minutes’ speaking time to introduce him or herself, after having distributed their CVs and programmes in writing over the previous weeks;

·         Results of the vote:

o    89 registered voters, 89 votes cast

o    Anne Kraus: 53.93%,

o    Hélène Pichon: 31.46%,

o    Liviu Olteanu: 14.61%;

·         Anne Kraus was therefore elected as fourth Conference rapporteur.

6. Exchange of views with the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriela Battaini-Dragoni

The President of the Conference congratulated Gabriela Battaini-Dragoni on her re-election to the post of Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

She was focusing on four issues:

·         Continuing the successful reforms of the way the Council of Europe operated, avoiding any backtracking;

·         Maintaining the Council of Europe’s resilience regarding the new challenges facing society (intercultural dialogue as opposed to hate speech, freedom of speech as opposed to excessive controls, new types of growth in wealth and human well-being as opposed to decline in strong economic growth, etc.);

·         Seeking out new financial contributions so as to maintain and develop the Council of Europe’s action, given the zero-growth ordinary budget;

·         Developing a culture of evaluating the Council of Europe’s policies within the departments.

In her view, there were currently serious threats to the operation of the European Court of Human Rights, and the Conference of INGOs had to remain vigilant regarding the future and effectiveness of the Court:

·         Failure of the member states concerned to execute the Court’s judgments was undermining its credibility;

·         Negative campaigns were being conducted to belittle the role of the Court;

·         The fact that the EU had not acceded quickly to the Convention was giving rise to concerns that headwinds were developing in Brussels, with preference being given to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg and its case-law.

The Deputy Secretary General gave details of the operational role of her post, which involved activating the Council of Europe’s operational structure, alongside the Secretary General’s political role:

·         Optimising the use of ordinary and extraordinary contributions (such as Turkey’s this year) from the member states and other partners (EU, among others);

·         Controlling the Council of Europe’s expenditure more effectively so as to ensure its sustainability;

·         Having skills when and where they were needed;

·         Increasing the decentralisation of the Council of Europe across all the regions it covered so as to ensure close contact, in daily management, with national governments and local civil society (250 staff members were deployed, with 50 in Ukraine and the others in other member states in eastern and south-eastern Europe).

7. Follow-up to the 125th Session of the Committee of Ministers: What action by the Conference of INGOs and its member organisations?

·         Presentations:

o    of the Secretary General’s report on the “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe – A shared responsibility for democratic security in Europe”, in particular, Chapter III on “Freedom of assembly and freedom of association”, by Adrian Evtuhovici, Head of Division, Platform for the Protection of Journalism, Directorate of Policy Planning;

o    of the Council of Europe Action Plan, “The fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism”, by Daniele Cangemi, Special Co-ordinator, Directorate General of Democracy (DGII).

8. Exchange of views with the Permanent Representatives of member States to the Council of Europe on strengthening the role of NGOs at the Council of Europe

The Permanent Representative of Norway to the Council of Europe and Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on Democracy (GR-DEM), Ambassador Astrid Helle, thanked the President and the members of the Conference plenary for their invitation.

She said the two sides needed to get to know one another better, by using the existing co-operation channels, even though joint consideration could be given to new forms of communication.  Among other things, everybody could find the email addresses of the member states’ various delegations and send them messages.  Meetings of Committee of Ministers’ rapporteur groups were confidential and INGOs could therefore not attend them, unless they were invited to provide expert input.

The Council of Europe’s tight budget and the sum allocated to the Conference of INGOs for its annual sessions called for improved knowledge of its work and the value of its contribution to the organisation:

·         To date, she had not known much about the Conference’s work;

·         She therefore asked the Conference to communicate more effectively with the Committee of Ministers and its subordinate bodies about what it did;

·         An annual hearing of the President of the Conference by the GR-DEM would be a priority measure;

·         In her view, written resolutions by the Conference’s thematic committees had less impact with the Committee of Ministers than side events held on the margins of meetings (quality being more important than quantity here).

Robert Drzagza, Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Deputy Permanent Representative of Poland to the Council of Europe, pointed out that the Conference of INGOs was the fourth pillar of the Council of Europe, and that the organisation needed it to make it better known in and better connected with society.  He proposed that the Conference of INGOs hold its plenary meetings on Fridays and regularly invite the ambassadors to exchanges of views on topical issues.

In addition to the representatives of Norway and Poland, the representatives of Ireland, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and Germany, etc., were present and took the floor.  They thanked the President of the Conference for the fresh impetus which she was giving to its work and her desire to step up co-operation with the Committee of Ministers and other Council of Europe bodies.

9. Expert Council on NGO Law

·         Appointment of the President of the Expert Council on NGO Law:

o    Cyril Ritchie was re-appointed President;

o    He reiterated the Expert Council on NGO Law’s monitoring role in ensuring compliance with and the development of NGO law in the individual member states, in liaison with other Council of Europe bodies;

o    However, he wished this to be his last presidency of the Expert Council (after 15 years of working for the Conference of INGOs to ensure that democracy and the rule of law were upheld), while being willing to support his successor.

·         Presentation of the composition of the Expert Council on NGO Law for the period from July 2015 to June 2018:

o   The President of the Expert Council referred to the worrying situation of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

o   The Conference’s Standing Committee had reaffirmed its political choice in appointing the human rights defender, Intigam Aliyev (who was currently in prison in Baku), to the Expert Council;

o   The President of the Conference would notify the President of Azerbaijan of the appointment on the Conference’s behalf.

·         Discussion of the changes in legislation and in operating conditions for NGOs in the Russian Federation (Daria Miloslavskaya, member of the Expert Council on NGO Law), given the series of laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations” in the Russian Federation concerning NGOs allegedly receiving foreign funding:

o   The operating ban on certain organisations included in the most recent legislation did not seem to have been applied for the time being;

o   The President explained that a letter to the INGOs holding participatory status had been sent on the Conference’s behalf in order to determine the day-to-day impact of these laws on the NGO members of the Conference.  She asked the representatives of the INGOs present to pass on any feedback they had had from members who were being prevented from operating by the new legislation.

10. Role and activities of the Council of Europe’s Advisory Council on Youth

Youssef Himmat, member of the Bureau of the Advisory Council on Youth, described the role and operation of the Advisory Council.

Given that few youth organisations were members of the Conference of INGOs, the Conference expressed the desire for the Standing Committee to develop joint activities with the Advisory Council on Youth.

11. To step aside

Two undergraduate students of French and Spanish law, Sophia Benazzouz and Magali Gomis, from the University of Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense, presented for discussion their research work on the impact of gender as an instrument for measuring radicalisation and extremism.

In their view, analysis of the way the gender issue was addressed in NGOs or other organisations (including on their websites or in any other electronic publications) would make it possible to watch out for radicalisation of the organisation if the discourse and practices explicitly or, indeed, implicitly excluded women or, at least, played down their roles in society.

12. Information on initiatives of the Gender Equality Expert of the Conference of INGOs

Anne Nègre, Gender Equality Expert, expressed satisfaction at the success of the round table held the previous day with the participation of the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination in connection with the Istanbul Convention and asked all members to continue working with her informally

13. Validation of the Action Plan of the Conference of INGOs for the next two years

·         Several INGO representatives congratulated the President of the Conference on this text of a mobilising nature, which set out priorities, guidelines and strategic objectives, as well as working methods, including fact-finding visits to Council of Europe member states

·         One INGO representative would have liked to have received the action plan before the Conference plenary so as to obtain formal instructions from her INGO to approve it;

·         Results of the vote:

o   89 registered voters, 89 votes cast;

o   88 votes in favour;

o   1 abstention;

o   The action plan was accordingly adopted.

·         The President of the Conference asked the INGOs to pass on the contact details of national NGOs interested in meeting her during the fact-finding visits she would make to Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania in the autumn.

14. Feedback from the thematic committees and adoption of texts

Presentation of the committees’ action plans and validation of the resolutions presented by the committees:

·         New disability strategy” (1 abstention);

·         The violation of economic, social and cultural rights by austerity measures: a serious threat to democracy” (3 abstentions, 1 vote against).

15. Other business

·         Collective complaints procedure under the revised European Social Charter:

o    Régis Brillat,Executive Secretary of the European Committee of Social Rights, had emphasised the importance of the European Social Charter collective complaints procedure at the meeting of the Human Rights Committee;

o    Under the Turin Process, a training course run by the Conference and the Social Platform in partnership with the Academic Network on the European Social Charter and Social Rights (RACSE) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) was being held on the subject in Brussels on 22 September 2015.  Any INGOs interested had until mid-July to register;

o    INGOs which wished to be entitled to submit collective complaints to the European Committee of Social Rights had to submit their applications by 4 September 2015.  Information on how to prepare the application files was available on the Social Charter Department website.

·         Update on an ad hoc working group on young people, by Anne Kraus.

·         The INGOs would receive the questionnaire for their 2012-2015 four-year report to be completed by the end of the year in order to retain their participatory status.

16. Date of the next meeting

·           28 or 29 January 2016