MEPs have taken stock of the ever-evolving relations between the two institutions, with a view to identifying further opportunities for strengthening cooperation.
In the draft report adopted in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (22 votes for, none against, and three abstentions) MEPs acknowledge that the institutional relations between the EU and the CoE have evolved into a strategic partnership, and call for this partnership to be reinforced and further developed. In light of the increased overlap and complementary character of the activities of the two organisations, they put forward concrete proposals on how to avoid duplication or diverging standards through consultation channels. They also suggest that the EU and the CoE should establish a dedicated agreement on the mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights that Parliament has proposed; increase the involvement of the Venice Commission in EU enlargement, and enhance its cooperation with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency; and work closer together to protect journalists and defenders of democracy, vulnerable groups, minorities, and the cultures and languages of Europe.
The European Convention of Human Rights and other CoE instruments
In the draft report, they welcome the Council’s and the Commission’s renewed commitment to the EU’s accession to the ECHR and ask for negotiations to be concluded before the Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe (16-17 May 2023, Iceland). This would strengthen coherence between EU law and the so-called CoE Conventions system. It would also place the EU under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, strengthening the protection of EU citizens by allowing them to bring cases against the EU directly before the ECtHR. The EU’s role in the Convention system would become more prominent as well, through a proportionate contribution to the budget of the CoE, the nomination of candidates for judge of the ECtHR and the participation of MEPs in the ensuing election process, and representation on the Committee of Ministers when supervising the implementation of ECtHR judgments.
MEPs underline their concern by the level of non-implementation of ECtHR judgments, which has a negative effect on the rule of law and weakens the Union’s external action in terms of human rights, they argue. The Commission should apply all relevant tools as appropriate, they highlight, while committing to further assess how to ensure better compliance with case law, including potentially through Treaty change.
Further, the EU should accede to all relevant instruments of the CoE, MEPs stress, including the Istanbul Convention, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Lanzarote Convention, the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the Civil Law Convention on Corruption, as well as the revised European Social Charter.
The rapporteur Loránt VINCZE (EPP, RO) commented:
“The CoE and the EU have a closely intertwined agenda in protecting democracy and fundamental rights. Yet, on the EU side, we often overlook the opportunities that lie in the complementarity and synergies between them. It is therefore important to stress the significant value CoE instruments and conventions bring to the EU and its Members States. The report, like the upcoming CoE Summit in Reykjavik, is an excellent opportunity to bring the two defining organisations on our continent closer to each other.”
The report is expected to be tabled in the March II plenary session.
In 2022 the EU celebrated the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, which created an obligation for the Union to accede to the ECHR. Institutional relations between the EU and the CoE have been evolving for more than 65 years and have developed considerably since the signing of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding and the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.