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Debates on Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions presented by Mr Toshev on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee






2002 ORDINARY SESSION
________________________

(Third part)
REPORT
Nineteenth Sitting
Tuesday 25 June 2002 at 3 p.m.

(…)




6. Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). The final item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report on the parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions presented by Mr Toshev on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee (Document 9484 and addendum) with an opinion presented by Mrs Zapfl Helbling on behalf of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development (Document 9485).
The list of speakers closed at 12 noon today.  Sixteen names are on the list, and one amendment has been tabled. I remind the Assembly that we have already agreed that, in order to finish by 7 p.m., we shall interrupt the list of speakers at around 6.45 p.m.
I call Mr Toshev, the rapporteur. You have eight minutes.


Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria). The resignation of the European Commission on 16 March 1999 and the street demonstrations in Seattle during the third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation show that it is time to have a serious debate to address the problem of the functioning of international institutions.
Most people are not aware of the purposes and work of the organisations or the reason for their existence. Some deputies, despite being directly elected representatives of the people, are not paying sufficient attention to the organisations? work.  In some cases, it is difficult for them to gain access to information concerning international institutions. Obviously, that is unacceptable.
Those problems mean that the gap between international institutions and society is increasing. The lack of transparency leads to a lack of understanding and of public support for the institutions? activities. A number of problems on a continental and global scale, which call for co-operation and the effectiveness of national policies to be increased, make the success of the existing institutions in addressing this issue a matter of paramount importance.
Parliamentary scrutiny and involvement in the work of international institutions, as well as their openness to the media and NGOs, could make the institutions more accountable. That could make the decision-making process more transparent and promote public interest in their work, leading to further support for their aims.
Some time ago, I discussed the issue with Ms Marta Ruedas from the United Nations Development Programme. Her opinion is that parliamentarians could achieve those general goals if they strengthened their control over those who exercise power ? the representatives of their Governments in the institutions. I entirely agree. It is both a right and a duty for MPs to hold regular debates in their national parliaments and committees on the various aspects of the work of international organisations. The Deputies have the right to receive information and to consider the work of their national representatives there.
The next aspect on which I would like to touch is the direct involvement of parliamentarians in the work of international institutions through parliamentary assemblies. This report and that of Mrs Severinsen underline the importance of and the need to achieve a parliamentary dimension of the United Nations through the inclusion of parliamentarians from the government majority and from the opposition in national delegations to the UN General Assembly. Few member states, even of the Council of Europe, have deputies in their delegations to the General Assembly.
I must say that there is a need to improve the interaction between national delegations to the parliamentary assemblies and the committees in their national parliaments. In that respect, I must refer to the initiative launched at the sixth conference of the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins ? the so-called Varna process. It was proposed that, under the auspices of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, committees from the national parliaments of member and even non-member states should meet to debate specific issues. In my opinion, that is a good idea and it should not be forsaken.
The next aspect is that some international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation, do not have a parliamentary dimension. At a joint meeting in Canada in 2001, the common position of the representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and of Canadian deputies was that it is a good idea to support the Inter-Parliamentary Union in respect of the establishment of a WTO parliamentary assembly.
The Committee on Economic Affairs and Development regularly considers the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Assembly frequently debates those affairs, but other organisations, such as the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the IMF, which the Assembly is debating, definitely need much greater parliamentary scrutiny. We should consider strongly recommending that the work and the budgets of the various international financial institutions be discussed in the national parliamentary budgetary and financial committees.
Returning to continental level, we commend the European Parliament as the first directly elected international parliamentary institution whose powers should be enhanced. We call on the European Parliament to strengthen its co-operation with the national parliaments, which are responsible for adopting national legislation. In that respect, the ideas on creating an upper chamber of the European Parliament representing the national parliaments, or an EU parliamentary assembly to scrutinise the work of European institutions, should be carefully considered.
The amendment proposed today by Mr David Atkinson combines both options by suggesting the creation of an upper chamber of the European Parliament not as an additional, complicating level of the EU decision-making process, but as a parliamentary body to scrutinise EU policy.
Our Assembly should continue consistently to raise those issues. As a follow-up to today?s debate, specific steps and action need to be taken, especially discussions on the matter in the national parliaments. Our recommendations aim at returning international organisations to the citizens to whom they belong. Thank you very much for your kind attention.
(Mr Jurgens, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Puche)



THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mrs Zapfl-Helbling to present the opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development. You have three minutes.


THE PRESIDENT. ? Thank you. I call Mrs Zapfl-Helbling to present the opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development. You have three minutes.
Mrs ZAPFL-HELBLING (Switzerland) said that her committee had produced an opinion on the report. The committee supported the development of a parliamentary dimension to the activities of EBRD, IMF and other organisations. If members of parliament were willing to appear before international fora so should international organisations. It was important to emphasise democratic accountability if suspicion and distrust of organisations were to be reduced. Organisations such as the Council of Europe had to examine how they could make themselves more accountable. Her committee supported visits by national parliament delegations to places such as the United Nations. She supported the draft resolution.
THE PRESIDENT. ? Thank you. I call, first, Mr Bühler, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People?s Party.
Mr BÜHLER (Germany) said that the report addressed a topical issue, namely the democratic deficit. Ordinary people felt isolated from, and left out of, the decisions that affected them. This was reflected in voter apathy and a low turnout at elections. The turnout at the European Parliament elections was an example. If this trend was not reversed, extremist parties would prosper. The word globalisation had attained a negative connotation, but globalisation had its positive aspects too. The Assembly should strive for the globalisation of human rights and civil standards. The UN had to find a role for parliamentarians as well as governments. He thanked those colleagues who had been trying to achieve this on behalf of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. There were various examples of deficiency of parliamentary oversight in relation to Commission policy. For example, the European Parliament had a crisis remit but no effective oversight over matters such as peace-keeping missions. The Dutch Foreign Minister had recommended a policy review; this was progress but greater co-operation was needed between parliamentarians and international organisations. It was necessary to work towards the globalisation of democracy.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr Bühler. I call Mr Danieli on behalf of the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers? Group.
Mr DANIELI (Italy) thanked Mr Toshev for his report which highlighted the key issue of globalisation and its irreversible nature. The analysis started from a basic premise concerning the growing power of multinational organisations in tandem with a growing democratic deficit. However, it was important to take a differentiated approach to such matters. It was not just a case of power increasing for all multi-national and international organisations. Some organisations were seeing an increase in power while others were seeing their credibility, resources and power questioned. Thus the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the Paris Club were seeing their powers untouched and increased, while the United Nations and many of its agencies were being challenged. Globalisation therefore had to be perceived as a multi-layered issue, involving economics but also the rights of individuals, communities and peoples. What was actually the hub of the debate was the clash between these layers and the complexity that this entailed.
Some commentators attempted to reassert the power of the nation state in terms of the international arena. This was simplistic and a retrograde step.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you Mr Danieli. I call Mrs Ragnarsdóttir on behalf of the European Democratic Group.
Mrs RAGNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland). Mr Toshev's excellent report deals with a topic of great importance and relevance. The so-called democratic deficit has been a recurrent theme in public debate for many years. To my regret, a debate is necessary. There are many signs on the horizon that international institutions in general and pan-European multinational institutions in particular suffer from a serious democratic deficit. That is why this issue is so pertinent to us as nationally elected representatives.
The sheer volume and complexity of the issues dealt with in institutional settings is such as to put great strain on prudent parliamentary scrutiny and oversight. Not all regional and international institutions are as fortunate as the Council of Europe, in which an army of able and willing parliamentarians make it their business to scrutinise matters effectively. Our constituents expect us to be extremely vigilant on these matters, not least because decisions taken in international institutions increasingly influence the lives of hundreds of millions of citizens. What is often sorely lacking from those decisions is the voices of those people. Those voices should be heard through us ? the nationally elected representatives. For that reason I fully concur with the rapporteur?s conclusion that the imbalance between the growing power of international institutions and the absence of democratic scrutiny of their decisions constitutes a major challenge for democracy.
In that respect, I applaud the focus on the need for effective parliamentary scrutiny of intergovernmental financial institutions, which are becoming increasingly globally important as our economies become increasingly interconnected and interdependent. As the draft resolution states, transparency and accountability are necessary requirements if those highly important institutions are to enjoy public support.
I want to add another dimension to the debate. It is equally important that we parliamentarians scrutinise the work of international institutions with the purpose of minimising the duplication of work. In Europe today, there is an alphabet soup of intergovernmental organisations. There is relative competition among those institutions as regards financing, visibility and, ultimately, public support. We could call it inter-institutional rivalry. In that respect, it is pertinent that parliamentarians have oversight to avoid the tendency for work to be duplicated. We must ensure transparency and full productivity for our money - as guarantors of the taxpayers? money, it is our duty to stand firm, give guidance, add our voices and provide the necessary scrutiny.
Here, it is important to mention the role of the European Union and the introduction of an inter-parliamentary chamber to the European Parliament. I agree with that proposal, but it is of the utmost importance that it does not undermine the work and independent status of the Council of Europe, the principle guarantor of human rights in Europe.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mrs Mintas-Hodak of Croatia.
Mrs MINTAS-HODAK (Croatia). First, I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Toshev, on his excellent work and extensive overview of parliamentary scrutiny of different international political and financial organisations.
I am sure that we would all agree that one of the main features of our times is the existence of many worldwide or regional international institutions and treaty-making conferences dealing with many different issues, which are mainly a result of the accelerating process of overall globalisation. There is no doubt that policy making is tending to shift from a national to an international level.
Since decisions taken by those institutions influence national policy and thus affect the lives of millions of citizens, who are often poorly informed about them and have insufficient or no influence over their creation, the far-reaching implications of this issue should be the core interest of every parliamentarian who is accountable to his electorate and devoted to democratic values.
I strongly support opening up the discussion on the issue in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as an important contribution to a wider public debate at national and international level on how that so-called ?democratic deficit? in the international institutions may be overcome in future.
An extensive analysis of existing parliamentary control mechanisms in major political and financial institutions leads us to conclude that there are a number of deficiencies, which make parliamentary scrutiny deficient. To enhance transparency and accountability and the accessibility of information, the general recommendations contained in this report clearly show that the role of both national parliaments and international parliamentary bodies should be strengthened.
It is useful to suggest that those national parliaments that still do not follow or comment on the work of the international institutions concerned should have regular debates on the policies and activities of different international organisations, or even set up special committees to follow the work of such institutions.
The Parliament of Croatia discusses the activities and decisions of different international organisations and regional initiatives from time to time ? through various committees ? particularly their relationship with Croatia on the basis of government reports. Furthermore, bilateral parliamentary visits and meetings with other parliaments contribute to more co-ordinated efforts in various multilateral forums.
The problem that we still face is one of the government having a decision-making power while negotiating agreements with various international financial institutions with no parliamentary input or control. For other countries, the problem might be the binding effect of some decisions taken by other international institutions, for example the EU.
It would be useful to recommend that national parliaments should hold regular consultations between parliamentary representatives and the national executive bodies that participate in decision-making processes at an international level. Such a mechanism would be of crucial importance for the preservation of transparency and would contribute to greater parliamentary involvement in the work of the international institutions concerned.
Moreover, with a view to strengthening the controlling powers of national parliaments, our governments should be encouraged to consult our parliaments on early drafts of planned international legislation or agreements.
As guardians of democracy and a means to institute checks and balances on other branches of power, we must find ways further to develop the interaction mechanisms that already exist between executive authorities or citizens. If necessary, we must also put in place new and more effective mechanisms.
There is no doubt that scrutiny must start at a national level, but it must also be improved at an international level. International parliamentary bodies should oversee the work of different international organisations. We must be proud that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is setting a good example in that regard.
Finally, to preserve the trust of our citizens in international institutions, it is our responsibility to focus their attention more closely on all our work.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mr Schloten.
Mr SCHLOTEN (Germany) said that parliamentary control of the United Nations was very important. For a number of years he had tried to bring the UN closer to the world?s citizens, something which national governments had never been able to do. There was no parliamentary dimension to the UN?s work. The Inter-Parliamentary Union had been attempting to exercise greater control over the UN for a number of years, and the current Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, held the view that the IPU should be the parliamentary assembly for the UN. This was the motivation behind his amendment. He regretted that there was a minor error in the wording of the amendment and that was why he would be proposing an oral amendment to it later in the proceedings.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mr Loutfi.
Mr LOUTFI (Bulgaria)said that the report had not been easy to write. It tackled major issues, because international institutions had a particularly important role, and had more effect than ever on the policies of individual states. There was a constant lack of information on institutions which created a democratic deficit. Citizens did not have enough information and there was a lack of mechanisms to help national representatives have an input into international institutions. A monitoring mechanism was needed to address the balance between important institutions and the scrutiny of them, or lack of it. It was important at this initial stage to enforce the role of national parliaments. Parliaments should be more effective, should reinforce their role, should have views on the proceedings of the institutions and discuss their activities. Better liaison between the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers would be an advantage. The European Parliament was scrutinised. There should be committees to discuss particular problems. Greater co-operation between parliaments of different countries and various structures, for example the OSCE and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, was necessary. Parliaments worked with the UN through parliamentarians. Regional co-operation was also essential. He supported the resolution and was confident that comments made in the plenary session would lead to its implementation.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mr Andican.
Mr ANDICAN (Turkey). I congratulate Mr Toshev on his well-prepared and comprehensive report, which gives us an overview of the nature of the problem stemming from insufficient transparency and accountability in the decision-making processes and activities of most international organisations, and presents possible ways of restoring citizens? confidence in them. Indeed, the more international organisations respond to general public concern in today?s world, the more important it is to ensure a high degree of democratic control.
Since the emergence of global issues has necessitated greater international co-operation, complaints have been made about the lack of transparency and the secret intergovernmental nature of negotiations and meetings in international forums. Parliaments have limited, and sometimes even no say in those processes. That is a real failure in participatory democracy. There is a danger of creating a power vacuum in democracies where the necessary parliamentary input is lacking in the decision-making process, leading to democratic deficit. It is a worrying fact that the link between decision-making bodies and parliaments is less to the fore when international co-operation among countries achieves any progress.
There is an evident democratic deficit in most of the international institutions whose decisions increasingly affect the everyday lives of millions of citizens. There appears to be widespread neglect of the mechanisms to ensure political and social accountability that are necessary to secure legitimacy and public consent.
However, it is also observed that the concept of parliamentary scrutiny is sometimes met with reluctance by some and seen as an interference in the decision-making process, but it should not be forgotten that it is one of the structural requirements of democracies. For participatory democracy to work, parliaments must be involved in the decision-making process.
I strongly support all the recommendations in the report for ensuring effective parliamentary scrutiny of the work of international institutions. We need more transparency and accountability and we must broaden the knowledge and understanding of citizens through enhanced opportunities for access to information. Those are the tools that we need to ensure public support for policies and participation in the activities of international institutions.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I call Mr Van den Brande.
Mr VAN DEN BRANDE (Belgium). We must congratulate Mr Toshev on his excellent report, which contains not only intentions but realistic guidelines for strengthening transparency and democratic control. As Mr Bühler said, globalisation is a positive evolution, but are we really becoming a global society, or are we only interested in the light side of the moon, and not the dark one? Is there is a split between the developed countries and those of the south? Is there is a split between decision making and what is in fact needed by the population?
Nevertheless, we can support the report and the resolution and recommendation. There are often great differences between what we intend and the reality. Parliaments must be involved in the international process, but national parliaments often focus more on domestic issues than on international ones. They often lack a logistical or scientific basis.
International decision-making often results not in a last-minute ticket but a last-minute decision, which is not always compatible with the parliamentary agenda. There are good guidelines in the report, resolutions and recommendations for achieving a proactive approach under parliamentary control to achieve transparency in international decision-making. We have previously discussed the parliamentary focus of the United Nations in relation to the important reports on the EBRD, the IMF and the World Bank. It is important that we participate as parliamentarians - not as experts or observers, but as members of delegations. That is the only way in which to achieve global decision-making and decision-shaping. Our discussion on the European Convention also reflects the need for transparency and better international governance. We need a mental conversion and must  work to achieve that in our national parliaments, councils and parliamentary assemblies.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. I now interrupt the list of speakers. Of those on the list who are present in the Chamber, I see only Mr Kalkan and MrVarela I Serra. They have a right to submit their speeches in typescript to the Table Office in Room 103 within twenty-four hours of the end of the debate. I call Mr Toshev, the rapporteur, to reply.



Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria). I am grateful to everyone who took part in the debate for their views. I thank Mr Perin, Mr Sich, Mr Chevtchenko and Mrs Entzminger from the Political Affairs Committee for helping me to prepare the report.
Taking Mr Bühler?s point about ordinary people feeling that others decide things instead of them, we should do our best to make them believe that everything is in their hands.
They should be aware of their rights and respect the rights of others. It is up to us as parliamentarians to achieve that after the debate.
I am grateful to Mr Van den Brande, who said that we should begin to pursue that goal. Today's debate is only the start of subsequent discussions.
When we return to our countries, we should try to organise debates in our parliaments to achieve parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions. It is up to us as parliamentarians to take that initiative.
We are representatives of the people and should play a responsible role.
I am grateful to all the speakers who took part in the debate, especially those who spoke about the organisation mentioned by Mr Danieli. General recommendations are covered by our draft resolution and I hope that speakers will be satisfied with it. I trust that our goal will be achieved.
THE PRESIDENT. I call Mrs Zapfl-Helbling.
Mrs ZAPFL-HELBLING (Switzerland) said that she had nothing to add to what had already been said.
THE PRESIDENT. I call Mr Jakič.
Mr JAKIČ (Slovenia). Since this topical motion was submitted to our committee, we have dealt with it sensitively in trying to work out the balance between the growing power of international institutions and the need for democratic scrutiny. I, too, believe that Mr Toshev, the rapporteur, prepared a good report and congratulate him and his secretariat.
The report provides some answers about how parliamentarians should play a leading part in the implementation of democratic mechanisms to control national institutions and international institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the IMF and the World Trade Organisation. I share the view that should try to restore people's trust in those institutions and a reduction of their sometimes violent reaction to them. I therefore expect positive voting on the report on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr Jakič. The debate is closed.
The Political Affairs Committee has presented in Document 9484 a draft resolution to which one amendment has been tabled: Mr Schloten has made an oral amendment, which I shall discuss. A draft recommendation and a draft order have also been tabled and will be taken in that order. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to one minute.
Mr Schloten has submitted the following oral amendment: in paragraph 8, after sub-paragraph b, insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:
in the medium term, to make the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union the parliamentary dimension of the United Nations?.
I remind the Assembly of Rule 34, which enables the President to accept an oral amendment or sub-amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy or conciliation. However, I have some problems because the proposed amendment would be an addition to the report and stresses a new possible solution to the problem of parliamentary scrutiny of the United Nations in the report. However, there is no suggestion from the rapporteur that the IPU should play that role.
I wonder whether I can reasonably accept the oral amendment because of the strict rules governing such amendments. It does not promote clarity, and there is nothing unclear or inaccurate about the existing text. I do not see that there is a matter of conciliation to be considered.
Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). On a point of order, Mr President.
THE PRESIDENT. A real point of order?
Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). You will be the judge of that when I refer you to the draft order on the matter.
THE PRESIDENT. I shall consider that, but first I ask whether the Chairman of the committee or the rapporteur want to give their opinion.
Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria). I shall not oppose the oral amendment. However, I realise that it will be difficult for it to be passed.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr Atkinson's remark was very appropriate. Paragraph a of the draft order instructs the Political Affairs Committee to give detailed consideration as to how a parliamentary dimension can be introduced into the work of the United Nations. I am afraid that I have to be strict and say that the oral amendment does not confirm to Rule 34, and I cannot allow it.
We come now to Amendment No. 1, tabled by Mr Atkinson, Mr Huseynov, Mr Seyidov, Mr Hladiy, Mr Lomakin-Rumiantsev, Mr Nazarov, Mr Tkáč, Ms Palečková, Mr Telek, Mr Andican, Mr Cerrahoğlu, Ms Tevdoradze, Mr Malgieri, Ms Ragnarsdóttir, Mr Kvakkestad, Mr Dalgaard, Mr Libicki, Mr Goulet, Ms Akgönenç, Sir Sydney Chapman, Mr Rogozin, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 10, and insert the following new paragraphs:
Regarding the European Union, the Assembly considers that a role for national parliaments should be introduced to bring the ?EU closer to the people?. This can be done by introducing an inter-parliamentary chamber to the European Parliament as a body of representatives of national parliaments to form, in due course, a second chamber.
This inter-parliamentary chamber could have responsibility for scrutinising policies that continue to be intergovernmental and areas in which competence is complementary or shared such as foreign affairs and matters concerning the entire continent.?
I call Mr Atkinson to support Amendment No. 1.
Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom). In paragraphs 13 and 14 of the explanatory memorandum of his report, Mr Toshev refers to the democratic deficit in the European Union and advocates better representation of national parliaments in the work of the EU. My amendment proposes how that can be done in two new paragraphs that will replace paragraph 10. It proposes the introduction of an inter-parliamentary chamber to the European Parliament which would scrutinise policies but continue to be intergovernmental, such as foreign affairs, defence, security and combating crime.
THE PRESIDENT. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
That is not the case. It is not surprising that it has been signed by most members of the European Union.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr JAKIČ (Slovenia). The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT. The voting is open.
Amendment No. 1 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution, as amended.
The voting is open.
The draft resolution in Document 9484, as amended, is adopted.


We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 9484.


The voting is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 9484 is adopted.


We will now proceed to vote on the draft order contained in Document 9484.
The voting is open.
The draft order contained in Document 9484 is adopted.
I congratulate the rapporteur and the Political Affairs Committee.
The committee will not meet this evening at 7 p.m. It will meet at 2 p.m. Tomorrow.




6.         Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions
            Presentation by Mr Toshev of report, Document 9484 and addendum, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, and by Mrs Zapfl-Helbling of opinion, Document 9485, on behalf of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development
            Speakers:
            Mr Bühler (Germany)
            Mr Danieli (Italy)
            Mrs Ragnarsdóttir (Iceland)
            Mrs Mintas-Hodak (Croatia)
            Mr Schloten (Germany)
            Mr Loutfi (Bulgaria)
            Mr Andican (Turkey)
            Mr Van den Brande (Belgium)
            Mr Jakić (Slovenia)
            Amendment No. 1 adopted.
            Draft resolution contained in Document 9484, as amended, adopted.
            Draft recommendation contained in Document 9484 adopted.
            Draft order contained in Document 9484 adopted. 

 



--> Report | Doc. 9484 | 06 June 2002

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
Rapporteur : Mr Latchezar TOSHEV, Bulgaria,



http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=9765&lang=en

Summary:

International institutions play an increasingly important role in the system of governance and their influence over national policies has been constantly growing. The decisions taken in these institutions are influence the lives of millions of citizens.
However, in most cases, these institutions suffer from a democratic deficit which damages their image in the eyes of the public and the efficiency of their activities. Citizens are often poorly informed about decisions affecting them, and have insufficient means of expressing their opinions. The imbalance between the growing power of international institutions and the absence of democratic scrutiny of their activities constitutes a major challenge for democracy.
The Assembly believes that parliamentarians must play a leading part in implementing a democratic mechanism to control these international institutions, and to this end proposes a series of measure to be taken at national and international level.

A. Draft resolution


1. The emergence of issues on a continental and global scale is increasingly challenging the effectiveness and competence of national policies, and reinforces the need for greater international scrutiny and co-operation.
2. In response to this need, the international community has established a great many worldwide or regional international institutions. Over recent years, their role in the system of governance and their influence over national policies have been constantly growing.
3. Decisions taken in these institutions increasingly influence the lives of millions of citizens. Yet the latter are often poorly informed about the activities of international institutions and are rarely enabled to exercise influence on decisions affecting them. The imbalance between the growing power of international institutions and the absence of democratic scrutiny of their activities constitutes a major challenge for democracy.
4. The insufficient transparency of their decision-making tools and the absence of machinery to monitor international institutions prompt in the general public to reject or even amongst certain minority groups to react violently against them. Civil society’s need to express itself on the major issues of the day which the international institutions are supposed to resolve finds expression in alternative forums. The potential for protest can also be exploited by extremist political movements.
5. It is accordingly necessary to make good the democratic deficit at present suffered by international institutions, which seriously hampers their efficiency, and to make them more accountable to society. The decision-making process needs to me made more transparent, and the public, through their democratically elected representatives, needs to be able to take part in it effectively.
6. The Assembly believes that in this field parliamentarians, in their national parliaments and international parliamentary assemblies must play a leading part in this.
7. It considers that parliamentary scrutiny of the work of international institutions must begin at national level. Consequently, it calls upon the national parliaments of Council of Europe member states to exercise their powers to the full in this sphere and in particular:
a. to hold regular debates on the activities of international institutions, based on reports submitted by the government;
b. to make use for this purpose of budgetary procedures and other means at their disposal;
c. to propose to the governments to include parliamentarians in national delegations participating in meeting of international institutions.
8. The Assembly reaffirms its support for a parliamentary dimension of the United Nations and believes that greater parliamentary involvement in the work of this worldwide international organisation would help enhance its authority and efficiency. It welcomes the fact that several national delegations to the United Nations General Assembly now include national parliamentarians and calls upon the governments of member States of the Council of Europe:
a. to make this practice more general, by reserving seats for parliamentarians of both ruling and opposition parties in the delegations to the General Assembly;
b. b. to apply this practice to other conferences and meetings organised in the framework of the United Nations and its specialist agencies.
9. The Assembly stresses the importance of the debates it organises on the work of several international institutions, such as OECD, the EBRD, IMF, WTO, etc. For international financial bodies, transparency and accountability are necessary requirements if they are to command public support. It believes in this context that the proposal made by the Inter-Parliamentary Union to establish a parliamentary assembly of the WTO deserves careful consideration. Similarly, while underlining the already existing role of the PACE in the accountability of OECD and EBRD, it believes that parliamentary accountability of the IMF, the World Bank and other global organisations deserve equally careful consideration.

10. Regarding the European Union, the Assembly welcomes the institutional role of the European Parliament, the first international parliamentary institution to be elected by direct suffrage, and urges that the competences of this Parliament should be enhanced. However, national parliaments, which play a key role in adapting national legislation to Community standards, should be more involved in the Union’s decision-making process.

B. Draft recommendation

(open)
1. The Assembly refers to its Resolution ….(2002) on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions, and, as regards the Council of Europe, it contends that the effectiveness of its work depends to a great extent on effective co-operation between its two statutory bodies, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.
2. In order to improve this co-operation, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
a. allow for greater involvement by the Parliamentary Assembly in the budgetary process, especially as regards determining the ceiling of the Council of Europe’s overall budget;
b. establish a co-decision-making process for the adoption of any text of a treaty nature;
c. introduce the practice of the official participation of the President of the Assembly at the meetings of the Committee of Ministers;
d. reinforce monitoring procedures, including by the use of comparative methods;
e. improve the transparency of the implementation of Assembly recommendations.

C. Draft order

(open)
The Assembly refers to its Resolution ….(2002) on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions, and instructs its Political Affairs Committee:
a. to give detailed consideration as to how a parliamentary dimension can be introduced into the work of the United Nations;
b. to come forward with a report and recommendations.

D. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur

(open)

1. Introduction

1. The resignation of the European Commission on 16 March 1999 has drawn public attention to the lack of transparency in the decision-making procedures of international institutions and also to the way in which public resources are spent by their executive organs. A motion for a resolution was tabled by Mr Ruffy and others on 31 May 1999 and led to the commencement of work on a report on these matters.
2. International institutions often suffer from a lack of credibility which stems from the so-called “democratic deficit” experienced by citizens vis-à-vis these institutions. Symptoms of this institutional malaise can manifest themselves both internally and externally. The former category includes issues of representation; voting rights and weighting; effective participation in debates; effective consultation in decision-making processes and the accountability of executive organs to their corresponding parliamentary bodies. As regards external symptoms, questions of transparency, accountability, information-disseminating mechanisms and participatory democracy are all to the fore.
3. There is a patent need to increase parliamentary control of, and involvement in, the business and activities of the executive branch of international institutions in order to:
  • make these institutions more accountable;
  • make decision-making processes more transparent (to promote public interest and further support);
  • enhance citizens’ comprehension of the functioning of these institutions;
  • ensure more effective participation in debates by both citizens and their national representatives.
4. In order to guarantee continuity in case of governmental change, as well as to offer the broadest parliamentary involvement possible, parliamentary control should be carried out by delegations which are constituted by the representatives of both the majority and the opposition.
5. “Parliamentary scrutiny” becomes even more crucial at a time when most issues become global. Globalisation increases the role and competence of international organisations and policy-making tends to shift from national level to international level. Parliamentary involvement should therefore be considered more important at this juncture.
6. Clearly much improvement remains to be made in the way in which the national parliaments address the activities of various international institutions. While some national parliaments hold annual debates on their activities, others never do so. It is essential to improve this as the scrutiny must start at the national level. By holding annual debates, the national parliaments can give valuable recommendations to their governments on matters related to the activities of specific institutions.
7. This report provides an analysis of existing parliamentary control mechanisms in a selection of international political and financial institutions. The report also suggests measures for strengthening such control mechanisms and for enhancing the overall operational transparency of international institutions.

2. Overview of Parliamentary Control in International Political Institutions

2.1. European Organisations: Different Levels of Parliamentary Control

2.1.1. Council of Europe

8. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe plays a determinative role, in particular in accession and monitoring procedures. It is consulted on the elaboration of legal instruments and elects the judges of the European Court of Human Rights. At present, interaction by the Committee of Ministers with the Parliamentary Assembly takes several forms: the Statutory Report of the Committee of Ministers; its requests for the Assembly’s opinion; the follow-up to Recommendations of Assembly and replies to oral and written questions submitted by Assembly members. The Joint Committee is the forum set up to co-ordinate the activities of, and maintain good relations between, the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly. It is composed of a representative of each member Government and a corresponding number of representatives of the Assembly (the members of the Bureau and one representative of each parliamentary delegation of member States not represented in the Bureau).
9. The Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly started under its former Chair, Mr Terry Davis, a new practice by which it holds an exchange of views with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the country that has just taken over the Chair-in-office of the Committee of Ministers. Also the out-going Chair-in-office and the next-to-come Chair participate in this exchange of views. These meetings have proven very useful, not only for the parliamentarians as they allow them to get their voices heard as regards the priorities of the Chairs-in-office, but also for the Chairs-in-office themselves as they get to reconsider what ought to be continued as a priority from the previous Chair and what the next-to-come Chair should prepare for. As from the second half of 2002 these exchanges of views will be organised by the Standing Committee.
10. In conformity with the proposal made by the Committee of Wise Persons (October 1998), the Secretary General should submit annually to the Parliamentary Assembly and to the Committee of Ministers a short report on the state of the Council of Europe including proposals for developing the activities of the Organisation.

2.1.2. European Union

11. The European Parliament is one of the world’s most fully-fledged international parliamentary assemblies and its legitimacy is underwritten by the election of its members by direct universal suffrage every five years. Its status has evolved by virtue of successive treaties from being a purely consultative body to a veritable legislature. Plenary sessions of the Parliament take place for one week per month and its deliberations and decisions are of public character. The extensive use of all eleven working languages of the Union (including simultaneous translation of all parliamentary and committee debates) renders the activities of the Parliament accessible to all parliamentarians and also to ordinary citizens of member states.
12. Members of the Parliament participate in standing committees which deal with thematic issues. Joint parliamentary committees maintain relations with the parliaments of States linked to the EU by association agreements. Inter-parliamentary delegations perform a similar role with the parliaments of many other countries and with international organizations. As is the case with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a secretariat provides necessary back-up support for parliamentary work. The Parliament shares powers of co-decision with the Council of Ministers in most matters, but the power to adopt the annual budget of the EU is vested in the Parliament alone. The Parliament’s brief for the democratic supervision of other EU institutions covers the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Council and the political co-operation bodies which are accountable to Parliament. It is also empowered to establish committees of inquiry into matters of concern.
13. Valuable ideas have been raised in the Political Affairs Committee aiming at improvement of the involvement of the national parliaments in the work of the EU. Notwithstanding the foregoing, concern has been expressed over their lack of involvement of decision-making of the European Union. It has been argued that policies of European application should be formulated with the full knowledge and approval of its constituent peoples. This stance has prompted calls for debate on the establishment of an upper chamber in the European Parliament representing the national parliaments of the EU countries. However, several parliaments of central Europe, who are candidates for EU membership, are now beginning to increase their impact on EU related issues. The work on the adaptation of national legislation to EU standards must obviously go through national parliaments and members of Parliament should be very well aware of EU policies.
14. It has also been proposed as alternative idea for debates that an assembly of the European Union should be constituted, acting not only as an upper chamber of the European Parliament, but also maintaining dialogue with the European Council, the European Commission and other institutions of the EU. This assembly could be constituted of MPs appointed by their national parliaments. The applicant countries for membership could enjoy a status of ‘special guest’ or ‘observer’ with a right to speak but not to vote. It would promote their readiness to act properly and accordingly when their countries join the EU and it would increase the knowledge of members of the European Parliament of the problems faced by the applicant countries.

2.1.3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

15. The Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE convenes annually and its sessions are ordinarily public. The Assembly provides a forum for debate on, and assessment of, OSCE activities. It is also the forum for putting questions to the Ministerial Council, which comprises Foreign Ministers of Participating States. A Final Declaration is adopted at the end of each Annual Session, as well as resolutions and recommendations, all of which are transmitted to the Ministerial Council, the Chairperson-in-Office and the national parliaments of Participating States. It is stated in the Rules of Procedure of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly that reports of Committees and decisions of the Assembly shall be transmitted to the Ministerial Council for their consideration, but no reciprocal consultative process would seem to exist. Reports of Committees and decisions of the Assembly are also forwarded to the national parliaments of Member States, but as the words “for their consideration” are omitted, it can be assumed that the purpose of such transmission is informative and not consultative.

2.2. United Nations: The Need for a Parliamentary Dimension

16. In its Recommendation 1476 (2000), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe encourages the United Nations to start developing a parliamentary dimension to its work, in close co-operation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Such a development could address the need to heighten awareness of the UN’s objectives and activities in national parliaments; stimulate greater participation by parliamentarians in the work of the UN and thereby facilitate consultative, or at least communicative, interaction between the UN and national bodies. The UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, has set a course for significant structural reform of the UN and the strengthening of its already existing parliamentary element could be examined in this context, as well as the enhanced involvement of NGOs from around the world in UN activities.
17. The Sub-Committee on the Relations with Non-Member Countries has participated on two occasions in the General Assembly debate on the co-operation between the United Nations and the regional agencies (55th session in October 2000 and 56th session in December 2001). It is encouraging to note that during the 56th debate, three national delegations (Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) allowed a member of the Sub-Committee to address the General Assembly on behalf of their national delegation. Members of the Assembly must continue to pressure their governments to include each year parliamentarians in the national delegations to the General Assembly and to allow more parliamentarians to address the General Assembly.
18. It is equally reassuring to note that during his address to parliamentarians attending the 56th General Assembly, Secretary General Kofi Annan said that “the parliamentary voice - voice of the people – must be a component of the work of the United Nations. Parliaments are places where much of a country’s important business is carried out. [….] it is in parliament that the laws of the land are made.” He furthermore added that today the role of the parliaments is more pivotal than ever, especially in the struggle against terrorism. He called on the parliamentarians for assistance in implementing the Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) on terrorism, as well the UN conventions and protocols on international terrorism.

2.3. North Atlantic Treaty Organization

19. There is no explicit mention of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) in the NATO Treaty, yet a working relationship between NATO-PA and NATO proper has been developed since 1967. NATO-PA is an inter-parliamentary assembly and in recent times, its Standing Committee has tended to meet annually with both the Secretary General and the Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters. The purpose of such meetings is to exchange views on the state of the Alliance and the perspectives of legislators. Throughout the year, contacts are maintained between both bodies at various levels. As a rule, NATO-PA meets in public.

2.4. The Inter-Parliamentary Union

20. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the world organization of parliaments of sovereign States. It is a forum for global parliamentary dialogue and its work is geared towards promoting peace and co-operation among peoples and towards the anchoring of representative democracy. However, delegations are appointed by different methods and the legitimacy and democratic credentials of some of the parliaments represented do not always correspond to best international standards. Through the contacts it facilitates and the activities it coordinates, the IPU seeks to stimulate and to direct action by parliaments and parliamentarians throughout the world. Foremost amongst the IPU’s concerns are the contribution made by national parliaments to processes of international co-operation, the implementation of international programmes and policies on a national level and the development of parliamentary dimensions to multilateral institutions. Crucially, it is the duty of each national group in the IPU to “submit the resolutions of the Union to its respective Parliament, in the most appropriate form; to communicate them to the Government; to stimulate their implementation and to inform the Secretariat of the Union, as often and fully as possible, particularly in its annual reports, as to the steps taken and the results obtained.” (Art. 8, Statutes of the IPU).
21. The Inter-Parliamentary Council is the plenary decision-making body of the IPU. It establishes the annual programme and budget of the Union and a number of committees and working groups conduct their activities under its auspices. The Secretary General is also accountable to the Council, at least insofar as she/he is obliged to submit to each ordinary session a written report on the state and work of the IPU. The Council also exercises a very important control on the financial operations of the IPU. The Union’s accounts, after having been examined by the External Auditor, must be submitted each year by the Secretary General to the two Auditors appointed by the Council from amongst its members. When audited, the accounts must then be presented for approval to the Council. All Council debates take place in public, save when decided otherwise by a majority of votes cast. Provision is made for attendance at Council debates - in an observatory capacity - by representatives of international organizations.
22. The primary responsibility of the Executive Committee is to oversee the administration of the IPU and it is expected to advise the Council on issues within its sphere of competence.
23. The Statutory IPU Conference is the principal statutory body that expresses the views of the IPU on political issues. It assembles parliamentarians twice a year for the purpose of studying international problems and making recommendations for action. In keeping with the policies of the IPU, the Statutory Conference designates national groups as the bridging link between its activities and national parliaments. One noteworthy feature of voting procedures in the Conference is that provision is made for authorizing delegates to briefly explain their vote after voting has taken place, save in the cases of amendments and procedural motions. The Conference reserves the right not to keep any records of meetings which it holds in private.
24. It should be pointed out that the IPU organises valuable annual meetings of members of parliaments included in the national delegations to the UN General Assembly. The Sub-Committee on the Relations with Non-Member Countries have participated in these meetings on several occasions. Not only are these meetings informative as UN high officials brief the participants on different UN activities, but also as they allow those members of parliament present at the General Assembly get to know one another and allow them to co-ordinate their participation.

2.5. Other Regional organisations

2.5.1. Central European Initiative

25. The stated objectives of the Central European Initiative pivot on a collective determination to strengthen (i) co-operation between its member states in economic matters, and (ii) their participation in the relentless process of European integration. The elimination of existing and potential dividing lines in Europe is another central goal of the initiative. The Parliamentary Committee / Conference of the CEI is attended by delegations representing national parliaments. The mainstay of its policy-formulation and decision-making takes place at the annual meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and meetings of Heads of Government. The failure of the CEI – to date – to attain an optimal level of visibility can be explained, at least in part, by financial and personnel constraints. These constraints inevitably hamper attempts to develop an effective outreach programme and extensive structures for liaising with the media, NGOs, representatives of the business community and other interested parties.

2.5.2. Commonwealth of Independent States

26. The objectives of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) can be briefly summarized as being promotional of political and economic co-operation between Adhering States. The main organs of the CIS are its Council of Heads of State and its Council of Heads of Government, which are assisted in their activities by supporting structures, in particular the Executive Committee. The Committee is responsible for the coordination of interaction with Member States, statutory and sectoral organs of the Commonwealth and also international organizations. The Committee seeks to facilitate consultation and information-exchange. To this end, it has developed a data-base of multilateral agreements between CIS states and is increasingly tapping the informative potential of internet resources. Different types of publications are issued by the Committee and its outreach strategies include participation in symposia and events organized in international fora.
27. In March 1992, the CIS set up the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA). This body acts as an advisory body in preparing draft legislative instruments of common interest, harmonising national legislative efforts and according to its Convention of 1997 it is an inter-state body and a key agency of the CIS. At present, parliaments of the following states are members of IPA: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Takikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. In June 1997, the IPA Council and the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly signed an Agreement of Co-operation. The IPA delegations attend regularly the Assembly sessions.
28. The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will organise jointly with the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly an International Forum on Combating Terrorism in St. Petersbourg on 27-28 March 2002.

2.5.3. Black Sea Economic Co-operation

29. The Black Sea Economic Co-operation has identified economic co-operation and the encouragement of free enterprise as appropriate vectors for hastening economic, technological and social progress. It is also mindful of environmental concerns within its geographical parameters and of the guiding principles of the ongoing work of the OSCE. The organizational structure of the BSEC comprises intergovernmental, inter-parliamentary, inter-business and financial components. The dominant body in the intergovernmental component is the Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (MMFA) of the Participating States. It is a decision-making body with responsibility for all matters pertaining to the functioning of the BSEC. The MMFA has established Working Groups and a Permanent International Secretariat to supplement its own work. The objective of Parliamentary Assembly of the BSEC is to strengthen pluralist democratic structures and political stability in the Black Sea area by providing a legal basis for the co-operative activities espoused by the BSEC. The inter-business component is known as the BSEC Council. The Chairpersonship of the Council rotates every six months and regular interaction between national business communities of Participating States is secured by this and other means. The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is the BSEC mechanism entrusted with the formulation and implementation of the organization’s joint regional and other financing projects.

2.5.4. Nordic Council

30. The Nordic Council provides a forum for co-operation between Nordic parliamentarians and between parliamentarians and governments in the Nordic region. The Nordic Council of Ministers, for its part, hosts meetings between Nordic Ministers and / or civil servants. Its areas of interest include education, youth affairs, economic issues, welfare and industry, resource-management, the environment and regional politics.

2.6. Observations

31. The brief description (above) of the mechanisms for parliamentary control in a selection of international political institutions reveals a manifest lack of uniformity in the nature and indeed, in the varying efficiency of such mechanisms. Existing mechanisms in any given body are often indicative of its actual commitment to ideals of transparency and accountability. The European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are not without structural and operational imperfections, yet they nonetheless stand out from the majority of other similarly-conceived bodies by virtue of the relative sophistication of their consultative structures and practices. Consultation is the vitalizing link which binds together the decision-makers and the public from whom they derive their mandate. Checks and balances have always been at the very heart of all models of modern democracy, where the primacy of Montesquieu’s tripartite division of powers is assured.

3. Overview of Control Mechanisms in International Financial Institutions

3.1. Functioning of Financial Institutions

3.1.1. World Bank

32. The mission of the World Bank is to reduce poverty throughout the world by using its banking services (especially loans, policy advice and technical assistance) in a way that would favour the empowerment of local populations. The Bank consists of five institutions, the purposes of which are clearly delineated: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (provides market-based loans and development assistance to help middle-income countries and creditworthy poorer countries reduce poverty); the International Development Assistance (to provide interest-free loans, technical assistance and policy advice to the poorest countries); the International Finance Corporation (promotes growth in developing countries by financing private sector investments, mobilizing capital and providing technical and advisory assistance to governments and businesses); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (encourages foreign investment by providing guarantees to foreign investors by providing guarantees against loss caused by non-commercial risks in developing countries) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (provides facilities for the settlement by conciliation or arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and their host countries).
33. The World Bank works extensively with government agencies, NGOs and the private sector. The world-wide dimension to the Banks activities, plus its interplay with a huge number of different actors, means that it is imperative that the Bank furnish a maximum amount of information about its activities and policies for public consumption. The Bank does, in fact, boast wide-ranging provisions for information disclosure, many of which impress by their elaborate character. One feature of the Bank’s publicity strategy is its InfoShop which provides, on request, Project Information Documents free of charge.
34. The Bank has made concrete efforts to increase NGO involvement in its projects. It has also overseen a conscious trend towards the increased delegation of project decisions to Resident Missions in its Member States as part of an overall commitment to consolidating existing Resident Missions and establishing new ones.
35. As regards financial accountability, statements of the Bank’s financial position are published quarterly. Audited financial statements are published in the Annual Report and unaudited statements are included in the semi-annual update of the Bank’s Information Statement.
36. Any constraints on the disclosure of information have the objective of preserving the integrity of the Bank’s deliberative process and its relations with its member countries. There is the further relevant consideration of confidentiality when information submitted to the Bank is commercially sensitive.

3.1.2. World Trade Organization

37. Since the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999, issues of internal and external transparency have been understandably high on the organization’s agenda. Consultations on how to improve internal transparency have been initiated and, in tandem, an investigation is being conducted by the Secretariat into practical ways of improving existing means for the communication of information to Members. These efforts have involved improving on-line data-bases available to Members and pilot projects to use electronic means for keeping delegations informed of WTO activities. A daily bulletin also contains information on the previous day’s activities. Measures have been taken to enhance the level and quality of participation in WTO activities by Members who do not have permanent representatives in Geneva (including the appointment of a liaison officer for such Members). The objective of stimulating Members’ participation in the work of the WTO also led to the establishment of 94 reference centres in lesser-developed countries, thus rendering relevant documentation more accessible to governments and other interested parties in those countries.
38. The founding agreement of the WTO provides for co-operation with NGOs, and subsequent guidelines have fleshed out the substance and import of this provision. While not directly involved in the WTO’s work, NGOs are increasingly present at Ministerial Conferences and they continue to participate in symposia organized by the WTO Secretariat. A complementary practice which is also of importance to the organization’s outreach activities, is that WTO staff participate in events organized by NGOs and academic institutions. Regular briefings for NGOs on the work of WTO committees and working groups are held under the auspices of the WTO Secretariat. Furthermore, the Secretariat provides Member Countries with a list of miscellaneous documents received from the NGO community each month. This documentation is made available to Members on request.
39. In his statement to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (23 January 2002), Mr Moore, Director-General of the WTO, called on the parliamentarians to be active at the national level in implementing priorities set by the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference. He also said that their work at the national level must be complemented at the international level: “The trend of the globalisation of public policy issues will continue and cannot be ignored. Public apprehension needs to be calmed by elected officials and I believe you have a critical role to play. Parliamentarians need to engage in the critical issues and be perceived by the public to be doing so.”
40. The IPU organised a meeting of parliamentarians on the occasion of the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference. Similar meetings, organised either by the IPU or another organisation, should become a custom.

3.1.3. European Investment Bank

41. As the financing institution of the European Union, the European Investment Bank enjoys its own legal personality and financial autonomy. The raison d’être of the Bank is to finance capital projects which are consonant with the objectives of the EU as part of a concerted drive towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of EU Member States. Its remit extends beyond membership of the EU: it also implements the financial components of agreements concluded under European development aid and co-operation policies.
42. The policies of the EIB are informed by those of Member States and of the EU Institutions, but the interests of the business and banking sectors and other relevant international organizations are not without influence either. It consists of Ministers designated by each EU Member State, usually the Ministers for Finance. The principal institutional partner of the EIB within the EU is the European Commission, but it also keeps the other EU institutions – and the general public - informed of its activities through its contributions to the different Commission reports and publications on attainment of Community objectives. The Bank has an independent external audit structure.

3.1.4. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

43. The aims of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are set out in Article 1 of the OECD Convention. They include the achievement of the highest sustainable economic growth in member states; contribution to economic expansion in Member States as well as non-member states in the process of economic development and contribution to the expansion of world trade on the basis of multilateral and non-discriminatory relations. Article 3 attaches importance to consultative and informative measures for the realization of OECD’s objectives, by obligating Member States to: “(a) keep each other informed and furnish the Organisation with the information necessary for the accomplishment of its tasks; (b) consult together on a continuing basis, carry out studies and participate in agreed projects; and (c) co-operate closely and where appropriate take co-ordinated action.” Article 6.1 gives expression to the OECD’s concern for procedural transparency: “Unless the Organisation otherwise agrees unanimously for special cases, decisions shall be taken and recommendations shall be made by mutual agreement of all the Members.” In practice, publicity for the Organisation’s activities is ensured by the publication of books, a magazine and policy briefs, as well as multimedia products. Liaising with journalists and other international organisations is equally part and parcel of the OECD’s publicity strategies. As can be seen below (see paragraph 47), the OECD since its earliest days is equipped with a parliamentary monitoring body, namely the Enlarged Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

3.1.5. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

44. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in 1991 to foster the transition towards open market-oriented economies and to promote private and entrepreneurial initiative in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) committed to and applying the principles of multiparty democracy, pluralism and market economics. The EBRD seeks to attain these objectives through investments which strive to ensure the implementation of structural and sectoral economic reforms and the promotion of private enterprise.
45. A presumption of information disclosure in the interest of public accountability is central to the philosophy of the EBRD. To this end, the Bank has adopted an official Public Information Policy (PIP) which prioritises, inter alia, operational transparency and receptiveness to comment. The Bank’s commitment to the PIP can be gauged by its decision to assign a liaison specialist to communicate with NGOs and other stake-holders. This Policy provides for a consultation process involving the posting of draft sectoral policies on the Bank’s web-site in advance of their finalization. The public is invited to submit any pertinent comments it might have prior to the adoption of the sectoral policies, after which time they will be duly presented as such, again on the web-site. This consultation procedure does not, however, extend to the Bank’s financial policies. Summary documents for private sector projects are generally given similar advance publicity.

3.1.6. International Monetary Fund

46. The International Monetary Fund is, in its own words, an international organization “established to promote international monetary co-operation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to foster economic growth and high levels of employment; and to provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment.” Under the Articles of Agreement of the IMF, the organization is obliged to publish an annual report containing an audited statement of its accounts. It is also required to issue, at intervals of three months or less, a summary statement of, inter alia, its operations and transactions. The informal communication of views by the IMF to any Member on matters arising under the Agreement is provided for. Furthermore, the IMF may, with a 70% majority of the total voting power, decide to publish a report made to a Member State regarding its monetary or economic conditions and developments which directly tend to produce a serious disequilibrium in the international balance of payments of members.

3.2. Control by External Parliamentary Institutions

47. The Committee on Economic Affairs and Development of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly serves as a parliamentary forum by special agreement for annual or otherwise recurring debates on the activities of a number of international institutions, notable among them the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
48. The yearly debates on OECD activities – on the theme “The OECD and the World Economy” - are held by an Enlarged Assembly with the participation of the OECD Secretary General. Here parliamentary delegations from all the forty-four member states of the Council of Europe and the six non-European member countries of the OECD (Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States) enjoy equal rights as regards voting, etc. The equally annual debates on EBRD activities – entitled “The EBRD and Progress in Transition” - include the participation of the President of the Bank.
49. Regular debates on the basis of reports originating with the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development are also held on the activities of the World Trade Organisation (often centered on the effects of globalisation), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (predominantly focussed on North-South cooperation), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) and the European Civil Aviation conference (ECAC). The Parliamentary Assembly can in this way be said to exert a parliamentary insight into, and influence over, the work of the above-mentioned organisations on behalf of national parliaments and, through them, on behalf of citizens and taxpayers.
50. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly is the venue for occasional debates on the activities of organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration.
51. I should point out here to the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas (FIPA), which held its inaugural meeting in Ottawa (Canada) in March 2001. This new Forum groups parliamentarians from 26 member countries of the Organization of American States. Its purpose is to promote parliamentary participation in the inter-American system and to contribute to inter-parliamentary dialogue. It has three working groups dealing with strengthening of democracy – good governance and corruption, creation of prosperity (Free Trade Area of the Americas), and realizing human potential. The FIPA will meet next in March in Mexico. The Parliamentary Assembly should follow the work of the FIPA and benefit from the presence of the Observer delegations from Canada and Mexico to keep it informed of the latest developments.

3.3. The Contribution of Parliamentary Control to the Democratic and Human Rights Dimension of the Objectives and Functioning of International Financial Institutions

52. Transparency and accountability are the minimum structural requirements for ensuring public support for the activities of the international organizations considered in this report. Projects should, ideally, be explained to and discussed with the public (or at the very least, representatives of the public) and then agreed, not imposed. Such consultative procedures are the only effective safeguard for democracy that is truly participatory. Whereas accountability is often considered to be largely the preserve of parliamentary control mechanisms, its sister-virtue of transparency is of the utmost importance to the general public.
53. The accessibility of information is a vehicle for stimulating debate, broadening knowledge and understanding, facilitating coordination amongst involved or interested parties. It is also a necessary prerequisite for securing public support for policies or their implementation. However, the ability to access information does not, of itself, fulfil the requirements of the democratic paradigm. Effective provision for consultative processes is a further sine qua non for creating or sustaining a healthy model of democracy.

4. Suggestions for Promoting Transparency and Openness

54. This report has focused on established and emerging trends for the promotion of transparency in international parliamentary assemblies. It has also subjected the decision-making processes of international financial institutions to renewed scrutiny. It is clear that any useful suggestions for enhancing transparency and openness in the type of institutions considered, will necessarily be defined by an imaginative implementation of some form of eclecticism drawing on examples of best current practices. It is clear that no new structures should be set up to carry out the parliamentary scrutiny, several bodies already carry out this function in different ways. It is important that they co-ordinate in their function in order to improve their scrutiny in a more efficient manner. Given the dual nature of transparency, what is required is a recalibration of internal procedures and efforts to guarantee the external visibility of the activities of organizations:

4.1. General Recommendations:

  • regular debates in national parliaments on the policies and activities of international institutions;
  • set up committees in national parliaments responsible for following the activities of different international institutions and making recommendations to their respective governments;
  • strengthening of other measures to ensure that the work of international institutions is kept high on the agenda of national parliaments;
  • include parliamentarians in the national delegations to various international institutions, notably to the United Nations General Assembly;
  • budgetary committees to closely monitor the financial operations of international institutions;
  • independent audits of the financial accounts of international institutions;
  • a presumption of disclosure to prevail within international institutions concerning all information on its policies and activities, with non-disclosure being strictly limited to instances where compelling competing interests are at stake;
  • distribution of all pertinent documentation to national representatives in advance of and following meetings of supranational parliamentary bodies;
  • internet sites and other means to facilitate communication with public;
  • development of structures to ensure greater openness and responsiveness to NGOs;
  • improvement of relationship with media, both structured interaction and ad hoc briefings;
  • create a parliamentary organ in international institutions which lack such a structural dimension;
  • strengthen political and budgetary control mechanisms within existing parliamentary organs;
  • input into debates on the formulation of objectives and programmes and into decisions on the use of resources, by representatives of the governments and / or parliaments of Member States, NGOs, other interested parties, and, to the greatest extent possible, the public in general ;
  • involvement of all parties concerned in decision-making by international institutions ;
  • exchanges of views between the executive and the parliamentary body of national and international institutions;
  • adequate means of sanctioning executive organs of international institutions.

4.2. Council of Europe: Specific Recommendations:

  • improvement of working relations between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers;
  • improvement in the functioning of the parliamentary fora in which the functioning and future orientation of certain international institutions are debated;
  • new proposals emerging from the Summit of Heads of State and Government and the Report of the Wise Persons, as outlined in Opinion 208 (1999):
  • greater consultation with the Parliamentary Assembly before fixing the ceiling for the overall budget of the Council of Europe
  • greater autonomy for the PA in the management of its own budgetary and administrative matters
  • adoption of co-decision procedure for the adoption of any draft convention, agreement and protocol
  • provision for an address by the President of the PA to the Committee of Ministers at the beginning of each ministerial meeting
  • reinforcement of monitoring activities, with new sanctions and improved follow-up to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations, introducing also comparative methods.
  • reappraisal and stream-lining of activities, structures and working methods
  • development of outreach projects, including medium- and long-term presence in certain Member States
  • further development of inter-institutional cooperation
  • adoption of policy of taking public political positions on current developments, notably through its Chairman
  • enhancement of Council of Europe’s field-presence
  • improvement of contacts with media, NGOs, trade unions, youth organisations and national authorities.

4.3. European Union: Specific Recommendations

  • promotion of strengthening of the involvement of EU national parliaments in the work of the European institutions

4.4. Other international institutions: Specific Recommendations

  • allowing involvement of parliamentarians in their activities
  • promotion better relations with the public, including NGOs and media
Reporting Committee: Political Affairs Committee
Reference to Committee: Doc. 8430, Reference 2473, 24.01.00 (modifying Reference 2467)
Draft Resolution, draft Recommendation and draft Order unanimously adopted by the Committee on 7 May 2002
Members of the Committee: Jakič (Chairman), Baumel (Vice-Chairman), Feric-Vać (Vice-Chairperson), Spindelegger (Vice-Chairman), Aliyev, Andican, Arzilli, Atkinson, Azzolini, Bakoyianni, Bársony, Behrendt, Berceanu, Bergqvist, Bianco, Björck, Blaauw, Blankenborg, Bühler, Cekuolis, Clerfayt, Daly, Diaz de Mera, Dreyfus-Schmidt (alternate: Lemoine), Durrieu,  Frey, Glesener, Gligoroski, Gönül, Gross, Henry, Hornhues, Hovhannisyan, Hrebenciuc, Iwinski, Judd, Karpov, Kautto, Klich, Koçi, Lloyd, Loutfi, Margelov (alternate: Popov), Martinez-Casan, Medeiros Ferreira, Mignon (alternate: Goulet), Mota Amaral, Mutman, Naudi Mora, Neguta, Nemcova,  Oliynyk, Paegle, Pangalos, Pourgourides, Prentice, Prisacaru, de Puig, Ragnarsdottir, Ranieri, Rogozin, Schloten, Severinsen, Stepová, Surjan, Timmermans, Toshev, Udovenko, Vakilov, Vella, Voog, Weiss (alternate: Svec), Wielowieyski, Wohlwend, Wurm, Yarygina, Zacchera (alternate: Malgieri), Ziuganov (alternate: Slutsky), Zhvania (NN………., Bosnie-Herzégovine (alternate: Tokic).
N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics
Secretaries of the Committee: Mr Perin, Mr Sich, Mr Chevtchenko, Mrs Entzminger

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Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
Rapporteur : Mr Latchezar TOSHEV, Bulgaria,



Addendum to the report | Doc. 9484 Add. I | 25 June 2002

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions




Origin - This Addendum concerning the Assembly of WEU should be considered as an item of Part 2.1 of the explanatory memorandum (immediately after the section on the Council of Europe (2.1.1)). 2002 - Third part-session

Western European Union

The WEU Assembly is the parliamentary component of Western European Union, the only defence organisation at European level. It was created in 1954 by the modified Brussels Treaty, Article XI of which stipulates that the Council of Western European Union will make an annual report on its activities to an Assembly composed of representatives of the Brussels Treaty Powers to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In a desire to “promote the unity and to encourage the progressive integration of Europe” in keeping with the resolve expressed in the preamble to the treaty, the Assembly has always attached importance to submitting to the Council recommendations containing proposals for strengthening Europe’s identity in the field of security and defence.
The fact that delegations of 28 national parliaments participate in the Assembly’s work makes its activities all the more significant. It can therefore be said to be the precursor of European defence in the widest sense.
The vast majority of the Assembly’s ideas are now coming to fruition in the new arrangements for security and defence currently being implemented by the European Union via the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).
Under the Maastricht Treaty, WEU as a whole (thus including its Assembly) became “an integral part of the development of the European Union” (Article I.4). This was confirmed by Article 17 of the Amsterdam Treaty. At the Nice Summit, however, it was decided to transfer WEU’s responsibilities for “Petersberg” missions to the EU. It was accordingly agreed that any reference to WEU should be deleted from the revised version of Article 17 with the exception of the clause stating that the provisions of that article were not to prevent the development of closer co-operation between member states in the framework of WEU.
Against the background of the institutional changes under way in Europe, the WEU Assembly remains the only European parliamentary assembly with a clear treaty-based mandate to monitor security and defence issues. Pending the decisions that are to be taken on the parliamentary dimension of the European Union’s ESDP, the Assembly is acting as the interim European Security and Defence Assembly.


Resolution 1289 (2002)

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly
Origin - Assembly debate on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting) (see Doc. 9484, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Toshev; and Doc. 9485, opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling). Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting).
1. The emergence of issues of continental or global dimensions is increasingly challenging the effectiveness and remit of national policies, and more than ever requires greater international scrutiny and co-operation.
2. In response to this need, the international community has established a great many global or regional international institutions. Over recent years, their role in the system of governance and their influence over national policies have been constantly expanding.
3. Decisions taken in these institutions increasingly influence the lives of millions of citizens. Yet the latter are often poorly informed about the activities of international institutions and are rarely enabled to exercise influence on decisions affecting them. The imbalance between the increasing power of international institutions and the absence of democratic scrutiny of their activities constitutes a major challenge for democracy.
4. The insufficient transparency of their decision-making tools and the absence of machinery to monitor international institutions prompt the general public to reject them or even, in the case of certain minority groups, to react violently against them. Civil society’s need to express itself on major current issues that international institutions are supposed to resolve finds expression in alternative fora. The potential for protest can also be exploited by extremist political movements.
5. It is accordingly necessary to make good the democratic deficit at present suffered by international institutions, which seriously hampers their efficiency, and to make them more accountable to society. The decision-making process needs to be made more transparent, and the public, through its democratically elected representatives, needs to be able to take part in it effectively.
6. The Parliamentary Assembly believes that parliamentarians, in both their national parliaments and international parliamentary assemblies, must play a leading part in this field.
7. It considers that parliamentary scrutiny of the work of international institutions must begin at national level. Consequently, it calls upon the national parliaments of Council of Europe member states to exercise their powers to the full in this sphere, and in particular:
to hold regular debates on the activities of international institutions based on reports submitted by the government;
to make use for this purpose of budgetary procedures and other means at their disposal;
to propose to the governments that they include parliamentarians in national delegations participating in meetings of international institutions.
8. The Assembly reaffirms its support for a parliamentary dimension of the United Nations, and believes that greater parliamentary involvement in the work of this worldwide international organisation would help enhance its authority and efficiency. It welcomes the fact that several national delegations to the United Nations General Assembly now include national parliamentarians and calls upon the governments of member states of the Council of Europe:
to make this practice more general by reserving seats for parliamentarians of both ruling and opposition parties in the delegations to the UN General Assembly;
to apply this practice to other conferences and meetings organised in the framework of the United Nations and its specialist agencies.
9. The Assembly stresses the importance of the debates it organises on the work of several international institutions, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), etc. For international financial bodies, transparency and accountability are necessary requirements if they are to command public support. It believes in this context that the proposal made by the Inter-Parliamentary Union to establish a parliamentary assembly of the WTO deserves careful consideration. Similarly, while underlining the already existing role of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council Europe in the accountability of OECD and EBRD, it believes that parliamentary accountability of the IMF, the World Bank and other global organisations deserve equally careful consideration.
10. Regarding the European Union, the Assembly considers that a role for national parliaments should be introduced to bring the European Union closer to the people. This could be done by introducing an inter-parliamentary chamber in the European Parliament as a body of representatives of national parliaments which would form, in due course, a second chamber.

11. This inter-parliamentary chamber could have responsibility for scrutinising policies that continue to be intergovernmental and areas in which competence is complementary or shared, such as foreign affairs and matters concerning the entire continent.

Recommendation 1567 (2002)

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly
Origin - Assembly debate on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting) (see Doc. 9484, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Toshev; and Doc. 9485, opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling). Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting).
1. The Assembly refers to its Resolution 1289 (2002) on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions and, as regards the Council of Europe, it contends that the effectiveness of its work depends to a great extent on effective co-operation between its two statutory bodies, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.
2. In order to improve this co-operation, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
  • allow for greater involvement of the Parliamentary Assembly in the budgetary process, especially as regards determining the ceiling of the Council of Europe’s overall budget;
  • establish a co-decision-making process for the adoption of draft treaties;
  • introduce the practice of the official participation of the President of the Assembly in meetings of the Committee of Ministers;
  • reinforce monitoring procedures, including by the use of comparative methods;
  • improve the transparency of the implementation of Assembly recommendations.
Order 582 (2002)

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

Author(s): Parliamentary Assembly
Origin - Assembly debate on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting) (see Doc. 9484, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Toshev; and Doc. 9485, opinion of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling). Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 June 2002 (19th Sitting).
The Assembly refers to its Resolution 1289 (2002) on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions, and instructs its Political Affairs Committee:
a. to give detailed consideration as to how a parliamentary dimension can be introduced into the work of the United Nations;
b. to come forward with a report and recommendations


Reply | Doc. 9673 | 25 January 2003

Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions

Author(s): Committee of Ministers

Origin - Adopted at the 825th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (22 January 2003). 2003 - First part-session

Reply to REC 1567 (2002) 
 
1. The Committee of Ministers took note with interest of Recommendation 1567 on parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions, which the Parliamentary Assembly adopted on 25 June 2002, and of Resolution 1289 on the same subject, adopted on the same day.
2. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers is convinced that the effectiveness of the Council of Europe’s action depends largely on efficient co-operation between its two statutory organs, through which the governments and parliaments of member states are bringing their contribution to the building of a greater Europe without dividing lines.
3. In response to the specific proposals put forward by the Parliamentary Assembly in paragraph 2 of Recommendation 1567, the Committee of Ministers agreed as follows:
i. With regard to greater involvement of the Parliamentary Assembly in the budgetary process, especially the determination of the ceiling of the Council of Europe’s overall budget, the Committee of Ministers recalls that a procedure for consulting the Parliamentary Assembly has already been established, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of Wise Persons.
  • The draft budgetary calendar is set so as to enable the Assembly’s opinion to be taken fully into account.
  • An exchange of views based on the Secretary General’s proposals for priorities for the following year and their budgetary implications takes place with the Assembly before a decision is taken by the Deputies on the priorities and the level of member states’ contributions.
  • The Assembly enjoys considerable budgetary freedom within its own financial package.
The Committee of Ministers believes that legitimate concerns of the Assembly in this area are thereby met.
ii. With regard to the establishment of a co-decision-making process for the adoption of draft treaties, the Committee of Ministers draws attention to the stand it took in connection with follow-up to the final report of the Committee of Wise Persons, which is to consult the Assembly on all draft treaties, save in exceptional cases where, for purely technical reasons, such consultation is not necessary. It observes that this principle has been strictly observed for over three years, and that in practice the Ministers' Deputies made an effort to take account of the positions adopted by the Assembly during the consultation process, before finally adopting conventions. In view of its positive assessment of this practice, which has been applied since May 1999, the Committee of Ministers intends to continue with it, without going so far as introducing a formal co-decision-making process as envisaged by the Assembly.
iii. With regard to the proposal that the President of the Assembly should officially participate in Committee of Ministers meetings, the Committee of Ministers is pleased to inform the Assembly that, further to the invitations to President Schieder to attend the 110th (Vilnius, 3 May 2002) and 111th (Strasbourg, 7 November 2002) sessions, it has been agreed that the President of the Parliamentary Assembly will in future be systematically invited to attend formal Committee of Ministers sessions. This will supplement and reinforce the Assembly President’s participation in informal ministerial meetings held the day before sessions at the Secretary General’s invitation, to which Presidents Russell-Johnston and Schieder have been regularly invited since November 1999.
iv. With regard to the idea of reinforcing the monitoring procedures, in particular by using comparative methods, the Committee of Ministers would point out that monitoring of the honouring of commitments entered into by member states remains an essential activity that must be properly implemented, as Ms Lydie Polfer, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg and then Chair of the Committee of Ministers, recalled in Vilnius on 3 May 2002. The Committee of Ministers is still convinced that the monitoring procedures used by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, although they are different in nature, are complementary and reinforce each other, and it is willing to pursue recent efforts to exchange information and engage in dialogue in this respect. It will be remembered, in this connection, that the Committee of Ministers adopted, in October 2002, two new themes for the procedure for monitoring the honouring of undertakings, one concerning freedom of conscience and religion and the other equal rights for women and men in member states. These themes will be discussed by the Ministers' Deputies in July and October 2003 respectively. Moreover, a comparative study of freedom of expression and information in the 44 member states is being prepared and should be discussed by the Ministers' Deputies in April 2003.
v. With regard to improving transparency in the implementation of Assembly recommendations, the Committee of Ministers would draw attention to the substantial efforts made in this area since 1998, particularly with the introduction of a nine-month deadline to be observed, as far as possible, for replying to Assembly recommendations. The Committee of Ministers is aware that this target has not always been attained, but would also like to draw the Assembly’s attention to the many cases in which high priority has been given to the adoption of a reply well within the nine-month time limit, particularly in connection with the current political issues that are most important to the Council of Europe, in connection with which the Committee of Ministers usually communicates its views to the Parliamentary Assembly in time for the next part-session. In addition, information on the action the Committee of Ministers has taken on Parliamentary Assembly recommendations is regularly included in the written reports prepared by the chairmanship at each session, and a comprehensive report on this action is forwarded to the Assembly every year.
Against this background, the Committee of Ministers is ready to commit itself to making an additional effort so that replies can be adopted to Parliamentary Assembly recommendations in principal in time for the second part-session following that at which they were adopted, that is to say within a time-limit of less than six months (the nine-month time limit becoming a maximum for exceptional cases). It further considers that priority should go to giving more impetus to the already made efforts described above so that they can have their full impact in strengthening dialogue and communication between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, while being open to additional specific proposals for improvements.















Doc. 9485
11 June 2002
Parliamentary scrutiny of international institutions
Opinion1
Committee on Economic Affairs and Development
Rapporteur: Mrs Rosmarie Zapfl-Helbling, Switzerland, Group of the European People’s Party
I.       Conclusions of the committee
1.       There are at least two ways in which the role of parliaments in developing public policy can be strengthened in our present era of globalisation, multilateral institutions and international agreements. The first consists in encouraging national parliaments closely to follow the work of the international organisations concerned, commenting on their work and inciting their own governments to pursue certain lines of action. National governments should also be encouraged to submit early drafts of forthcoming agreements to parliament for comment.
2.       Secondly, greater use must be made of international parliamentary bodies – whether at world or at world-regional level – in overseeing the work of the international organisations concerned. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been steadfastly pursuing this policy for the benefit of the parliaments and citizens of its member states.
3.       At a time of considerable public apprehension over the direction and content of globalisation, a parliamentary role is essential. Greater parliamentary influence throughout any given inter-governmental negotiation process can help to shape the final outcome in ways that are more in line with the sentiments of the citizenry. Finally, a greater parliamentary say will also bring home the point that – in an era when countries are increasingly forced to find joint solutions to joint problems – it is not only governments that need to be involved, but also, and especially, the institutions that give governments their mandate and derive their authority directly from the people, namely parliaments.
II.       Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur
1.       It is a hallmark of parliamentary democracy that a country’s parliament should shape national policies through the legislation it enacts, and that it should influence national political life through its debates and through the public discourse of its members. National governments in democratic countries indeed emanate from majorities in parliament, with the latter constituting the ultimate political authority.
2.       However, when countries come together to find solutions to problems of common concern, the link between decision-making power and parliament becomes much less direct. Whether we are talking about international organisations, or about conferences convened for a specific purpose, government representatives reach agreement and then return home and announce to their parliament and the general public what they have achieved. The national parliament is often placed before a fait accompli, since any attempt to modify an agreement negotiated by the government is likely to necessitate a new conference. International agreements reached by governments without any parliamentary input therefore often signify a retreat from parliamentary democracy.
3.       That is why the draft report presented by Mr Toshev on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee of our Assembly is so important. The Committee on Economic Affairs and Development supports the general thrust of the report and accompanying draft Resolution, which it considers an constructive first contribution to a public debate in the years to come on how the ‘democratic deficit’ of international institutions may be overcome or at least considerably reduced. What follows in the present Opinion on Mr Toshev’s report are therefore general observations meant to carry the debate further.
4.       In our present era of accelerating globalisation, the need to reach international agreement on a growing number of subjects accentuates the problem. International organisations and treaty-making conferences were always in response to the requirements of internationalisation. Today they increasingly try to deal with issues caused by globalisation. Only rarely, however, do such institutions possess a parliamentary body.
5.       The above also applies, for example, to the international organisation responsible for managing trade globalisation, namely the World Trade Organisation. Here, intergovernmental summits are convened and agreements hammered out – after years of pre-summit talks – in the course of a few final days and nights of breakneck negotiations. National parliaments are subsequently asked to ratify these agreements ex post facto. Only rarely do parliaments venture to balk – such as when, say, the US Congress refuses to ratify an agreement negotiated by the Administration.
6.       It was in order to, at least partly, overcome this ‘parliamentary deficit’, that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe early on decided actively to start overseeing the work of international organisations. Thus, already in 1960, it assumed the role of serving as the parliamentary forum of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development - the OECD. It started to hold annual debates on “The OECD and the World Economy”, with the participation of the OECD’s Secretary General. The debates are based on extensive preparatory meetings between the Assembly’s Committee on Economic Affairs and Development and the OECD, with other Committees concerned by one or the other aspect of the OECD’s work also being represented. The ‘OECD debates’ are held within the procedural framework of the so-called ‘Enlarged Parliamentary Assembly’, which ensures equal rights between the parliamentary delegations of the 44 Members States of the Council of Europe on the one hand, and non-European countries belonging to the OECD on the other. (These are Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States).
7.       Similarly, since 1992 the Parliamentary Assembly – again with the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development as the intermediary – serves as the parliamentary forum of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EBRD. Here, too, annual debates are held on the general theme of “The Contribution of the EBRD to Economic Development in Central and Eastern Europe”, with the participation of the EBRD President.
8.       The Parliamentary Assembly – first through its Committee on Economic Affairs and Development and then in plenary session – ensures parliamentary accompaniment to the work of several other international organisations that lack a parliamentary dimension, again with the personal participation of their respective heads. They include the World Trade Organisation (often centred on the effects of globalisation), the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank (often on ‘North-South cooperation), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Council of Europe Development Bank, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) and the European Civil Aviation conference (ECAC). (Thus, for example, Mr Mike Moore, Director General of the WTO, came to the Parliamentary Assembly in January 2002 to address it within an Assembly debate on “Managing Globalisation: The Role of the WTO in the World Economy”.) The Parliamentary Assembly can in this way be said to exert a parliamentary insight into, and influence over, the work of the above-mentioned organisations, on behalf of national parliaments and, through them, on behalf of citizens and taxpayers.
9.       The above practice of our Parliamentary Assembly system of course does not cover all the international institutions in need of parliamentary oversight, nor is it perfect. It cannot eliminate, only reduce, the above-mentioned ‘parliamentary deficit’ when it comes to the supervision of international institutions. Ideally, each such organisation should have an in-built parliamentary instance, whether with a decision-making or merely consultative power, even though such an arrangement is rendered difficult both on cost grounds and due to the absence of clearly defined political groupings, let alone parties, at world level.
10.       This notwithstanding, the system developed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly saves times and money both for national parliaments, which can in this way take stock of and influence the work of the institutions concerned, and for international organisations, which do not have to receive parliamentary delegations from each of their member states individually, but can inform national parliaments via the Parliamentary Assembly.
11.       Sometimes the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also contributes to the efforts at greater parliamentary influence together with others. Thus, it participated in a major IPU – European Parliament conference held in Geneva in June 2001 on the role of parliaments in shaping the world trade agenda. It looks forward to making further contributions to this important mission of the IPU and the EP.
12.        In conclusion, there are at least two ways in which the role of parliaments in developing public policy can be strengthened in our present era of globalisation, multilateral institutions and international agreements. The first consists in encouraging national parliaments closely to follow the work of the international organisations concerned, commenting on their work and inciting their own governments to pursue certain lines of action. National governments should also be encouraged to submit early drafts of forthcoming agreements to parliament for comment.
13.       Secondly, greater use must be made of international parliamentary bodies, whether at world or at world-regional level, in overseeing the work of the international organisations concerned. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is steadfastly pursuing this policy, for the benefit of the parliaments of its 44 Member States, its Special Guest delegation from Serbia and Montenegro (formerly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and its Observer delegations (Canada, Israel and Mexico).
14.       At a time of considerable public apprehension over the direction and content of globalisation, a parliamentary role of the kind outlined above is essential. Greater parliamentary influence throughout any given inter-governmental negotiation process can help to shape the final outcome in ways that are more in line with the sentiments of the citizenry. Finally, a greater parliamentary say will also bring home the point that – in an era when countries are increasingly forced to find joint solutions to joint problems – it is not only governments that need to be involved, but also, and especially, the institutions that give governments their mandate and derive their authority directly from the people, namely parliaments.
*
* *
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Committee for opinion: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.
Reference to committee: Doc. 8430 and Reference No. 2473 of 24 January 2000.
This opinion was approved by the committee on 30 May 2002.
Head of secretariat: Mr Torbiörn.
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Bertozzi, Ms Ramanauskaite, Mrs Kopaçi-Di Michele.

1 . See Doc. 9484.

 
Link to the Records of the debates :




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