The 20th anniversary of the Monitoring Committee and the challenges of a changing world

Meeting in Helsinki on 16 May 2017, the Monitoring Committee organised a seminar on “The international legal order in a changing world: challenges for the monitoring procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly” on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its creation.

Welcoming the progress achieved in improved acceptance of international norms, Cezar Preda (Romania, EPP/CD) emphasised that the Monitoring Committee, which he currently chairs, should continuously adapt itself to new challenges and to develop new methodologies: “Today, the Monitoring Committee is preparing periodic review reports on every Council of Europe member state to verify their honouring of membership obligations towards the Council of Europe, thus promoting a common legal and democratic space for 800 million Europeans.”

However, he also noted the increasing challenges to the principle of the supremacy of international law, on which the post-war international order and the Council of Europe are based. In that respect, he stressed that the committee “should continue to reflect on how to best counter the erosion of the values of democracy, solidarity and respect for the rule of law, the very values which have made Europe what it is today”.

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, who, as a then PACE member, initiated the creation of the monitoring procedure and the Monitoring Committee, recalled that the monitoring procedure was designed not only as a practical tool, but also as an inspiration. “The monitoring procedure should help, inspire, be strict and honest, while leaving opportunities for countries not behaving properly to evolve. Be patient,” Ms Halonen said. Emphasising the continuing importance of the Council of Europe, she stressed that, in the concert of international organisations, “the Assembly must keep its own profile based on human rights, democracy and good governance”.

Sergio Bartole, member of the Venice Commission and former Professor at the University of Trieste, highlighted the co-operation established between the committee and the Venice Commission. He invited parliamentarians to make good use of the Rule of Law Checklist drafted by the Venice Commission, to review respect for the rule of law but also the environment in which the rule of law should prevail. “Perseverance and patience are virtues that must not be ignored when looking at constitutional laws in order to understand how things will change.”

Daniel Tarschys, former Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Professor at the University of Stockholm, highlighted that “one should not overlook the many positive effects of membership of the Council of Europe.” At the same time, he stressed that “when there are a number of cases of regression, backsliding, kleptocracy, repression of the opposition, elections on uneven playing fields, the Council of Europe cannot ignore this and has to speak out. But in doing so, it should seek dialogue – and maintaining that dialogue is very important. The Monitoring Committee is one of the important players within the Council of Europe. Even if the monitoring process can at times create frustration and criticism, it is a very valuable tool that is - and should remain - a source of inspiration for member states.”