10 January 2003
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 822nd meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (18 December 2002)
The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined Assembly Recommendation 1569 (2002) on the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and refers to its previous replies to Assembly Recommendations on this question (Recommendations 1481 (2000), 1491, 1508, 1509 and 1510 (2001)).
Since the Assembly adopted Recommendation 1569 (2002), some important developments in relations between the Council of Europe and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have occurred. Particularly the Opinion 239 (2002) adopted on 24 September 2002, recommending that the Committee of Ministers "invite the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to become a member of the Council of Europe as soon as the Constitutional Charter is adopted by the Parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro".
The Committee of Ministers has begun studying Opinion 239 and, in the communiqué issued at their 111th session (6-7 November), the Ministers reaffirmed their common wish to see the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia join the Council of Europe. They nevertheless noted with regret that present circumstances did not yet permit the adoption of an official invitation to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to join the Council. The Ministers strongly encouraged the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and in Serbia and Montenegro, to reach agreement and adopt the Constitutional Charter rapidly.
Concerning Recommendation 1569 (2002), the Committee of Ministers intends to transmit the list of items raised by the Assembly in paragraph 15 ito the member states.
The Commissioner for Human Rights:
- visited Kosovo during the summer and
presented his comments orally to the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees
and Demography. He also prepared a detailed report, which was sent to the
Committee of Ministers for information (Com DH(2002)11);
- submitted an oral report on his visit
to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Committee of Ministers on
27 November last, emphasising the human rights situation in Kosovo and
the plight of persons driven from their homes;
- appealed to the member states, through the Director of his Office, to do everything in their power to facilitate the identification of missing persons, a process co-ordinated under UNMIK auspices.
The work at present being done to prepare the accession of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia includes the preparation of a "post-accession" co-operation programme, reflecting the commitments contained in Assembly Opinion 239 as well as a procedure for monitoring commitments. The programme:
- strongly emphasises the need to complete
the democratic reform process launched by the authorities, and ensure that
these reforms are compatible with Council of Europe standards, particularly
in the human rights sphere;
- includes a substantial number of activities aimed at the development of a multi-ethnic society based on tolerance. Education and civil society are priority fields of action for the Council of Europe, which is making special efforts to reform history teaching and inform the people of Serbia of the crimes perpetrated by the previous regime.
In close co-operation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
- the Council of Europe has been working
on issues linked with the broader question of the legal framework for citizenship,
particularly in Montenegro, and on the follow-up activities foreseen;
- the Secretariat has made a major effort to provide training on protecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons in South East Europe at national and regional levels.
- the Committee of Ministers sent this
recommendation to the Governing Board of the Council of Europe Development
Bank who would examine it at its 171st meeting, on 16 December 2002;
- the Committee of Ministers welcomes the importance attached by the Bank's authorities to migration issues, reflected in its holding of an extraordinary meeting on this question on 19 November.
- has been working for years on twinning
municipalities in South East Europe with municipalities in other Council
of Europe member states, particularly through the network of associations
of local authorities in South East Europe and the local democracy embassies,
particularly those in Nis (Serbia) and Niksic (Montenegro). Recent efforts
in this field have included the setting-up of a data-bank of municipalities
already twinned or willing to be twinned, and support for the "Szeged"
process, launched by Hungary within the Stability Pact to speed up these
- is currently preparing a report on migration
flows and social cohesion, and on the role of local and regional authorities
in the former Yugoslav countries, detailing the most successful policies
so far devised by local and regional authorities to integrate refugees
and displaced persons, or help them to return to their own countries;
- will be developing a new project in 2003, aimed at promoting partnerships geared to the needs and priorities of municipalities concerned by questions relating to the return of refugees and to housing, as part of the follow-up action on the Resolution on the Forums of towns and regions of South East Europe, held in Skopje (November 2000), Istanbul (November 2001) and Novi Sad (April 2002).
In this connection, the Ministers' Deputies held an exchange of views on the applicability of Council of Europe conventions with UNMIK's legal and political advisors at the meeting of the GR-EDS on 13 December 2002. Mention was made of the impact of some of UNMIK's regulations on returns.
Finally, the Ministers' Deputies will pay special attention to the commitment of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, "to enact, within one year of its accession, legislation to enable the implementation of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol thereto to be implemented".
 SOC: Socialist Group
EPP: Group of the European People's Party
EDG: European Democratic Group
LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group
UEL: Group of the Unified European Left
NR: not registered in a group