Reform of the Council of Europe


"The world is changing rapidly and Europe is changing with it.
Some of these changes are coming from outside, some are
internal, but they all require a Council of Europe response"


Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General,
to the Parliamentary Assembly

(11 April 2011)




Objectives of the reform


The reform of the Council of Europe is a key priority of the Secretary General, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland.

The reform has the following objectives:

• To revitalise the Council of Europe as a political body and an innovative Organisation;

• To concentrate its work on fewer projects, selected according to the highest added value and comparative advantage;

• To develop a more flexible Organisation, both visible to and relevant for Europeans.



A special representative of the Secretary General for reform, Gerard Stoudmann was appointed to plan and oversee the initial reform process from 2010-2012.
Starting early 2010 the initial phase of reform focused on the Organisation’s strategic developments, and better definition of the Council of Europe’s role within the European architecture. An important part of the process is a clear definition of priorities for the Council of Europe for the current decade and, more specifically, for the first biannual budget 2012-213.

With the objective of creating the conditions for improved internal governance and preparing further strategic action on reform the first phase covered a large number of issues ranging from new strategic directions to the implementation of administrative simplification measures.

The objectives were accomplished with new internal management tools and a rationalised external presence.


Objective: Unifying the budget and programme management processes and ensuring one comprehensive document which covers the budget and the programme for the whole of the Council of Europe, to ensure more transparency, efficient use of Secretariat resources and, overall, a better understanding of what the Organisation does, how and with what cost.

One of the first decisions taken to improve working methods and tools was the preparation of a completely new, streamlined programme and budget for 2011 which, for the first time, links the budget and activities of all the Organisation’s statutory organs and institutions into one single document. Budget and Programme services were combined and a new, single-volume Budget Programme prepared for 2011. The new Programme and Budget is based on a straightforward three-pillar operational structure (Human Rights, Rule of Law, Democracy), supported by a fourth pillar of central and support services.

Objective achieved: Introducing a biennial programme and budget, to ensure a more strategic programme and a modernised budget procedure.

The first biennial budget programme covers 2012-2013. The move to two-year programming enables the Council of Europe to become more oriented towards strategy and efficiency in managing resources.


Objective: Enhancing the long-term effectiveness of the Court and improve its functioning.

The on-going reform of the Court started in 2001 with the drafting of Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. The purpose of this instrument’s purpose was to guarantee the long-term efficiency of the Court by optimising the screening and processing of applications.


Objective: Overhauling the Council of Europe’s operational capacity in the field.

The rationalisation and reinforcement of the Council of Europe’s operational capacity in the field are crucial elements for making the Council of Europe a more visible and competitive Organisation. With this in mind, a complete overhaul of its external presence was initiated in 2010. Previously the Council of Europe presence included six different types of offices. They are now called Council of Europe Offices and are tailored to respond to new and changing needs.

Following the changes, the Council of Europe has or will have a presence in: Baku, Belgrade, Brussels, Chisinau, Geneva, Kyiv, Moscow, Paris, Pristina, Sarajevo, Tbilisi, Tirana, Vienna, Warsaw and Yerevan. All these 15 external offices will be fully operational as from March 2011. In addition, the existing structures in Lisbon, Graz, Budapest and Ankara continue to function in their present form. This also applies to the Information Point in Minsk.


Objective: Creating a qualitative change in relations with relevant international Organisations.

Closer contacts have been developed with other relevant Organisations including the UN, OSCE and the European Union.
A key objective is the accession of the EU to the ECHR. Negotiations are on-going.


Objective: Create the conditions for improved involvement with civil society.

Civil society plays an invaluable role as a major opinion-shaper, as an expertise provider, as an advocacy group and a watchdog, as an agent of early warning and awareness-raiser and, in many areas, as a direct partner implementing Council of Europe activities on the ground. Furthermore, it is a key player in promoting the norms and values of the Council of Europe. Hence, the importance of setting up renewed broader and more strategic relations with civil society. In November 2010 the Secretary General presented the Committee of Ministers with his new concept on relations with civil society. This concept is being further developed and will result in more efficient interaction with relevant civil society organisations.


Objective: Adapt structures to new challenges and ensure better governance.

Strategic planning and early-warning
A Policy Planning Directorate has been created to assist the Secretary General in identifying upcoming challenges and developments in Europe for which the Council of Europe can play a leading and innovative role in Europe, and to respond these challenges through into the Council of Europe’s strategy for the medium and longer-term.

The creation of a Directorate of Internal Oversight entrusted with oversight responsibilities on the effective management of the Organisation’s resources. Besides the already existing internal audit function, the new Directorate provides independent and impartial evaluation and will contribute to create an evaluation culture based on international quality standards.


The creation of more flexible initiation/termination conditions for Partial Agreements [1].

Adapted internal structures and improved co-ordination
- The dissolution of the Strategic Planning Directorate, the creation of a new Budget and Programme Department within the Directorate General of Administration, and the linking of External Relations and political advice within the Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs.
- Strategic co-ordination meetings, for example between the Presidents of the different Institutions of the Organisation.


Objective: Adapt human resources policies to the reform process.

The more than 2 400 staff members represent a key asset. A set of measures aimed at ensuring that human resources policies encompass the reform process was adopted during the first phase of reform. The purpose of these measures is:

- to foster mobility, in particular by the internal publishing of any vacant post of position as a “mobility notice”;
- to increase flexibility, in particular by reducing the advertising time for external recruitment procedures;
- to simplify administrative procedures, in particular by harmonising the length of staff members’ probationary periods.


Objective: Re-balancing staff and operational expenditure.

Controlling the overall staff expenditure, which has been growing in recent years to the detriment of operational spending, is also a priority, in particular at a time of budgetary constraints in member States. The measures introduced, such as doubling the interval between staff seniority salary increments (or “steps”), have already produced tangible savings for the Organisation.


Objective: Proposals on priority reform subjects

An internal governance structure - the Group "Agenda 2020" - was set up in June 2010 under the leadership of the top management and involving a large number of staff (more than one hundred staff members) through four change workshops and fifteen task forces; its mandate was to put forward proposals on several priority reform subjects. Recommendations put forward by this structure are being implemented or will be included in the forthcoming reform proposals.

Staff members have also been invited to contribute to the reform by expressing their ideas through an on-line blog ("blog for change"), available for staff between September and December 2010, which was consulted over 4000 times.


Objective: Translate strategic priorities into specific and effective actions.

Along with the biannual programme and budget that started with 2012-2013, the timeframe for new programmes will be clearly limited, to the 2-year cycle, with appropriate mechanisms for revision or continuation beyond this timeframe following an appropriate review. With the help of proper strategic planning, the Council of Europe should also better ensure in the future that it has a leeway to respond rapidly to new developments.


Objective: Continue adapting human resources’ policies and containing staff costs.

Adequate human resources policies will continue to be developed to support the reform process. One of the challenges of reform is to further develop a culture of trust, empowerment and accountability within the Secretariat based on staff competencies and performance.


Objective: Fighting red tape.

A significant number of simplified administrative measures aimed at facilitating the staff’s daily work, and at making the Council of Europe a more effective and innovative Organisation, have been put in place..


[1] A number of Council of Europe activities are currently carried out by Partial Agreements, which in country composition may vary from more than the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to only a much smaller group of member states interested in the particular activity. These activities do not form a part of the Ordinary Budget of the Organisation [for example: the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law]