On behalf of the Norwegian delegation, I thank the rapporteur for his report regarding the Organizations budgets and priorities for 2011.
The Council of Europe is the key institution in present-day Europe for the effective promotion and protection of fundamental principles and values for the benefit of all Europeans. We fully support the reform process launched by the Secretary General to revitalise the Council of Europe in order to give political effectiveness and influence in Europe and to deal with our challenges ahead.
The economic situation in many European countries is severe. In such times, the Organization’s values need protection. The staff of the Organization is indispensable in this regard.
But - we need to acknowledge that the crisis has an impact on the Organization’s budgets. We note with satisfaction the proposals put forward by the Secretary General in the field of human resources. The proposals intend to support the reform orientations and to ensure the necessary mobility and flexibility of staff in a Council of Europe aiming at increase its impact, added value and visibility and to focus on its priority areas.
Member States have taken unprecedented steps to contain costs and reduce salaries of public servants. The Secretary General has proposed rather moderate measures to contain staff costs, so as to help to balance the budget. We fully support his suggestions.
The Secretary General has demonstrated his determination to tackle the issue of the automatic yearly increase in staff costs which, if not dealt with, will continue in practice to mean reductions in the operational budget in a period of zero growth. The most important initiative to contain the costs is probably the so-called "steps”, meaning that the staff has to wait a little longer before getting a salary increase.
The proposals have relatively mild consequences for the staff, compared with the situation in many Member States. Their implementation could avoid drastic measures of wide-scale reductions in numbers of staff. However, for the persons directly involved, the proposals may be difficult to accept. It is therefore necessary that the process is transparent, fair and that everybody concerned is treated with respect and dignity.
Later this week, we will debate the report on the political consequences of the economic crisis. The report highlights the need for a more comprehensive European attitude to the crisis. We have learned that developments in one European country affect us all and that common efforts are needed to secure a strong and democratic Europe - a Europe united by cooperation and solidarity. Our debate today has proved that Member States have to show responsibility towards the budgets and priorities of the Organization. At the same time the staff will need to show solidarity and understanding about certain reforms. Together we can participate in the process reforming the Organization. Together we can ensure an Organization able to meet the challenges confronting our societies.