It is hardly hot news but last Tuesday there was the inaugural meeting of the Strasbourg English Speaking Union. By the kind invite of the Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg it took place at the 18th century town hall.
The first presentation was from our host, Nawel Rafik-Elmrini whose official title is 2ème Adjointe – Relations internationales et européennes, coopération décentralisée for the municipal council, who talked about the building, Strasbourg and relations between the UK and the city. The room was the place where the Council of Europe had its inaugural meeting. After her speech Ms Rafik-Elmrini stayed on whilst we listened to the next speech.
Next up was John Darcy, Advisor to the President of the European Court of Human Rights. He started off by talking about the history of the European Convention on Human Rights which was then followed by the creation of the Court and then over time it was set up and started before the accession of various countries to the court. We hard about the way the Court had developed and the way the understanding and interpretation of the convention had developed, as a living breathing document.
He then talked about the almost 150,000 cases before the court which are added to with about another 50 to 60,000 every year. A lot of these are not cases which are relevant to the Court or have not completed all stages in the judicial process in their own country and are deemed inadmissible.
Mr Darcy, there was the inevitable reference to the name, then went on to talk about reform of the Court. Following judgements by the Court on votes for people in UK prisons and recently on Abu Qatada there has been pressure in the UK for reform of the Court or for the UK to withdraw from it all together. Following the visit of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which I reported on here, as part of the UK Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. He then spoke about what was then the upcoming Brighton Conference on reform of the Court. My understanding is it was outlined that as a result of the views of the other members of the Court it was unlikely there would be much of anything that would change as a result of the conference. Measures to streamline the judgement process to speed up decisions, and make sure that the Court does not make decisions that should properly be taken in countries, had been put in place anyway and were working.
So, it seems to me, that Dave’s attempt to attack the Court to satisfy his barking anti-European backbenchers resulted in him making a fool of himself in front of the Parliamentary Assembly followed by a lot of hot air with little, if any, achievement of change to the Court and the way it works.
After a short outline on the way the Strasbourg ESU would work we were given an apero courtesy of the people of Strasbourg and then we headed off, it being the birthday of JTO and I was taking her out for something to eat.