As mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, where an overview of the negotiation process was given, the EU's internal negotiations on the draft Agreement on the Accession of the European Union to the ECHR have been concluded. Thus, it was assumed that the negotiations would continue in a forum that would also include the non-EU member states. Exactly how and when was nevertheless unclear.
This issue was put on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe's meeting 13 June 2012. After today’s release of the decisions adopted during that meeting, it is now clear how the parties to the negotiations intend to go forward:
“[The Committee of Ministers] instructed the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to pursue negotiations with the European Union, in an ad hoc group 47+1, with a view to finalising the legal instruments setting out the modalities of accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. In view of the urgency of the matter, these terms of reference shall be executed without delay”
Note the use of the terms “finalizing the legal instruments”. This seems to indicate that the negotiations are entering their final phase, and consequently that the protest from the British and the French delegations have not prevailed in the EU Council. Therefore, it does not seem like the EU position is a complete renegotiation of the current draft Accession Agreement, but rather slight adjustments.
It should also be pointed out that the Committee of Ministers emphasized the “urgency of the matter” and that the “terms of references”, i.e. the finalization of the legal instruments, “shall be executed without delay”. Compared to the general pace of work at the Council of Europe, the negotiations on the Union’s accession went very quickly as long as it was in its hands. This statement seems to indicate that we can expect the same expediency when the negotiations now resume under the auspices of the Council of Europe. We at the MultiRights Blog will of course be watching the negotiation process closely, and keep you updated on the progress.
 For an overview over the British and the French position during the internal discussions in the EU council, see Johansen, Stian Øby, ‘The EU's Accession to the ECHR: Negotiations to resume after 7 month hiatus’ (MultiRights Blog 14 May 2012) <http://blogg.uio.no/jus/smr/multirights/content/the-eus-accession-to-the-echr-negotiations-to-resume-after-7-month-hiatus> accessed 15 June 2012.