The fourth meeting of the European Communications Office (ECO) Council of Administration was held last 11-12 May in Berlin, chaired by Chris van Diepenbeek of the Netherlands. He began the meeting by presenting a new council member from Montenegro.
The Council decided to accept Turkey’s proposal (presented informally at the Council meeting last October) to lower its ECO financial contribution from ten to five contribution units (CUs). After a long discussion on the best way of doing this – amending or renouncing the ECO Convention, whose latest version took force less than two years ago – the Council proposed that Turkey consider the possibility of renunciation. By renouncing and again joining the Convention, Turkey opts for the fastest and most pragmatic path, avoiding amendment of the ECO’s constitutive document again in such a short period of time and the consequent submission of a new revision to the national parliaments for ‘minor’ reasons. Turkey should present new developments regarding the matter in November. If it decides to maintain its request per the initial terms, i.e. if it insists on the amendment, the ECO should then present to the Council a proposed Convention amendment text.
A preliminary discussion was also held regarding the 2012 budget. It was decided not to increase the CU, as has been done since 2003 with a view to progressively exhausting the amount considered in excess from the Office’s Reserve Fund (Net Capital). The 2012-14 ECO Financial Plan was also analysed. Both documents will be formally approved at the next Council session.
The Council also approved the 2010 Financial Report as well as the corresponding 2010 Auditors Report. As for last year’s accounts, including comparative analysis of the budget approved for 2010 and respective implementation, noteworthy is an increase of about 94,000 euros in the amount envisaged for salaries, a difference which the Office Director (Mark Thomas of the United Kingdom) justified by non-inclusion of the salary of the new expert who began duties in July and the contracting in October of a new administrator to support development of the new website due to the prolonged sick leave of an administrative staff member.
The 2012 ECO working programme was also discussed and will likewise be approved at the next Council session. The draft working programme envisages maintaining the staff (seven experts, including the director, and six administrative personnel), increasing support to WG FM, WG SE and the CPG, while at the same time keeping the Office’s support to WG NaN and PT1 at the same level.
The director also gave a presentation on the new ECO-CEPT-ECC-CERP-Com-ITU website, just partially launched. Access to meeting documents is via the old ERO website until this 1 July, when it will become an archive. The same occurs with meeting registration. Each user must create a personal profile to access his or her work area. The director reported on the project’s budgetary slippage, which he said was around 18 percent.
The Council also examined the Office’s response to Portugal’s proposal to introduce a ‘Green Agenda’ in the ECO’s management. Aspects such as the Office’s average consumption of paper, plastic, power, heating, travel and catering were analysed, along with solutions to improve each of those areas. Portugal praised the ECO paper, generally well received by the council members, and made additional comments. Sweden proposed that the document should be sent, as ‘good practices’ to the three CEPT committees.
The 2010 ECO Annual Report was approved, and received comments from Portugal.
The director proposed extending the contract of the assistant director, Marc Le Devendec of France, for six months after the end of December 2011, a proposal which the Council endorsed. The director should present to the autumn Council a recommendation with a view to contracting a new expert, and also to replace the Office’s assistant director.
The next ECO meeting has been scheduled for 22-23 November 2011. Note that this will be the last Council headed by the current chairman, who will retire in February 2012 and for personal reasons cannot continue. Portugal was informally informed that the current Council vice-chair, Geir Sundal of Norway, should present his candidacy for the post. Possible vice-chairs being considered are Switzerland and Denmark.