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Luxembourg also could have been a Member State from the start. There were several tentative approaches at high level over the years, with a visit to the Centre from the responsible government minister of Luxembourg in
1986. In September 1987 “the Luxembourg government decided to ask for full membership beginning on 1 January 1989”. The Director of ECMWF and the President of the ECMWF Council visited Luxembourg in April
1989. It became clear that there would be technical difficulties in establishing a unit within Luxembourg that would be able to take proper advantage of the Centre’s output. There were many informal discussions between
56 Chapter 5Centre staff and representatives of Luxembourg in the following years.
Membership was delayed until July 2002, when Luxembourg finally became a Member State.
The meteorologists of Iceland have over the years been somewhat cross with their Foreign Ministry, blaming some unknown and therefore unnamed low-level functionary in that Ministry for having decided that this COST action was an affair that would be of no interest to Iceland. It has even been rumoured that the letter of invitation was put aside and forgotten, or cast into the waste paper basket. However, the records of the COST archives suggest a simpler explanation for the omission of Iceland from the list of Member States. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the President of the Council of the EEC addressed a letter to nine European States that were not Members of the EEC, in which he informed them that the Member States of the Community would welcome their participation in the planned operations in the field of the scientific and technical research. Iceland, for unknown reasons but we can safely assume in a forgetful moment, was simply not sent a letter of invitation. The fault, if we wish to call it such, appears to lie mainly with the EEC, not with an official of the government of Iceland.
However Finland, Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia participated “at their own request” — they also had not been sent a letter of invitation. It could perhaps be legitimately argued that Iceland was partly at fault, in that it missed the opportunity to participate in a similar way to these four States.
On 9 October 1975 the Secretary-General of COST was able to write to the States that had ratified, accepted or approved the Convention informing
since the conditions required... have been fulfilled, this Convention will enter into force on 1 November 1975 for the Kingdom of Belgium, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Spain, the French Republic, Ireland, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the Swiss Confederation, the Republic of Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
But let us make our way to sunny Rome, sit at a table at an outdoor café, order a cappuccino, smile at the world, and start idly reading the Convention — the Italian version of course. The Convention was “drawn up in a single original in the Dutch, English, French, German and Italian languages, all five texts being equally authentic”.
You will hardly have started reading before you will find yourself sitting up in your chair and forgetting the cappuccino. You have found something interesting!
The Convention 57 Now let us try a little multi-lingual exercise. Article 1(3) of the Convention is given below in all five languages. Take a pencil and underline the important words ‘States parties’ in all five versions. Please excuse the legalistic language. A State becomes a “State party” to the Convention by ratifying, accepting, approving, or acceding to, the Convention.
In Dutch: De leden van het Centrum, hierna noemen ‘LidStaten’, zijn de Staten die partij zijn bij deze Overeenkomst.
In English: The members of the Centre, hereinafter referred to as ‘Member States’, shall be the States parties to this Convention.
In French: Les membres du Centre, ci-après dénommes ‘Etats membres’, sont les Etats parties a la présente convention.
In German: Die Mitglieder des Zentrums, im folgenden als ‘Mitgliedstaaten’ bezeichnet, sind die Staaten, die Vertragsparteien dieses Übereinkommens sind.
In Italian: I membri del Centro, qui apresso denominati ‘Stati Membri’, sono gli Stati firmatari della presente Convenzione.
That was not too difficult, was it? Except perhaps for Italian? You are probably reaching for your Italian-English dictionary at this stage, except of course if you are Italian! The Italian version appears to suggest that perhaps it is not necessary to be a contracting party, but only a signatory State, “Stati firmatari”, in order to be considered a Member State.
The Italian delegation to the first session of the Council held in November 1975 was understandably of the opinion that Italy had therefore to be considered a Member State of the Centre, and said so, even though it had not yet gone through the procedure followed by the existing Member States.
What a nightmare this would have opened up! Since the Italian version was valid for all, then all signatory States — including Italy — would have become subject to all obligations of membership, including financial obligations, even before they had ratified, accepted, approved, or acceded to, the Convention. Other Articles and wording of the carefully crafted Convention would have become absurd, meaningless or at variance with others. Not having signed, could Norway join the Centre? By the Italian version of Article 1(3) it could not, but by Article 23 in all language versions it could, since it had taken part in drafting the Convention!
58 Chapter 5Other delegations, while too polite to express their undoubted horror, did not share the opinion of the Italian delegation, and referred to the wording in the other language versions. Legal clarification was sought from the COST secretariat, and obtained in time for the second Council session in May 1976. The legal opinion noted that “the discrepancy may be regarded as a simple linguistic error”. However all versions had been signed by the plenipotentiaries of the States, and “it would be scarcely practicable to consider a correction, since an international instrument would be required which would involve an exceedingly cumbersome procedure”. In the Italian text, the term “Stati firmatari” should be interpreted as “contracting parties”. Finally, the opinion stated that signing the Convention does not in itself entail membership of the Centre. Italy then went through the formal procedure, and became a Member State in September 1977.
Thus, the issue was solved. In any event it cannot arise again, since all the signatory States became Member States.
Portugal became a Member State on 1 January 1976, Turkey on 1 May 1976, Greece on 1 September 1976, Italy on 1 September 1977, Norway on 1 January 1989 and Luxembourg on 1 July 2002.
Co-operation agreements have been concluded with several States:
Iceland (December 1980), Hungary (July 1994), Croatia (December 1995), Slovenia (June 1997), Czech Republic (August 2001), Serbia and Montenegro (January 2003), Romania (December 2003) and Lithuania (March 2005). Other countries of the former Eastern Europe have approached the Centre with a view to membership.
International organisations and ECMWF have also established co-operation agreements: World Meteorological Organization (WMO, November 1975), European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT, May 1988), African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD, May 1995), Joint Research Centre (JRC, May 2003), Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO, June 2003), and the Executive Body of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP, January 2005).
By March 1972, the scale of financial contributions of the Member States was first being considered. The other basic documents for the Centre — the Staff Regulations, the Financial Regulations and the Headquarters Agreement to be concluded between the Centre and its host state — all were painstakingly drafted in the course of the next two years.
The first session of the Council held on 4–6 November 1975 was addressed by Dr Davies of WMO, Dr Mason, representing the government The Convention 59 of the host country, Dr Shregardus of KNMI, speaking as Vice-Chairman of the Interim Committee, and Mr Silver, Chairman of the COST Committee of Senior Officials of the EEC Council. It was at this Council that Aksel Wiin-Nielsen was formally appointed Director.
By letter of 25 February 1991, the President of the Meteorological Service of the Republic of Hungary, Dr Iván Mersich, sent “an application of Hungarian Meteorological Service to join ECMWF as a member”. This was one of Dr Mersich’s first acts in his post — he had been appointed on 19 February. At the Council session the following June, the German delegation noted that “the Convention was very clear; at the time it had been concluded, the Centre had been made very exclusive, and the Convention was tailored to the requirements of the Member States. The Convention could be changed only with great difficulty and over a long period of time.” This was true.
Council cannot itself amend the Convention; it can only recommend an amendment to the Member States. These will then one by one consider accepting the amendment. Amendments “shall enter into force thirty days after receipt by the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Communities of the last written notification of acceptance”. Since 18 States will have to follow their own legal procedures to decide on acceptance, and since government legal teams understandably proceed not always with haste, it can be expected that some time, perhaps years, will elapse before the last written notification of acceptance will have been received.
While no Member State was in favour of considering full membership for eastern European countries at that time, all were in favour of some assistance being given to these countries. We have noted above the conclusion of co-operation agreements with several of these States.
In December 1999, the Council requested the Director to clarify the legal situation concerning the possibility of Co-operating States becoming Member States. At first, an attempt was made simply to add States to the Annex; in June 2000 Council asked the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) “to examine the framework for adding States to the Annex of the Convention”. Legal opinion at the end of 2001 indicated that a relatively simple procedure could be adopted: Council adopting a “Resolution affirming the consent of all the Member States to the accession of new States...” and allowing the necessary revisions to the Annex in a similar way.
However, some Member States found themselves unable to agree with this opinion because of their own legal advice. It became clear that a change to the Convention would be required, even though this was foreseen to be a lengthy process.
60 Chapter 5This opened the possibility of a wider examination of the Convention.
Since the process of amending the Convention was known to be lengthy and difficult — according to Italy: “it is not feasible to repeat the procedure of amendment often” — some felt that the entire Convention should be examined. Council therefore asked the Director to contact all Member States: “Member States could also raise other issues if they so wish.” Some did raise other issues.
Germany wished the Centre “to play an independent, reliable and durable role in operational monitoring of the environment”, and to restrict the maximum financial contribution of any Member State to 22% of the total budget. Belgium believed that a new Convention should be drafted to reflect the current situation [the Centre was carrying out activities such as wave forecasting and seasonal prediction not explicitly mentioned in the Convention for example]; the review of the Convention should evolve from a new vision of the Centre. Italy wished to examine other important issues, such as monitoring the environment, long-range forecasting and relations with the EU and WMO; in addition, some of the work of the Centre was of relevance for climate prediction. Spain wished Spanish to be incorporated as an official language, and for an amendment to allow the Centre’s headquarters to be located outside the UK. The UK wished the voting procedure to be modified. Others had additional issues that they wished Council to consider. At the end of 2002, Council set in motion the procedure of consultation with Member States. It convened an extraordinary session of the PAC, and asked delegates “to analyse the proposals and views of the Member States in a creative and flexible atmosphere, to arrive at a consensus view as far as possible”. Thus began a process leading eventually to a recommendation of Council to the Member States in April 2005 that the Convention be amended.
By December 2003, the Council had reached consensus on the text of
amendments, with the exception of an amendment relating to languages:
“the highest authorities in Spain had stressed the requirement that Spanish be an official language”. It would take more than a year before agreement was finally reached in December 2004. The language issue was solved by a proposal from the PAC, which had as Chairman Massimo Capaldo from Italy, a former research scientist at the Centre and also a
former Head of Operations:
The official languages of the Centre shall be the official languages of the Member States.
Its working languages shall be English, French and German.
The Convention 61 The Council shall determine the extent to which the official and working languages shall respectively be used [by a double two-thirds majority vote, i.e. at least two-thirds of the States voting in favour, and these representing at least two-thirds of the budget].
As well, and most importantly, the Convention now would allow “any State which is not a Signatory” to the Convention to become a Member State, subject only to the consent of Council.
Further, an important modification was made to an objective of the Centre: