Committee of Ministers
    Comité des Ministres

    Unclassified
    CM(99)PV1

    Volume 1

    Official celebration of the
    50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe

    Strasbourg, London and Budapest
    (26 April – 7 May 1999)

    50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

    CONTENTS

    Page

    Programme of Events 1

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    Official opening of the 50th Anniversary celebrations
    Strasbourg, 26 April 1999

    Address by Mr János MARTONYI
    Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers
    Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary 3

    Address by Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON
    President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 4

    Address by Mr Daniel TARSCHYS
    Secretary General of the Council of Europe 5

    Address by Mrs Catherine TRAUTMANN
    Minister of Culture and Communication of France 6

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    Official Commemoration
    London, 5 May 1999

    Address by the Rt. Hon. Betty BOOTHROYD
    Speaker of the House of Commons. 9

    Address by the Rt. Hon. The Lord IRVINE OF LAIRG
    Lord Chancellor 11

    Address by Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON
    President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 17

    Address by Mr Daniel TARSCHYS
    Secretary General of the Council of Europe 19

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    Solemn Ceremony
    Budapest, 6 May 1999

    Address by Mr János ÁDER
    Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly 22

    Address by Mr Viktor ORBÁN
    Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary 24

    Address by Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON
    President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 27

    Address by Mr Alain CHÉNARD
    President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) 28

    Address by Mr Günter VERHEUGEN
    Representative of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union 31

    Address by Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK
    Representative of the European Commission
    (speech given on behalf of Mr van den Broek by
    Mr A. Vinas, Director, European Commission) 31

    Address by Mr Knut VOLLEBÆK
    Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE 33

    Address by Mr Vladimir PETROVSKY
    Director-General of the United Nations' Office in Geneva
    Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations 35

    Address by Mr Daniel TARSCHYS
    Secretary General of the Council of Europe 37

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    Enlarged Joint Committee (“Colloquy”)
    Budapest, 7 May 1999

    Statements by Ministers from candidate countries:

    Address by Mr Vartan OSKANIAN
    Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia 41

    Address by Mr Khalaf KHALAFOV
    Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan 43

    Page

    Address by Mr Jadranko PRLIĆ
    Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina 44

    Address by Mr Michel LÉVÊQUE
    Minister of State of the Principality of Monaco 47

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    104th Session of the Committee of Ministers
    Budapest, 7 May 1999

    Minutes of the Session held on 7 May 1999 at 10.15 am See Volume 2

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    Declarations

    Political Declaration of the Hungarian National Assembly
    on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of
    the Council of Europe 50

    Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union 52

    Declaration by Mr Knut Vollebæk, Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE 54

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    Official messages

    His Holiness Pope John Paul II, The Vatican, Holy See 56

    Ms Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State, United States of America 59

    His Excellency Mr Masahiko Koumura, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan 60

    Ms Rosario Green, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico 61

    50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

    PROGRAMME OF EVENTS

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    Strasbourg, 26-30 April 1999: SESSION OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

    26 April: Official opening of the 50th Anniversary celebrations by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

    27 April: (morning) Official ceremony for the accession of Georgia, the Council of Europe's 41st member State.
    (Evening) Award ceremony for the European Museum Prize, awarded to the Lille Museum of Fine Arts (Palais des Rohan).
    International ecumenical celebration of the 50 years of the Council of Europe (St. Thomas' Protestant Church).

    28 April: Anniversary concert by the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jan LATHAM-KOENIG, at the Palais de la Musique (programme of opera).

    28 to 30 April: “Youth Parliamentary Assembly”
    282 young people, united under the auspices of the parliaments of the Council of Europe's member States, came to Strasbourg at the invitation of the Parliamentary Assembly to debate vital youth issues. After their discussions, their resolutions were forwarded to the Parliamentary Assembly.
    Participation in this event by the Speaker of the French National Assembly, Mr Laurent FABIUS.

    29 April: Thematic evening organised by ARTE (the programme was recorded in the studio and broadcast on 6 May).

    29 to 30 April: Colloquy on “Borders and Otherness”, organised in co-operation with the cities of Strasbourg and Kehl. On this occasion, the Council of Europe published the book “View from the Bridge”, containing contributions by 41 authors from the member States on the theme of frontiers and bridges. In this framework, the evening of 29 April also witnessed the Inauguration on the Pont de l'Europe of the lit slabs on which the texts will be permanently displayed on the Europe Bridge linking the two towns.

    2 May: All-comers race, starting at the Council of Europe and including a symbolic passage over the Europe Bridge.

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    London, 4-5 May 1999: OFFICIAL COMMEMORATION

    4 May: As a prelude to the official ceremonies, the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jan LATHAM-KOENIG, gave a concert at the Barbican Centre.

    5 May: Commemorative Ceremony at the House of Lords, with an address by the Lord Chancellor, in the Royal Gallery at the Palace of Westminster.
    Lunch hosted by the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.
    Reception in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, at St. James's Palace in the early evening.

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    Budapest, 6 – 8 May 1999: 104th SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

    6 May: Meeting of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly with representatives of the Hungarian Parliament, and Solemn Ceremony at the Hungarian National Assembly followed by a reception given by the Hungarian authorities.

    7 May: 104th Session of the Committee of Ministers preceded by the meeting of the Enlarged Joint Committee (“Colloquy”) (AP/CM). Adoption of the “Budapest Declaration for a Greater Europe without dividing lines” and of several decisions of major political importance. 1
    Meetings of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) and of the Bureaux of its two Chambers.

    8 May: European street festival and open day at the European Youth Centre Budapest.

    OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

    (Strasbourg, 26 April 1999, Palais de l'Europe)

    Mr János MARTONYI (Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers) gave the following address:

    “We are gathered here today, on the forecourt of the Palais de l'Europe, to launch the official fortnight of celebrations marking our Organisation's 50th Anniversary. During these two weeks, Anniversary celebrations will be held successively in Strasbourg (host to the Council of Europe since its creation), London (where the Council's Statute was signed on 5 May 1949) and Budapest, the capital city of my country, Hungary, which was the first country from what was known as "Eastern Europe" to join the Council of Europe, a year after the fall of the Berlin wall.

    As I have just mentioned, a mere ten years ago our continent was split in two: the Council of Europe was actually "the Council of western Europe", and the countries on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain were prevented from taking part in European construction. If we go back further in history, other divisions have scored the continent: under the Roman Empire, for example, southern Europe, around the Mediterranean, was regarded as "civilised Europe" and northern Europe, beyond the Rhine, was seen as a threatening place populated by "Barbarians"; during the Renaissance, it was the Europe of the maritime powers versus continental Europe; in the 19th century, the Europe of the major powers set the tone in a "concert of nations" from which the smaller countries were excluded, and so on.

    All of which goes to illustrate the profound historical significance of the Council of Europe's 50th Anniversary: for the first time in its history, our continent is united, and that unity is expressed in the commitment of the Council of Europe's 40, and tomorrow 41, member States to the ideals and principles underlying its existence and its work - democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The "Council of western Europe", as it was at the time of its 40th anniversary, has become, at the age of fifty, the "Council of Greater Europe", the only organisation that can bring together all European countries, on an equal footing and on the basis of shared values.

    So we have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved. But unfortunately, that pride, legitimate though it is, cannot be accompanied by exhilaration. How can we feel like "partying" while a thousand kilometres from Strasbourg, at this very moment, a tragedy on a scale unknown since the Second World War is being played out? And that tragedy, in Kosovo, reminds us that, despite the extraordinary progress made in the last ten years, we have a long way to go before the European unity, which the Council of Europe has a mission to embody, becomes reality.

    Today, we feel pride in the work achieved and determination to continue, on the one hand, and a sense of gravity over the situation in Kosovo and a desire to find a solution reflecting the ideals of the Council of Europe, on the other hand. Sadly, these mixed feelings that we share at the formal opening of the official 50th Anniversary ceremonies in Strasbourg will probably still be there in two weeks' time, when I will have the honour of chairing the Ministerial session in Budapest: they will underpin the agenda of our future work, geared both to the commitment of the Council of Europe's member States to the construction of a Greater Europe without dividing lines and to the States' involvement in seeking a political solution that can bring peace and prosperity not only to Kosovo but to South-East Europe as a whole.

    I would like to conclude on an optimistic note by reiterating my faith in our ability, that of the Council of Europe and its member States, to build a better future. The Kosovo tragedy is not premonitory for our future Europe but the dramatic yet profoundly archaic product of the dark forces – aggressive nationalism, intolerance and political totalitarianism – that plunged our continent into the abyss in which it found itself in 1945. The cry of "never again!" voiced by the founding fathers of the Council of Europe must remain our rallying cry in building the Europe of the 21st century.”

    Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON (President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “Fifty years ago ten European democracies decided to set up an organisation entrusted with the most noble and difficult of tasks – to defend freedom on our continent.

    In the aftermath of the Second World War and in a Europe divided in two, this was a visionary decision reflecting the optimism which must always imbue the Democrat and which drove on people like Churchill, my first great predecessor, Paul-Henri Spaak and those two great Frenchmen, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet.

    Five decades later, we have much of which to be proud. Today was meant to be a moment of joy, an opportunity to celebrate our achievements. Instead, our thoughts are with the hundreds of thousands of our fellow Europeans suffering in the Balkans.

    The staff of the Council of Europe, as well as many of my fellow parliamentarians, have raised the question whether, in the present circumstances, it is at all appropriate to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. I understand and fully share their concerns. This is not the time for banquets and political spectacle.

    But, I believe we should use this opportunity to remind ourselves of what we stand for and what we have achieved in the past five decades and to renew our commitment to continue with our work.

    However awful what we are now witnessing, it should not be allowed to detract from the immensity of work by so many men and women over half a century to promote education, to raise social standards, to entrench democracy, to guard and enhance the fundamental rights of the individual.

    The conflict in Kosovo is a tragic evidence of the importance of our Organisation's work. Serbia is not the only place in Europe which had to face the difficult challenges of economic collapse, social tensions and complicated inter-ethnic relations. Yet, while Belgrade chose the path of nationalism, hatred and war, others embraced the values of the Council of Europe.

    Our Organisation contributed decisively to the building of fragile new democracies in Portugal, Spain and Greece in the seventies and again in the former communist countries a decade and a half later. Without the Council of Europe and its quiet steady undramatic persistence, progress would have been slower and less coherent.

    When guns will fall silent in Kosovo, when democracy is given a chance in Serbia – and that moment will come, has to come – the Council of Europe will be there to help. The achievement we are all working towards – a continent wide area of democratic security and prosperity – will be within our reach.

    Our thoughts today are with the victims of the most recent, and hopefully also the last, war on European soil. They need our help, and we shall help them, as fellow Europeans, to bring the pieces of their shattered lives together again and to share with us the freedoms our Organisation was set up to defend and which, looking back, we have done so much to enlarge.”

    Mr Daniel TARSCHYS (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “This ceremony is the first in a series of events being held in Strasbourg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe.

    I should like first of all to thank the City of Strasbourg, the département of the Bas-Rhin and Alsace Regional Council, whose numerous generous contributions have made so many of these events possible.

    I should also like to take this opportunity to pay homage to all members of the national committees set up in member States, whose work is helping to increase public awareness of the role of the Council of Europe.

    It is with mixed feelings that we embark on these celebrations.

    On the one hand, we can be proud of the breathtaking progress made on the road towards European unity since the creation of the Council of Europe.

    Only ten years ago the sight of forty European flags hoisted side by side in front of this Palais de l'Europe was almost unthinkable. Indeed, it would be difficult to overstress the positive importance of the developments which have taken place throughout Central and Eastern Europe during the last ten years or so.

    On the other hand, it is impossible for any of us to boast about the results achieved when confronted with the evidence of massacres and mass-scale human rights violations committed in Kosovo, particularly during the last few weeks.

    These days, our thoughts go constantly to all those affected by the political and humanitarian crisis in and around Kosovo. But that crisis should also strengthen our common determination to join forces to avoid the repetition of such tragedies.

    In a dramatic way, the recent events in Kosovo have highlighted the relevance of the Council of Europe's concept of democratic security. Wherever human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles are seriously violated, this has tragic consequences, first of all for the people concerned, but also for the security of the country, its neighbours and indeed the whole of Europe. The Council of Europe's mission is to defend and promote those values by standing up against such violations and by consolidating democratic structures and practices.

    As the Kosovo example shows us, there is a need for greater preventive efforts, for serious investment in democratic security. It demonstrates once again that the costs of action are much smaller than the costs of inaction, not to speak of the enormous human suffering.

    The Council of Europe should reinforce its activities for the protection and promotion of human dignity. It counts on your support for doing so.

    It is in this spirit that we embark on this commemoration of the 50th anniversary.

    When the Council of Europe was set up as the first post-war European organisation, it was a political response to the general appeal of “Never again”. The human suffering in and around Kosovo reminds us of the missed opportunities in our response, but should also reinforce our resolve that events such as these should never happen again.”

    Mrs Catherine TRAUTMANN (Minister of Culture and Communication of France) gave the following address:

    “The Council of Europe is preparing to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in a few days' time. The Council's host country, which I have the honour of representing today, would like to pay tribute on this occasion to the outstanding work the Organisation has accomplished over this half-century. France also hopes to draw inspiration from these achievements for the future.

    By setting up the Council of Europe four years after the end of the Second World War, the ten Ministers of Foreign Affairs were sending out a message of peace based on democracy and law to a continent ravaged by totalitarianism and arbitrary power. Strasbourg, a city that symbolises both the rifts in Europe and the ability to overcome them and achieve reconciliation, was chosen as the headquarters for the very first European institution.

    So what are the current prospects for the founding fathers' ambition to create “closer unity” among the European States? There are unfortunately still some parts of Europe which do not share the Council of Europe's fundamental values of attachment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and individual freedoms. In Yugoslavia, these rights are being openly flouted by a totalitarian regime which has driven hundreds of thousands of men, women and children out of their homes, leaving them defenceless on the roads of their own country.

    This infringement of our fundamental values should strengthen our resolve to promote the common heritage of the European peoples on which all genuine democracies are based.

    Looking back, we realise that the Council of Europe's role today is more important than ever. I am convinced that its perseverance will ensure acceptance for its values as we approach the new century.

    In the Council's 50-year existence, a veritable European citizenship has also been forged, through dialogue between the peoples and the development of new kinds of solidarity, the two mainstays of which are human rights and culture.

    For over 800 million Europeans, human rights protection means having access to an international judicial system unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

    Since 1950, when the European Convention on Human Rights was signed, the European States have gradually agreed to be bound by this instrument, going so far as to make it a precondition for membership of the Council of Europe. The scope of the convention has been further extended with the entry into force of Protocol No. 11 and the setting up of the Single European Court of Human Rights.

    Where the citizen is concerned, human rights protection also means a body of international legislation that embraces over 170 conventions, providing a framework for the various governments' action and guiding them in the never-ending search for truer democracy and for law-based structures.

    Culture is the second mainstay of European integration, one that aims to enhance our common heritage and respect diversity. The corresponding cultural action is based on the European Cultural Convention, which was signed in 1954 and has since been extensively built on in the fields of artistic and cultural exchanges.

    Culture builds bridges between the nations and in so doing plays a vital role in improving both our mutual understanding and our knowledge of ourselves and enabling us to accept the difference of others.

    The multifarious activities which the Council of Europe has conducted in this field ever since its inception, for example supporting history teaching, heritage protection, cinematographic production, language learning and student mobility, are all directed towards this lofty ambition.

    This is the profound meaning we assign to the Council of Europe's work and the spirit which must continue to animate it.

    In this context, we should express our gratitude to all those staff members, parliamentarians, regional and local councillors, experts from the various capitals and non-governmental organisations, who have worked towards performing this noble task over the past fifty years. All their efforts, including both their successes and their failures, should motivate them to continue this great adventure and to rework their blueprints as often as proves necessary.

    After the Second World War, it was in the Council of Europe that the European idea took root. At the time the continent was faced with two alternatives, namely federalism and intergovernmental co-operation. The Council of Europe opted for the latter, which was by no means the lesser formula, as it has enabled the Organisation to progress slowly but surely towards uniting virtually the whole of Europe on the basis of its humanistic values. I am pleased to note that tomorrow it will be welcoming in Georgia as its 41st member State.

    France and Strasbourg are proud to have been eye-witnesses to the blossoming of this great enterprise.

    I would extend to you my best wishes of confidence and hope for the future.

    Confidence in the patience and tenacity of the Council of Europe, and hope that the Organisation will continue, here in Strasbourg, to work relentlessly on constructing democracy.”

    OFFICIAL COMMEMORATION

    (London, 5 May 1999, Palace of Westminster)

    The Rt. Hon. Betty BOOTHROYD (Speaker of the House of Commons) gave the following address:

    “It is a pleasure for me to greet this distinguished company in the Palace of Westminster on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe.

    We in Britain are proud of the fact that the Council of Europe was in many ways the brainchild of one of our greatest and most far-sighted parliamentarians - Sir Winston Churchill. We are proud too that the founding Statute of the Council of Europe was signed in London. Reference is frequently made to the Mother of Parliaments and it is thus highly appropriate that this commemoration of the founding of the Council of Europe should take place here at Westminster.

    When Winston Churchill was in Strasbourg for the first meeting of the Council of Europe he insisted that provision should be made for the admission of those European countries who at that time were still deprived of what he called "ordinary democratic freedom". He said seats should be set aside for them "as a symbol of proof of the clear intention that the new body should one day represent all Europe". While we have still to achieve that ultimate objective, I am sure that earlier generations of statesmen would have rejoiced over the progress since he made that famous speech.

    The Council of Europe was established to protect and preserve the values and standards which its founding members not only held dear in the aftermath of war but also saw as a defining part of their identity. I refer in particular to their commitment to democratic values and to a democratically elected Parliament. This remains a central prerequisite for aspiring members of the Council of Europe and I look forward to the day when all countries of Europe will qualify, in this respect at least, for membership.

    Regrettably that day is still some time off. Our commemoration is overshadowed by the tragedy in Kosovo, which poses a direct challenge to the values that the Council of Europe exists to defend - democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights. The tragedy in Kosovo is proof that the work of the Council of Europe is as relevant, and as desperately needed, as ever.

    The Council of Europe was the first organisation to embody the ideal of intergovernmental co-operation in Europe and the first to set standards enshrined in international law, which it aims to make universal throughout Europe. It not only monitors compliance with such standards but provides the practical assistance necessary to ensure that they can be achieved.

    Following the collapse of communism ten years ago, the Council took up the challenge of reaching out to the new democracies of Central Europe. The Council helped them to plan and implement key reforms of their constitutions and their legal systems, of their civil service and judiciary, and gave advice on how to promote a free media.

    In turn, the emerging democracies set their sights on membership as a sign that their transformation was genuine and durable. Following Hungary's example in 1990, almost all the countries of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union have become members. It has been a pleasure for me to visit many of your countries and a privilege to address some of your assemblies. I am conscious of outstanding invitations from many countries in the region, including Georgia - the latest nation to join us - and I extend a particularly warm welcome today to the Foreign Minister of Georgia. Hungary's lead will be appropriately symbolised by the Ministerial meeting in Budapest later this week.

    In 1989, the Council of Europe had 23 members. It now has 41 and represents nearly 800 million people from democratic European countries. It represents these people not only through their governments, but also by bringing together representatives of national Parliaments and local government from all of its member States.

    I wish to pay special tribute to the work of generations of parliamentarians who have participated in the Council's Parliamentary Assembly. From its inception, the Assembly has played a leading role in Council of Europe proceedings. It is the democratic conscience of the Council of Europe. My noble friend, Lord Russell-Johnston, as recently elected President of the Assembly, presides over discussions on a wide range of issues, from medical ethics, to human rights, to international crises, to social cohesion, to Europe's cultural heritage.

    Above all the Assembly brings together parliamentarians from all corners of Europe, from all shades of opinion in our 41 member States. It brings them together on the basis of shared values, of respect for human rights, for civil liberties, for diversity within unity. It brings them together to discuss, to debate, and perhaps to disagree, but above all to get a better understanding of what we should all stand for.

    So, from the centre of this great parliament, I pay tribute to the work of the Council of Europe. It can make a unique contribution to international efforts to deal with the immediate challenges facing Europe. It has even more to offer on medium and long term solutions based on wisdom and expertise developed over half a century. We are here today to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals which we share, which unite us, and which we must try to extend to every corner of Europe. Our hope must be that the Council of Europe becomes one of the prime fora for promoting peace and reconciliation on a scale which enables our continent to progress through the 21st century without suffering the scars of war which, sadly, feature so prominently in the history of the century now moving towards its close.

    On behalf of both Houses of Parliament, I extend a warm welcome to our distinguished guests from overseas. You do us a great honour by being here today. Together we can look forward to close and fruitful co-operation in the interests of our peoples.”

    The Rt. Hon. The Lord IRVINE of LAIRG (Lord Chancellor) gave the following address:

    Introduction

    “When Winston Churchill spoke in Zürich in September 1946 of "the tragedy of Europe", the continent - and the entire world - remained in shock. The Second World War had just ended. The desire for a better world, for peace among nations, and for recognition that every individual has a personal entitlement to have his life and dignity respected had probably never been greater. The previous year, the new United Nations Organisation had pledged “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”.

    Churchill aimed too, for closer co-operation and understanding. To achieve this, some strong, unifying force, was needed in Europe. His vision was “to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom”.

    No body or organisation better lives up to that vision than the Council of Europe. I doubt if even Churchill would have contemplated that, by the close of the twentieth century, no less than 41 States would be bound together within the Council.

    Kosovo crisis

    What the Council has achieved over these last 50 years is remarkable. Today is a day for celebration and there is much to celebrate. But it would be wrong not to acknowledge the grim shadow that hangs over this celebration - the tragedy in Kosovo. We have all been appalled at the brutality of Milosevic's war regime directed against hundreds of thousands of innocent Albanian citizens; the wanton destruction of property and livelihoods; the murders of men, women and children; the rape and humiliation of women; the utter disregard for those rights and principles the Council of Europe holds so dear. These principles must prevail over the forces of tyranny and arbitrary rule. Once they have - and be assured they will - we must do all we can to ensure that the principles of respect of human rights, democratic government and the rule of law are properly nurtured and live to flourish in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We need only consider the enormous expansion of the Council of Europe since 1989 to see that such ambitions can be achieved. We should work together to ensure that soon the time and circumstances will be right for all European countries to be joined in the embrace of the European family that is the Council of Europe.

    History

    The Statute was signed only a short distance from here in St James's Palace on 5 May 1949. Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, declared that 5 May 1949 saw “the establishment of a common democratic institution on this ancient Continent of Europe”. The ten founder members looked forward to the first meeting of the Council in Alsace-Lorraine. The chosen location for the Council's permanent seat was symbolic. Bevin predicted: “the city of Strasbourg, which throughout its long history has suffered as a bone of contention between warring nations of Europe, will be converted into the centre of a new effort at conciliation and unity”.

    Strasbourg was not only a symbolic choice. Time has demonstrated how successful it has been. Let us, on this historic occasion, acknowledge with gratitude the hospitality of the people of Strasbourg over half a century.

    But let me also, here in the heart of our capital and our Parliament, celebrate the uniquely close working relationship our Westminster Parliament has enjoyed with the Council of Europe. Staff of our two Houses of Parliament have assisted at every meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly. The Manual of Procedure of the Assembly, now in its ninth edition, was first drafted by Sir Barnett Cocks, a former Clerk of the House of Commons. Sir Barnett attended the opening session of the Assembly in 1949, and then immediately set to work with other colleagues who were also at Strasbourg in 1949, on a Manual of Procedure. The first edition was published in 1951. He believed that the authority and effectiveness of the Assembly would be enhanced by its adherence to Parliamentary procedure and practice, and that that adherence itself would itself be strengthened by a Manual of reference, which would make readily available to the Assembly's presiding officers and members the decisions, precedents and rules on which its developing procedure and practice were founded. Sir Barnett's successors have contributed their services in the same spirit and belief.

    I am indebted too to Cosmo Russell, who was in charge of the Press Office at the time of the first meetings, for sharing with me some colourful memories of those early days. It is excellent that he is able to be here today. He remembers the arrival of Winston Churchill at an early meeting of the Committee of Ministers as part of a procession including large numbers of Strasbourg girls in their national costume, wearing white caps with two large black bows on either side. They, he recalls, on their own, generated volumes of applause. He also recalls the impressive opening speech given by Monsieur Herriot, then President of the French Senate. And he remembers the first draft European Convention on Human Rights being acclaimed by the Consultative Assembly. Paul Henri Spaak, the first Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, was moved to announce, "Gentlemen, you have created the first European Parliament".

    It is worth remembering that the idea that even a consultative role should be given to an assembly of parliamentarians from the various member States was radical and unprecedented, and was the subject of much debate before agreement was reached.

    During the next 40 years the Council expanded gradually. Between 1949 and 1970, eight new countries joined. Five more joined in the period until May 1989, making a total of 23 member States. Then events took an epoch making turn. The first signs of reform in the then authoritarian countries of central and eastern Europe were confirmed with the fall of the Berlin Wall in September 1989. Enlargement on a scale undreamed of followed. When Russia and Croatia joined in 1996 the Council boasted 40 member States. With the welcome accession of Georgia last week the total has been brought to 41.

    The European Convention on Human Rights

    Membership of the Council, according to the Statute, was open to every State which accepted “the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and which would collaborate “sincerely and effectively” in the realisation of these aims.

    The sincerity and effectiveness with which the member States have collaborated is demonstrated by the fact that the Council's first significant Convention remains its most influential. I refer, of course, to the European Convention on Human Rights. It was not the first elaboration of fundamental human rights and freedoms, but it was the first treaty which envisaged the collective enforcement of these rights. As the distinguished international lawyer, Hersch Lauterpacht, put it in 1950: “The individual has now acquired a status and a stature which have transformed him from an object of international compassion into a subject of international right”.

    Pierre-Henri Teitgen likened the value of collective enforcement to a “conscience” which exists to “sound the alarm” when rights are suppressed.

    Teitgen was speaking in 1949. Yet in 1999, we see signs of a widespread upsurge in intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and we see it here in London too. And I have already cited the tragedy which is Kosovo. No-one can doubt that the function of the Council of Europe and the institutions supporting the European Convention on Human Rights to sound the alarm when necessary is as relevant today as it was when the Convention was opened for signature in 1950.

    Throughout its life the Convention has not remained static. Four optional protocols have extended the rights guaranteed. Other protocols amended the procedure, culminating in Protocol 11, which came into effect last year. That Protocol radically reformed the enforcement machinery, combining the Court and Commission and inaugurating a single, full-time Court.

    So the Human Rights Convention is the jewel in the crown of the Council of Europe's achievements. That 41 States should be committed to the enforcement by international means of the fundamental rights it enshrines is a major achievement.

    It is remarkable too that the Convention should have been adopted by the large majority of contracting States as part of their domestic law. In Britain we were late in joining this club, despite being among the first to ratify the Convention itself, and despite being among the earlier countries to allow the right of individual petition - a point I mention because it is often forgotten by some of the critics of our human rights law. It gives me personal satisfaction to have been able to play a part in the process of incorporating the Convention into our national law. As a result, British citizens will soon enjoy the right - which has been enjoyed by their European neighbours for many years - to have their rights under the Convention enforced by their own, national courts. The fact that under this government we have at long last followed the example of most of the rest of Europe gives the lie to the myth that the older member States have nothing to learn from the newer ones. In particular, I welcome the opportunity our Human Rights Act will give to our higher judiciary to make a distinctive British contribution to the development of human rights jurisprudence in Europe.

    Other human rights work

    If the Convention is the jewel in the human rights crown, it is surrounded and embellished by other precious gems. I have in mind the Torture Convention, the European Social Charter, the European Cultural Convention and the new Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

    The protection of individual human rights is, however, but one major component in establishing adherence to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

    Expansion into Central and Eastern Europe

    At the height of the remarkable expansion of the Council of Europe, the summit of Heads of State and Government in Vienna in 1993 redefined its objectives. The participants agreed that the accession of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which were ready to share the values of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, was central to the Council's future. Special programmes were designed for the benefit of the new member States with the object of enabling them to comply with the commitments accepted by them at the time of their accession - not least, conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights. Some of these programmes have been operated in partnership with other European institutions including the European Union and the OSCE. By offering practical assistance, these programmes have enabled those States where democracy is young to benefit from the shared experience of the older members. Meanwhile, the Committee of Ministers put in place a system of monitoring of member States' compliance with commitments, which enables steps to be taken, within the Committee's statutory powers, against any State which fails to do so.

    Taken together, these activities are among the most important of the Council's functions. They have done much to reinforce the dramatic democratic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe and to enable the countries of that region to join our European family. The fact that the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries have so quickly committed themselves to the requirements of member States set out in the Statute is as significant an achievement as the fall of the Berlin Wall itself.

    Basic principles underpinning the rule of law

    There is, however, no cause for complacency and no time to rest. Serious problems still exist in some parts of Europe. A freely elected parliament, and the declared acceptance of the rules of law, are only first steps. Institutions and cultures need to be put in place to make the avowed intentions a reality. In countries which maintain democracy and the rule of law, attachment to these fundamental values must find expression in the whole constitutional framework which regulates the relationship between the individual and the State.

    Adherence to the rule of law can only be a reality if government itself is subject to the rule of law. The right must exist - in practice as well as in theory - for citizens to challenge unlawful acts by governments and emanations of government, including, for example, the police.

    That possibility can only exist if there is an independent judiciary. It is central to the most basic conception of the rule of law that judges must be independent of government, with an absolute power over the decisions within their own courts, which can only be overturned by the equally absolute decisions of senior judges in higher courts. There is in this country no higher duty of the Office I occupy than to ensure, from within government, that judicial independence is both respected and maintained absolutely.

    In return, the trust we place in the judiciary is that they will carry out their duties impartially. Judicial impartiality, the absolute recognition and application by judges of an obligation of fidelity to law, is the counterpart, the quid pro quo, from the judiciary for the guarantee from the State of their judicial independence.

    The media too have a crucial role to play. Just as judicial impartiality is the other side of the coin of judicial independence, so open justice as witnessed and reported by an attentive media is a strong spur to judicial impartiality in practice. This was recognised by the authors of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees, in Article 6, a hearing which is not only fair but also public. The onus must always be on the courts, should they wish to exclude any part of proceedings from public scrutiny, to demonstrate that justice in a particular case cannot otherwise be done.

    A culture of enforceable basic human rights generates that tolerance and respect for the individuality of others that is the hallmark of a civilised democracy. Members of the Council of Europe do not seek for their citizens a flattening process of assimilation. Here, in the United Kingdom, we rejoice in the rich and distinct histories of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and in our cultural and ethnic diversity. Success for any member of the Council of Europe is when difference flourishes in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect. Only then is a nation really at peace with itself. These values grow out of a belief in the moral worth of each and every individual - a belief which is not the property of one nation, or people, or civilisation, but of many; and is best given effect by laws of nation States which incorporate into their domestic laws the European Convention on Human Rights and which are governed under the rule of law.

    Citizenship education

    The Council of Europe's project, “Education for democratic citizenship”, launched following the Second Summit in 1997, and shortly to be taken forward through the political declaration in Budapest, has the potential to contribute greatly to the blossoming of democratic values throughout Europe. For too many people the business of conventional politics is a distant thing which seems to have nothing to do with them. We must overcome the reluctance of our young people to engage in political or public activity. Education for citizenship should give people the confidence to claim their rights and challenge the status quo while, at the same time, making plain that rights carry with them responsibilities to respect the rights of others. It should foster respect for law, justice and democracy. It should encourage concern for the common good as well as independence of thought. And it should generate a sense of society based on shared, fundamental values.

    Local democracy

    Citizens can also become actively involved through democracy at local level. This is another essential feature of a modern, free country. We have recognised that in the United Kingdom with our programme of devolving power to Scotland, to Wales and to Northern Ireland. The importance of local democracy has also been recognised within the Council of Europe, notably in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has been giving valuable assistance to the new member States in helping them establish effective local and regional government - grassroots democracy which they rightly regard as the gateway to freedom.

    Intergovernmental programme of activities

    I cannot speak in detail of all the Council's important activities. Let me, however, mention three. First, the intergovernmental programme. This covers a huge range of activities and enables large numbers of individuals, typically representing all the member States, to co-operate on an equal basis. The primary result is standard-setting instruments, including over 170 conventions. By bringing together specialists of different nationalities, this activity also generates friendships and alliances - a benefit which may be overlooked by those not directly involved, but which is of real value in developing the European family.

    This may be one of the reasons why the Council is so successful as a unifying force. Whilst nations may argue and dispute in the context of other European institutions, the spirit of co-operation and compromise remains dominant in the Council.

    Partial Agreements

    Also the intergovernmental programme has created a platform for a number of partial agreements, under which some States, and only those which choose, co-operate on topics which particularly concern them. The flexibility this “variable geometry” permits is of high value.

    Culture

    Let me not ignore cultural co-operation. The trend may be towards unity, but our rich and varied cultural heritage is precious too. The European Cultural Convention - aimed at safeguarding European culture, affirming our common identity whilst recognising our differences, is one of the oldest Council of Europe conventions. It dates from 1954. It was recognised at an early stage that cultural co-operation and understanding promote tolerance, mutual respect and understanding. Cultural co-operation rightly remains one of the cornerstones of the Council of Europe.

    Second Summit

    I have already recalled the summit in Vienna in 1993. In 1997 it had already become possible to look back with pride at what had been achieved since 1993. A second Summit was held, appropriately in Strasbourg. That summit paved the way for the future, reaffirming the fundamental principles of the Council and setting out an ambitious programme of work.

    The summit also recognised that to meet the demands of the future the machinery would have to change. Following the report of a Committee of Wise Persons, a process of reform and restructuring has begun. It is timely to refocus the Organisation while remaining true to its basic principles. This is a necessary modernising process.

    Conclusion

    So, Madam Speaker, I conclude shortly in this way: the Council has a unique place in 20th century history - a history which it has done so much to make. And there is so much more history to make, as the Council marches on into its second half-century. Liberty does require eternal vigilance for its self-protection and the Council of Europe will continue in strength as one of its major guardians.”

    Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON (President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “When, 50 years ago, ten Ministers of Foreign Affairs signed the Council of Europe statute, the memories of the war that killed millions of Europeans were still fresh in their minds. Indeed, it was the determination never again to allow such destruction on Europe's soil that inspired the setting up of our Organisation. It was born from the deep conviction that democracy, the rule of law and human rights were the best guarantee for freedom, peace and economic prosperity.

    After four decades of peace, in another war, hundreds of thousands of Europeans are again being terrorised, killed or chased from their homes.

    With the images of the tragedy of the people of Kosovo deep in our minds, as remarked on by both Madam Speaker and the Lord Chancellor, our feelings today, in spite of the importance of the occasion, cannot be one of celebration, but of sympathy for victims, as well as anger at people who ordered such horrors to happen.

    What is the conclusion we should draw from this war? Did we fail? The answer to this question, in spite of the horror we are witnessing, should be a resolute no. We have not failed; we simply have a longer way to go. Perhaps much longer than we thought.

    If the aftermath of the Second World War was a reason to set up the Council of Europe, the war in the Balkans should motivate us to continue with our work. For the bloodbath we have been witnessing in the recent years in the Balkans is not a result of some ancient, "genetically" determined ethnic hatred. It had been planned and executed by persons taking advantage of the economic, social and political collapse in the post-communist Yugoslavia. Serbia never had the chance to embrace the values of the Council of Europe.

    So what should the Council of Europe be doing in its next fifty years of existence? Simply, sounds boring but is not, continue what it has been doing so far. That is, to help to build, develop and defend democratic institutions and to guarantee the rule of law and the protection of human rights throughout our continent.

    The protection of democracy is an endless task. This is not true only for countries that recently joined us, but for all member States. We are all exposed to the viruses of extremism and intolerance. There is no vaccine providing absolute immunity against these viruses, but in the Council of Europe I believe we have developed a therapy to keep it dormant.

    Certainly, we shall have to adapt our structures and working methods not only to the new political and social realities of the 21st century, but also to an emerging consensus on a more active approach in the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe and, indeed, throughout the world. We do not really know the best way to do this yet but we are learning.

    In fact, the predominant characteristic of the Council of Europe in its next five decades should be interference in the domestic affairs of our member States. A direct, systematic, continuous and comprehensive involvement, whenever the values we are mandated to protect are at stake. In doing so we should offer advice and assistance, but should not abstain, if necessary, from criticism and sanctions. True democracies have nothing to fear and only to gain from such an approach. In this the Assembly is already playing a significant role, through its Monitoring Committee, and this role will certainly grow.

    I started this very short statement by a reference to the tragedy of Kosovo. I want to conclude by saying “never again”! Not as a mere expression of hope, but as a commitment. We cannot celebrate without commitment. A commitment to be renewed by us here today, and then by everyone, every day, everywhere in Europe.”

    Mr Daniel TARSCHYS (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “We have come together today to celebrate a significant departure in European history.

    The Council of Europe was set up in 1949 in the conviction that peace and prosperity must be secured through reconciliation and co-operation between European States, on the basis of shared values and common principles.

    We have come a long way along that road. At the beginning of the decade, after the end of the Cold War, we believed perhaps that we had come even further. But since then we have seen violence erupt in different parts of the continent, and now the 20th century bids us farewell with a repeat performance of some of its worst horrors and follies: nationalism, terrorism, ethnic cleansing and massacres.

    Again, we see all the evil spirits unleashed. But this can only harden our resolve to base our future on the defence of human dignity, respect for the individual, the rule of law and pluralist democracy.

    European unity can be built only brick by brick. Over the last fifty years, the Council of Europe has worked in a great many policy fields to develop common rules and standards. With the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as its cornerstone, this edifice now contains 173 different conventions and over a thousand policy recommendations.

    What we can see emerging from this vast undertaking is not only the contours of a common legal order in Europe, but also shared perspectives and mutual understanding, a sense of solidarity and a culture of co-operation. We have moved towards greater political cohesion, weaving together our democratic societies through a web of common endeavours.

    Democracy and respect for human rights remain at the heart of this enterprise. Greece was readmitted to the Council of Europe only after the fall of its dictatorship, Portugal and Spain were admitted only after the political transition in the 1970's and our friends in Central and Eastern Europe were able to join us only when they had freed themselves of totalitarian rule.

    High standards are not an obstacle but an encouragement.

    With its wider membership, the Council of Europe has at long last become an organisation covering the whole continent. At its Second Summit in 1997, no fewer than 44 Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their countries' commitment to the key principles of the Council of Europe.

    The recent report by the Soares Committee on the future role of the Council of Europe has defined its mission as the promotion of a greater Europe without dividing lines. At a time when the threats of new fractures are all too obvious, few tasks could be more important.

    More than three centuries ago, the Englishman William Penn insisted that to ensure stability in the continent, a future European Assembly must include representatives both of the Ottoman Empire and of the Principality of Muscovy. Today, it is vitally important that the many independent successor States to these two powers are taking an active part in our common project.

    Fifty years spent building Europe have created considerable potential for action. Our Organisation's main achievements over these long years of European co-operation and integration have derived from its legal expertise and practical experience.

    The Committee of Ministers acts as our decision-making body and a forum for political dialogue at government level. Alongside this intergovernmental aspect, valuable contributions are also made by the Parliamentary Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe towards developing the Council's political and legal potential and its capacity for practical co-operation.

    The Parliamentary Assembly is a veritable powerhouse for new initiatives. It is a major public forum for open debate on European integration and current political questions. It has a major political responsibility in the accession procedure for new member States, as well as in monitoring the honouring by all Council of Europe States of their commitments and obligations as members of the Organisation.

    The unique role of the European Convention and Court of Human Rights as an integral part of the new European public order was underscored when the New Single Court was inaugurated on 3 November last.

    Respect for human rights is no longer a purely internal matter for each of our 41 member countries. The Strasbourg Court can now provide a final remedy for 800 million Europeans from Reykjavik to Vladivostok.

    The Vienna Summit endorsed the political role of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. The Congress has now become, throughout Europe, an essential protagonist of local democracy and regional structures, bringing government closer to the citizen.

    The Council of Europe could not have amassed this potential for action without the dedication of the tens of thousands of women and men who have helped move the European cause forward over the past fifty years. I would like to pay a special tribute here to all these parliamentarians, ministers and other governmental representatives, experts, members of the European Court and Commission of Human Rights, and representatives of local and regional authorities and non-governmental organisations.

    I am especially pleased to be able to voice my gratitude in person to several of my predecessors who are with us here today. Through them I would also pay tribute to our Organisation's staff. Their creativity, expertise, motivation and determination have been vital factors in performing the multitude of tasks incumbent upon the Council of Europe.

    I have already stressed that we are not here today merely for the purpose of self-congratulation. On the contrary, the Kosovo crisis and many other potential conflicts remind us that our task is far from completed.

    Over these 50 years we have learnt that there can be no lasting peace and stability without democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. If we are to create and consolidate this community of shared values and principles, we must intensify our preventive action and extend European co-operation beyond the economic and military fields into the ethical, spiritual, legal, cultural and social spheres.

    This will be one of the Council of Europe's main endeavours in the 21st century.”

    SOLEMN CEREMONY

    (Budapest, 6 May 1999, Congress Hall of the Hungarian National Assembly)

    Mr János ÁDER (Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly) gave the following address:

    “50 years ago, the establishment of the Council of Europe and NATO was the response of States able to preserve their democratic traditions to the historical challenge posed by World War II and the subsequent period in a divided Continent.

    The objective at the time was, under these new circumstances, to create new forms and frames able to ensure the realisation and safety of traditional European values. The Council of Europe, as one of the most respected organisations of the Euro-Atlantic integration, met its historical tasks in the last half century. It played a key role in the development of a unified Europe, in the pulling down of the iron curtain, as well as in the acceleration and strengthening of the democratic developments.

    The core values of the Council of Europe are liberty, the rule of law, solidarity and the respect of human, national and minority rights.

    Hungary has always belonged to the circle of States that, based on her strong democratic traditions, also in the decades of ideological confrontation, made many sacrifices and undertook great risks for these values.

    This was the beginning of the process that opened up a new chapter in the history of a unifying Europe, free of artificial ideological fault lines.

    It is very interesting and notable that the Council of Europe has 41 members now, in contrast to only 23 members 10 years ago.

    I believe that now, on the 50th anniversary, we have a reason to be proud of the successes and accomplishments of the 10 years we have just left behind.

    Similarly, we can rest assured that the Council of Europe achieved good results in the tangible implementation of national and ethnic minority rights.

    But the fact that we still have a long way to go in this respect is profoundly illustrated by the phenomena of which Kosovo is slowly becoming the tragic symbol of the millennium.

    Hungary, currently holding the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is proud that, as recognition of the results of its transformation, it was the first country to which the Organisation opened its doors 10 years ago.

    Therefore, this jubilee is – to some extent – a double celebration to us. This is why it is a special honour for us to welcome you to Hungary on this 50th anniversary.

    Please allow me to finish my opening address with some important announcements. I am glad to inform you that this week the plenary session of the Parliament approved a political statement on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe, and also passed a resolution on the award of an original 1956 flag as a national donation.

    It is also my pleasure to inform you that, this week, the Hungarian legislative assembly has begun detailed discussions on the Social Charter of the Council of Europe. We intend to ratify this charter before the end of this month.

    Today we have come to attend a commemorative meeting within these beautiful historical walls. We are here to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe. However, our mood today is exceptionally quiet.

    All of us feel that the turbulent events affecting our neighbours cast a dark shadow over this commemoration. We are witnessing the tragedy of a national minority of two million people in the centre of Europe. In the past 50 years, or just a few years or even days ago, we all believed that this could never ever happen again in Europe.

    It seems as though, despite our expectations, the last sentence of the history of the 20th century will not end with a full stop, put there by a peaceful move of our hands, but rather an exclamation mark and the ink is the blood of expelled and humiliated Albanian families and innocent victims.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, it will be determined now, at the threshold of a new millennium, whether our Europe in the 21st century will be based on the dark ghosts of dictatorships, genocide and abuses of law, or whether these nations, in losing their last fights, will be forgotten by all and the respect of human rights, civil and community values will be our guiding principles.

    If never before, then this is the century when it was ultimately proved that those who did not learn the lessons of the past must experience again and again the consequences of their mistakes and sins. Similarly, it was proved that all those who remain speechless and idle when they see abuse of law and inhumanity, are the accomplices of vice.

    The community of the democratic States of Europe and the military organisation of NATO could not remain negligent and idle seeing the human tragedy of the hundreds of thousands of people who were expelled from their homeland. The message of democratic Europe, feeling solidarity towards the humiliated inhabitants of villages and towns, the victims of mass murderers in Kosovo and all those who innocently suffer from martial conditions, is clear and unambiguous.

    Peace must be established in the Balkans, a peace that rests on solid moral and political grounds. And if it is impossible to put an end to the sanguinary, ethnic cleansing, unprecedented since World War II, by the force of words, then it must be done by the force of arms. At the end of the 20th century all extremist politicians must understand once and forever that genocide, negligence of human and minority rights, are no longer acceptable. It cannot be accepted that adventurous, political forces ready to sacrifice their own nation on the altar built for worshipping mindless brutality, raise newer walls anywhere in Europe.

    We all agree that the walls built by aggression and dictatorship should once and for all tumble down in Europe.

    These 50 years gone by have proven that the Council of Europe was a key catalyst and a dynamic force in the establishment of a European community based on common values and standards.

    The Council of Europe has come a long way during its first 50 years of existence.

    It succeeded in achieving its historic mission for the 20th century.

    Now the next task of its member countries is to jointly prepare themselves, relying on the valuable experience of the past, for the new challenges to be faced in the 21st century and the next 50 years.

    I trust that these challenges will be those of peace, co-operation and development.

    I wish much strength and success to all of us to achieve this, and I hereby declare our jubilee meeting open.”

    Mr Viktor ORBÁN (Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary) gave the following address:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, may I respectfully welcome you to this building, which is home to the Hungarian Parliament.

    Although I have been leading the government for several months now, I cannot but feel intimidated today, as I am addressing an eminent audience that includes many longstanding friends of Hungary, to whom I have pleasure in giving my best regards.

    At the end of the last century, a famous French writer said that the nineteenth century had been a great century, but that the twentieth century would be a happy one and that things would never be the same again. As the twentieth century draws to a close, we realise how wrong this prediction has turned out to be. Not only has the twentieth century not brought us happiness, it has plunged Europe into a whirlpool of unprecedented horrors. Of course, every

    century may seem long or short in the eyes of different nations. It all depends on the major events that have taken place in our lives, the wars and revolutions we have survived, the happiness and sadness we have felt. Although the twentieth century may have seemed rather short to some of you, I must say that to Hungarians it has been truly long and bitter. This is why we place a great deal of hope in the next century.

    Ladies and gentlemen, in Hungary today we have great expectations of the future, great hopes for it and great trust in it. Spring is on its way, but we also smell hope wafting on the breeze. I hope that you will be aware of it during the few days you are to spend here with us.

    You are guests in a country that is neighbour to the theatre of military action. But, as you will have already noticed, and as you will see over the next few days, this has not forced Hungarian citizens to change their daily existence. Life goes on; it follows the same path as before. Nearby, military action is taking place, but in Hungary there is peace and serenity. Long may it last: it is our hope and our desire. You are the guests of a country that has good reason to be confident if one considers its economic situation. We ended last year with good results and – all the forecasts agree – next year, and in the years that follow, the Hungarian economy could grow at twice the average rate for the European Union. I am therefore able to confirm that ten years after the beginning of a difficult period of transition, Hungary has entered a phase of tranquil progress.

    May I, ladies and gentlemen, take advantage of this brief word of welcome to make four observations. First of all, as we all know, the countries of Europe have always had, and always will have, different political and economic convictions. One of the prevailing ideas when the Council of Europe was founded was precisely that these countries, so different from one another, should be united. The new institution no doubt succeeded, from the outset, in toning down the consequences of the Second World War and the political divisions that resulted from it. But the union was far from complete as, by force of circumstance, it was restricted to the countries of Western Europe; the eastern part of Europe remained under Soviet domination. According to my history books – I was not born at the time – the Council's founders, aware of this situation, left symbolic vacant seats for those countries, one of which was Hungary, that could not be represented because they belonged to the less fortunate part of a world that had been cut in half. I believe that the Council has always borne the weight of this absence and the responsibility arising from it with dignity and, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it was the first organisation to work towards European unification. It seems to me that after these fifty years, the Council of Europe can be said to be an institution of the present and of the future. Of the future because in spite of the differences that persist and – let us not deceive ourselves – will not disappear overnight, it provides an environment which enables us to further our knowledge, awareness and common values by drawing on our common European cultural heritage. We Hungarians often say that only trees with deep roots grow tall.

    Secondly, I have given much thought to the future that we Hungarians imagine for Europe. Ladies and gentlemen, it is particularly important to Hungarians that the values upheld by the Council of Europe – democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities – are fully recognised by all the countries of the continent. Today – and I believe that we are all aware of this – respect for these values across Europe still varies greatly. As you know, millions of Hungarians are living as minority groups beyond our frontiers. NATO has fully realised that the threat hanging over Hungarians in Voivodina, for example, is jeopardising the interests of the international community as a whole. Our aim is that the Council of Europe's representatives should perceive the problem of the Hungarians in Voivodina more as a problem that concerns them personally. This is especially necessary in present circumstances.

    Thirdly, you will agree with me when I say that the main objective in setting up the Council of Europe fifty years ago was to prevent the horrors of the Second World War from ever being repeated. Europe has already suffered enough in the 20th century from having neglected the problems of its minorities. It has felt the harsh consequences of this neglect. I am convinced that the representatives of the Council of Europe feel very strongly about the future of all the minorities in Europe. Accordingly, I earnestly beg you to give particular consideration to the present situation of the Hungarians in Voivodina.

    The points of view of the members of the Council of Europe differ as regards the possible solutions to the conflict in Kosovo. Nevertheless, in my opinion there is one point we can agree on: none of us can tolerate human beings being driven from their homes, deported and killed because they belong to a particular ethnic group. I am certain that it is both the aim and the duty of every one of us to do everything we can to ensure that the genocide comes to an end, that deportations cease and that the refugees can return home.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Yugoslavia is the last country in Europe not to be involved in the promising move towards European reunification that began ten years ago and not even to have set off along the path that leads to a common future. This path can only be opened to the people of that region if what is happening there today is brought to an end. This is why Hungary is in favour of a peace plan based on sound values. We consider that the stabilisation process must spread to the whole of south-east Europe, reaching every corner of the region.

    Fourthly and finally, may I tell you something I deeply believe: I am convinced that the ideals and principles that we share also impose duties upon us. Everything that happens in Europe must always be considered as being of concern to us all and we must therefore be prepared to fulfil the tasks that fall to us. On behalf of Hungary, I can assure you that our country is open today, as it was yesterday, to all those who must escape from their enemies, who are fleeing for their lives and who see in us a guarantee for their safety. Hungary is ready today to provide the aid that is needed, just as it was in the mid-nineties during the previous Yugoslav conflict, when a total of 70 000 refugees found asylum in our country. At present, 25 000 people born on Yugoslav territory are staying in Hungary while they wait to know their fate: will they remain refugees in Hungary or will they be able to return home? Hungary may be relied on to fulfil its obligations, to do its part in supplying humanitarian aid.

    Ladies and gentlemen, my elders tell me that true knowledge consists of looking beyond the present to catch a glimpse of the future. It is now clear that over the last fifty years the Council of Europe has played an important visionary role. It will no doubt continue to do so

    in the future. For the last six months, we Hungarians have been keen to defend our common principles in a dignified and effective manner. I hope that the Council of Europe is satisfied with the work done while Hungary was in the Chair.

    The Council of Europe is celebrating its 50th anniversary. On behalf of Hungary and my fellow citizens, I wish it just as much success in its work over the next fifty years. Thank you very much for your kind attention.”

    Lord RUSSELL-JOHNSTON (President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “Hungary, and its beautiful capital Budapest, is, in more than one way, a most appropriate place to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Organisation.

    Hungary, together with five other Eastern European countries, was represented at the Congress of Europe in The Hague in 1948. It took a year to formalise things and the baby was born in London, but it was really in The Hague that the Council of Europe was conceived, and Hungary was there.

    In the fifties, the Parliamentary Assembly had contacts with the Hungarian Revolutionary Council and, of course, as has been already mentioned, in 1990 Hungary was the first former communist country to join the Council of Europe.

    Another symbolic reason for coming to Budapest today is the remembrance of the courage and persistence of the Hungarian people in the defence of freedom – the same freedom our Organisation was set up to defend and enlarge.

    But freedom's true value can never be better known and appreciated than by those who have been deprived of it by force. In 1956 the hope for a better and fairer life was suppressed by tanks. I remember, as a student in Edinburgh, the first refugees. I remember, much later, paying my respects to the phantom grave of Imry Nagy in Père-Lachaise, the remarkable place of rest in Paris. Yet, the hope never died. Thirty-three years later it was Hungary that delivered the mortal blow to the iron curtain when it allowed thousands of East Germans to cross the border into Austria. From that day onwards, the Berlin Wall was nothing but an ugly fence, a pathetic reminder of a paranoid era coming to an end.

    1989 was also a milestone for the Council of Europe. With the accession of Finland, its Western enlargement was largely completed. In the autumn of the same year and in the first months of 1990 the highest political representatives of Central and Eastern European countries came to the Assembly, one after another, to plead for the accession of their countries in the Council of Europe.

    In their view - and also in ours - to join the family of European democracies was the quickest and most efficient way to break with their totalitarian past.

    In the radically new circumstances of the historic enlargement to the east, the Assembly demonstrated a talent to innovate and to reform. It created the special guest status for applicant countries so that they were at once integrated into our work.

    The monitoring procedure, initially conceived as an exercise to ensure the respect of Council of Europe standards in new member States, brought about a quantum leap in the evolution of our Organisation with far reaching consequences for all our members.

    The intergovernmental side developed a comprehensive system of assistance programmes and instruments to match the determination of new democracies to change with the means and the expertise that they often lacked.

    With the enlargement slowly coming to an end, the Council must now engage in structural reforms necessary under the conditions of enlarged membership, which has grown from 23 to 41 in only nine years.

    To be able to fulfil its mission through concrete action, the Council of Europe will also have to receive more money from governments. It currently spends just over one French franc a year per head for each European it represents. And if you can work out what 8% of one French franc is, that's the cost of our Assembly. Even the most accountant-minded Ambassador could hardly deny that that is very good value for money.

    The actions of the Council of Europe are, however, seldom dramatic and almost never conducted in a Land Rover. So we don't feature very often on CNN!

    Yet, even in today's politics, where perceptions often dominate over the truth, this cannot be allowed to become the criterion by which we are judged!

    The Council of Europe's myriad of legal and political achievements now affects every possible aspect of our citizens' lives. Patience and persistence have woven the fabric of a democratic, stable and prosperous Europe of tomorrow. A fabric so finely knit that it is almost invisible to the eye, yet is strong enough to protect the freedom of those who embrace our values.

    In fifty years, the Council of Europe has helped create a Europe that is better, fairer and less divided than the one we inherited from our fathers, in the aftermath of World War II. If we want to preserve this Europe for our children, we must not waiver - not for a single moment - in our commitment to the values which the Council of Europe represents.”

    Mr Alain CHÉNARD (President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe) gave the following address:

    “Only a few years after the Council of Europe was founded, the Conference of Local Authorities of Europe was set up within the Organisation as the first body to bring together representatives of local and regional authorities from the member States, providing an opportunity for dialogue, co-operation and participation in the development of international policies and legal instruments. Hence, as far as we are concerned, the Conference and its successor, the Congress, have both made a significant contribution to the work of the Organisation since 1957.

    By systematically placing the citizens at the heart of their activities, the Congress's local and regional elected representatives, who are in the closest possible position to the citizens and their concerns, have campaigned unstintingly for the principle of subsidiarity, that is to say, decision-making at the closest possible level to the citizens concerned, that is to say, democracy in its most effective, participatory form.

    The European Charter of Local Self-Government, which was the first treaty to define this fundamental democratic principle, has now been ratified by 30 of the 41 member States. The United Nations is currently using it as a model for its draft World Charter.

    Since 1989 and the start of the wave of accessions of new member States, the Congress has been able to develop its role in providing assistance and advice regarding the implementation of a legislative framework and the functioning of genuine local and regional democracy in keeping with the European principles and standards set down in the Charter. Through extensive dialogue with local and regional elected representatives, their associations and the governments concerned, the Congress has channelled a great deal of effort into promoting and safeguarding these standards throughout Europe.

    Far from limiting ourselves to keeping a watchful eye over new member States alone, we are anxious for this procedure to encompass all States, including the Organisation's oldest members. That is how the Congress intends to contribute towards ensuring the cohesion of this great European family, whose members are all committed to developing and strengthening common values.

    In this context, we are mindful of the fact that Hungary, which was the first country to join our Organisation after 1989, was also one of the first to re-establish true local democracy, based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

    May I also say, in passing, how pleased I am to be able to number among us, following its recent accession, the Republic of Georgia, a country with which I have enjoyed personal relations for many years.

    At the first Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Vienna in 1993, the role of the Congress was rightly acknowledged and its position strengthened within the Council of Europe, although the implications for the Congress's internal organisation were not fully taken into account at that stage. The foundations for this should be laid on the occasion of the Council's 50th anniversary; allow me at this juncture to express my wish that this process, initiated by the Heads of State in 1993 and pursued through the work of the Committee of Wise Persons, might soon be completed.

    Although this is an occasion for celebration, our thoughts nevertheless turn with profound sadness to that part of South-East Europe where human rights, democracy, fundamental freedoms, all the values that are at the very heart of our fifty-year struggle, are being disregarded through a succession of atrocities, while every day the surrounding countries demonstrate their commitment to pursue the task of building a Greater Europe based on democracy, as its founding fathers envisaged. The Committee of Ministers has just adopted a strategy for action in South-East Europe, with the Congress being invited to help rebuild local democracy.

    The crisis in Kosovo illustrates that the Council of Europe is a necessary partner to the European Union, providing an initial framework for integration and a forum for democracy from the local and regional levels upwards. Since its aim is, through patience and determination, to develop a homogeneous geographical area united by common values, the Council of Europe must offer its assistance in this crisis.

    For its part, the Congress has launched an appeal for solidarity between European towns and regions, urging them to forge tangible partnerships with towns and regions which are generously welcoming the floods of refugees, for the most part in Albania and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”; we are hoping to extend the operation to Montenegro as soon as this is possible. These receiving towns are exhausting all their means and resources as the task becomes too much for them. Our gesture of solidarity will, we hope, be backed up by other initiatives at other levels.

    Once peace returns, it will need to be consolidated. We are also considering prolonging these partnerships in order to contribute, as soon as this is possible, to the democratic reconstruction of Kosovo, which will need to start in towns, municipalities and villages; this will require a considerable surge of solidarity throughout Europe. We hope that the governments will assist the Congress in this task, which would then be the response of a democratic Europe to those who have done all they can to disregard human rights and destroy democracy in the multicultural communities of South-East Europe.

    With this as our objective, there should be no talk of zero growth, certainly not in terms of the budget. What good is an ambition when it is starved of resources?

    While the Congress welcomes the course that has been followed over the past 50 years, the current situation in Europe shows that democracy is, unfortunately, never irrevocably acquired, but must be fought for vigilantly and constantly. This anniversary should be an opportunity for us to set the seal on our determination to pursue our task throughout Europe: that of guaranteeing the “universal right to happiness”.”

    Mr Günter VERHEUGEN (Representative of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union) gave the following address:

    “Fifty years of the Council of Europe means fifty years of active commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

    On behalf of the Presidency of the European Union, I congratulate the Council of Europe on its achievements. The Presidency has taken this opportunity to issue a statement, from which I should like to quote a key passage:

    “The European Union and the Council of Europe have the same aims when it comes to defending and promoting the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”

    Herein lies the basis on which the peoples and nations of our continent can live together in peace. The Council of Europe has played a major part in achieving recognition of fundamental human values as the cornerstone for building a democratic society. Without its key contribution, Europe could never have overcome the decades-old divide between East and West as quickly as it has.

    Current events in the Balkans are proof that the goal of a “Europe without dividing lines” has not yet been achieved. But work on a Stability Pact for the region is under way and I particularly welcome the contribution that the Council of Europe will make to it.

    The Council of Europe has already shown that it has the stamina needed for effecting lasting change. I therefore wish it every possible success as it works for the good of all the people of our continent.”

    Mr A. VINAS gave the following speech on behalf of Mr Hans VAN DEN BROEK (Representative of the European Commission):

    “The fact that the Council of Europe is commemorating its 50th anniversary in Hungary has a deep significance. Hungary was the first country to join the Council of Europe after the events of 1989, when the Cold War fronts collapsed and a new era dawned in Europe, in the East as well as in the West.

    It is therefore only fit and proper that I should congratulate the Hungarian authorities for their efforts in hosting this unique event. Hungary will no doubt be instrumental in shaping the new Europe of the 21st century.

    I should also like to extend my warmest congratulations and my appreciation to the Council of Europe and its Secretary General, Daniel Tarschys, for its extraordinary achievements in the field of the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, among many others. Throughout its 50 years of existence and, in particular since 1989, the Council of Europe has been extremely effective in re-defining the institutional landscape of a Greater Europe by virtue of its bold open-door policy. It has thus greatly contributed to fulfilling Europe's moral responsibility in ensuring that our continent enjoys peace, stability, security and prosperity while enhancing freedom, democracy and human rights in both the West and the former East, once the old divide crumbled in 1989.

    However, there is no place for complacency. The achievements of the last 50 years will be in jeopardy for as long as crises erupt along our borders; and when, in Europe, one of the more outstanding landmarks of our civilisation, such as the respect for fundamental freedoms, risks being drowned in violence.

    We must, therefore, remain vigilant and face the new challenges. Our joint efforts are more necessary than ever.

    The Council of Europe is right to be proud of the many-faceted activities which it has carried out in the defence and in the strengthening of democracy and human rights across Europe.

    But with the flaring up of new situations of danger on our own doorstep, the Council of Europe and other institutions, among which the European Union, must redouble their efforts. The next 50 years should not be years of yearning for freedom and democracy, as the past were for many of the present Council members, but years for enjoying, by all of them, the achievements made when our continent was not entirely whole and not entirely free. The challenges of the future will be addressed in many ways by interlocking institutions. The Council of Europe has a specific way of addressing them. Combining a wide range of instruments in many areas, amongst others political, legal and cultural, the Council has innovated over time. It will continue to do so in the future.

    The European Commission reiterates, at this solemn occasion, its full support for the Council of Europe.

    Co-operation between the Commission and the Council of Europe will be enhanced by the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Treaty establishes respect for human rights as an essential condition for membership of the Union and bestows upon the European Community the possibility to intervene, by taking appropriate action, to combat all forms of discrimination.

    The Council of Europe will remain one of our main partners in this field.

    Turning now to the Balkans, the European Commission welcomes the Council of Europe's readiness to assist, and appreciates its participation in the common search for a long-term solution to the conflict.

    The Council of Europe's ongoing urgent measures relating, namely, to registration of refugees and assistance with the assessment of human rights violations seem particularly useful with a view to preparing for the future return of refugees and to bringing those responsible for human rights violations to justice.

    Likewise, the Commission considers the Council's comprehensive contribution, which will be adopted tomorrow, to a stability programme for South-East Europe a positive input to the international endeavours in the region, including the Stability Pact, as initiated by the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the updating of the regional approach which the European Commission is just considering.

    The Council of Europe, with its pan-European dimension, its array of institutional tools, legal instruments, specialised bodies and specific programmes has undoubtedly a crucial role to play in one of its own fields of competence, namely civil society building, in the stabilisation of South-East Europe.

    On behalf of the European Commission, I pledge to you our willingness to continue working together and to intensify our co-operation with the Council of Europe to which I wish as many fruitful years in the future as those we are commemorating in its past.”

    Mr Knut VOLLEBÆK (Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE) gave the following address:

    “It is an honour for me to address the Council of Europe here in Budapest on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. It is with the deepest respect and admiration that the OSCE views the achievements of the Council of Europe during its 50 years. The OSCE, by comparison, is young, dating back as an organisation to the Summit here in Budapest only five years ago – but with a history as a conference dating back to the early 70s, we will be able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act in the year 2000.

    The changes that have swept Europe in the latter half of this century have had profound effects on both our organisations, but, more importantly, we as organisations have had an impact on developments. It is for this impact that we will be remembered in the history books, and for this impact on European history that I salute the Council of Europe today.

    When the Council of Europe was founded in the aftermath of World War II it was with the aim of maintaining peace in Europe by establishing a legal basis for the safeguarding of individual human rights, the promotion of democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe has indeed made a contribution to peace in Europe, upholding these values in established as well as new democracies.

    By contrast, the backdrop for the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in the 70s was the Cold War. The CSCE was established as a political co-operation, to serve as a forum for dialogue between East and West, adopting politically binding documents committing participating States to common principles and values.

    Both the Council of Europe and the OSCE strive to induce changes but by different means. Whereas the Council of Europe works to create a legally binding set of commitments, the OSCE operates on the political level, inducing change by obtaining political commitments.

    Since their inception, the outlook of both the Council of Europe and the OSCE has been pan-European. The importance of the Council of Europe's admittance of the first new member States after the historic events in the late 80s cannot be overestimated. It heralded a new era of European co-operation. As in the OSCE, membership entails more obligations than rights, obligations that strengthen democratic forces in the member States and that yield concrete results.

    The OSCE has gradually evolved from a normative to a more operative organisation, with the establishment of a whole new network of missions in the field. This development has changed the character of co-operation with the Council of Europe – the OSCE increasingly drawing on the expertise of the Council of Europe in the field, particularly in areas such as the rule of law, the building of democratic institutions and respect for human rights.

    Increasing the OSCE's attention to human security is a priority for the Norwegian chairmanship. This is an area where co-operation with the Council of Europe is both natural and vital.

    The OSCE and the Council of Europe are well matched to meet the challenges ahead, utilising their comparative advantages. The Council of Europe's strength lies in its standard-setting role and in its constant, broad monitoring of commitments. The OSCE's strength lies in its ability to act promptly and purposefully in situations requiring rapid action.

    Co-operation has intensified in recent years, with regular contacts at all levels. As Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, I have sought to further strengthen this development.

    The principle of mutual support between European and transatlantic organisations is an important element in the ongoing negotiations in the OSCE on a Security Charter for the 21st century, which we hope to adopt at the OSCE Summit in November of this year. The aim of the Charter is two-fold: to identify the tasks of the OSCE as we enter a new century, and to establish a Platform for Common Security in Europe.

    This brings me to the present, tragic events in Kosovo. The situation in Kosovo requires all our efforts and attentions. Effective international co-ordination is of vital importance to respond to the challenges we are facing. I have been encouraged by the measures the Council of Europe has taken to contribute to the relief effort with regard to the crisis in Kosovo. In addition to taking care of the immediate needs of the many refugees, however, we must also look ahead and plan for the future – for the rebuilding of democratic and legal institutions in Kosovo and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The OSCE stands ready to assist in implementing a political settlement, in co-operation with the Council of Europe and other partner organisations.

    There is general agreement on the need to supplement efforts in Kosovo with measures to ensure the stability and security of the region as a whole. In this field too, the Council of Europe has played an active role. I commend the Council for its contribution to the Stability Programme for South-Eastern Europe that is being presented for adoption here in Budapest. I also welcome the proposal to appoint a Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. I am sure this new instrument will prove valuable.

    On behalf of the OSCE, I thank the Council of Europe for the close co-operation we are enjoying. I congratulate the Council on its important work over the past 50 years. The OSCE is proud to have the Council of Europe as a major partner; a partnership that will only increase in importance in the future.

    Let me also express my gratitude to our Hungarian hosts for putting their splendid parliament building at our disposal – in this historic and beautiful capital to which it is always a pleasure to return.”

    Mr Vladimir PETROVSKY (Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations) gave the following address:

    “In my capacity as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, I wish to add a few words about the special significance of today's ceremony, as seen from the oldest and largest European headquarters of the United Nations.

    The Council of Europe has had a bond with the United Nations for nearly half a century.

    The exchange of letters on 15 December 1951 between the first Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Trygve Lie, and his counterpart in the Council of Europe, Mr J.C. Paris, established that the two Secretariats would work together in the following areas: exchange of information, mutual consultation, attendance of their representatives as observers at each other's meetings, and technical co-operation. Indeed, Article 1 of the Council's Statute – "to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress" – is every bit as compatible with the United Nations Charter and with United Nations peace-building efforts on the eve of the 21st century, as it was when both organisations were still quite new, and their respective memberships a fraction of what they are today.

    After the end of the Cold War, co-operation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, including its Geneva-based bodies, has deepened and broadened. I take particular pride in the fact that an informal process of consultations launched in July 1993 between the Council of Europe, the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the (then) Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe to share information on our respective activities in conflict areas has become an established practice, with at least one annual high-level "tripartite" meeting, and regular bilateral contacts at the top and working levels of our organisations. The scope of these tripartite discussions has in recent years moved beyond primarily humanitarian concerns to include human rights, economic rehabilitation and development – all crucial if peace, democracy and the rule of law are to thrive. The latest high-level tripartite meeting was convened in February, in Strasbourg, under the Chairmanship of Council of Europe Secretary General, Mr Daniel Tarschys. The Council of Europe has also, during the past year, hosted two very timely "target-oriented" tripartite meetings – one on Albania and the other on reform of the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia. With the Council's special expertise in promoting respect for human rights and democratic institution building, you have a leading role to play in such discussions, and we look forward to your insights at the next "target-oriented" meeting in Geneva, which will address law enforcement and police training.

    A highlight in the deepening ties between our two Organisations took place last July when Secretary General Tarschys participated in a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, convened by Secretary General Annan with the Heads of Regional Organisations.

    The overarching theme of the meeting was conflict prevention. While the Council of Europe's Statute specifies that "matters relating to National Defence do not fall within its scope", its role in support of democracy and rule of law place it firmly within the scope of United Nations and regional peace-building activities. It is worth noting that both at the July meeting and a follow-up working-level meeting held in December, the UN-Council of Europe-OSCE process of tripartite consultations was cited as a valuable mechanism which might be of value in other regions of the world.

    The need for continuous consultations between the United Nations and European regional structures has become all the more evident in light of the recent crisis in Kosovo, and we are at least fortunate in having laid the groundwork over the past six years, in deepening getting to know each other at all levels of our organisations, and deepening our familiarisation with each other's "institutional cultures" – both at the diverse headquarters and in the field.

    Europeans across the continent look to the Council of Europe, with its 50 years of accumulated wisdom and experience, to be a standard bearer for safeguarding the ideals and principles set out in your Statute and Conventions. As was so solemnly reaffirmed in the Final Declaration issued on the occasion of your Second Summit in October 1997: your attachment to the "fundamental principles of the Council of Europe – pluralist democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law" – and the commitment of your governments "to comply fully with the requirements and meet the responsibilities arising from membership in your Organisation" sends a strong message to those parts of Europe where these principles are challenged or are in jeopardy, and a message of hope to all those who strive for them.

    On behalf of the United Nations family in Geneva, I join my voice to that of Secretary General Kofi Annan in paying tribute to the first 50 years of the Council of Europe. We look forward to working even more closely with you in the century ahead.

    In conclusion, I would like to thank the Hungarian Parliament, which has created such a marvellous environment for this important event for the whole international community.”

    Mr Daniel TARSCHYS (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) gave the following address:

    “In Parliaments, the eloquence of the members and ministers is matched only by the eloquence of the walls around them.

    These buildings speak in stern marble, in exquisite woodwork, in heroic paintings and in busts of illustrious leaders. Reflecting our national heritage, they express the determination of our peoples to forge their own destiny and to do so by discussion, by law and by agreed procedures.

    Tonight, as we meet in one of the most majestic of these European Chambers, I think we can all sense its spiritus loci.

    This golden splendour carries a message. A hundred years ago, when the Hungarians mobilised their best architects and artists to erect this enormous edifice, they gave a lasting expression to their desire for sovereignty and self-government.

    All over Europe, we have parliamentary buildings speaking the same language. The architecture of our legislatures is inextricably linked to the architecture of our States and to the emergence of our national consciousness.

    None of our political systems was built without some portion of national romanticism which - at different times for different countries - contributed greatly to our political, social and cultural cohesion and to the solidarity underlying the welfare state.

    We do well to remember this when we see the ugly and aggressive side of nationalism. In excessive doses, anything can be poisonous. But identities as such - the sense of roots or the sense of belonging - are normally benign and they are also the very foundation of any political community. And without such communities, there can be no individual freedom.

    As we enter the 21st century, the predominant political unit in Europe is still the sovereign State. To organise our societies and to meet the challenges facing us, the State continues to be both indispensable and insufficient.

    Indispensable, because it remains our principal political allegiance. Europeans keep identifying very strongly with their own country and its well-entrenched institutions.

    Insufficient, at the same time, because collective problems come in so many shapes and sizes.

    Some are far too small for the State and can be handled much better at the local level, by regions and municipalities, or by civil society.

    Others are far too big for the sovereign State and require common approaches in different forms, ranging from concertation and co-operation to full-scale co-ordination or joint decision-making.

    And this is where Europe comes in.

    In a famous book, the anthropologist Benedict Anderson has analysed our nations as "imagined communities". Clearly, that is how they started, and some nations are still in the making. Europe began in the same way, as an idea, an invention, a construct.

    Underlying, of course, are physical realities. The breathtaking landscapes and cultural riches of this continent do not lack objective existence, they are quite tangible and there to discover and to enjoy. But the cohesion and unity of all this comes about in our minds.

    It is there that Europe is born. It is born out of the traumas of our past and out of the fears that they may repeat themselves, but above all out of a set of convictions that may have taken a long time to mature but that have also grown very strong in the last half-century.

    Convictions about human dignity and the need to recognise and defend fundamental human rights and freedoms.

    Convictions about the uniqueness and equal value of the life-experience and opinions of each and every individual, which rule out all forms of government except pluralist democracy.

    Convictions about the need for political authority but also about its inherent dangers, a dilemma only to be resolved through division of power and the rule of law.

    Convictions about the need for reconciliation both inside and between our countries and enlightened strategies to overcome ethnic frictions.

    Convictions, finally, about the need to adapt to our growing interdependence. Living together, side by side, in a small continent and a small world, there is simply no way in which we can isolate ourselves or close our eyes to the fate of our neighbours, be they immediate or more distant.

    When we speak of these convictions as "European values", we do not at all entertain the illusion that Europeans unanimously subscribe to these principles, or even less that they live by them. Some manifestly do not and have not done so, whether you think of the last century or the last week.

    The concept of European values is unabashedly normative. Its purpose is not to describe the sordid reality around us but the civilised order we seek to establish. Indeed, the order we must establish if we wish our children and grandchildren to live in peace and prosperity, because that goal is no longer attainable within the borders of one single State.

    It requires Europe.

    Europe may be an invention - it is an invention - but it has also become a necessity. Take one glance at the region that is uppermost in our minds right now, at the southeast of our continent, and you will see immediately that the only solutions with any remote chance of success are European solutions, mobilising European solidarity and self-interest, integrating the whole area into wider European structures while safeguarding, at the same time, the appropriate degree of sovereignty and self-government.

    Fifty years after the creation of the Council of Europe and ten years after its expansion to encompass the whole continent, we have established an excellent framework for common European undertakings, not only through this experienced and efficient Organisation but also through others, such as the European Union and the OSCE. What we need now is the courage to use this framework, and the foresight to act not only under the pressure of immediate constraints.

    Some of our leaders are hesitant to extend European co-operation for fear of its high costs. But the opposite might very well be true: it might cost our citizens much more not to extend European co-operation, or to push it too far into the future.

    And our citizens are of course the final decision-makers. Europe will not succeed unless it becomes a common cause.

    After Italian unification in the last century, Massimo D'Azeglio said: Fatta l'Italia, bisogna fare gli italiani - We have made Italy, now we must make Italians.

    We are in a similar situation today. We have built Europe or at least its foundations, but it remains to create Europeans.

    At one time, there was certainly a widespread apprehension in our different countries that a stronger sense of European identity might undermine the national identity, and thus weaken the citizens' attachment to their own States.

    Today, we know that this is not true. We have learnt that identities are not mutually exclusive. They can be cumulative. These issues are indeed sensitive, but if they are handled with care and common sense they need not at all be disruptive. Regional, ethnic, religious and other identities can very well flourish without posing any threat to the national identity.

    And so can the European identity. But more than that. Strengthening the sense of European identity in all parts of the continent is a means of laying old fears and old conflicts to rest, of dispelling the evil phantoms from our collective past, and of replacing inherited prejudice by a spirit of respect and co-operation. So many problems can be solved only if hundreds of millions of us learn to think and act as good Europeans.

    How can we develop this common consciousness, this attachment to our fundamental values? If that is now the main challenge, the Council of Europe has much to contribute. What has been achieved through our cultural co-operation and our work in the field of education may serve as miniature models for the full-scale action now needed.

    Creating Europeans - that should be the agenda for the next half-century. If we fail in that task, we will fail in many others also. But if we succeed, as we must, we will bequeath to future generations a much better Europe than the continent that we inherited from our ancestors.”

    ENLARGED JOINT COMMITTEE (“COLLOQUY”)

    (Budapest, 7 May 1999, Budapest Convention Centre)

    Mr Vartan OSKANIAN (Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia) gave the following address:

    “We have come here today to join the celebration of the Council of Europe's golden anniversary. Whether speaking from inside the Council or, poised at its periphery and ready to join, looking from outside in, it is a time for rejoicing, congratulation and even self-congratulation. It is also a time for sober self-evaluation: taking stock, noting the achievements and making an assessment of the road ahead, the challenges and the opportunities.

    The anniversary of the Council is not only that of an institution, of an association of sovereign states, but more significantly, it is the evolving demonstration of the significance of the ideas and values that form the foundation of this Organisation.

    Democracy, human rights, respect for the individual, security and stability and a Europe free from conflict are not in themselves new ideas. Born in Europe, they have achieved universal relevance and recognition beyond the borders of Europe itself. What is new, however, and barely 50 years old is that one can adopt, advocate and pursue these values through appropriate institutional arrangements. It is in that sense that the Council of Europe is both a means to an end, as well as, a worthwhile objective in itself. The Republic of Armenia wants to join the Council because it is the appropriate institutional arrangement that embodies the values and makes it possible to enshrine them for those who join it.

    We have not undertaken our own democratisation processes simply in order to join the Council. But we do recognise that, having started the process of our reforms, our need to consolidate our achievements, as well as our need to go further with firmness and in an irrevocable manner, we need to integrate ourselves into the institutional framework that is the Council. It is a model, an inspiration, as well as the guarantor of the legitimacy of our own undertakings on the road to democratisation.

    We have attempted over the last few years to maintain a steady course in preparation of our membership. In doing so, we have continued to look at the way in which those ahead of us, and before us, have attempted to embody the values of the Council of Europe by making those values significant in the conduct of its own affairs. The steps required in making critical transitions from non-democratic political systems to more open political societies cannot be reduced to a mechanical recipe. Sometimes they require legal and constitutional formulas and devices. At times what is necessary is nothing less than the recasting of the entire political culture.

    Under normal circumstances, these transformations, these adaptations can and should take a very long time indeed. Some might say it took Europe over three centuries to evolve into its present institutional incarnation. It is our desire, however, to make sure that we do not have to repeat the same waiting period. We must accelerate the process. The model has proved itself and delays can be counterproductive. Europe is no longer an experiment and we ourselves want to move from experimentation to institutionalisation.

    As we look at these achievements and our aspirations, as we register how far Europe has come and how eager we are to join it, to celebrate together its one hundredth anniversary one day, we cannot help but express a certain trepidation, an anxiety if you wish. We are witness to an occasional disjunction, between professed standards and their differential applications, between assertions of equity, fairness and non-discriminatory values and actions and decisions that appear, at least to us, as discriminatory, unfair and arbitrarily selective.

    Some of these issues are exacerbated when we look at a map of an expanding Europe. We notice not only a family of democratic or democratising nations and states, but also a system of equilibrium on a continent of multiple and diverse sub regions. The stability and equilibrium within these sub regions are the building blocks of a sound architecture for the security and stability in the construct of the Council of Europe.

    We are not reluctant to admit that the South Caucasus is a sub region whose democratic construction is not yet fully accomplished. A stable and democratic South Caucasus is a work in progress. As in all works in progress, its promise must not ignore the fragility of its emergent equilibrium. We recognise and we welcome the constructive role that the Council of Europe can and must play to consolidate this sub regional equilibrium. But it must not, perhaps inadvertently, by the uneven or inconsistent application of its principles, exacerbate existing imbalances.

    Our trepidations do not, and should not, be construed either as self doubt or doubts about the significance of this historic institution, its achievements in the past, as well as the role it has to play in the future of this continent. Realism in this case, perhaps more than arrogance, would lead us to hopefulness. The celebration of this event here in Budapest makes us remember that it was here in 1956, that a people expressed its desire for freedom and emancipation, its resistance to dominance, and its refusal to be deprived of democracy. No geopolitical expert would have ever believed that this intensely singular act of revolt, which took place in the streets of Budapest, might one day evolve into Budapest playing host to a united, expanding, democratic Europe.

    May we have the courage, all of us here, to see as the assertion of faith and not the expression of presumption, our collective hope to see the Council of Europe celebrate its anniversary in Yerevan.

    Mr Khalaf KHALAFOV (Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan) gave the following address:

    “I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Committee for allowing me to address such a high-level gathering and to the Government of Hungary for its hospitality and excellent organisation of the present meeting in keeping with the fine traditions of the Hungarian people.

    In its 50 years of existence, the Council of Europe has made an inestimable contribution to the development of European integration processes and played a key role in asserting the principles of democracy, creating pluralist society and ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    My country's Government has proclaimed the development and consolidation of democratic institutions and universal human values as the leading priorities of Azerbaijani home and foreign policy.

    The Republic of Azerbaijan is actively involved in pan-European integration processes, thanks to its consistent implementation of a policy of fostering and giving tangible form to the fundamental norms of democratic order. A multi-party system, freedom of the individual, expression and conscience, human rights protection and the primacy of law, which constitute the basis of our legislation, form the driving force of the State and society.

    Today we are going through a crucial moment in history, characterised by far-reaching changes. Those changes are opening up new opportunities vis-à-vis the international community and at the same time giving rise to new demands and difficult problems.

    The global military and political stand-off between East and West has given way to constructive dialogue and searching for compromise. A unique set of conditions is coming together for the development of relations of mutual benefit and on an equal footing with the new independent States which have come into being in the post-socialist sphere.

    However, the danger of a return to bloc politics, but of a completely different configuration, has not been eliminated, as, on the one hand old stereotypes and ambitions persist and on the other hand the process of overcoming the numerous problems which have accumulated over decades of confrontation is complex and vulnerable to the illnesses of the past.

    Negative phenomena which have grown out of the debris of the old world older, such as aggressive nationalism and separatism, which have given impetus to armed conflict and ethnic cleansing, are seriously undermining an already fragile system of international security, threatening the existence and hampering the development of fledgling democracies, which become the victims of conflicts of interest.

    It would be naïve to consider ethnic strife between the parties directly involved in conflicts as the principal or sole factor in the triggering and duration of such conflicts. This is borne out by the blatant acts of certain States which exploit situations of conflict for their own narrow and selfish political ends, States which seek to preserve their leverage in the ongoing struggle over spheres of influence formed in the course of history, by stirring up conflicts and then artificially prolonging the settlement process.

    Such “rules of the game”, cloaked in statements suggesting well-intentioned mediation and at the same time backed up by the massive supply of arms to one of the parties to the conflict, must be roundly condemned and done away with.

    We are pinning our hopes on assistance from European institutions and States in settling the protracted armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the clearing up of the aftermath of Armenian aggression, the liberation of twenty per cent of the occupied territories and the return of refugees to their native homes.

    We believe in the wisdom of the European peoples, who have established and confirmed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States as an imperative of international relations and created European standards governing relations between the State and the citizen.

    Azerbaijan, as an important geopolitical and strategic component of the European continent with considerable potential, is hoping to rapidly join the Council of Europe and, without doubt, will make its own contribution to the progress of the European community of States in the 21st century.

    Extending the European political area to take in young sovereign States and involving them in European processes as a fully fledged member of that community will undoubtedly be an invaluable contribution to strengthening trust and security throughout the continent.

    In conclusion, allow me to thank the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for their efforts in associating our country with the Council of Europe and express the hope that these will continue.”

    Mr Jadranko PRLIĆ (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina) gave the following address:

    “Rather than making a statement, I am going to speak about three issues.

    The first one is the Budapest Declaration.

    I want to remind you that two years ago in Sarajevo, members of Central European Initiative adopted the Sarajevo Declaration and I want to quote only two sentences from this declaration:

    “Representatives agree

    a. to work for cohesion of a united Europe without dividing lines - Europe which shares values embracing all countries, regions, peoples and citizens of continents; and

    b. to focus co-operation on assistance to strengthen the capacity of the least advanced member States and of those having the greatest need for accelerated economic development or recovery.”

    The Sarajevo Declaration and Budapest Declaration are not just declarations per se. Now we are witnesses of building a new dividing line in the European continent, which is going to have at its borders the present crisis in the ex-Republic of Yugoslavia. We are witnesses of two lines of transition: in Central Europe and those in South-East Europe.

    I want to say that South-East Europe is not a special area. It should not be used as an alibi. It is not right to look at our problems and its consequences removed from our common history that experienced the same similar problems. This region should be viewed and be part of Europe and free. It is very important to have in mind, speaking about the region and the new regional initiative.

    Maybe it is not the time to have a final goal, but it is the time to have very clear principles, with the triple goal of ensuring:

    a. security,
    b. economic development in accordance with the standards of the European Union,
    c. democratisation.

    Democratisation of the region calls for steps to build up and consolidate democratic institutions, reinforce the concept of civil society, free media and human rights. In this area the role of the Council of Europe is a very important one. And I want to say that in the search for a new regional framework, we should develop a uniform code on minority rights, autonomy and political institutions that can be applied and even imposed in all States in the region that are or may become unstable. Democratisation is vital for the region in the long run can be based on the European model or protection of minority rights, national autonomy and local self-government.

    Speaking about Bosnia and Herzegovina and the role of the Council of Europe, I want to say that we welcome the invaluable contribution of the Council of Europe towards the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accord, which is the only regional project till now, and in the overall peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In order to integrate my country quickly and effectively into this family of democracies, we require and hope for the continuous support of the Council of Europe in establishing the rule of law, where human rights, democratisation and freedom of media occupy a central position. Emphasis is given to the function of institutions at all levels of State and entities.

    I want to be frank and say that I have mixed feelings today. First of all, I am pleased that I am here; that I am invited as a representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take part at this meeting as a non-member State. But at the same time I am sad because of the missed opportunity to become a member of the Council of Europe, a priority of our foreign policy - but not only foreign policy but state policy - before the 50th Anniversary. It was a proposal in Bosnia and Herzegovina that maybe the National Day of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the day of the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe. We missed this opportunity because of the fact that the process of implementation of the Dayton Peace Accord is critical.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is in every respect a candidate for membership. The latest developments in the region underline, as I mentioned, the necessity for such a move. Moreover, it is a move which enjoys absolute consensus in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This has been formally stated both in October 1998 in a letter from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency which I delivered in Autumn last year, and in the recent address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

    We are aware of the minimum conditions to be fulfilled and to that end a special Task Force has been created by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and supplemented by representatives of other institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entities.

    The concrete aim of this Task Force has been to establish a meticulous frame of action. This plan of action will serve to stimulate all institutions involved to accelerate the process of the fulfilling of minimal conditions on joint institutions, electoral law, rule of law, repatriation of refugees, police forces, freedom of media, human rights, education, economic reforms.

    With no little enthusiasm, we note that our desire for membership of the Council of Europe is fully consistent with the current open-door policy which is gaining ground in the various European organisations whose membership we aspire to. We sincerely welcome such a policy and believe that a speedy procedure in the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Council of Europe would bring about a crucial impetus in the overall peace process and be instrumental in securing lasting stability in the region.

    If we are speaking now about Bosnia and Herzegovina's membership, we may say that this glass is half full, not half empty.

    I hope that at the next Session, the 105th meeting of the Committee of Ministers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina will also be invited and at that time the glass will be full, to be raised for a toast for a new member of the Council of Europe.”

    Mr Michel LÉVÊQUE (Minister of State of the Principality of Monaco) gave the following address:

    “As Head of Government of the Principality of Monaco, an applicant State for membership of the Council of Europe, I feel particularly honoured to participate, alongside the member States, in the ceremonies to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe. When Monaco submitted its application for membership of the Council of Europe, I was anxious to address the Committee of Ministers, explaining our reasons for the application and our expectations and hopes that we might be admitted in the near future. On that occasion, it was gratifying to hear a large number of representatives assure me of their support. Some of them even observed, and rightly so, that the Council of Europe's work would be incomplete if Monaco, the only one of the smaller western European States not belonging to the Council, did not join together with all the member States of your Organisation.

    Today, since this is my first opportunity to address the elected representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly, I would once again like to stress the importance which Monaco attaches to the consideration of its application. We are a small State which is blessed by fortune as far as its surroundings and wealth are concerned. But we do not wish to live alone in this privileged cocoon of ours. Moreover, we are well aware that while we may enjoy a good deal of advantages, nothing is ever perfect and we must, we must and we can, improve our situation through our own efforts and with your help. The Principality of Monaco, as you know, has for some time taken a keen interest in the Council of Europe's activities. In many cases, they correspond to our own priorities for action at international level. We have already acceded to a number of conventions and hope to continue this trend, as we are fully committed to co-operation in the political, cultural, social, environmental and all other fields.

    Our initial contact with the leading figures of the Council of Europe, whom I would like to thank for their approachability, has confirmed our conviction that the Principality of Monaco meets the conditions of independence, sovereignty, the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights that are required for any State to be admitted as a member of your Organisation. Furthermore, the Principality of Monaco has long campaigned for the principles proclaimed and put into practice by the Council of Europe. In particular, I would like to emphasise that Monaco's independence and sovereignty have been forged by 700 years of history, that the principality has developed solid institutions, founded on the rule of law and the separation of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, which have guaranteed the effectiveness of the rule of law, that the Principality provides constitutional safeguards for the respect of individual rights and freedoms for all people, not only for its own citizens but for all nationalities, and that lastly, Monaco has set up and developed democratic mechanisms: Parliament is elected by universal suffrage, passes laws and votes the budget, while there is a territorial authority which is also elected by universal suffrage. In short, I believe that we are equipped with all the democratic institutions required in a State governed by the rule of law.

    To conclude, I would like to reiterate the desire of the Principality of Monaco to see its request for membership of the Council of Europe granted as soon as possible. In a world of increasingly rapid change, no European State can remain immutable. Monaco is open to the developments that are needed. Such developments will be all the more rapid and effective if they are inspired by involvement in the processes of intergovernmental co-operation in which all the member States of the Council of Europe take part, and by membership of your organisation. The year 1999, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Council of Europe and the 50th year of the reign of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, seems to me to symbolise past achievements and future promise both for the Organisation and for the Principality of Monaco.”

    DECLARATIONS


    Council of Europe : 50th Anniversary

    Press Release:  Brussels (05-05-1999) - Press: 133 - Nr: 7745/99

    Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union
    on the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe

      
    I. As the Council of Europe reaches its 50th Anniversary, the European Union pays tribute to the achievements of this organisation. It reaffirms its attachment to the fundamental values of the Council of Europe, reconfirmed by the second CoE Summit in 1997, of pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. As the community of European nations is striving to build a Europe based on these principles, their gross and systematic violation in Kosovo is a brutal reminder that the endeavour is far from being completed.
    The Treaty signed in London on 5 May 1949, four years after the end of a war which had torn Europe apart, was a genuine founding act. It was not limited to establishing links of friendship, interest or alliance between its parties: it aimed to safeguard and promote a number of values and principles shared by these parties through an international institutional framework capable of exerting influence on the development of societies in Europe.
    The EU expresses its appreciation for the key role played in the past 50 years by the Council of Europe, not least its contribution, through its rapid enlargement, to European reconstruction. The Council of Europe has played a major part in the recognition that fundamental human values should form the basis for the emergence of a democratic society throughout the European continent. Its enlargement as a response to the political changes in Europe has further enhanced the relevance of the organisation. The Union welcomes Georgia's accession as 41st Member State. It hopes that the remaining applicant countries will soon bring their institutions and legislation in line with the requirements of the Council of Europe and resolve any conflicts between them so that they would also be able to join the organisation.
    The EU stresses the importance of full compliance with membership obligations and expects that all Member States of the Council of Europe fulfil their commitments to the organisation.
    II. The Council of Europe has developed a unique expertise and acquis in the field of democracy and human rights. The EU underlines the essential standard-setting role in the field of human rights played by the Council, the only organisation in Europe with a monitoring system for the protection of individual human rights which is binding under international law. Central to this system is the European Convention on Human Rights, as ratified by all Member States. The Convention must remain the essential reference point for the protection of human rights in Europe as a whole in terms of both guaranteed rights and of judicial control of respect for these rights.
    The Council of Europe has developed an original model in which the monitoring mechanisms of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly complement the independent judicial control exercised by the European Court of Human Rights. The New European Court of Human Rights inaugurated in November 1998 further consolidates this model. The EU also welcomes the establishment of the post of a CoE Commissioner for Human Rights and believes that the Commissioner will add to the effectiveness of the organisation's monitoring structures. It looks forward to working with the Commissioner to promote awareness of and respect for human rights throughout Council of Europe Member States.
    The protection of persons belonging to national minorities forms a major part of the Council's acquis, as illustrated by the Framework Convention on Minorities, and an area in which the organisation has demonstrated its ability to formulate standards to meet the particular needs of modern Europe. The importance of these standards is made even more obvious by the current situation in South East Europe.

    The EU also seizes the opportunity offered by the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe to underline the particular importance it attaches to Protocol n° 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the abolition of the death penalty. It calls upon all Member States of the CoE to abide by their commitment to establish moratoria on executions, to be consolidated by complete abolition of the death penalty.
    The Council of Europe has important tasks, relevant for the whole of Europe, in the field of public health, cultural cooperation and social cohesion. The EU recognizes the value and importance of these tasks.
    III. The European Union and the Council of Europe share the same goals with regard to the protection and promotion of the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The protection of these principles enshrined in the Treaty on European Union is further reinforced in the Amsterdam Treaty.
    The Union is examining ways to reinforce its capacity to protect and promote human rights. The Declaration by the Union on the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1998, endorsed by the Vienna European Council, identified avenues to that end.
    The European Union and the Council of Europe join forces and complement their respective actions towards their shared goals, notably by implementing a number of joint programmes for cooperation and assistance to Central and Eastern European Countries. The EU welcomes the concrete results of these programmes and looks forward to their further development. The recent agreement between the European Community and the Council of Europe for close cooperation between the European Monitoring Centre against Racism and Xenophobia and the CoE's European Committee against Racism and Intolerance is a further illustration of these joint efforts. Finally, the Council of Europe's experience will be useful for the EU in its current enlargement process.
    IV. The EU encourages the work underway, on the basis of the report of the Committee of Wise Persons, to define the CoE's priorities and objectives for the 21st century and to reorganise and make more efficient the Council's structures and working methods. Based on the report to be presented to the Budapest Ministerial Council, the EU will support action to implement the far reaching reforms aimed at defining these priorities and will contribute actively to this process.
    Future priorities in consolidating the place and role of the CoE in Europe will include a reaffirmation of the essence of the Council as guardian of human rights and pluralist democracy through its normative and judicial activity to promote democratic security. They will also include the need for further development of relations between the Council of Europe and the EU as well as other European and transatlantic organisations, in particular the OSCE. In this context, the EU welcomes the efforts towards enhanced co-operation and complementarity between the Council of Europe and the OSCE in the light of their common principles and goals.
    The Union sees advantage in using to the fullest, in cooperation with other international institutions, the expertise and mechanisms of the Council of Europe to advance the objective of upholding human rights standards and supporting pluralist democracy.
     

 

    Press Release

    Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
    Chairman-in-Office

    05 May 1999


     

    Declaration by the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe,
    5 May 1999

    As Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, I wish to pay tribute on behalf of the OSCE to the Council of Europe on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary.
    Through its tireless promotion of the fundamental values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe has helped to build the Europe of today. These are the same values on which the OSCE is founded. The fact that we at present are witnessing gross violations of these same values in Kosovo only serves to underscore the importance of persevering in our common effort to promote them.
    I would especially like to commend the Council of Europe on its resolute and rapid response to the profound changes in Europe after 1989. The Council of Europe's rapid enlargement made an important contribution to the healing of a divided Europe.
    The OSCE considers the Council of Europe a principal partner organisation, operating in a mutually supportive manner in the same area and with the same objectives. Cooperation between our two organisations and parliamentary assemblies has intensified in recent years, with regular high level consultations and broad cooperation in the field, especially with regard to election monitoring. I welcome the proposal to appoint a Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. I am sure this new office will prove a valuable instrument.
    The OSCE looks forward to continued cooperation with the Council of Europe into the new millenium.

    Press and Public Information Section
    OSCE Secretariat
    Kaertner Ring 5-7, 1010 Vienna, Austria
    Tel.:(+43-1) 514 36 180, Fax: (+43-1) 514 36 105
    E-mail:
    info@osce.org
    Website:
    http://www.osce.org/

    OFFICIAL MESSAGES

    Message from His Holiness Pope John Paul II
    to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

    Message to the 104th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
    From His Excellency Mr Masahiko Koumura
    Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

    On the occasion of the 104th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, I should like to express my heartfelt congratulations on the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation.

    I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Georgia on her accession to the Council as the 41st member country.

    It is widely recognised that membership of the Council of Europe is a passport to a community of nations where the principles of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights are commonly shared. Japan, too, shares these principles and endeavours to improve their implementation. This is why Japan became an observer to the Council in November 1996.

    It is also widely recognised that these fundamental values of democratic society could always be challenged from all sides and, if left alone, could face the risk of erosion. There exist imperative needs for constant maintenance and improvement to keep a healthy democratic society. The Council of Europe, to the admiration of my Government, has a built-in mechanism of monitoring and controlling the state of democracy of the member countries. The observership to the Council of Europe allows Japan to learn from the experiences of Europe in these areas.

    At the same time, with the advent of a new era when there is no ideological wall between European States, Japan could bring to Europe her experiences which member countries, especially newer members, may find interesting to study. The co-operation which existed for a long time between Japan and the Council of Europe has taken a new dimension since Japan acquired observer status in 1996. Japan, both its Government and civil society, contributes financially and intellectually to the activities of the Council, and the Council has started to have a deeper dialogue with Japan for a better democratic institution building both in Europe and other parts of the world.

    As an observer State to the Council of Europe, my country will continue to learn from and to contribute to the activities of the Council, the objectives of which will be more clearly defined and adapted to today's reality of the world during the present meeting.

    Convinced that the 104th session of the Committee of Ministers will pave the way for a fresh start for the Council of Europe at the outset of the third millennium, I wish you a Happy Anniversary and a successful meeting.

    Translation

    Rosario Green
    Minister for Foreign Affairs
    Mexico

    Tlatelolco, Mexico D.F., 6 May 1999

    Dear Secretary General,

    Please accept and share with the members of the Secretariat under your responsibility the congratulations of the Government of Mexico on the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe.

    The Council's historic endeavours in developing standards and institutions for democratic life, the rule of law and social cohesion constitute an invaluable heritage for Europe and furthermore a substantial contribution to international relations.

    Yours sincerely,

    [signature]

    Mr Daniel Tarschys
    Secretary General
    Council of Europe
    Strasbourg

Note 1 The 104th Session also gave Ministers the opportunity to sign and ratify a certain number of important Council of Europe conventions.


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