CM/AS(2011)8 6 October 2011
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
Address by Mr Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, to the Parliamentary Assembly (Strasbourg, 3 October 2011)
It is a great pleasure for me once again to address the Assembly in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. As Europe goes through the period of difficult challenges and immense opportunities, the Ukrainian Chairmanship spares no effort to live up to the high expectations placed in the Council of Europe by all Europeans.
In August Ukraine celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence.
Sixteen years out of these two decades Ukraine was not only evolving hand-in-hand with the Council of Europe. On many occasions it had the privilege to learn from the Council and rely on its support.
Therefore I see political symbolism in the fact that my country entered a new decade of its independent history in the honourable capacity of the Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
We continue to do our best to make this Chairmanship constructive, mind-opened and future-oriented.
I am proud that the active second phase of the reform of the Council of Europe fell on the Ukrainian Chairmanship and that we achieved notable progress on that way.
In June, the Deputies adopted the revised Financial Regulations introducing a biennial budgeting in the Organisation and agreed the overall budgetary framework for 2012-2013. Over the coming weeks, the Committee of Ministers will complete the detailed examination of the draft 2012-2013 Programme and Budget. It will be the task of the incoming British Chairmanship to inform the Parliamentary Assembly about the decisions taken in this respect.
Next month, the chairmanship baton will be passed to the United Kingdom. During this time Ukraine will make every effort to ensure that the atmosphere of mutual trust and constructive dialogue among all member states, without exception, prevails in the work of the Organisation. We find it important to preserve positive dynamics of the reforms which is indispensable for reaching its final goal – raising the international profile of the Council of Europe and enabling it to respond effectively to modern threats and challenges.
Three months which have elapsed since my last communication to the Assembly have been marked by major developments in Europe worldwide – events to which our Organisation cannot remain indifferent.
Some of them have been particularly tragic.
I am thinking primarily of the atrocities which struck Norway during the summer. On this occasion, naturally, like many political leaders, I expressed my most sincere condolences to the victims’ families and to the Norwegian people and the Government. The appalling attacks of 22 July, the ceremonies to commemorate 9/11, the recent atrocities in Turkey and the Russian Federation have served to remind us that terrorism can strike anyone anywhere, indiscriminately and blindly.
The Committee of Ministers is resolutely determined to continue combating all forms of terrorism, while ensuring full respect for human rights. Prosecuting and punishing terrorists in accordance with the Council’s standards is the central question to be dealt with at the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) conference which will take place in Kyiv on 25 and 26 October. I welcome the fact that the Assembly has also decided to address this important issue in the debate which it will be holding on Thursday on “Human rights and the fight against terrorism”. Increasing terrorist activities in Europe and out of its borders also reminded us – if any reminder were needed – of the disasters which can be incurred by the scourge of racism and intolerance. The fight against all forms of racism and intolerance remains one of the major targets which our Organisation must continue to pursue.
The challenges of this fight emerge clearly from the report by the Group of Eminent Persons “Living together: combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe”. This report is being carefully examined by the Committee of Ministers, which has already held a debate on the subject at the end of June. A second debate will be held at the end of this month with a view to identifying operational guidelines. On the basis of these initiatives, the Committee of Ministers will formulate its reply to the recommendation which the Assembly adopted last June on follow-up to the report.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The last few months have also been marked by more felicitous developments which we can only welcome. First and foremost I am referring to democratic changes in the southern Mediterranean which have continued to intensify, although some countries in the region are going through a dark period of savage repression. The Assembly is directly concerned by these developments. I will be greatly interested to see the results of your discussions this week, firstly on the request submitted by the Palestinian National Council for Partner for Democracy status, and secondly on co-operation with the emerging democracies in the Arab world.
I also welcome your commitment to preparing and observing the elections of a National Constituent Assembly in Tunisia, which will take place on 23 October. This will be a practical contribution to the efforts of the Tunisian authorities to ensure a fair and transparent character of the election.
The Committee of Ministers has clearly committed itself to strengthening relations with Europe’s immediate neighbours on the basis of the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Strengthening these relations involves preparation of action plans aimed at helping our neighbours to succeed in their transition to democracy by providing assistance and expertise.
I welcome many contacts which the Secretary General has since made with governmental officials in several countries in order to specify the terms and conditions for possible assistance. Last week, the Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on External Relations discussed the content that should be included in these action plans.
I sincerely hope that they will be finalised by the end of the year so that these countries can rapidly benefit from the Organisation’s expertise.
In this regard it is important to ensure synergy of actions between the Council of Europe and other international organisations, namely the EU, OSCE and UN, focused on co-operation with Mediterranean and Central Asia countries helping them to promote democracy and the rule of law. This particular issue was raised at the high-level meetings conducted by the Secretary General and myself with our EU and OSCE colleagues in July and September accordingly. I am pleased to note that there was a common understanding between all participants that the main political institutions, operating in areas of security and democracy building in Europe, should further maintain joint balanced strategy focused on supporting our neighbours in their democratic endeavours.
Coming back to the European scene, the Committee of Ministers has been monitoring the situation of human rights in Belarus over the period in question. The announced release of a number of individuals arrested following the presidential elections last December is a tentative sign that the authorities of this country might be opening up. However, I have to remind you of the Committee of Ministers’ solemn declaration last January that we will only back a rapprochement between the Council of Europe and Belarus on the basis of respect for European values and principles. This means, as a first measure, releasing the individuals imprisoned following the presidential elections and secondly, placing a moratorium on the death penalty.
The issue of establishing dialogue between political forces, which is vital for the proper functioning of any democracy, remains rather urgent also in other parts of Europe.
In Albania, the recent decision by the opposition to resume parliamentary activity is to be welcomed. This is an encouraging sign which is conducive to reinforce the country’s democratic institutions and advance the reforms. As stated by the Assembly rapporteurs who visited Albania at the beginning of the summer, the important thing now is for all Albanian political parties to enter into constructive dialogue on this subject.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, unfortunately, the political parties have still not reached agreement on a new central government.
This situation, which has been going on for many months, is most regrettable for the country. Moreover, it is blocking the adoption of amendments to the Constitution called for by the Committee of Ministers that are still required in order to ensure the Constitution’s compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights.
With regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, I would like to inform you that technical negotiations between the Council of Europe and the European Union experts have been continuing in recent months with a view to paving the way for the EU accession to the ECHR. I hope that these technical negotiations will be completed next week. It will then be up to the Committee of Ministers to take over at the political level in order to ensure that this issue is finalised as quickly as possible.
It is instrumental for the Assembly to make a timely contribution to this very important process. The Committee of Ministers will do its utmost to facilitate it. In this connection, I was interested to note the declaration issued on 15 June last by the Co-Chairs of the PACE/European Parliament joint informal body. It concerned the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights following the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. I am pleased to admit that this agreement provides for representatives of European Parliament to sit and vote in the various Assembly bodies involved in the electoral process.
Human rights are obviously central to the work of the Committee of Ministers in general and the Ukrainian Chairmanship in particular. Accordingly, three major international events took place in Kyiv in September on the prevention of human rights violations and the role of constitutional courts and supreme courts in protecting these rights.
These events provided a good platform for exchanging views on such important issues as strengthening the mandate and effectiveness of international human rights watchdogs. They also focused on the role of national and international judicial bodies in preventing and countering human rights violations as well as the prospects for solving the problems of individual access to constitutional justice.
Their practical outcomes could be considered as the Ukrainian Chairmanship’s contribution to improving the effectiveness of the human rights protection system in Europe.
Last month, the Commissioner for Human Rights – to whom I should like to pay tribute for his remarkable work in promoting respect for human rights in our States – presented his second activity report for 2011 to the Ministers' Deputies.
Once again, representatives of the member states held a very open and constructive exchange of views with him. Earlier this summer, the Committee of Ministers had decided on the timetable for the election of Mr Hammarberg’s successor by the Assembly next January. The deadline for submission of candidatures has been set for 31 October 2011. I very much hope that we will receive candidatures from eminent persons with recognised human rights credentials for this post, which is highly important in terms of our Organisation’s central role in protecting human rights.
The Committee will be considering the candidatures and transmitting a list of three names to the Assembly by the end of November.
I would not like to conclude without recalling that in a few days time, on 10 October, we will be celebrating European Day against the Death Penalty. This event has a particularly important meaning for our Organisation, with its unfailing support for the worldwide abolition of this inhuman punishment.
Just before the summer holidays, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration calling on the Texan authorities to cancel an execution. On 21 September, it seconded the appeal by our Organisation’s Secretary General for urgent commutation of Troy Davis’s death sentence. These actions unfortunately failed, but that in no way detracts from the Committee’s unwavering determination to continue working for abolition.
Ladies and gentlemen,
My address today is my last one as the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. On 7 November, our Chairmanship will end. The United Kingdom, which I can already assure of my country’s full support, will be taking over. Let me extend my thanks to the Assembly and its President for their invaluable support during our Chairmanship. I hope that the priorities implemented during our Chairmanship will become Ukraine’s meaningful contribution to the efforts towards building our common European future on a time-tested political foundation of the norms and principles of the Council of Europe.
I believe that joint efforts of all Europeans will reinforce our shared values. This is an endeavour of a pan-European scale. Please be assured that Ukraine will continue to be involved with energy and conviction in the future work of our Organisation.
Thank you for your attention.