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CM/Inf(2012)16 16 May 2012

Priorities of the Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(23 May – 9 November 2012)

The Republic of Albania will be chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the first time, since its accession. Albania is taking up this responsibility with pride and a sense of strong commitment to this Organisation, its comprehensive goals and its future. This Chairmanship gives the country a great opportunity to provide its own tangible contribution to the cause of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law that the Council of Europe so uniquely embodies and promotes across the continent. Albania’s Chairmanship will be guided by the overarching interest of the Organisation as a whole, aiming at strengthening its ongoing political reforms.

To uphold and promote the core values of the organisation, the Albanian Chairmanship will focus on the following priorities:

1. Promoting sustainable democratic societies;

2. Strengthening local and regional democracy;

3. Strengthening the rule of law in Europe;

4. Bringing forward the political reform of the organisation;

5. Guaranteeing the long term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights;

6. Guaranteeing the promotion of human rights;

7. Stimulating intra- and inter-institutional dialogue.

1. Promoting sustainable democratic societies

“United in diversity” is the guiding motto of the Albanian Chairmanship.

Combining diversity and freedom

a) Diversity is Europe’s destiny. The founding fathers of the united Europe saw it as a strength and an asset for our continent. The Albanian Chairmanship is convinced that the Council of Europe, with all the experience it possesses, is the international organisation best placed to define the conditions to be met for Europeans to be able to live freely in a democratic society which respects diversity.

In light of the ongoing economic crisis, which provides breeding ground for populist tendencies, extremism as well as xenophobic and nationalistic discourse, the cohesion of multicultural European societies is our common responsability. By sharing these concerns Albania will continue to support the efforts of the Secretary General and those of the Group of Eminent Persons, with the aim of implementing some of the important recommendations of the Report: “Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in the 21-st century Europe”.

There are numerous Council of Europe activities, instruments, structures and reference documents which can serve as a basis for implementing these recommendations. To this end, Albania will initiate an open dialogue bringing together all stakeholders: members and observer states, the main international partners, representatives of civil society, the Secretary General and the Eminent Persons to exchange ideas on how to follow up those recommendations and translate them into practical action.

The Albanian Chairmanship will organise in Tirana a High-level Conference which will address the following three “Living Together” themes:

      · “Diversity in Europe, an asset for the future”;

      · “Promoting intercultural dialogue – a task for society as a whole in Europe and beyond”;

      · “The role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration in society”.

b) Strengthening dialogue and co-operation with the countries of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Albania aligned itself with the countries and democratic forces which supported democratic aspirations and popular movements in the countries of North Africa and the Mediterranean. The Albanian Chairmanship will endeavour to strengthen the Organisation’s dialogue and co-operation with those countries, in the framework of the Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions. Representatives of those countries will also be invited to this High Level Conference.

c) Promotion of the religious dimension as an important element of intercultural dialogue. As a country which takes pride of its century-long traditions of religious harmony, Albania has chosen the promotion of the religious dimension as an added value to offer to the organisation. The Committee of Ministers organises annual Exchanges on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue in pursuit of its major objective of promoting and strengthening the Council of Europe’s fundamental values. Albania will host the 2012 Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue.

d) Being a country with a recognised stabilising and moderate role in the region, Albania will be committed to a broader integration among the countries in the region, and to further advancing the region towards the European integration. Furthering regional co-operation and integration is a key prerequisite to a peaceful and stable Western Balkans, where the core principles and values of the Council of Europe are implemented in all societies.

Further topics in relation to this priority are the following:

Youth and education

a) Educating young people with the Council of Europe’s values. We all have a shared responsibility to guarantee the younger generations a common future in a world of peace. To this end it is essential the commitment of young people in raising a society of peace through the integration processes in the spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding. Albania particularly supports this approach and believes that young people can become messengers for peace. Thus, it will host the “2012 Youth Camp for Peace”, which will send out a new message of reconciliation, friendship, co-operation and optimism for the European integration of the Balkans region.

b) Prevention of crimes against humanity and the holocaust remembrance. The Council of Europe was set up to build a peaceful Europe founded on universal values and human dignity. The “never again” philosophy of our Organisation’s founding fathers inspired the Albanian Chairmanship to include holocaust remembrance among its priorities. As a contribution to the “Human rights education and prevention of crimes against humanity” programme, Albania will organise an educational seminar as well as a special event focused on the “Tribute by European young people to those who saved the honour of humanity”.

Democratic governance

The promotion of the dynamic democratic governance is an important component of democracy and one of the essential preconditions for ensuring effective protection of human rights and guaranteeing the rule of law. Therefore Albania will support the first Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy, to be held during its Chairmanship.

2. Strengthening local and regional democracy

The strengthening of democracy at local and regional level, with the aim of ensuring good governance for everyone in Europe, remains a common objective for all Council of Europe member states. Albania will give to this priority a particular prominence under its Chairmanship. We support the proposals for close thematic co-operation in a common agenda between the intergovernmental sector, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly, as stressed in the Chaves Report and further defined at the Kyiv Conference.

a) Albania attaches particular importance to the role of decentralisation and local elected representatives in consolidating democracy. It intends to organise a high-level event on this subject which will address the following issues:

    · Political pluralism, through the creation of a platform of dialogue and inter-municipal co-operation” ;

    · Good Governance at local level and improving of local services;

    · Promotion of human rights at local level and raising awareness among local and regional authorities ;

    · Multi-level cooperation to overcome obstacles in trans-frontier cooperation;

    · The state of regionalisation in Albania/progress made and challenges still to be met.

b) « Strengthening citizens democratic participation » seminar, that will mark the opening of the activities on the occasion of the local democracy week.

3. Strengthening the rule of law in Europe

a) Bearing in mind the precious role and activities of the Venice Commission in defending the European constitutional and electoral heritage, Albania will be pleased to celebrate and host a Seminar on the 10th anniversary of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters.

b) The Council of Europe’s rule of law activities are aimed in particular at preventing the threats posed by dangerous phenomena such as corruption or the growth of criminal activity. The Albanian Government is determined to continue its excellent co-operation with the Council of Europe, particularly in its fight for zero tolerance against corruption. The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers will be a good opportunity to take stock of that co-operation.

4. Bringing forward the political reform of the organisation

The Albanian Chairmanship will continue efforts towards achieving the political reform of the Council of Europe which remains a major goal for the future of the Council of Europe, the oldest pan-European international organisation. With a record of 63 years of outstanding achievements in promoting freedom, peace, stability, security and prosperity for European countries and citizens, the Council of Europe’s crucial role must be strengthened and its influence increased both in the European architecture and on the international scene. Its role must be asserted in order to face up to present challenges, as well as those which the future holds in store, and be better adapted to their pace in a constantly changing and increasingly global world. Albania will continue efforts towards achieving this major political goal of the Organisation.

5. Guaranteeing the long term effectiveness of the European Court on Human Rights

a) The Albanian Chairmanship, in accordance with the Troika commitments, will continue the intergovernmental work based on the Declarations and Action Plans of the Interlaken, Izmir and Brighton Conferences, aiming at guaranteeing the long term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights at national and European level. A seminar bringing together governmental agents and other representatives of the Supreme Courts from 47 member states will be held in Albania following the Brighton Conference.

b) Bearing in mind that the effective protection of fundamental rights depends on a better understanding of the European human rights system, it is essential to raise the awareness on the European Convention among member states. To this end Albania will organise a symposium on “Promoting the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in current national curricula”.

6. Guaranteeing the promotion of human rights

a) The Albanian Chairmanship will continue to promote gender equality and to support the work of the new Council of Europe Gender Equality Commission, whose first meeting will be held shortly after it takes over the Chairmanship.

As a signatory country of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, Albania will encourage the countries which have not yet signed and ratified this instrument to do so, because this is the first and only standard-setting treaty at international level for protecting women against violence.

b) In accordance with the mandate approved at the Third Summit in Warsaw, aiming at building a “Europe for and with children” will remains one of the Albanian chairmanship objectives. It will attach great importance to implementation of the 2012-2015 Strategy for Children to be launched during its chairmanship.

7. Stimulating intra- and inter-institutional dialogue

a) Strengthening dialogue and interaction with the Parliamentary Assembly will be one of the priorities of the Committee of Ministers’ work under the Albanian Chairmanship. Albania is aware of the role played by this body in strengthening democratic institutions, promoting political pluralism and fostering respect for human rights and the rule of law. From the 1990s up to the present day, the Assembly has made a vital contribution in guiding and enhancing the process of democratisation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Albania. The Albanian Chairmanship will therefore devote particular effort to strengthening dialogue and co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. Various activities are also envisaged by the Albanian Parliament at national level to increase the visibility of this body.

b) Albania will step up its efforts to strengthen co-operation and partnership with its international partners, in particular with the European Union. The CoE and the EU share the same values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Albania appreciates the advantages offered by the 2012-2013 biennial programme and budget in terms of prospects for co-operation with the EU, which provide the main financial support to the Council of Europe’s co-operation programmes in South Eastern countries and not only.

c) The OSCE plays a very important role in promoting stability and security in Europe, as well as in promoting tolerance, non-discrimination and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Albania will therefore take the opportunity offered by its Chairmanship to make a more tangible contribution to the strengthening of co-operation with that organisation, in order to ensure complementarity between them.

Shared priorities of the Ukrainian, United Kingdom and Albanian chairmanships on reform

Local and regional government

The Ukrainian, UK and Albanian chairmanships in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will work together to deliver the local and regional government initiatives agreed at the Conference of Ministers for Local and Regional Government in Utrecht in November 2009, following the report by Mrs Mari Kiviniemi. The overall objective is to raise the efficiency of the Council of Europe work on local and regional democracy and good governance, and to ensure it meets the expectations of citizens in the member states.

We look forward to the report on the working arrangements between Governments and the Congress, and on the reviews of Congress’s assessments of local and regional democracy, to be presented by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Manuel Chaves, at the Kyiv ministerial conference in November 2011. The three Chairmanships will deliver the agreed outcome to ensure that Council of Europe work on local and regional democracy is more cost effective, visible and has impact, focussing on good governance, effective transfrontier co-operation and delivering the best possible outcomes for citizens in Europe.

Council of Europe reform

Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Albania agree that our consecutive Chairmanships will each strive to prioritise, with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, the implementation of the ongoing programme of institutional and operational reform of the Council of Europe. It is appropriate that the Committee of Ministers is reviewing and rationalising the Organisation’s structure, work and budgetary priorities. This will ensure the Organisation is best placed to have maximum impact through its unique pan-European work protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Reform of the European Court of Human Rights

Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Albania agree that our consecutive Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers will each continue to support and drive forwards the Interlaken process on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, building on the accomplishments of the Turkish and British Chairmanships, including the agreements as set out in the Izmir and Brighton Declarations.

The Court is an essential part of the system for protecting human rights across Europe. However, there is a clear case for reform to ensure it works as effectively as possible. To ensure the momentum of reform is maintained and any additional issues are identified and addressed as soon as possible, the three Chairmanships will cooperate to ensure timely delivery of the reports required under points 3, 4 and 5 of the Implementation section of the Interlaken Action Plan.



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