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CM/Inf(2013)32 5 November 2013



Priorities of the Austrian Chairmanship
of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(14 November 2013 – 14 May 2014)



Austria will assume the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 14 November 2013 and hold this function until 14 May 2014.

The Council of Europe has played an important role in bringing together Europe on the basis of legally binding standards and commonly shared values on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We need to continue these efforts with the aim of building a stable and democratic Europe. With its numerous instruments and mechanisms, the Council of Europe today is undeniably central to European co-operation which allows us to react to the manifold and complex contemporary challenges, with which we are faced often aggravated by the economic crisis. These include trafficking in human beings, intolerance and xenophobia, violence against women and domestic violence, corruption as well as institutional shortcomings of our democratic structures. We are sadly witnessing a sometimes systematic neglect of human rights to which we have to react.

As an active member of the Council of Europe, Austria has always attached the highest importance to the role of the European Court of Human Rights as the guarantor of human rights beyond the national level. Among its priorities, the Austrian chairmanship will pursue further the continued efficiency of the Convention system, firmly based on the right of individual petition as its cornerstone, and the implementation of the results agreed at the conferences held in Interlaken (2010), Izmir (2011) and Brighton (2012) in this regard.

The priorities of the Austrian Chairmanship have been defined in response to challenges in all three areas of the Council of Europe’s core mission – human rights, democracy and the rule of

law – and on the basis of the common priorities agreed upon by Andorra, Armenia and Austria. In this regard, Austria will continue to lend its support to the Council of Europe’s work aimed at promoting democracy through ensuring the rule of law and improving the efficiency of justice. Austria will work on the effective implementation of the instruments and policies of the Council of Europe, which can help the States to address these issues.

Austria will continue to fully support the current reform process of the Organisation initiated by the Secretary General as well as the further improvement of the Council’s co-operation with other international organisations.

Freedom of expression and the safety of journalists will be the prime focus of Austria’s endeavours. Other topics will include: action against trafficking in human beings, internet governance, gender equality, human rights of persons with disabilities, quality education, education for democratic citizenship, governance of culture, as well as democracy and governance at the regional and local level.

Civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists are all rendering a crucial service to society in advancing human rights causes. During its chairmanship, Austria will build upon the important achievements of the Council of Europe in advancing the right to freedom of expression, to receive and impart information, ideas and opinions without interference and regardless of frontiers. In this context, a thematic debate will take place in December by the Ministers' Deputies on “Safety of journalists – Further steps for the better implementation of human rights standards”, building upon the results of the First Council of Europe Conference of Ministers for Media and Information Society (Belgrade, November 2013), with a view to reinforcing by concrete measures the respect for media freedom as a fundamental freedom, essential to all democratic societies.

In our societies, the internet increasingly has become a vital tool for connecting people and participation in democratic processes. Internet governance therefore constitutes a particular priority for the Council of Europe and its member States. Human rights and fundamental freedoms must be protected and respected, whether it is off line or on line. New threats and risks are raising serious challenges for a universal, integral and open use of the internet, which must also respect international standards for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in general. It will be crucial to maintain a strong commitment to improve the knowledge users have on their rights, inter alia by making available a compendium and ensuring the necessary compatibility between security and freedom. In its Internet Governance Strategy, adopted in 2012, the Council of Europe agreed on a number of priorities and goals for the protection and respect of human rights, rule of law and democracy on the internet. In early 2014, a Mid-term report on the implementation of the Strategy will be submitted to the Committee of Ministers. Aspects of internet and the rule of law and violations of freedom of expression on the internet will be among the issues to receive particular attention. Austria will organise an expert conference aimed at addressing the current challenges and the responses to make the internet an inclusive and people-centred space.

The fight against trafficking in human beings is a top priority for the Austrian Chairmanship and specific attention will be given to further encouraging ratifications and the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. To this end, Austria will host the Council of Europe – OSCE Conference “Not For Sale – Joining Forces against Trafficking in Human Beings” (17-18 February 2014). The aim of the conference is to take stock of the progress made so far and to discuss the challenges in the implementation of the Convention. It will provide an opportunity to examine how legally binding standards, monitoring mechanisms and political strategies can reinforce each other and lead to effective action to counter trafficking in human beings.

The Council of Europe has been at the forefront in the combat against gender-based violations of human rights and the protection of women against violence, including domestic violence. With the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, adopted in 2011, the Council of Europe has for the first time in Europe set legally-binding standards to prevent violence against women and domestic violence, to protect its victims and to punish perpetrators. Austria will promote measures for an early entry into force of the Convention.

Poverty of women in old age is a problem in a number of member States and requires measures to target both its causes and its consequences. The Austrian Chairmanship will host a conference which will examine ongoing pension reforms and possible solutions to temper this trend.

Equal opportunities and independence of people with disabilities are essential for improving their quality of life. For this, it is crucial to constantly review and adapt established approaches, attitudes and policies. Under the Austrian Chairmanship, a conference in Vienna on “Human Rights and Disability” will focus on an evaluation of the Council of Europe’s legal instruments which aim to secure the rights of persons with disabilities.

During its chairmanship, Austria will also focus on education for democratic citizenship with particular emphasis on the importance of human rights education and training in preventing racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Austria will organise Citizenship Days to be held around Europe Day on 5 May. The campaign will give visibility to the Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights and strengthen its implementation through information and training.

The Austrian Chairmanship will hold a High-Level Conference on Quality Education with the support of the European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz. The discussions will be linked to the recommendation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to Member States on ensuring quality education. The subject of education will be explored focusing on the need to balance knowledge, skills and attitudes, the need for education for growth, for jobs, for competitiveness vs. education for personal development, for social cohesion, democratic citizenship and intercultural dialogue.

The centennial anniversary of the outbreak of World War I in 1914 provides an opportunity to reflect on European integration during the last 100 years. WWI plays an important role in Europe’s collective memory and is still seen per “the” primordial catastrophe and the starting point of the crises of the 20th century. However, its reception in member States is very different. 100 years after its outbreak it will be remembered by the whole of Europe. Notwithstanding the many different national interpretations, common views and perceptions are winning more and more ground. In the first half of 2014 Austria will therefore hold a conference in Vienna, titled “WWI in the memory of Central Europe - Traditions of Memory in a Transnational Perspective”. The conference aims to address teachers at both university and high school level, including teachers at pedagogical institutions and authors of history books.

The issue of strengthening democratic governance and participation is at the core of the Council of Europe’s agenda. The 10th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for culture in Moscow (15-16 April 2013) dealt with the theme of governance of culture and access to and participation in culture, and adopted a conference statement containing principles and a number of forward-looking action proposals for the Council of Europe’s work in the cultural sector. In order to make use of existing Council of Europe information tools in the follow-up to the Moscow Conference and in order to establish the best possible links, an Assembly of Compendium Experts will be held in Vienna on 12 and 13 December 2013, focusing on the issue of cultural governance.

Furthermore, Austria will organise a number of cultural events like exhibitions and film days (e.g. Austrian Film Days in Strasbourg, Roma art project “Three Words” in Strasbourg), which are an essential means to convey the values of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes Programme celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012. Austria has taken a leading role in this partial agreement, as it has held the chair of the Governing Board since the Board was created. During its chairmanship, Austria will host the 2013 Advisory Forum in Innsbruck on 21 and 22 November 2013.

The quality of democracy and governance at the grassroots level will also continue to figure on the agenda of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities during Austria’s chairmanship. The Congress is the Council’s political assembly which promotes and strengthens local and regional democracy, inter-territorial and cross-border co-operation as well as active citizenship and social inclusion in towns and regions. The commitment of elected representatives to ethical conduct and the fight against corruption at local and regional level are of topical interest in this respect. In co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, an international conference dedicated to the fight against corruption will be held in Innsbruck (Tyrol) in May 2014.

The fight against corruption will also be the focus of a high-level seminar entitled “Strengthening the capacity of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors to prevent corruption in their own ranks” which will take place on 10 and 11 April in the International Anti-Corruption Academy, nearby Vienna.

Appendix 1

COMMON PRIORITIES OF THE ANDORRAN, ARMENIAN AND AUSTRIAN CHAIRMANSHIPS

The core mission of the Council of Europe is to preserve and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. During their successive Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers, Andorra, Armenia and Austria will endeavour to move the reflection process forward and to conduct concrete initiatives along these lines. They will pursue the task of promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law through concrete measures, while at the same time safeguarding the continuity and outcome of the processes already begun.

Since the Council of Europe reform is still under way, the three Chairmanships will support the efforts to create a more effective and relevant organisation and to build on the changes introduced.

A. Human rights

The decisions set out in the declarations and action plans adopted at the Interlaken, Izmir and Brighton conferences are designed to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while recognising the fundamental achievements of the European Court of Human Rights and respecting its primary role in the Convention system. Andorra, Armenia and Austria will thus seek to implement the follow-up to these conferences and to conclude the negotiations on the EU’s accession to the Convention.

Aware of the need for additional efforts to safeguard human rights throughout Europe, they attach great importance to various current projects, such as those relating to new media, and in particular to translating them into practical initiatives. In this context, Andorra, Armenia and Austria note that achievements such as the Convention and the Council of Europe’s current activities lack visibility within our societies. They have therefore agreed to seek to bring this institution closer to citizens and propose, during their Chairmanships, to take measures to remedy this situation through transparent information, rigorous training and education in human rights, so that the Council of Europe’s core values can become part of everyone’s everyday culture.

B. Democracy

During their successive Chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers, Andorra, Armenia and Austria undertake to focus their efforts on education for democratic citizenship. In a society that has become, and is set to remain, diversified, promoting tolerance and non-discrimination, alongside the ability to integrate, are crucial tasks for the Council of Europe.

Andorra, Armenia and Austria are convinced that education and training can and must contribute to such a policy mission by providing the necessary means to acquire the common cultural elements needed for living together, in harmony, in multicultural, democratic societies, with due regard for human rights and the rule of law.

Recognising the considerable importance of local and regional authorities in this context, the three Chairmanships have decided to make promoting local and regional democracy a priority.

C. Rule of law

Andorra, Armenia and Austria are aware that a number of challenges are currently emerging which threaten to undermine our societies and the very foundations of the rule of law. In this context, they attach particular importance to the Council of Europe’s work aimed at promoting democracy through law and ensuring the efficiency of justice, and at combating corruption and trafficking in human beings. During their Chairmanships, they will work together to ensure effective implementation of Council of Europe instruments and policies capable of helping the various states to address these modern-day challenges.

Appendix 2

Events during the Austrian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe 2013/2014

Date, Venue

Event

Responsible Austrian Authority

14 November 2013, Strasbourg

Chairmanship Handover

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs

15 November 2013, Vienna

“Working together for Europe.

Interrelations between the Council of Europe, European Union and Member States”

Federal Chancellery

16-24 November 2013, throughout Austria

Global Education Week

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

19 November 2013, Strasbourg

Joint ECRI/UNHCR/ODIHR Round table: “Combating racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance against asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe”

Permanent Representation of Austria to the Council of Europe

20 November 2013, Vienna

Global Diversity (Pestalozzi) Seminar

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

21-22 November 2013, Vienna

Bureau and Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly

Austrian Parliament

21-22 November 2013, Innsbruck

Europe Cultural Routes Advisory Forum

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs,

Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth,

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

3-4 December 2013, Graz

Expert Conference: “Integration policy on a regional and local level” - Best practice examples from Europe

Federal Ministry for the Interior

12-13 December 2013, Vienna

Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, Assembly of Compendium Experts

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

17-19 December 2013, Vienna

Meeting of the European Cinema Support Fund EURIMAGES

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

19 December 2013, Vienna

Meeting of the Open-ended Expert Group on “E-Voting”

Federal Ministry for the Interior

6-7 February 2014, Salzburg

“Communities and Regions as the Foundation of a Modern Civil Society”

Austrian Association of Municipalities,

University of Salzburg

City of Salzburg

17-18 February 2014, Vienna

Joint CoE/OSCE Conference: “Not For Sale – Joining Forces Against Trafficking in Human Beings”

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs,

Federal Ministry for the Interior

28 February 2014, Eisenstadt

“20 Years of Congress and the Committee of the Regions – The Representation of Regions and Cities in Europe and the European Union”

Land Burgenland,

Austrian Institute for Federalism

6-7 March 2014, Vienna

Session of the Parliamentary Network “Women Free from Violence“ and Session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly-Committee for Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination

Austrian Parliament

10 March 2014, New York

Side Event to the 58th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW): “Trafficking in Women and Girls for the Purpose of Domestic Work”

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs,

Federal Chancellery

13-14 March 2014, Graz

Conference on the Rule of Law and the Internet

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs,

Federal Chancellery

17 March 2014, Vienna

“1914 – The Collapse of a Peace Order: Is Democratic Peace an Alternative?”

Austrian Parliament

20-21 March 2014, Graz

High-level Conference: “Quality Education and language competences for the 21st Century: Traditions, Challenges and Visions”

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

20-22 March 2014, Vienna

The First World War in Central European Memory: Trans/national perspectives, European contexts”

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

31 March – 1 April 2014, Klagenfurt

“Investing in our Youth: Education is Key”

Land Carinthia

3-4 April 2014, Vienna

“Old-age Pensions for Women – Entitlement and Poverty Avoidance”

Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection

3-4 April 2014, Innsbruck

“Strengthening the Rule of Law in Europe”

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs

6-10 April 2014, Schloss Hartheim, Linz

“The value of Life” (Pestalozzi Seminar)

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

10-11 April 2014, Vienna

“Human Rights and Disability”

Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection

9-11 April 2014, Vienna

“Shared Histories for a Europe without dividing Lines”

Vienna University

10-11 April 2014, Laxenburg (International Anti-Corruption Academy – IACA)

"Strengthening the capacity of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors to prevent corruption in their own ranks: Emerging trends from two years of GRECO Round IV evaluations"

Federal Ministry of Justice

23 April – 9 May 2014, throughout Austria

Action Days on Political Education: “Europe: Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow”

Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

5-6 May 2014, Strasbourg

Conference on European Democracy “EuDEM 2014”

Federal Chancellery

8-9 May 2014, Innsbruck

“Combating Corruption – Preventive and Repressive Measures on European, National and Regional Level”

Land Tyrol

12 May 2014, Strasbourg

Presentation: “Guide on decision-making Processes regarding medical treatment in end-of-life situations”

Federal Chancellery,

Federal Ministry of Health

12-14 May 2014, Vienna

16th Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts

Austrian Constitutional Court

7 May 2014 (Opening)- 25 May, Strasbourg

Roma art project “TRIN ALAVA/TRIN LAFJA/TRIN VORBA”

Supported by Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture

May, date and venue tbd

124th Session of the Committee of Ministers

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs



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