CM/AS(2012)6 28 June 2012
Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers
Address by Mr Edmond Haxhinasto, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, to the Parliamentary Assembly (Strasbourg, 26 June 2012)
It is a great pleasure for me to address the Parliamentary Assembly after our first encounter in Tirana on 25 May on the occasion of the meeting of the Standing Committee.
Today, I would like to inform you of the major developments which have taken place within the Committee of Ministers since your last Session, as well as of the initiatives taken since the beginning of the Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
One of the top priorities of our Chairmanship, under the motto “United in diversity”, will be the promotion of tolerance, dialogue and mutual understanding. As it was noted during a debate of the Ministers’ Deputies, the resolved action by member States to uphold these values is of paramount importance at a time when the ongoing economic crisis in Europe raises tensions and fears, in particular affecting those who unjustly are perceived as a threat to the well-being of our societies. We all can recall the stigmatisation of migrants and calls for hatred and violence, often happening in the political arena.
It is our common duty to stand up against those who support such views and to do our utmost to ensure that our citizens understand that diversity and multiculturalism are not a danger but rather a richness. There is not any prosperous future without a cohesive society where all individuals can live in harmony and develop their talents without any fear of harassment and exclusion.
From this perspective, we look forward to the ideas and proposals that will emerge from the debates which the Assembly will hold tomorrow on “The crisis of democracy and the role of the State in today’s Europe” and on “The portrayal of migrants and refugees during election campaigns”, both issues of great interest.
As a country with centuries-long history of tolerance and multiculturalism, Albania will spare no efforts during its Chairmanship to promote tolerant and open societies in Europe. From this perspective, we are particularly looking forward to hosting the 2012 Council of Europe “Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue”, which will take place on 3 and 4 September 2012 in the coastal city of Durrës.
We hope that this esteemed Assembly will be represented and take an active part in this event, the theme of which will be: “Taking responsibility for tomorrow’s Europe: the role of young people in the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue”.
We will also convene in Tirana on November 9th an international high-level conference on the main theme of our chairmanship “Living Together”, an event which will aim to provide an open dialogue among all stakeholders, to point at what has worked well in our societies, and what not, therefore, providing a good reference for other societies which are going through similar processes of reform.
The protection and promotion of human rights are among our top priorities as well. From this perspective, we attach particular importance to ensuring the effectiveness of the control mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We are pleased that at its 122nd Session on 23 May, the Committee of Ministers unanimously endorsed the Declaration adopted in April at the Brighton Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee has mandated the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to submit by 15 April 2013 a number of draft amendments to the Convention, as well as a draft optional protocol relating to advisory opinions. The Parliamentary Assembly will be invited in due course to give an opinion on these drafts.
A key aspect of the Brighton Declaration is the emphasis laid on the implementation of the Human Rights Convention at the national level. The effective enjoyment of fundamental rights by all individuals living in Europe requires that the standards of the Convention are known and applied, in particular by domestic courts. Other stakeholders – lawyers, human rights defenders, but also State institutions like national parliaments and ombudspersons - have an equally important role to play.
I had the opportunity to discuss this matter during the visit of the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza, in Tirana at the beginning of this month.
The Albanian Chairmanship is taking a proactive approach in this field by launching a project called “Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights” for Albanian students who wish to become familiar with the Court’s case law. Beyond the domestic scene, we will make every possible effort to encourage State Parties to develop policies and practices in line with the principles espoused by the Convention.
To this end, under the auspices of our Chairmanship, the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law successfully organised in Strasbourg, earlier this month, a Conference on the European Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals-HELP Programme.
This was the first time that National Training Institutions for judges and prosecutors, as well as Bar Associations of the member states of the Council of Europe have attended such a large conference on how to use the Convention of Human Rights at national level.
Another important matter to which the Committee of Ministers, like this esteemed Assembly, pays particular attention is the accession of the European Union to the Human Rights Convention. The Albanian Chairmanship welcomes the fact that after several months of internal discussions, the European Union is now ready to resume the negotiations.
Against this background, the Committee of Ministers has instructed the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) to finalise the draft legal instruments establishing the details of accession. In view of the urgency of the matter, this mandate should be executed without delay. The Committee of Ministers has also instructed the CDDH to report regularly on that work.
A human rights issue of particular interest to the Albanian Chairmanship concerns the rights of children. We recently organised in Tirana, on 14 and 15 June, a regional seminar on the theme “Democracy must work for children”.
We also took an active part in the First Round Table on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 organised in Strasbourg last week.
Furthermore, within the framework of the Albanian Chairmanship, the Bureau of the Congress was invited to hold its 14 June meeting in the Albanian capital, Tirana. President Whitmore praised the interest shown by the Albanian authorities in further improving governance and welcomed Albania's commitment to strengthening local and regional democracy.
In all the fields that I have mentioned, it is essential that our Organisation works hand in hand with the other European institutions, most importantly the European Union, and continues to share the same values.
We are particularly pleased that, as was noted in a recent report discussed by the Committee of Ministers, co-operation with the EU continues to develop, both at the political and operational level. The Albanian Chairmanship is strongly committed to bringing this co-operation forward.
The same holds true with the OSCE. I had the opportunity to make a number of concrete suggestions on ways to enhance synergies during my recent address to the Permanent Council of the OSCE on 14 June. We intend to bring these ideas forward in the months to come.
Establishing closer ties with our partners on the European scene is more important given the number of pressing political issues before us. One such issue is the need to promote the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in those areas in Europe which are at present beyond the reach of our Organisation.
This was one of the conclusions of the discussion on the theme “Human rights protection in Europe: closing the gaps” which took place during the informal working lunch at the end the Ministerial Session on 23 May.
In this respect, the valuable work conducted by the Council of Europe in Kosovo* and the positive interaction that we have established with the EU in this context should be continued, in the interest of all citizens living in Kosovo* and, beyond, for the sake of the stability of the whole region. The pragmatic Recommendation 1739 (2010) of this Assembly on the promotion of direct and significant contacts between the Council of Europe staff and Kosovo* authorities at all levels, should become a clear platform for endorsement.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the execution of the judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sejdic and Finci is a key element in the process of European integration of the country.
The Ministers’ Deputies will review the progress made on this issue at their next meeting on 4 July. The Albanian Chairmanship very much hopes that the meeting will be the opportunity to register some tangible progress in the process of revision of the Constitution and election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Beyond Bosnia and Herzegovina, other political developments in member States are regularly being discussed by the Ministers’ Deputies in the context of their dialogue with the Secretary General.
I would like to thank Mr Jagland for his active role in raising these issues, also during his visits to the capitals of member States. The constructive discussions which Albanian authorities had with you in Tirana just after Albania took over the Chairmanship bear witness to this.
Before I conclude, I would like to say a few words on the Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions, which I know is of particular interest to your Assembly. The Ministerial Session on 23 May was the occasion to take stock of the important progress made in one year, especially through the co-operation priorities which have been agreed with Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
The Committee of Ministers is determined to continue expanding this policy on the basis of the Council of Europe’s values, and has instructed its Deputies to take the requisite decisions to this end with a view to reporting to it at its next Session.
From this perspective, we will follow with particular interest the debate that your Assembly will hold on Thursday on the political transition in Tunisia, where recent events have shown that the transition to democracy is still fragile.
At this juncture, I cannot refrain from mentioning the situation in Syria. As I said in a statement which I made after the massacre committed in the city of Houla, I condemn in the strongest possible terms the violations to human rights laws which have been committed since the beginning of the hostilities in Syria. The reported acts of torture against civilians, and in particular women and children, are of grave concern for the international community and those who have ordered and committed these barbaric acts must be brought to justice.
I want to reiterate here the appreciation expressed by the Committee of Ministers regarding the humanitarian assistance provided to the Syrian refugees by our member State Turkey, as well as other countries in the region.
I would also to inform you that on 6 July 2012, we will attend the Third Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of Syria, to be held in Paris and we will loudly stress the need for joint action in protecting human rights.
These are, honorable Mr President, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the developments on which I wanted to inform you. I will now respond with great pleasure to the questions that the distinguished members of the Assembly may wish to ask.
But before that, as this is the last session that she is attending, let me thank Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio for the outstanding contribution she has made throughout her career, and in particular in her current position as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to promote the values of the Council of Europe.
Her particular dedication to the rights of women and children are an example for all of us and I want to pay tribute to her. Even though her term of office is coming to an end here, I am confident that she will remain actively engaged in the promotion of human rights in Europe as she has accepted to be the new independent person appointed by the Council of Europe to sit on the organs of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. I wish her all the best in this position, as well as to her successor in the post of Deputy Secretary General.
* All reference to Kosovo, whether the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.