Committee of Ministers
108 Session 11 May 2001
of the sitting held at 10.07 am
at the Palais de l'Europe, Strasbourg
MINUTES OF THE 108th SESSION
OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
Strasbourg, Friday 11 May 2001
Minutes of the Session held on 11 May 2001 at 10.07 am
Appendix 1 Agenda 73
Appendix 2 Final Communiqué of the 108th Session 75
Appendix 3 Conclusions of the Chair 79
of the sitting held on 11 May 2001 at 10.07 am
at the Palais de l'Europe
ALBANIA Mr P. MILO
ANDORRA Mr J. MINOVES TRIQUELL
ARMENIA Mr V. OSKANIAN
AUSTRIA Mr U. HACK 1
AZERBAIJAN Mr V. GULIYEV
BELGIUM Mr B. CARDON de LICHTBUER 2
BULGARIA Mr M. RAYKOV 3
CROATIA Ms V. CVJETKOVIĆ-KURELEC 4
CYPRUS Mr C. YIANGOU 5
CZECH REPUBLIC Mr H. KMONÍČEK 6
DENMARK Mr A. BELLING 7
ESTONIA Mr T.H. ÍLVES
FINLAND Mr J. KOSKINEN 8
FRANCE Mr J. WARIN 9
GEORGIA Mr I. MENAGARISHVILI
GERMANY Mr J. DOHMES 10
GREECE Mr I. PLASKOVITIS 11
HUNGARY Mr J. PERÉNYI 12
ICELAND Mr S.H. GUNNLAUGSSON 13
IRELAND Mr J HARMAN 14
ITALY Mr P.E. AGO 15
LATVIA Mr I. BĒRZIŅŠ Chairman
LIECHTENSTEIN Mr E. WALCH Vice-Chairman
LITHUANIA Mr A. VALIONIS
LUXEMBOURG Mr G. PHILIPPS 16
MALTA Mr J. LICARI 17
MOLDOVA Mr N. CERNOMAZ
NETHERLANDS Mr H. WAGENMAKERS 18
NORWAY Mr E. B. EIDE 19
POLAND Mr M. RYBICKI 20
PORTUGAL Ms T. MOURA 21
ROMANIA Mr M. MOTOC 22
RUSSIAN FEDERATION Mr A. AVDEEV 23
SAN MARINO Mr L.L. DANIELE 24
SLOVAK REPUBLIC Ms E. GARAJOVÁ 25
SLOVENIA Mr I. SIMONITI 26
SPAIN Mr G. KIRKPATRICK 27
SWEDEN Ms A. LINDH
SWITZERLAND Mr J.C. JOSEPH 28
“THE FORMER YUGOSLAV
REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA” Mr I. DZUNDEV 29
TURKEY Mr K. TAŞKENT 30
UKRAINE Mr A. ZLENKO
UNITED KINGDOM Mr A. CARTER 31
OSCE Mr J. KUBIŠ, Secretary General
Mr A. VIÑAS, Director of Multilateral Relations and Human Rights
Mr W. SCHWIMMER Secretary General
Mr H. C. KRÜGER Deputy Secretary General
Mr B. HALLER Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly
Mr H.-P. FURRER Secretary General's Special Envoy on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Mr L. G. DAVIES Secretary to the Committee of Ministers
Mr K. SCHUMANN Director General of Political Affairs
Mr J. KLEIJSSEN Director of Private Office
The Session opened at 10.07 am with the Chairman, Mr Indulis BĒRZIŅŠ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia in the Chair.
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“I declare the 108th Session of the Committee of Ministers open and welcome all of you here.
The agenda that is proposed to you for adoption includes two main political items, the Balkans and the Caucasus. In both regions we find positive developments and, unfortunately, continuing conflicts. The aim of our discussion on these items is not only to state our position or assessment of the situation, but also to consider where the Council of Europe can make a unique and targeted contribution to improving that situation.
Since our previous Ministerial Session last November, there have been positive, promising developments in the Balkans that strengthen democracy in the region. At the same time, we face a number of situations which give cause for serious concern about regional stability, especially if they continue to escalate.
The Council of Europe once again strongly condemns violence by armed groups in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” directed against the territorial integrity of the country. We declare our firm support to the Government's efforts to pursue urgently needed domestic reforms towards improving inter-ethnic relations and rule of law, and in building trust and tolerance. The Council of Europe will co-operate closely with the national authorities and other international organisations, notably the OSCE, to support a possible plan of action for increased dialogue between the different ethnic communities.
The membership applications from two other countries in the region, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, are very much on our agenda. During my visit to Sarajevo and Belgrade in March I registered the clear wish of both countries to join the Council of Europe and their readiness to take the necessary steps. Yesterday evening during the informal session hosted by the Secretary General we had the opportunity to hear this once again from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Although I visited both applicant countries in the same visit, I would like to reiterate that there is no obvious case for linking the accession of the two countries.
I believe that the Council of Europe has every opportunity to make a positive impact on the situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, not least in co-operation with the OSCE, now that we have our offices under the same roof in Belgrade.
Turning to the Caucasus, the Committee of Ministers has been closely following developments in the two new member states Armenia and Azerbaijan with regard to fulfillment of their accession commitments. This monitoring process is being carried out in a positive spirit with the intention to find ways in which the Council of Europe can assist. We have had excellent co-operation with both delegations in this regard.
Let me also express our hope that the accession of the two countries will contribute to an agreement on a much broader level, namely to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This will undoubtedly improve respect for human rights, democratic stability and the rule of law in the whole Caucasus region.
Another item for our discussions today is the involvement of the Council of Europe in the Northern Caucasus region.
The situation in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation remains serious. We are concerned about the continuing violations of human rights and the recent acts of terrorism, which hinder progress in the restoration of the rule of law and an improvement in the political and economic situation. On several occasions, including my visit to Moscow in January, I have emphasised the following priorities for the region: a political solution through dialogue; economic and social reconstruction; and the restoration of the rule of law and protection of human rights.
I hope that the recent prolongation of the mandate of the three Council of Europe experts in the Office of the Special Representative Mr Kalamanov until October will facilitate an improvement of situation, especially now that the three experts have been asked to focus on particular problem areas where progress is insufficient. I highly appreciate the activities of the Council of Europe Commissioner Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles and the Parliamentary Assembly, especially Lord Judd's contribution to promoting dialogue between all parties involved.
The contribution of the Council of Europe to a solution through implementation of its fundamental principles has to be carried out in close co-operation with the Russian Federation and our international partners. Disappointingly, the OSCE Assistance Group has not yet been able to return to Chechnya. I expect that the Russian authorities will ensure the necessary conditions for the OSCE to return in the very near future.
I say this to underline that the fundamental values of the Council of Europe are shared by a number of other international organisations of different size and profile. When we discuss the specific role of the Council of Europe in the Balkans and the Caucasus, it can only be done in the context of co-operation and 'division of labour' with other organisations, notably with the European Union, the OSCE and the United Nations. I am glad that during my term in office the Council of Europe has continued and deepened its dialogue and co-ordination with these organisations.
With these thoughts, I once again welcome you and look forward to hearing your views.”
ITEM 1: ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“Can I declare the agenda adopted?
I see that I can.”
ITEM 2: SECRETARY GENERAL'S PROPOSALS ARISING OUT OF THE MINISTERS' INFORMAL MEETING ON 10 MAY 2001
The CHAIRMAN made the following statement:
“My ministerial colleagues will, I know, agree with me that we had a useful and constructive informal meeting last night at the Residence of the Secretary General to whom we are most grateful.
It was a particular pleasure for me to meet Mr Zlatko Lagumdžija, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, again after the encouraging talks we had when I visited Sarajevo last March with a strong delegation including the representatives of three future chairmanships. We also heard a most interesting and useful report from our Ukrainian colleague, Mr Anatoliy Zlenko, on the situation in his country. I have pleasure in inviting the Secretary General to present his proposals arising out of that meeting.”
The SECRETARY GENERAL made the following statement:
“Yesterday evening's informal meeting gave us the opportunity to listen to the presentation by the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Zlatko Lagumdžija, of the situation following recent events in Mostar and Banja Luka. We were also informed by Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko about recent developments in Ukraine.
We particularly appreciated Foreign Minister Lagumdžija's presence amongst us. The new Bosnian Government, whose members have been elected on a non-nationalistic political platform, needs our full support against different nationalistic extremists. If further evidence were still needed, the events in Banja Luka demonstrated that the arrest of the indicted war criminals, such as Radovan Karadzic, is essential to make real progress and to signal that extremism has no future.
Bosnia belongs to all its people. To quote the Minister, no one should be considered as ethnically “wrongly parked” anywhere.
The Council of Europe continues to assist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular with regard to its accession to this Organisation. This priority has been clearly shown also on the political level by the visit of the Chairman of this Committee to Sarajevo at the end of March, accompanied by Ambassadors of a number of member states, for discussions with the highest authorities there, both national and international, and at dinner yesterday evening we discussed the possibility of a further visit by the forthcoming Chair.
In the light of last night's discussion, I would propose that co-operation in the following areas be intensified:
- Promoting tolerance and reconciliation amongst the different religious communities, in co-operation with the already-established Interreligious Council;
- Assisting re-building the human infrastructure of the education system;
- Training both parliamentarians and the officials of the parliament to ensure an efficient functioning of that body;
Finally, the protection and promotion of human rights remain a primordial concern, along with judicial reform. I would urge governments to respond to a call made earlier this year by the Council of Europe for contributions towards an ongoing programme of training of judges, magistrates and legal practitioners in the Human Rights Convention and its application. This programme has met with much success, but would have to come to a stop in the course of the year due to lack of funds. Given the continued acute need for such training, pre- and post-accession, it would be most important to continue it for this purpose.
With regard to the situation in Ukraine, the discussions confirmed the importance of the proposed Action Plan on the freedom of the media, largely reflecting the assistance request by Ukraine. The plan is currently under consideration for possible implementation as a Joint Programme co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. This week I have written to all Ministers asking for voluntary contributions.
In addition, the Committee of Ministers could specifically monitor the democratisation process. It is our clear aim to support our Ukrainian partners in their endeavour to step up democratic reform.
- The Council of Europe could also offer expertise in evaluating and clarifying the present-day scope and implications of commitments entered into five years ago. The Council of Europe and Ukraine could co-sponsor a public conference, whose aim would be to take stock, discuss and help accelerate reform on the basis of implementation of commitments.
- The Council of Europe could work out special programmes to assist civil society, as well as political parties. The latter should genuinely reflect opinions of representative segments of society. Political party foundations in certain large member states could be partners here.”
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“Thank you, Secretary General.
For the time being, may I propose that we take note of these proposals? Ministers are of course free to refer, or react, in the single substantial intervention which they will be making, in accordance with the Message I addressed to you about our meeting today.”
ITEM 3: THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND REINFORCEMENT OF DEMOCRATIC STABILITY IN THE BALKANS
ITEM 4: SITUATION IN THE CAUCASUS AND THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“The speakers' list has been distributed. Item 3 and item 4 will be taken together, as I explained in my written Message to you.
I now give the floor to Minister Lindh from Sweden, also having the Presidency of the European Union.”
Ms LINDH (Sweden) made the following statement:
“In the Balkans, we now see new opportunities for peaceful development and prosperity following the democratisation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately we see simultaneously recent events in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” that underline the need to remain firm and vigilant and to respect the territorial integrity and the internationally recognised borders of the country. Extreme and terrorist actions have to be condemned. Dialogue within democratic structures to secure the legitimate interests of different ethnic groups is the only way forward. The message of the European Union Stabilisation and Association Process and the Stability Pact is clear: Stability in the region and European integration require democratic political processes, full respect for human rights and the rule of law, peaceful and good-neighbourly relations on the basis of the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and multi-ethnic societies which fully respect the rights of persons belonging to different ethnic groups. The activities of the Council of Europe in promoting these aims are strongly supported by the European Union. We look forward to discussions on how to support the Council in this process at the meeting of the Stability Pact Working Table
on Democratisation and Human Rights in Slovenia, in the coming days. A Joint Programme on the Roma in the Balkans has also been established between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the context of the Stability Pact. The way ahead in the Balkans can never be based on narrow ethnic concepts but on inclusive political processes with full and effective participation of national minorities in public life. The European Union will continue to support such processes and we will continue to reject and condemn extremist and nationalistic policies and acts. I will myself, with the European Union Ministerial Troika, visit “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina next week.
The European Union encourages the efforts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and of Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil the accession criteria for full membership of the Council of Europe. In this context, the European Union supports the efforts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in pursuing its democratisation process, striving for the protection of human rights, including rights of persons belonging to national minorities, and undertaking the necessary legislative reforms, including the de jure abolition of the death penalty. The European Union supports province-wide elections in Kosovo later this year and Council of Europe monitoring of such elections. The European Union also stands ready, in co-operation with the Council of Europe, to assist Belgrade and Podgorica in defining their relationship in the framework of a democratic Yugoslavian Federation. The European Union also stresses the importance it attaches to the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the light of the Dayton/Paris Agreements and underlines the need for reforms, in particular concerning the electoral law, the strengthening of the State institutions and the facilitation of the return of refugees. I think we were all encouraged by the discussion we had yesterday with the new non-nationalist Government in Bosnia and Herzegovina which we really welcome.
The European Union Troika visit to the Southern Caucasus last February demonstrated our aim at reinforcing our policy towards this region and enhance co-operation between the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE as regards conflict prevention and settlement. Such co-operation should be developed both between headquarters and in the field. The European Union expects determined efforts by the Governments of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to speedily implement the commitments undertaken on acceding to the Council and stresses the important role of the Council of Europe both in monitoring and in assisting in this process. We welcome Armenia and Azerbaijan as new members of the Council and recall the commitment made to intensify their joint efforts at achieving a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We support talks between the two Presidents and welcome the constructive facilitating role being played by the Chairmen of the Minsk Group. The European Union stands ready to underpin concrete progress towards a peace settlement. Progress on democratisation, human rights and the rule of law would foster the resolution of the conflicts in the region. I take for granted that you both as new members will play a constructive role here today.
On Chechnya, visited by a European Union mission this week, the European Union strongly condemns the continued use of disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Russian military forces, federal servicemen and state agents, including attacks against civilians and other breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of human rights. The European Union is seriously concerned about the slow pace of investigating alleged violations of human rights, in particular those committed by federal servicemen. We also strongly condemn terrorist activities and attacks as well as breaches of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Chechen fighters. The European Union calls for immediate steps to halt the ongoing fighting and to seek as a matter of urgency a political solution to the conflict which fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. The European Union calls upon the Russian Federation to ensure that both civilian and military prosecutor's offices undertake and carry out systematic, credible and exhaustive criminal investigations of all human rights violations and to prosecute all perpetrators. The European Union furthermore calls upon the Russian Federation to improve the humanitarian situation in Chechnya and to ensure adequate co-operation with the regional and national humanitarian organisations as well as to facilitate their activities. The European Union welcomes the co-operation extended to the Council of Europe by the Office of Mr Kalamanov and emphasises the need for effective follow-up and prosecution of all reported human rights abuses. The European Union also supports the continuing valuable work of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Gil-Robles. We further expect the remaining obstacles for the return of the OSCE Assistance Group to be solved immediately. The European Union underlines that at the OSCE Istanbul Summit the Heads of Government had agreed that a political solution is essential and that the assistance of the OSCE would contribute to achieving that goal.
Media freedom is a key element of a healthy democracy. The European Union is concerned about media freedom in Russia and by recent moves against independent media in Russia, such as the case of NTV. The European Union, therefore, urges Russia to reassert its commitment to media freedom, both in word and through action to reinforce the independent media sector.
In developing the Union's European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), civilian aspects of crisis management and conflict prevention are crucial.
The European Union and the Council of Europe have agreed to continue to work on modalities of enhanced co-operation in the field of conflict prevention and the rule of law. The Council is a particularly important partner for the Union in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as was highlighted at the recent European Union-Council of Europe Quadripartite meeting held on 3 April.
The Council of Europe of 43 is, indeed, different from the Council of Europe of 25, 10 years ago. The challenges are different and greater. So are our responsibilities to meet them. The efforts of the Secretary General towards reform and setting priorities have the full support of the European Union. The main task of the Council of Europe is now to uphold, develop and ensure implementation of our common standards and principles.
Membership of the Council of Europe entails great responsibilities. Responsibilities towards the citizens of the state concerned and towards other members states and Council institutions. We all carry the responsibility of safeguarding our common values. In this context, we call upon Ukraine to consolidate the political and economic reform process, in order to build a stable and prosperous society based on our shared values of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, a strong civil society and market economy principles and I support the proposals made by the Secretary General this morning.
The European Court of Human Rights plays a central role in making the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms a reality for the people of Europe. The effective functioning of the Court must be guaranteed despite and because of a foreseeable increasing number of cases presented to the Court. In this spirit, the European Union member states are ready to consider all means, including a possible reform of the procedure before the Court, in order to ensure the efficiency of the mechanisms of the Convention. Although no decision has been taken at his stage, the question of a European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is at present discussed within the Union in the context of the future status of the European Union Charter on fundamental rights. We take into account that the Council of Europe is now looking into the legal and technical aspects of such an accession.
Let me finally congratulate our Latvian partners and my Latvian colleague for a very successful Presidency and ensure Liechtenstein of our support as they today take over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.”
Mr ZLENKO (Ukraine) made the following statement:
“I fully share the concern of previous speakers about the situation in the Balkans and the Caucasus region.
The issues, which are the subject of our discussion today, cannot leave Ukraine indifferent for certain reasons.
One of the reasons is that the sources of tension emerge arbitrarily. But they can never exist in isolation. The experience tells us that we have often to cope with the "chain reaction", which is far more difficult to stop than to prevent an initial eruption of the crisis.
Another reason is that the sources of tension not only impede economic and political development of the conflict-stricken countries. They make it impossible to fully interact with other countries of the region, thus affecting broader European co-operation.
The Balkans and the Caucasus are very similar and very different regions. They require our scrutiny and a thorough individual analysis of the current developments.
Let me stress that it is not an amorphous mass we can use to shape certain models of coexistence. These are very sensitive issues that would not accept coarse and violent interference from the outside. The Balkans and the Caucasus are two major global challenges of this time.
Chairing the UN Security Council this March, Ukraine felt responsibility to focus attention of its members on the urgency to settle the Balkan crisis and to melt and gradually resolve the "frozen" Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.
To much regret, the core of the Balkan crisis has moved into “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Ukraine put strenuous efforts to help adopt a decision that would avert interethnic violence and become a cornerstone for a comprehensive resolution. This approach is reflected in the UN Security Council Resolution 1345.
We have no selfish interest in helping “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Ukraine maintains regular dialogue with this country on the level of their Presidents and Foreign Ministries.
The Council of Europe promptly responded to the disturbing developments in that country. We believe that the Council of Europe will continue to use its high authority to ensure complete cessation of violence, introduction of democratic reforms and improvement of interethnic relations there.
The confrontation had been suspended, but alas once again resumed. We consider the latest actions of Albanian extremist groups as a provocation, which must be adequately judged by the European community and neutralized by a strong counter-action.
A perspective of stability emerged in the Balkans with the advent of democratic forces in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, led by Vojislav Koštunica.
It is obvious that the ultimate democratic stability in this country is impossible without the final settlement of the Kosovo problem. The legal framework for such settlement is enshrined in the Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council. We have to cover a long way to its comprehensive implementation. But I am sure that not only strict adherence to all the provisions of this Resolution - including territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, enlarged autonomy for Kosovo and appropriate conditions for peaceful co-existence of different nationalities - we could speak of real promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, in accordance with norms of the Council of Europe.
The situation in the Caucasus is well known to Ukraine, which has always advocated the earliest possible resolution of all "frozen conflicts".
Hopefully, the accession of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe will help these friendly nations to overcome a difficult transition period in the internal life, as well as to settle the long-lasting problem of Nagorno-Karabakh by peaceful means.
Ukraine is ready to support initiatives of the Council of Europe aimed at the consolidation of European democratic values in these countries.
Our joint support is also badly needed by Georgia, which has long suffered from the stalemate around the Abkhaz problem.
Ukraine made its tangible contribution to the settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict by convening a special meeting of the UN Security Council on March 21. The meeting discussed the outcome of the third round of confidence-building talks between the parties involved, held in Yalta on 15-16 March within the framework of the Geneva peace process.
The Yalta forum marked a breakthrough resulting in the signing of unique political documents. Commitment of the parties to implement the agreements will open a real opportunity to final resolution of the conflict, including the issue of a political status of Abkhazia as part of Georgia.
The Council of Europe can also make its valuable contribution to this process, as it was manifested by the efforts of the Commissioner for Human Rights and expertise of the Venice Commission.
In conclusion, I wish to re-confirm commitment of Ukraine to the values and standards of the Council of Europe. We regard co-operation with the Council of Europe as an indispensable part of Ukraine's course for European integration.
This is the position we take when dealing with our obligations, assumed upon accession to the Council of Europe. We fully share the proposal for the substantial increase of co-operation between Ukraine and the Council of Europe, in particular through implementing the Action Plan for the Media. I am confident that all the branches of power in Ukraine will put all efforts to reach substantial progress in this respect. That will certainly contribute to further democratisation of the Ukrainian society, strict adherence to the rule of law, establishment of effective mechanisms for the protection of human rights.”
Mr MENAGARISHVILI (Georgia) made the following statement:
“At first, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to our Latvian colleagues for their extensive and efficient work during the term of their Chairmanship.
We highly appreciate the special attention paid by the Chairmanship to the problems of the region I represent.
Today when two years have passed since Georgia became a member of the Council of Europe, I can reaffirm that Georgia fully stands by the commitments undertaken before the Organisation. They have become the blueprint for our democratic development and their implementation is the top priority of my country's leadership.
The very fact that today all the three countries of the South Caucasus are represented in the Council of Europe is a significant step forward in the establishment of stability and democracy in the region.
The region is faced with several challenges and, among them, the protracted conflicts are undoubtedly the most obstructive, dividing the region and hampering the economic and social development.
Europe's goal to become “the house free of conflicts” will clearly require tremendous efforts but we believe that Europe can and must achieve it.
In our case we are convinced that ensuring peace and stability in the South Caucasus should be based on a new model of multilateral co-operation of all the parties concerned. A number of initiatives have already been voiced to this end. Nowadays we have an intensive dialogue on this objective with the countries of the region, its neighbours, as well as with the other interested parties. And we strongly believe that unified Europe should and will take an active part in the shaping of such a model, given the European experience in dealing with similar challenges in South-East Europe.
I cannot but emphasise the initiative of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to set a useful tradition of regular meetings of the Chairmen of the Parliaments of the States of the South Caucasus.
Georgia appreciates the attention that the Council of Europe attaches to the peaceful settlement of the conflicts in my country. We highly value the work carried out by the Venice Commission and the Commissioner for Human Rights and we hope that they will spare no effort to continue taking their active part in the peace process. We attach great importance to the discussion in the Rapporteur Group on Democratic Stability (GR-EDS) on Abkhazia, Georgia with the participation of Mr Dieter Boden, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Georgia.
I would like to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the current central point in the peace process in Abkhazia, Georgia is the preparation by the Group of Countries-Friends of the United Nations Secretary General of the document containing proposals on the distribution of the constitutional competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi and its presentation to the sides.
We hope that the Council of Europe will support this endeavour and, on this occasion at last, the interests of the peace process will prevail over any other “special interests” within the Group, thus enabling this very important job to be completed as soon as possible.
It is also clear that the parties involved in the conflict settlement should refrain from actions that could strain the situation. Regrettably, I should mention here that the unilateral introduction by the Russian Federation of free border crossing for the conflict regions in Georgia under the full visa regime between the two states, is jeopardising the peace process and cannot be viewed otherwise than discriminatory. I would ask the Committee to consider the possibility of legal assessment of that issue by the relevant bodies of the Council.
Lastly, I would draw your attention, dear colleagues, to the most painful consequences of these conflicts - the problem of refugees and IDP's, which has not yet moved beyond mere speculations. In Georgia's case, we have in mind the fate of 300,000 people, who have been forcibly expelled from their homes, and whose rights are trampled underfoot, ranging from the right to property to the fundamental right to life.
This problem has been reflected in the political resolutions adopted at the Conference dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the European Convention on Human rights. And we deem it appropriate to address it at this Session.
And finally, I would express our deep conviction that the Liechtenstein Presidency, to which we wish every success in its honourable mission, will consider these problems as a priority on the agenda.”
Mr GULIYEV (Azerbaijan) made the following statement:
“First of all, let me express my gratitude to Mr Indulis Bērziņš, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, whose term of office is coming to an end and wish all kinds of success to the next Chairman of the Committee, Mr Ernst Walch, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank once again my colleagues and the permanent representatives of member states of the Council of Europe for their support and help in the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe that has become a crucial event in the history of my country, which is living through a complex and, at the same time, dynamic phase of its development. A solid base for further democratisation of the Azerbaijani society has been laid by efforts of our State, with an active assistance of the Council of Europe and other international organisations. Starting to fulfil our commitments to the Council of Europe long before accession to the Organisation, today we are taking all necessary measures for their implementation by the time fixed.
In this connection, one cannot but mention interaction of Azerbaijan with the Ago monitoring group. An inter-ministerial group on co-operation with the Council of Europe has been created, the task of which is to co-ordinate the work of different ministries and agencies of Azerbaijan with relevant structures of the Council of Europe. A number of joint actions, with the participation of the Council of Europe experts, have been taken in recent months aimed at further reforming of the penitentiary system. In March, a timetable was approved for co-operation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Venice Commission. Besides, on 1 March of this year, a working group was established to render assistance to the group of independent experts of the Council of Europe on the issue of certain criminal cases, which was created on the initiative of Mr Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
However, progress in democracy-building is possible, involving not only internal but also external favourable factors in terms of safe and stable development of the region and of Europe, as a whole. The situation in the most sensitive regions of Europe, such as the Balkans and the Caucasus, which are still waiting to overcome the difficult consequences of conflicts, serves as a distinct confirmation of this conclusion. Today, it must be absolutely clear for everybody that Europe does not accept a forcible change of existing borders. Reconciliation with aggression and absence of timely adequate reaction of the international community lead to the tragic consequences, undermine the bases of sovereign states and cause humanitarian disasters horrifying in scale.
Supporting the condemnation by the Council of Europe of the acts of violence in the border regions of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, we call upon all the members of the Organisation to speak more actively in support of the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of all the member states of the Council of Europe and to take measures necessary to prevent manifestations of aggressive nationalism and separatism with due observance of human rights, regardless of their ethnic or religious origin.
Those present here are well aware of the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan became a victim of a full-scale aggression perpetrated by neighbouring Armenia, which has occupied twenty per cent of the territory of Azerbaijan and is currently building-up its military presence there. It is more than eight years that one million Azerbaijanis, expelled from places of their residence, live under the conditions of suffering and misery. Direct meetings and negotiations of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been going on for more than two years with the purpose of the conflict resolution under the circumstances of a low activity of the Minsk Group. Last month the meeting of the two Presidents with the Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group took place in Key West. But these efforts have not yielded any result yet.
Having occupied the territories of Azerbaijan, Armenia tries to tear away a part of its territory - namely, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, by any means, and then either to annex it, or to declare it an independent state. These are the illegitimate positions which Armenia is being guided by during the negotiations.
We speak in favour of a just settlement of the conflict and achieving peace with Armenia on the basis of liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and granting the
Nagorno-Karabakh region with the self-governance status of the highest degree possible within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, in full accordance with the norms and principles of international law and the values of the Council of Europe. An invitation to draw on the experience of the Venice Commission in the field of elaboration of the models of autonomy and its relationship with the central government authorities has already been voiced by our side in this particular context.
The task to provide the return of refugees and displaced persons to the places of their permanent residence requires resolution very soon. The unresolved status of this problem has a great influence on the social, economic and political situation in the countries where conflicts exist, and affects Pan-European stability negatively. In this connection, we deem it absolutely necessary to strengthen interaction between the Council of Europe and other international organisations.
Azerbaijan supports the strong efforts of Ukraine directed to further democratisation of society, to protection of human rights in spite of existing problems, and we believe that our mutual collaboration will result in the solving by Ukraine of many of its problems.
In the light of changes, which have taken place in Europe during the last decade, the Council of Europe reaffirms its role of a unique Pan-European institution on protection of the democratic principles, human rights and rule of law, and where all the member states have equal rights and obligations. I would like once again to reaffirm the readiness of Azerbaijan to make its own contribution to the activity of the Organisation and to enrich the common European heritage with the new values, which will assist to the further strengthening of peace, security and democratic stability throughout the continent of Europe.”
Mr MILO (Albania) made the following statement:
“It is a particular pleasure for me to address this Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, moreover to stress some ideas regarding the reinforcement of democratic stability in the Balkans.
This year, in the capacity of the Presidency of the South-East European Co-operation Process (SEECP), the Albanian Government is seriously committed to conveying the spirit and goal of the Council of Europe to such a process. Albania will not fail to fulfil its commitments in the coming meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of South-Eastern Europe, which will take place on 16 May this year in Tirana.
In Albania we are used to looking at how things are at home before we judge others. We consider the development of both bilateral and regional relations as a very important factor towards European integration. We look at the relations of each of our countries with the European Union as an advanced form of regional co-operation. We admit having difficulties in such a process deriving from differences related to the past and complexity of the present situation that we are trying to overcome. We are seriously concerned by ethnically motivated clashes, seriously endangering the stability of particular countries and of the region as a whole.
My country shares the serious concern of other member countries of the Council of Europe regarding the situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Albania has decisively condemned all actions by armed Albanian extremist groups, jeopardising the stability and security not only of that country, but also of the region as a whole. Violence is unacceptable and condemnable, no matter by whom it is exercised. We welcome the efforts made in the spirit of the dialogue to create a wide coalition government. We are encouraged by the appreciation of Albania's attitude in the Macedonian crisis by both the Skopje Government and the international factors. We would like to support the substance of the European Union's declaration yesterday. We would also like to support the progress made towards inter-ethnic dialogue as it is the only way to a peaceful settlement of the crisis. It produces concrete results in the shortest possible time. A balance is crucial between the taking of decisions and emotions of the moment. We intend to co-operate closely with the Macedonian Government as the stability of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” means stability for Albania and the whole of the region.
The general situation in Kosovo looks positive, due to the activity of UNMIK and the efforts of all the citizens of Kosovo. The situation is more positive than some months ago, as there is now an understanding for democracy, building of democratic institutions and preparations in the country for elections at the end of the year. The development of free, peaceful and democratic elections of last year should be followed by such democratic parliamentary elections this year to which the Council of Europe has given its valuable contribution.
No doubt the respect of the rights of the national minorities and ethnic co-existence remains one of the greatest challenges the region should address. This is a commitment of all member states of the Council of Europe deriving from all the dispositions of the international human rights and others instruments.
Albania welcomed the democratic developments in Belgrade and the removal of Milosevic, considering it as a positive achievement not only for the Serb people, but also for the whole region. We sincerely hope that the further advancement of democratic reforms in Serbia will bring closer the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the general trend of democratic developments in member countries of the Council of Europe, to the benefit of our region as well.
Proceeding from its policy of co-operation and peace, Albania has re-established diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, unilaterally broken by the regime of Milosevic. A new climate of readiness and good will to advance the bilateral relations is open between the two countries. Both, my Yugoslav colleague, Svilanovic, and myself have found a common language that the strengthening and widening areas of co-operation between the two countries is in the benefit of the consolidation of stability and security in the region.
We have welcomed and encouraged the dialogue initiated in Presheva valley between Yugoslav authorities and Albanian representatives, leading to the integration of Albanians and the recognition of their rights to participate in political, administrative, and civil life.
Regarding the situation in Montenegro, we support the democratic developments leading to a stabilised country. The future of the country is to be determined with full respect for the free will of its people, democratically expressed.
I avail myself of this opportunity to highly appreciate the irreplaceable contribution of the Council of Europe given to Albania in the process of democratic reforms and adherence to and implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and other international instruments dealing with the establishment of the rule of law and respect of human rights in Albania.”
Mr OSKANIAN (Armenia) made the following statement:
“Chairman, first let me say that we are very happy and honoured to be present here today. This is a very important moment for us. This is our first meeting as a full member of the Council of Europe and we are very happy, as I said, to be a member of the family of democratic nations. Since day one of our application to the Council of Europe, we have become the beneficiary of that process because there were certain requirements that we had to meet so that we become a member. That process took several years, but during that period Armenia truly made a lot of advances in this sphere.
Now we are a full member and we understand, despite our membership in the Council, we are still not a fully democratic state. We have a long way to go so that this process - we still consider to be a process - has to benefit Armenia. There is a whole list of obligations and responsibilities that we have assumed as we became a full member and I would like to report to the Council that Armenia takes very seriously not only the obligation, but also the time frame that is pretty much set for implementing all those obligations and responsibilities. I would like to report that under the President's immediate supervision, a Committee has been created, formed so that we follow up how the process is going. There is a clear time-frame as each obligation will be met when. And I can say that already we have made a lot of advances in this area.
This morning, I was happy to sign six new European conventions with the Secretary General. That process will continue, not only our accession to European Conventions, but also domestically as we proceed on the path of both economic and political reforms. The Council of Europe recently sent to Armenia a Committee to investigate the situation in Armenia on the political prisoners. We were happy to hear from the Group that there was only one name on the list. They met with the Government officials, with the Prosecutor's Office, with the Minister of Justice, they also met with that particular person with his lawyers. And I can say that the government is pretty much convinced that the charges are not politically motivated and we hope that Armenia's slate of political prisoners will be cleaned as the Committee will make it's final judgement and conclusions. We are very much looking forward to receive the Monitoring Group headed by Ambassador Ago. We are willing to work very constructively, to work together so that we make Armenia's human rights and democratic record as clean as possible.
Mr Chairman, our membership has not only domestic but also regional implications. When we became a member with our neighbour Azerbaijan, and Georgia had already become a member, we were hopeful, and I must say we are still hopeful, that our membership here in this Council, being in the one forum together, will certainly contribute to our regional co-operation on a great many matters, including addressing and resolving the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. But I would simply regret the fact that on this very day during our first meeting and presence here in the Council, my colleague from Azerbaijan certainly used this forum for very narrow domestic political purposes. There is a total confusion between cause and consequence. What we heard today from my colleague was the consequence of a conflict which has much deeper causes. He talked about consequences which was misrepresented and exaggerated. Yes, there are problems, but not on the scale that we have heard. But that is not the matter. The problem is that those consequences have much deeper causes that Azerbaijan continues to refuse to address. Once they begun to address that problem, the root cause of the conflict, we believe that will be much closer to the resolution of the conflict.
However, having said that, I would also have to report some positive things, despite the pessimism that we heard from my colleague and that really surprises me. And Armenia is not alone here. If you followed the three co-Chairs briefing at the end of our Key West meeting in Florida, the optimistic notes that they concluded at the meeting was very promising. Their optimism was based on the fact that the Co-Chair said that now they have enough things at their disposal to be able to project that in the form of a formal proposal, a formal document that will be presented to the conflicting parties. And that truly gives us a lot of hope that indeed during our next meeting in Geneva, which is set in June 15, the Co-Chairs will be able to produce a document which will become a basis for our future negotiations.
Mr Chairman, let me make a very sweeping generalisation here. I know it is a responsible statement, but we truly believe in what I will say and that is if the two Presidents do not back track from the commitments that they have made during the two Paris meetings and at Key West, and if they do not retreat from the Agreements that they reached, we believe that we may have something to cheer about in the coming few months. But I must repeat, if the two Presidents do not retreat fundamentally from their original positions and the commitments that they made, we hope that during our next meeting, the Council's next meeting, we will be able to speak very favourably and positively about this process.
Mr Chairman, in conclusion, let me thank Latvia and yourself personally for the great leadership that you provided in the past six months. It was during your Chairmanship that Armenia became a member and we have been very appreciative for your efforts that you put in and I would like also to welcome Liechtenstein as a new Chairman of the Council and wish them good luck and success.”
Mr WALCH (Liechtenstein) made the following statement:
“I should like to start by thanking the Latvian Chairmanship and the Secretariat for their excellent preparation and immaculate organisation of both this Session and our very interesting “fireside chat”.
At the previous meeting of this Committee at ministerial level, six months ago, there was great optimism in the international community that the democratic change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at last heralded an era of peace and democratic stability throughout the Balkans. We are now therefore all the more painfully aware that we are still a long way from this goal and that even greater efforts are needed in order finally to establish democratic stability in this part of Europe. The latest events in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” bring us up against the urgent question of how the international community can best support the national authorities during the dangerous crisis affecting the country. In the face of the threat of escalating violence, it is extremely important for us to unambiguously condemn all violent action directed against the dialogue which the Government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” has begun with the country's democratic forces. The Council of Europe has neither the means nor the mandate to support the Government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in matters relating to security. But it certainly is its task, and its duty, to insist on the maintenance of the rule of law, on democratic decision-making and on respect for human rights, and to make the corresponding expertise available. Measures to build confidence between the various population groups are also important. In this respect, the Council of Europe both can and must play an active role.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well, the Council of Europe is endeavouring to provide assistance with the restoration of a climate of mutual tolerance and of confidence in the rule of law, democracy and human rights. We welcome the progress made in both countries in this respect. It is just as important in this case for the Council of Europe to provide the necessary support to those forces which feel a commitment to the same principles. It is necessary at the same time for these forces always to translate their words into corresponding action. Liechtenstein is convinced that the process of admission to the Council of Europe will thus culminate in success, and is bringing both countries to the point at which they will meet the most important standards of the Council of Europe at the time of their accession.
Whereas the foundations for compliance with the Council of Europe's standards are laid before admission to our organisation, membership signifies the beginning of constant efforts to consolidate these same standards. This applies to all the organisation's member states. Liechtenstein is pleased that the accession of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe has made it possible to help, jointly with other international organisations, to consolidate peace, security and democratic stability in the southern Caucasus. The new member states, for their part, are under an obligation to do their utmost to honour the commitments into which they entered on accession. In this context, we consider it extremely important for the Council of Europe to be given the requisite resources enabling it to meet this new challenge.
We continue to feel great concern about the situation in Chechnya. We are still receiving reports of human rights violations on a massive scale. Our information about the position of the investigations into the armed forces' attacks on the civilian population also give reason to entertain some doubts as to the seriousness of the efforts being made. We very much hope that the extension and redefinition of the mandate given to the Council of Europe's experts at Mr Kalamanov's Office will help to eliminate such doubts.
During its term of office, Liechtenstein will also devote particular attention to the situation in Ukraine. Here, too, the Council of Europe must not only carefully check that the country is honouring the commitments into which it has entered, but also offer the necessary assistance.
In conclusion, I should like to express to the Chairman and to the Latvian Delegation as a whole my deep appreciation of the outstanding work done by Latvia during its six-month period of office. We shall strive to follow your example and to make Liechtenstein's Chairmanship as successful as yours has been.
I should also like to thank all colleagues here for congratulating Liechtenstein on its Chairmanship and for promising us your support.”
Mr VALIONIS (Lithuania) made the following statement:
“At the outset, I would like to congratulate my colleague Indulis Bērziņš, the Chairman of our Committee, on a successful Latvian Presidency.
We expect the Council of Europe to play an active role in strengthening democratic stability in Europe. With the membership applications of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia pending, we hope to be able to welcome each of them as members in the near future. As someone coming from a country with 8 years of the Council of Europe membership experience, I am aware of how important the guidance and assistance given by the Council of Europe to its new members is.
Therefore, in the light of the recent events, the need of continuous attention and contribution of the Council of Europe to the countries in need in the Balkan region is obvious.
Today I would also like to welcome the presence of two new states – Armenia and Azerbaijan – as full members of the Council of Europe. In this respect we also salute the Committee's dialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning implementation of the commitments undertaken in the context of their accession to the organisation. We hope that the membership in the Council of Europe will contribute to the settlement of the conflict involving these two countries.
In this regard I also welcome the growing role of the Council of Europe in assisting Georgia. In particular, we support further engagement of the Venice Commission with legal expertise there, along with other international efforts to bring the resolution of the conflict.
Lithuania welcomes the active role played by the Secretary General, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Human Rights Commissioner in the Caucasus, contributing to facilitation of a political solution in the region, and we support the continuation of the Council of Europe's involvement in the work of the office of Mr Kalamanov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation.
Taking into consideration the recent debates in the Parliamentary Assembly, and the information provided to us yesterday by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, A. Zlenko, I would underline the importance of the Council of Europe's co-operation with Ukraine as well as the importance of allocation of resources and providing expertise for programmes in this country.
I would like to say a few words on the future of our Organisation.
Lithuania has always valued the Council of Europe as a standard-setting organisation and I welcome the Secretary General's initiative to define medium-term priorities of the Council of Europe.
We support institutional reforms of the Organisation. Lithuania would agree with the reduction of the number of formal ministerial sessions and as a future chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Lithuania is prepared to organise a ministerial session in our country next spring. Also, Lithuania is of the opinion that it is time to address the question of the capacity of the Council of Europe, and especially the European Court of Human Rights, to deal with their growth, and to consider means for guaranteeing their continued effectiveness.
Lithuania looks forward to her forthcoming Chairmanship. We are actively working for the continuity between the successive Chairmanships and are proud of the emerged co-operation of “L4” countries. We welcome the recent visit of the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers to Belgrade and Sarajevo where he invited the permanent representatives of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and our country. Without doubt this will help to ensure continuity.
Lastly, I present my best wishes for the success of the incoming Liechtenstein Chairmanship.”
Mr CERNOMAZ (Moldova) made the following statement:
“First of all, I should like to extend my sincere thanks to the Latvian Chairmanship for the work it has done during its term of office. I am sure that the Principality of Liechtenstein, which enjoys an undisputed tradition of consolidating and upholding the Council of Europe's basic principles and values, will equal the efforts of its predecessor and continue to ensure that our Organisation aims high.
Being located in South-East Europe, the Republic of Moldova is following the events in the Balkans with particular interest as it is obviously concerned that security and democratic stability should be maintained in the region. After the crisis in the province of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the adverse effects of which have still to be overcome, the recent events in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are bound to give cause for serious concern. As my country has experienced the misery of armed confrontation, the Moldovan authorities firmly believe that problems of this kind can and should be resolved solely by political means. Accordingly, the authorities of the Republic of Moldova welcomed the Committee of Ministers' appeal for a halt to violence in the Tanusevci area, in which it condemned the actions of the extremist armed groups.
History has frequently taught us that appeals from the international community are not in themselves sufficient to settle conflicts on a lasting basis and that there is a need for tangible action. Such action must be taken urgently. Any escalation of extremism in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” could have unforeseeable consequences for security in the Balkans. It would be helpful if the authorities in Skopje were provided with the support needed to promote reforms designed to improve ethnic relations, give priority to the rule of law and ensure a climate of mutual tolerance and trust among the population. In view of the need to restore democratic stability in the Balkans, we consider that the Common Catalogue of Co-operation Modalities, signed last year by the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and the Joint Declaration on Co-operation in Partnership with the European Union provide an excellent framework for pinpointing ways in which “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” can be supported in its efforts to cope with the crisis facing it, and we hope that progress will have been made by the time our next meeting is held.
The fact that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has made real progress in co-operation with the Council of Europe since the meeting in November is to be welcomed. Yesterday, at our informal meeting, we discussed the prospects for co-operation between the authorities in Sarajevo and the Council of Europe with our colleague Mr Zlatko Lagumdžija, Foreign Minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina. We believe that the values upheld by the Council of Europe could be extended to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia & Herzegovina in the near future.
With regard to the prospects of restoring democratic stability in the Balkans, I shall like to mention the practical contribution made by the initiatives and projects carried out under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe and the role of the Council of Europe, which is one of the main partners involved.
Allow me to express the gratitude of my country's authorities for the support given to the Republic of Moldova with a view to its inclusion in the Stability Pact and for the help with efforts to find a solution to the problems facing us in the eastern region (Transnistria) and, in particular, a means of settling the conflict there.
The new authorities in Chisinau are firmly resolved to settle the Transnistrian problem as soon as possible and they will insist that international undertakings, including the decisions taken at the Istanbul Summit, are fully honoured.
Tangible steps have already been taken to give new impetus to the negotiations on a status for Transnistria based on the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. After taking office, the President of the Republic of Moldova visited Moscow and discussed the matter with President Putin. The visits to the Republic of Moldova by a delegation representing the missions of the OSCE member states and by Mr Yevgeny Primakov, Chair of the State Commission of the Russian Federation for Transnistrian Settlement Promotion, are also encouraging.
The joint efforts of the current President of Moldova, the Council of Europe and the international community in general have led to the release of Ilie Ilascu, a champion of the sovereignty and integrity of the Republic of Moldova. Reason has thus triumphed, along with humanist values. I should like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the Moldovan authorities to all those who strived to obtain his release.
The new political elite that has been in power in my country since this year's parliamentary and presidential elections - which, all the international and local observers agreed, were democratic and fair - is firmly resolved to continue with reforms to introduce and consolidate the rule of law, strengthen democracy and rescue the economy.
Another priority objective of the new authorities in the Republic of Moldova is to ensure that the process for honouring all the undertakings my country gave to the Council of Europe is firmly established.”
Mr ÍLVES (Estonia) made the following statement:
“Before I begin I would like to extend my sincerest and highest compliments to Latvia and Mr Indulis Bērziņš, who has done such an exemplary job as Chairman during this most difficult and challenging half-year.
Allow me to make three points:
First, I would like to begin by warmly welcoming in our midst the new member states of the Council of Europe, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I would like to use this opportunity to express my hope that the Council of Europe will be capable of offering an excellent environment to assist solving the as yet unresolved problems in the area. I hope that an academic discussion on the interplay of the right of self-determination and the principle of territorial integrity will not become a permanent agenda item.
Secondly, on Chechnya and the Russian Federation: like the European Union and others, we are quite concerned about the situation in Chechnya. We recognise the limited success as far as the Council of Europe participation is concerned. Indeed, Council of Europe experts have been able to participate in the work of Mr Kalamanov's office. Estonia, like many other countries, has responded to the Secretary General's appeal and volunteered contributions to allow the Council of Europe experts to continue their work.
Despite the limited success we have noted in Council of Europe participation, much remains to be done before we can be satisfied with the situation on the ground. As we can all ascertain from Mr Gil-Robles' report distributed here today, there is tremendous room for improvement.
Thirdly, on Yugoslavia and the South Balkans, Estonia can hardly add anything to what Anna Lindh said in her statement on behalf of the European Union, which we support completely and to which we subscribe in its entirety. We on our part would be willing to contribute in any possible way.
Finally, we take note of the Secretary General's request for contributions to promote freedom of information in Ukraine. Estonia will carefully consider this request. At the same time, however, we will perforce have to consider whether it would not be more appropriate and necessary to direct greater attention to press freedom issues elsewhere, where problems strike us as being of greater magnitude and seriousness. Should not the Council of Europe take a higher profile here? Attention to problems in one country while ignoring more egregious and ultimately destabilizing press freedom issues elsewhere only devalues what we ultimately have to say. This, alas, is not a topic for today's discussion.
In conclusion I would wish Liechtenstein the best in taking over the chairmanship.”
Mr MINOVES TRIQUELL (Andorra) made the following statement:
“It is an honour for me, as recently appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Principality of Andorra, to be speaking to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for the first time at this 108th Session.
I should first like to confirm that my country sets great store by this Europe-wide forum, in which a federating, egalitarian and democratic spirit has prevailed since the organisation was set up in 1949 and been confirmed by the Deputies' recent reflections on institutional matters.
Andorra was also pleased to note that, during the discussions on institutional matters, the stress was on strengthening the Council of Europe's political role in the area within its remit. The wealth of political content at this Session bears witness to the efforts made to achieve this objective.
In the wake of the conflict which fragmented the Balkans after the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, Europe's strategic centre has moved to South-Eastern Europe and the Council of Europe has a special role to play in contributing to peace, security and democratic stability in the Balkans, racked as they are by ethnic conflicts that seem to be rising from the ashes. We now find that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, which had successfully achieved independence, has been caught up in the upheavals in the Balkans. The extremist violence on the country's borders has been roundly condemned by the international community.
We are not going to raise the issue again but would simply appeal to the Council of Europe to spare no effort in lending this member state the assistance it needs to further interethnic dialogue.
As for Kosovo, we welcome the Council of Europe's contribution to the implementation of United Nations Resolution 1244 and hope that the Organisation will play an active part in helping to organise and monitor the forthcoming elections in co-operation with the OSCE, as it has done in the past. We consider co-operation between the Council of Europe and other international organisations to be essential.
At the last Session, in November, my predecessor argued that the Council of Europe should favour an approach based on inclusion rather than exclusion. Needless to say, I fully agree. We particularly welcomed the progress towards democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report by the Committee of Ministers' delegation that visited Sarajevo in March highlighted the reforms that are taking place in order to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina further into line with European standards, in particular the new non-ethnic alliance in the State Council of Ministers and the establishment of two houses of Parliament. We realise, however, that difficulties persist because economic and social development are still insufficient. That is why the Council of Europe co-operation programmes in the legal and human rights field but also in the areas of social cohesion, education and culture are so important.
We also welcome the encouraging prospect of membership for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which regained its rights in the United Nations in November and whose federal parliament was given special guest status by the Parliamentary Assembly at its recent session. The recently opened Council of Europe office in Belgrade will have a key role to play in the process leading up to the accession of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We should also like to stress the importance of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's co-operation with the international criminal tribunal in The Hague and dialogue between Montenegro and Serbia, which should help to clarify which functions are to be performed at federal level and which are the responsibility of the republics.
We hope that we shall soon be able to welcome these two countries into the European fold. In our view, their integration will be the best guarantee of lasting peace and democratic stability in the region.
We welcome the presence here today of two new countries from the southern Caucasus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Their recent accession, in the wake of that of Georgia, shows that the democratic stability for which the Council of Europe is striving is gradually gaining ground in the Caucasus.
We hope that a genuine political solution will soon be found to the conflict between these two new member states. The dialogue that began in Paris and continued in Key West is encouraging, as is the progress made in Chechnya, thanks in particular to the work done by the office of Mr Kalamanov, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation responsible for respect for human rights, with the help of Council of Europe experts, and thanks to the visits by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, to whose work we should like to pay tribute in passing. We must also carefully monitor the situation in Ukraine, following Parliamentary Recommendation 1497.
The Council of Europe is to be found wherever human rights are violated. Our Organisation gets results, as is borne out in particular by the work of the European Court of Human Rights. If it to pursue the task which it has assigned itself, the Council of Europe must give the court the financial resources it needs. I am sure that the Liechtenstein Chairmanship, which starts today, will make sure that it does.
The Latvian Chairmanship has been a fruitful one. I should like to extend our sincere congratulations to Mr Bērziņš and to wish the Chairmanship that starts today every success.”
Mr KOSKINEN (Finland) made the following statement:
“The agenda today covers two regions where the Council of Europe recently has played a significant role. In the Balkans, the Council of Europe has established a presence to assist a number of countries, each one in its own way affected by the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. From the Caucasian region, Armenia and Azerbaijan today, for the first time, participate in the Ministerial Session as full members. I want to wish the new members, Armenia and Azerbaijan, most welcome and encourage them to take full benefit of this Organisation.
In the northern Caucasus, in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, the clashes and fighting continue to raise concerns with regard to the poor humanitarian situation in that region. The international community condemns any acts of terrorism. Safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid agencies should be ensured and the specific provisions of international humanitarian law be adhered to by all parties to the conflict. As a party to various human rights treaties the Russian Federation is also expected to abide by their provisions. In any event it needs to be emphasised that there will be no end to the human distress without a political solution to the conflict. We also look forward to the swift return of the OSCE Assistance Group.
Recently we have seen in some countries disturbing signs indicating a deterioration in the situation of media independence or of freedom of expression in general. We note the assurances by the Ukrainian Government to investigate the cruel murder of Mr. Gongadze and urge the government to ensure that these investigations be conducted promptly and according to European standards with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.
Today with the accession of Armenia and Azerbaijan the whole Caucasian region, south as well as north, falls under membership status. The three southern Caucasian countries will need our committed support for the foreseeable future to continue in their post-accession efforts. In the Balkans we are looking forward to receiving the two remaining countries as members: Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
From our experience I can confirm that the Council of Europe is a demanding Organisation. Nonetheless meeting its standards is not a burden and not an end in itself. By doing its homework well, a country will in fact create a society, which provides incentives, equality, security and prosperity to its people. In this respect, pre-accession criteria, post-accession commitments and membership programmes all aim at the same goal: democratic stability.
The situation of ethnic minorities in the Balkans has been subject to quite some concern throughout the whole decade of conflict in the region. The failure to protect minority rights has always been a major cause of conflicts, and the promotion of human rights is an effective way of crisis prevention. Ethnic violence must always and under all circumstances be condemned. Violence may never be accepted as a means to further extremist goals, as has recently happened in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. We commend the efforts of different political forces towards a unity government in order to facilitate peaceful inter-ethnic dialogue.
During the conflict over Kosovo, the international community again became pain-fully reminded that the Roma communities live in a minority position everywhere and they may be exposed to discrimination and even targeted for persecution on the part of majorities as well as other minorities. Also in Central Europe the status of the Roma minorities is low and has been identified as a specific human rights problem to be monitored in the context of the candidacy of those countries for membership in the European Union. Discrimination of Roma is by no means unknown in western or northern Europe either. Roma all over Europe are regularly discriminated against when they seek housing or work and many have had to experience violence. School systems which do not pay attention to the educational needs of Roma children lead to high drop-out rates and threaten to perpetuate social exclusion.
To address this problem a variety of measures are needed. One goal, which seems to be gaining acceptance, is to increase opportunities for Roma to participate, on different levels of decision-making that concerns them. Since the Roma are a European minority and since many of their problems have a regional dimension also Roma participation in decision-making is needed on all levels, national as well as European. The Finnish Government welcomes the broad interest shown for the initiative of our President Ms. Tarja Halonen, to consider the need to create for the Roma some kind of consultative assembly to represent them on the
A European forum would give the Roma an opportunity to jointly formulate representative views and to make these views known to political decision-makers in European organisations as well as in national governments. The steps to be taken to gradually establish such a forum should be developed in close consultation with the Roma organisations and with the best advise of experts involved in promoting Roma rights.
The European Court of Human Rights constitutes a part of the Council of Europe which serves as an example for other regions of the world and is viewed with envy by other international organisations. In particular the opportunity for any individual to address the Court is a unique feature which provides an asset for the whole Organisation in its search for political visibility. The right of every individual has been established irrevocably as part of the present acquis and must be preserved. When individual justice is realised at the European level, constitutional justice is at the same time developed.
Presently, the main problem of the functioning of the control system appears to be the overload of the Court's Registry during the phase preceding the judicial assessment of cases. The Court has within its sphere of competence already taken some measures to cope with this and other problems relating to the growing caseload and is continuously looking for new procedural improvements. We welcome this development with great satisfaction.
The establishment of the Evaluation and Reflection Groups is also an important step in this process. After having received the results of these elaborations, it is for the Contracting States to make their decisions.
Finland gives her full support to these efforts to develop the procedures of the Court. Whatever the measures later chosen, the Court must be able to concentrate on issuing judgements of high quality within a reasonable time in cases raising genuine human rights concerns now amounting only to 15 to 20 percent of the overall number of complaints.
Moreover, Finland finds it very important that the prerequisites, including additional financial and human resources, for the effective functioning of the Court are secured also in the future.
I would like to reiterate the position of Finland that the European Community should accede to the European Convention on Human Rights with its control mechanisms.”
Mr MOTOC (Romania) made the following statement:
“May I begin by extending my warmest congratulations to Latvia on its work and the way in which it has performed its duties in the Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. In the course of its term of office Latvia has done much to contribute to the institutional strengthening of our committee and has been actively present on the ground, in particular through visits to South-East Europe.
I should like to mention, in this connection, the visits by the committee Chair to Belgrade and Sarajevo. It was during these last six highly productive months that the Council of Europe office in Belgrade was officially opened and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was granted special guest status in the Parliamentary Assembly.
As Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Romania welcomes the valuable contribution Latvia has made to strengthening links and interaction between the two organisations. Thanks to the support of the Latvian Chairmanship, the OSCE/Council of Europe 2+2/3+3 meeting in Bucharest showed just how much the joint efforts of our organisations can contribute to the shared objectives of democracy and stability in South-East Europe and other regions where we work together.
Since our last meeting, the Council of Europe has grown to include Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Romanian welcomed this development, which is an important step for the organisation and a major contribution to our joint action to promote stability and political, legislative and cultural cohesion in a united Europe and ensure that human beings are central to its concerns - in other words, to uphold the principles set out in the Budapest declaration “For a Greater Europe without dividing lines”.
As Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, Romania has constantly striven to pool the resources of the OSCE in Vienna and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, as they share the values of democracy and human rights, by making use of the machinery and instruments specific to each organisation.
The building of a democratic society and the protection of human rights and national minorities are increasingly part and parcel of a general concept of security, which is another reason why the two organisations are working increasingly together to find appropriate solutions to present and future challenges.
Pragmatism and flexibility must remain the watchwords of co-operation between the two organisations in areas of shared interest and in joint activities.
It should be mentioned in this connection that the high-level Council of Europe/OSCE meeting was enlarged to the “3+3” format with the participation of the Presidents of the Parliamentary Assemblies of both organisations. The meeting provided an opportunity for a general exchange of views on the situation in areas in which joint action is being taken and on practical arrangements for co-operation on the ground between OSCE and Council of Europe bodies.
Let me now turn briefly to the topics, and address then mainly from the perspective of the Chairman in Office of the OSCE.
In South-East Europe, the OSCE work is at the same time conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The situation is still fragile and volatile. Our top priority is to consolidate the development of democracy and the promotion of prosperity and equal opportunity in this area. Unfortunately, we have witnessed lately an alarming increase in violence in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, in Kosovo and Southern Serbia. As Chairman-in-Office, we took concrete steps aimed at easing tensions in that area, by actively consulting and engaging with other international organisations, including the Council of Europe, as to the specific contribution they may make in this respect.
As for “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, we reiterated our strong condemnation of the most recent violence in this country, which complicate further the already fragile equilibrium in the region. As Chairman-in-Office, we expressed support for the Macedonian Government's efforts to secure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and we stood by its proportional response to the extremist threat or in the face of terrorist attacks. We called for the continuation of the comprehensive inter-Macedonian dialogue. There is general agreement that only by respecting European standards we can identify a long-term solution to the problems in this country. There is still much to be done in order to achieve a multiethnic society in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. We should encourage the Macedonian Government to follow the path of reforms in this respect. The co-ordination of the efforts and projects of international organisations active in the field would be to the benefit of this country.
On the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - As Chairman-in-Office, we call for support and assistance to the efforts of the Yugoslav authorities and people to build up of a democratic society. We support a rapid integration of this country in the European structures. We pay special attention to developments in and around Kosovo, aimed at assuring full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The process concerning the preparation of elections should be placed under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Joint action of the international community is decisive.
The elections in Montenegro were conducted in a democratic manner. They indicated that the opinion of the electorate is almost equally divided. Our main priority is now to call on the newly elected authorities to start a dialogue with Belgrade in view of redefining their relationship before calling for a referendum.
The Romanian Chairmanship of the OSCE is in close contact with all international organisations active in the area (Council of Europe, European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), with other international players to optimise the contribution of the international community to the promotion of peaceful and long-lasting solutions to problems in South-East Europe.
Let me add here a word on the important role that the Stability Pact is playing in bringing South-Eastern European countries into the mainstream of European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes, and to inform you that, starting 1 May the Bucharest Bureau of the Stability Pact Special Co-ordinator's Envoy for South Eastern Europe has become fully operational and is prepared to extend effective support to speeding up projects for beneficiary countries.
In the Caucasus, the situation in Chechnya continues to be unstable and tense. We are of the strong opinion that the Chechen conflict can only be solved through political dialogue, in full conformity with the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Russia's agreement to the return of the Assistance Group to Chechnya is welcomed. However, the Group has not yet been able to return to the field. Particular attention is given to the security aspects related to the deployment of staff in the region; we need to settle some outstanding logistical issues, notably the security conditions for the Assistance Group personnel. The Chairman-in-Office plans to visit Moscow and Znamenskoye in the near future.
We hope that progress of the negotiation process for South Ossetia in Georgia would positively influence the process of the resolution of the conflict in Abkhazia.
The OSCE, together with other international organisations, can contribute to building a proper democratic institutional framework, able to guarantee the rule of law, public order and safety of the individual.
The Co-Chairs of the Minsk Process met in Bucharest where prospects for positive developments in relation to Nagorno-Karabakh have been addressed. During the Chairman-in-Office's visit to the Caucasus, he urged all the parties concerned to renew their efforts to look for compromise. We welcome, as a sign of progress, the recent Key West round of consultations, and we welcome the opportunity to attend and make a contribution to the Geneva round of consultations.
Before concluding, allow me to join those previous speakers who thanked the Secretary General and spoke highly of the substantial exchange of views we had informally yesterday evening.
We heard extremely interesting and open presentations by the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine.
We took due note of the strong agreements in favour of a rapid accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Organisations, including the Council of Europe.
We are prepared to work together with neighbouring Ukraine to speedily implement the Action Plan on support to freedom of media, put forward by our Secretary General, as an important step in assuring fulfilment of commitments entered into upon accession to the Council of Europe.
A final word to wish all success to the incoming Liechtenstein Chairmanship to which my delegation pledges its full support.”
Mr AVDEEV (Russian Federation) made the following statement:
“This is not the first time that we have had a discussion on the situation in the Balkans. And, unfortunately, it is once again giving serious cause for concern.
The threat today stems mainly from Kosovo, where the tendency to indulge the separatists has led them to hope that what happened in Kosovo might also happen in other parts of the Balkans. Illegal armed units are intervening in the internal affairs of neighbouring states. Kosovo, the worsening situation in southern Serbia and the conflict in Macedonia are all part of the same chain.
The situation in the region demands that the international community take decisive measures. This includes condemning ethnically motivated violence, confirming the inviolability of borders in the region and supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and Macedonia. It must be made quite clear that Kosovo is to remain part of Yugoslavia and that any hopes of a forcible redrawing of borders are unfounded. We believe it is important to create a proper legal basis for stability in the form of legally binding arrangements between countries in the region, backed by appropriate guarantees from the United Nations Security Council. A “model” for such an agreement has already been drawn up by Russia.
We believe that the time is not ripe for province-wide elections in Kosovo. If such elections are to be held this year, they must be subject to strict conditions. In particular, it is important to complete the work on the legal framework for self-government in Kosovo, with the participation of both the local Serb population and Belgrade. In order to hold the elections, the appropriate conditions must be created, conditions which have already been clearly identified. The Council of Europe could also play a role in this task.
We welcome the confident progress made by Yugoslavia towards full membership of the Council of Europe. Naturally, Belgrade must fulfil all the necessary conditions for such membership. There can be no special allowances here for anyone. At the same time, however, it would be wrong to try to impose too many politically-inspired conditions, thereby further complicating the already difficult position of the young Yugoslav democracy.
The outcome of the elections in Montenegro on 22 April this year showed that the community is deeply divided about the future of Montenegro. It is important under these circumstances to avoid taking any unilateral steps. As soon as possible, dialogue must be re-established between representatives of Montenegro, Serbia and the federal structures, a dialogue that should be conducted on democratic principles, within the framework of the constitutional rules. The international community would like to see a democratic Montenegro within a democratic Yugoslavia. In my view, if Belgrade and Podgorica were to turn to the Venice Commission for some sound advice on how to handle their relations in future, this would be a step in the right direction.
The situation in the Balkans has been given a new edge by recent events in Macedonia, where a carefully planned provocation – not unlike those seen in Chechnya – was carried out.
The need to support interethnic dialogue in Macedonia is, of course, indisputable. But it is important to outline an acceptable framework and boundaries for this dialogue. It must be conducted only with the legitimate representatives of the national minorities, and that means all the national minorities. Any attempt to include representatives of the “rebels” in the negotiation process is actually rendering legitimacy to extremism and terrorism, and sending out a signal that it pays to use force for political ends.
The calls for the federalisation of Macedonia based on recognition of the Albanians as a second constituent – ie state-forming - nation are a recipe for the collapse of the state.
The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains fragile. The main thing now, in our opinion, is to secure genuine stability in the country, based on a Dayton agreement.
We believe that international structures cannot and should not act as a substitute for the legally elected authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the two entities.
Just half a year ago, some of us in this room still had doubts about whether it was opportune for Azerbaijan and Armenia to join our Organisation. Today, I think I can safely say that those doubts have been dispelled. Both countries, having become full members of the Council of Europe, are making a genuine effort to fulfil their obligations, and to build modern, democratic states, one step at a time. Whenever problems arise, which is inevitable in a new enterprise of this kind, the Council of Europe helps to resolve them in a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect. Such an approach is, I believe, one that we should continue to adopt in the future.
I would particularly like to mention the efforts by Baku and Yerevan to finally resolve the thorny issue of the Karabakh settlement, and in so doing fulfil one of the key obligations attached to membership of the Council of Europe. The latest meetings between Presidents H. Aliyev and R. Kocharian with the assistance of representatives of the “troika” of co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group bodes well. We hope that the next round of talks in Geneva will give even greater cause for optimism.
Overall, we consider today's discussion of the situation in the Caucasus to be a topical one. The efforts of the Council of Europe and its members are in demand in this area. Also, I would like to mention as useful the efforts made by Ukraine, which were mentioned in the speech by Mr Anatolyi Zlenko.
And finally, a few words about Chechnya. There is no question that the process of normalisation of life in this republic of the Russian Federation is not easy and the terrorists are doing everything in their power to hamper it. Nevertheless, there are definite signs of progress, which only a clearly biased observer could fail to notice.
We value the contribution made by the Council of Europe to the restoration of democracy in Chechnya. We consider that Russia's constructive co-operation with the Council of Europe in this area can serve as an example to other international organisations.
As for the OSCE Group in Chechnya, I would like to say, in reply to the wishes in this regard expressed by some Heads of delegations, that it can return there immediately, tomorrow if it wishes. It depends on its leader and Chairman-in-office.”
Mr DZUNDEV ("the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) made the following statement:
“Let me first congratulate the Latvian Government for its successful chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and wish much success to the Liechtenstein Government for its incoming chairmanship.
I am convinced that this Session of the Committee of Ministers will contribute to the further promotion and reaffirmation of the objectives and tasks of the Council of Europe, aimed at creating conditions for the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and of human rights.
I would like to use this opportunity to inform you about the latest developments in the country. Over the past three months, the Republic came under the attack, and still is, of extremist and terrorist forces which threatened to destabilize the country, as well as the broader region. They have attacked Macedonian sovereignty and territorial integrity, its model of multiethnic society, and the economic and political reforms. Since the beginning of the violent attacks in the area of Tanusevci more than 20 Macedonian security forces lost their lives. The latest terrorist attempts near the village of Lipkovo are aimed to provoke a spiral escalation of violence, by attempting to occupy villages near the town of Kumanovo, kill Macedonian security forces and holding hostage the local civil population.
In this context, I would like to express our appreciation for the support of the Council of Europe to my country, particularly for the Declaration of 21 March 2001.
There is no doubt that the violence which is being imposed upon the Republic must not be allowed to succeed by any means. In fact, we have the situation of conflict between democratic values on the one hand, and ideology of violence and terrorism, on the other.
We are dealing with the classic forms of terrorism of extremist groups that are operating in the northern parts of the border toward the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, coming from the part of Kosovo. A red line has to be drawn in the case of terrorism. It has to be very clear to everyone that terrorism has nothing to do with the improvement of interethnic relations in the country and that above all, it has nothing to do with the interests of the Albanian minority. Macedonia will not allow a group of militant extremists and terrorist to undo everything that the country and the region have achieved, so painstakingly in the last several years. But in order to overcome this situation, it is indispensable, in addition to the efforts of Macedonia, that the international community fully implements the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1244 and 1345 and that it intensifies its efforts in Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with the aim of isolating and bringing these groups to justice.
Macedonia has responded to this situation with security, diplomatic and political measures. A mechanism of enhanced political dialogue, under the leadership of Macedonian President Trajkovski, was established with a view not only to improving inter-ethnic relations, but also to stabilizing the country. The aim is to implement concrete projects that would further develop the concept of civil society.
We have the case where the citizens of Macedonia, firmly supported by the international community, are defending not only the accomplishments of the Macedonian model of multi-ethnic society, but also the basic European values: democracy, the rule of law, human and minority rights. The Government is determined to continue with the implementation of the undertaken reforms i.e. promotion and strengthening of the inter-ethnic relations, stressing the crucial importance of the Macedonian model of multiethnic society.
The projects for decentralization of local government, the establishment of the South East European University in Tetovo, the third channel of the state television to broadcast national minority programs, the modernization of the border protection forces, the postponement of the census for October of this year, the early ratification of the European Convention on regional and minority languages show that the enhanced political dialogue is ongoing and functioning.
Just few days ago, President Trajkovski, as a result of the dialogue - of the meeting with the political leaders, announced the intensification of the activities aiming at harmonization with the European Union and building of civil and institutional capacity for integration will be in the following areas:
1. Adequate representation in the state administration, public institutions, public enterprises and other institutions of public character by respecting European professional standards and creating a system for the enhancement of the professional capacity of the administration;
2. Decentralization and deconcentration of power and wider authorities and responsibilities of local self-government;
3. Strengthening of all aspects of rule of law (respect of European standards, fiscal discipline, fight against organized crime, money laundering and corruption, strengthening of the civil loyalty);
4. Increase in the use of minority languages in communication and in all areas of education on all levels;
5. Opening of talks to strengthen the civil character of the Republic of Macedonia.
I would like to assure you that these events will not distract and change or interrupt the path the Republic of Macedonia has decided to pursue: the path of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the path of co-operation, regional partnership and mutual support, the path of European integration.
The best proof for this was the signing of the Solidarity and Assistance Agreement on April 9 in Luxembourg, as well as its ratification last week by the European Parliament in Brussels. This was the best possible expression of our joint commitment to the values of European integration, and of a common foreign and security policy of the European Union.
The situation in the region is reminding us that more efforts are needed for advancing the basic principles of our Organization. Unfortunately the accomplishments on the level of democracy, security, the rule of law are still challenged. We are witnessing that these values have been put into question. That is way the Council of Europe together with the other international organizations has to be more actively engaged in the efforts to finally stabilize the whole region. There are various mechanisms to achieve this goal. Here I would like to stress the importance of regional activities such as the process of good-neighbourly relations, stability and co-operation of the South-East European countries including significant activities to improve the relations in the region. Another mechanism that I would like also to point out is certainly the Stability Pact.
The Council of Europe is involved and significantly contributes to the realization and implementation of this exceptionally important process. The Republic of Macedonia, starting from its firm commitment to integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures and from the strong interest in fast stabilisation of the situation, further democratisation and economic development, has given full support and active contribution since the launching of the Stability Pact. The Republic of Macedonia, as well as the whole Region, expects the Stability Pact to contribute to the process of reforms, democratisation, increased co-operation and dialogue the aim of which is integration into the European Union and NATO.”
Ms CVJETKOVIĆ-KURELEC (Croatia) made the following statement:
“I would like to use this opportunity to express some of the views from the Croatian perspective on the current situation in South-Eastern Europe, as well as the role played by the Council of Europe in the process of stabilisation of this entire region.
South-East Europe has been the focus of international attention for almost a decade now. Peace, stability and prosperity of this region is also placed very high on the list of priorities of Croatia, as our long eastern border runs along the countries in the region where challenges of democratisation still persist. Croatia shares the interest of the rest of the international community to create the zone of lasting stability in this entire region and make it an area that would no longer present a burden to the overall security of Europe. Of equal importance is to secure the positive integration trends for the region, because its future can only be European future.
As we firmly believe that this could only be achieved by further strengthening of the democratisation processes and the rule of law, we deem the role of the Council of Europe crucial in this process.
Therefore, we call on the Council, as well as on all of its member countries, to make additional efforts to achieve this objective, by allocating the necessary financial means and ensuring a further expert assistance, in close co-operation with other relevant international organizations, such as the OSCE and through the Stability Pact.
Allow me now to express Croatia's views on the two remaining regional candidate countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Croatia gives its full support to the candidature of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is no country in the world more interested in a stable and functional state of Bosnia and Herzegovina than Croatia. The new Croatian Government has changed the former government's policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and is firmly supporting sovereignty and territorial integrity of this neighbouring country. Croatia has a constitutional obligation, obligation as a signatory of the Dayton Agreements and obligation as a member of the international community to assist in securing self-sustainable democratic functioning and development of the state.
But Bosnia and Herzegovina can hardly be functional before all the refugees have a fair chance to return to their homes, before all three constituent nations are truly equal in the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and before there is a permanent election law which will guarantee the protection of individual rights of citizens and equal rights of all three nations. Solutions for Bosnia and Herzegovina have been and can be only European solutions, and we have to work harder and show more willingness to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Council of Europe, Partnership for Peace, and the Stabilisation and Association Process. We have to think out of the box and find solutions that will be very modern and brave but yet responsible. We have to explore possibilities of local governance and self-governance, of a Europe of regions, but what we have to focus on is the strengthening of the institutions of a democratic state, the rule of law and protection of human rights. The future security of Bosnia and Herzegovina depends on the individual security of its every citizen. We therefore strongly condemn the recent nationalistic incidents in Trebinje and Banja Luka in Republika Srpska which have warned us again that unacceptable political vandalism has to be challenged and defeated immediately. This goes to all those in Bosnia and Herzegovina who think that by using violence and illegal activities they can best promote their goals. That should not be tolerated.
The Croatian Government is working on a set of measures by which it will be able to most efficiently assist Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, and the Croatian people in particular. We have donated a considerable sum of money and expert knowledge for the reconstruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar. We plan to provide our financial and technical help in a transparent manner for many different activities - such as the return of the refugees and displaced persons, the development of civil society, education of personnel for state administration, the media, strengthening of local administration and self-administration level, transfer of knowledge and programmes designed to meet the standards of the European Union and NATO. This has to be done in a transparent manner and in accordance with the central institutions and local administrative bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the international community and Croatian representatives for everyone's benefit.
Croatia also gives great importance to the candidature of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bilaterally, Croatia is ready to take the normalization process with Belgrade as far as possible. However, due to the grave consequences of the aggression committed by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against Croatia, we believe that our insistence on strict fulfilment of all obligations and standards that open the door to the membership in the Council of Europe is natural and understandable. We deem necessary that our neighbouring country also fulfils all the requirements, particularly in the domain of the Dayton Accords. Croatia welcomes Milosevic's arrest and hopes that very soon he, but also others accused by the Tribunal who presently live in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, will be transferred to The Hague, because the process of confidence-building can only start after justice has been ensured.
As for the situation in the Republic of Macedonia, I would like to use this opportunity and reiterate the position of my Government of the firm support for the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. We condemn all acts of terrorism because we learned the hard way they bring nothing but more misery and wastelands. Solutions have to be found in a dialogue, and they have to accommodate legitimate interests of all parties involved. We are willing to explore every venue and participate in every endeavour that will bring a lasting peace and prosperity to this friendly nation.
In the end, allow me to welcome the two new members, Armenia and Azerbaijan, hoping that the framework of the Council of Europe and negotiations held in Key West would finally bring to the establishment of better neighbourly relations. The new members, as well as the prospective membership of the other applicant countries, testify to the importance of our Organization, that indeed has a potential to create and guard a democratic order on the entire European continent.
Finally I wish to congratulate Latvia for its successful chairing of the Council of Europe and we are confident that Liechtenstein will also continue successfully.”
Mr RAYKOV (Bulgaria) made the following statement:
“I would like to express our gratitude to the Latvian Presidency for its contribution to the promotion and protection of the values and principles of the Council of Europe and wish its successor Liechtenstein a fruitful and successful chairmanship.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the presence of Armenia and Azerbaijan as full members of the Council of Europe.
For decades Bulgaria has been an island of stability in the Balkan area. Today we are seriously concerned about the renewed violent attacks by armed Albanian extremists threatening the stability of the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia. Its stability is essential for the national security of Bulgaria as long as it is directly linked to the regional stability and its European perspectives. We would like to reaffirm our support for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Macedonia and underline the need for greater responsibilities of the international community in the efforts to strengthen the stability and security of that country. In our view, it is of paramount importance that NATO and the European Union as well as the countries of the region continue to play a decisive role in this respect.
We are convinced that problems of ethnic co-existence should be resolved within the framework of a political dialogue. In this respect we would like to commend the efforts of the main political forces in the Republic of Macedonia to form an enlarged coalition with a view to finding lasting solutions to the current crisis. We hope that this dialogue would lead to the further democratisation and safeguarding of the rights of all citizens, irrespective of their origin, in accordance with European standards and values. We believe that the Council of Europe should play a key role in this respect. Violence, regardless of its perpetrator, and excessive use of force could not be conducive to ethnic co-existence. We are firmly convinced that only a European model of crisis management and conflict prevention can succeed in the Balkans.
Bulgaria supports and appreciates the democratic changes in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its integration in the international community. We are confident that the Yugoslav authorities will pursue their efforts to implement the necessary commitments for membership in the Council of Europe, so that democracy, the rule of law and human rights, including those of national minorities, are fully respected. We hope that the European standards and the experience of the Council of Europe would be applied by the Yugoslav authorities in the elaboration of laws which would guarantee the rights of national minorities, including in the spheres of local self-governance and primary and secondary education. This approach could be of vital importance for creating the needed prerequisites for lasting solution of the crisis in the inter-ethnic relations in Southern Serbia.
In this respect, the lasting democratisation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its integration in the international community will influence positively the developments in Kosovo. Bulgaria has always declared its support for Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council. It is the basis of our common efforts to foster a multi-ethnic society and peaceful co-existence of ethnic communities in Kosovo. In this respect we would like to stress the Council of Europe's continuing contribution to the full implementation of the abovementioned resolution. We also consider UNMIK and KFOR as key factors whose efforts we have to support.
In our view, relations between Serbia and Montenegro should be redefined according to democratic principles in order to achieve a durable and mutually acceptable solution. We would like to express the hope that the newly established Parliament and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina will accelerate the implementation of the required conditions for accession to the Council of Europe.
In conclusion I would like to express our support for the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation aimed at facilitating a political solution to the problems in Chechnya. We appreciate the assistance rendered by the experts of our Organisation to the Office of Mr Kalamanov.”
Mr SIMONITI (Slovenia) made the following statement:
“The Council of Europe has all along been a beacon of democracy and respect for human rights. With its expertise and experience it has always played an important role in assisting countries building democratic institutions, mechanisms for the protection of human rights and the rule of law as one of main conditions for stability and prosperity of the whole European continent.
In the past few years, this beacon has thrown a lasting light on the issues in South-Eastern Europe. This region was an entirely new project in the experience of the Organisation and became a challenge that had to be met effectively and efficiently.
During the nineties, a good part of South-Eastern Europe was in shambles left behind by wars of aggression, ethnic cleansing and dictatorships of different kinds. The Council of Europe understood very well that there would be no peace and stabilisation unless the forces of democracy prevailed. With this understanding, the Council of Europe moved towards reconstruction of political structures and institutions. It was good work and a noble undertaking. It is still good work and it is still a noble undertaking because we do need the very same efforts to continue relentlessly in the area.
We all agree that the Council of Europe must remain open for all states that respect its basic values and principles. Today there are two countries of South-Eastern Europe waiting to become full members of the Council of Europe. Their strong will and commitment to the common European values and principles lead us to believe that they will succeed in their endeavours in the near future.
Regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia supports its efforts towards full membership in the Council of Europe. A pro-European oriented Government and its strong willingness to implement all necessary reforms encourage us to believe that inter-ethnic tolerance with all respect to minority rights can be a real option for this country's future. Also the organisation itself should do its best in assisting the country to fulfil the necessary conditions for membership, taking into account Bosnia's specific situation and problems.
Slovenia supports also the membership of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the Organisation. We hope that the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will continue implementing its firm decision to establish and consolidate democracy, rule of law and human rights as well as respect all international obligations. In this light we evaluate as extremely important that the Council of Europe opened its offices in Podgorica and Belgrade.
There is no doubt that this part of Europe is going to achieve peace and stability in the not-so-distant future, but today democracy in South-Eastern Europe is still a frail flower. To maintain it we need convincing action and undivided attention. There are still remnants of the nineties and there is still a lot of the poison of violence and of use of force in many quarters.
In this regard, Slovenia is very concerned about the deterioration of inter-ethnic relations in the Republic of Macedonia caused by Albanian extremists. This country is well known for its democratic way of regulating inter-ethnic relations. These acts of violation seriously endanger its achievements to avoid ethnic conflicts as well as peace and stability of the whole region. Consequently, the situation can turn to another humanitarian crisis. The Council of Europe must give its strongest support to the government and help it, through its rich expertise and experience in the field of minority protection.
Slovenia also promotes the protection of human and minority rights in the framework of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. Currently, we co-sponsor the First Working Table on democratisation and human rights. In this regard, we would like to thank the Council of Europe for all necessary help and co-operation as well as for leading its own Link Diversity Project, aimed at restoration of inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding in the region.
I would like to welcome the adoption of the political message for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children. This message reaffirms the commitment of all member states to the principles of the World Summit for Children in 1990 as well as the willingness of the Council of Europe itself to contribute to the achievements of other international organisations in this field.
I would like to express Slovenia's appreciation for the effective and productive work of the Latvian presidency during the past six months and wish every success to the incoming presidency of Liechtenstein.”
Mr KMONÍČEK (Czech Republic) made the following statement:
“First I would like to welcome the distinguished representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan among us and express my pleasure at the accession of these two new member states.
As to the Balkan region, I will start with the most urgent issue: the situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The Czech Republic further supports a peaceful solution of the current ethnic tension and the steps taken by the Macedonian Government aimed at preventing further escalation and preserving Macedonian integrity.
The Czech Republic has aligned itself with the European Union declaration of 4 May which condemns the latest violent acts of the Albanian extremist forces. All Albanian political parties in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” should openly condemn all forms of ethnic violence and work towards just punishment of the extremist acts.
On the other hand, the Macedonian side should show greater willingness to discuss the demands of the Albanian minority. In this respect, we welcome the attempt of the Macedonian political spectrum to create a government of national unity. We see this as a step towards a possible decrease of inter-ethnic tensions.
We also appreciate the constructive and peaceful approach of the Albanian Government to the present situation in our neighbour, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
As for the Caucasus region, namely the situation in Chechnya, we welcome the readiness of the Russian Federation to work together with the international community on further consolidation of the region. Still, the progress in settling the conflict by political means has been rather meagre.
Monitoring of the human rights situation in Chechnya carried out by the Office of Mr Kalamanov together with the Council of Europe experts deserves special attention and appreciation in this context.
However, up to now the OSCE mission has been, for a number of technical, logistical and safety reasons, unable to resume its activities in Chechnya, despite repeated promises of the Russian authorities. We believe that the OSCE should return to the region after today's Session as soon as possible.
Further, it remains crucial to ensure the effective flow of humanitarian aid into the area, be it through international organisations or NGOs. The Czech Republic has participated in delivering humanitarian aid to Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya throughout the whole past year and will continue to do so, as the situation of refugees and other civilian victims of the conflict remains critical. The only existing orphanage in Grozny works now with Czech help and partly Czech staff, despite all the problems they are now facing on the spot.
We believe that Ukraine will manage to form a new government fast and that this government will proceed with the reforms. The Czech Republic also wishes to express its interest in a speedy and independent investigation of the case of the murdered journalist Gongadze.
Finally, Mr Chairman, let me congratulate you on the success of your Chairmanship.”
Ms MOURA (Portugal) made the following statement:
“I would like to stress that we naturally share both the concerns and messages included in the intervention of the Swedish Foreign Minister, speaking in the name of the European Union.
Allow me to begin by congratulating Latvia on a very successful Chairmanship. I would particularly like to welcome its method of promoting close co-operation with future Chairmanships, an important procedure to guarantee the good work of the Council.
I would like also to praise the initiatives of the Chair, visiting several member countries, promoting co-operation programmes and the visibility and values of the Organisation.
The values that the Council - the oldest political organisation in Europe - has been promoting for the last 50 years, are now recognised throughout Europe as the only legitimate basis for the organisation of a society.
In this context I would like to make a special reference to the European Court of Human Rights and to the essential role it has played in the achievement of the goals of the Council of Europe in the area of human rights.
That is why we consider that it is essential for the Council of Europe to provide the court with the necessary means to fulfil its mandate.
As we all know the great aim of political stability in the Balkans is still unfortunately far from being accomplished. However, we recognise the effective progress that has recently occurred in the region and that two years ago would appear to us as simply impossible.
In the light of these developments the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are paving the way to join the European family.
Although full democracy is not yet completed, we hope that the required conditions for accession are met soon.
We very much welcome the latest initiatives by the Government of Skopje to further improve the representation of ethnic Albanian Macedonians both in the government and in the civil society. Portugal fully supports the territorial integrity of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. At the same time we stress the need to restrain the use of force so that the life of civilians could be spared.
Portugal is aware of the difficulties in the south Caucasus. We will always be part of the efforts of the Council of Europe and of organisations such as the United Nations, the OSCE and of course the European Union, in order to promote the rule of law, the path to democracy and the full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the region.
The accessions of Georgia and more recently of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council, were, above all, a step forward in the integration of these countries in the European family sharing the same values.
These countries will benefit from the support of several international institutions in order to further their own efforts in promoting peace and progress and solving sensitive issues related to ethnic minorities and refugees and displaced persons.
Thus, Portugal considers that the commitments assumed by these countries at the time of the accession are to be followed strictly.
The co-operation and assistance of the Council will foster progress towards full democratic societies, embodied in the spirit and the values of the organisation.
As future presidency of the OSCE, Portugal will spare no effort in promoting the stability in this area. The recent visit of the Minister for Foreign affairs, Mr Gama, to the region stresses our commitment to this objective.
Finally I would like to state that today, despite some remaining difficulties, the integration of Russia in the Council of Europe can be seen as an example of productive co-operation.
Nevertheless, we very much regret that serious problems still remain in Chechnya.
Some progress has been made in close co-operation with this Organisation, namely following the initiatives of Human Rights Commissioner Gil-Robles.
We welcome the recent measures taken by the Russian authorities that we sincerely hope will lead to a political solution in order to restore human rights and democracy in the region.
Portugal wishes that conditions for the return of the OSCE mission to Chechnya can soon be met, enabling the Organisation to address the problems that strongly affect the people in that area.
Portugal believes that co-operation and open dialogue with Russia within the Council of Europe, should be pursued, with a view to enhancing security, stability and prosperity in a continent free of dividing lines.
To finalise, Mr Chairman, allow me to join the colleagues in ensuring Liechtenstein our support in their future work within the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.”
Mr EIDE (Norway) made the following statement:
“In the period that has passed since our last Session, developments in South-East Europe and the Caucasus have been important items on the agenda of the Council of Ministers. Both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have moved further on the path that leads them towards, rather than away from an integrated Europe. Both deserve our continued support, as this development holds great promise for the entire region.
At the same time, however, we are confronted with a new crisis further to the south. Recent developments in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” represent a serious threat to the fragile peace in the region and to the whole democratisation process. The current wave of political violence in this country is deeply alarming.
We must all do our very best to avoid what could become the fifth Balkans war in just
10 years. We know only too well the destructive powers that can be unleashed if we do not succeed. But at the same time, there are promising elements in the situation. A pluralistic political system is still functioning, and a broadly based coalition government is in the process of being formed. We must strongly and clearly reject the poisonous message of the armed ethnic Albanian extremists, while we must continue to encourage an improved political dialogue with the legitimate representatives of the Albanian population about their long-stated concerns.
In handling this new Balkan crisis, it is crucial that we in the International Community attempt to learn the lessons of its previous engagements in the region. Regretfully, at earlier instances of crisis in the Balkans, the international community has sometime ended up 'Balkanising' itself. Un-coordinated policies and well-intended but disparate signals have been sent in different directions, sometimes ending up in exacerbating, rather than reducing, the potential for further crisis.
Fortunately, this has not been our response this time. In the case of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the international community is indeed acting in a concerted manner. The European Union and NATO together have taken the lead in the ongoing process of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. We commend the activities of Ms Anna Lindh, representing the Swedish European Union presidency, as well as foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General George Robertson, for their tireless efforts to support the Macedonian Government at this very crucial juncture. They deserve the full support of the rest of us.
The Council of Europe should find its role in this concerted politico-diplomatic effort. In particular, the Council of Europe can play a vital role in developing democratic institutions and the rule of law.
The situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” must also be understood in its regional context. It illustrates the continued need to focus on the development of the rule of law and democratic institutions in Kosovo, as well as the continued need to support the Covic plan for confidence-building in Albanian-populated areas of Southern Serbia.
The co-operation in the field between the OSCE and the Council of Europe has proved successful. The Council of Europe is making an active and efficient contribution to the joint international efforts to establish peace, stability and democracy in the troubled region of South-Eastern Europe. The Stability Pact should remain the framework for achieving the broader ambition of assisting all the countries of the region both to co-operate with each other and to move towards further European integration.
Norway understands that the Yugoslav authorities want to bring Mr Milosevic to justice in Belgrade on the basis of allegations that he has violated Yugoslav law. We simultaneously welcome the increasingly positive and constructive attitude in Belgrade towards co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Since the Yugoslav people have lived for so long with so little access to unmanipulated information, the Norwegian Government recognises that the new regime needs some time to convince them of the necessity of this step and of Yugoslavia's obligation to co-operate with the International Tribunal. There must be now doubt, however, that Mr Milosevic is finally tried also for the international crimes committed during his period in office.
Let me also say in this context that Norway strongly supports early membership of the Council of Europe on the part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The country has made impressive progress over a short time, and should be rewarded for its effort.
As Foreign Minister Lagumdžija reminded us yesterday, the process towards a final, peaceful solution in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not finished. Radicals of different ethnic origins are still undermining the path towards real reintegration, as we have seen in Trebrinje, Mostar and in Banja Luka. It appears that these negative forces have only become more desperate after loosing their historic support from the previous authoritarian governments in Zagreb and Belgrade. Hence, the immediate consequence of the positive changes elsewhere in the region has unfortunately not improved the political climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is our joint challenge to reverse this process. The tide of democracy and new thinking in the region must be utilised to its full potential also in the case of Bosnian peace-building process.
The situation in Chechnya continues to be of grave concern, and the conflict can only be resolved by political means. All possible efforts should be made to arrive at a political solution. The rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights should be restored in the Chechen Republic as soon as possible. Thorough, independent investigations should be made of alleged violations. Furthermore, international observers should monitor the human rights situation in the region. The Norwegian Government does not at all question Russia's right to defend its territorial integrity. We also recognize that there are two parties to the conflict, but the Russian Government has a special responsibility as a member of the Council of Europe to respect its commitments. The Council of Europe can make an effective contribution in this respect, in particular by further strengthening the co-operation with the Russian Federation within the framework of the Committee of Ministers.
One positive and constructive development in this co-operation process is the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian authorities and the Council of Europe, concerning the provision of consultative experts to the Office of the Special Representative of the Russian Federation for Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, Vladimir Kalamanov. I am very pleased that the mandate of this office has been prolonged for another six months. The co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Russian Duma is another ray of light in a generally dark picture. The return of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya, with no limitations on the group's mandate, would be a further step forward in this process.
Finally, one of the main items on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly at the April session was the critical situation in Ukraine. The Norwegian Government is deeply concerned about the threats to freedom of expression and the functioning of parliamentary democracy in Ukraine.
The Council of Europe can and should play an important role in assisting Ukraine to develop a democratic and transparent society. A positive step in this direction is the recently adopted Action Plan, which is helping the Ukrainian authorities to set up and apply a regulatory framework for the media. The plan also aims to promote the development of a range of free, independent and pluralistic media in Ukraine. I am therefore pleased to inform you that Norway has decided to make a voluntary contribution to take part in the funding of the Action Plan.
I would like to underline that in the past few years the number of new member countries in the Council of Europe has increased considerably, and so has the level of activity in many fields. It is important to ensure that the organization has proper funding, so that it is able to fulfil its numerous and important tasks in the years ahead.
Finally, let me say what a great pleasure it is for me to welcome the two new members, Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the Council of Europe. We are looking forward to close and constructive co-operation with them in the years to come. We also hope that membership of the Council will play a positive role in establishing a climate of trust between the two states, which is necessary if a solution is to be found to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
I also wish to welcome Liechtenstein as the new Chair and to thank Latvia for its excellent work throughout its Chairmanship.”
Mr GUNNLAUGSSON (Iceland) made the following statement:
“Mr Chairman, I would first like to thank the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia for the very clear and positive position the Minister made on behalf of the Croatian Government.
Given the time constraints and the fact that after 23 speakers my presentation will not break any new ground, I will hand in my six-minute statement to the Secretariat since much of what I would like to say is reflected in the speeches of my Nordic colleagues with whom we associate ourselves.
I would, Mr. Chairman, however like to stress the following:
The Council of Europe makes strict demands that new member countries and applicant countries conform and live up to the standards that membership of the Council entails in democratisation, human rights and freedom of the media, to name a few standards. And that monitoring is required.
That has been made very plain this morning to countries such as Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But while we, the older member countries, make these demands for a credible outcome we must not forget that we have to overcome a credibility gap of our own, namely the fact that credible monitoring can only take place when credible financing of that monitoring is in place in the widest sense possible. This commitment of ours seems to be lacking at this time by some of our member countries.”
Mr TAŞKENT (Turkey) made the following statement:
“Today, our agenda focuses on two important regions of Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, where common European ideals are put to test in challenging conditions. Stemming from geographical, historical, cultural and humanitarian ties, Turkey attaches a special priority to the strengthening of peace and stability in these regions. The present difficulties encountered in these two regions make it ever more important for the Council of Europe to emphasise, as the basis of our joint endeavours, the respect for internationally recognised borders, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.
Turkey has always been actively involved, together with her Balkan neighbours, in efforts for establishing peace and stability in South-East Europe. The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, as well as the South-East European Co-operation Process are inspiring evidence to the will and efforts of all the participating countries in the region.
Turkey is extremely concerned with the recent acts of terrorism taking place in Macedonia, not only because these acts have consequences on the well-being of the whole population, including the Turkish minority that until now lived in peace and harmony in Macedonia, but also because the Republic of Macedonia constitutes one of the corner-stones for stability in the Balkans. We consider that the formation of a government of national unity or a broader coalition government will facilitate the dialogue among all citizens to help overcome the present difficulties.
We listened with great interest to the information provided to us by Mr Lagumdžija, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina yesterday. This country's stability still needs support and close attention from the international community. Recent events, both in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and particularly in the Republika Srpska indicate that nationalist circles which are against reconciliation and ethnic harmony are still determined to pursue their ill-intentioned policies. We believe that the speedy accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Council of Europe will support efforts to consolidate the democratic institutions and the rule of law in the country.
We observe with satisfaction the ongoing democratic reforms in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which will enable this country to realise its commitments as a candidate country to the Council of Europe. We hope that democratic reforms in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will also facilitate ongoing efforts for finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the Kosovo issue. We welcome Special Representative Haekkerup's (UNMIK) initiative to develop a legal framework for provisional self-government. These efforts must take into consideration the rights and the needs of all communities in Kosovo. The rights of the Turkish national minority must be included in the comprehensive legal framework for their full implementation.
We observe with close attention the developments taking place in Montenegro. Turkey continues to support efforts to regulate the relations between Montenegro and Serbia through dialogue.
Following Georgia, the accession of Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Council of Europe fulfils the vision of a greater Europe extending to the Caucasus. Turkey's approach to this region is shaped by her desire to establish a process of stability and good-neighbourly co-operation in the region, like in the Balkans, with the contribution of all the Caucasian states. Turkey, therefore, supports all efforts aiming at finding just and viable solutions to the conflicts in the region, through peaceful means and on the basis of principles of international law, such as territorial integrity and inviolability of internationally recognised borders. At this juncture, I would like to reiterate our hope that a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the withdrawal of all occupying forces from the territories of Azerbaijan will be facilitated by both countries' membership to the Council of Europe.
The northern Caucasus continues to bear special attention since the situation there gives concern for the values we all support, as well as the potential for the destabilisation of the whole region. We value the Council of Europe's contribution to a political solution in Chechnya. In this respect, Turkey fully supports the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe's experts at Mr Kalamanov's Office.
We listened with great interest to Mr Zlenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, both here today and yesterday evening at the Secretary General's residence. We welcome his presentation on the current situation in Ukraine. We trust that Ukraine will be able to overcome her present difficulties, in close co-operation with the Council of Europe. We are in favour of providing Ukraine with assistance programmes, as we have opted for in the case of the Action Plan on the freedom of the media in Ukraine.
We welcome the political message on children which shows the commitment of the Council of Europe in providing a better protection to the rights of the child and promoting a child-friendly society. To this end, we support the initiatives mentioned in the message, in particular the proclamation of an annual International Day of the Rights of the Child.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the Latvian Chairmanship for their excellent work during the last six months. I would also like to wish Liechtenstein all the success during its Chairmanship and assure them of our full support.”
Mr PLASKOVITIS (Greece) made the following statement:
“Mr Chairman, as the last national delegation to take the floor I would like to thank you for your patience. It is very appropriate that our agenda at this Session, dealing with the issue of reinforcing democratic stability, should focus especially on the Balkans and the Caucasus.
In the Balkans, I would not exaggerate if I said that what is at stake is nothing less than peace and stability or all-out war and upheaval in our own backyard. Although some of the most difficult problems in the Balkans have not yet been solved, the elements that are indispensable for a viable solution become increasingly clear to see:
First of all, lets face it, there is no such thing, and there can be no such thing, as an ethnically “clean” state. The notion of such a state has been the main cause of some of the greatest tragedies in history. As clearly stated by Minister Anna Lindh on behalf of the European Union's Presidency, the fundamental elements of the solution of the Balkan problem must include respect for human rights and democratic principles, protection of minorities, inviolability of the international borders of the region. Closely linked with those principles is the promotion of a free and open market and the elimination of phenomena of corruption,
through measures of transparency and social justice, that is, through the establishment and strengthening of the rule of law. Greece will be spending more than 470 million US$ on bilateral assistance in the next five years to support social and economic development in the region.
In Albania, the situation has improved in a number of areas compared with the recent past marked by successive political and economic crises. Albania has a share in the responsibility of all the countries of the region to contribute to regional stability and act in a way that promotes good neighbourly relations. The international community, including the Council of Europe, will have an important role to play in the forthcoming general elections. It will have to ensure that the June elections will meet European standards and that the unfortunate phenomena that marred the local elections last October will not be repeated. It should provide all necessary assistance to the Albanian Government with a view to ensuring free and fair elections.
The unstable situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” resulting from the violent acts of Albanian extremists clearly shows the need for a genuine political dialog among all political parties in the country to address the ethnic problems in the spirit of the principles I referred to a minute ago. The encouragement and assistance of the international community, including the Council of Europe, are indispensable in this endeavour. We believe that the recent signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” will prove of great importance both for the latter and for the region.
Greece has always encouraging the process of dialogue and conciliation in this country and has consistently and unequivocally stated her support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. On a bilateral level, Greek investments there have greatly increased, creating more job opportunities for all. In figures, 35 million US$ in investment, creating approximately 5,000 new jobs.
With regard to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the presence of the Council of Europe in Belgrade should be seen as a first step toward admission of that country to our organisation once the necessary legal and institutional reforms have been put in place. We express our solidarity with the democratic government of Mr Koštunica in its efforts to deal with the daunting rehabilitation and democratisation problems facing the country, including their handling of the situation in Presevo.
With respect to Bosnia and Herzegovina we firmly support its independence and sovereignty. The only realistic basis for securing this is the full and constructive implementation of the Dayton Agreement. In this framework we support the continuation of the process for her full membership to the Council of Europe after all basic conditions are met.
Let me now turn briefly to Caucasus, the second region on which we are focusing our discussion, a region of great importance for the international community. Existing conflicts, such as those over Nagorno-Karabakh, in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia, are an obstacle to the full development of the region, which is particularly high in national resources. It is in the common interest not only of the countries directly involved, but also of the rest of the world, that those conflicts, some of which have come to be known as “frozen”, find early and viable solutions.
A significant development, which we trust will have a positive effect on the whole region, was the simultaneous admission of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe last January. Since this is the first Ministerial Session after that, I would like to take the opportunity to extend to both countries, with whom Greece maintains excellent bilateral relations, a most cordial welcome.
Finally, a word on the North Caucasus and Chechnya. We should express our satisfaction at certain positive steps taken by the Russian authorities toward meeting the humanitarian concerns of the international community. Still, a major effort is needed to provide humanitarian assistance to the people in Chechnya and to the refugees living in neighbouring Ingushetia. The position of the international community, and of the Council of Europe in particular, should remain firm: we should keep urging Russia to co-operate with the international organisations active in the field, especially the OSCE, and we should keep encouraging Russia to seek a political solution.
With respect to Ukraine, we understand that the process for full integration of the countries in transition is very difficult indeed, but also very important, particularly regarding the values and principles of the Council of Europe.
We hope and believe that Ukraine will solve by the end of June all outstanding issues mentioned in Recommendation 1513 of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Closing my intervention, dear colleagues, may I conclude with a general remark: It is very important to stress that the implementation of the European Court's judgements should be ensured, by all means at our disposal, particularly (as our colleague from Iceland stressed) through closely monitoring the countries concerned and taking all necessary measures to avoid any delays which undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the Council of Europe.
I wish every success to the incoming presidency of Liechtenstein.”
The CHAIRMAN, before giving the floor to the Secretary General of the OSCE, stressed the excellent relations between the latter and the Council of Europe, recently exemplified by the High Level Meeting held in Bucharest on 11 April, at the invitation of the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office.
The Secretary General of the OSCE made the following statement:
“I would like to confirm that during your Chairmanship we have rather successfully made progress with co-operation between our two Organisations on the level of headquarters, but also in the field, as the Secretary General already stated when reminding the Council about some instances, such as the Balkans. I would like to complement the statement of the Romanian OSCE Chairmanship, by highlighting some points concerning South-Eastern Europe.
Yesterday we heard the call of the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr Lagumdžija, and today proposals of the Secretary General, Mr Schwimmer. Mr Lagumdžija issued a strong call to the international community to take resolute steps against extremists and arrest indicted criminals, such as Karadjič, and to treat Bosnia and Herzegovina's new government as a responsible co-operative partner and intensify co-operation. I will report in Vienna about the meeting and this goal.
On “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the OSCE Permanent Council expressed its position and position of the 55 OSCE countries yesterday on the development in the country and its support for the government. OSCE and its Chairmanship are in close contact with the host country, with the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe and through its mission and Special Representative of the Chairmanship, Mr Frowick, is supporting political processes, interactive dialogue and different measures of democratisation, as well as border monitoring and with the Council of Europe's Secretary General, Mr Schwimmer, we agreed at our successful “2+2”/“3+3” meeting to get together soon to assess jointly how we can assist the developments and processes there.
On Kosovo, I would like to inform you that we, as the Organisation and the Secretariat, are now in the process of taking technical steps in preparation for the elections in Kosovo this year to be ready in case of a political decision which is still not there. And indeed, as it was stressed here in several statements, it should be an action supported by co-ordinated action of the whole international community.
Of course, the OSCE has not only this operation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, we have our mission, which is focusing on the development of programmes and action and activities, again in good touch with the Council of Europe. Specifically, what we are doing now is developing measures to support political processes and negotiations in the South of Serbia by developing certain confidence-building measures and activities, notably in the field of multi-ethnic policing.
On Albania, elections were mentioned and again co-operation of the whole international community was stressed, and indeed it is very crucial that we speak with one voice.
On the Caucasus, again the Romanian Chairmanship has already expressed the position of the OSCE.
On Chechnya, I can confirm that currently the Chairman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Bota, is in Moscow to explore and fix as far as possible modalities and security arrangements which should enable the return of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya. He will also visit Znamenskoye, the seat of our office, which is technically prepared to receive our mission members. I hope that soon we will be able to return to Chechnya and thus complement our activities in support of Mr Kalamanov's Office. As you know, our ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) is co-operating closely with the Office. We have OSCE offices in all three South Caucasus countries and we agreed again with our Council of Europe partners to explore further modalities in areas of our mutual co-operation. This and other questions will be on the agenda of our senior-level staff meeting, which is planned for July this year here in Strasbourg.
Finally, we heard today's statements by Armenia and Azerbaijan and, again, I would like to congratulate both countries for their accession to the Council of Europe. Their statements related to Nagorno-Karabakh. This week an OSCE Minsk Group meeting took place in Vienna to hear from the Chairmanship Co-Chairs of the Minsk Conference about the status of the political negotiations, preparations for the crucial next meeting in Switzerland in June and expectations linked with this meeting after the promising Key West talks.”
Speeches not delivered for lack of time
Mr YIANGOU (Cyprus) requested that the following statement be included in the Minutes:
“I would like at the outset to warmly congratulate you, as the Latvian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers draws to a close, on your important achievements practically in all fields of activity of the Council of Europe. At the same time we do appreciate your initiatives which, we are convinced, will be carried forward by the Liechtenstein Presidency and of course those which will follow.
There is no doubt that peace, security and democratic stability in the Balkans is a sine qua non for peace and stability in Europe. It is our firm belief that peace and stability in the Balkans can only be built on the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and full respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individual, as well as of national minorities scattered in a number of Balkan states. And of course the contribution of the Council of Europe in this respect is definitely extremely important, as these goals can only be achieved through the implementation in practice of the principles and standards of the Council of Europe.
Turning to developments more specifically in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, we would like to take this opportunity to welcome again positive developments in that country and to express our support for the accession of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Council of Europe as soon as the necessary requirements are fulfilled. We would also like to stress once again in this respect our full support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
With regard to developments in Kosovo we do feel that the Council of Europe has an important contribution to make towards implementation of Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council, towards the ultimate target of creating a legal framework within which a multi-ethnic society will be eventually able to function under a substantial degree of autonomy and self-government, within the internationally recognised and secure borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Concerning the situation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” we would like to express our full support to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country within its internationally recognised borders and to condemn recent phenomena of Albanian extremism and ethnic violence in that country. At the same time we do of course support internal efforts for an enhanced dialogue among all the political forces in the country, with a view to ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms to all of its citizens belonging to all the ethnic communities which live in the country, including of course the large Albanian population of that country.
We would also like to avail ourselves of this opportunity to express the view that membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Council of Europe would certainly constitute a very important development in strengthening democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights in that country. It seems, however, that a lot of things remain still to be done until the necessary requirements for becoming a member of the Council of Europe are met. Recent developments in the country seem to suggest that the country has still rather a long way to go towards this desirable direction.
As a final remark with regard to the situation in the Balkans we would like to underline the paramount importance we attach to the necessity that there should be respect for the very basic principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of existing and internationally recognised frontiers, as well as, of course, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in general, if peace and stability are to prevail and hold in this extremely sensitive area of South-Eastern Europe. We do welcome and fully support all the efforts made and the close co-operation of the Council of Europe with other international institutions within the framework of the Stability Pact. We do hope that positive developments in this respect will, at long last, lead to the consolidation of peace, security and stability in the Balkans.
With regard to the other major political subject on our Agenda, Mr Chairman, the situation in the Caucasus, we would like at the outset to register our satisfaction with the historical accession of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe on the 25 January this year. Along with the other member states of the Council of Europe we do also look forward for progress to be achieved towards a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as for progress in democratic reforms in all the states of the region and the solution of ongoing conflicts on the basis of the United Nations Charter and the principles and norms of international law.
We do believe that the Council of Europe has an important role to play in this respect together with the United Nations and the OSCE in a number of fields, including the solution of humanitarian problems such as the refugees' and internally displaced persons' problems.
With regard to the situation in the Chechen Republic, despite the fact that progress has already been achieved towards restoring the rule of law and the reconstruction of democratic institutions, due to the commendable efforts of the Russian Federation, it seems however that a lot still remains to be done. We recognise that the role of the Council of Europe in this respect is of particular importance, especially concerning restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy in Chechnya. It is most encouraging to note that the experts of the Council of Europe on the ground are continuing to fulfil their mandate in close co-operation with the competent Russian Authorities, notably with Mr Kalamanov's Office, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic.
We would like to express the hope that peace, security, the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy, will be restored in this area as soon as possible.
As a Contracting Party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we would like to take this opportunity to join the other member states of the Council in addressing a political message to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on children. We do share the concerns and the aspirations expressed, as well as the undertakings made in this political message. We pledge our full support in attaining these lofty ideas with regard to the promotion and protection of the children's rights to the full extend of our own capabilities.
Turning to the document with regard to the institutional reflections of the Committee of Ministers, we would like to express the hope that they could eventually contribute to the maximum efficiency of the Council of Europe in all spheres of its activity. We have of course to be continuously guided by wisdom and experience.
Before concluding, Mr Chairman, allow me to point to the fact and to underline that promotion, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individual at the European level remains one of the very basic raison d'être of the Council of Europe as a Pan-European organisation. Implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, safeguarding the authority and the credibility of the European Court of Human Rights by ensuring full compliance of the Contracting Parties to the Convention and member states of the Council of Europe to the Court's judgments are still important challenges before all of us.
And it is exactly in this respect that I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to underline, for yet another time, the responsibility of the Committee of Ministers to supervise the execution of the Court's judgments always within the parameters set by the Convention. The fulfilment of this responsibility is of an outmost and fundamental importance for the safeguarding of the authority and the credibility not only of the system established by the European Convention on Human Rights, but, indeed, of the Council of Europe itself. And we do believe that the Committee of Ministers should, at all times, stand up to its obligations and hold firm to the principles, ideals and values on which the Council of Europe is based, in accordance with its own Statute, far from any political expediencies alien to its purposes and principles.”
Mr GUNNLAUGSSON (Iceland) requested that the following statement be included in the Minutes:
“Let me first of all congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on Latvia's successful Chairmanship. I would also like to welcome the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in our midst, who are participating in our meeting for the first time as full members of the Council of Europe. We anticipate fruitful co-operation with both countries within our organisation in an open and constructive spirit. I welcome the ongoing dialogue with both member states since their accession to assist them in honouring their obligations and commitments.
A lasting peace in the Balkans is a key to peace and stability in Europe as well as to democracy and prosperity in the region. This takes a concerted effort by the countries in the area and the international bodies concerned. Membership of the Council of Europe and honouring by all the countries of the commitments to our organization is crucial in this respect. We support an early accession of both Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Council of Europe which would without any doubt foster democratic stability in the region. But let's be absolutely honest and make it clear that both countries must adhere to the democratic standards of our organization and be ready to honour their commitments to the Council of Europe. The accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been on our agenda for quite a while and notwithstanding continuous dialogue there are still obstacles to overcome, one being the completion of the new draft election law.
We should now urge the newly established Parliament and the Council of Ministers to give priority to implementing the required conditions for the accession to the Council of Europe.
I feel that the visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Lagumdžija, will speed up matters and our dialogue with him last night was very constructive to this end.
A significant progress has been made in the co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during a relatively short span of time. The upright and open attitude of the Yugoslav authorities towards the democratic standards of the Council of Europe is to be welcomed.
We must see to it that adequate resources and expertise be allocated to make best use of the Council of Europe assistance programmes to this end.
Montenegro is also very much on the path of democracy which undoubtedly could benefit the stability in the region. We nevertheless urge the authorities to be prudent in their relations with Belgrade in order not to upset a delicate situation. We still believe that the best way forward for Montenegro is to proceed within the Yugoslav Federation.
The further escalation of violence in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” by armed extremist groups supported from outside the country not only represents an unacceptable violation of the territorial integrity of one of our Member States but has resulted in killings of members of the Macedonian security forces. My Government strongly condemns all such actions whose aim seems to be to destabilize security in a multi-ethnic state which had managed to avoid ethnic violence. This country is furthermore pursuing improvements of inter-ethnic relations within its institutional framework which is to be welcomed and supported.
The situation in Chechnya, Russian Federation, still continues to be of great concern. In spite of some positive developments, there still remains much to be done. We stress the need for a political solution of the crisis and the restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy in Chechnya. While appreciating the efforts of the Human Rights office of Mr Kalamanov I would like to stress the effective follow-up by the Russian authorities to applications registered at the Office. I also welcome the action undertaken by the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Gil-Robles, whose important contribution is much appreciated.
I listened with interest to the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and welcome the recent adoption by the Ukrainian parliament of a new criminal code and of a law on political parties.
The Council of Europe should step up its work which is already under way with Ukraine, in particular as regards improving of the media situation in the country. The Council of Europe Action Plan is of significance in this respect and adequate funding for it must be provided. The involvement of the European Union to this end might be worthwhile. A joint European Union-Council of Europe programme might be an ideal solution.
We wish Liechtenstein every success with their Chairmanship during the next six months.”
Mr WAGENMAKERS (Netherlands) requested that the following statement be included in the Minutes:
“The Netherlands welcomed Ukraine as a member of the Council of Europe in 1995. Ukraine' s accession to the Council must be seen as an expression of its wish to enhance its relations with the family of European nations, and to adopt and implement the Council's criteria in the field of democracy, human rights and good governance.
It cannot be denied that Ukraine has made serious efforts towards fulfilling the commitments connected with membership of the Council. This merits recognition, because progress has been made despite difficult political and economic circumstances in Ukraine. The abolition of the death penalty last year was a particularly significant improvement in the human rights situation.
However, a considerable number of commitments remains to be fulfilled. The Netherlands calls on Ukraine to honour its obligations and commitments vis-à-vis the Council of Europe, and to proceed, as soon as possible, with the implementation of the outstanding legislation.
The existence of a climate of political and economic stability is undoubtedly a prerequisite for the necessary legislative improvements. The Netherlands calls on Ukraine to end the present political crisis and to restore an atmosphere of mutual trust between the political forces in the country. The essential first steps are a transparent investigation providing an explanation of the disappearance and murder of the journalist Gongadze and the establishment of a positive environment for the media in general.
Furthermore, the Netherlands considers the continuation of the reforms initiated by former Prime Minister Yushchenko to be essential for the further development of democracy, human rights and civil society in Ukraine. The Netherlands therefore welcomes the statement President Kuchma made on 27 April to the Cabinet of Ministers, namely that the Ukrainian Government will adhere to the policy of political and economic reform.”
Mr RYBICKI (Poland) requested that the following statement be included in the Minutes:
“Situation in the Balkans
Poland supports democratic changes now under way in the Balkans. Poland condemns acts of violence taking place there and calls for resolution of the region's problems by political means. We come down resoundingly on the side of the rule of law, respect for human rights and state frontiers, as well as territorial integrity and sovereignty of political entities. We support the rules governing regional co-operation and European solidarity. In this context one must stress the importance of the presence of the Council of Europe in the region (see the role of the Council of Europe Development Bank) and its co-operation with other international organisations, including those involved in humanitarian actions (UN, OSCE). We further believe local government bodies should be strengthened to enable them to better cope with their tasks.
Poland has assumed its share of responsibility for the stability of the region by joining the peacekeeping operations pursued by KFOR and SFOR. We stand solidly in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The recent developments in that country's area adjoining Kosovo urge dialogue and political solutions as ways out of the present predicament.
We note with satisfaction that Yugoslavia has emerged from its isolation when it joined mechanisms of regional, European and global co-operation. We support the Yugoslav authorities in their pursuit of reform, the rule of law, respect for individual and ethnic minority rights.
Poland welcomes the democratic parliamentary elections in Montenegro. A natural consequence of these should be Montenegro's political dialogue with democratic Serbia. The international community is now awaiting political solutions from the two nations which would enable them to pursue their respective aspirations, with due regard shown for the bonds which hold them together. The leaders of both republics are largely responsible for the stability of South Eastern Europe.
Situation in the Caucasus
Having received with satisfaction the fact of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan joining the Council of Europe, Poland conducts a balanced policy vis-a-vis all states of the region (regular political consultations of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs being one instrument thereof).
Our country has been consistently supportive of democratisation processes in the region and encouraging Caucasian states' closer contacts with European and Euro-Atlantic structures. We are all for the region's stability achieved by way of peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Poland was a co-sponsor of the resolution on Chechnya, adopted on 19 April by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. In Poland's opinion, the Russian Government must get every encouragement aimed at peaceful resolution of the crisis. While acknowledging the Russian Federation's right to safeguard its territorial integrity, we are of the opinion that cessation of violence and inducing the warring parties to start negotiations is a priority objective. Of paramount importance is the question of respect for human rights in the area in question. It is essential that the authorities of the Russian Federation provide protection to the refugees while ensuring organisations delivering humanitarian aid and committed to defending human rights the freedom of movement within and access to the territory of the Republic of Chechnya. The work of the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Human Rights and Civil Freedoms in Chechnya merits particular attention.
The political message on children
The political message addressed to all those due to attend the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled to be held in New York in September merits support, with special thanks due to the editors of the document. The latter, drafted in accordance with the guidelines of the 1990 World Summit for Children, salutes the United Nations Organisation – UNICEF first and foremost – for its performance in defence of the rights of the child and calls for a child-friendly society and full rights and freedoms for children. The massage heralds specific actions to be taken in defence of the rights of the child. The Council of Europe should make every effort to help carry these rights into life.
Institutional reform – Committee of Ministers
Iceland, Ireland and Italy have during their respective Presidencies focused a lot of attention on increasing the efficiency of the Committee of Ministers, and one must show them appreciation for that. For instance, it is thanks to Italy's effort that an ad hoc working group (GT-REF.INST) for institutional reform was set up. Its main proposal to hold one formal session of the Committee in Strasbourg in November merits serious consideration, however further reflection and analysis of modalities seems necessary (A second session – preferably organised on thematic lines – would be held at the country holding the next Presidency. A successful self-promotion of the country in question and the use of the media to highlight the presence of the Council of Europe are strong arguments in favour of such a solution).
In the context of the improved efficiency of the Committee of Ministers one must lay stress on enhanced work coordination involving the Secretary General and his office, the Parliamentary Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights as well as the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe. It is necessary to improve the Council of Europe's presence on the ground (one must underline in this connection the role played by the diplomatic missions of the state holding the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers). Greater publicity should by all means be given to the activities of the Committee of Ministers.
The Polish delegation would like to congratulate Latvia on its excellent work as Chair of the Committee of Ministers during the last six months, as well as extend the best wishes for the incoming Chairmanship of Liechtenstein.”
Mr JOSEPH (Switzerland) asked for the following statement to be included in the minutes:
“On a general note, Switzerland is delighted to see growing co-operation among the international community in meeting current challenges and encourages the Council of Europe to continue and further co-operation with other international organisations.
Switzerland is paying very close attention to the situation in South-East Europe, where it is striving - with substantial resources and in close co-operation with the populations and authorities concerned - to forge multi-ethnic, peaceful societies that respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Swiss Government has great respect for the Council of Europe's contribution to peace, security and stability in the Balkans, which is essential to respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the region.
This contribution takes place, in particular, in the context of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, by which Switzerland sets great store and to which it contributes substantial resources. It is particularly happy to contribute to the Council of Europe's efforts, especially in the area of protection for minorities. The pact is based on a regional approach that should enable the countries and populations in the region to take control of their destiny again in a constructive manner. This is what makes it original and worthwhile. Its efforts to strengthen regional co-operation, which are essential in addition - and not as an alternative - to those of the countries in the region, are a long-term undertaking. It is therefore important that all the states involved, and primarily those in the region, should continue to make a determined effort to ensure its success.
In the long term, real peace can only be based on the human rights of every individual, the development of democratic institutions, the introduction of the rule of law and good governance.
In the face of the use of violence by extremist groups - which Switzerland most strongly condemns - the authorities must adopt a measured response with due respect for the civilian populations and seek political solutions to the conflicts. In particular, Switzerland encourages the authorities of “the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia” to pursue the inter-ethnic dialogue they rightly opted for. It likewise encourages the Yugoslav authorities to continue negotiations with Albanian representatives in southern Serbia.
The Swiss Government welcomes the applications for Council of Europe membership from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which it sees as a sign that their governments wish to join greater Europe and conform to its common standards. It will lend every support to the efforts these countries make to this end. Improvements in the workings of the joint institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the co-operation of that country and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with the international tribunal for former Yugoslavia will be very important assessment criteria in this connection.
The Caucasus has also come to the attention of the Council of Europe. Switzerland is still alarmed at the situation in the southern Caucasus because of the large number of conflicts that have still not been settled and the constant tension resulting from the conflict in Chechnya. Switzerland is particularly concerned about the situation facing displaced persons and
refugees throughout the region. This constant source of tension is a considerable obstacle to the region's economic development and political transition.
There have nevertheless been positive developments, the most important ones being the simultaneous accession of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001 and the continued regular contacts between Presidents Aliev and Kocharian. Switzerland welcomes these developments and is ready to support the efforts of these two new member states to settle the disputes, which are a legacy of their history. This dialogue should also help to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and make for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
It is now important to build on the impetus resulting from the accession of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe and ensure that our Organisation co-operates with them as much as possible. Switzerland expects this new impetus to strengthen links between the two countries and between the Caucasus and European countries generally. In addition, this would help improve respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights in the region. Switzerland is pleased to have been able to help launch the Council of Europe STAGE cultural policy project in the southern Caucasus countries and to be able to help set up Council of Europe assistance projects for these countries by seconding someone to the secretariat.
As for the northern Caucasus, the situation in the Chechen Republic (Russian Federation) continues to give cause for concern. The fate of the civilian population, the lack of safeguards for the rule of law and the absence of any prospect of dialogue show how much still needs to be done. The Council of Europe should continue and, indeed, step up its efforts through the presence of its experts in Mr Kalamanov's office. International and Russian humanitarian aid must get through to the civilian population. Switzerland, which condemns all terrorist acts, would reaffirm the urgent need to seek a political solution to the conflict. Such a solution must entail negotiation efforts with due respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. In this connection, it is desirable that the OSCE's assistance group return to Chechnya; this would help to improve the situation.
Switzerland welcomes the efforts made to reinstate the judiciary in Chechnya. This is an important step towards the restoration of the rule of law and the protection of human rights. The perpetrators of violations of human rights and humanitarian international law must be prosecuted and punished.
Lastly, Switzerland would stress the importance of economic and social reconstruction in Chechnya, the aim being to restore normal living conditions and allow refugees and displaced persons to return home.”
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows :
“We have had a most useful discussion on these two substantial political items of our agenda which were also prepared by our informal meeting last night at the Secretary General's Residence, as well as item 2 of our agenda.
In view of the time factor, I do not now intend to sum up. However, we will be returning to these questions in the context of the adoption of our Communiqué.”
ITEM 5: THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD - ADOPTION OF A POLITICAL MESSAGE FROM THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“Can we adopt the political message from the Committee of Ministers on this subject, contained in document CM(2001)71?
I see that we can.
I would like to thank our Deputies, and in particular Ambassador Kiliç, Permanent Representative of Turkey, who chaired the Rapporteur Group which prepared this message.”
ITEM 6: INSTITUTIONAL REFLECTIONS OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS - APPROVAL OF A SYNOPTIC DOCUMENT
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“Can we give our approval to the synoptic document taking stock of the institutional reflections of the Committee of Ministers for the past two years, as it appears in document CM(2001)72?
I see that I can.
I would add that these reflections result from a joint initiative of the Latvian Chair and of the preceding Italian Chair, which I would like to thank for launching this important process of reflection, which will continue.”
ITEM 7: OTHER BUSINESS
ITEM 8: ADOPTION OF THE FINAL COMMUNIQUé OF THE SESSION
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“The draft Communiqué covers the main conclusions of the Session on the basis of the text prepared by the Deputies' drafting Committee, which I would like to thank for its work. I invite the Ministers to adopt it.”
Mr OSKANIAN (Armenia) made the following statement:
“It is Armenia's understanding that all Helsinki Final Act principles, including the right to self-determination of people, have equal weight and application under international law.
Furthermore, Armenia will continue to refrain from granting recognition to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity until the final resolution of the OSCE mediated Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“I note that we have adopted the draft Communiqué with the addition of a footnote to paragraph two, first sentence, stating that:
“One delegation said that it accepted this sentence on the understanding that there was no hierarchy between the principles of international law referred to, whether these are explicitly mentioned or not. That delegation made a statement in this respect, which is reproduced in the minutes of the meeting.”
A second text, established under the responsibility of the Chair, deals with the other aspects of the Session, and more generally with the state of the Council of Europe at the end of the Latvian Chairmanship. (“Conclusions of the Chair” are set out in document CM(2001)63 final). I invite Ministers to take note of it.
I see that we do so.
Both texts will be made public and distributed to the press at the close of the Session.”
[The Final Communiqué and the Conclusions of the Chair are reproduced in Appendices 2 and 3 respectively.]
ITEM 9: DATE OF THE NEXT SESSION
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“It is proposed that the 109th Session be held in Strasbourg on 7 and 8 November 2001.
I note that we agree.”
CONCLUSION OF THE SESSION
Mr WALCH (Liechtenstein), as Vice-Chairman, congratulated the Chairman on Latvia's achievements over the last six months, also thanking him for his leadership during the Session which was coming to a close.
The CHAIRMAN spoke as follows:
“It has been a long and intensive Session and I thank you for your participation. It has also been a long six months for me personally as your Chairman-in-Office, but these six months have also been very rewarding for me and for Latvia.
I end my term as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers with the confidence that I have fulfilled my duties as best as I could. I am also fully aware that much remains to be done both in the short- and long-term.
This afternoon my colleague from Liechtenstein will present the programme of his country's presidency. I am confident that the incoming presidency will be most capable and dynamic and I can already now assure the full support of Latvia to its efforts.
He will, I know, be able to count on the tireless, and often imaginative, help of the Secretary General and his staff. And on this subject, I would like to seize the opportunity to express sincere thanks, on behalf of us all, to a highly-distinguished staff member, Hans-Peter Furrer, the Secretary General's Special Envoy on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a candidate country high on our agenda today. He has given our Organisation talented, devoted and energetic service over a 35-year-career. He will be taking his retirement before our next Session and has made an outstanding contribution to our ever-wider European family.
With this I declare closed the 108th Session.” (1.20 p.m.)
1. Adoption of the agenda
2. Secretary General's proposals arising out of the Ministers' informal meeting on 10 May 2001
3. The Council of Europe and reinforcement of democratic stability in the Balkans
4. Situation in the Caucasus and the contribution of the Council of Europe
5. The rights of the child - Adoption of a political message from the Committee of Ministers to the General Assembly of the United Nations
6. Institutional reflections of the Committee of Ministers - Approval of a synoptic document
7. Other business
8. Adoption of the Final Communiqué of the Session
9. Date of the next Session
“Peace, security and democratic stability in the Balkans and in the Caucasus: the Council of Europe's contribution”
1. At its 108th Session, the Committee of Ministers, under the Chairmanship of Mr Indulis Bērziņš, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, focussed its discussion on the situation in the Balkans before turning its attention to the Caucasus. The Ministers noted certain positive developments and underlined the need for more. They stressed their determination to secure acceptance and application at Pan-European level, of the fundamental values of the Council of Europe which could facilitate -in close co-operation with other international organisations, in particular the European Union, the OSCE and the United Nations- the search for solutions to on-going conflicts.
2. The Ministers reaffirmed their support for the respect for internationally recognised borders, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States throughout Europe, as well as for the other principles of international law set out in the United Nations Charter, the CSCE Helsinki Final Act and other relevant texts1. They strongly condemned all forms of terrorism and ethnically motivated violence and referred to the Committee of Ministers' intention to discuss possible intensification of international action against terrorism. They expressed their deep concern at the suffering of refugees, as well as at the fate of internally displaced and missing persons.
3. The Ministers encouraged the countries of the Caucasus to continue and intensify their efforts to achieve greater co-operation within their region. The experience acquired in South East Europe could be useful in this respect.
A. The Council of Europe and democratic stability in the Balkans
4. The Ministers noted some problem areas in the region, notably in and around “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, as well as encouraging developments. In this context, they expressed their hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would soon meet the criteria for membership and be able to join the Council of Europe which would contribute to the stability of the region.
5. The Ministers invited the newly established Parliament and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina to accelerate the implementation of the required conditions for the accession to the Council of Europe, in particular the strengthening of the central state institutions and the adoption of the necessary legislation, including a permanent electoral law, in accordance with the Dayton/Paris Agreement. They expressed the view that the membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Council of Europe would be of vital importance for the strengthening of democracy, rule of law and the consolidation of the parliamentary and governmental institutions in the country. They expressed their full support for the measures taken by High Representative Petritsch.
6. The Ministers called on the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to pursue their efforts to implement the commitments which were accepted by all candidate countries so that democracy, the rule of law and human rights, including those of national minorities, are fully respected. They also called for the formal abolition of the death penalty. The Ministers stressed the need for full co-operation with the International Tribunal in The Hague (ICTY). All indicted persons must be held accountable for their acts. The arrest of Slobodan Milosevic by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was an important step in that direction. The Ministers also welcomed the release of a considerable number of imprisoned Kosovo Albanian political prisoners in Serbia and expressed their hope that the remaining cases would be reviewed as rapidly as possible. That would constitute another confidence-building measure, conducive to a reduction of tensions.
7. The Ministers expressed their support for a democratic Montenegro within a democratic Yugoslavia. They urged the new Montenegrin Government to resume the dialogue with Belgrade without delay, aiming at an agreed redefinition of federal relations, according to democratic principles and in a way that will contribute to the stability of the region.
8. With regard to Kosovo, the Ministers stressed the Council of Europe's continuing contribution to full implementation of Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council. The Council of Europe could once again, at the request of the United Nations and of the OSCE, envisage playing an important role in the voters' registration process and the observation of the Kosovo-wide elections, which Mr Hans Haekkerup, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), intends to hold, later this year, once the necessary conditions, including a comprehensive legal framework, are in place and security is assured. They expressed the hope that all communities would register and take part in these elections.
9. Concerning “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the Ministers condemned once again the renewed violent actions by armed Albanian extremist groups threatening the stability of the country. They strongly reaffirmed their support for the territorial integrity of the country, which is a member State of the Council of Europe. The Ministers expressed support for the proportionate response that the country's government has taken so far in dealing with extremist violence and underlined the need for this approach to prevail.
They expressed concern at the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence from whatever quarter. In this connection, they gave their full backing to the efforts of the main political forces which have undertaken to form an enlarged government coalition comprising all the parties present in the Parliament.
10. Still referring to the continuing need for productive dialogue, the Ministers furthermore welcomed the establishment, under the leadership of President Trajkovski, of an institutional mechanism for enhanced dialogue, within which an all party Europe Committee was set up with a view to pursuing the necessary political, legal and economic reforms to ensure that all citizens irrespective of their ethnic origins feel they have a stake in the country's development. In this context, the Council of Europe stands ready to provide assistance.
11. The Ministers stressed the Council of Europe's continuing contribution to implementing the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. They welcomed the positive developments on the co-operation between the participating countries in the framework of the Stability Pact as well as in that of the South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP), and other regional organisations, strengthening peace, democracy, regional co-operation and economic development of the area and enhancing European integration.
B. Situation in the Caucasus and the contribution of the Council of Europe
12. The Ministers welcomed the presence of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as full members of the Council of Europe. They called on both countries to pursue the democratic reforms and meet the commitments accepted in the context of their accession. They confirmed their expectation that the accession of the two countries would create a climate of confidence and reconciliation and encouraged them to develop co-operation projects in the framework of the programmes of the Council of Europe, to refrain from introducing elements of enmity and to concentrate on the future. They welcomed the Secretary General's initiative to have three eminent legal experts look into the cases of alleged political prisoners and they looked forward to the results of the mission. The Ministers also looked forward in this context to progress of the OSCE Minsk Process towards settlement of the conflict involving these two new members. They stressed that the solution of this conflict will contribute to respect of human rights, democratic stability and the rule of law in the whole Caucasus region.
13. With regard to Georgia, the Ministers encouraged this country to continue on the path of democratic reforms and implement the commitments undertaken in the context of its accession to the Council of Europe. They expressed their willingness to further support ongoing efforts of the United Nations and the OSCE as regards peaceful resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict and the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, as well as the efforts of the United Nations to elaborate a document on the distribution of constitutional competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi. The Ministers also assessed positively the active role of the Venice Commission to assist in these efforts through legal expertise.
14. They welcomed the holding of the third meeting on confidence-building measures between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, held in Yalta, Ukraine, and the resumption of dialogue between them.
15. Concerning the Chechen Republic, Russian Federation, the Ministers recalled that they continued to give high priority to contributing, in close consultation with the Russian Federation, as well as with the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the interested international partners, to the respect for human rights, democracy and the restoration of the rule of law in Chechnya, facilitating a political solution to the crisis.
16. The Ministers shared serious concern about the situation in the Chechen Republic and, while expressing appreciation for measures undertaken by the Federal Authorities in the field of legal and administrative structures and economic and social reconstruction to improve this situation, they stressed the need for more rapid progress in combating violations of human rights, in the restoration of the rule of law and in political-economic reconstruction. The Ministers condemned all terrorist activities and attacks in particular against civilians, as well as the use of landmines and other devices causing widespread civilian casualties, and called for the immediate release of all hostages.
17. The Ministers noted with satisfaction the continuing restoration of the judiciary in the Chechen Republic, as well as the prolongation of the mandate of the Council of Europe experts in the Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for human and civil rights and freedoms in the Chechen Republic, Mr Kalamanov, up to 4 October 2001.
18. They agreed that a more effective follow-up should be given to the applications concerning alleged crimes and human rights violations. In this connection, they welcomed the creation of a Joint Working Group between Mr Kalamanov's Office and the General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, in co-operation with the Military Prosecutor.
19. The Ministers also welcomed the setting up by the Parliamentary Assembly and the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, of a Joint Working Group on Chechnya which held its first meeting in Moscow on 21 to 22 March 2001.
20. They further underlined the importance of an immediate return of the OSCE Assistance Group to the Chechen Republic.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE CHAIR
1. The Committee of Ministers held its 108th Session in Strasbourg on 10 and 11 May 2001 under the chairmanship of Indulis Bērziņš, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia.
2. The Ministers first focussed their attention on the theme "The Council of Europe and democratic stability in the Balkans". This question was central to discussions at the informal ministerial meeting held on 10 May at the Secretary General's invitation and was one of the two major political issues on the agenda for the formal Session on 11 May. The Ministers discussed in particular the situation in "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and prospects for the early accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Council of Europe bearing in mind democratic stability in the region. In this context, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zlatko Lagumdžija, was the Secretary General's guest on 10 May.
3. The other major political matter dealt with during the 108th Session of the Committee of Ministers was "The situation in the Caucasus and the contribution of the Council of Europe". On this subject, the Ministers discussed the dialogue currently under way within the Committee with Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning the honouring of commitments entered into by these two countries in the context of their accession to the Council of Europe, the situation in Georgia, and the co-operation with the Russian Federation with regard to the restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy in the Chechen Republic.
4. The key conclusions of the Session concerning these two political themes are reproduced in the Communiqué which the Ministers adopted at the end of their discussions.
5. At the beginning of their formal Session, the Ministers took note of specific proposals by the Secretary General resulting from the informal ministerial meeting as regards Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine, and invited their Deputies to further examine them.
6. During the Session the Ministers also:
- adopted a political message on the rights of the child, which will be submitted as a Council of Europe contribution to the special session on children of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 19-21 September 2001);
- approved a synoptic document prepared by their Deputies at the initiative of the Latvian Chair and the previous Italian Chair, summarising the institutional reflections of the Committee of Ministers over the past two years.
These two documents were made public at the close of the Session.
7. Lastly, the 108th Session provided the Ministers with an opportunity to take stock of the main developments at the Council of Europe in the recent months. In particular, the Ministers:
- bearing in mind Recommendation 1513 on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Ukraine adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 26 April 2001, and in the light of the information given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the developments in his country, called for a substantial increase in co-operation between the Council of Europe and Ukraine. Rapid implementation of the action plan concerning the media should, in particular, permit the improvement of the legislative framework in conformity with Council of Europe standards and foster the development of free, independent and pluralist media;
- expressed satisfaction at the follow-up action to the decision taken at their previous Session, which made it possible for Armenia and Azerbaijan to join the Council of Europe on 25 January 2001, and underlined their determination to pursue the dialogue with the two new member states to assist them in honouring their commitments;
- noted Georgia's concern about the unilateral introduction of a simplified visa regime with separatist regions (Abkhasia, Georgia and Tskhinvali Region) and its consequences for the integrity and stability of a Council of Europe's member State;
- referring to the conclusions contained in the Final Communiqué, encouraged the Parliamentary Assembly actively to continue examining the membership applications of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, so as to adopt opinions thereon in due time;
- noted that the Parliamentary Assembly was continuing its examination of Monaco's membership application and voiced the hope that the necessary progress could be made;
- indicated their appreciation of the results of the high-level meetings held by the Council of Europe with its two main partners in the building of Europe, namely the European Union (Strasbourg, 3 April) and the OSCE (Bucharest, 11 April). In this respect, bearing in mind the positive impact of the “Common Catalogue of Co-operation Modalities” signed last year by the Council of Europe and the OSCE, the Ministers expressed their conviction that the signature of the Joint Declaration on Partnership and Co-operation between the European Commission and the Council of Europe would give new impetus to joint activities and projects. They referred in particular to recently concluded programmes concerning Moldova, the North Caucasus (Russian Federation), reform of the judicial and legal system in Albania and media in Serbia (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), as well as proposals for new initiatives, in particular for South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), the Russian Federation (possible global programme) and freedom of the media in Ukraine;
- in this context, in the light of the exchange of views held between the Deputies and the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities on 28 March, stressed the excellent co-operation which has existed with Mr Max van der Stoel throughout his nine-year term of office, and their confidence that co-operation will continue on the same basis with his successor, Mr Rolf Ekeus;
- expressed their support to the activities of the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, in the light of the first annual report - covering the period from October 1999 to March 2001 - submitted by the Commissioner to the Committee of Ministers and to the Parliamentary Assembly. In this context, the Ministers more particularly highlighted the three visits by the Commissioner to Russia and Chechnya and his report on his visit to Spain, especially the Basque country, in February 2001;
- were pleased to note the entry into force on 1 March 2001 of the additional protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, prohibiting the cloning of human beings, as well as the progress made in the preparation of the draft protocol to the same convention on the transplantation of organs and tissues of human origin and of the draft convention on cybercrime, on which the Assembly has just adopted its opinions;
- expressed their appreciation of the first results achieved in the implementation of Resolution (2000) 2 on the Council of Europe's information strategy, one year after its adoption. The Ministers particularly expressed support for the new policy on access to documents adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 20 December 2000, and for the current effort to extend this policy to the organisation as a whole;
- welcomed the initiatives taken by the Latvian Chairmanship to enhance the cultural dimension of the building of Europe (through the closing conference of the “Europe, a Common Heritage” campaign and the international conference on less widely used European languages, held in Riga on 9 December 2000 and on 20-21 April 2001 respectively) and to strengthen co-operation on local democracy (through the seminar on “Local and regional democracy at the dawn of the 21st century”, held in Riga on 3-4 May 2001, and the link established between the seminar and the Committee of Ministers' local democracy monitoring exercise);
- noted with interest the holding in Strasbourg on 17 and 18 April of the first in a series of three round table sessions on European identity intended to culminate - following an initiative of the Secretary General in co-operation with the Latvian Chairmanship and the future Chairmanships of Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Luxembourg - in the definition of the fundamental elements of a European political identity, formalised in a Declaration.
8. At the close of the Session, in the afternoon of 11 May, the new Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Ernst Walch, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, presented the programme for Liechtenstein's chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers to the Ministers' Deputies.
9. The Ministers decided to hold their 109th Session in Strasbourg on 7 and 8 November 2001.