Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland’s State of the Council of Europe speech to the Assembly
Strasbourg, 23 January 2012 - In his State of the Council of Europe speech to the Parliamentary Assembly today, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland pointed to key achievements in 2011 and challenges facing the Organisation in 2012 and beyond. He said that reforms have made the Council of Europe flexible and reactive, able to offer assistance where and when it is needed, and that its convention based and non-politicised approach is the only way to help member states move forward.
Speaking about Hungary, Jagland said that he had received a positive reply from Foreign Minister Martonyi to his offer of dialogue with the Council of Europe, and he pointed to the close partnership that has been built with the EU.
With bilateral co-operation priorities in place with Morocco and Tunisia, consultations have begun with Jordan, and Jagland said he saw potential to use Council of Europe instruments to build confidence between Israel and Palestine.
The Secretary General said that member states are convinced that the Council of Europe is providing value for money. Their growing trust in the Organisation’s capacity to deliver had allowed it to maintain a zero-real growth budget despite budgetary constraints and severe cuts in public spending in member states. Indeed, voluntary contributions from member states in 2011, and total receipts from the EU had increased significantly.
Jagland said that the outlook for Europe in 2012 was not rosy and that the European integration project would continue to be sorely tested, with “Renationalisation“ of European politics still a tangible threat. “We know from the past that nationalism always comes from something bad and always leads to something even worse,” he said.
Jagland said that democracies are under stress from new technological and economic forces and growing populist tendencies, and it is therefore important to insist upon compliance with democratic norms and values. He said that in many parts of Europe, these are under serious threat.
Jagland identified free and fair elections, freedom of media, and an independent and effective judicial system as the three groups of issues on which the Organisation should focus in 2012 and beyond, as well as reform of the Court, and EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.