Secretary General
Secretary General Jagland welcomes Geneva agreement on Ukraine

 Strasbourg, 17 April 2014 -  Statement of Secretary General Jagland on the Geneva agreement of the European Union, the United States, Ukraine and the Russian Federation:


"The Council of Europe welcomes the Geneva agreement on Ukraine. All parties should now refrain from violence and engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine needs a comprehensive and inclusive constitutional reform process. We have agreed with the Ukrainian authorities to provide our expertise towards the necessary democratic and judicial reforms. All 47 Council of Europe member states support this approach."

Committee of Ministers
Committee of Ministers deeply concerned at situation in Eastern Ukraine, expresses full support to Geneva Contact Group meeting

Strasbourg, 16.04.2014 – Council of Europe member States today expressed their full support to the four-party Contact Group meeting to be held in Geneva on 17 April 2014, and reiterated their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and their respect for international law and the territorial integrity, unity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

Expressing deep concern at recent acts of violence and the occupation of administrative buildings in Eastern Ukraine, the Ministers’ Deputies called on all parties urgently to take steps to reduce tensions and engage without delay in dialogue for a peaceful and negotiated settlement.

The Deputies underlined the importance of inclusive preparation of free Presidential elections, scheduled for 25 May 2014, and called on all Ukrainian political forces to participate.

The Deputies reiterated their support to initiatives taken by the Ukrainian authorities to consolidate the functioning of democratic institutions, the protection of human rights and the rule of law, and welcomed recent contacts with the Council of Europe.

The Ministers’ Deputies welcomed the holding of the first meeting of the International Advisory Panel on investigations in Ukraine on 9 to 11 April 2014, and the Venice Commission visit to Ukraine on 15 April 2014 to provide assistance for reforms, in particular regarding the Constitution.

Full text of the decision

Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)
Council of Europe encourages Denmark to further develop its tools for preventing corruption

Strasbourg, 16.04.2014 – Danish measures to prevent corruption among members of parliament, judges and prosecutors appear to be quite effective in practice. However, the current system based on trust might not always provide sufficient safeguards against corruption risks in the future.

These are the main findings of an evaluation report published today by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

The report notes that Denmark has traditionally been considered one of the least corrupt countries in Europe and that perceptions of corruption among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors are relatively low. However, there is still room for improvement – particularly with regard to conflicts of interest among parliamentarians.

GRECO therefore recommends drawing up a code of conduct for parliamentarians, as well as further developing the rules on conflicts of interest and declarations of assets. (more...)

See also:
Denmark and the Council of Europe


Secretary General
Secretary General Jagland statement on Ukraine clashes

Strasbourg, 13.04.2014 - Reacting to the situation in Ukraine, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland released the following statement:


"I am deeply concerned by reports of violent clashes in Ukraine today. I call on all parties in Ukraine to refrain from violence and to engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine's international partners should support the country to find solutions leading to peace and stability."

Read also:
International Advisory Panel on Ukraine investigations meets for the first time at the Council of Europe
Ukraine and the Council of Europe

Parliamentary Assembly
PACE: the illegal annexation of Crimea has no legal effect and is not recognised by the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 09.04.2014 – “The so-called referendum” in Crimea was unconstitutional. Its outcome and “the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation therefore have no legal effect and are not recognised by the Council of Europe”, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) stated today in an resolution adopted at the end of an urgent debate.

The parliamentarians said that none of the arguments used by the Russian Federation to justify its actions hold true to facts and evidence. “The drive for secession and integration into the Russian Federation was instigated and incited by the Russian authorities, under the cover of a military intervention”, the resolution underlined, while recommending that the signatories of the Budapest Agreement, as well as other relevant European States, “explore the possibility for tangible security agreements to ensure Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The Assembly fully recognised the legitimacy of the new authorities in Kyiv and the Verkovna Rada, “as well as the legality of their decisions” and regretted attempts to question the legitimacy of the new authorities, “which can only serve to destabilise the country”. (more...)

Video of the debate

Video of the speech of the Secretary General, Mr Jagland

Read also: Ukraine and the Council of Europe

Council of Europe
Council of Europe launches a human rights guide for internet users

Strasbourg, 17.04.2014 – The Council of Europe today launched a guide for internet users to help them better understand their human rights online and what they can do when these rights are challenged.

The creation of the Guide was triggered by the need to empower users to exercise their human rights online. Generally, their rights are set out in the terms of service of Internet companies, which are mostly lengthy legal contractual conditions which are seldom read and even more seldom fully understood.

The Guide focuses on the human rights on which the internet has most impact: access and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and information, freedom of assembly, association and participation, privacy and data protection, education and literacy, protection of children and young people, and the right to effective remedies for violations of human rights.

Adopted by the Committee of Ministers representing the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, it is based on the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, and on other Council of Europe conventions and legal texts.

Welcoming the Guide’s adoption, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: “Governments, private companies and other actors have a duty to respect human rights offline and online. We will work with them to apply the guide, and to ensure that internet users have access to effective remedies when they believe their rights have been restricted or violated.”

The Guide was developed with broad multi-stakeholder consultation with governments, private companies, in particular telecommunication and online service providers, civil society organisations, and representatives of the technical community and academia.

Press release

Secretary General
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland: “Europe in biggest human rights crisis since Cold War”

Strasbourg, 16 April, 2014 - Serious human rights violations including corruption, human trafficking, racism and discrimination persist across Europe, according to a new report by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. Unemployment and poverty in many countries are nurturing extremism and conflicts. The report represents the first consolidated analysis of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe, based on the findings of the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies.

Referring to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, Mr Jagland warned of the risk of similar conflicts erupting in Europe: “The lack of democratic checks and balances, free media and an independent judiciary caused widespread corruption and misuse of power”. The Secretary General called on member states to comply fully with the European Convention on Human Rights:

“I urge member states to stop the erosion of fundamental rights and adopt further reforms of Europe’s unique Convention system. Europe needs a new pan-European security agenda which must include the protection of the rule of law and democratic principles. Together, we need to put Europe back on the path of unity and co-operation, based on common values, standards and legal obligations”, said the Secretary General.

The report, which makes a series of recommendations on how the organisation can provide more rapid and effective assistance to its 47 member states, will be discussed at the meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Foreign Ministers on 6 May in Vienna.

Expressing his concern over current outbreaks of violence in eastern Ukraine, Mr Jagland said: “I call on all parties in Ukraine to stop the escalation of violence and engage in political negotiations about the future of the nation. Ukraine’s international partners should support the country to find solutions leading to peace and stability”.

Report by the Secretary General

Press release

Secretary General
International Advisory Panel on Ukraine concludes first working session. Next meeting scheduled 5-7 May 2014
Mr Anpilogov, Sir Bratza, Mr Butkevych and Mr Jagland

Strasbourg, 15.04.2014 - The first working session of the International Advisory Panel on Ukraine took place at the Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg, from 9 to 11 April 2014. The International Advisory Panel (IAP) was initiated in December 2013 by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. With the appointment of its Members, the IAP was constituted in early April 2014. Its purpose is to oversee that the investigations of the violent incidents which have taken place in Ukraine from 30 November 2013 onwards meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Members of the panel are:
- Sir Nicolas Bratza, Chairman, former President of the European Court of Human Rights
- Mr Volodymyr Butkevych, former Judge of the European Court of Human Rights
- Mr Oleg Anpilogov, member of the Kharkiv Regional Council, former prosecutor.

The members of the Panel concluded their first session was “positive and constructive”. They expressed their appreciation to the Council of Europe for facilitating the meeting. The Panel will communicate information on the scope of its work at a later date.

Press release

Parliamentary Assembly
Parliamentary Assembly suspends voting rights of Russian delegation, excludes it from leading bodies

Strasbourg, 10 April 2014 – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), declaring that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was “in clear contradiction with the Statute of the Council of Europe” and the commitments Russia made when it joined the organisation in 1996, has decided to suspend the voting rights of the Russian delegation, as well as its right to be represented in the Assembly’s leading bodies, and its right to participate in election observation missions, effective until the end of the 2014 session (26 January 2015).

In a resolution adopted by 145 votes in favour, 21 against and 22 abstentions, after a three-hour debate, the Assembly said the military occupation of Ukrainian territory, threat of military force, recognition of the illegal so-called referendum and annexation of Crimea “constitute, beyond any doubt, a grave violation of international law”.

The resolution, based on a report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), reads: “In consequence, in order to mark its condemnation and disapproval of the Russian Federation’s actions with regard to Ukraine, the Assembly resolves to suspend the following rights of the delegation of the Russian Federation until the end of the 2014 session:

• voting rights;
• right to be represented in the Bureau of the Assembly, the Presidential Committee, and the Standing Committee;
• right to participate in election observation missions.” (more...)

Video recording of the debate

Adopted PACE Resolution

Press release

Parliamentary Assembly
Austrian president urges caution on vote over PACE’s Russian delegation powers
Austrian president Heinz Fischer

Strasbourg, 09.04.2014 - Just one day before the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is to consider a report on the powers of its Russian delegation, Austrian President Heinz Fischer told assembled members that “dialogue is the only way” to deal with the conflict. “It is fairly easy to close doors, but once they are shut, it is far more difficult to open them again,” he said.

Mr. Fischer said that he agrees with the assessment of the Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts the Venice Commission that “actions taken by Russia have been and continue to be in breach of international law”. He said that “further steps taken by Russia to destabilize Ukraine would be unacceptable”.

But he also called on Council of Europe member states to take into consideration the “historical background” of the crisis, respecting concerns of “all countries” involved. “It should not be a matter of drawing this large and important country [Ukraine] into one camp or an opposing camp, either to the EU or to the Russian Federation,” Mr. Fischer stressed.

The Austrian President praised the role of the Council of Europe as an essential multilateral institution that has proven to be an important basis for peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War, which – he noted – began almost 75 years ago. (more...)

Speech [de]
Video of the speech

See also:
Austria and the Council of Europe


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