The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, welcomes the democratic reforms announced by President Medvedev and offers assistance with their implementation. "The measures announced by President Medvedev are important steps towards strengthening Russian democracy. The proposals to simplify rules to register political parties and reintroduce direct elections of regional leaders correspond to the commitments Russia made when joining the Council of Europe," he said.
"It is the sovereign right of Member States to choose their electoral systems as long as they comply with European democratic standards. With its non-political legal expertise, the Council of Europe can offer advice on constitutional and democratic issues. We are ready to support the Russian authorities," he added.
Regarding the demonstrations announced for Saturday, the Secretary General said: "I also welcome President Medvedev's reaffirmation of Russia's commitment to human rights, including the right to take part in peaceful demonstrations. I call on both authorities and protestors to act responsibly during demonstrations tomorrow."
Russia and Council of Europe
"Without people like Vaclav Havel, Europe today would be a very different place. As an author, dissident and statesman he always remained faithful to the values of a free and tolerant society. He did not only believe in these principles, he fought for them and made them happen. On this very sad day I should like to express my deepest respect for his artistic and political legacy. My thoughts are with his wife and family, and I should like to express my deepest condolence to the people of the Czech Republic. Today Europe mourns one of its giants."
Ahead of International Human Rights Day, Thorbjørn Jagland warned that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Europeans continue to face discrimination in many parts of the continent.
“Homosexuality has been decriminalised all over Europe, but prejudice and hypocrisy still exist towards LGBT persons in Europe. Recently, discriminatory laws have been proposed or even adopted, in member states such as in Lithuania, Ukraine and in some regions of the Russian Federation. This is a violation of basic human rights and a set back to the progress we have achieved in promoting and protecting human dignity,” he said.
“European governments as well as political and moral leaders know that the European Convention on Human Rights does not allow for persecution on the grounds of sexual identity. My message on this year’s International Human Rights Day is to always remember this, and to bear in mind that human rights are for all or they are for none.”
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland today made the following statement: “I urge the Belarus authorities not to carry out the death sentences pronounced today against Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou. The crime they were found guilty of was barbaric, but their punishment should not be the same. Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes people and I would urge the authorities to introduce an immediate moratorium with a view to its ultimate abolition. The victims of the 11 April attack and their families deserve justive, not revenge".
“Religion can be a powerful and positive force for social cohesion, allowing communities of different origins to work for the common good, in line with their belief”, said Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, during his opening speech at the Abbaye de Neumunster in Luxembourg. The event, organised by the Committee of Ministers, at the invitation of the Luxembourg government, gathers representatives of religious communities, together with media professionals as well as experts, academics, NGOs operators, and representatives of international organisations.. (more...)
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé for bilateral consultations on Wednesday in Paris. Topics of discussion included the reform of the European Court of Human Rights, the developments to southern Mediterranean countries and the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights.
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
France and the Council of Europe
European Court of Human Rights
EU accession to European Convention on Human Rights
Council of Europe and Arab Spring
By invitation of the Turkish Ministry of Justice the Secretary General participated in a conference entitled "Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning Turkey: Difficulties and Suggestions for Solutions". The conference addressed a range of issues including the high number of cases pending against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights concerning freedom of expression. Jagland told journalists: “Media freedom is evidently a problem. The situation gives rise to concern. But I have witnessed today the strong political will in Turkey to address the issue by changing legislation and practice. I welcome the government's constructive approach". The Secretary General met Prime Minister Erdogan for bilateral consultations after the conference.
Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland welcomed the participation of non governmental organisations (NGO) from some 40 countries – including North African nations in the midst of the Arab Spring – on how to make the Council of Europe’s Living Together report reality. Over the two day gathering, participants compared efforts to promote diversity and freedom in different countries, although they lamented budget cuts induced by the worsening Euro-crisis and noted examples of increasing discrimination and the rise of the right wing. Mr. Jagland said "civil society groups are among the key players in turning the debate into concrete action."
More information on the event
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague today stressed the determination and political commitment of his government to drive forward essential reforms of the Court of Human Rights during the British chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
Speaking shortly before the official handover from present chair Ukraine, Mr Hague said that human rights were central to UK foreign policy and an overarching theme for the chairmanship. The UK – a founding party to the European Convention on Human Rights - would broker a wide consensus on reform of the Court of Human Rights. (more...)
Priorities of the UK Chairmanship
Committee of Ministers website
Press stand-up - video recording
"Europe is a place where nations, cultures and people meet and mix and this constitutes our true identity", has said today Thorbjørn Jagland in a key-note speech at the prestigious Leiden University, during his first official visit to the Netherlands. The Secretary General met with the Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, with the Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Willem Opstelten, and with the Minister of Education, Culture & Science, Marja van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart. Meetings at the Parliament with the PACE delegation, and at the Senate were also part of the programme.
Talks focused on Human Rights policies, on the reform of the Court, and on the European Union accession to the European Convention of Human Rights. The role of the Council of Europe in the Neighbourhood Policy has also been highlighted.
Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland
The Netherlands and the Council of Europe
In London today for talks with the UK government ahead of its chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General met with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He also met the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, Foreign Office Minister for Europe, David Lidington and members of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.
Discussions concentrated on reform of the European Court of Human Rights which is one of the UK's priorities. The UK takes over the chairmanship for six months on 7 November; the government is due to publish its chairmanship programme tomorrow.
Thorbjørn Jagland welcomed participants in the Lipetsk-Strasbourg international cycle race this afternoon at the finish line in Strasbourg, as they arrived from their 3500 km race from Russia, across Belarus, Poland and Germany. The Secretary General described the event, labelled "Europe without barriers and borders!” as “a test of outstanding determination and enormous courage”. (more...)
“Countries are running a high risk of seriously undermining the European model of social cohesion”, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland warned when talking about the present financial crisis in his address to the Forum for the Future of Democracy on 13 October . He also stressed that the Council of Europe can make an important contribution to issues of social cohesion in a social rights and human rights perspective, in particular relating to youth, ageing, inter-generational solidarity, migration, education and the fight against extremism and hate speech.
The Forum for the Future of Democracy, which took place on 13 and 14 October in Limassol, focused on the close connection between democracy and social cohesion, with involment of countries from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region.
Forum for the Future of Democracy 2011
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is making his first official visit to Astana for meetings with the President of Kazakhstan, the Speaker of the Majilis (Lower House) of the Parliament, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Constitutional Council, Prosecutor General, Foreign Minister as well as other Ministers. The visit provided a good opportunity to give a new impetus to the relations between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Council of Europe, intensifying the mutual relationship beyond the already fruitful cooperation and institutional relations with the PACE and the Venice Commission towards a more advanced cooperation in a number of areas mutually agreed by the two sides. (more...)
Reacting to the verdict in the trial against the former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland said: “In a democracy, judgment about political decisions should be left to the parliament and to voters, not to courts. I hope that the recently proposed changes to the criminal code in Ukraine will make such trials impossible in the future."
Ukraine and the Council of Europe
Read also: Assembly co-rapporteurs express concern at Tymoshenko sentence
In a letter to the Serbian President Boris Tadic, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, requests clarification on what measures the Serbian authorities are planning to undertake to guarantee the freedom of assembly and association for all groups of society.
- Letter to the Serbian President Boris Tadic
In New York this week to attend the UN General Assembly, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland discussed the Palestinian membership bid with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, who will address the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg in two weeks. (more...)
Speech - Ministerial Meeting of the "Group of Friends" - Alliance of Civilizations
"As Secretary General of the Council of Europe I appeal to the competent US authorities to find a way to spare the life of Troy Davis, scheduled to be executed tomorrow. The reason is not only our disagreement over capital punishment, but first and foremost the serious doubts which persist about the integrity of the conviction. I hope this appeal will not be perceived as outside interference. Europe is a close ally and a friend of the United States of America, and at moments like this true friends are the ones who speak out, with the respect and honesty that our relationship deserves, " said Jagland. (more...)
“I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Ankara and Siirt yesterday. Terrorism is a crime. It's an attack on our common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We must combine our efforts to bring an end to these acts of violence", declared Thorbjørn Jagland.
Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, is today making his first official visit to Warsaw for meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radoslaw Sikorski, the Minister of Justice, Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, and the Speaker of the Sejm, Grzegorz Schetyna.
Mr Jagland will also attend the conference on the role of the Council of Europe and the European Union with regard to the current global challenges. The conference is organised jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland and the Council of Europe Office in Warsaw to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Poland's membership in the Council of Europe.
''The use of death penalty bears the risk of making an irrepairable mistake'', Thorbjørn Jagland expressed his concern about the pending execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, USA. In his letter to the Chairman of the State of Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, he asks to stop the execution of Mr Troy and grant him clemency. Secretary General stresses the Council of Europe’s unequivocal opposition to death penalty. (more…)
Yesterday the Secretary General received the French Minister responsible for European Affairs, Jean Leonetti. On that occasion the Minister confirmed France’s undertaking to support the organisation in Strasbourg of an International Forum for Democracy to be held in October 2012. France will contribute to the event at the rate of 50 000 euros. (more...)
See Secretary General's photo gallery
Further to his letter addressed to Prime Minister Berisha on 10 June, Thorbjørn Jagland has now written to the President of the Venice Commission requesting an opinion on possible improvements to be made to the Albanian electoral legislation. This would involve a visit to Albania during the autumn, in view of the adoption of the opinion in December.
In his reaction to the recent events in Kosovo, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: "I deplore the violent events in the north of Kosovo and casualties they provoked.
There is no place for violence in the European project which can only be based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. I urge all parties to call for moderation and restraint, and to resume peaceful dialogue".
My feelings of sympathy go out to the victims of the tragic events which have shaken my home country of Norway. The attacks were aimed at the heart of our democratic institutions and our open and peaceful nation. It appears the attack on the Utoya youth camp was intended to hurt young citizens who actively engage in our democratic and political society. But we must not be intimidated. We need to work for freedom and democracy every day. The Oslo bombing has reminded Europeans of the acute threat of terrorism which can strike out at innocent citizens anywhere. The Council of Europe will do all it can to combat terrorism together with its international partners.
The arrest of Goran Hadžic, the last remaining fugitive indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, following the arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic last May, is a highly symbolic moment for the history of Serbia and for the whole region. It is an important step in the fight against impunity and essential for reconciliation in the region. The Council of Europe believes that all war crimes committed during this painful period of recent European history should be fully investigated and prosecuted.
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met today with the Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Vincenzo Scotti, at the Farnesina in Rome. The meeting focused on the reform of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. Mr. Jagland also exchanged views with Luigi Vitali, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Delegation of Italy to PACE.
At a press briefing Secretary General presented the Eminent Persons' report "Living Together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe”, with the participation of Emma Bonino.
Reacting to recent allegations of telephone-hacking by journalists in the UK, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland issued the following statement: "Telephone-hacking is a crime. In times of cut-throat competition in the media sector, journalists and editors must act responsibly, strengthen their self-regulation, and respect citizens' right to privacy. He added that governments need to act resolutely to fight and to prevent violations of this fundamental right, whilst actively protecting and promoting freedom of speech.
"As the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, I am particularly concerned by recent allegations of serious violations. The Council of Europe will work closely with governments to update and strengthen the European Convention on Data Protection," Thorbjørn Jagland said. (more...)
Thorbjørn Jagland, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko and Catherine Ashton met in Strasbourg earlier this week to discuss a number of issues of common interest. Topics included recent developments in the southern Mediterranean, the situation in the western Balkans and in Belarus.
Kostyantyn Gryshchenko is Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Catherine Ashton is the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice-President of the European Commission.
Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland said today in an interview with Ria Novosti that he welcomed the decision in the State Duma to postpone the examination of the draft constitutional law which would allow the Russian Constitutional court to decide whether the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights should be executed.
“This draft constitutional law would affect the protection of the human rights of Russian citizens, and is a question which must be discussed thoroughly. The Council of Europe is ready to offer advice in this debate, if requested by the State Duma” said the Secretary General.
In an interview to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the Secretary General today reacted to the news about a draft constitutional law proposed by the Senator Torshin to the Russian Parliament. The law, if adopted, would allow the Russian Constitutional courts to decide whether the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights should be executed.
The Secretary General said that he was very concerned about this development, and was in contact with the Russian authorities. “I take this very seriously”, he continued, “but I trust that there will be a thorough debate before any decision is taken as there could be serious consequences both for the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe. I have full confidence that this will be handled in a responsible way by the Russian State Duma. I do not feel that it is necessary to comment further at this stage”.
“High ethical standards of those in power are essential to protecting human rights and developing prosperous democracies,” Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland told the opening session of the Council of Europe Summer University. His message was echoed by Rafaa Ben Achour, Delegate Minister to the Prime Minister of the new interim government of Tunisia. Achour said that ethics, and their place in the new democracy, are central to a number of key questions now facing his country. Tunisia is now faced with a crisis of conscience about what constitutes democracy following a revolution with a strong ethical basis. (more...)
Speech by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland
Today the Council of Europe and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn. The Memorandum of Understanding defines shared objectives and values, in particular the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and creates a framework for strengthening and further developing the existing cooperation between the two organizations. In the media field, these objectives translate into action to promote media freedom and pluralism in order to preserve media’s vital role in democracy. (more...)
In a letter to Prime Minister Berisha, Thorbjørn Jagland expressed his concern about the situation which followed the recent elections in Albania, and in particular the controversy related to the election of the mayor of Tirana. The Secretary General called for a genuine dialogue between Albanian political leaders, in order to overcome the political deadlock by respecting the rule of law and democratic principles. He also expressed his intention to ask the Venice commission for an opinion on how to avoid similar situations in future elections.
Read the letter
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today met with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign Office in London. Mr Hague and Mr Jagland agreed on the need for reform of the Council of Europe, and in particular reform of the European Court of Human Rights, which will be a priority of the UK chairmanship beginning in November. Both emphasised the importance of EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. (more ...)
Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, met today with the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, to discuss co-operation between the Council of Europe and Tajikistan. They agreed on continued dialogue in the framework of the Council of Europe policy on relations with countries in Europe’s neighbourhood. The dialogue, including at parliamentary level, will deal with a number of human rights issues - notably the protection of national minorities, but also the building of democratic institutions in Tajikistan and countering threats such as trafficking in human beings, terrorism and cybercrime. (more ...)
During a press briefing, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today informed journalists that he has appointed Gérard Stoudmann as his Special Envoy to assess the situation of media freedom in Turkey, following an invitation made by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in April. (more ...)
Following the news of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, wanted on charges for war crimes, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: "The arrest of Ratko Mladic will help to close a dark chapter in the history of the Balkans. It will open the way for reconciliation in the region, and help all countries to focus on their European future. Therefore this is also good news for the people of Serbia. At the same time, my thoughts today go out to the victims of Srebrenica.” (more ...)
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met the Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany, Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, for talks in Berlin on 23 May. The main points of the discussion were international efforts to fight terrorism and crime, in particular cybercrime, and intergration policies in Europe.
In his speech to the First Petersburg International Legal Forum, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland called for an important reform of the Russian legal system. “A large part of cases concerning Russia which are before the European Court of Human Rights are appeals to decisions taken by the regional courts of some 80 federal entities of the Russian Federation. In my view, a final national decision in a huge country like Russia should necessarily be delivered by a supreme national judicial instance at the federal level, be it a Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court”, said Jagland. (more ...)
Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland
'We need active and strong political commitment by all member states to ensure the successful accession of the European Union to the European Convention of Human Rights'', said Thorbjørn Jagland on a recent visit to Stockholm, where he discussed the accession, the Group of Eminent Persons report, multiculturalism, the Roma issue and the human rights situation in Sweden, with Integration Minister, Erik Ullenhag. (more ...)
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland adds his voice to those of other international partners in their call for self-restraint and full respect of the democratic process, with regard to the growing tensions in Albania following the local elections. ''I urge all political leaders to find a way out of the current crisis, in full respect of the legal and institutional framework and to avoid further escalation of tension. Albanians deserve better'', he said in a statement published today. (more ...)
Albania and the Council of Europe
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland met today with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss current political issues. Addressing the ongoing negotiations on the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, Jagland underlined the historical importance of bringing together under the same system of legally binding standards and under the same Court all major powers in Europe. (more ...)
Secretary General condemns the sentence of 5 years imprisonment handed down to former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, as well as the jail terms handed down to opposition activists in Belarus. ''The imposition of such harsh and politically driven sentences is a clear signal of the government's refusal to commit itself to upholding basic democratic standards and fundamental human rights'', he added. (more ...)
The Council of Europe Group of Eminent Persons noted recently that LGBT persons face deeply rooted prejudice, hostility and widespread discrimination all over Europe, stresses Thorbjørn Jagland in his statement published on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. ''Today, I call on European citizens, governments and national human rights structures to move from discussing this urgent issue to start acting to end discrimination of LGBT people'', he said. (more ...)
''The news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, confirmed by US President Obama today, is certainly an important step in the international efforts in fighting terrorism. It is of immense symbolic significance. However, as recent events have shown, the threat of terrorism remains acute today and the Council of Europe is dedicated to combatting terrorism together with its Member States'', said Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in his statement published on 2 May. (more ...)
The Council of Europe is holding a series of events in Brussels to highlight the organisation’s changing role in today’s Europe. Highlights will include high-level meetings between Thorbjørn Jagland and senior EU officials, signature of a cooperation agreement with EEA and Norway Grants, and Commissioner Hammarberg’s participation at the Media Freedom Lecture on Access to Official Documents (more ...)
In a statement released after last night's violent clash between members of a paramilitary ''civil guard'' organisation and local Roma people in the Hungarian village of Gyöngyöspata, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland recalled the duty of all member states to protect the life and property of each individual. In recent weeks Hungarian Roma had suffered intimidation and harassment by a so-called ''civil guard'' organisation. (more...)
President Yanukovich and Secretary general Jagland discussed the priorities of the upcoming Ukrainian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and the assistance the Council of Europe will continue to provide to help Ukraine meet the obligations arising from Council of Europe membership. Thorbjørn Jagland used the example of the Chernobyl catastrophe to illustrate the importance of a functioning system of checks and balances, including a free and independent media, to maintain democratic control over the administration. The Secretary General also met with Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Mr Volodymyr Lytvyn. (more ...)
More information on Ukraine and the Council of Europe
Aimed at speeding up international efforts to fight terrorism, the three-day meeting will bring together international, regional and subregional organisations, on 19-21 April in Strasbourg. Chairman of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland opened the meeting. Secretary General stressed that the Council of Europe’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights is key in its approach to fighting terrorism. (more ...)
More information on the meeting - UN website
Video of the opening session
Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland on 13 April agreed to a proposal of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inviting the Council of Europe to send an envoy to assess the situation of media freedom in Turkey. ''I will send a special representative as soon as possible. This envoy will report back to me so that we can make an assessment of the situation. This is a constructive approach and a move forward in discussion about media freedom in Turkey'', Jagland said. Prime Minister Erdogan made the proposal to send an envoy to Turkey in his speech to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on 13 April.
Preventing money-laundering is a key battle in the campaign to ''counter and defeat threats to the rule of law,'' Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has declared. Speaking on 13 April at a meeting of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (MONEYVAL), the Secretary General highlighted the importance of the committee’s work. (more ...)
In a statement on 12 April, the Secretary General called for improved co-operation to manage the on-going migration flows from northern Africa. “I am concerned about the lack of co-operation in Europe which is endangering respect of human rights. Europe should be co-ordinated, efficient and swift in its response. The Council of Europe can assist member States to establish adequate reception procedures and train immigration and legal officials. Migrants and asylum seekers, especially children, are often very vulnerable and should not suffer lengthy periods of uncertainty, insecurity and detention. Governments should help each other in through the current crisis”. The Secretary General will propose specific measures to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers next week.
"I condemn outright the horrific bomb attack at the October Square metro station in Minsk yesterday, which took the lives of many innocent people and injured many more, and I extend my sympathies to the Belarusian people and to the families of the wounded and dead. Such a cowardly crime against an innocent civilian population must not go unpunished; the perpetrators must be caught and brought to trial.”, declared Thorbjørn Jagland. (more ...)
Thorbjørn Jagland called on Delegates to the Assembly to play their part in the Council of Europe’s political reform to make the whole Organisation more politically relevant, effective and influential. He said that the Organisation was now quicker and more focused in its response to external and internal challenges facing Europe. The offer of relevant Council of Europe expertise to the Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian authorities in the wake of events there, and proposals to address the possible massive arrival of asylum seekers and migrants in member States showed this. (more ...)
''I support the Congress’ orientation on refocusing its priorities to centre on monitoring local and regional democracy, promoting human rights, fostering good democratic governance and responding to major challenges for local and regional communities,'' stated Thorbjørn Jagland on 23 March. (more ...)
In a letter to President Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Thorbjørn Jagland expressed his concerns about the respect for the pluralism of political debate, freedom of expression, and freedom of association in the country. He called for a change to the very restrictive approach to the freedom of Assembly, following the number of recent arrests prior to the demonstrations held in Baku on 11 and 12 March. (more ...)
In his letter sent on 14 March to the Prime Minister of Japan, Secretary General expressed his condolences and solidarity with the people of Japan after the tragic loss of countless human lives following the earthquake and the devastating tsunami which struck Japan last Friday. ''I am deeply shocked by the reports and images presented, and I would like to assure you of our support to the people of Japan in the efforts to overcome the unimaginable challenges posed by such a terrible situation'', he wrote in the letter. (more ...)
''We must use the second decade of the 21st century to make equality between men and women a reality'', said Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. ''Equality in professional and political life is essential to equality and respect in the private sphere''. Highlighting three key areas of concern, the Secretary General stressed the need for equal pay for work of equal value; for increased political participation of women; and for ending once and for all violence against women. (more ...)
Thorbjørn Jagland met on 8 March in Strasbourg with Italian Minister of Justice Angelino Alfano. The meeting focused on the Reform of the Council of Europe and on the European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. In relation to recent developments in the southern Mediterranean, the Secretary General highlighted that the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and North-South Centre could provide assistance. (more ...)
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, met today in Brussels with EU Vice-President and High Representative Catherine Ashton.
The meeting focused on recent developments in the Southern Mediterranean, including Tunisia and Morocco. Minister Davutoglu and the Secretary General, who recently conducted a joint visit to Tunisia, underlined the need for increased coordination of the efforts made by the international community. ''I very much welcome the new initiative taken by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to take the lead in ensuring effective coordination of the international community’s response to recent developments in the Southern Mediterranean'', said Secretary General Jagland. Photo: Catherine Ashton, Ahmet Davutoglu and Thorbjørn Jagland (more ...)
''Europe has one common identity, the one enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights, which remains a fundamental cornerstone of Europe, forming our democracy, developing our societies'', said Thorbjørn Jagland on 1st March in Brussels at the conference ''Shared social responsibility'', in which he participated alongside José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. (more ...)
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is looking forward to strengthened cooperation with Romania and Bulgaria following his talks with senior government officials in both countries.
During his visit to Romania on 21 and 22 February, the Secretary General urged the Romanian authorities to find a speedy solution to the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on restitution and compensation of property nationalised during the communist regime. The Secretary General discussed reforms to the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, enhancing democratic standards and the challenges of multiculturalism. Photo: Thorbjørn Jagland and Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria (more...)
''I am deeply disappointed and concerned by the decision taken on Friday by the Supreme Court of Belarus to confirm yet another death sentence in the country'', said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, on 15 February. ''I note the growing debate on abolition of the death penalty in Belarus, but talk is not enough to pave the way to a moratorium. There is now a need for a genuine political will to turn words into action. Capital punishment has no place in the penal systems of modern societies'', said Mr Jagland. (more ...)
The Secretary General was in Madrid for his first official visit to Spain, from 1 to 2 February. During the visit he discussed with the Spanish authorities relevant issues for the protection of human rights in Europe, such as EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and the situation of the Roma, in particular Spain´s experience in integrating this minority. Other topics discussed were the increasing cultural and religious diversity of European societies and the Council of Europe reform.
Thorbjørn Jagland met with the minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Trinidad Jiménez, the minister of Justice, Francisco Caamaño, and with His Majesty the King Juan Carlos. Also, he gave a lecture on European institutions architecture at the Real Instituto Elcano. Photo: Thorbjørn Jagland with Trinidad Jiménez, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (more ...)
Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has urged lawmakers and representatives of industry and civil society from across the world to take part in the modernisation of the Council of Europe convention on data protection. “The only way to effectively balance freedom of expression and individuals’ right to privacy in the age of the internet is through a legally-binding treaty which is as inclusive and international as possible,” said the Secretary General at a high-level event in Brussels to mark the 30th anniversary of the Council of Europe convention.
Data Protection Day: guaranteeing individuals' privacy rights
''The most recent tragic reminder of the looming and omnipresent terrorist threat happened only a few hours ago at the Moscow airport. Media reports speak of at least thirty persons killed in an explosion apparently caused by a sucide bomber. I should like to use this opportunity to express my sympathy and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the people of the Russian Federation'', Thorbjørn Jagland said in his speech to the Assembly on 24 January. (more ...)
In the framework of Council of Europe - European Union relations, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met today in Strasbourg the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. As part of their regular consultations, the meeting took place on the occasion of the official opening of the European Union Delegation to the Council of Europe: a diplomatic representation which is part of the newly established European External Action Service.
''The Council of Europe and the European Union enjoy close and regular contact, and I welcome this important EU initiative, paving the way towards an ever closer co-operation between the two institutions'', Thorbjørn Jagland said on this occassion. Following the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2007, the Council of Europe and the European Union decided to consider how best to enhance and strengthen their presence in Brussels and Strasbourg respectively.
European External Action Service
Council of Europe Liaison Office to the European Union
The Secretary General made a working visit to Hungary on 14 January, where he met Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs János Martonyi, representing the EU Presidency. They discussed, among other things, progress in EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, Roma and cultural diversity, and the new media law adopted by the Hungarian Parliament. (more ...)
On 13 January, in interviews with media from Italy and Turkey, Thorbjørn Jagland condemned recent attacks on religious groups in various countries around the world. He underlined that both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and that this is a key human right we all must strive to make a reality. . (more ...)