on the occasion of the
third part of the 2011 Ordinary Session
of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
(Strasbourg, 20-24 June 2011)
President, ,Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, allow me to say what a great honour it is for me to address your Assembly today to report on the activities of the Committee of Ministers.
At the end of last month, I had the pleasure to welcoming you in Kyiv and presenting the priorities of our Chairmanship to the meeting of your Standing Committee. However, this is the first time that I am addressing a plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly. It is my personal honour and a very important moment for my country who is chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the first time in its history.
I should like to begin by stating the importance that the Committee of Ministers and our Chairmanship in particular, attaches to the development of constructive cooperation with your Assembly. The reason for this is simple since the deliverable we are working on is the same: tolerant, open and mutually supportive societies based on the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, thriving all over Europe.
Indeed, mutual support is vital for making our activities successful. It is my hope hence that interaction between the intergovernmental and parliamentary branches of the Council of Europe will be continued in the spirit of our Chairmanship’s slogan – “Common values – joint efforts”.
In this context, I appreciate the fact that you yourself, Mr President, recently mentioned that the three main priorities of the Ukrainian Chairmanship coincided exactly with those of your Assembly. I wish to explain today how we actually intend to fulfil them.
First, however, I should emphasize that a Chairmanship does not start from scratch. It builds on the achievements of its predecessors as well as the need to ensure coherence and continuity in the activities of chairmanships.
My country thus intends to continue the work done by the previous chairmanships, particularly the Turkish one, with which our co-operation was excellent. Ukraine also looks forward to working with the forthcoming UK and Albanian chairmanships on our shared priorities. Allow me to underscore that for the first time ever we have managed to reach agreement on the priorities among the three successive chairs. This allows us to suggest that the activities of this Chairmanship will go on beyond its own six-month tenure.
Where reform of the Council of Europe is concerned, the Ukrainian Chairmanship will continue to offer its support to the Secretary General's efforts. The Ministers' Deputies already approved a new structure for the intergovernmental committees as well as crucial changes to the structure of the Secretariat. Both transformations were introduced with the aim of streamlining the work of our Organisation.
Turning more specifically to the priorities of the Ukrainian Chairmanship, the protection of children's rights tops our list and we have already started working in this field.
On 24 and 25 May, Ukraine organised an international conference in Kyiv. Over 150 high-level experts participated in the event. It provided the member States with an opportunity to collect and exchange good practices in the implementation of integrated national strategies to safeguard children’s rights and eliminate violence against children. It also produced a number of highly practical recommendations addressed to local, national and international players.
During our Chairmanship, we will also organise some other events focusing particularly on the health care for children. We will play an active part in starting a consultation process to prepare a new Council of Europe Strategy on the rights of the child for 2012-2015.
As you may know, our second priority area is the promotion of human rights and the rule of law in the context of democracy and stability in Europe. In a declaration issued by Mr Davutoğlu, the outgoing Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, and myself at the end of the Ministerial Session held in Istanbul on 11 May this year, we pointed out that there could be no lasting peace and stability in our countries without respect for the values which are the foundation of the Council of Europe.
In order to help to achieve this vitally important objective, my country intends to emphasise the prevention of human rights violations and the role of higher courts in the protection of human rights.
The strengthening of democratic processes at local and regional levels in Europe is the third and the last of the Ukrainian Chairmanship's priorities. Here, preparations are well under way for a key event – the 17th session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government to be held in Kyiv this November.
I am sure you agree that the recent Ministerial Session in Istanbul was a landmark event for our Organisation. The agenda for the Session included a number of subjects which, as far as I know, are of particular interest to your Assembly.
The first was the future of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Undoubtedly, the Strasbourg Court is a vital part of the human rights protection system in Europe. Its reform is a difficult endeavour but we shall all contribute to it.
In Istanbul, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the first measures taken by the Court to change its procedures in the light of the new provisions of the Convention as amended by Protocol No. 14. However, the Committee also noted that this would not solve all the problems facing the Convention system.
The Committee endorsed the Declaration and Follow-up Plan adopted at the High-Level Conference on the Future of the Court, which took place in Izmir at the end of April. It expressed its determination to give priority to implementing these documents and instructed its Deputies to hold the necessary decisions to this end.
This subject will continue to be given priority on the political schedule of the Committee of Ministers until its next session in May 2012. At that session, the Committee will consider whether additional measures are required, inter alia, through possible amendments to the Convention in order to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of the supervisory mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Another important issue for all of us is accession by the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Ministers' Deputies extended to 31 December 2011 the ad hoc terms of reference given to the Steering Committee for Human Rights with a view to preparation of a legal instrument setting out the arrangements for European Union accession to the Convention. At the same time, they pointed to the importance of finishing this work as soon as possible. The Ukrainian Chairmanship will follow this question attentively and is ready to provide assistance as this major effort is taken to fruition.
The European Union and the Council of Europe have always maintained a longstanding and strategic partnership in promoting shared values of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. I therefore look forward to having a productive discussion with European Commission Vice-President Mrs Catherine Ashton in the first days of July on these issues.
The report by the Group of Eminent Persons, entitled "‘Living Together’: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe", was another highlight of our recent Ministerial Session. This report which advocates the values of respect and mutual understanding as responses to the growing intolerance in our societies was the subject of a rich and lively debate at an informal dinner on the evening before the Session.
I am sure that your debate on this issue will be very informative for as elected representatives in your own constituencies you deal on a daily basis with complex and sensitive issues raised in the report. Your conclusions will fuel the debate at the level of Ministers' Deputies, who are to hold an initial discussion next week on the action to be taken to follow up the report.
The third major issue on the agenda for the Ministerial Session was the Council of Europe's neighbourhood policy. This, of course, was a topical and particularly important matter in light of the upheavals caused since the beginning of the year by the new democratic movements in North Africa and the Middle East.
In this context, the Committee of Ministers took note of the Secretary General's proposals to strengthen relations with the immediate European neighbourhood on the basis of the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Secretary General was invited to develop action plans for the implementation of this policy with a view to their approval by the Committee of Ministers.
Clearly, this is an area in which close links should be maintained with your Assembly, particularly bearing in mind the discussions which you will have on this issue in the next few days, including on the request for "Partner of Democracy" status submitted by the Parliament of Morocco.
Other major political issues will also be given full attention by the Committee of Ministers over the months ahead. The first that I should like to mention to you concerns Belarus.
This is a subject on which the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers think alike. Both agree that support should continue to be given to a rapprochement between the Council of Europe and Belarus.
But, and there is a big one, this engagement can only evolve on the basis of respect for European values and principles. And the first criterion to be met by Belarus is the release of the persons detained following the December 2010 events.
Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers has been endeavouring since last spring to give greater support to civil society in Belarus. It is important for us to continue working together so as to enable the people of Belarus to benefit from closer relations with the Council of Europe.
Ukraine stands ready to offer its good services and facilitate contacts with the authorities in Belarus. In our national capacity we put an emphasis on the “quiet diplomacy” sparing no effort to convince the leadership of this country to return back on the democratic track.
As regards the Transnistrian issue, the Council of Europe is implementing a number of projects to increase confidence between the communities living on the two banks of the Dniester River through activities in the areas of the media, higher education and the development of civil society. In February 2011, the Committee of Ministers approved proposals for new activities which, in addition to the three above-mentioned areas, also include activities to be conducted with human rights protection institutions.
Ukraine as a mediator and guarantor in the Transnistrian conflict settlement within the framework of the existing “5+2” format will actively promote implementation of the Council of Europe programs on Moldova concerning confidence building measures between Chisinau and Tiraspol.
The lack of real progress in forming a central state for Bosnia and Herzegovina, unfortunately, reminds us that more efforts are needed to ensure that this country sets up effective and credible democratic institutions, and continues to implement urgent reforms.
Last month, the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the subject of a highly instructive exchange of views between the Rapporteur Group on Democracy, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union’s Special Representative as well as Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the context of supervision of the execution of the judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sejdic and Finci, the Committee of Ministers yet again had to express regret that no political consensus had been found on the substance of the constitutional and legislative amendments necessary for the execution of the judgment concerned, despite the repeated calls for this made by the Committee for over a year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These are the main areas of work currently on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers, in respect of which the Ukrainian Chairmanship, with the support of all the member states, intends to achieve tangible results. To this end, we strive to maintain a constructive dialogue with your Assembly over the period which lies ahead.
Thank you for your attention. I am at your disposal if you have any questions.