Speech by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
to the Parliamentary Assembly, September 21, 1999
For the second time, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, I have the honour of presenting the Committee's activities to the Parliamentary
Assembly. When I made my first statement to you, the international agenda was dominated by the political settlement of the conflict in Kosovo and
the prospects this opened up for the development and stability of the whole of Southeast Europe.
Kosovo, Southeast Europe
This issue is still the major item of current political concern to the Council of Europe. As you know,
the Council is working on two parallel fronts, namely its contribution to the implementation of UN
Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo, and its participation in the joint efforts by the
international community to promote the development and stability of the whole of South-East Europe.
Implementation of the Council of Europe's Stability Programme for South-East Europe, approved at
the 104th session of the Committee of Ministers in Budapest, continued actively throughout the
summer. In addition, the Council has continued to play its role as a full participant in the Stability Pact
for South-East Europe launched by the European Union in Cologne. At your suggestion, I participated
in the Sarajevo Summit for stability in the Balkans. In the Summit Declaration, the participants stressed
the important role played by the Council of Europe in the implementation of the pact. In this
connection, consultations are in progress between the Council of Europe and the OSCE on the setting
up of a rotating chairmanship for "Working Table No.1" (democratisation and human rights). In my
statement at the Summit, I mentioned the leading role played by the Assembly in the transnational
promotion of democracy.
Regarding the Council's contribution to the implementation of UN Resolution 1244, the Committee of
Ministers has given the Secretariat its full backing to follow up the planning and implementation of a
series of proposals. These include expert advice with regard to the applicable law and the reforms
needed to ensure that the domestic legal system in Kosovo is brought into line with the Council of
Europe's basic texts (in particular the European Convention on Human Rights) The Council is also
providing help with restructuring and reforming the judicial system, the setting up and operation of
local authorities, the protection of minorities, the situation of women (especially those who have been
subjected to violence), and psychological assistance for child victims of the conflict.
In the last few weeks, the need for a stronger Council of Europe presence in the region has been felt
even more keenly. The Committee of Ministers has been active in this area. The mandate of the office
in Mostar been extended until the end of the year. In addition a Council of Europe office has been
operational in Pristina since 23 August. With regard to the setting up of an office in Belgrade, no
decision has been taken yet. This question has to be considered in the wider context of the
development of the situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Council's relations with
Belgrade. In my view the return to normal life in Yugoslavia must go hand in hand with the application
of the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. We must be ready to help in this process of
normalisation. This will mean at some point a Council of Europe presence in Belgrade.
The Council of Europe has always been firmly convinced that the Serbian people has a role to play as
a full participant, alongside the other European peoples, in the building of Greater Europe, and it has
always stated its readiness to provide whatever assistance is needed to attain this common objective.
These clear statements are more valid today than ever before, and will be translated into action as soon
as developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia permit.
As our new Secretary General has emphasised, the enlargement of the Council of Europe to include
those European countries which are not yet members is a challenge both for the Organisation and for
the countries in question. The Committee of Ministers is following very closely the discussions which
are currently in progress in the Assembly committees responsible for considering the membership
applications of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Monaco.
The Committee of Ministers is also addressing the issue of relations between the Council of Europe
and Belarus. The full resumption of relations between the Council and the authorities in Minsk
depends above all on the Belarusian leaders' willingness to anchor their country in the system of
shared values of the Council of Europe member states. This is the message which our Deputies will be
giving to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus in the discussion which they will shortly
be holding with him in Strasbourg.
However, neither the enlargement which has already taken place nor that which is to come will be
fully successful unless the parallel process, namely the consolidation of the Council, is also carried
through to a successful conclusion.
Implementation of decisions
First of all, consolidation depends on our ability to implement the decisions we have taken on priorities
and to honour the commitments which we have given "to each other, to the Council of Europe and to
With this in mind, the Committee of Ministers has continued to place the emphasis on implementation
of the Strasbourg Summit action plan and on follow-up to the Budapest Declaration. In this
connection, I should like to mention in particular:
- the administrative and budgetary arrangements made so that the future Council of Europe
Commissioner for Human Rights is able to take up his or her duties on 1 January 2000;
- the launch of the "Europe, a common heritage" campaign. In accordance with the wishes of
the Heads of State and Government, this campaign will involve numerous initiatives between
now and autumn 2000 to alert the media and the European general public to the importance of
the cultural and natural heritage shared by all Europeans;
- the Council of Europe's action programme against corruption is continuing with the adoption
of the Civil Law Convention on Corruption, which, for the first time at international level, lays
down common rules for the award of compensation to victims of corruption. This convention
will be opened for signature on 4 November, on the occasion of the 105th session of the
Committee of Ministers. The threat posed to democracy by corruption in many European
countries is becoming increasingly worrying. Combating this threat and supporting the rule of
law must therefore be one of the priorities of the Council. Success here is directly linked to
stability and peace in Europe.
- lastly, in relation to the follow up of decisions already taken, the structural reform of the
Council of Europe is under way, in accordance with the guidelines approved by the
Committee of Ministers in Budapest. I am confident that the wish expressed by the Ministers
in Budapest can be complied with, namely to have a final report on implementation of the
structural reform by spring 2000 at the latest.
Supervision of the Convention
The second aspect of the consolidation process is of a judicial nature. Over its 50 year history, the
Council of Europe has acquired undisputed authority in the main area of responsibility assigned to it
by its founders, namely the promotion of pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of
law throughout the continent. The Committee of Ministers continues to work purposefully and
ambitiously to ensure that all the decisions taken under the Convention's supervision system are put
At your last session I was asked about three cases in particular. I can inform you that as to the
"Loizidou against Turkey" case, I expect to receive in the next few days a reply to my letter to my
Turkish colleague on this matter. The Committee of Ministers will take into account any reply in
deciding further measures. As to the "Socialist Party and others" case, we have welcomed the release
of Mr Perinçek at the beginning of August. Turkey has declared its readiness to take several general
measures. Lastly, as regards the "Hakkar" case, the Committee of Ministers will have to continue its
discussions with the French authorities so that a solution in keeping with its own decision can be
Co-operation with other bodies
The third aspect of the consolidation process which I referred to earlier concerns the strengthening of
co-operation between the main organisations working to shape the European continent. As you know,
the Icelandic Chair has put particular emphasis on co-operation between the Council of Europe and
the European Union, and between the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The "quadripartite" meeting
with the European Union will take place here on 6 October. I have proposed that the issue of the EU
Charter of Fundamental Rights be on the agenda. The "2+2" meeting with the OSCE will be in Berlin
on 20 October. There will also be a joint meeting at high official level between the Council of Europe
and the OSCE in Vienna in two weeks' time. The Council will be participating in the OSCE conference
in Istanbul. Later this week I shall take advantage of the statement which I shall be making to the UN
General Assembly to outline our Organisation's activities, about which too little is known in New York.
In the international context, I should mention that the Committee of Ministers adopted last week a
declaration on East Timor.
Council of Europe resources
The fourth and last aspect which I should like to mention is one on which the efforts I have made as
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers have not been fully rewarded: I am referring, of course, to the
strengthening of the Council of Europe's resources. At your last meeting I made it clear that the
Council of Europe needs extra funds to carry out its important priority work. There are many other
member states of the same opinion. However, there are a number of countries which wish to maintain
zero growth. I see it as the responsibility of the Committee of Ministers to ensure that at least the
priorities we all agreed on in Budapest are adequately funded. Within a provisional budget ceiling of
1,046 (one thousand and forty-six million francs) million FFr., the Committee of Ministers is working
hard to find reallocations or alternative means of funding to achieve these objectives. This will not be
easy, to put it mildly.
Before concluding, I would just like to inform you that I will be visiting Ukraine on 18 and 19 October
with the Secretary General.
Finally, Mr President,
The future role of the Council of Europe
The change of Secretary General is an important moment for the Council of Europe. Following his
official visit to Iceland and my contacts with him, I am very pleased to express my strong confidence
in Mr Schwimmer. I would like to take this opportunity to wish him well as he guides the Council of
Europe into the 21st century.
But the new Secretary-General faces a considerable challenge. I have become aware during my period
as chairman that many member states prefer to deal with issues in other forums, such as the EU or the
OSCE, rather than in the Council of Europe, even when they are issues on which the Council has
undisputed expertise. This fact is illustrated by the struggle we had in Sarejevo to get one sentence on
the Council of Europe into the declaration. If this continues, the position of the Council will, I fear, be
progressively weakened. It is for the member states to decide on what role they really want the
Council of Europe to fulfil. A strong Council of Europe with a well recognised role will be a stronger
partner for other organisations in the European architecture. One further observation on this subject
concerns the UN. I note that the UN Secretary General has recently written a report on creating a
culture of prevention in which he points out that our political and organisational cultures remain
oriented far more towards reaction than prevention. I do not need to tell you that prevention is at the
centre of the Council of Europe's approach.
Mr President, I would like to thank you for the positive spirit of co-operation between the Committee
of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. I have personally enjoyed and valued my opportunities
to address this body. I look forward to answering your questions.
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