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CoE Reykjavík Summit

The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe will be held in Reykjavík on May 16–17 2023. This is the fourth time in the 74-year history of the organisation that the leaders of the member states meet under the auspices of the Council.

The Summit will reaffirm the principles of the Council of Europe, as well as the Council’s support for Ukraine. The focus will be on strengthening the Council of Europe’s activities with the Council’s core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as the guiding light.

The Icelandic Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs will host the summit. In addition to the Council of Europe’s member states, representatives of the EU, the United Nations and OSCE have been invited to address the summit.

The Council of Europe is Europe’s leading organisation in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The organisation was established after the Second World War with the objective of promoting stability, increasing cooperation on the continent and preventing wars. Iceland became a member of the Council in 1950. There are currently 46 member states and five observer states in the Council of Europe. Every European state except for Belarus, Russia and Kosovo is a member.

Iceland took over the Presidency of the Council of Europe in November 2022 and will hold the position until May 2023. Iceland’s emphases during its Presidency are the Council of Europe’s core values: democracy, the rule of law and human rights, with an additional special focus on the environment, equality and the rights of children and youth.

The Presidency passes from one member state to the next, with each country holding the Presidency for six months. Iceland took over the Presidency from Ireland and will hand it over to Latvia during the May Summit. It is therefore a coincidence that Iceland should hold the Presidency during these turbulent times.


The Summit that will be held in Iceland on May 16–17 is the fourth Summit in the history of the Council of Europe. The last Summit of the Council was held in 2005 in Warsaw, the one before that in Strasbourg in 1997 and the first Summit was held in Vienna in 1993. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine it became clear that cooperation and solidarity within Europe would be under strain. The Council of Europe plays a key role in this mission and the Summit is part of an effort to reinforce the solidarity of the member states and ensure that the Council will be able to continue to promote its core values within the continent, i.e. democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Summit will therefore work towards reinforcing Europe's solidarity with Ukraine and strengthening the pillars of the Council of Europe to promote its core values.

In May of last year, discussions began on whether it was time, in light of the global situation, to convene a Summit of the Council of Europe. Iceland announced that it was prepared to take on the task of hosting the Summit in Reykjavík, should it be requested. A formal decision to hold the Summit in Iceland in May 2023 was taken during the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in November. 

The objective of the Summit is for its conclusions to be genuinely effective for Ukraine and to ensure accountability for the crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine. The aim is to set up a register of damages where all those who have suffered damages and harm due to the invasion can have them recorded and subsequently redressed, as well as to seek ways to make those who have committed crimes in Ukraine accountable for their actions. There is also hope that the Summit will issue clear instructions to the member states on how to promote democracy within the council of Europe’s member states. Additionally, there are expectations that the Summit will mark the beginning of efforts to address various modern challenges, for example concerning human rights, environmental issues, artificial intelligence and digital development.
The leaders of all the Council of Europe member states have been invited to attend the Summit. Representatives of the five observer states, i.e. the USA, the Vatican, Japan, Canada and Mexico, have also been invited to attend the Summit. Additionally, invitations to attend the Summit have been extended to the leaders of the United Nations, OSCE and the European Union, as well as to the heads of all of the Council of Europe’s principal institutions.
The agenda of the Summit is broadly divided into an opening event, roundtable discussions on different subjects relating to the Summit’s outcome document, a working dinner that will be dedicated to Ukraine, and general discussions that will take place the following morning, during which the states will address the Summit. After the end of the discussions, the Presidency of the Council will be handed over to Latvia. At the end of the programme there will be a press conference.

The Summit will have some effects on the daily lives of the inhabitants of the capital area on May 16 and 17. For security reasons, the streets around Harpa Conference Centre will be closed to vehicular traffic during the Summit, but the area will be accessible on foot and by bicycle. Kindly note that restaurants, coffeehouses and museums in downtown Reykjavík will be accessible by foot, except for the ones located around Harpa. 

Additionally, some traffic disruptions can be expected all over the capital area, due to transportation of the delegations to and from Reykjavík airport and Keflavík airport during these days, with the most widespread effects taking place in the afternoon of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Here is a map of the area that will be closed off to vehicle traffic during the Summit.

Map of the area that will be closed off to vehicle traffic during the Summit

More information about the street closures.

Around 900 delegates from abroad are expected in connection with the Summit. Additionally, it is still unclear how many foreign media representatives will arrive to cover the Summit, but they are expected to number between 300 and 500. 



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