Speech by the President of the Assembly at the Ministerial Session in Madrid marking the 60th anniversary of the Organisation, 12 May 2009 (English version)

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen

 

 

I for one believe that the final assessment of the work of our Organisation after 60 years’ existence is extremely positive.

 

In facing the future the Council of Europe must retain its status as the main Organisation responsible for defending democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  However, democracy is not a static concept but is constantly facing new realities and new challenges.  Complex changes are taking place not only in our societies but also on a global scale.  These changes are political, geostrategic, ecological, cultural, economic and financial in nature.  We must respond to them appropriately, while ensuring that, in order to take up these challenges, our democracies do not yield to the temptation of sacrificing some of our values.

 

The Council of Europe’s major strength is its moral force, resulting from a unique combination of shrewd diplomacy and rigorous defence of our values.

 

We have a unique institution to defend our values, namely the European Court of Human Rights, whose efficiency we must take urgent action to protect.  The Parliamentary Assembly recently issued a favourable opinion on the planned Protocol 14 bis to the European Convention on Human Rights, which we hope will be adopted in the very near future.

 

We parliamentarians defend the Council of Europe’s values through dialogue and persuasion.  The governments should bear in mind the Assembly’s potential in this context as a forum for dialogue, with a remit that extends to such complicated cases as the conflict between Georgia and Russia.

 

If we want the Council of Europe to play a meaningful, positive role on the international stage, all its subsidiary bodies must act in perfect harmony.  The Assembly has pronounced on the election procedure for the next Secretary General of the Organisation.  In this connection, it has pointed to the need for genuine dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly.  Dialogue is the only way to guarantee proper institutional balance and efficient functioning for the Council of Europe, in a spirit of co-operation.

 

Without having planned to do so, I attended the Committee of Ministers debate at which the decision was taken on the list of candidates for Secretary General.  I am not in a position to present the Assembly’s reaction, having not yet been able to consult it.  Nevertheless, I think I can say at this stage that the parliamentarians are not going to like this decision, and I am very much afraid that the majority of them will not accept a list which politically limits their power of election.  I feel obliged to inform you that your proposal poses a risk that there will be no election of the Secretary General in June.  We must all do our utmost to avoid such an institutional crisis, or at least must all take our responsibilities in this context.

 

The Council of Europe needs resources if it is to act.  At a time of budgetary austerity our Organisation provides, it must be said, in financial terms, “value for money”.  It does outstanding work with very few resources.  If we cannot increase our resources, we must at least ensure that they are not decreased.

 

The optimum investment at this time, for all of us, ministers and parliamentarians alike, would be to engage politically and personally with the Council of Europe in order to impart new impetus to its work.

 

Thank you very much, Mr President.

 

 

 

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