A day of reckoning for Europe

For more than 50 years, protecting human rights and promoting democracy have been core missions of the Council of Europe. But how well are the Organisation’s member states living up to their commitments in these vital areas?

Despite efforts to improve human rights, people in Europe continue to be subject to extra-judicial killings, tortured or disappear without trace, trafficked for sexual exploitation, abused because of their gender, ethnicity or religion and discriminated against by the state.

And what about democracy, once celebrated as Europe’s gift to the world? Political freedoms are dwindling in some countries as subtle new threats to transparency and accountability emerge, while in others distrust and indifference undermine democratic institutions.

But the Council of Europe is not there only to point out problems: through its various monitoring mechanisms – including the Assembly’s own country-specific monitoring – it helps states to live up to their promises to their peoples to fully abide by European democratic and human rights standards.

On Wednesday 18 April 2007, in a new initiative supported by PACE President René van der Linden, Greater Europe’s parliamentarians joined with leading figures from the global human rights community – the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – as well as the heads of the main Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms for an unprecedented debate on the question: what is the state of human rights and democracy in Europe today?

The reports

The state of human rights in Europe

*Part I of a joint report, prepared by the Legal Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Christos Pourgourides (Cyprus, EPP/CD)

The Legal Affairs Committee, in its part of a joint report, argues that there is a growing gap between solemn declarations on human rights and the reality on the ground. “It is time to end hypocrisy and turn words into deeds,” the committee declares, calling for “zero tolerance” of human rights violations.

The state of democracy in Europe

*Part II of a joint report, prepared the Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC)

The Political Affairs Committee, in its part of a joint report, says there has been unquestionable progress in advancing democratic standards but there are growing deficits too, leading to disaffection among citizens. Its key recommendations include enlarging the right to vote, greater representation for women, more “direct democracy”, and steps to promote civic education.

Progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure

*Report of the Monitoring Committee
Rapporteur: Eduard Lintner (Germany, EPP/CD)

In its annual report, the Monitoring Committee says progress has been made in all 13 countries under a monitoring or post-monitoring procedure, but also points to “setbacks” and lists problem areas. It also makes recommendations to the 11 non-monitored states subject to this year’s cycle of periodic reports (Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands).


Special preview event:

On the eve of the debate, PACE President René van der Linden answers your questions in a live video blog
(5-6 p.m. French time on Monday 16 April).


Other side events:

* PACE sub-committee public hearing on democratisation in Belarus, with opposition leaders (Tuesday, 6pm)
* Human Rights Commissioner’s round table on human rights challenges and opportunities in Europe (Tuesday, 2pm, restricted)
* NGO round table on democracy and human rights in Belarus (Monday, 5.15pm)

The Assembly’s other committees have also prepared opinions on the above reports:

The speakers

Special guests from the global human rights community:

Speakers from the Council of Europe: