Mme. Deputy Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Two days ago in Strasbourg I took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. It is an honour and privilege for me to assume the chairmanship of this pan-European organisation which stood the test of time in creating the principles and values of Europe for more than 60 years.
And today, I would like to present to you the priorities of the Turkish Chairmanship which will serve as our guidelines for the next six months. Our priorities have been defined with a view to reinforcing the political role, the visibility and the influence of the oldest pan-European organisation on the European and international scene.
I believe that the Council of Europe should be back on the international scene as an innovative, more flexible and visible organisation. The political landscape is changing rapidly in the world, and so should the Council of Europe. We have to acknowledge this fact and act accordingly. It requires collective will and political determination to achieve this.
In this context, we set out five priorities:
1. Reform of the Council of Europe
2. Reform of the European Court of Human Rights
3. Strengthening the monitoring mechanisms
4. Acceleration of the accession process of the EU to the Convention
5. Finding ways and means to overcome challenges of multicultural European societies
The constructive and leading role that the Council of Europe has played to date is undeniable. In order to render the organisation relevant and more effective in addressing the new challenges that Europe is facing today, we have to reform the Council of Europe and set a strategy for the near future. In this respect, we support the reform agenda of the Secretary General and cooperate for the implementation of the reform package.
The European Court of Human Rights is the most visible mechanism of our human rights protection system. Yet, today it faces a huge backlog and is unable to keep up with the applications. We have to secure the long-term effectiveness of the Court. Turkey supports the reform process which has been launched in Interlaken last February. We will strive to facilitate the ongoing reform process and will host a follow-up conference in April 2011 in Izmir.
Turkey believes that the independent tools of the organisation to monitor obligations related to the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law make this organisation unique. We should highlight the important role that they play in raising the life standards of European citizens. We are planning to organise events with participation of other European or international actors active in those specific fields. We aim to provide a broad perspective and to promote comparative advantage of the Council of Europe mechanisms.
Turkish chairmanship will encourage the EU to accelerate the accession process to the European Convention on Human Rights. We believe that this will provide a coherent system of fundamental rights protection throughout the continent. Thus we can eliminate the grey area, where the protection mechanism provided by the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply. By this way, actions directly affecting lives of millions of Europeans would be submitted to the scrutiny of the Court. This will reinforce the credibility of the human rights system in Europe. To this end, we will work closely with both the EU and the Council of Europe in finding solutions to the technical problems raised in the negotiations on the accession. We have to achieve this accession on an equal footing. We have to keep this process as simple as possible and avoid radical changes to the Convention.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are concerned with the resurgence of intolerance in Europe. We see it in different shapes such as extremism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We believe that the Council of Europe is the most appropriate forum to identify the root causes of these negative trends and to develop solutions.
Living in Europe means the enjoyment of individual rights, guaranteed by an impartial and independent judicial system, and tolerance and acceptance of diversity. It also means accepting certain obligations in respect of others in order to safeguard this shared way of life, complying with the rules of democracy and contributing to the development of a fair and cohesive society. This "European model" is now under threat from the spread of intolerance and the emergence of radicalisation.
This phenomenon destroys the very fabric of our societies, where diversity and respect to the other is the key element for peaceful coexistence. Migrant communities in Europe today are specifically vulnerable to acts of prejudice, hatred and intolerance. Combating discrimination and hatred of all kinds requires strong political resolve and proactive action.
We have been striving to achieve a social cohesion in Europe since the end of the Second World War. It constitutes one of the pillars upon which the Council of Europe was actually established. We should avoid creating new social dividing lines while Europe accomplishes a political and economic integration.
Upon my proposal, the Secretary General helped to establish a “Group of Eminent Persons” with the expertise and a particular interest in the subject. The group consists of 9 highly recognised individuals who can develop a new concept of “living together” that we can propose to the citizens of Europe.
Mr. Fischer, Prof. Ash, Ms. Bonino, Mr. Hirsch, Mr. Hubner, Prof. Kadıoğlu, Ms. Licht, Mr. Lukin and Mr. Solana will prepare a report as a basis for possible future Council of Europe action.
This report should deal concretely with the following aspects:
1. assessing the seriousness of the risks posed to the Council of Europe's values by intolerance and a communitarian approach;
2. identifying the sources of these phenomena (ideological, moral, religious, economic, social and cultural);
3. defining a new kind of "living together" which could be proposed to the citizens of European societies.
The Council of Europe is at a crossroads. We believe that it still has a significant role to play in the European architecture. Today, we should focus more on how to make this organisation politically more visible and relevant. This could be realised with the help of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
Both the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers should act together for keeping this organisation as the beacon of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe for the next generations. We need to create a synergy between these two organs.
For more than 60 years, we have tried to promote and consolidate the principles and values of this organisation within Europe. We will continue to do so. We should also work to establish a zone of democratic stability around Europe. With its flexible working methods and approach, the Parliamentary Assembly is best positioned to undertake this task.
Parliamentary Assemblies are the leading fora where innovative and pragmatic approaches are voiced. PACE has been such a forum. This assembly represents 800 million Europeans, meaning the widest pan-European representation. It takes its strength from this fact. On many occasions, it adopted recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers which presented solutions to current issues in Europe. I pay tribute to the Assembly for its courageous and persistent efforts in defending the principles and standards of the Council of Europe.
We should continue to promote and strengthen the dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.
I count on the support and cooperation of the PACE in carrying out our agenda and hope that our joint efforts will produce tangible results in designing a brighter future for the whole organisation.
I will have the pleasure of appearing before you at your January Session next year to present the communication of the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly.
I wish the Standing Committee a fruitful meeting in Antalya, hometown of Mr. Cavuşoğlu. I extend my warmest thanks to him for providing this opportunity. I am sure that he is doing his utmost to make your stay in Antalya a pleasant one.