German Foreign Minister: ‘Human rights are and must remain non-negotiable’

“Human rights are and must remain non-negotiable,” German Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told parliamentarians today at PACE’s plenary session in Strasbourg. “They are not just an instrument to be used when it suits on the road to peace. They are in fact the cornerstone on which a functioning international order needs to be built.”

“There is no paradox between standing up for human rights and the aim of foreign-policy stability or efforts to balance interests between states. On the contrary, they go hand in hand,” he pointed out.

The world currently seems to be “out of joint”, the Minister said, citing wars and conflicts on Europe’s doorstep, the unlawful annexation of Crimea by Russia, forces undermining EU cohesion - most recently in the Brexit referendum – as well as growing social tension in many European states.

“That is precisely why the Council of Europe is so important,” he continued. “After all, it gives us - the 47 member states and no less than 800 million people - a human rights cornerstone. A shared, binding canon. And it gives us an insight into the human rights situation in our countries. It looks behind the scenes.”

“The Parliamentary Assembly has always been the place in the Council of Europe where political discussions about the most pressing issues of our time take place – especially in times of rising tension and conflict.”

“Regarding Russia, I hope that through our endeavours to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, we will reach a situation in the medium term that will allow Russian delegates to take part again in sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly and its work. Clearly, Russia, too, must do its part,” said Mr Steinmeier. However, members of parliament elected to the Duma from the illegally annexed region of Crimea can not be accepted at PACE, he said.

“Dialogue and parliamentary understanding are important – there is no doubt of that – but only when they remain loyal to the constitution of the Council of Europe, that is, its statutes, aims and values.”

Finally, the Foreign Minister paid tribute to the constructive role the Council of Europe played - and should continue to play - with respect to the difficult situation in Turkey.