Ansprache von S.D. Erbprinz Alois

Aprilsession der Parlamentarischen Versammlung
des Europarats

Strassburg, den 18. April 2024

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President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Secretary General of the Council of Europe,

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,


It is my pleasure to address your Assembly here today. Liechtenstein has long attached great importance to its membership in the Council of Europe. It is therefore not only a challenge, but also a privilege to hold this office of Presidency in the Committee of Ministers in these turbulent times.

The multilateral system faces multiple threats. The core values of the Council of Europe – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – are increasingly challenged. The present seems to be characterised by aggressive power politics, anti-democratic tendencies, growing nationalism and disregard for the rule of law and the rules based international order.

Throughout history, we have repeatedly learned that these developments have the potential to lead to destruction and human suffering. The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine sadly serves as yet another example for the culmination of these elements.

Particularly in times like these, multilateral fora such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations prove all the more important. Once again, it has become apparent that our security can only be ensured by the unconditional respect for the rules based international order.

In these turbulent times, we are reminded that the inclusive and effective functioning of multilateral organisations such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations plays a critical role to upholding peace and stability. Aggressive power politics must not prevail. Those challenging our common commitment to the rules base international order must be held to account.

With the establishment of the Register of Damage, the Council of Europe has taken an important first step towards ensuring accountability for the Russian aggression against Ukraine. On the way forward, it remains of critical importance that the crime of aggression is investigated and prosecuted, and that all those responsible are held accountable. There will be no peace without justice.

Initiatives like these underline the importance of multilateral cooperation once again. It is thus critical to strengthen these platforms and to equip them with necessary means to ensure the effective continuation of their work for the years to come. Multilateral fora need to be fit for the future, and more importantly be able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to overcome future challenges.

Nevertheless, we are witnessing a trend to the opposite direction: With the return of rising nationalism, global decision-making processes seem to increasingly migrate from inclusive multilateral fora to alternative formats dominated only or predominantly by large powers. The inclusive nature of multilateral organisations is lost, and the perspectives of small states are underrepresented.

Small states make up the majority of the international community. The effective global implementation of rules therefore depends just as much on their feasibility in small states as on the will of more influential powers to take the initiative. Without the involvement of small states in decision making processes, however, this may prove difficult.

Multilateral cooperation through organisations such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations therefore offer a critical opportunity for inclusive processes. Multilateral organisation’s greatest assets are their member states. Each of them offers a unique set of best practices that may also assist reform processes within international organisations, to ensure their future-oriented functioning.

The Council of Europe can also benefit from such processes. For example, it is not only crucial for the success of companies, but also for states and international organisations that they constantly develop further. In particular, it helps to regularly scrutinise their core competencies and tasks and to review where the focus should lie in the future and where the increasingly limited resources are best deployed.

Small states specifically bring important perspectives to the table. As their ability to exert international influence outside multilateral fora is rather limited, they have to develop flexibility and adaptability.

The Liechtenstein economy is a good example for this: As a consequence of our small domestic market, we are disproportionately affected by nationalist and protectionist policies of our main trading partners. At the same time, however, these challenges offer unique opportunities: they force our companies to boost innovation. With this approach, a number of Liechtenstein companies have become global market leaders in their areas of expertise.

Geographical size is also not indicative of the impact a state can have, particularly in multilateral fora. Liechtenstein has proven this time and again – be it in the Council of Europe, the UN or the EEA. Through prioritisation in specific areas of expertise, Liechtenstein has been able to set relevant standards in the past.

In 2022, for example, Liechtenstein championed the so called “Veto Initiative”. Following this resolution, the UN General Assembly must automatically meet within 10 days if the veto is used in the Security Council by one of its five permanent members. The resolution establishing the Veto Initiative was ultimately adopted by consensus. By enhancing the role of the General Assembly, the Veto Initiative took an important step towards strengthening inclusive multilateralism and the international rule of law.

Due to the size of our country, we are all the more dependent on the functioning of the rules based international order and on good foreign policy relations. This applies to relations both with our neighbours and with our other international partners. For the maintenance of excellent relations to our other international partners, Liechtenstein’s participation in multilateral organisations is of vital importance.

Liechtenstein's accession to the Council of Europe in 1978 has not only helped to further secure our sovereignty and to extend our international recognition as an independent state. With our membership, we received a seat at the table in this European community of values. This also offered us the opportunity to actively contribute both to the development of new European standards, and to the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in all of Europe – a responsibility we take very seriously. At the same time, it allowed us to grow and progress with our common standards.

Our Presidency in the Committee of Ministers further provides us with the opportunity to strengthen the values of this organisation, and to promote a future-oriented functioning of the Council of Europe.

In these turbulent times, the Committee of Ministers is coincidentally led by a series of Presidencies held by small Member States. Perhaps, this is exactly what is needed.

[Thank you.]