Summing-up of dinner discussion by the Chair
Let me then say a few words about the important and interesting discussion we had at the informal dinner yesterday evening. I will try to do this by summing up the main points.
First of all, we had a very open and frank discussion about the main current challenges facing our Organisation. Some of these challenges are of course related to concerns in regard to developments and the actual human rights situation in specific member States, which was also mentioned directly during the dinner yesterday. Another issue of particular concern was related to the execution of a concrete judgment of the Court, where the Committee of Ministers has initiated an extraordinary procedure under Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Secondly, many of you who took the floor underlined the essential role that the Council of Europe has played since its founding in 1949 after the horrors of the Second World War, toprotect and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law on our Continent, and in particular the role of the Strasbourg Court and the entire Convention system. If I may add a personal reflection: I am glad that we – the Danish Chairmanship – have been able to contribute to highlight and sustain the vital reform efforts of the European Convention system, through the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration.
Thirdly, there was an overwhelming support for the need to continue the reform of the Council of Europe, which has most recently been the subject of an intense, complex and extensive discussion in the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg. In times of political turmoil and economic difficulties, there is no doubt that the Organisation needs to take a close look at itself and define a clear long term political perspective. Yesterday many of us highlighted some of the key issues that need to be addressed in the years to come, such as to provide adequate responses to new technological developments, protecting freedom of religion and belief, combat modern slavery and torture in all its forms, and find ways to better help and protect human right defenders. Just to mention a few of them. Appreciation was also expressed for the substantial reforms undertaken over the last nine years.
At the same time, we need to remind ourselves of the aim of the Council of Europe, which is to achieve a greater unity between its members - as clearly defined in Article 1 of the Organisation’s Statute. The Council of Europe is an irreplaceable platform for dialogue and co-operation bringing together 47 European countries, which truly provides it with a unique Pan-European perspective. However, with the membership come both rights and obligations. One of the fundamental obligations is to pay obligatory contributions to the ordinary budget, as provided by Article 39 of the Statute. This was emphasized by many during the discussion. If this does not happen the entire financial foundation of the Organisation is undermined. It is therefore essential that we remind ourselves of our agreed rules as contained in Article 9 of the Statute, and the related decision from the 95th Session of the Committee of Ministers in 1994. Today, and also in light of recent events, there is no doubt a need to find a way to better stabilise and sustain the financing of the Organisation.
However, having said this, we also need to ensure that member States fully co-operate with and participate in the statutory organs of our organisation. Another issue we need to address is how to strengthen synergies and cooperation between its statutory bodies, as well as with other international organisations – and here I would underline in particular - the European Union and the OSCE.
Some of you also emphasised the need for us to address a number of other issues, such as how to ensure more effective and better co-ordinated monitoring, as well as further strengthen inter-governmental co-operation, including the network of steering committees and advisory bodies. We must also find a way to better protect and promote human rights throughout the entire Council of Europe area, including in unresolved conflict zones. There are other issues as well, that have been highlighted in Strasbourg recently, such as how to further modernise the Secretariat, including its overall management structure and governance.
All in all, there was no doubt overwhelming support for the need to start a process of reforms as set out here in Elsinore, addressing many of the issues I have already referred to, and that in this work one must build upon proposals presented by the Secretary General, in close consultations with member States. However, the final word is, as always, with the Committee of Ministers. Such a process would have even greater significance as next year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe. I am sure it will be of particular importance to all the three next CM Chairmanships of the Council of Europe - respectively Croatia, Finland and France. It is up to us now - as governments, and we must deliver. We must never forget that the Council of Europe is about protecting human rights for our citizens – over 800 million people.