Parliamentary Assembly session : 31 March – 4 April 2003 

Press conference by Walter Shwimmer, Council of Europe Secretary General

At a press conference this morning in Strasbourg, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, announced the launch of a number of new language portals to complement the on-line information facilities which have been gradually developed by the Organisation over the last three years. “The German, Italian and Russian portals, together with those providing information in more than thirty different languages, will bring us even closer to the 800 million citizens of Europe”, said the Secretary General.

In connection with the situation in the Chechen Republic, Mr Schwimmer expressed his hope that the new Constitution, backed up by compliance with the values of the Council of Europe, would help normalise and stabilise the region and thus put an end to the abuses and to the general situation of impunity for wrongs committed.

While reiterating his regrets that diplomacy had been forced out in favour of armed intervention in Iraq, the Secretary General suggested that we should start thinking about the post-war situation. “Sustained efforts will be needed, based on multilateralism and compliance with international law”, he added.

“Despite our substantial disagreements with the United States, particularly concerning the death penalty, we are ready for dialogue with the Americans”. Mr Schwimmer explained that he had invited George Ryan, the former Governor of Illinois who commuted 156 death sentences into life imprisonment penalties, for talks next month.

With reference to the measures taken by the stock exchanges against the Al Jazeera television channel (Qatar), Mr Schwimmer said that the TV company’s freedom of expression and independence had to be respected by all, and operators within the international community were no exception to this rule.

Video record of the press conference