To be checked against delivered speech
Honourable Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address the Parliamentary Assembly on behalf of the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, on the occasion of the presentation of the activities of the Committee of Ministers since the last ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly.
First of all, I would like to congratulate you, Mr President, on your election at the head of the Parliamentary Assembly earlier this week. I wish you every success in this important responsibility and I am confident that you will have a constructive and trusting relationship with the Committee of Ministers.
An extensive report on the activities of the Committee of Ministers since last October is produced in the written Communication, which has been distributed. Let me focus on some issues of special importance for the Chair.
The Council of Europe has made a significant contribution to the consolidation of peace and the development of international cooperation thanks to its consistent endeavours for the protection of human rights and the furtherance of democracy and the rule of law. Poland also believes that the Council of Europe has a unique place in the political architecture of the continent. After the accession of Monaco last October the Council of Europe now encompasses almost the entire continent. Because Belarus has failed to fulfil Council of Europe fundamental standards, the accession process has been interrupted.
The Council of Europe has scored some remarkable achievements in the fifty years it has been consolidating democracy. It was the first European institution to open itself to new members after the 1989 breakthrough in Central and Eastern Europe. It will continue to upgrade its commitment to the stabilisation of democracy.
The current activities of the Council of Europe must take into account the changes occurring in Europe and the world, including the ongoing process of enlargement of the European Union. We need to establish a new pattern of cooperation between the Council of Europe and other international organisations through stronger synergy and the avoidance of duplication. This will contribute to the unity of the continent and the coherence of its political architecture.
The Polish Chairmanship is making every effort to maintain and intensify the impetus given to the Council by its predecessors, and most recently Norway. In order to ensure continuity in the work of the Council, the Polish priorities largely build on the Norwegian activities. We adopted the following priorities for our Presidency of the Council of Europe:
1. Strengthening of the Continent’s unity after the enlargement of the European Union;
Strengthening of the Continent’s unity after the enlargement of the European Union
Poland considers that the Council of Europe is best placed among all European organisations for building the democratic unity of a continent faced with a changing European architecture characterised by the continued process of enlargement of the European Union.
Poland, in its capacity as Chair, considers that it is a moral duty to contribute to the strengthening of the unity of the whole continent.
The Third Summit
The decision of the Committee of Ministers of 8 July 2004 on convening the Third Summit of the Council of Europe was a response to the need for further action on creating Europe without dividing lines.
As Chair of the Committee of Ministers and the host country, Poland is making every effort to ensure the political success of the Summit. By defining the Council of Europe’s future goals and priorities in a new political mandate and Action Plan, the Summit should strengthen the ability of the Organisation to defend its core values and standards and to respond effectively to the challenges of the new century.
The Committee of Ministers is currently working on the agenda of the Summit. We all appreciate the initial draft document presented by France as a proposal for the future Action Plan of the Organisation, which served as food for thought and the inspiration for the ongoing work. So far we have received a number of contributions for the Summit documents from member states. The Committee of Ministers and its Chair appreciates in particular the very rich proposals being prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly through its numerous committees. We are expecting a fruitful debate during the present Session in order to adopt the Assembly's official contribution to the preparation of the Summit. The Committee of Ministers will study carefully all proposals made by the Assembly.
Allow me to refer for instance to the very interesting proposal to create a Commission on Democracy. The Polish government supports the idea. Two pillars of Council of Europe, namely human rights and the rule of law, have their practical instruments for monitoring and implementation. I refer to the Court, the Commissioner, the ECRI and CPT, as well as the Venice Commission monitoring the constitutional order. So far, there is no such instrument for the third pillar, mainly democracy. We therefore welcome the proposal to create a Commission on Democracy aimed at enhancing the functioning of democracy and democratic institutions in our societies.
We also received important contributions to the Summit agenda from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Secretary General - as well as interesting ideas from civil society organisations. It shows the growing commitment and interest for the Summit from our citizens.
The Committee of Ministers is now working on an integrated project for the agenda, focused on the core issues for the final debate of the Heads of State and Government during the Summit. To our understanding, the Summit will be a success for us all if it adopts crucial decisions for the future of our organisation and its role for further European integration.
From the previous and present debate we see an emerging consensus with regard to the main Summit idea: "Summit of European unity". Summit documents should reflect our determination to that idea – necessary for all of us –of the unity of Europe, in the richness and diversity of its historic and cultural heritage, as well as the moral and social values shared by the inhabitants of the continent and reflected in the triad of the Council’s principles: human rights, the rule of law and pluralistic democracy.
Also we face the task of an institutional reform of Europe - the three main European organisations: the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE - still operate in certain isolation. A definition of new principles of their complementarity is required.
We propose for inclusion in the agenda of the Summit, inter alia:
1. "A message on European values" – since European unity means “A Europe of shared values and common standards”.
The full observance of European values is a goal yet to be attained by all the member states. Many legal instruments of the Council of Europe have reached only a low level of ratification.
In line with the discussions in the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly, we should consider “the renewal of membership commitments” – in the form of commitment at the Summit by all member states (in the political Declaration) to fully adopt a jointly determined - let us call it for instance - “code” of key conventions, with a specific timetable for their implementation into the domestic laws of the respective states. Without such a formal regulation, we face – in effect – a kind of “partial membership” in the Council of Europe.
2. European identity means dialogue:
In that context Poland sees the chance of finally overcoming the harmful division of Europe into “east” and “west”. The expansion of the Council of Europe to encompass the entire continent, along with the broad integration processes in the framework of the OSCE and the European Union, can serve as the basis for the ultimate eradication of this anachronistic division.
The significance of inter-cultural dialogue is growing in Europe and around the world, in view of the historic challenge of the on-going process of European integration aimed at including countries that embrace the European vocation.
At the Third Summit in Warsaw these issues would find their practical reflection in the Declaration and decisions of the Summit.
To recapitulate – the proposal of the Polish Chair for the agenda and Summit decisions are focused on the following issues:
- the new institutional architecture of Europe – making it possible to undertake effective common actions;
At two relatively short sessions, they would take decisions on the cooperation of European institutions, and adopt the Political Declaration and the future Action Plan for the Organisation - both translated into practical decisions that we will undertake to implement.
It is the intention of Poland and the city of Warsaw to involve the citizens of Europe in the event, inviting them to a kind of festival – with meetings of young people, artists, NGO leaders etc.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
During its Chairmanship, Poland will spare no effort in strengthening the Council of Europe's fundamental values in regions where they are not fully established. We are convinced that respecting standards of the Council of Europe in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law is the best way to help in conflict prevention.
We welcome the positive outcome of the political crisis and the victory of democracy in Ukraine, confirming the European vocation of this country. The Committee of Ministers followed very closely developments in Ukraine. On this occasion and on behalf of the Committee of Ministers I would like to express my high appreciation of Ukrainian civil society which has clearly proved its attachment to the principles of democracy.
Poland, as Chair and as Ukraine’s neighbour with a record of strong historical and cultural links with that country, decided to contribute to efforts in making the compromise possible. The involvement of the Polish Foreign Minister in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe served to highlight the engagement of the Council of Europe in the process of democratic changes in Ukraine. The involvement of the international community was also motivated by Ukraine’s obligations to the Council of Europe and the OSCE. It made a significant contribution to ensuring the democratic conduct of elections in Ukraine – likely to mark the beginning of a genuine, accelerated democratisation in Ukraine.
The end of the political crisis in Ukraine should provide a new impetus for cooperation between the Council of Europe and this country. On 12 January I had an exchange of views with the Ministers’ Deputies about the situation in Ukraine and the role of the Council of Europe in consolidating democratic developments in this country.
President Yushchenko sent us a clear message yesterday: Ukraine is expecting a real involvement of the Council of Europe and we should not disappoint Ukrainian society. The Council of Europe has declared itself entirely in support of democratic reforms in Ukraine and it should continue to play a key role in strengthening the standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in that country. In the realm of the reform of the country’s legal system, we see the important role of the Venice Commission, which at this point is credited with many expert opinions and legal analyses on Ukraine. The Council of Europe can offer help with a view to improving the country’s legislation, inter alia in the judicial field, guaranteeing media freedom or combating corruption. It would be necessary to offer support for the construction of local democracy in the country, and for more robust cross-border cooperation with Ukraine. We also appeal for the broadest-possible inclusion of Ukraine in Council of Europe programmes.
I should like to thank the Parliamentary Assembly for its contribution to the settlement of the political crisis, in particular for its role in the election observation in Ukraine. I welcome the Secretary General’s visit to Ukraine on 13 December which also provided an opportunity to stress the importance of complying with European standards.
The Chair really appreciates that President Yushchenko chose this audience to present his priorities on how to reform the Ukrainian State and society to fulfil Council of Europe standards. I am impressed by the commitment and European vision of the new President. We will support the Ukrainian people in their endeavours for fuller European integration.
As a neighbour of Belarus, Poland is particularly concerned by the situation in that country. I would like to express our hope that Belarus will try to prove that it belongs to the family of European democracies in order to prevent its total isolation. At the same time, we shall avoid any gestures that could be interpreted as support for President Lukashenko and his attendants.
A region of major attention for the Committee of Ministers is also the Western Balkans, as indicated in the written Communication. The Communication reflects all major tendencies and activities we have witnessed in recent months and are of both interest and obligation to the Council of Europe. While noting with satisfaction the steadily growing stability and further consolidation in the region, the Chair is aware that progress is still needed, in particular in the most recent member states of that region, i.e. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro.
This question has remained a focal point for the Committee of Ministers over the last months, within the context of the progressive integration of the countries concerned into European structures. We praise the contribution that the Council of Europe is making to that shared objective, and the added-value it brings to the international community aims in the Western Balkans. The Committee of Ministers has expressed its firm conviction that full and unconditional cooperation with the ICTY remains an important task and obligation for most of the states in the region. We perceive this cooperation as a visible sign of the progress toward European Union structures and the all-European family of nations.
The Committee of Ministers has also continued to pay particular attention to the situation developing in the three countries of the Southern Caucasus - a zone of tensions and unresolved conflicts. Those conflicts have negative implications for the democratic development and economic progress of the region and render humanitarian situations difficult, particularly as regards refugees and displaced people. Significant efforts, based on the same dual logic of assistance with reforms and monitoring the honouring of commitments, are being made for this region. Poland is deeply convinced that the Council of Europe has a substantial role to play in supporting democratic reforms and human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Co-operation with other international organisations
In order to build a Europe without divisions, it is essential to ensure harmonious cooperation between political organisations and structures operating on our continent. The new challenges currently facing Europe show a need for better coordination of activities pursued by the main European Organisations: the Council of Europe, the European Union and the OSCE. Therefore, we should strive to achieve a clear division of labour so that competencies do not overlap and greater synergy is created.
Poland continues the efforts undertaken by the preceding presidencies to improve the effectiveness of European cooperation. Regular consultations between the representatives of European organisations should enhance cooperation and result in synergy. That is – as I said – one of the tasks of the Third Summit.
The latest and broadest enlargement ever of the European Union necessitates redefining the Council of Europe’s position in its relations with this Institution. This applies to such issues as the consolidation of joint Council of Europe-European Union programmes and the question of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. That discussion, which is also based on proposals made by the Parliamentary Assembly, should bear its fruits at the Third Summit. The exchange of views held by the Committee of Ministers on 12 January with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg – the current Chair of the European Union – was a first important step in the process and the next stage will be the high-level “quadripartite” meeting to be held in Brussels in March.
Poland also attaches great importance to the Council’s cooperation with the OSCE in all areas of mutual interest, in particular the strengthening of human rights, democratic values and the rule of law. Significant progress has been made with the appointment – further to a parallel decision of the Committee of Ministers and the Standing Committee of the OSCE – of a Coordination Group made up of members of the executive bodies of the two organisations. The Chair hopes that the appointment of this group will bring about tangible progress in cooperation between Council of Europe and OSCE and will be reflected in a joint document adopted by the Third Summit.
Convinced that the important analytical and legal expertise of the Council of Europe can serve as an inspiration for the whole international community, Poland will actively promote cooperation between the Council of Europe and the United Nations in order to increase the positive perception of our values in the global dimension. This issue requires our special attention, taking into account the Resolution adopted in December by the United Nations General Assembly on cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe. We should make the best use of the possibility foreseen in the Resolution to launch a reflection process with a view to strengthening the relations between the two Organisations in light of the outcome of the Third Summit.
Terrorism is a global phenomenon, and no state – however powerful – can eradicate it on its own. The unity and determination of all Council of Europe member states create conditions for the effective response to it. The question of the Council of Europe’s contribution to the international action against terrorism has been a permanent item on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers since September 2004. Poland has continued the efforts of the Norwegian Chairmanship in this respect and I am glad to announce that significant progress has been achieved with the preparation of a number of legal instruments for the suppression of terrorism.
Two important texts have already been sent to this Chamber and we are looking forward to your opinions on the draft Convention against money-laundering and the financing of terrorism and the draft Convention on the prevention of terrorism.
The Committee of Ministers will soon adopt the Guidelines on aid to and protection of victims of terrorism and the draft declaration on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism.
The Deputies are also paying due attention to the implementation of existing instruments, notably the Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. 17 member states of the Council of Europe declared their intention to ratify this Protocol in the first half of 2005. The total number of ratification would then reach 27.
In response to the call made by this Chamber to better coordinate efforts between international organisations in the fight against terrorism, the Deputies held meetings with Ambassador Bringeus, Chair of the OSCE working group on terrorism and with Mr Gijs de Vries, the European Union counter-terrorism coordinator, on 3 November and 13 January respectively.
A complete picture of activities carried our by the Committee of Ministers on this issue is reflected in the reply adopted by the Deputies, on 19 January to Recommendation 1677 on the challenge of terrorism in Council of Europe member states.
The role of international action against terrorism in improving security in Europe will be a main topic of the Third High-level Multilateral Meeting of the Ministers of the Interior, which will take place in Warsaw on 17–18 March this year. We are convinced that this conference will contribute significantly to the ongoing discussion on this matter.
Strengthening Human Rights
Strengthening human rights constitutes one of the main topics on the Committee of Ministers agenda and is also one of the priorities of the Polish chairmanship.
The Committee of Ministers attaches the highest importance to the speedy and efficient implementation of the decisions taken at the Ministerial Session in May 2004, so as to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of the control system of the European Court of Human Rights. In this context, a Treaty Event was organised on the occasion of the transfer of Chairmanship ceremony between Norway and Poland on 10 November. The essential purpose of the Treaty Event was to encourage the signature and ratification of Protocol 14. This goal has been achieved since no fewer than ten signatures and four ratifications were recorded on that occasion
In order to discuss methods of improving the efficiency of national systems and solving the problems identified in the case law of the Court, Poland will organise a seminar on effective remedies against the excessive length of judicial proceedings. In addition, the Second European Conference of Judges, to be organised in Cracow, will be devoted to the elaboration of models of cooperation between judges and the media in the context of enhancing legal awareness of society. Preparations are also under way for the Ministerial Conference of the European Ministers responsible for Mass Media, which will be organised in Kyiv in March this year.
Compliance with obligations and commitments by member states remains a fundamental requirement for the Council of Europe’s credibility. In this matter, concerted efforts and cooperation is needed between the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers in areas of their respective competencies.
Poland, as Chair, also supports the work already under way on the drafting of a European convention on action against trafficking in human beings. A preliminary text has been submitted to the Assembly for consideration. The Convention should be a practical tool to facilitate international cooperation in this area. Its primary concern will be the protection of the fundamental rights of victims of trafficking and the effective prosecution of traffickers. The Chair is aware that a number of legal difficulties still need to be resolved. We hope that your opinion will provide a constructive input enabling the opening of the convention for signature at the Third Summit.
The Council of Europe can be proud of its convention system constituting the outcome of more than 50 years work and amounting to some 200 instruments. However, some of the conventions and protocols no longer fully correspond to today’s requirements, and Poland therefore suggests a discussion on the possibility of reviewing the treaty basis of the Council of Europe in order to improve the effectiveness of its legal instruments and – as a result – of the Organisation itself.
Deepening the European co-operation
Culture and education constitute important areas of the Committee of Minister’s activities to which Poland wishes to contribute. In the framework of the European Year of Citizenship through Education Poland intends to host a conference devoted to this subject.
Cultural cooperation is undoubtedly one of the pillars of the Council of Europe and an important role is played in that regard by the European Cultural Convention. Fifty years on, its heritage should be reviewed from the point of view of the new challenges of the 21st century. That question was tackled by the conference held in Wrocław on 10 December 2004 and the Wroclaw Declaration on 50 years of European Cultural Cooperation was adopted on that occasion.
Poland recognises social cohesion as one of the important areas of interest for the Council of Europe and appreciates the Revised Strategy for Social Cohesion introduced in July 2004. Poland will focus in particular on issues related to the social consequences of changes in the European labour market stemming from the globalisation process and the dissemination of new information technologies. Two conferences organised by us will offer an opportunity for debate on the development of the European labour market, as well as on the safety of the patient in health care systems.
Effective trans-border cooperation and steady development of local democracy, promoted in particular by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council Europe, are among the key factors enhancing European unity and enabling the elimination of barriers, mistrust and harmful stereotypes. In order to encourage trans-frontier cooperation, Poland intends to organise a conference on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation between Territorial Communities or Authorities. The Committee of Ministers is also continuing preparations for another important event – the Conference of European Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Government, to be held in Budapest in February.
Overcoming divisions of the past
The Chair is deeply convinced that, in order to achieve reconciliation in Europe, it is essential to overcome prejudice, negative stereotypes and resolve disputes rooted in the difficult experiences of the past. Fruitful, compromise-minded discussion seeking a common view of certain painful historic events is not easy but certainly possible. The Council of Europe is the proper forum for such a debate and the contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly in this regard will be highly appreciated.
Poland will support projects of the Council of Europe aimed at elaborating a common and objective view of history, in particular through education. In this connection, Poland will organise a seminar of European education Ministers “Teaching remembrance through cultural heritage” in Cracow on 5-7 May 2005.
Distinguished Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,