Strasbourg, 26 June 2002
Mr JUNCKER said that this was a very emotional moment for him as he had always hoped that he would be able to address the Council of Europe. As a young law student in Strasbourg he had had the privilege of following the Council’s work and had often used its library. In those days there were only seventeen member states of the Council and he had welcomed the opportunity to observe how members of the Luxembourg Parliament appeared outside their own country.
Europe itself was a much smaller place at that time and he had great pleasure in saying that Europe at the present time was not only much bigger but a more complete continent. In 1947, Winston Churchill, speaking at The Hague, had said that: “We are beginning in the West a job which we will complete in the East”. Over the last few years the world had seen how realistic his vision had been.
He was surprised to read so often that the Council of Europe was seeking a new identity and trying to find a way forward. The Council did not need a new identity, but merely to remain faithful to what it had always been. It had a long history of success to build upon. The EU should admit that it did not really represent Europe; only the Council represented greater Europe. The EU should not give the impression of being an exclusive club, or safe haven, but rather actively promote further integration across the continent.
The Council of Europe would have its own path to follow, separate from the European Union, although these paths would intersect in places. Both organisations really had the same ambitions.
The crowning achievement of the Council of Europe was the promotion of human rights, and it had imposed on Europe an empire of the rule of law. European union would never have been possible without the work of the Council of Europe. During the forthcoming intergovernmental conference in 2002, the EU would become a member of the European Convention on Human Rights and it insisted that all those joining the EU did the same before acceding. The whole infrastructure had to be adopted. Europe could not be allowed to slide into conflict. An individual could sue their country at the European Court of Human Rights and win. That country would then be in conflict with the Council of Europe and the EU. This was why all legal instruments of the ECHR had to be adopted.
The EU and Council of Europe were walking hand-in-hand towards harmony. The EU summit at Seville had raised questions for the Assembly. The speech made by the President had shown that misunderstandings could arise. The fact that the subject of migration was so huge could give the illusion that the EU talked of nothing but illegal immigration. The EU tried to be pragmatic but it could promote an image of “fortress Europe” pulling up its drawbridge. This was not a desirable image. Europe needed immigration and needed to be welcoming to those seeking refuge from all types of persecution. The Council of Europe should be part of the process of understanding migration, and it should co-operate with the EU in this area.
This was also true in relation to international terrorism and its consequences. The events of 11 September had changed international life completely. It was necessary to look at the causes of terrorism and find out how people, however wrong-headed they were, could carry out these acts. It was impossible to separate the causes and effects of terrorism. Until poverty was eliminated, and the majority of human beings no longer lived in such terrible conditions, terrorism would always find a fertile soil. There was a very clear equation between the Council of Europe and human rights.
The Council of Europe sometimes seemed to be seeking a new identity but it should remain committed to its main aims. Respect for human rights, for justice and local government were extremely important. If the Council of Europe continued to pursue these concerns there would be no qualms about its future. The EU was enlarging and the Council of Europe was attaining its full size. Both institutions must work towards ways of ensuring that enlargement went smoothly. Before the end of 2003 there would be another summit to discuss ways of dealing with the legacy of the second half of the twentieth century in Europe, and the memory of a continent divided into blocs.
In the old Europe the division between good countries and bad countries, our side and theirs, was a lot simpler but it was also a lot more dangerous. He hoped that countries that were members of the Council of Europe but not of the EU would be made welcome, and he hoped that the third summit to be held in 2003 would provide an opportunity for the Council to co-operate with, and nourish support for, the EU.