(To be checked against delivered speech)
(Strasbourg, 26 June 2003)
It is a great honour and privilege for me, in my capacity of Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, to address the distinguished members of the Assembly.
After the first exchange of views with members of the Bureau and Standing Committee in Chisinau on 27 May, which was extremely interesting and substantial, I am glad to report to the Assembly at its plenary session on the main progress in the Committee of Ministers’ activities.
First of all, a number of important decisions were taken at the last Session of the Committee of Ministers. They will, in my opinion, substantially shape the future of our Organisation. And here I refer in particular to the prospect of holding the Third Summit of the Council of Europe between autumn 2004 and spring 2005. The Council of Europe must continue to play a truly pan-European role as an organisation where EU and non-EU states can discuss aspects of human rights, political, social and cultural issues; it must continue to set and develop standards for the application of human rights.
Another step forward made at that Session was the adoption of the declaration entitled “Guaranteeing the long-term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights”. The Ministers gave instructions to proceed with the elaboration of a draft amending protocol to the Convention. The deadline is the 114th Ministers’ Session next year. It is accordingly essential to pursue a general debate enabling an exchange of views with the Assembly on this issue to be properly discussed before decisions are taken.
In the same context, I would like to bring to your attention some recent developments in the execution by member states of the European Court of Human Rights judgments. First, the Committee of Ministers has recently welcomed the prompt and effective measures undertaken by the Russian Federation in the Kalashnikov case in response to the ECHR judgment.
In the well known case of Loizidou, the Committee of Ministers has been reassured by the strong commitment of the Turkish authorities to give full and unconditional just satisfaction following the 1998 Court decision. I sincerely hope that by October the Committee will be in a position to adopt a final Resolution and thereby close the case. On the other hand, the outcome in the case of Institut des pretres francais vs. Turkey is less satisfactory. Last week, I conveyed to the Turkish foreign minister the Committee of Ministers’ concerns about the non-execution of the judgments. That is damaging for the system of control set up by the European Convention on Human Rights. I am counting on a satisfactory reply being received before the next examination of the case by the Committee at the beginning of July.
I would like to continue by commenting on the Organisation’s enlargement and post-accession activities. As a result of actions taken both by your Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, we had the pleasure of welcoming Serbia and Montenegro as the 45th member state of the Council of Europe. Our task is now to help our newest member to progress with the necessary reforms, so that it can fulfil the commitments undertaken upon accession. To help in implementing the commitments, a common CoE/EU Joint programme, inter alia, was launched in February. A first Secretariat follow-up mission to Belgrade and Podgorica took place on 10 – 13 June.
When referring to the final stage of the enlargement process, we obviously think about Monaco and Belarus. The Committee of Ministers at its last session mentioned the progress achieved in this regard in Monaco and continues to follow closely its membership application assessment process by the competent Assembly committees.
As for Belarus, the Committee of Ministers has noted that, for the time being, no significant progress has been achieved in its endeavours to comply with Council of Europe values and norms.
We are expecting democratic changes to occur and we will therefore maintain the “open doors” policy for technical cooperation and strengthen cooperation with civil society in this country, so that one day we will be able to welcome Belarus in our midst.
Decisions to invite a country to join the Council of Europe are inseparably linked to their commitment to implement post-accession strategies. The Committee of Ministers accordingly continues to pay close attention to this field of its activities.
Based on the Committee of Ministers’ decisions taken a year ago, the post-accession strategy continues to be implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the occasion of the 112th Session, the Ministers expressed their appreciation for the results of this strategy and, at the same time, encouraged the national authorities to continue consolidation of democratic reforms.
The question of democratic stability in South-East Europe was also discussed at the high-level Quadripartite meeting between the Council of Europe and the European Union on 17 June in Luxembourg. At this meeting the participants stressed that the Council of Europe norms and standards are benchmarks for the implementation of the European Union strategy in the Balkans.
On behalf of the Organisation, the Secretary General and I expressed satisfaction with the inclusion in the text of the draft Constitution for the European Union of a general provision concerning the establishment of appropriate co-operation between the Union and the Council of Europe. At the same time, we welcomed the enlargement process of the European Union with the signature of the Accession Treaty, on 16 April 2003 in Athens, by the fifteen current EU Member States and ten candidate countries.
Along with the situation in South-East Europe, another area of special attention of the Committee of Ministers remains the situation in the Caucasus. I will first refer to the evolution of the situation in the South Caucasus countries, where a number of important events have happened recently and further developments are expected.
In May, general elections took place in Armenia. Election observers took note of some progress compared with the presidential elections but noted that the elections still fell short of European standards. Armenia’s leadership must demonstrate more determination in order to meet international standards at future elections. At the same time, the Committee of Ministers will continue to monitor the process of Constitutional reform in this country. I therefore urge the Armenian authorities to make every effort in this field to comply fully with European standards.
I welcome the recent events dealing with the political prisoners’ problem in Azerbaijan. According to the most recent information, the Azerbaijani authorities have expressed their readiness to release two pilot cases, identified as political prisoners by the experts of the Secretary General, and to retry five other pilot cases. Twenty two other prisoners on the list forwarded to the experts by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers have been released. This is very good news but an effort should be made for the remaining cases.
Lessons from the Armenian elections should be drawn by the authorities of Azerbaijan and Georgia during the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. We look forward to the holding of free and fair elections in both these countries.
The Committee of Ministers has continued its efforts to promote democratic stability both in a regional context and as a part of its ongoing dialogue with the member states. In this context, the commitment of the international community in the settlement of the frozen conflicts such as those in Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria is a fundamental element in reinforcing the democratic stability throughout the entire continent. As a contribution to the Council of Europe’s efforts to contribute to the settlement of these conflicts, the Chairmanship intends to organize on 11 – 12 September in Chisinau an international conference on “Frozen conflicts in Europe: the aspect of democratic security and the case of Transnistria”.
Another area of concern for the Committee of Ministers, but also for the Assembly, is the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. On behalf of the Committee, I strongly condemn the recent suicide attacks in Grozny. The Committee of Ministers calls on the Russian Federation authorities to investigate the case of the terrorist attack involving the Council of Europe experts and create the necessary conditions for their return to Chechnya. At the same time, we welcome political initiatives recently taken by the federal authorities following the adoption of a Chechen constitution, including the preparation of elections and the adoption of a resolution on amnesty.
In this regard, I would like to draw your attention on the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of two replies to your Recommendation 1593 “Evaluation of the prospects of a political solution to the conflict in the Chechen Republic” and Recommendation 1600 “The human rights situation in the Chechen Republic”.
While working on our priorities and attempting to introduce new dimensions in our Organisation’s activities, we have kept in mind the necessity of follow-up to action undertaken by our predecessors. Thus, following the results of the Social Rights conference organised by the Maltese Chairmanship in November, we are planning to host a seminar with the aim of presenting the results of the Council of Europe report “Access to Social Rights” and of determining concrete activities for its implementation.
As a continuation of another initiative, this time by our Lithuanian colleagues, on inter-regional cooperation and simultaneously a contribution and endorsement of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities undertakings, we will encourage signing at the Chisinau ministerial session of a Political Declaration on the Development of Trans-border Inter-territorial Cooperation between Local and Regional Authorities in South-Eastern Europe.
Being a country of origin and transit for migrant workers, Moldova attaches great importance to developing policies for managing migration flows, respecting the principle of the rule of law while ensuring protection and integration of migrants. In this context, and in pursuance of the conference on migration organised in April by Malta, Moldova supports the idea of organising the conference, in October in Kiev, to discuss concrete policy proposals towards full implementation of the “Migration Management Strategy” adopted by the Helsinki Ministerial Conference in September 2002.
Having said this, for a more in-depth analysis of the activities of the Committee I would refer you to my report that has been distributed.
In conclusion, I must say that it was a pleasure for me to take this opportunity to address the distinguished members of the Parliamentarian Assembly. I would also like to wish you every success in the further promotion of the Organisation’s values throughout Europe.
As Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, I would like to reassure you that we will continue to give priority to our institutional cooperation with this distinguished Assembly. And in my national capacity, I take this occasion to stress that the Republic of Moldova will continue to pay paramount importance to its collaboration with the Council of Europe during the Chairmanship, as well as in the future.
I shall now be glad to take your questions.