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Numerous dignitaries of all nationalities and beliefs have been the honoured guests of the Council of Europe. These men and women, often instrumental in the implementation of political, social and cultural initiatives, illustrate the dynamism and values which, since the 1950s, have governed the work of the Council of Europe

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Helmut Kohl [1930 - ]

Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

10 October 1997

quotethe Council has made an important contribution to European integrationquote

His speech:

When we last met in Vienna four years ago, the Council of Europe numbered only thirty-two members. The difference underlines the great attraction of the Council of Europe and of the idea of Europe's spiritual and cultural unity it embodies.

With the early and consistent admission of the fledgling democracies of central, eastern and south-eastern Europe the Council has made an important contribution to European integration.

At our first Summit in Vienna we took a number of far-reaching decisions. This meeting, too, will generate important momentum:

One example is the forthcoming establishment of the permanent Court of Human Rights - an enormously important step towards further improvement of human rights protection in Europe.

Who would have thought such a thing possible ten years ago? And yet it happened.

Let me also mention the Council of Europe's initiatives to combat racism and xenophobia and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which is due to come into force shortly.

The possibilities at our disposal must now be used effectively. We must make the texts of the conventions come to life in order that human rights and democracy may be permanently secured as fundamental principles of coexistence in Europe. In doing so, we should continue to co-ordinate as closely as possible with the European Union and the OSCE. Only by working together can we meet the challenges of the day.

Events in Albania in recent months and what we have experienced in the former Yugoslavia show that joint commitment to human rights and stability in Europe is more necessary than ever.