Dear Minister, dear Presidents, dear Ambassadors, ladies and Gentlemen,
We have reached a crossroads in the process of reforming and enhancing the protection system of the European Convention on Human Rights.
For the first time since Protocol no. 14 - nine years ago - we are opening for signature a new protocol amending the legal framework of the European Court of Human Rights.
This is a significant result of the process initiated at the Interlaken Conference in 2010 and pursued at the Izmir Conference in 2011 and the Brighton Conference in 2012.
Protocol no. 15 will not make revolutionary changes to the system, but it will bring important improvements in crucial areas, notably concerning:
• the admissibility criteria and the Court's ability to focus its resources on the most important cases;
• the consistency of the Court' case-law;
• and the quality and stability of the Court's judicial composition.
Furthermore, the new provision in the preamble will highlight the fundamental principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation. It will serve as a visible reminder of the different and complementary roles played by the States parties to the Convention and the Court established to ensure the fulfilment of their obligations.
Protocol no. 15 will help the Court and improve the overall system - and I can only encourage every member State to ratify it as soon as possible. But Protocol no. 15 is a crossroads, not the end of the road.
Reform has been underway, in one way or another, since the Convention was adopted. Decisions taken since Protocol no. 15 was drafted will keep this work going for at least the next two years.
We must now strengthen our resolve to achieve further results in vital areas. I am thinking in particular of the execution of Court judgments, the treatment of repetitive applications and resolution of systemic issues at the national level.
Indeed, meaningful human rights protection begins at home, at the national level. We need effective domestic remedies, systematic screening of legislation, and awareness-raising, education and training.
These may sound like old issues, but I can assure you that they still need our urgent attention. The Council of Europe has carried out organisational reform to make it an important partner for member States in addressing them.
The Court has made considerable progress in dealing with the backlog of clearly inadmissible applications, but it is still flooded by repetitive applications. There are also indications that we might see a further increase in serious cases before the Court' Chambers.
Fortunately, as today's ceremony shows, we have both the political will and the technical imagination to find solutions. It marks the determination of key actors to live up to their shared responsibility, to maintain this precious and unrivalled instrument that is the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Secretary General and myself look forward to its future with confidence.