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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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-(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like first of all to express the profound sense of satisfaction that I feel in being here today among you, on what is doubtless a cross-roads in the history of Europe,
as well as my deepest thanks to the Polish Presidency of the Council of Europe for having successfully tackled the herculian task of organizing this Summit.

The Council of Europe, born of the ashes of the Second World War and set with the major task of the effective and efficient protection of human rights, is equally relevant for the 21 st century Europe.

However, it is clear that this valuable Institution has to undergo some transformations,
if we want it to effectively respond to the new challenges of our times and of our re-united Continent.

The building blocks of the Council, which are based on Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law, are good and solid.

We have only to improve them. And I am profoundly convinced that one of the most effective ways to do so is by strengthening the European Court of Human Rights.
Ever since its inception, in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights has evolved into the most functional and essential tool for the protection of human rights in Europe. The Court's burden of applications is first and foremost an indication of success. We should therefore equip the Court in such a manner that it does not collapse under the weight of its own success. One big step in this direction is the agreement we have reached on Protocol 14, during the 114th Ministerial Meeting in Strasbourg. Greece has already initiated the ratification process and it is very important that our partners who have not done so yet do the same.

The Court of Strasburg, which is one of the major achievements of our peoples, must be the beacon of our policies and activities in the field of Human Rights.

It is imperative, therefore, that its judgments be fully, unconditionally and immediately executed by all member states.

The Committee of Ministers, entrusted with the prerogative, under Article 46 of the Convention of Rome, to supervise the execution of the Court's judgments, should perform this legal duty in accordance with the standards set out in the Rome Convention and its Protocols, leaving aside any other considerations.

I would like at this point to pay tribute to the work of the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights. Back in 1999, when this Institution was established,
little did we suspect that within the relatively short space of five years, this Institution would develop into what is now a brilliant example for the whole of Europe.

Alvaro Gil-Robles, whose personality reaches out beyond borders and across faiths to assist and strengthen democracies, both young and old in Europe, has accomplished his mission with exemplary objectivity, encouraging as he criticizes, proposing solutions where he identifies problems and gaining the trust of his interlocutors in a manner that is unique and has been to the benefit of those member-States which he has visited
and on which he has drawn up his reports. The universal praise which he has garnered
is testimony to the central role he has played in the protection and promotion of core Council of Europe values.

One of the major priorities of my Government is the fight against corruption.

In this framework, we welcome the efforts of the Council to seek common responses
to the challenges posed by corruption, organized crime and drug trafficking.

I would also like to raise a significant point in the evolution of the Council of Europe: the fight against terrorism.

Combating this scourge has become, more than ever in the 21st Century,
a first priority. The Council has already joined international anti-terrorist efforts, however our work in this direction should be further enhanced in all possible ways, always bearing in mind the significance of the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,
as well as inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.

The new, still emerging European architecture calls for empowered and closer cooperation between the Council of Europe and other Institutions, most notably the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
and the United Nations.

Still, the Council of Europe, with it's multi-faceted action, effectively represents the re-unification of Europe, the abolition of division lines across our continent and our common commitment to the values of Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights.