-(To be checked against delivered speech)
Speech by Laila Freivalds, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden
Heads of State and Government,
After the end of the cold war, we were happy to welcome a number of new members to the Council of Europe. Through our memberships we all acknowledge that we share the values of this organization.
However, there is still work to be done in developing and implementing democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe. This is why we need the Council of Europe, and it is also the reason why these areas remain the core of the organization. These central aspects should permeate all activities of the Council of Europe. Each member states must also assure that its commitment to Council of Europe's values is reflected in its policies, laws and actions.
The European Court of Human Rights is the guardian of human rights and fundamental freedoms on our continent. Its importance for a peaceful development in Europe should not be underestimated. It is a unique institution, something we ought to be proud of, and which we must never neglect. Today there are more than 80 000 pending cases. This excessive caseload of the Court continues to endanger its effectiveness, and thereby threatens the integrity of the whole human rights convention system. It is an enormous challenge to tackle.
It is a joint responsibility, for all of us, to make sure that this essential institution is allowed to efficiently continue its important work. Further reforms of the Court may be needed, but first and foremost Protocol 14 to the Convention on Human Rights, adopted by ministers a year ago, must be ratified by May 2006 as we agreed last year. The accompanying measures that we adopted at the same occasion must also be implemented. The group of wise persons that is to be established will have a very important task. I agree that the group of independent experts should be established without delay under competent leadership. However, we cannot merely leave the problem to them: Member states must take action to fulfil their obligations to protect human rights.
Yet another step towards strengthening democracy in Europe is being taken at this meeting through our decision to establish a Council of Europe Forum for the Future of Democracy. This will be one of the most important achievements of this summit and relevant to all the member states. The main task of the forum will be to provide member states with guidance in how to enhance democracy. It shall enable the exchange of ideas, information and examples of best practice, and include civil society and persons active in democratic life.
The conventions adopted by the Council of Europe throughout the years have no doubt been of fundamental importance to the development of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe. But the conventions as such are not enough. Every member state must do its part and carry out the changes needed both in respect of legislation and other forms of implementation. This also includes the execution of the Court’s judgements without delay. We have to make sure that this really takes place.
The Council of Europe has indeed been a forerunner in establishing a special treaty bound system when it comes to supervising the execution of the Court’s judgements. Moreover, monitoring has been a natural part of the working process to achieve progress in more general terms. However, it is essential to remember that the point of monitoring is not about exerting criticism, but about promoting further progress. The Council of Europe is equipped with efficient monitoring mechanisms, in different shapes:
The Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers have at their disposal different tools. The Commissioner for Human Rights has a special mandate and there are special mechanisms, for instance for the recently adopted Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Monitoring is clearly an added value of the Council of Europe. The monitoring by the Council encompasses all member states, but since the situation differs between our countries it is only natural that specific countries may occasionally need extra attention to promote progress.
The political declaration we are about to adopt at this summit underlines the importance that we go further in the implementation of equal-opportunity policies and non-discrimination in our member states. This is a Swedish priority. It puts the focus on the individual, regardless of her or his sex. Equality between men and women also provides society with otherwise unused potential of skill, ambition, and intelligence. This cannot be achieved by a special program, but requires general approaches of gender mainstreaming and changed attitudes.
Sweden welcomes a strong focus on gender equality. Next year we will host a conference for Ministers for gender equality from all the Member States in the Council. The conference will focus on gender equality as an integral part of human rights as well as on gender analyses and gender budgeting as tools for economic development. I hope to see representatives from all our countries there.
I am convinced that this summit of the Council of Europe could become a symbol for further democratization of Europe. The work that lies ahead of us on the basis of the priorities we have agreed upon here in Warsaw is to be carried out by governments, authorities and institutions in each member state. It will clarify the role of the Council of Europe within the new European security policy architecture and reaffirm the Council's responsibility for peaceful co-operation and democratic stability.
The Council of Europe should continue to function as a meeting place where ideas and best practices are exchanged and where we can conduct a constructive and frank dialogue.
The three conventions that are being opened for signature at this meeting also show that the Council of Europe continues to be a relevant forum for important subjects. Solid work on a legal ground has been the trademark of the organization for decades. We must make sure that this does not change.
We meet in Warsaw, a capital which has experienced so much of the tragic history of Europe during centuries. Meeting here also reminds us of the potentials of democracy. Today Poland is a member of the European Union, a union that shares the common values of the Council of Europe. However, the Council of Europe should not only cooperate closely with the EU but also with other organizations like the OSCE. Sweden will actively contribute to such cooperation.
Human rights, democracy and the rule of law remain the core areas for the Council of Europe. They represent timeless values, but also values that must never be taken for granted. Therefore, our task is far from finished.
By promoting the rights of the individual, our Council can contribute to peace, stability and security in Europe. In this respect the Council of Europe has a unique and relevant role to play. We all share the responsibility for the Council’s performance.
Thank you, Mr Chairman