(To be checked against delivered speech)
Speech by Prime Minister of Malta Lawrence GONZI
It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I address the Head of the Polish nation
with gratitude for your hospitality and the organisation of this Summit
but above all, with gratitude for all that Poland has contributed to Europe and its civilisation over the centuries.
The late Karol Wojtyla is only the most recent of major Polish personalities who have shaped history. There is no doubt that it is due to him, among others, that Europe today enjoys an unprecedented degree of freedom and has advanced so far on the road towards eliminating dividing lines that have separated families, communities and nations for centuries.
Looking back at our recent history, we can proudly affirm that the Council of Europe has largely succeeded in achieving the objective of European stability and unity that we had set ourselves in Vienna back in 1993. Looking forward, we see that our role is being shaped by the emerging European landscape which we, in our turn, must help mould in conformity with our values.
The core values of the Council of Europe - democracy, human rights and the rule of law - do not constitute a single tangible goal that we can ever claim to have reached. They form the basis of our European identity. The Council of Europe will always face the challenge of defending them in every aspect of our citizens’ lives.
In our Action Plan for this Summit, we rightly start by reaffirming our commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights, which enshrines our most cherished values.
In view of this sound foundation, we welcome the work being undertaken for the accession of the European Union to the Convention. This accession will enhance legal certainty in general and widen the Convention’s direct application in cases involving the European Union. The Union’s accession is essential and we must create the conditions to attain it, whatever the political circumstances.
The European Court of Human Rights is our single most influential institution. It has the power to reach out to the individual citizen in our own countries. We all recognise that our values are best protected by the Court.
The Council of Europe has been active in addressing the new challenges now being faced by it, not least with the adoption of Protocol No 14. Malta is proud to have been the first country to ratify this Protocol. It is now necessary to intensify our efforts for its entry into force as early as possible.
However, we must not underestimate the Court’s problems. These call for a range of long-term solutions. We must implement the proposals under consideration and find alternative ways of dealing with the Court’s increasing workload. We look forward to the recommendations of the panel of eminent experts that we are setting up for this purpose. We must not look for economies in an area that we hold so dear. Indeed, this is an area that calls for further investment.
Our priority is to ensure respect for human rights and the full execution of the Court’s judgements. We should continuously evaluate our own ability to supervise compliance with judgements and, where necessary, re-consider our working methods. If we fail to do so, we would jeopardise the credibility of everything the Council of Europe stands for.
The continuing relevance of the Council of Europe is shown by its active role even in areas where little intergovernmental cooperation exists so far. I refer, for example, to the important work on the Convention on action against trafficking in human beings and the European Roma and Travellers Forum.
In addition, Malta continues to support with the greatest conviction the existing institutions and mechanisms set up to defend human rights. We are committed to assist the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to do our utmost for the irregular immigrants that find themselves on our shores.
We must understand, however, that getting to the root of irregular immigration problems requires a strong and concerted effort by all countries, and not only by those confronted with the first impacts. Our efforts to protect the dignity and rights of these displaced migrants must also lead to concrete solutions that address their primary needs.
Malta appreciates the Action Plan’s reference to the increasing importance of migration management. We fully support drawing up effective instruments and using existing infrastructure to deal with this challenge effectively. I particularly look forward to seeing the Council of Europe enhance its political dialogue and pursue active cooperation with the European Union on this urgent issue.
Terrorism is another area where the Council of Europe is proving its added value. Malta continues to take a strong stand on this matter and welcomes the contribution that the new Convention on the prevention of terrorism will make to the existing body of international legal instruments.
The Council of Europe is not alone in pursuing its mission. It shares its common values with other international players, although the roles played are often different. Clearly, there is a strong need for a better-structured working relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union. Malta adds its voice to those who strongly encourage the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding between these two institutions. We hope that a constructive approach will maximise the benefits that each can draw from the other, in a spirit of support rather than rivalry. It is not an easy task, but it is both necessary and worthwhile.
Finally, Mr Chairman, let me deal with a subject which is particularly close to my heart, that is, the broader role of the Council of Europe Development Bank. Malta has been an active member of the Bank for more than three decades. It has encouraged its evolution, in name and substance, as it broadened its financing role from the resettlement of displaced persons to social projects in general. More recently, we have welcomed and encouraged the Bank’s greater involvement in financing the development of European countries in transition.
This is why we support the call made by our Action Plan for the Bank to confirm its traditional roles and, in addition, to facilitate the implementation of policies aiming at the consolidation of democracy, the promotion of the rule of law and respect for human rights. It could accomplish this mission, in particular, in the field of training of magistrates, civil servants and other participants in public life, as well as in the organisation, operation and infrastructure of administrative and judicial public services. As the Bank broadens its role, Malta intends to play an even more prominent part in the Bank’s activities.
It is our responsibility, as heads of states and governments, to ensure that the Council of Europe continues to receive the support that we owe it. Our noble aims must find their place in our political agendas and translated into reality, both at home and in our relations among each other.