-(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs

May 16, 2005


Honorable Mr. Chairman,
Honorable ladies and gentlemen,

The Council of Europe, gathered today for the third summit in its 56-year-long history, is by rights considered a symbol of European unity based on a commonality of basic values. The chief ones of them are human rights, democracy and rule of law as well as uniform standards in the area of social cohesion, culture and education.

Over the last three centuries Russia together with the other peoples of Europe, in something lagging behind and in something at times even outstripping European standards, has gone through the difficulties of reform and the formation of parliamentarism and of municipal and judicial authorities. As was with other states of the continent, that was a hard and tortuous path. Russia has without exaggeration gained its European choice through suffering. As President Vladimir Putin said in his recent Address to the Russian Federal Assembly, Russia was, is and will be a major European nation.

Gradually we together moved towards recognition of the importance of human rights protection, towards respect of minority rights, towards equal and universal suffrage, towards comprehending the need to care for the poor and weak, and towards equality for women. It is by no chance that the Council of Europe became an integral part of the European order, born of the tragic experience of the Second World War, in which we together defeated Nazism, which had thrown down a challenge to the very foundations of European civilization.

The ideals of freedom, justice and democracy bear a universal character. They are realized in each country with regard to its traditions, culture and national peculiarities. Human rights can be really ensured only by a strong and responsible state with a developed civil society. As far as Russia is concerned, in the present-day conditions the perceptions of Russian citizens about infringements of their rights stem in the first place from a not high standard of living, unequal access to health care, an insufficient effectiveness of the social security system. Herein is the peculiarity of our present situation, to the rectification of which are directed the recent instructions of President Putin to the Government of Russia.

Article 1 of the Statute of the Council of Europe stresses that the organization's aim is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of realizing their common ideals, as well as facilitating their economic and social progress. Unfortunately, the latter part of this formula sometimes turns out to be undeservedly forgotten. This disbalance has to be remedied. Neither shall we forget that common values are never born and take root in a vacuum. They are inculcated in the family and in educational institutions, transmitted by communication between people, and function in the legal system, in the system of governance in civil society.

Among the chief pan-European values are the diversity of cultures, languages, confessions, ways of living, in a word, all that makes European civilization a unique possession of the entire mankind. Therefore the Council of Europe should develop as a multi-focus organization that seeks to establish these values through effective and equal cooperation by states in the legal and social fields, in the areas of education, culture and youth collaboration.

A free and just society has no internal borders, no restriction on movement of citizens. The realization of this freedom on the scale of the continent would enable all the Europeans to enjoy the values of European civilization in full measure. It is the free communication of people that generates the atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust without which there can be neither full-fledged interstate cooperation, nor a truly common pan-European space.

Among democratic values is the safeguarding of the rights of the national minorities as well. It is the duty of all the member countries of the Council of Europe without exception and one of the most important tasks of our organization.


Unquestionably, the traditional areas of the Council of Europe's work retain their significance. But the Council within its scope of competence is called upon to also take up the new problems that are today moving into the center of the world agenda, primarily to respond to the new challenges that carry a direct threat to the prosperity of the inhabitants of the continent and ever more frequently intrude into the everyday life of Europeans.

Such challenges are not becoming fewer, their acuteness is not abating. A part of the conflicts on social, economic, interethnic and religious grounds develops into real or potential seats of terrorism, which is the most dangerous violation of basic human rights, primarily the right to life. The fight against terrorism must be one of the priority areas of activity of our organization.

We are ready together with the Council of Europe partners to work further on perfecting the instruments of cooperation in this sphere. This past April the Russian side signed the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and the Additional Protocol to it of 1997.

A real contribution of the Council of Europe to the antiterrorist drive will be the Conventions prepared ahead of the summit: on the prevention of terrorism; on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime; and on the financing of terrorism.

The recent experience of international development shows that a response to a terrorist challenge must be united and resolute, based on an express qualification of actions of terrorists as grave crimes entailing the inevitability of punishment for the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of terrorist acts.

In determining the right relationship between human rights and the requirements of the safeguarding of the security of society, we proceed from the necessity to act on the basis of observance of universally recognized international legal norms. The real protection of democratic freedoms and human rights is incompatible with support, oblique or direct, for bandits trampling upon these values.

On the whole we think it necessary to create within the geographical boundaries of the Council of Europe a common antiterrorist and law enforcement space.

Europe also has other complicated problems before it, among them the application of the results of scientific and technological progress, of information and biological technologies and of other achievements of human thought in the interests of man. We are satisfied with the fact that the Council of Europe intends to pay due attention to them. Russia is ready to make its contribution to their solution.

Present-day challenges and threats have a global character. Not a single country or group of countries in Europe can cope with them alone. We should not allow ourselves, because of momentary calculations, prejudices or biased perceptions, to forget what matters most - the critical importance of a continent-wide uniting of efforts to tackle the truly complex and principal problems facing Europe as a whole.