(To be checked against delivered speech)
Speech by Marc FORNÉ MOLNÉ, Head of Government of Andorra
Warsaw, 16 May 2005.
Mr President, Heads of State and Prime Ministers, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the second time I have the honor of addressing this noble assembly and also the last, since my mandate as head of government is coming to a close and I consider it a happy coincidence that this should come together with the Council of Europe, because the values which it defends must be the basis of all political action and they are also those which have guided my course in the government of Andorra: democracy, the human rights and the rule of law.
Under these guiding principles the Principality of Andorra has recently celebrated ten years as a member of the Council of Europe and this is also the period during which I have headed the government of my country. During this period we have ratified an important number of conventions and the norms established by the organization have guided incorporations to our legal framework, as will continue to be the case in the future. Our cooperation has included aspects as diverse as the safeguard of human rights and freedoms, the protection of the cultural heritage, education or the defense of the environment, and this has meant a profitable exchange and a stimulus for the wellbeing of our citizens.
The Principality of Andorra has fulfilled its undertaking to ratify the Revised European Social Charter, a basic instrument in our social model which enables the quality of life of our citizens to be improved in terms of social and labor policies.
We have also ratified the European Convention on judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which we consider to be an essential tool to face the new challenges we are up against in this beginning of the century; and recently we have joined the Group of States against Corruption. In this context, I would like to point out the need to carry out the process of making more flexible and reforming the European Court of Human Rights which the organization is carrying out with the signature of Protocol 14 to the European Convention for the safeguard of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Andorra has taken an active part both at technical level and in the parliamentary Assembly, in preparing the European Convention on the prevention of terrorism and the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism, instruments which should enable us to face these destabilizing phenomena which are contrary to the principles of democracy, the defense of human rights and the rule of law. Today we congratulate ourselves on the opening for signature of these two Conventions together with the Convention on Action against trafficking in Human Beings. All three instruments will be useful to face up to activities which threaten the principles and values of this organization.
Our work in the Council of Europe must serve to reaffirm the vocation of the continent of Europe as the cradle of fundamental freedoms, the principles of justice and peace in the world, the defense of the model of parliamentary democracy and the safeguard of human rights. In the last few years important milestones have been attained and the difficult process of redirecting our continent as a whole towards the path of democracy has been a great success. The struggle against terrorism and its financing, the struggle against corruption, against the trafficking of human beings and the protection of freedom of expression must continue to be our foremost priorities. The residues of violence and demagogy must be neutralized so that governments may be good and stable in nature.
Ten years ago I said at Strasbourg: we Andorrans, thanks to our history and the life and size of our state, have a constant, fluid contact between elected politicians and citizens. A permanent dialog and a high level of democratic demand continue to be maintained. Two weeks ago the voters of Andorra again gave an example of their involvement and civic conscience. Participation in the latest general elections was again over EIGHTY PERCENT of the electoral register. If only all European elections and all the referendums for the Constitution of the European Union could have the same percentage. We also want it to be approved because for the first time the existence and specific relationships of the small states in the continent with the Union is recognized and, above all, because it is another very positive step on the way to peace, solidarity, prosperity and social justice in Europe.
Andorra is the only sovereign state not a member of the European Union in which the majority of residents are citizens of the Union. We Andorrans continue to be a minority in our own home, despite the increase in integration thanks to the progressive opening up of our laws. The population has increased tenfold in sixty years in an open, generous manner without comparable precedents anywhere, sharing in work and prosperity.
The wealth of our Pyrenean culture is expressed in Catalan. And it is indeed true that when a language like Catalan has lived and grown for almost a thousand years, the numbers of those speaking it is not the only criterion of its greatness, but it does require a great effort to defend it against the strength of both neighboring and important cultures and majority languages. The Council of Europe is aware of that and must also maintain this aspect of its struggle in support of those rights which have most need of being defended. The right to maintain the wealth of one's old identity, expressed in Andorra in our national language, Catalan, is also an inescapable aim of this body.
Today, sixty years after the end of the Second World War and 56 years after the setting up of the Council of Europe, we can speak of a European unity in democratic standards, the respect of human rights and the defense of the rule of law. The Council of Europe draws inspiration from our common humanistic heritage to “unite in our diversity” favoring political values of inclusion and complementarity. We must consolidate this European society to make it freer and more tolerant.
The Council of Europe must continue to help to give common, effective replies to the new challenges and threats presented by the twenty first century.