(To be checked against delivered speech)
Speech by Arnold Rüütel, President of Estonia
Allow me to start with words of gratitude to our host Poland, Chair of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers for the accomplishment! And good luck to Portugal, our next Presidency.
For more than half a century the Council of Europe has been defending European values and working in the name of a more unified. democratic and freer Europe. In 1949, while the Council of Europe was established, it comprised ten West European countries. Today we can admit with pleasure that both the Council of Europe and Europe itself have undergone a tremendous change. There are no dividing lines in Europe any more. The concepts of Western and Eastern Europe are acquiring a merely geographical meaning. Collapse of communist regimes in late 80ies has provided many a European nation a long-awaited opportunity to restore their place in democratic Europe. Estonia, having been for tifty years under Soviet occupation, knows well the value of unified and free Europe.
This is the Third Council of Europe Summit already. Previous summits in Vienna in 1993 and in Strasbourg in 1997 - have also taken place after major breakthroughs in Europe. Today we can say that Europe has leaped towards unity over the last twelve years. The European Union of 25 Member States and still enlarging serves as clear proof. With Orange Revolution in the Ukraine and Rose Revolution in Georgia in mind we can rejoice on continuous spread of European values. These are values stemming from freedom. democracy. and recognition of human rights and rule of law. The Council of Europe has to stand firm in its support to rooting of European values during the slow process of instilling democratic culture.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
However. not all developments have been positive in Europe in recent years. The situation in Byelorussia is of concern. especially in the light of last year's elections. Moldova is still caught in the crisis in Transnistria. We have to consider that security risks have multiplied in the world over the recent years and Europe is not an exception. Terrorist attacks in Madrid last March and in Beslan in September bear tragic proof.
In the light of these developments it is essential to sustain efforts in protecting democracy and European values. The Council of Europe embracing nearly all European countries plays a unique role; however. Council of Europe's close cooperation with OSCE and the European Union is inevitable. The values underlying our policies and positions are of extreme signitlcance. In order to ensure spread of democracy. relations between states cannot be based on narrow economic interests.
I would like to emphasise that Europe's unity does not lie merely in spreading democratic values and mle of law and convergence of living standard. Unfortunately last century was a century of major and fatal confrontations for Europe. We have just marked 60 years of the end of World War II on Europe's territory. While for Western Europe the end of the war delivered peace, cooperation and wealth, for Eastern Europe the year 1945 has a dual meaning. The most devastating war with the largest number of victims in the history of the mankind ended for East European nations with one totalitarian regime replaced by another for more than fifty years. Thus, the number of people Estonia lost during the first decade of Soviet regime in the peace-time was signiticantly higher than the number of Estonians who perished in the war.
Naturally, we need to become reconciled and rise above the past. Hmvever. this can be done only if we dare to look the past in the eye. if we can and want to establish historic truth. A free and democratic Europe cannot embark on half-truths - in order to accomplish real unity, also crimes by all totalitarian regimes have to be condemned and everybody should admit the past. I stress that all this is in the interest of our common future. opening new horizons for the development of our part of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
To conclude, I would revisit the role and further development of the Council of Europe. The currently 46-member Council of Europe has made an invaluable contribution to the protection of European values over the last fifty years. At the current summit we should take a clear look into the future. The political declaration and action plan should establish goals for the Council of Europe as well as specify and enhance its role both in Europe and in the entire world under new circumstances of the twenty first century.
The Council of Europe should be able to focus its strength on activities, in which the organisation has delivered over the time. It is essential that the Council of
Europe's development were flexible and responding to upcoming problems tacing member states. Giving up some less significant activities, the organisation could improve its diverging capability, considering needs of rapidly developing Europe. Features, which make the Council of Europe strong, should be preserved representation of all European states, preventive action. and elaboration of common norms. standards and evaluation criteria. The efticient perfonnance of the Convention of Human Rights and the Court of Human Rights is extremely significant in order to ensure democracy, human rights and rule of law. However. detinitely, resources of the court should be increased in order to accomplish all this. Certainly, the Council of Europe should also address the issues related to indigeneous people in the future.
Estonia weJcomes the Council of Europe's leading role in the implementation of intormation technology in order to speed up democratic reforms. Estonia has rich experience to offer in this field and I am pleased to admit that Estonia' s professionals are actively involved.
Thank you for your attention.