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Speech by Josť Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal

'European values - European unity"

Warsaw, 16 May 2005

Mr. Chairperson,

My first words are to thank the Polish authorities for their warm welcome and for the organisation of this Summit.

Europe has just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Not having participated in it, my country felt its obligation to pay respect to the memory of all the victims, on both sides, dozens and dozens of millions who perished so this continent could have a new opportunity to start anew. It was a war which should have ended all wars. That was the hope of those who wanted a continent whole, just and free, the same hope of those who, in that May of 1945, gazed sadly at the partial ruins of this Warsaw Castle.

The Council of Europe was born out of the ashes of that war. It has been guided by common efforts to guarantee a future in freedom and peace. In order to help avoid future conflicts - and as a synonym for our common values - the Council has adopted the promotion and protection of human rights, the consolidation of democracy, and the expansion of the rule of law, as the three main pillars of its activities.

We are gathered here today in what could be a defining moment in the history of the Council of Europe. The political transformations that have been taking place in Europe in the last decades - and still are, in the best of directions - demand, more than ever, a sustainable commitment, on the part of all European countries, to those values which reinforce our unity.

Mr. Chairperson,

At this Summit, Portugal will be taking over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We shall do so fully aware of the importance of safeguarding and promoting Europe's unity, in face of all the new and multiple challenges ahead. We shall be totally committed to promoting the implementation of our values in all areas of the Council's activities.

Firstly, in the field of human rights. I should underline the importance and meaning of both the European Court and the European Convention on Human Rights, two instruments born out of the Council of Europe. The Convention is a solid commitment, as there can be no other, to promote and protect human rights across Europe. It stands as an excellent example of regional co-operation which could be followed in other parts of the globe.

To give to this consistency, the role of the Commissioner for Human Rights is vital. He has, over the years, been contributing to a greater awareness of the issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe.

Secondly, and being a universal value, in strengthening democracy.

The Council of Europe has played a crucial role in the promotion of pluralist democracy and democratic values, such as tolerance and nondiscrimination, among all member States. Its Programmes for Democratic Stability and, above all, its efforts in support of local and reg ional democracy and good governance, have proved to be highly valuable in the consolidation of democratic systems in our continent. We should encourage their continued implementation wherever the need is felt.

Thirdly, and in the context of the new challenges facing our societies, in helping expand the rule of law. In this framework, we see the increasing legal and juridical co-operation between all member States of the Council of Europe as a positive development which, nonetheless, still needs to be furthered.

Fourthly, in the cultural dimension. The Council's activities here alone generate a very positive reaction in support of European values.

Lastly but certainly not the least important, the consolidation of social cohesion across Europe. We see this as indispensable for the progress and the development of the whole continent. Cohesion is for us a fundamental aspect of our social and economic growth. It is a symbol of European solidarity. Within the Council of Europe, we shall help push forward initiatives towards attaining social cohesion.

In all these areas, co-operation and coordination between the Council and other relevant international organisations, namely the OSCE and the European Union, will help each attain its respective goals. This Summit gives us an opportunity to set a renewed pattern for all this interaction.

Mr. Chairperson,

We are all here conscious of what is at stake regarding the future of our continent. We all believe in a united Europe and look forward to a common future based on shared values. We all want to speed up the end of any dividing lines in Europe.
Tomorrow Portugal shall be presenting an outline of its Programme for the next six months, when we receive the baton from the Polish Presidency. There could not have been a finer place than the setting we are in, with all the symbology it contains.
Our idea for a united Europe is one based on freedom and peace.

This idea has guided this institution for almost 60 years. It will continue to be the main source of our inspiration. As Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Portugal shall spare no efforts in helping fulfil our common vision.