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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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To be checked against delivered speech

Speech by Diogo Freitas do Amaral, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal

Warsaw, 17 mai 2005

Mr. Chairman/ (Mr Prime Minister)

Let me say a few words as incoming Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe:

First of all, I would like to thank the Polish Chairmanship for their hard work in the past six months and for the organization of the Third Summit of the Council of Europe. We are very honoured to hold the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in the wake of such an important gathering. The three main areas of the Portuguese Chairmanship will the following:

Our first priority will be the reinforcement of those values that have constituted the main basis of the activity of the Council of Europe for more than 50 years and that were reiterated in this Declaration and in the Plan of Action that we have adopted: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Although much has been achieved since 1949, we need to enhance the mechanisms that ensure the implementation of these values in those areas in which that has not been possible thus far.

To that end, we will be looking forward to promote the reinforcement of the efficiency and relevance of the European Court of Human Rights, namely through the full implementation of Additional Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. The establishment of the group of wise persons to consider the issue of the long term effectiveness of the European Convention of Human Rights mechanism should also take place as soon as possible.
Furthermore, the human and financial resources at the disposal of the Commissioner for Human Rights should be improved. I avail myself of this opportunity to congratulate Mr Gil Robles for his excellent work as the first Commissioner for Human Rights.

We will be awarding major importance to the strengthening of local and regional democracy and good governance as well as to the role of pan-European legal instruments as a way of dealing with the new challenges to our societies. Threats like terrorism, trafficking in human beings and economic crime perfectly illustrate the difficult times ahead.

Mr. Chairman / (Mr Prime Minister)

We have chosen the cultural dimension of the Council of Europe as the second main priority of our Chairmanship. In as much as Europe’s cultural diversity is an issue that must be addressed adequately, we will seek to promote the principles of the Wroclaw Declaration and
we will be honoured to host the closing ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention.

We will also favour the Council of Europe’s engagement in a constructive dialogue with its neighbouring regions, namely through the activity of the North South Centre.

Moreover, and since we believe that democratic values should be promoted at an early age in schools and universities, we will grant full support to the European Year of Citizenship through Education, namely by following the recommendations issued in Wroclaw last December. Promoting the participation of youth in political life will also be one of our aims.

As a third priority, we have decided to dedicate our attention to social cohesion in wider Europe. We are strongly convinced that the sustainability of democratic societies relies heavily on the ability to deliver social justice. This can only be achieved through the respect of common standards in the field of economic and social rights.
Building on what has already been achieved concerning social and health policies, we attach the utmost importance to the promotion of better policy-making in these fields. Let me add that this is also necessary when dealing with such issues as migrations or the integration of persons with disabilities.

Mr. Chairman / (Mr Prime Minister)

I would like to reiterate Portugal’s long standing commitment to the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. The Portuguese Chairmanship is aware of the need to ensure the follow-up of the decisions contained in the Declaration and Plan of Action that we have just adopted. We hereby commit ourselves to such an imperative task for the future of this Organisation that, having played a vital role in Europe’s past, will certainly continue to do so in Europe’s future.
Thank you.