(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by President of the Slovak Republic Ivan Gašparovič

Your Excellency, the President,
Your Excellencies, Heads of States and Governments,
Dear Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

By my being here, Slovakia wishes to declare its endorsement of and commitment to the results and commitments of this Summit, which should mark a step forward in the advancement of democracy within the European community. I wish to declare Slovakia’s desire of being a dedicated member of this community and confirm that we firmly stand behind the commitments we made to our partners.

A few weeks ago, we commemorated the first anniversary of the largest EU enlargement round, which also saw my country become an active member of this organization, which for Slovakia means a new and positively reinforced acceptance in world politics. I recognize that our membership and cooperation in the Council of Europe contributed significantly to this achievement.

In many ways, our membership in this organization has helped us solidify the foundations upon which we build the democratic, legal and social system of our country. Equal rights and justice for all citizens alike, the rule of law and impartial and politically unbiased decisions – these were the main principles that made us stand firm in the protection of our shared values and in the respect for freedom, democracy and human rights.

The Council of Europe has been acting as a guardian, watching over the ideals of democracy, giving values to its members. And today, with the assistance of the Council of Europe, we can create a conducive environment which bears the promise of a prosperous future for Europe filled with hope and satisfaction. This is no easy task. And it can only be achieved by putting in place equal conditions, mainly social, economic, education, cultural and political ones. We highly appreciate the Member States for being committed to our common cause, turning the component parts of the Council of Europe into a venue of our coming together as we strive to preserve the values of Europe which lie at the very heart of the rules of our civilization residing in our proud European heritage of principles and ideas.

It was through the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights and, in particular, the European Court of Human Rights that the people of Slovakia became aware of the Council of Europe. This organization acts as the human rights watchdog and I it is my wish that it would never have to deal with a single application from Slovakia. Alas, the world we live in is far from perfect.

Therefore, I will be committed to making sure that, in our country, the enforcement of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is as effective and reliable as possible. In that way we hope to support the European Court of Human Rights as a unique machinery for the protection of human rights. A heavy case-load coupled with a low effectiveness of the Court runs counter to one of the very rights protected by the European Convention.

Therefore, in my view, improving the human rights protection mechanisms in Slovakia is a major challenge, which, if successfully met, will not only mean a step forward for the civic society in Slovakia, but also for the whole European civilization. Besides, we have no intention to have the European Court for Human Rights act as a substitute for our domestic control mechanisms. Slovakia has therefore made great strides in improving its national system for the protection of human rights. We embrace the reform of the Court aimed at reducing its workload, as adopted by the 114th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Convinced, as I am, that Protocol No. 14 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms will help improve the situation of the European Court of Human Rights, I decided to use this Summit to deposit the Instrument of Ratification of the Protocol and thereby to help advance the cause of the Court’s reform. Yesterday’s official ceremony made appreciate the strong resolve on the part of the Council of Europe Member States to see this exercise through.

Of course, I do realize that, as a matter of fact, with the ratification and coming into effect of this Protocol, we are only half way there. Also, non-systemic financial aid is far from an ideal solution, because money has always been scarce. The best, most effective and most moral solution dwells in our very selves. It has to do with respect for the human being, with everyone’s right to fair, equitable and humane treatment. Together, we have to make an effort so that the everyday protection of human rights neither drifts into utopia described at length in textbooks nor becomes the subject of muscle-flexing rhetoric confined to conference halls.

It is imperative that we turn the protection of human rights into reality, one for which there is no alternative. It is for this reason that I appreciate the interest of the Council of Europe Member States in advancing the cause of human rights protection by agreeing to adopt laws and regulations whose enforcement constitutes the main prerequisite for achieving the desired objective.

Rigorous and consistent enforcement of the Court’s case-law is also a must. Because honouring the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights means honouring the „rule-of-law“ principle in practice. We are trying to uphold this principle by enacting legislation that, at times, could be said to be progressive. And we remain confident that our effort will come to fruition and we will see less violations in our country.

The times we live in show us new challenges that call for an ever closer and deeper cooperation among democratic countries in order to safeguard the security and prosperity of our people. I therefore cannot avoid addressing the issue of terrorism and fight against organized crime. At the time the Council of Europe was called into life, these kinds of threats were almost unknown and the mechanisms of multilateralism conceived in the previous century are proving to be ineffective today.

I highly appreciate that, although dealing with regional or even global security issues goes beyond its mission, the Council of Europe is far from inactive in the face of the threat of international terrorism. To this end, I am very pleased that the Council of Europe Member States were able to articulate common positions in respect of the appalling phenomena that we call terrorism. I am confident that, by opening the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism for signature, this Summit will give us a hopefully useful and effective tool in stamping out terrorist activity and, more importantly, in preventing terror attacks from happening in the first place.

I want to assure you that Slovakia is very serious about the issues of global peace and security. In this regard, I also want to highlight that we are ready to do our share and act as necessary to assist the UN Security Council – the primary body responsible for global peace and security in fulfilling its mandate in the 2006-2007 period, for which Slovakia non-permanent membership.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

In the early 20th century, the important Slovak diplomat and statesman Milan Hodža said the following: “One has to see that the new Europe will be built not only by the European countries individually, but mainly through their common potential which is undoubtedly one of the supporting elements of future peace.” Today, at the dawn of the 21st century, in the process of shaping a new European architecture, we can attest to the truth and vision of this statement.

I believe that a Europe united on the shared principles of the European Union and the Council of Europe will play a more important role on a global scale and that the new millennium will show how unique our continent is. I am convinced that we will see the rise of a new generation of confident and proud Europeans who, embracing the spiritual richness of our European cultural diversity, will march towards a life in peace and justice.

These ideas of mine find support in the tabled documents the Warsaw Declaration and the Action Plan, both of which outline possibilities of harnessing the potent complementarities among European States, which arise as a result of concurrent membership in multiple international organizations other than the Council of Europe or the European Union, namely the UN or the OSCE. Rather than being seen as a hindrance to our national interests, these individual memberships should be wielded as a powerful instrument of their development. It is our desire to have a new Europe that is functional, flexible, but most of all, has a purpose.

By the same token, we must not forget to always keep our focus and decisions geared towards the citizen. Because, at the end of the day, the citizen expects us to act as responsible advocates of the civil and democratic safeguards that today’s standard modern society must provide, because justice, human rights and protection of democracy are among the fundamental elements of European society.

Going forward, we have to build a democratic system that counts on the citizens’ active involvement in social life, while offering new forms of social cohesion, protection and care based on solidarity, equality and responsibility.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

During the first Council of Europe Summit in Vienna in 1993, the Slovak Republic was a fresh member. At the second Council of Europe Summit in 1997, we were still under the close scrutiny of the Council of Europe. Today, at the third Summit of the Council of Europe, we are a fully fledged member of both NATO and the EU and we would not want to be anywhere else to ensure our further development and prosperity. We want to show that Slovakia is both capable and ready to shoulder its share of responsibility for creating conditions conducive to a stable and unrestrained development of the people and nations inside Europe.

However, there are major geopolitical changes on our continent which have a significant impact not only on young European democracies of the likes of Slovakia. It is inevitable to jointly address and decide on the social and political direction of our countries. The Council of Europe might serve as an exclusive forum, where clear priority would be given to the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic principles. Slovakia gives its support to a clear definition of the role of the Council of Europe which, in collaboration with international partner organizations – that is, currently in my view the OSCE and the European Union – will underpin democracy and stability in Europe.

Thank you for your attention.