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17 May 2005
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To be checked against delivered speech

Address by H.E. Tassos Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus

Warsaw, 17 may 2005

Mr. Chairman,

I am delighted to be here to join colleagues at this historic gathering of the Council of Europe in Warsaw and I would like to offer warm and sincere congratulations to Poland for the excellent organization.

Dear Colleagues,

Europe's history of the last centuries can be told through wars, conflicts and revolutions which resulted in the constant drawing and re-drawing of the lines of the map. However, under the burden of history, we have realized that there is more that unites Europeans than divides us. We understood that continuous co-operation, not battlefields, must be the way forward. We put behind us the past, outlawed its horrors and started building a common future for our people.

We have established the Council of Europe and have given real meaning to the notion of co-operation between sovereign states. Through relentless efforts, at times arduous, we embarked on constructing peaceful societies, coexisting harmoniously with each other. These societies are of course diverse, but based on common principles, on common values and on common standards and the respect of the rights and liberties of each individual. Our goal is a Europe of peace, stability and most importantly understanding; a continent founded on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

The visionary founders of the European Union and the previous fifteen members of the European Union, have opened the great horizons of a reunified Europe. Now, the European Union of 25 countries took up the torch and follows the avenue which they have opened.

We are all in agreement that so far the course of the Council of Europe has been, on the whole, a success story. We have identified and codified a set of shared values. We granted for the first time an international right of individual recourse for human rights violations. We took considerable steps in initiating human rights monitoring mechanisms, empowered to assess and evaluate each and every state. Finally, we are about to conclude successfully the enlargement and transformation of the Council of Europe into the wider European platform of co-operation.

Our achievements are hard-gained and noteworthy. As such they must be safeguarded and strengthened. At the same time, they must serve as the basis of the future course of our Organization. This is our great responsibility and our great challenge.

In this respect, we welcome most warmly and support the proposal of the President made this morning to entrust the distinguished and highly respected Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, to report on the relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union.

Dear Colleagues,

Undoubtedly, the greatest achievement of this Organization is the European Convention of Human rights and its supervisory mechanism. The Convention must remain the essential reference point of protection of human rights in Europe as a whole. We need to secure, irrespective of cost or political considerations, the credibility and the long term effectiveness of the Convention's system and the values it represents. This is our single most important responsibility. It is our duty towards 800 millions Europeans, to the world in general and to the human rights movement. We must rise to this challenge and we must complete by May 2006 the reform provided for in Protocol 14.

At the same time, we should proceed in providing the Court with all resources necessary for its enduring smooth and unhindered functioning. We should also make the conditions of service of the judges attractive enough in order to ensure further excellence in its composition and its absolute independence. Finally, we should elaborate without further delay all those additional measures which are essential in securing the future effectiveness of the Convention and the Court. To this end the proposed establishment of a panel of eminent and independent international personalities is the step in the right direction that has our full support. We also support the proposal for the appointment of the former President of the ECJ, Mr. Rodriguez-Iglesias, as Chairman of this panel.

Human rights values and their protection, as Judge Tanaka argued in the South West Africa cases, should be accorded primacy. Human rights should be placed beyond any internally or internationally expressed will of states. National interests and political expediencies should not be relevant to their enforcement. Today more than ever, multilateralism and unconditional implementation rather than unilateralism and defiance should prevail when it comes to human principles. The Republic of Cyprus has always committed itself to these principles.

We, must now reevaluate the practical application of our collective duty to enforce human rights. Our most urgent task is to address the long standing fundamental question of the execution of the Court's judgments. The execution of all judgments, within a reasonable time frame, is indispensable for the credibility of the Convention. We must finally react to this acute problem and our response must be immediate and courageous. Failure to address this effectively will undermine the achievements of the last 50 years and put at risk the very foundations of European human rights protection. Above all it will be a great disappointment to our own citizens, who trust the Council of Europe as the most efficient human rights protection system worldwide.

Dear Colleagues,

We, Cypriots, are particularly sensitive when it comes to safeguarding and further promoting the achievements and common values of the Council of Europe. After all, Cyprus' history has been a constant struggle to maintain its unity and sovereignty. Our recent history has been marked by grave violations of fundamental human rights of our citizens by the foreign military forces, which occupy, about, 37% of Cyprus. The unresolved humanitarian issue of the fate of the missing persons, only to mention one, is proof to that.

There is an urgent need for restoration and respect of human rights of all Cypriots. It is my firm belief that the contemporary aspirations of the parties involved in the Cyprus problem can and should contribute towards restoration of human rights on the island.

Our common aim should be to build a region anchored in our determination to resolve divisions by peaceful means and in accordance with international and European principles. Our commitment to that has been repeatedly declared; I will spare no effort in striving through negotiations to truly and effectively reunify our country, its people, society, territory, economy and institutions.

The history of the Council of Europe has been, as I said earlier, a success story mainly because of the willingness of European states to co-operate in finding common solutions to their differences. It is therefore imperative that all of us start making proper use and applying this founding co-operative principle of European integration.

Concluding, Cyprus expects that this Summit will mark the beginning for a strong and refocused Council of Europe, uniting its Member States under a common identity of shared values and principles. The Council should concentrate on the areas in which it excels, with the primacy given to the consolidation and unconditional enforcement of human rights norms and standards. This is the vision of Cyprus for the Council of Europe of the 21st century.

Thank you.