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17 maja 2005
16 maja 2005
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Speech by Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President René van der LINDEN

Warsaw, 17 may 2005

Mr President,

Why are we here in Warsaw?

Because in the European Architecture of tomorrow the Council of Europe has a crucial role to play.

It is the only Pan-European Organisation.

And it will remain the only Pan-European Organisation for many years to come.

And as so many of you said yesterday and today - it is doing an excellent job.

The unfolding tragedy in Uzbekistan is a reminder of what happens if our values are not respected. We should do our utmost to contribute to a peaceful settlement.

Lessons should be drawn to enable Europe to prevent such crises from re-occurring.

In 1949, when the Council of Europe was set up, many were opposed to creating a Parliamentary Assembly.

From today's perspective, it is clear that the creation of the Assembly was essential to the success of the Council of Europe.

Every time the Assembly takes on additional competence this has paid off and moves the European idea forward and closer to its citizens.

The members of the Assembly have a double mandate:
European and national.

This enables us not only to bring national parliaments to Europe, but also to bring Europe to national parliaments, and thus to the people.

Closer to their views, hopes, ideas, and criticisms.

Regrettably, today many of our citizens consider European architecture to be more an office building for bureaucrats rather than a home for themselves.

We need to re-connect Europe with its citizens.

We must apply the principle of subsidiarity, also to international institutions, to avoid duplication and waste of money.

Decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level; that is by the best placed institution.

The Council of Europe has unique and proven mechanisms and instruments for the protection of human rights.

They should not be undermined.

Recent initiatives within the European Commission, in particular concerning the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, if pursued, will create unnecessary duplication and draw new dividing lines in Europe.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner this morning recognised the excellent work of the Council of Europe and expressed the Commission's intention to make full use of our instruments and mechanisms in the neighbourhood policy. The Assembly will soon submit concrete proposals on how to make this intention a reality.

The mandates of the European Union, the OSCE and the Council of Europe need to be defined. Each has its own specific role. Your decisions at this Summit clearly set out the Council of Europe's political mandate.

I strongly appeal to you to recall these decisions when instructing your representatives in our partner organisations, in particular, the European Union and the OSCE.

I attach the greatest importance to good co-operation with the European Union.

I am extremely grateful to Prime Minister Juncker for having just accepted to prepare a political report on the relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe. I am sure that he will provide the right answers. He can count on the Assembly's contribution and our strong political support.

When discussing relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe, the parliamentary dimension must, of course, be present.

Together with the European Parliament, the Assembly should therefore be a full participant in the Quadripartite meetings between the European Union and the Council of Europe.

I count on you to make this possible.

In European relations, parliamentary diplomacy has become an irreplaceable tool. It is one of the strengths of our Assembly.

Moreover, for Europe's political leaders, our Assembly has become a school for democracy.

It should be more regularly consulted by the Committee of Ministers and be closer involved in the preparation of conventions.

The Assembly needs increased budgetary rights, similar to those enjoyed by international assemblies.

This should include verification of the Organisation's spending.

This will enable us to be more convincing in our national parliaments when defending the budgetary needs of our Organisation.

I intend to work more closely with the Committee of Ministers and I appeal to you to make this possible.

In conclusion, we need:

First, a much stronger cooperation with international organisations, in particular with the European Union. Mr Juncker's report will certainly provide us with the necessary roadmap;

Second, a much stronger Parliamentary Assembly;

Thirdly, more effective co-operation with the Committee of Ministers.

I count on your support.