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17 May 2005
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-(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External relations and European neighbourhood policy

Warsaw, 17 May 2005

Mr President,
Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Mr Secretary General,
Dear Colleagues,

Only last week, together with many of you here, I was in Moscow as we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. And now here we are in Warsaw – a city which suffered so much during that war - at this third Summit of the Council of Europe, the Organisation which emerged from the aftermath of war to play a fundamental role in European construction, and in defending and promoting human rights and democracy in Europe.

As we gather here to salute the achievements of this organisation, to re-affirm the core values on which Europe is built, and to consider its future role, I am also conscious that just a few days ago we also marked the first anniversary of the European Union’s enlargement from an organisation of 15 members to one of 25, and decided to expand to 27. It is therefore a fitting occasion to reflect on how our two organisations can best work together to advance democracy, the rule of law and human rights on the European continent.

Central to the EU’s foreign policy is the desire to improve the effectiveness of multilateral organisations, and to support and promote those fundamental values. We pay tribute to the ideas and principles of the United Nations enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. But we strongly believe that regional organisations have a vital role to play to implement those principles and that acting at a regional level is also the right way to respond to our citizens’ needs.

On the European continent, the current architecture provides us with the possibility to act through the Council of Europe 46, the OSCE 55, and/or the EU 25.

Yet this regional architecture is in need of some modernisation if it is to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We welcome the reflection on the new articulation with the view to maximise co-operation and coordination between the different organisations. Of course, avoiding duplication of effort is important. But it would be too simplistic to have just this objective in mind. Moreover we should not shy away from this debate – each organisation has its vocation, its particular added value, and as such there is nothing to fear.

On our part we are ready to look into strategic priorities to make them coincide. We are committed to further develop activities, programmes and projects which are mutually supportive and reinforcing. This is for me the way forward for the EU-Council of Europe relationship and co-operation.

Although the EU is growing larger and economically stronger, our external policy remains an essential component of our ambition. Our bilateral Agreements with all of the countries present here today, the close relations we have with both the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and our new European Neighbourhood Policy, are all indications of our determination to build a strong and effective new European architecture.

Of course much has already been achieved – there is strong cooperation between the European Commission and the Council of Europe which goes far beyond political rhetoric. As you know we work closely together in the context of EU enlargement and our Neighbourhood Policy. Rather than develop a parallel system we make use of the Council of Europe’s expertise to monitor the compliance of the candidate countries with what we call the “political” criteria. I inspired myself from this extremely valuable experience in the context of the Action Plans being developed within the Neighbourhood policy.

In the same spirit, the use of all possible synergies will be the basis of the establishment of the EU future Fundamental Rights Agency.

In addition, our joint human rights and democratisation projects have proved extremely effective and are warmly welcomed by the beneficiary countries.

We must and we will build on this.

We also encourage the Council of Europe and the OSCE to look at how best they can work together, avoiding duplications and bringing a real synergy to their work, for example in the field of democratisation and the protection of national minorities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Summit marks an important moment for the Council of Europe. I think it has seized the opportunity to give new momentum to its ambitious political objectives. The Council of Europe as the Organisation which was the first to promote the principle of a Europe based on a set of fundamental values has a vital role to play in responding to the new challenges of the 21st century.

As we all face the same challenges the EU and the Council of Europe must join forces and co-operate better for the benefit of our citizens. The European Commission is ready to take its full share of responsibility and will take the necessary initiatives in this context.