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Interview with Hervé Ladsous, spokesperson of Michel Barnier, Minister of foreign affairs of France
Question: What is the third summit’s importance to European construction?
Hervé Ladsous: The third Council of Europe summit needs to demonstrate unanimous European commitment to a number of core values: human rights, democracy, the rule of law. It needs to send out a strong message to the world, some parts of which are being overtaken by violence.
The third summit will also take stock. As the guarantor of democratic progress in the world for over 50 years, the Council of Europe has successfully enlarged to take in the whole continent (except Belarus). Now it must consolidate by concentrating on the areas where it excels: human rights, democracy, the rule of law. The summit will have to reinforce the role of the European Court of Human Rights and make sure it is able to respond within a reasonable time lapse to the influx of applications. The Council of Europe has new challenges to rise to, such as terrorism, cybercrime and resurgences of racism and anti-Semitism.
Lastly, it makes sense for the Council to look outwards and further develop co-operation with the European Union, the OSCE and the United Nations. It must play a larger part as a policy forum by opening up to civil society – the NGOs and political foundations. It must shape the attitudes of elected representatives and elites.
The Council is the cornerstone of European construction. It is by focusing on its areas of expertise that the Council can strengthen the present European architecture. The summit is an opportunity to get that across.
Question: How, in practice, do you see the division of responsibilities between the different European organisations?
Hervé Ladsous: Each of the organisations springs from different concepts, methods and geometries. The OSCE has 55 members, the Council of Europe 46, the European Union 25. They all have promotion of human rights and democracy in common. What the Council of Europe must build on is its legitimacy as a standard-setter in this area (involving enforcement of the conventions and of ECHR judgments). The Council of Europe must build synergy with the OSCE “human dimension” arm, in action to combat human trafficking, the action plan for Roma and Sinti, and action on racism and anti-Semitism. With the European Union it needs to develop co-operation projects, in particular in the fields of justice and internal affairs and European neighbourhood policy.
Question: What remit do you want for the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency? Isn’t there a danger of overlap with the Council of Europe?
Hervé Ladsous: On 13 December 2003 the representatives of EU member states, meeting at the level of heads of state and government, expressed a desire for the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, founded in 1997 by a Community regulation, to be converted into a Fundamental Rights Agency. The Commission will be putting forward a proposal for a regulation on that in 2005. The European Commission has held consultations and the Council of Europe has been extensively involved in them.
The Agency’s responsibilities will be based on the consultations and will need a consensus of all the EU member states. We understand the Council of Europe’s concern for the agency’s action to be consistent with the Council of Europe’s.
In that connection we take the view that, in any broadening of the Agency’s responsibilities, the objective of combating racism and xenophobia must remain a priority. The Agency should also concentrate on monitoring the situation as regards fundamental rights in the member states, excluding third countries. Lastly, the Agency must not overlap with the European Court of Human Rights or with convention-monitoring bodies in the human-rights field, in particular ECRI (the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance).