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Interview with Luzius Wildhaber, President of the European Court of Human Rights

25 February 2005

Question : As President of the European Court of Human Rights, what are your expectations of the Summit in Warsaw?

Luzius Wildhaber: As far as the Court is concerned, the Summit needs to address two issues: the Court’s future and the European Union’s accession to the Convention.

Three stages lie ahead for the Court: the immediate future prior to the entry into force of Protocol 14, the medium term after its entry into force, and the longer term. The Summit should agree on an appropriate strategy for each of these stages. As things stand, the Summit will probably deal with the short and the medium term, in particular by emphasising the need to bring Protocol 14 into force as quickly as possible. This protocol is essential for the future of the Convention system, and I therefore welcome the support that the Summit will provide.

Nevertheless, the Summit also has a duty to consider the long term and to develop a global vision for the whole of the Council of Europe including the Court, since the Court is undoubtedly one of the Council’s greatest assets. However, it is already clear that Protocol 14 alone will not be able to solve all of the Court’s problems. Despite all the measures provided for in the protocol, the number of cases is continuing to expand faster than our work capacity, so unless changes are made the Court will need ever-increasing resources. The Summit should therefore also look at the Court’s long term future, in the light of the audit reports on the Court which have been commissioned, whose very important conclusions should be available soon, and certainly prior to the Summit. One of the options open to the Summit is, for example, to ask a group of “wise persons” - experienced national and international judges - to consider these questions and identify possible scenarios for the future of the Court, so as to do the groundwork for the policy decisions relating to the Court which current developments will make inevitable.

The Summit should also clearly call on the parties concerned by the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights to take the first steps towards negotiations on this accession. This is a highly symbolic project, a qualitative leap forward, not only for the Convention system but certainly for the whole Council of Europe as well, and one from which other areas of the Organisation will subsequently benefit. It would therefore be very disappointing if the Summit did not give its clear support, in particular its political support, to accession, which has already been approved in Brussels in the constitutional treaty and in Strasbourg in Protocol No. 14.