Back 2nd meeting of the Conference of Participants of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on the Register of Damage caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine

Riga 12 September 2023
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Remarks by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Minister of Justice of the Republic of Latvia,

Executive Director of the Register of Damage,


Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,


A very good morning to all of you.

I begin today by thanking the Latvian Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers for its strong support for the Register of Damage –

And for hosting this meeting today.

I also thank you – the Conference of Participants – for your commitment to this landmark project.

It could hardly be more important.

The Russian Federation’s appalling war of aggression continues to cause pain, loss and destruction for individuals and communities throughout Ukraine.

Over the course of this summer, new and terrible atrocities have been reported.

Civilians getting killed, indiscriminate missile and drone attacks, homes destroyed, infrastructure damaged – even grain stores destroyed.

The cynicism and cruelty are evident –

Therefore accountability is essential.

That was clearly stated by our European leaders at May’s Summit of the Council of Europe’s Heads of State and Government in Reykjavik in May.

It was echoed yesterday, here in Riga, at a meeting of our member states’ justice ministers –

Where a clear, strong and concrete Declaration was issued –

And of course, all of this takes place within the broader context of the United Nations General Assembly resolution –

Passed last year –

And calling for an international register of damage to be set-up.

So, there is context, direction and strong support for the work that we are undertaking together, both here in Europe and beyond.

In just a few short months, a great deal has already been done.

There are now 44 Participants and Associate Members from across three continents –

With Switzerland – who I congratulate – joining as a Participant just a few days ago –

And I welcome the possibility of others doing the same.

This is important –

Because the more members that join, the more strength and expertise the Register will have at its disposal.

An executive director has been appointed –

And I congratulate you, Mr Kliuchkovskyi, for your very efficient work -

And we now look forward to your report today –

I also congratulate a small, but fast-expanding team for its hard work –

All of whom have the continued firm support of the broader Council of Europe Secretariat.

A Host State Agreement with the Kingdom of the Netherlands has also been signed and come into force –

Confirming that the Register will be seated in the The Hague –

For which we are grateful to the Dutch authorities.

But now we must move further forward.

This second meeting of the Conference of Participants will lay the foundations for the next and urgent steps:

The nomination and appointment of board members –

The adoption of a budget –

That will help ensure investment in the all-important digital platform that will be central to recording the damage on the ground.

I know that we all share the conviction that the Register needs to begin its work as soon as possible.

Yes, Russia’s war against Ukraine is believed to be the most documented conflict of the twenty-first century –

And yes, this should help ensure the facts, data and evidence that the Register needs –

But it is vital that it begins to record that evidence as quickly and as fully as possible –

To ensure that it is not lost –

And that there is as much accountability as possible.

The co-operation and coordination with national-level registers in Ukraine will also be important.

Dear friends,

For our part, I can assure you that the SG and I, and the leadership of the Council of Europe will take the opportunity to raise the issue of the Register in our meetings with leaders from our member states –

As well as non-member states –

And from other international organisations –

To raise awareness of and support for the Register, and in particular to make the case for expanding its circle of membership –

So that its expertise and political and financial strength continue to grow –

And our Secretary General will, as one example, use her meetings to that effect at the UN General Assembly’s high-level week, later this month.

The Register is not however an end in itself.

Both last year’s UN Resolution and the Reykjavík Declaration from our Fourth Summit made the point that it should serve as a first, necessary and comprehensive step towards a future international compensation mechanism –

A mechanism that will literally make Russia pay for its crimes.

The Council of Europe supports that aim.

And that was clearly underlined in the Reykjavík Declaration – I quote –

“[We] express willingness to engage with the international community in further developing such a mechanism to be established by a separate international instrument … while emphasising the obligation for the Russian Federation to pay for damages caused by this war of aggression.”

We are certainly committed to this –

All of this – and all of us.

Because we know that without justice and accountability, there can be no lasting peace in Ukraine – or in Europe or elsewhere.

That understanding is also an important element of President Zelensky’s Peace Formula.

In this, and every way possible, the Council of Europe shall continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him, Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

President Zelensky, Foreign Minister Kuleba, Deputy Minister of Justice Mudra who is here today,  and Ukraine’s people and leaders at all levels of government have shown extraordinary strength, resilience and determination.

For their sake, for Europe and for a legally based world order, we must continue to do likewise, and for as long as it takes.

I very much look forward to seeing rapid progress in the months ahead –

As the Register becomes a reality.

To all of you again, thank you for your hard work, leadership and dedication.


I thank you, Chair.