Back Concept of Democratic Security: Council of Europe Contribution

Dubrovnik, Croatia , 

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It is a great pleasure to be here today and to share ideas and aspirations between Council of Europe member states and our broader Mediterranean family.

I congratulate the Croatian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for organising this event – and all the parliamentarians and attendees who have chosen to come here today from such a wide range of countries.

The level of interest evident here in Dubrovnik reflects the ongoing urgency of the task at hand.

Approaching this Conference, we are all acutely aware of the interconnected challenges that have emerged in recent years in the Mediterranean area:

The scourge of terrorism; the routes to deradicalisation; and the implications of a period of rapid regional migration.


These are just some of the burning issues that feature highly on our agenda here: problems that cross borders – and seas.

Alone we cannot fix them: but the good news is that, together, opportunities exist on the basis of co-operation and trust.

From the Council of Europe perspective, our contribution is to provide the forum, tools and experience that allow states to work in tandem with us and make progress.

But before I outline some of that progress, because there is already a lot, I want to reflect on what lies behind the approach that we take.

Let me give you a short historic perspective. The Council of Europe first put the pursuit of democratic security front and centre in our Vienna Declaration, the concluding document of our Summit of heads of state and government in 1993.

The concept of democratic security was issued in the wake of the Cold War, it was a means to secure peace and prosperity in European countries newly freed from communist oppression.

“Territorial ambitions, the resurgence of aggressive nationalism, the perpetuation of spheres of influence, intolerance or totalitarian ideologies”.

These “aberrations” would not be allowed to destroy the immense hope that Europe represented in 1993.

Instead, a shared commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law would pave the way to convergence, the creation of a shared legal space, and the 47 Council of Europe member states that we have today, all of which have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

But democratic security was – and remains – not just a lofty sentiment: it is a structured approached.

It was built on five key pillars:

An efficient and independent judiciary; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly and association; the efficient functioning of democratic institutions, including fighting corruption; and the construction of an inclusive society and democratic citizenship.


I know that some of these will be discussed in greater detail today.

It is no secret that these pillars are now under attack – in Europe and beyond.

Pockets of extreme nationalism and populism on the one hand, and corruption and mismanagement on the other, are real, live challenges.

But our values endure and our standards and instruments are the means by which we can both quantify the challenges – and tackle them.

This is the starting point for sharing democratic security more widely.

Not just east-west, but north-south, with a focus here in the Mediterranean.

Over the course of the past few years, that is precisely what we have been doing.

Encouraged by the events of the Arab Spring in 2011 the Committee of Ministers began a new period of co-operation between the Council of Europe and our southern neighbours.

And supported by the EU and member states, we have worked together to put in place the Action Plans that deliver change.

Our approach can be captured in three broad streams of work.

First, we have worked with individual countries to create a common legal space.

Second, we have provided help where it was sought to shape democratic institutions, including a well-functioning judiciary.

And third, we have fostered regional dialogue as a way to deepen our common understanding of cross-border human rights issues and the best ways in which to address them.

How have we developed this co-operation?

To shape that common legal space, we have shared, where appropriate, the standards enshrined in our 220+ conventions.

Many of those conventions were introduced by debates in the Parliamentary Assembly.

Our Mediterranean partners, who wanted to benefit from those human rights, rule of law and democratic governance standards took up that offer.

We have facilitated the harmonisation of legislation and practices through regional dialogue and co-operation, and by peer-to-peer exchanges.

And, in partnership, we have forged a sustained political dialogue – with Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia in particular – based on shared human rights values.

Progress has been impressive.

Tunisia, for example, has ratified 7 Council of Europe conventions and additional protocols, and is working towards accession on others with regard to tackling human trafficking and the fight against cybercrime.

Morocco has ratified 8 conventions and additional protocols and is in the final stages of ratifying others such as the MEDICRIME convention and the Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

And all of the neighbours with whom we co-operate have a strong and welcome relationship with the Venice Commission, our advisory body on constitutional matters. 

But for that legal space to function effectively, democratic institutions and an efficient judiciary are required.

These are the building blocks of a state that people can trust to safeguard the rule of law.

That’s why we have helped establish and enhance independent governance bodies at the national level, including Tunisia’s anti-corruption body and Morocco’s national authority for equality and the fight against all forms of discrimination;

It’s why PACE is promoting the Council of Europe’s standards at the inter-parliamentary level, including by its “Partner for Democracy” approach to which Jordan acceded in 2016 – and why it also observed elections there this year, as indeed it did in Morocco just last month;

And it’s also why our European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, CEPEJ, works to help ensure that justice systems are fair, transparent and effective.

Morocco for example made full use last year of CEPEJ expertise in the establishment of its Supreme Council of the Judiciary, part of a joint EU / Council of Europe “Programme to support the justice sector reform”, and “South Programme I and II”.

These are concrete achievements, and we believe that they will last.

At the same time, ongoing regional dialogue, through high level bilateral and multilateral co-operation, has created an environment in which we have been able to tackle these issues – and which will enable us to address many of the big challenges that continue to affect the region as a whole.

This is what we continue to do within the framework of the EU / Council of Europe Third South Programme: Ensuring sustainable democratic governance and human rights in the Southern Mediterranean.

Our work to combat the scourge of violence against women.

Our progress in tackling the evil of human trafficking.

And our joint efforts to address the challenges that have come about as a consequence of the surge of migration in the region: matters in which our Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies has been an important platform for sharing experiences and understanding.

Ladies and gentlemen, this list is not exhaustive.

The hard work of many people in this room – and many people beyond it – has led to greater co-operation, national action, and international partnership, and that is something to celebrate.

We can have peace and prosperity – democratic security – on this basis if we move forward in the right manner.

Here today, I am interested to hear how you think we can make more progress still.

Whether the model of democratic security is working as effectively as you think it might:

And how it might best be used to tackle other issues in the region today, not just in terms of physical security, but economic security too.

Because the world is changing at a quickened rate and we must be ready to face that challenge.

To safeguard, in the best possible way, the dignity of all people, through respect for their human rights, from which each and every one of us benefits.

Thank you.