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European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG) - 10th meeting

As delivered

 

Introduction

Mr Chairman, your excellence,

distinguished members of the Committee, colleagues,

Good morning.

It is a great pleasure for me to address the 10th plenary session of the European Committee on Democracy and Governance.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the work that you are doing;

To testify to the importance that the Council of Europe attaches to the issues of democracy and governance;

And to encourage you to continue to play a steering role within the Council of Europe, leading its intergovernmental work that helps strengthen democratic institutions, public administration, and decentralisation and good governance, with emphasis on enhancing citizens’ participation and promoting public ethics.

Stocktaking

As you know, in 2019 the Council of Europe has celebrated its 70th anniversary. This important occasion has been marked by high level ceremonies and events.

At the same time, it has been a moment for stocktaking and reflection: on what the Council of Europe has achieved so far, and how it can continue to promote and consolidate human rights, democracy and the rule of law in all its members States, in the current context and for the years to come.

In our last annual report, which shaped the discussions held during the Ministerial Conference in Helsinki in May 2019, former Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland identified the further strengthening of intergovernmental cooperation as one of the strategic proposals for moving forward.

As he underlined, the role of our intergovernmental committees is crucial to the effectiveness of the Council of Europe.

Responding to new challenges through common dialogue and with common answers agreed by our 47 member states is the strength of our Organisation, whether in the form of guidelines, advice, good practices or new standards.

Intergovernmental committees must use their resources to tackle subjects that are important for member states and where the Council of Europe has a real competence and added value compared to other organisations.

Furthermore, there should be sufficient flexibility in their terms of reference to maintain or adapt to urgent needs.

Further recommendations are set out in the report by the Directorate of Internal Oversight of the Council of Europe.

Mr Chairman, I understand that you have asked that this report be included in the files of the CDDG and that it will discussed tomorrow.

I look forward to the feedback from your discussions.

The CDDG

Let me also say that if the CDDG did not exist, it would need to be invented.

Over the past few years, the findings of many Council of Europe monitoring bodies have highlighted growing concerns as regards the good functioning of European democracies and citizens’ decreasing levels of trust in public institutions.

These are exactly the issues that this committee addresses and to which it tries to provide solutions.

It does so in several different ways:

- by acting as a forum for discussion where member States share their experience of ongoing reforms – yesterday, for example, when you heard high level guests from Iceland and Ukraine, and today when you will have the opportunity to discuss the latest developments in the Slovak Republic;

- by developing legal standards and soft law instruments – as you are currently doing on the sensitive and very important topic of public ethics and e-democracy;

- and also by the cooperation projects that are designed and implemented by the Centre of Expertise for Good Governance, which translate standards into practical tools that can have a tangible impact on the ground.

Future challenges

When we look at the terms of reference of the CDDG for the next biennium as decided by the Committee of Ministers, we see the potential of your Committee.

You have been asked to work on important emerging challenges, such as digital transformation and the impact of technology, including artificial intelligence, on electoral processes, governance and democratic institutions.

Artificial intelligence is a priority for our Organisation for the years to come and your contribution will be essential to the work of our new Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI) which held its first meeting last month and that you attended, Mr Chairman.

These are areas in which the Council of Europe can have a pioneering role and widen its impact for the benefits of its member states and their citizens.

The Committee of Ministers is right to invest this confidence in you.

As this year’s annual report stated, “the role of our intergovernmental committees is crucial to the effectiveness of our Organisation…we must reinforce our democratic security and make ourselves ready for future challenges”.

I wish you great success and encourage you to be ambitious in undertaking these tasks.

Thank you.