Opening speech by Christophe Poirel
International conference "Implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights - experiences and challenges of the courts in Central and South-East Europe"
15 September 2022, Belgrade
Honourable President Vasović,
Dear Judge Ajnšpiler Popović
Distinguished Ambassador Giaufret,
Distinguished Judges of the European Court of Human Rights,
Distinguished members of the national judiciary from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to welcome you today at this Conference dedicated to the effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. As already noted, it is organised under the project “Strengthening the effective legal remedies to human rights violations in Serbia” as a part of the Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey.
This event provides a valuable, and I hope also useful, forum for discussion on what makes the Convention, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, such a long-standing and effective mechanism of human-rights protection in Europe.
Addressing such critical topics as freedom of expression, property rights, access to justice and an impartial tribunal, I am confident that this event will allow us to share valuable insights, having regard to your central role in upholding the Convention at home.
I am also particularly pleased to have the opportunity to address you in person here in the historic city of Belgrade.
In this spirit, let me express my sincere gratitude to our partner, the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia, and in particular you, President Vasović and your team.
I would like to thank you for your invaluable partnership in creating this opportunity for international exchange on both the achievements and the challenges concerning the national implementation of the Convention.
This conference is just one of many examples of the excellent cooperation we have established over the years with the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia.
I am delighted to see other partners here attending as well, such as the Constitutional Court, with which we have also enjoyed an excellent cooperation.
As we all know, human rights law and practice have developed significantly since the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950.
Under the European Court’s jurisdiction, an enlarged family of nations has committed itself to upholding the values of human rights.
The serious challenges faced, and the inevitable setbacks, have still not hindered meaningful progress over the decades.
To the contrary, the setbacks have given rise to opportunities for advancement. The Convention, as a living instrument, has served European citizens and others well for more than 70 years and it is more relevant than ever.
Human rights are not values that are secured once and for all.
They must be preserved permanently and applied consistently every single day.
Judicial safeguards are undoubtedly one of the key elements for that preservation.
In this regard, the European Court of Human Rights cannot solely be responsible for enforcing human rights standards across Europe.
It is at national level, with you, that the most significant powers of human rights protection lie.
The principle of subsidiarity clearly places national judicial authorities at the heart of protecting the rights and freedoms of people under their jurisdiction.
The domestic implementation of the European Court’s judgments requires continuous efforts by national authorities.
Their vigilance in redressing detected violations and bringing existing laws and practices in line with the Convention and European standards is critical. This is a multi-faceted and complex process which involves numerous national institutions and actors – at the executive, legislative and judicial levels.
The Council of Europe does not impose on its member States to regulate this process in a specific way. However, due to its complexity, a clear identification of roles and responsibilities of each state actor is highly beneficial for this process to be effective.
There are also other mechanisms that are important to this multi-layered dialogue.
Some of your member States have already ratified Protocol 16, which introduced a procedure of Advisory Opinions.
Expanding the European Court’s advisory role inter alia creates a new platform for dialogue which reinforces relationships with the highest domestic courts.
This should further facilitate the sound interpretation and application of the Convention at national level.
Such dialogue among peers is precious. It has already been institutionalised through the Superior Courts Network under the auspices of the European Court of Human Rights.
We are delighted to see that the higher courts of the region represented here today are actively participating in this Network – which now unites 103 courts from 45 States.
Also, cooperation programmes of the Council of Europe have for many years now put a focus on enhancing peer-to-peer communication among European judiciaries.
Today’s conference is an excellent example of our ongoing efforts to this effect.
Our aim is to further strengthen the dialogue between the international and national judiciary so that the effective implementation of the Convention is further secured.
We thank you all for being at the heart of that process.
In concluding, let me underline that the Council of Europe is committed to supporting your efforts in ensuring that domestic judicial practice is in line with the Convention and the case-law of the Strasbourg Court.
This comes above all in the form of cooperation projects, the operation of which would be impossible without the support of the European Union.
Let me express my most sincere gratitude to the EU for their faithful partnership and their financial support, which makes the biggest part of this work possible.
Good results are achieved because we join forces, serving our common European values.
Speaking of teams, allow me also to thank my colleagues both in the Belgrade Office and in Strasbourg, who with their hard work have contributed not only to the organisation of this event but to the concrete outcomes of our partnership with all of you.
President Vasović, thank you again,
Dear Judges and partners from wide and far,
I thank you all once again for your excellent cooperation and I look forward to more in the future.
We are all here to learn from each other and work in harmony to make improvements for European citizens. I wish us all fruitful exchanges to that effect here today and tomorrow.
Thank you for your attention.