At the end of a meeting where the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine figured high on the agenda, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Council of Europe’s 46 member States decided that the organisation should not emerge weakened from the crisis but, on the contrary, strengthened. They reaffirmed their commitment to the values of the Council of Europe and its work in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and committed themselves to guarantee the sustainability of the organisation.
Reiterating their firm condemnation of all Russia’s violations of human rights and international law, including attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and cultural and religious heritage, the Ministers called on Russia to immediately cease its aggression, withdraw its occupation forces from the territory of Ukraine and release all abducted civilians, including those forcibly transferred to the territory of the Russian Federation. The Ministers pledged to mobilise all the Council of Europe’s capacity to ensure the Russian Federation’s full accountability for the human rights violations committed.
They underlined that Russia bore the sole responsibility for depriving persons under its jurisdiction of the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights, as from 16 September 2022, while reiterating its obligation to fully execute the final judgments of the Strasbourg Court.
The Committee of Ministers reiterated its full support to and solidarity with Ukraine and its unwavering commitment to the independence, sovereignty and respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. The ministers also decided to adopt an adjusted Action Plan for Ukraine (2018-2022) including measures to protect displaced persons, support legal professionals, provide advice with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, document human rights violations, protect children’s rights, combat violence against women and trafficking, protect vulnerable groups including Roma, and prevent discrimination, as well as measures to support Ukrainian media and the judiciary.
In addition, the Ministers stressed the need to review the Council of Europe’s priorities in the light of the new reality of the continent and to strengthen the development throughout Europe of the organisation’s values, in particular through co-operation with civil society, including in Russia and in Belarus. In order to ensure the organisation’s sustainability and its ability to carry out its mission and mandate effectively, the Ministers decided to collectively ensure the financial resources to fill the gap in its 2022 Budget, following Russia’s exclusion on 16 March. The Committee of Ministers will also consider holding a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government.
At its meeting, the Committee of Ministers adopted three Recommendations:
- Recommendation on protecting the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women;
- Recommendation on combating hate speech;
- Recommendation on the role of culture, cultural heritage and landscape in helping to address global challenges.
Finally, the Committee of Ministers asked its Deputies to proceed with the elaboration of a legally binding instrument on artificial intelligence and human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to finalise un draft recommendation on human rights and the protection of the environment and to ensure the implementation of the reform of the European Social Charter system in 2023. It also called on all Parties to the Convention on Cybercrime to sign and ratify the Second Additional Protocol on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence (opened for signature on 12 May) and Council of Europe member states to sign and ratify the Convention on Access to Official Documents. With respect to the European Union, the main institutional partner of the Council of Europe in political, legal and financial terms, the ministers recalled the importance for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights.