Back Hamburg Ministerial Session Press Conference

Guten Tag, ich freue mich in Hamburg zu sein. Ich freue mich, Sie zu sehen.


Let me start by thanking the city of Hamburg and the German government for hosting this Ministerial session of the Council of Europe. Important issues were on the agenda. Safeguarding human rights during the COVID pandemic is a key concern. 

The European Convention on Human Rights provides a unique system to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of more than 830 million people across our 47 member states.

But we cannot take these rights and freedoms for granted any more. Human rights are under pressure and many problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Attacks against journalists, violence against women and the upsurge of antisemitism are just three examples. They give rise for concern.  

My recent Annual Report on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law describes a dangerous trend of democratic backsliding in many areas.

I am grateful therefore to Minister Maas and the German Presidency for addressing these challenges and for having used the last six months to uphold the values, standards and instruments of the Council Europe which are now as important as ever.


First of all, today at the Ministerial Session very important decisions were adopted in relation to the strategic outlook and key priorities of the Organisation over the next four years. The German Presidency has steered this process in a firm and swift manner.

Furthermore, the Presidency has worked tirelessly toward the implementation of judgments of the European Courtof Human Rights.

The High-Level Conference “Human Rights Protection in Europe – The ECHR at 70 Years” last December with the participation of Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht was a concrete contribution in this regard.

One of the main events of the Presidency was the High-level Conference on Artificial Intelligence in January. The conference marked a milestone on the way to future Council of Europe standards in this area of ever-increasing significance.

We must ensure that Artificial Intelligence is applied responsibly without compromising individual rights such as privacy and data protection.

In March, the Committee of Ministers addressed the rise in antisemitism and other forms of hatred in a dedicated meeting with experts from the UN and OSCE to discuss trends and counter strategies.

The Presidency was also strong in its support of Gender Equality and non-discrimination. The conference on “Gender Equality and the Istanbul Convention: A Decade of Action” earlier this month took stock of the achievements of the Convention and the challenges it faces.

We now look forward to Hungary taking over the Presidency from Germany with an equally ambitious programme.

The handover from one Presidency to another reminds us that the implementation of the European Convention is a collective responsibility of all our member states. It is based on the principle of multilateral cooperation which the Council of Europe was set up to facilitate and advance.

As I have outlined on a number of occasions, multilateral cooperation to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law is probably more important now than ever before. We can address these challenges only together - through our common endevours and decisive action.


Vielen Dank und auf Wiedersehen.

21 May 2021
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