Secretary General Jagland visits San Marino

1 April 2012 San Marino

"What is needed was a real reform of the Council of Europe, and this is what you are doing", emphasised Ms Antonella Mularoni, Foreign Minister of San Marino, during the official visit of SG Thorbjørn Jagland, 1-2 April. The Foreign Minister also informed the SG that San Marino has already...

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Council of Europe ready to assist Russia on political reform

23 March 2012 Moscow

In a meeting with President D. Medvedev and Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow today, Secretary General Jagland underlined the readiness of the Council of Europe to further provide expert advice and assistance in support of political reforms in Russia. “We need to further develop political...

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Secretary General Jagland visits Morocco and Tunisia

3 April 2012

"We need the full support of the Council of Europe and the European Union to set up independent democratic institutions, a vibrant civil society and a free media”, underlined the Tunisian Foreign Minister. The President of Tunisia, Mr Moncef Marzouki emphasised, “we are extremely interested in...

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Thorbjørn Jagland : Human Rights Court is assessing medical treatment of Tymoshenko

26 April 2012 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today issued the following statement : “I am extremely concerned about the reports that Yulia Tymoshenko was beaten up in prison. It is in the interest of the Ukrainian Government to make sure these claims are investigated in a credible and transparent manner...

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Secretary General meets Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkul Karman

10 May 2012 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met today with Tawakkul Karman, 33 year-old Yemeni journalist, politician and human rights activist. Ms Karman is one of three joint recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full...

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Closer co-operation between Council of Europe and Albania

24 May 2012 Albania

"Council of Europe plays a vital role for the democratic changes in Albania", underlined the Foreign Minister. "We will do our utmost to further strengthen the role of the Council of Europe in Europe", Haxhinasto said. "I very much welcome a well-prepared Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of...

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Secretary General visits Latvia

4 June 2012 Latvia

In Riga yesterday the Secretary General Jagland met with President Andris Bērziņš, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and the Latvian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. Discussions covered Council of Europe reform, reform of the European Court of Human...

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Secretary General visits Amman, Ramallah and Jerusalem

29 May 2012

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland visited Amman, Ramallah and Jerusalem on 27-29 May. In Amman, on 27 May, Mr Jagland met with King Abdullah II, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, the Speaker of the Senate Taher Al Masri and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Abed Kareem Doghmei. On 28 May...

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New Gender Equality Commission: Kick-off meeting

8 June 2012 Strasbourg

“Women continue to earn less, decide less, and count less than men. There is one area where women count more than men: in the records of victims of violence”. Speaking at the launch of the Council of Europe new Gender Equality Commission on 6 June, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said that...

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Secretary General addresses European Dialogue on Internet Governance

13 June 2012 Stockholm

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the European Dialogue on Internet Governance conference today in Stockholm. On the second day of the conference, on 15 June, he is participating in a panel on changes in European democracy together...

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Secretary General welcomes Mustapha Ben Jaafar, speaker of Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly

28 June 2012 Strasbourg

The visit of Mustapha Ben Jaafar, speaker of Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly to the Council of Europe, who is to speak today at 3:30 p.m. in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was welcomed by the Secretary General of the Organisation, Thorbjørn Jagland: "Today,...

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Secretary General alarmed by proposed NGO legislation in Russia

7 July 2012 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland made the following statement on proposed NGO legislation in Russia: “I am concerned about proposals to label non-governmental organisations which receive funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents’ and create new administrative hurdles to their...

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Secretary General calls on Council of Europe expert body to assess compliance with rule of law in Romania

7 July 2012 Strasbourg

Reacting to the vote in the Romanian parliament on Friday to suspend president Basescu, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland issued the following statement: "I am very concerned about the recent developments in Romania, especially about actions taken by the Government and the...

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Texas execution: Death is not justice

10 August 2012 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today issued the following statement: "Use of the death penalty is abhorrent in all circumstances, particularly when applied to children, the elderly or people with mental illness. Such was the case of Marvin Wilson, executed by the Texas...

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Belarus must return to dialogue

10 August 2012 Strasbourg

"President Lukashenko's decision last Friday to expel Sweden's ambassador to Belarus over his support for democracy and human rights in the country will not help to end Belarus' isolation from the rest of Europe. Moreover, the latest decision of the Belarus authorities to terminate the activities...

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Secretary General condemns use of death penalty, as Japan resumes executions

8 August 2012 Strasbourg

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland today condemned the executions of two death row inmates in Japan last week: "I urge Japan, as an observer State of the Council of Europe, to cease executions and join the growing number of countries that oppose the death penalty. Death...

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Secretary General values co-operation with OSCE

29 March 2012 Vienna

In Vienna today to address the OSCE Permanent Council, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland outlined his proposals to expand and enhance co-operation between the OSCE and the Council of Europe. Mr Jagland believes that “ the OSCE, the European Union and the Council of Europe are the three pillars...

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Secretary General to meet Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest

20 March 2012 Budapest

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland was in Budapest today for talks with the Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. The Secretary General also met with Tibor Navracsics, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and Justice, and with János Martonyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The talks...

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Jagland condemns Lukashenko’s refusal to pardon the two men sentenced to death over subway bombing

15 March 2012 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today condemned President Lukashenko’s decision not to pardon Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov who were sentenced to death in the Minsk subway bombing case in November 2011. "Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes...

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Thorbjørn Jagland welcomes the election of Nicolae Timofti as new Moldovan President

16 March 2012 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland today welcomed the election of Nicolae Timofti as new Moldovan President. “Today marks an important milestone in the history of the Republic of Moldova. I congratulate the political leaders for having found a compromise to elect the President,...

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PACE Joint debate on Migration and Refugees

Strasbourg , 

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Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to welcome you all here today.

But as you all know, tragic events beyond Europe’s shores continue to generate waves of immigration.

People that Europe has struggled to support at the speed and to the extent that would serve the best interests of everyone.

Make no mistake, the migration crisis is far from over.

Migrants and refugees continue to risk everything in search of a better life in Europe.

84,000 have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far this year: and more than 2,100 of them have drowned or gone missing.

It is not just the volume of arrivals that is staggering but the build-up of people in specific areas and the consequences for specific countries:

Thousands of people remain stranded in the Greek islands and mainland.

Thousands more are waiting to have their asylum applications processed by countries struggling to cope.

And today 3.2 million refugees and other migrants live in Turkey – the highest number of any country.

Too few countries are being asked to cope with too great a number of new arrivals, which can fuel nationalism, populism and xenophobia among their citizens.

And here at the Council of Europe we are as frustrated as anyone at these seemingly intractable problems.

We cannot of course solve the political problems that lead so many people to risk their own lives – and those of their children – in search of a better existence.

Nor is it within our remit to manage migration systems.

But it is our responsibility to ensure that our member states understand and uphold the human rights standards to which everyone among us is entitled.

As soon as an individual is under the jurisdiction of a member state, or sets foot on our soil, they are covered by the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and protected by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights too.

In order to do this, governments must take the lead.

Let me start with one of the most pressing aspects: one about which I feel very strongly.

The protection of refugee and migrant children.

Last year, 100,000 children arrived in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain alone.

Of these, more than a third were unaccompanied.

These young people are extremely vulnerable.

Vulnerable to smuggling and trafficking; to crime and exploitation; and to sexual and gender-based violence and abuse.

Without parental care, they are at the mercy of other people and bureaucratic systems.

And we know that for those granted only temporary residence, the motivation to abscond means that many of these young people are now missing.

10,000 and rising: more vulnerable than ever.

From their treatment on arrival through to building their secure future, these minors have rights under both the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

And we are empowering our member states to deliver them.

Last months’ Committee of Ministers’ session in Nicosia adopted our new Action Plan, Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children in Europe.

That plan rests on three pillars.

First, ensuring access to rights and child-friendly procedures, including every child having a nationality.

Second, promoting effective protection, with guardianship systems in each member state, measures to prevent violence, exploitation and the arbitrary deprivation of liberty – and the fast and efficient provision of family reunification in line with international standards.

And third, enhancing the integration of children with the provision of quality education and the means to participate in their new community.

We should be judged by our treatment of the most vulnerable in society, and here at the Council of Europe we are determined to pass that test.

Of course, all arrivals – young through to old - should be received fairly, in line with the law.

That means ensuring that the right to apply for asylum is respected in practice and that asylum seekers are not simply pushed back to the border.

It means that those who arrive are accommodated in appropriate reception facilities.

And it means that new arrivals do not end up in detention because there is nowhere else for them to go.

Certainly, it is difficult to consider that immigration detention is in the best interests of the child.

Asylum procedures must also function efficiently and fairly so that people are not left dangling in a state of uncertainty over a prolonged period of time.

It is no surprise that countries experiencing unprecedented migration flows sometimes struggle to meet these standards.

But they must do so: that is the law.

The Council of Europe is taking a range of steps to help our member states comply.

We provide training to border guards and we are looking at ways to strengthen the mechanism for complaints about law enforcement on borders.

The Bank of the Council of Europe is investing in facilities such as the Eleonas refugee camp in Athens where our next speaker, Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, has made real efforts to ensure that new arrivals receive a decent standard of treatment.

And our steering committees on human rights and legal cooperation are working on alternatives to migrant detention and on standards of detention.

Our efforts must also of course take into account recent work done by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

For member states struggling to maintain good asylum procedures, we are also providing support through our HELP e-learning course which builds the capacity of those involved in the claims process to meet the terms of the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights too.

But immediate measures are no substitute for a long-term strategy.

It is in everyone’s interests that new citizens are able to integrate, adapt and contribute to wider society.

For this we need national governments to provide a combination of social rights and integration policies.

The European Committee of Social Rights and ECRI set the targets for which they should aim.

For example, children deserve decent health care, and education.

But of course so too do the long-standing population.

Grievance, resentment and prejudice are more easily stoked where some citizens feel that others are better cared for.

Where equitable provision of rights and services is provided, that tension is eased.

It is also eased when communities within that society are integrated and pulling in the same direction.

Not enough attention has been paid to this area by every member state.

The Council of Europe has long organised initiatives to help countries give their new arrivals the language skills they need, and there are now moves towards standard setting in this area.

We also give guidance on recognising refugees and migrants’ professional and academic qualifications, so that they can find work more easily.

And our range of measures to break down inter-cultural barriers include teaching democratic culture and intercultural dialogue, training young people to spot and discredit hate speech on the internet and our Intercultural Cities Network through which 120 cities worldwide are pioneering policies that break-down community divisions and enhance security and economic growth.

So the challenge is unprecedented, but the law is clear, and the Council of Europe stands ready to help our member states apply it.

I hope that my appointment of Ambassador Tomáš Boček as my Special Representative on Migration and Refugees is a clear signal of my personal commitment to that.

But today is an opportunity for you to debate not just the action that we are taking – of which I have given you a sample – but of what more we could and should do to ease the pain for those arriving in Europe and ease the strain for those countries doing their level best to accommodate them.

This Assembly has played a significant role in identifying these problems and drawing attention to them to the Committee of Ministers and the Council of Europe as a whole.

I am sure that you will use today to continue that very fine work.