Suspected terrorist attack in Berlin: Secretary General statement

Secretary General 19 December 2016 Strasbourg

'The Council of Europe mourns with Germany today for the victims of the suspected terror attack on a Christmas market in Berlin which killed and injured so many innocent people. The responsible way in which the German authorities are handling and communicating this crisis is exemplary. I express...

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Statement by Secretary General Jagland on murder of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov

Secretary General 19 December 2016 Strasbourg

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the assassination of the Russian Federation's Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara today. I present my sincere condolences to the Russian authorities and to the family and colleagues of Ambassador Karlov. All of us at the Council of Europe express our solidarity...

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Cooperation with national human rights bodies to protect freedom of expression and journalists

Council of Europe 15 December 2016 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) are jointly organising on 15 December in Strasbourg a high level seminar to discuss the potential for co-operation to promote and protect freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in member...

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Hate speech is not free speech, says Secretary General ahead of Human Rights Day

Secretary General 9 December 2016 Strasbourg

Speaking ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has warned that hate speech and free speech should not be confused. “We look back at what has been achieved and we think of the many people who have endured hardship and given...

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Secretary General Jagland on official visit to Moscow for talks with President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov

Secretary General 6 December 2016 Moscow

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is visiting Moscow on 6-7 December 2016 with an official visit to meet with the President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Speaker of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation...

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Secretary General 1 December 2016 Strasbourg

In the run-up to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), the head of the 47-nation Council of Europe has called on European governments to draw on the newly-adopted Disability Strategy (2017-2023) to make human rights a reality for all. Secretary General Jagland said:...

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Celebrating 10 years of stronger Council of Europe/EU relations

Council of Europe 23 November 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Jagland and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, are launching a series of initiatives to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union. In the presence...

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Azerbaijan: Statement by Secretary General Jagland on the decision of the Supreme Court today rejecting the appeal by Ilgar Mammadov

Secretary General 18 November 2016 Strasbourg

“Today, Azerbaijan’s highest court has failed to uphold the country’s legal obligation to execute the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The severity of this development for Azerbaijan as a member of the Council of Europe cannot be underestimated. Azerbaijan’s flagrant disrespect of...

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Official visit of the President of Poland Andrzej Duda

Secretary General 16 November 2016 Strasbourg

Polish President Andrzej Duda today paid an official visit to the Council of Europe. Following a meeting with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, President Duda had an exchange of views with the Ministers’ Deputies. He also met with Guido Raimondi, President of the European Court of Human...

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Cybercrime: towards a new legal tool on electronic evidence

Secretary General 16 November 2016 Strasbourg

“The 15th anniversary of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is a turning point, in that the Convention is now reaching out into the ‘clouds’,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, at the opening of the 2016 Octopus conference. Data, and therefore electronic...

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Turkey: Secretary General in Ankara today

Secretary General 10 November 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has arrived for a series of meetings in Ankara today. He is scheduled to meet President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, Minister for European Affairs Çelik and representatives of opposition parties He will also have a meeting with...

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Secretary General Jagland concerned about the situation of Ildar Dadin

Secretary General 4 November 2016 Strasbourg

Thorbjørn Jagland yesterday expressed his concern about allegations of ill-treatment of human rights activist Ildar Dadin in a telephone call to Alexander Konovalov, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation. The Secretary General underlined the importance of the joint work carried out by the...

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Turkey: Secretary General Jagland concerned about state of emergency measures and freedom of expression

Secretary General 31 October 2016 Strasbourg

Council of Europe of Secretary General Jagland has commented on recent developments in Turkey in a statement released on Monday: "It is highly questionable if the raid against Cumhuriyet can be justified as a proportionate measure, even under the state of emergency. I am also concerned about the...

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Secretary General on official visit to Monaco

Secretary General 27 October 2016 Monaco

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland will have an Audience with Prince Albert II of Monaco and meet the followings officials: - Mr Philippe Narmino, Director of Judicial Services - Mr Serge Telle, Minister of State - Mr Christophe Steiner, Chairman of the National...

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Statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General on the arrest of co-mayors of Diyarbakır

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 26 October 2016 Strasbourg

It is a matter of particular concern to the Council of Europe when democratically-elected representatives are deprived of their liberty. We will ask the authorities in our member state Turkey to provide us with the necessary explanations.

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Secretary General meets Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi

Secretary General 25 October 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland on Tuesday met the Hungarian Justice Minister, László Trócsányi. Minsiter Trócsányi reported that new legislation had been adopted to provide an effective remedy to victims of prison ovecrowding in line with a pilot judgment (Varga and others) by the European...

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Thorbjørn Jagland: “Congress' thematics are in line with the Council of Europe's priorities”

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Session 20 October 2016 Strasbourg

“It is very important for the Council of Europe to work with the Congress which represents the grassroots level closest to the people of our member countries”, said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in his address to the 31st Session of the Congress on 19 October 2016. He...

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New call for effective national torture watchdogs

Secretary General 13 October 2016 Strasbourg

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe has been joined by prominent human rights activists and experts in a call to ensure that national anti-torture bodies function effectively and meet international ambitions. 10 years ago the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against...

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Speeches Speeches

PACE Joint debate on Migration and Refugees

Strasbourg , 

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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.