Annual ministerial conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Athens , 

Embargo until delivery / check against delivery

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should like to thank the Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE for this opportunity to speak to the OSCE Ministerial Council in my capacity as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

The main issue discussed here in Athens is the possible follow-up to the Corfu process. Any decisions on this very important undertaking are of course to be made by the governments of the participating countries, and it would be inappropriate for me to get involved on internal aspects of this process.

However, the subject itself – enhance security in Europe – is a matter of common concern not only for all European governments and all European citizens, but also for all European organisations, and therefore of course also for the Council of Europe.

I want to start my very brief intervention with one very important point, namely that there can be no lasting and sustainable security in Europe without a constant effort to consolidate and expand democracy, human rights and the rule of law across the continent.

I very much welcome the fact that this point has been clearly recognised in the discussions and documents throughout the Corfu process.

I would however, equally strongly, plead that one looks for the most rational, the most effective and, whenever possible, already existing ways to provide for the human rights and democracy component of any eventual follow-up to the Corfu process.

Any initiative which would not adequately take into account the work of the Council of Europe and its mechanisms of legally binding norms for democratic and human rights conduct of European countries is bound to be costly and eventually ineffective.

We may well need a new vehicle to move forward the process of enhanced security in Europe. But if we are designing a new car, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.

The OSCE and the Council of Europe have a long standing and exemplary record of mutual cooperation. We work very closely together not only in the priority areas of enhanced cooperation – which are, accidentally, all very relevant to the subject matter of the Corfu process – but also in the field. There is a very long list of succesful joint activities in the South Caucasus, in the Western Balkans, in Moldova and Ukraine. I intend to build on this momentum and improve our cooperation even further. I think that - both in the Council of Europe and the OSCE - we can, we should be and we will be more ambitious when it comes to our cooperation.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have always believed that the OSCE, the European Union and the Council of Europe are the three pillars of the most successful and inspiring peace process in history.

It was against this background that I ran for the post of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and it is with this thought in mind that I have embarked on the process of making the Council of Europe more effective, more flexible and more adapted to the changing geopolitical circumstances in which we operate.

An important part of my reform brief is to avoid any duplication of work with our international partners. We shall not hesitate to withdraw if we recognise that something is already being done, and done better, by someone else. But the complementary part of this approach is that we shall expect from our partners to do the same.

Both the Council of Europe and the OSCE are inter-governmental organisations and ultimately, we are accountable to the European citizens – and European taxpayers – to provide proper value for money.

I believe that the discussions here in Athens are an opportunity to send a strong signal that European organisations can work closely with each other, in a productive, constructive and effective way, to deliver what they have been created for – freedom, stability and prosperity for our citizens.