Ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights

Strasbourg , 

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,
President of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" Gjorge Ivanov,
President of the European Court of Human Rights Jean Paul Costa,
Distinguished Guests,

We are here today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In doing so, let us start by saluting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The Universal Declaration fundamentally changed our understanding of man and society. It paved the way for a number of international treaties and institutions promoting human rights, most notably the European Convention on Human Rights.

Therefore I ask you to join me in welcoming our guest of honour Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations.

Secretary General, we are honoured to have you with us today.

The unique strength of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is that its master builders were determined, in the aftermath of a second terrible war in half a century, never again to permit state sovereignty to be a shield for perpetrators of crimes against humanity, from international liability.

Therefore, The European Convention is not only a convention. It is a whole system of different mechanisms and bodies:

- monitoring bodies which have the right to scrutinize what is going on in the member states ;
- an office of the Commissioner for Human Rights;
- a Parliamentary Assembly, a unique network of local and regional authorities;
- a Committee of Ministers which carefully follows the implementation and offers assistance;
- a Venice Commission which gives advice on legislation and constitutional matters.
- And, we have the European Court of Human Rights.

Today, 800 millions Europeans can bring their case to the Court in Strasbourg if they believe their rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention, to be violated. The governments on the European continent can no longer hide behind State sovereignty.

Their actions are no longer their exclusive jurisdiction.

This is unprecedented in the history of mankind. It is a revolution in the meaning of individuality and the way it can be protected.

This human rights machinery is being run day and night by a committed, able and hardworking staff. My admiration and thanks goes to all of you.

Your excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The past 60 years of the European idea has been about broadening democracy to even more countries on our continent.

Time has now come to renew this great European idea. We must move from broadening to deepening.

Today, migration is not a passing phenomenon. It is part of everyday society. That is why every society has become multicultural.

Today, all of us expect to have our identity respected, be it political, religious or sexual. My concern for the future is that too many people expect their own identity to be respected, but not necessarily that of others.

Too many people seem to shape their own identity in contradiction to others. Too many people see others as a threat to their identity and to their society.

This mindset must be changed.

If we are not able to see something valuable and interesting in those who are different, our coherence will be threatened.

The challenge to Europe has moved from being what happens between states to what happens within states. If we fail to understand and address this challenge Europe may be destabilized once again. That would be utterly unacceptable and a blatant disregard to the victims and the sacrifices of the past world wars.

This is the new challenge and task of the Council of Europe. We must use our democratic institutions to create deeper relations between individuals, groups and religions.

This can only be done through an honest dialogue based on freedom of expression.

Xenophobic speech, incitement or discriminatory words that come from a barrel of a pen can only be resolved by the barrel of a pen.

We must develop harmony in diversity.

Our forefathers fought for the freedom we enjoy.

Our fight must be to deepen respect and tolerance based on free speech in society. The deeper this goes the deeper our security will be.

René Cassin who drafted the Universal ‘Declaration of Human Rights and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 for his outstanding work once said: "Time has come to proclaim that each of us must fight for human dignity to the last."

Mr Secretary General,

On behalf of all of us, I will promise this.

Thank you.