Speech at the Permanent Council of the OSCE

Vienna , 

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Mr Chairman, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for this opportunity to come and speak before you today. First of all, I should like to apologise for the cancellation of my earlier planned visit. Volcanoes, regrettably, are blatantly indifferent to our political priorities.

However, since I took up my duties as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, I have had several occasions to meet with both the Chairman-in-Office and your Secretary General.

I would like to express my particular gratitude to Kazakhstan as the Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, for its efforts and interest in dialogue and co-operation with the Council of Europe.

I was elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe as a direct consequence of the decision of the forty-seven member state governments to reinforce the Council of Europe, and to enhance its political relevance and impact. This is my mandate; therefore I have embarked upon a programme with two main goals:

1. to implement an internal reform of the Council of Europe;

2. to reinforce interaction with the EU and the OSCE.

I am convinced that the tools and institutions which the Council of Europe possess are absolutely indispensable to promote democratic stability but they have to be reinforced, and their potential cannot be used fully without working together with our main institutional partners, the OSCE and the EU.

Some words about the internal reform first.

In January 2010, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers approved the first package of concrete reform measures.

The reform has 4 pillars:

1. Governance, in particular new governance tools;

2. Structures, in order to modernise the organization in view of today's challenges;

3. Operations, in particular a complete review of existing programmes and a new concept for our external presence;

4. The reform of the Human Rights Court as a follow-up to the Interlaken Ministerial Conference.

In April/May the Committee of Ministers approved strategic priorities for 2011, with a concentration of resources in fewer programmes and strengthening key areas, such as the Human Rights Commissioner's office.

In addition, the outline for a new external presence was agreed, which includes a complete review and restructuring of the Council of Europe field presence.

The Council of Europe's unique monitoring mechanisms are also to be strengthened and better co-ordinated for more impact.

I have also called for a new policy on interaction with civil society.

At the same time, and in light of the severe economic situation in many European countries, there is a clear need to propose measures to contain staff costs. The staff costs have been escalating over a period of years, the goal now being to contain this growth by 2014. 26 posts are to be suppressed by 2011.

In preparation for the second stage of the reform, change workshops with a broad participation of management and staff will prepare proposals for consideration by the Committee of Ministers before the end of 2010.


The second aim of the reform is as I said to reinforce interaction with other international partners, in particular the OSCE and the EU.

Our three Organisations have different origins, history, mandates, working methods and memberships, but together they represent the most successful peace project in history.

Our relationship is – or rather should be - one of complementarity, not competition. The overlaps and frictions should be seen for what they are – dysfunctional deviations from our respective missions – not a part of them.

It is time for some intelligent design.

When it comes to our relations with the European Union, this process is already well under way. The most important development, with implications for all aspects of our mutual relations, is the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. I am very pleased to announce that the negotiations about this accession will begin next week.

While it is difficult to predict a timeframe, I am confident that the negotiations will not be too long. We should not forget, after all, that the political decision on the accession has already been taken and ratified by the EU and the Council of Europe member States – through the Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which both stipulate EU accession.

The accession will bring everyone in Europe – including the institutions of the European Union – under the same system of legally-binding standards and under the same Court. What will gradually fall into place will be a new, continent-wide zone of dialogue, co-operation and interaction in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The concept of deep, or soft security, invented in the aftermath of the Second World War, can thus lead to a more predictable environment and therefore more stability for a Europe genuinely without dividing lines.

This inspiring and ambitious prospect cannot, of course, become a reality and live to its full potential without a proper role and contribution from the OSCE. Which brings me to the main thrust of my message to you today – about comprehensive security in Europe – and the role of our respective organisations in this regard.

The lesson we have learned after World War II is that peace can only be processed by "hard" and "soft" security. We need arrangements regarding military forces.

We have also recognised that a functional democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law are a precondition for stability and security. The Council of Europe, with its combination of legally-binding standards, monitoring mechanisms and co-operation programmes in the area of democracy, human rights and the rule of law – provides an unparalleled contribution in this respect. As a matter of fact, this was why the Council of Europe was established.

Equally important, this dimension was included in the Helsinki Final Act and has become an important part of the work of OSCE.

The fact that both our Organisations have direct and important responsibilities in the same area requires close and continuous
co-operation, coordination and communication. This co-operation already exists between our Organisations at political and expert level, but it can be further improved. Our objective should be to ensure, to the highest extent possible, the coherence and effectiveness of our activities, whilst avoiding duplication and a waste of resources.
Our interest to contribute to the Corfu Process, should be considered against this background. We think that our participation would be beneficial and could help to reinforce OSCE's own work on democracy and human rights.

Our day-to-day co-operation – in the field but also between our respective bodies such as ODIHR and the Venice Commission, for example - provides plenty of examples of concrete and effective co-operation. But much remains to be done.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, compliance with a decision by the European Court of Human rights plays a central role in the process of constitutional reform, and consequently also in the future of the country in which the OSCE has been, and continues to play a very important and visible role.

Another example is Moldova. My recent efforts to overcome a constitutional deadlock will hopefully help to stabilise the political situation and allow the authorities to turn to the real problems in the country. This includes those related to Transnistria where, again, the OSCE plays a very important role.

Some of the major challenges to European security are in the Caucasus. In the case of Georgia, I am travelling there tonight in order to discuss the prospects for more human rights activities in areas affected by the conflict with the Georgian authorities. Our current work, notably the activities of the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, have been recognised as helpful also in the context of the Geneva talks, in which the OSCE is involved. We will make sure that any future activities will have the same effect and will in no way interfere with the political process in which you are participating.

These are only a few, most pressing priorities which we share on our respective agendas. We do not only have an interest, but a vital need to work closely together.

In this respect, more pragmatism is needed for instance by using modern technology: having video conferences between the two Secretaries General and or their senior staff when appropriate would be a cheap and flexible mean to consult each other regularly.

Your Secretary General and Heads of institutions will also be invited regularly to exchange views and address the Ministers' Deputies (the equivalent of your Permanent Council) from now on.
The benefits of constant interaction are evident. This is why we are about to open Council of Europe liaison offices in Vienna and in Warsaw. I should also like to use this opportunity to inform you that we are ready and willing to second experts from the Council of Europe to the OSCE, be it at the headquarters or in the field. This can be a very simple but effective way to improve our co-operation.

Europe is challenged by new and demanding forces, by the economic crises, by the social unrest and by the ever-growing multicultural dimension of its societies.

The European institutions will be, and must be, crucial actors in this situation. But the states that are financing our activities, even if not totally identical in the case of our organisations, are – particularly in the present economic environment - increasingly under budgetary strain and will, rightly so, increasingly demand coherence, co-ordination and complementarity of our actions.

I believe we can all agree that there is no longer room for overlapping efforts and duplication of resources. The situation on the ground makes time precious and resources scarce.

The fundamental challenge for both our Organisations is to make a difference by co-operating more closely together.

Thank you very much.