Launch of the Council of Europe Action Plan
Speech by Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Kyiv, 16 September 2011
Check against delivery
When Ukraine joined the Council of Europe in 1995, it agreed to accept the principles of the rule of law and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by everyone within its jurisdiction. Ukraine also agreed to a number of specific commitments to take action intended to improve democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the country. Although recent years have been characterised by many challenges, one of Ukraine's main achievements through its membership of the Council of Europe has been an increased respect for democratic freedoms and rights.
I welcome the Decree signed in January by President Yanukovych aimed at accelerating the reforms which will enable Ukraine to fulfil its obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe. This commitment to reform is a welcome sign of the willingness of the highest authorities in Ukraine to overcome internal differences and focus on what the people in this country need and expect.
The relationship between Ukraine and the Council of Europe can be very helpful in this respect. The Council of Europe is the means by which Ukraine is engaged with 46 other countries, on an equal footing, in standard-setting, monitoring of compliance with commitments, and in providing technical assistance to member states in order to meet the standards set.
The new Action Plan for Ukraine which we are launching today is a joint strategic initiative of the Council of Europe and the Ukrainian authorities designed specifically to support Ukraine in fulfilling its statutory and specific obligations as a Council of Europe member state, to consolidate achievements since its accession in 1995, and to help Ukraine meet new challenges.
It renews the Council of Europe's commitment to supporting Ukraine's ambitious and important domestic and European agenda for reform in the areas of expertise of the Council of Europe – Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Democracy.
Through partnerships such as our Action Plan we will continue to help Ukraine to consolidate its democratic institutions. This is important not only for Ukraine, but also for the rest of Europe, because a stable Ukraine, with strong institutions and well-functioning democratic practices, is also a guarantor of stability in the wider region.
The foundations for further progress were laid by the previous Action Plan (2008-2011), with its forty-three projects and budget of
18 million Euros. Domestic application of the European Convention on Human Rights was strengthened, through the training of a large number of judges and prosecutors on recent developments in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
Progress was made in ratifying conventions and in drafting new legislation, such as the new draft code of criminal procedure, introducing an adversarial and human rights-oriented criminal justice system. An important anti-corruption legislative package was also adopted.
The success of the domestic reforms undertaken by Ukraine, its ownership of the Action Plan, and commitment from national partner institutions are key factors in ensuring that co-operation with the Council of Europe has the real and sustainable impact which we seek.
Our strategic plan is therefore aligned with the priorities as defined by the President and the Government of Ukraine, based on an assessment of further needs of the country, Ukraine's commitments towards the Organisation, and the priorities adopted when it took over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. It focuses action on areas where Council of Europe expertise is available and where its monitoring and standard-setting bodies present a comparative advantage.
It contains 51 projects, and its budget amounts to 22 million Euros over four years. Funding from the Organisation's Ordinary Budget, European Union - Council of Europe Joint Programmes, and Voluntary Contributions from individual Council of Europe member States will be combined under a single Action Plan for Ukraine.
We are confident that the strategic goals which we have set ourselves can be met. The positive results of ambitious reforms will ultimately benefit the citizens of Ukraine, the country's institutions, and the society as a whole. The support of the international community is essential.
I would close my remarks by saying this in more general terms. The only sound ground for prosperity for any country is a system of checks and balances:
a totally independent judiciary that all political forces represent;
an autonomous parliament in the sense that its peers and parties do not have any hidden connections to economic or commercial interests - only then can it serve the common public interest and control the government;
and free media that is able and willing to criticise and scrutinise those in power.
History has shown that countries that do not have such basic institutions in place, always get corruption and mismanagement which leads to instability, social unrest and at the end of the day they cease to exist. This happened in Eastern Europe. It happens now in the Arab world.