Belgium will hold the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 13 November 2014 to 19 May 2015 (date to be confirmed).
A founder member of the Council of Europe, Belgium attaches the greatest importance to the Organisation’s fundamental values of Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
1. Continuation of reform: meeting current and future challenges
Belgium regards these values as living elements of European societies and was very interested to receive the Secretary General’s report on the “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe”. In close coordination with the member States of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General, the Belgian Chairmanship will contribute to ensuring the implementation of its recommendations in line with the priorities set by the Committee of Ministers. In doing so, Belgium will base itself on the programme of joint priorities drawn up with Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Belgium will continue to support the reform of the Organisation started by the Secretary General in order to make the Council even more effective. In the same spirit, in order to preserve the gains already achieved and enable it to meet current and future challenges, Belgium welcomes the proposal that another Council of Europe Summit be organised. With the Secretary General, Belgium will consult its partners in order to determine the content, objectives and date of a potential summit.
2. Political consultations and the development of external synergies through practical projects
Political, economic and societal developments on the continent of Europe call for greater vigilance so as to continue to strengthen a stable and democratic Europe and to safeguard these fundamental values for all citizens of Europe. Belgium plans political consultations between the Council of Europe and other international organisations, particularly the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). These organisations complement each other and mutually reinforce one another, each having its own expertise. Belgium will encourage complementarity and synergy between them through practical programmes and projects.
3. Shared responsibility for the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights
Belgium and some eminent Belgian personalities have played a prime role in the development of European law and the European Court of Human Rights.
The Belgian Chairmanship will endeavour to ensure the effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights system, the cornerstone of which is the right of individual petition.
Following on from the conferences held in Interlaken (2010), Izmir (2011) and Brighton (2012), the Belgian Chairmanship will organise in Brussels on 26 and 27 March 2015 a high-level conference entitled “Implementation of the European Convention, our shared responsibility”. The purpose of that conference is to adopt a political declaration capable of giving fresh impetus to the reform process begun in 2010, while emphasising both the shared responsibility for implementation of the Convention and the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, while the Court is no longer a “victim of its own success”, many challenges remain. Three years after the Brighton Conference, this is an appropriate time to take stock of the present situation and to reiterate the common political commitment to an effective and viable Convention system. Belgium’s commitment to international law is an ongoing commitment, one also illustrated by the current Belgian chairmanship of the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI).
The role of the media and freedom of expression encompassing respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms hold a special place amongst Belgium’s priorities. At the very beginning of its Chairmanship, Belgium will therefore support the organisation in Brussels of the European Media Encounter, “The Mediane Roadshow, A Journey towards Diversity Inclusiveness in the Media”.
On 10 December, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Belgium and the Council of Europe will together launch, in Brussels, the “Guide to Human Rights for Internet Users”.
4. The strengthening of human rights protection
Belgium attaches great importance to the protection of human rights and gives particular attention to disadvantaged persons and the most vulnerable individuals. In this context, a European Conference on the “best interests of the child” will be held in Brussels on 9 and 10 December 2014. This will address theory and practice in respect of the child’s best interests in family cases. In the same spirit, a Conference on “Including People with Disabilities in Disaster Preparedness and Response”, as part of a “design for all, crisis management for all” programme, will take place in Brussels on 4 and 5 December 2014. On 28 November 2014, a seminar will provide food for thought on the inclusion of young Roma in politics.
Belgium and the Council of Europe consider the fight against human rights violations based on gender and the protection of women against violence, including domestic violence, to be a priority. The recent entry into force (01.08.2014) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is a significant step for the benefit of all women, to the Council of Europe’s credit.
The Council of Europe is to organise, with Belgium’s support, the launch of the Curriculum on “Asylum and the European Convention on Human Rights”. This project comes under the HELP programme (European Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals).
Developments in biotechnology have led the Council of Europe and FPS Santé Publique to organise a conference in Brussels on 4 and 5 May on “Emerging technologies and human rights”.
5. The future of social rights in Europe
Social rights are intimately linked to human rights as a whole and are an integral part of the European societal model. Following on from the High-level Conference on the European Social Charter, held in Turin on 17 and 18 October last, Belgium will strive to boost action based on the conference results. In the year of the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Social Charter, a colloquy will be held on “The future of fundamental social rights in Europe”, at which particular emphasis will be placed on the signing and ratification of the “revised Social Charter”, the accession of Council of Europe member States to the Protocol on collective complaints and the possibilities and challenges relating to European Union accession to those instruments.
Five years after the first such convention, which took place in Ghent, the three Communities of Belgium will hold a 2nd European Youth Work Convention from 27 to 30 April 2015. The convention will seek a new balance between youth work as an instrument directed towards the youth employment market and the value of youth work for individual development and empowerment, citizenship education and group interaction. The convention will send a strong message to member states and to the Council of Europe and the European Union, with a view to the development and renewal of youth work.
On 18 November 2014, in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare, a one-day workshop on “Medicines, public health and the media” will be held in Brussels.
6. The role of culture and education in the promotion of shared values
The Council of Europe has been aware ever since its foundation of the role of culture and education in encouraging respect for cultural diversity while developing shared values. The three Communities of Belgium will therefore hold an appropriate celebration, on 18 December 2014, of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the European Cultural Convention.
Education for all, like culture, is an asset which Belgium wishes to preserve and develop for future generations. A meeting of the Steering Committee for Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) which will be held in Brussels in December 2014 will take stock of the steps already taken and decide on aims for the future.
At the invitation of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, a meeting of the authors of the Compendium of Cultural Policies will be held in Brussels on 4 and 5 December 2014.
Belgium wholeheartedly supports the “No Hate Speech” campaign run by the Council of Europe, with which the Communities of Belgium are co-operating substantially and significantly. That campaign is also part of conflict prevention, a key element of Belgium’s foreign policy.
On 27 January 2015, the whole world will be commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp. Experience of the horrors of Nazism and a determination never again to see such atrocities were the reasons for setting up the Council of Europe. Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, threats of intolerance, discrimination, incitement to hatred and violation of fundamental rights and freedoms are again emerging on our continent. The Belgian Chairmanship is joining the Parliamentary Assembly’s initiative to hold a major event in Strasbourg to make that commemoration reflect our respect for the victims and show that we are directing our memory towards the present day and the future.
7. The role of governance and local authorities
Democratic representation and local governance hold a prominent position on the agendas of Council of Europe organs. Belgium shares those objectives and wishes to offer them all the support that those values deserve.
Outside the regular sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly, its Bureau and Standing Committee are to meet in Brussels from 16 to 18 November, i.e. just a few days after the Belgian Chairmanship begins.
At the invitation of the Regions of Belgium, the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe will meet in Brussels on 1 December 2014.
Brussels will also host, on 30 and 31 March 2015, the 12th European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies, at which the Venice Commission will be considering the subject of “Ensuring neutrality, impartiality and transparency in elections: the role of electoral management bodies”. The conference will be followed the next day by a workshop organised by the Brussels Region on the “electronic tools of local democracy”.