In a speech to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly outlining work of the Austrian chairmanship – including the fight against corruption and efforts to increase ratifications of the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women – Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz focused on the crisis over Crimea.
Highlighting difficult challenges ahead, Mr. Kurz expressed satisfaction with the setting up of the Council of Europe's International Advisory Panel to oversee judicial investigations of violent clashes between protesters and security forces since the end of November 2013.
He underscored cooperation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE in reacting to the crisis and the importance of proposals for constitutional reform in Ukraine, and he reminded delegates that the treatment of Tartars and other minorities in Crimea is a "cause for concern", following a visit last month by Council of Europe experts for national minorities.
"Russia has consistently used the allegation of minorities not being properly treated as a pretext for actions taken," Mr. Kurz said. He stressed that the Council of Europe has made a "clear appeal" to Russia to enter into direct dialogue and hopes "that it would not fall on deaf ears."
In closing, the foreign minister told the assembled delegates that the 65th anniversary of the Council of Europe, to be celebrated next month in Vienna, may make some people "think of retirement" but "recent events show just how important the Council of Europe is."
Austria and the Council of Europe