On 5 May, we celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Europe – our continent’s key international organisation for the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. With the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, it provides a common legal space, encompassing 47 member states with 830 million people. It sets the highest human rights standard worldwide, and this deserves celebration.
This year, we also mark 70 years since Germany became a full member of the Council of Europe. After the Holocaust and a devastating war unleashed by Germany, this was a remarkable act of reconciliation. The founding members of the Council of Europe offered the young Federal Republic the chance to see eye to eye with its neighbours, and to help create a new Europe that would rest firmly on multilateral cooperation as well as on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Today, these core principles of the Council of Europe are as relevant as ever.
All people in Europe have access to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court guarantees and enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all member states are contracting parties. That is why the implementation of the Court’s judgments is so important and thus has been a priority of the German Presidency in the Council of Europe. Furthermore, we remain strongly committed to defending the rights of minorities and promoting the participation of young people in society. Their voices must be heard.
In times of crisis, it is often the most vulnerable who suffer. Sadly, the pandemic has worsened the situation for those who have become victims of domestic violence. We uphold the Istanbul Convention as an instrument to protect women and children. Few days before the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention on 11 May, we urge member states to stand up for those who so often find themselves marginalised and neglected.
Rapid advancements in technology continue to present new challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Online hate speech threatens to erode the very basis on which our democracies rest. The Council of Europe is currently preparing a recommendation on a comprehensive approach to hate speech, including online, from a human rights perspective. The Council of Europe is working on European legal standards on artificial intelligence that will safeguard human rights also in the digital sphere.
The German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers has strived to advance the work of the Council of Europe in all these areas. The progress made and the work to be continued under the following chairmanship will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers in Hamburg on 21 May.
We will continue to work together towards a good future for Europe’s citizens.