(To be checked against delivered speech)
Address by Prof. Adam D. Rotfeld, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly session, Strasbourg 28 April 2005
Honourable Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Mr Secretary General, Mr Secretary General of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour and privilege to address the Parliamentary Assembly today in my capacity as Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in order to present you with the Communication on the activities of the Committee of Ministers since the last ordinary session in January.
You have already received an extensive written report. So let me now stress only a few issues of the priority for the Polish Chairmanship. I have in mind especially the preparations for the Third Summit, enhanced cooperation with other international organisations, some activities of the Polish Chairmanship including my last visit to Moldova, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers.
As you all know, in three weeks Poland will host the Third Summit of the Council of Europe. In this context the main attention of the Polish Presidency has been concentrated on preparations for this important event. It is not only a privilege but above all a big responsibility to us to live up to all expectations. But I can undoubtedly say that it is also the common commitment of all participants to ensure that the Summit will result in a political success.
As we come closer to the event, I believe it is necessary to share with you some thoughts on the political content of the Summit and some information on the practical arrangements we have made so far.
The purpose of convening the Summit was to prepare our Organisation for redefining its role in the 21st century. With this in mind, we will gather in Warsaw in order to confirm the mission of the Council of Europe, the oldest European organisation, capable of facing challenges and threats of our present world in an effective way. The Summit will take place in Warsaw, at the heart of Europe, in the city that was totally destroyed - in fact killed - during the Second World War, and on the other hand resurrected and symbolises now European reunification process that, over the last 15 years, has put an end to the arbitrary and artificial division of our continent resulted by the Yalta conference decisions. Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that the words “peace” and “unity” are of very special meaning in this part of Europe.
During these two Warsaw days we will celebrate the success achieved twelve years after the First Summit in Vienna, through fulfilling the political mandate assigned to the Council of Europe to bring together all European nations on the basis of their shared commitment to democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The forthcoming Warsaw Summit also intends to recall the significant progress made towards the strategic objective of “building Europe without dividing lines” that was fixed by the Second Summit in Strasbourg and the Budapest Declaration adopted at the Council of Europe’s 50th anniversary.
However, as I have already said, the Summit should look more rather to the future than to the past. Our main task is to address the challenges that Europe and the whole world have to face nowadays. In the context of profound changes in the continent and its interaction with its main partners on the European and global scene, the Summit will lay down the guidelines for the future action of the Council of Europe. Bearing in mind the ideas and proposals that member delegations as well as the Assembly and the Congress have presented, the Committee of Ministers is currently drafting the Political Declaration and the Action Plan which are to be adopted by the Heads of States during the Summit.
The member states should renew their membership commitments to the conventional core of the Organisation. Moreover, they should declare stronger support for the Court of Human Rights and take concrete measures to deal with the caseload as well as schedule a comprehensive strategy to that end including the ratification of Protocol No. 14 to the Human Rights Convention. In accordance with the joint Assembly and several of the member states’ proposals, a Forum for the Future of Democracy should be established by the Summit. By doing so, a special new challenge of democracy reinforcement will be faced. The Political Declaration will also strongly underline the importance of intercultural dialogue within the European society and the neighbouring regions.
The Declaration will also emphasise the importance of social cohesion in line with the statute of our Organisation and the challenges facing European society. The Political Declaration will address the important task of ensuring more complementarity and cooperation among three European institutions, namely the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the European Union.
As far as the Action Plan is concerned, it will reflect the main ideas presented in the Declaration and discussed during the three Summit sessions, giving the concrete guidelines for the Council of Europe to follow and goals to fulfil in the future.
The member countries have proposed concrete measures to adopt in order to strengthen the Court of Human Rights and to undertake, mainly within the existing structures of the Council of Europe, new actions in order to defend human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe as well as to ensure social cohesion facing new challenges in that field.
I should like to seize this opportunity to warmly thank the Parliamentary Assembly for the very substantial and comprehensive contribution it made to the ongoing negotiations through the adoption of “Recommendation 1693 on the Third Summit” last January. The Committee of Ministers found these ideas very far reaching and inspiring and we have tried, if at all possible, to include them in the documents prepared for the Summit. In replying to parliamentary questions, I will give you a more detailed insight into the various suggestions of the Parliamentary Assembly that have been taken up either in the Declaration or in the Action Plan. I deeply appreciate also all contributions from member states. They were really helpful in the process of elaborating both documents.
With your permission, I would like to mention that the Third Summit will undoubtedly endorse the three conventions concerning the prevention of terrorism, actions against the trafficking in human beings as well as money laundering and the financing of terrorism. This Assembly debated on them during its January session. Now, after long negotiations on a few remaining issues we are very close to finalising the texts. It would be a real success of the Council of Europe - our common success - if we could open them for signature during the Summit.
The Committee of Ministers and the Chair have also been active in making sure that the necessary steps are taken about the organisational aspects of the Summit. Invitation letters have been sent to all participants - including the President of the Parliamentary Assembly - and a preliminary programme has been drawn up. I’d like to express my thanks to all delegations who have confirmed their presence in Warsaw at the highest possible political level.
A lot of effort has also been made to guarantee that the Summit would be both transparent and open to the European public. We expect its effective participation. In order to ensure it, we plan to broadcast the Summit through modern IT communication means. This will be the first time that the general public will have the opportunity to follow fully and directly such a high-level diplomatic meeting.
We have also planned a wide range of activities that will take place in Warsaw in the context of the Third Summit. Let me mention here some of them.
Several intellectual debates and events presenting topics central to the Council of Europe aims were already and will be organised. To make Warsaw an open and attractive city with a friendly atmosphere, some interesting cultural events are planned for the weekend preceding the Summit, inter alia film shows, theatre performances, exhibitions, concerts. This also includes the so-called “Warsaw Night for Europe”, as we will celebrate this time “Europe Day”.
The Youth Summit and the Council of Europe Conference of International NGOs are expected also in the context of the Summit.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Strengthening the unity of our continent, through eliminating new dividing lines is the main motto for the Summit and also one of the priorities identified by the Polish Chairmanship. In order to ensure it, the Council of Europe needs to focus on a better coordination of activities with the main European institutions, especially the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
With this in mind, during its chairmanship Poland has continued efforts to ensure development of new synergies in European cooperation. In order to create enhanced cooperation with the European Union and the OSCE, high-level meetings were organised with both the OSCE (“2+2” meeting in Strasbourg on 23 February 2005) and the European Union (“quadripartite” meeting in Brussels on 16 March 2005).
At the quadripartite meeting held with the European Union, we expressed the wish that the Summit would confirm the role and mission of the Council of Europe with a strong message concerning the relevance of the values shared by all European democracies. The key role of multilateralism was stressed as a means of solving the major problems of our time and the specific contribution the Council of Europe could make – through its role in the areas of standard-setting, monitoring, awareness-raising and assistance to member states – as part of a concerted effort to strengthen the unity of the European continent and avoid further dividing lines.
In this connection, we welcomed the concrete proposal put forward by the European Union with regard to arrangements for future cooperation between the two institutions characterised by partnership and complementarity. We are willing to devote tangible means to strengthening coherence between the Council of Europe conventions and the European Union’s legal acquis and enabling the EU to make full use of the Council of Europe’s expertise in fields where it presents an added value.
Last but not least, we supported the European Union’s proposal for a review of consultation and cooperation mechanisms at all levels, in order to strengthen them and guide and manage the prospective consolidated relations between the European Union and the Council of Europe more effectively. It would be desirable that a memorandum of understanding be drawn up on this basis to define, in concrete terms, arrangements for enhanced cooperation and political dialogue between the two institutions.
Some practical steps have been undertaken to make cooperation more effective. A European Commission representative to the Council of Europe has been appointed in Strasbourg. We expect some progress in work on technical arrangements for the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights so that the Union could accede to the Convention as soon as the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union comes into force.
In the same spirit, during the meeting the importance of complementarity and cooperation in connection with the prospective Fundamental Rights Agency for the European Union were stressed and the fact that this was a likely prospect was welcomed. The similar provision should be made for complementarity and cooperation in connection with the plans for a Linguistic Diversity Agency and an Institute for Gender Equality.
At the “2+2” meeting held with the OSCE, we stressed the Council of Europe and OSCE's important roles in promoting security, cooperation, peace and stability across the continent and creating a Europe without dividing lines based on the core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We committed ourselves to enhancing cooperation between the OSCE and the Council of Europe, in order to ensure complementarity and avoid unnecessary duplication of activities. On this occasion I should like to welcome the decision of both Organisations to establish a Coordination Group that will carry this work forward.
The elaboration of a political declaration on OSCE/Council of Europe cooperation, is at the very final stage. I am really glad that the Draft Declaration text was accepted at the joint meeting between the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Permanent Council of the OSCE held in Strasbourg on 18 April . It gives us a signal for the long-term political commitment on the part of the two Organisations’ member states towards the process of cooperation and mutual support.
The enhanced cooperation should have clear aims: avoiding unnecessary duplication, exchanging of experience and reducing the costs of their activities. The most important task for these organisations is to outline fields for cooperation. It can be developed on a number of regional and thematic issues, mainly combating terrorism, trafficking in human beings, fight against intolerance and discrimination, protection of national minorities. Special attention should be paid to continued building on good practices of cooperation, creation of synergies and harmonisation of work between the OSCE and the Council of Europe in the field. The solution of conflict situations through political dialogue is an important prerequisite to democratic stability and sustainable development of the regions where the two organisations operate.
The meetings with EU and OSCE during our chairmanship could be considered as significant steps in the ongoing processes aimed at reinforcing the cooperation between the European organisations. Adoption during the Summit of the framework documents regarding this cooperation would be seen as a joint achievement . These documents would include political recommendations for organisational and legal adjustments
Having this aim in mind we invited to Warsaw the group of eminent intellectuals, security analysts and some former politicians who prepared an independent Report on Complementarity of Europe. The Warsaw Reflection Group Report will be made available for all participants of the Third Summit.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me move now to the next issue. One of our priorities is strengthening the Council of Europe core values and standards. That is the reason why, following the parliamentary elections held in Moldova at the beginning of March, I decided to pay an official visit on 31 March to Chisinau, in my capacity as Chair of the Committee of Ministers, to review the situation in the country and co-operation with the Council of Europe. I talked to Moldova’s highest political leaders. We discussed certain areas where progress is still expected from Moldova in terms of Council of Europe standards, in particular regarding media independence and pluralism, independence of the judiciary, anti-corruption efforts and local democracy. A number of issues concerning the situation in the Transnistrian region of Moldova were also raised during the discussions. During the talks it was underlined that four requirements for solving the crisis are indispensable: respect of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova on one hand and a special status for Transnistrian region as an integral part of Moldova on the other .
This topic has been followed for several months by the Committee of Ministers, especially the situation of the Moldovan schools in the region and the full execution of the judgment delivered in 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ilascu and others against Moldova and the Russian Federation.
The question of the future status of Transnistria was raised in my talks with Moldovan authorities, in the light of the new security environment shaped by the political change that has taken place in Ukraine in recent months. Given the Tiraspol authorities’ central role regarding these issues, I also met them during the visit. The so called “Transnistrian leaders” confirmed their readiness for further discussions about any new proposals of conflict solution with Chisinau. They declared their willingness to cooperate with any international organisation, including the Council of Europe Venice Commission. They demonstrated some flexibility declaring possible inspections in factories and border monitoring by international observers. They also admitted that the total independence is neither realistic nor politically reasonable proposition. I think the visit was promising in this respect. It seems to me that the new Ukrainian leadership can play - and in fact is already playing - a significant role in search for a durable political solution of the conflict.
From the very beginning, the Polish Chairmanship was involved very deeply in the process of democratic change - or to be more precise - in the process of conflict prevention in Ukraine. As you all know, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski initiated the round table talks which resulted eventually in the political compromise. The Committee of Ministers has continued to pay close attention since then to the measures announced by the new Ukrainian authorities with a view to promoting the functioning of democratic institutions and the rule of law in the country. Following the address made to the Parliamentary Assembly by the new President of Ukraine on 25 January 2005, in which he mentioned certain areas where Council of Europe assistance would be welcome, the Committee of Ministers’ Rapporteur Group for Democratic Stability (GR EDS) has followed the matter very carefully. It has taken note of the outcome of the tripartite meeting between the new Ukrainian authorities, the Council of Europe Secretariat and the European Commission held in Kyiv on 17 and 18 March 2005 to review implementation of the current Council of Europe/European Commission Joint Programme for Ukraine covering the period 2004-2005 and lay the foundations for a new framework for enhanced co-operation with Ukraine.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me use this opportunity to sum up our Chairmanship in the Committee of Ministers that will finish in May during the Summit.
As I mentioned before - strengthening Europe’s unity in the historically new political situation on the Continent within the context of the ongoing process of enlargement and transformation of the European Union is the main priority that we intended to implement during our presidency.
It was not the only one goal that we chose for these six months. We set up four other priorities, namely:
• strengthening human rights,
• promoting the dialogue between cultures as a precondition for tolerance and the resolution of conflicts,
• developing local democracy and trans-border cooperation,
• overcoming the lines of division as the legacy of the past in Europe.
They are all needed to ensure conditions for developing united Europe sharing core values.
Strengthening human rights is an issue of the crucial importance for member states. In this context, a number of initiatives were announced with the aim of reinforcing the efficiency of the system of the European Convention for Human Rights, raising awareness of questions of law and in general developing and consolidating the norms relevant to human rights. One of the meetings held today in Strasbourg is a significant event in this field. I refer to the seminar on effective remedies against the excessive length of judicial proceedings.
We also declare our strong commitment to oppose the threat of terrorism. This issue was one of the main topics of the Third High-level Multilateral Meeting of the Ministries of the Interior organised in Warsaw on 17–18 March. At the meeting a Resolution was adopted which stated the support for the strengthening of the role of the Council of Europe in the prevention and control of terrorism, organised and other forms of serious crimes through standard setting, monitoring and technical cooperation. It gave impetus to the early signature and ratification of the new Council of Europe conventions: draft Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the draft Convention on laundering search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and on the financing of terrorism.
Another question raised within the Council of Europe of special interest for the Polish chairmanship is related to the social issues. In order to draw more attention to some specific issues in this respect, we organised seminars about, inter alia, non-governmental organisations in the civic society and health safety in Europe.
Cooperation in the sphere of culture and education plays a special role in strengthening the European identity. That is the reason for our third priority: enhancement of intercultural dialogue. It is an indispensable condition for combating intolerance, signs of xenophobia or racism. The Conference held in Wroclaw on 10 December 2004 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the European Cultural Convention was an excellent opportunity to review the achievements in that area. I am confident that the Declaration adopted at the Conference reflects our views and expectations connected with the Convention.
The fourth priority development of local democracy and trans-border co-operation – is of very special importance for Poland. We should be all aware that effective trans-border cooperation and developed local democracy are the main factors strengthening European unity based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law at the lowest - local level. Poland has gathered a rich experience in this field that can be shared with other partners, especially with these with the ongoing process of political transformation.
In this context, we organised the Ministerial Conference on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the European Outline Convention on the trans-frontier cooperation of authorities and territorial communities, known as the Madrid Convention. It provided a great opportunity to exchange experiences with other partners and propose some interesting solutions, inter alia: looking for new legal forms of cooperation, developing good practices in the Central-East Europe countries, strengthening EU – Council of Europe cooperation in this area.
Overcoming the difficult legacy of the past is a significant challenge facing the nations of Europe. If we are to build a united Europe - Europe without division's lines, capable of dialogue between cultures – then we must tone down the disputes rooted in the past. I am deeply convinced that a thorough and sincere discussion within the Council of Europe is the right approach. It is the only way to achieve a compromise and reconciliation.
Poland will support the Council’s educational programs designed to facilitate a joint, objective perception of history. Within the framework of the Polish Chairmanship, a seminar of European Education Ministers on the theme of “Teaching remembrance through cultural heritage” will be held in Cracow at the beginning of May.
“Historia magistra vitae est” – we must remember that history should be based on true and honest reflection of facts. There is the only one history that we have in Europe. There are many divergent interpretations of the past. We have to be united, however, in our joint efforts to create a future based on the common heritage.
Thank you for your attention. Now I’m ready to answer all questions.