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German President Joachim Gauck: 'Never economise on human rights'

Strasbourg, 22.04.2013 - The Council of Europe is "needed more than ever before", German President Joachim Gauck has told the Parliamentary Assembly. In spite of pressure to make savings in a time of austerity across Europe, "we should never seek to economise on human rights”, he said in an address.

Pointing out the importance of the Council of Europe’s monitoring functions – from reports by the Anti-Torture Committee, to opinions by the Venice Commission – President Gauck stressed that “rights and freedoms on paper do not suffice, they must be guaranteed in practice”.

He called on member states to “commit themselves to the values and legal standards of the Council of Europe,” pointing out that the organisation had over 200 Conventions: “They must transpose them into their national legal systems,” said President Gauck, the first German head of state to speak before the Assembly since the 1991 visit to the Council of Europe by former President Richard von Weizsäcker.

The German president praised the European Court of Human Rights, which he called “the last hope for those who are desperate and dispossessed”. He called on all 47 member states to respect judgments of the Court, explaining that he himself recently signed domestic laws and legislation which became necessary because of Court judgments.

He also praised the Council of Europe’s role in fighting racism and discrimination, particularly drawing attention to the Council of Europe campaign “Dosta!” or “Enough!, which fights the exclusion of the Sinti and Roma people. “We could use more such campaigns,” President Gauck said.

Because defending human rights is an “on-going process” President Gauck praised the important work of NGOs and civil society: "Without your courage, many promises of the Council of Europe would appear only on paper."