Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Secretary of State in charge of European Affairs, addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today on behalf of the French Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.
After paying a heartfelt tribute to the former President of France Jacques Chirac, in which she spoke of his commitment to the Council of Europe, “of which he was a supporter, a friend and a protector”, Ms de Montchalin welcomed the efforts by parliamentarians and member States “to move forward together towards a return to normal functioning at the Council of Europe, in the interest of peoples and the protection of their rights”.
Referring to the return of the Russian delegation last June, she said the Assembly had taken the decision to “preserve the European family” and “to enable millions of citizens to maintain effective protection of their rights under the Convention”.
Feeling that this crisis had helped to strengthen dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, she said they had a collective duty to keep up the momentum by introducing the new joint response procedure “which will allow us to react together, in an effective and co-ordinated manner, if a member State fails to fulfil its commitments.” She underscored the four key principles for its implementation: predictability, responsiveness, credibility and reversibility, and expressed the hope that the procedure would be operational in January 2020. “The Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General must be able to decide, in a joint and operational manner, or even to impose sanctions if necessary.” Suggesting that “interim and progressive measures” be introduced, she pointed out that the new procedure was about “encouragement, not punishment.”
In her speech, Ms de Montchalin also announced a number of events that had already or would be held under the French Chairmanship, in the light of its three priorities, namely to preserve and consolidate the European system of human rights protection, to promote equality and living together and to meet the new challenges facing human rights and the rule of law.
The Secretary of State also spoke of the importance of co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe in order to “develop a common culture of the rule of law” and reiterated her wish that the European Union accede to the European Convention on Human Rights.
She also highlighted the role played by the French Chairmanship in promoting equality and living together – in particular action to combat violence against women – and in addressing the challenges posed by new technologies in the human rights field. Lastly, referring to the plans to set up an observatory on history teaching in Europe, which would aim to provide a neutral assessment of the current state of play and focus on how history is taught in schools, she said she hoped she could count on the Assembly’s support in implementing this project.