Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne, have joined Council of Europe leaders today in welcoming the publication of a report on the future of the Council of Europe by a High-Level Reflection Group chaired by Ireland’s former President Mary Robinson.
Ireland currently holds the six-month Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The report presents thirty recommendations to enable the Council of Europe to respond effectively to the challenges presented by the war in Ukraine by redoubling investment in the organisation’s core competencies – the promotion of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law – and enhancing pan-European cooperation, above all with the European Union and the United Nations.
Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Minister Coveney, said: “Ireland is proud to have advanced the High-Level Reflection Group during our Presidency of the Committee of Ministers. While our Presidency lasts only six months, this work will help shape the future of this organisation for years to come.
“We fully support the report’s key message that now is the time for the Council of Europe to recommit to delivering on its core remit, notably, the implementation of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.
“I urge all 46 member states to act on the group’s recommendations to respond effectively to the challenges presented by war on our continent. In particular, I echo the group’s call for a Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council’s member states to be convened at the earliest possible opportunity in order to put political impetus behind this vital work.”
Presenting the report to the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg earlier, Mary Robinson said: “We need political decisions at the highest level to navigate the dark times we are living in. Europe and the world are not in a good shape right now. We hoped that realities like those we have seen in Ukraine belonged to our past. We were wrong. This is a “wake-up call” for Europe.
“The ongoing war in Ukraine is not the only challenge facing Europe and the world. Democratic backsliding, undermining the rule of law, and challenges to our human rights protection system are on the rise.
“The good news is that we have, with this report, the tools to tackle the multiple and complex crises we are facing. What we need is the political will to do so.”
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić stated: “This report reflects its authors’ vision for the future of the Council of Europe and of our Continent. We now need political commitment at the highest level to translate its recommendations into reality.”
President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Tiny Kox, remarked: ‘‘I am confident that the report will provoke a meaningful discussion about the 4th Council of Europe Summit, its aims and outcomes, and will lead to important decisions that will both underline the continuing relevance of our organisation and reinforce its capacity to respond to the current challenges in Europe. I welcome this report and look forward to a decision to formally convene a Summit, to which the Assembly will contribute to the best of its abilities, including on the basis of its own reflection process currently led by our Bureau and our Political Affairs Committee’’.
Ahead of a forthcoming visit to Strasbourg, Minister Byrne added: “The report of the High-Level Reflection Group represents an opportunity for the Council of Europe’s 46 member states which we should embrace.
“Next week I will travel to Strasbourg to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where I will make a strong case for agreement on a Summit and delivery of this report’s key recommendations. As President Robinson and her fellow Group members have made clear, we have the tools – it is now up to each of us to ensure that they are used to build a better Europe”.
- On 8 June, two weeks after Ireland assumed the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the organisation’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić appointed a seven member High-Level Reflection Group (HLRG) on the future of the Council of Europe. Including six former Heads of State or Government and/or Foreign Ministers, the group comprised:
The report, published today, presents thirty recommendations to enable the Council of Europe to respond effectively to the challenges presented by the war in Ukraine.
- The report calls for a summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government to take place ‘‘at the earliest possible opportunity’’ and for these meetings to become regular, held at least every four years.
- To address democratic backsliding across the continent, the HLRG recommends development of a new legal instrument on education for democracy; greater investment in monitoring of electoral report observations; the creation of a new Council of Europe Democracy index; new structures to ensure a youth perspective in Council of Europe policy formation; and measures to strengthen the protection of civil society across the continent.
- The HLRG sets out a range of recommendations to improve the Council of Europe’s human rights protection system’s effectiveness and coherence. These include completing the negotiation of the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible, with political support at the proposed Fourth Summit; pursuing EU accession to the European Social Charter; and a series of recommendations designed to strengthen monitoring and ensure full execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments. Important recommendations are also made to enable the Council of Europe to highlight ongoing human rights violations in Russia and to establish a new office within the Council of Europe to monitor human rights issues in areas of protracted conflict or contested jurisdiction.
- In responding to the current crisis, and related spillover effects, the HLRG stress the need to further refine and enhance the Council of Europe’s already fruitful cooperation with the EU, the UN and other partners. The 2007 MoU on EU-Council of Europe cooperation should be updated, with a renewed commitment to political dialogue between the institutions, and to clarify the respective roles of the Council of Europe and any future European Political Community. The Council of Europe’s key role in EU enlargement process, in supporting states in developing stronger rule of law and democratic institutions, should be further codified and enhanced.
- Building on the Committee of Ministers’ recent decision to establish a Contact Group with Belarussian democratic leaders, the HLRG recommend the Council of Europe develop, under the responsibility of Secretary General Burić, a new framework for cooperation with Russian and Belarussian civil society.
- Finally, recognising violence against women and domestic violence as a particularly persistent and egregious violation of human rights, exacerbated by the conflict, the HLRG urges the Committee of Ministers to give renewed priority to the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention and to fight against disinformation that undermines the convention, building on the Dublin Declaration signed by 38 CoE Member States last week.
- Ireland assumed the rotating Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 20 May 2022, a position it holds until November 2022. In that role, Ireland has prioritised supporting the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention and protected by the Court.