Six months and three priorities sums up the work of the German Presidency of the Council of Europe, a group of 47 member states, notwithstanding all the extra challenges posed by the pandemic.
- Bringing Europe closer to the people: The 3rd European Youth Work Convention, held during Germany’s Presidency, was the biggest online event to strengthen youth work (more details here). In addition, we organised a workshop entitled “Roma Youth – Together for Emancipation and Empowerment” as well as other seminars, exhibitions and concerts with the aim of involving Europe’s largest minority and raising awareness of their concerns. Minister of State Roth described this key priority of our Presidency as follows: “We want to involve young people more in our work, because we would like to encourage them to become more politically engaged and to join the fight for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
The shared values and convictions of 800 million citizens in the Council of Europe countries have been enshrined in a total of 220 conventions. When Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, it still had several weeks to go of its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This was no mere overlap on the calendar. For regardless of the institutional and substantive differences, there was one common goal that united these two German Presidencies: strengthening the rule of law in Europe. While the EU Presidency focused on “rule‑of‑law conditionality” and “rule-of-law dialogue”, the Council of Europe Presidency was concerned above all with public and financial support for the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Negotiations on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights were also resumed during this German “dual presidency”. These long-term negotiations provided an opportunity to further intensify the vital collaboration between the two organisations to protect law and human rights in Europe.
“Exchange also across ideological divides”
Germany’s six-month Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe ends on 21 May, but work on our three priority areas (strengthening the law, shaping the future, and bringing Europe closer to the people) will continue.
As Foreign Minister Maas said in a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly in January:
The Council of Europe has always stood for exchange also across ideological divides. That also means openly expressing criticism – and tolerating it. (...) Only if we maintain frank exchange with one another will we be able to preserve what in 1949 was viewed at best as a faraway goal: a Europe of peace, cooperation and human rights.