Committee of Ministers in Turin: Making the Council of Europe fit for the future
Foreign Minister Baerbock is attending the Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.de
Foreign Minister Baerbock is attending the Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Discussions are focusing on the strategic implications of Russia’s withdrawal for the work of the Council as the central organisation for the protection of human rights.
Council of Europe as key stakeholder protecting human rights
The meeting in Turin is the first on-site session of the Committee of Ministers since Helsinki in 2019. As the decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers frames the Council of Europe’s policies and approves the organisation’s budget and programme. The Session in Turin will conclude Italy’s six-month presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe; the presidency will pass to Ireland.
Prior to her departure for Turin, Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised the central role the Council of Europe plays for over 700 million people in Europe, the citizens of the member states:
Each and every one of them has a right to peace and to a life in dignity and self-determination. The Council of Europe stands for this principle like no other organisation.
Impact of Russia’s exclusion: the Council of Europe must not be weakened
Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić will as usual present her annual report on human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe. In Turin, however, the main focus will be on the future of the Council of Europe following Russia’s withdrawal on 16 March this year.
Russia’s inhuman, criminal course of action has shocked the Council of Europe to its core. A regime that attacks its neighbour, that bombards schools and hospitals, that murders and starves civilians, that indiscriminately violates everything that makes up the essence of the Council of Europe – such a country can no longer be a member of this organisation, without making a mockery of it. – Foreign Minister Baerbock
After Russia’s exclusion, the initial priority was to answer practical questions such as the share to be paid to make up for Russia’s missing contributions to the Council of Europe’s budget. The Federal Government has earmarked an additional ten million euro for this, including for higher national contributions. However, the Federal Government believes further project funding is important, too. For example, a Council of Europe post-conflict peacebuilding programme for Ukraine is being prepared. But project activities are also to be intensified for member states such as Georgia, Moldova or those in the Western Balkans that are suffering under strong Russian influence.
The main goal is to ensure that the Council of Europe is in no way weakened as a result of Russia’s war. To this end, a strategic reorientation is needed, and the Italian presidency has campaigned for this.
Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised:
At the Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we will discuss what Russia’s exit means in strategic terms for the Council’s work. For me, it is clear that our strength lies in our unity.
Guidelines are to be laid down in Turin. One matter being discussed is the establishment of a high-level advisory body.
Implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights
Another of Germany’s priorities is to improve the implementation of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. A large number of decisions are implemented, but there are also deficits. Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed:
“With the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe has created a foundation for these rights and principles across the pan-European area, and they are enforced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). From Iceland to Cyprus, from Lisbon to Tbilisi, all of the members of the Council of Europe have agreed to this and have thus committed to act accordingly. In the interest of the people of Europe, we must take action when individual states violate these rights and principles.”