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The Council of Europe: Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s visit to Strasbourg France

12.10.2016 - Article

On Thursday (13 October), Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Strasbourg to deliver a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

From Rome, Foreign Minister Steinmeier flew on to Strasbourg, where on Thursday (13 October) he met first with Thorbjörn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and then with Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Afterwards, Steinmeier gave a speech in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The building of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg
The building of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg© Photothek.net

Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s trip to Strasbourg focused entirely on the Council of Europe. In the morning, the Minister first met with Thorbjörn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Afterwards, he held talks with Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as well as with the German Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.

Speech to the Parliamentary Assembly in his role as Foreign Minister and current Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE

Next, Steinmeier spoke before the Parliamentary Assembly, not only as German Foreign Minister, but also as the current Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Addressing the crises in and around Europe, he asked how a peaceful order could be developed. The German Foreign Minister said that, for peace and stability to take hold, there must first be a multilateral order that is based on the rule of law and that governs relations between states.

Steinmeier addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Steinmeier addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe© photothek / Köhler

He went on to say that another important prerequisite is the internal make-up of societies – in concrete terms, this means looking at the human rights situation. Human rights are not just an instrument to be used on the road to peace, but rather “the cornerstone on which a functioning international order needs to be built.” In this context, the Council of Europe plays an important role, as it “is not just the sentry guarding a normative order” in times of crisis, but also functions as “an important instrument on our path to making this order a reality.”

Taking Turkey as an example, Steinmeier went on to say, the Council of Europe has provided impressive proof of this function. Secretary General Thorbjörn Jagland was one of the first to visit Turkey after the attempted coup, offering the support of the Council of Europe with the investigation of what had occurred. At the same time, the Council of Europe repeatedly pointed out that this investigation must be based on rule-of-law principles. Here, as with other crises, the Council is always willing to engage in dialogue, but also insists on adherence to legal norms as well, the minister said.

An important body in times of crisis

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe© photothek / Köhler

The Council of Europe was founded on 5 May 1949 as the first of the major post-war organizations. Its aim is to achieve a greater unity between its members, as well as to safeguard and realise their common ideals and principles. The Council of Europe therefore specifically promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law throughout Europe – and, in view of the crises in Europe’s neighbourhood, plays an important role today, as well.

The Council of Europe comprises 57 states, or 820 million citizens. With the exception of three countries, all European states have joined the Council of Europe so far. Several non-European states, such as Israel, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the United States, have an observer status.

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Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

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