Our Europe is so much bigger than the EU. Europe – that is almost 700 million people with different traditions, different values, different dreams. They are all united by their right to a life in dignity and self-determination.
The Council of Europe established important foundations for our pan-European house more than half a century ago with the European Convention on Human Rights and the legal protection for individuals provided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Russia’s murderous attack on the people of Ukraine shows us how important it is to defend this house, a house which demonstrates our commitment to the rule of law and democracy.
Just like the OSCE, the Council of Europe is more important than ever today as a place where nations can come together and exchange ideas – as a place which embodies the very pan-European unity that Putin wants to destroy. We must stand our ground in the face of this attack. Our response must be a resolute “now more than ever”.
We need to be clear in our minds that the Council of Europe is confronted with fundamental political, legal and also financial challenges.
In order to tackle these, at the last session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Turin I urged my colleagues to support the Icelandic Chair’s proposal to convene a summit of the Heads of State and Government for the first time since 2005 and only the fourth time in the Council of Europe’s history. I am pleased that this will now take place in Reykjavik this May. In the run‑up to the summit, we will continue to make an active contribution and resolutely intensify our wide range of support for the Council of Europe and its institutions. Among other things, we will remain the largest provider of voluntary contributions
One key objective for Reykjavik must be to strengthen protection of human rights. For the current 46 member states this means that Council of Europe conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights must be consistently implemented, while the ECHR must be supported and its judgments respected. States which fail to do this are denying their citizens their enshrined rights.