The brutal Russian war of aggression against our European neighbour Ukraine, which the Ukrainian people must confront every day anew, is for all of us a stark reminder of what Europe means. Europe is made up of over 700 million people. Each and every one 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.
And not just in theory – 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.
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.
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. We demonstrated this when we decided together to exclude Russia from the Council of Europe. The fact that it will now be necessary to compensate for lost membership fees, for example, cannot be permitted to affect the Council’s work. The Council of Europe is needed now more than ever. It is for this reason that the German Government will be paying an additional ten million euro, in order to alleviate the impact and strengthen the Council of Europe together with its other member states.