At the close of the 121st Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Committee of Ministers issued the following statement:
(a) The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of 47 member states of the Council of Europe, gathered in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 to review their common achievements and to address together the challenges that our democratic societies face.
(b) During 62 years of continued intergovernmental co-operation, the Council of Europe has gradually extended throughout its member states and beyond the benefit of common legal instruments and expertise. The European Convention on Human Rights, under which all member states agree to have their compliance in this field judged by an international court, has remained the cornerstone of those instruments. Our Organisation’s constant objective, as confirmed in 2005 by the Warsaw Summit, has been to achieve unity and stability on our continent based on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
(c) Our achievements in various fields reflect our capacity to address political issues. They show the added value of common action on the basis of principles and standards. The establishment of a death penalty free zone in Europe attests this. So does the opening for signature today of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence as well as the successful work in the field of protecting children and promoting their rights.
(d) Today’s meeting also took place at a time of momentous changes in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood. In North Africa and the Middle East, popular movements are voicing a legitimate demand for democracy and social justice. We express our hope that these events will give birth to peaceful, stable and democratic societies.
(e) There can be no lasting peace and stability without respect for the values which are the foundation of the Council of Europe. These values however can never be taken for granted. Everyday reality in European societies has witnessed considerable progress and undeniable achievements, but also emerging tensions. Some effects of globalisation and economic recession feed a sense of insecurity, tempting societies to turn in on themselves. Rhetoric of hatred, intolerance, and exclusion undermine the foundations of democracy, the principles of equal rights and equal dignity for all individuals. Vulnerable groups find themselves stigmatised. Terrorism, organised crime, corruption, human trafficking and drug trafficking are a threat to security and the rule of law.
f) We remain concerned that persisting unresolved conflicts affecting certain parts of our continent put at risk the security, unity and democratic stability of member states and deprive populations concerned of their fundamental human rights and freedoms. We reaffirm our support for the respect for the principles of international law set out in the United Nations Charter, the CSCE Helsinki Final Act and other relevant texts.
(g) We are confident that Europe will respond effectively to these challenges and has the means and democratic maturity to succeed. We will do our utmost to strengthen the social fabric of our societies and ensure that the values enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights are enjoyed by all.
1. We therefore affirm that the Council of Europe’s political mission is as relevant as ever and that we must step up its action to build a stable Europe without dividing lines, united by our values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
2. We consider that, with its pan-European membership, its legally binding instruments, political commitments, effective joint monitoring, and expertise in assisting the democratic functioning of its member states, the Council of Europe is the appropriate political forum for our continent to develop and implement common responses to the challenges facing us.
3. That is why the reform of the Organisation is of particular importance and we firmly support the efforts to give a new impetus to its work and to optimise its political potential and relevance for the citizens of Europe.
4. We recommit ourselves to ensuring rule of law in every member state and creating an effective pan-European common legal space based on the Council of Europe’s standards and principles.
4bis. We reaffirm our determination to continue promoting and strengthening democracy throughout the continent.
5. We will continue supporting the establishment of closer relations between the Council of Europe and Belarus only on the basis of respect for European values and principles.
6. We believe that the European Convention on Human Rights and its supervisory mechanism represent the foundation upon which our action in this field must be built and we reaffirm our unwavering attachment to this system. We are determined to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights and the convention system through substantial reforms based on the conclusions adopted in Interlaken and followed-up in Izmir.
7. We are committed to the rapid conclusion of the negotiations on accession by the European Union to the Convention, thus completing the construction of a coherent area of protection of human rights across Europe. We take note of the progress made and call on all Parties to conclude as soon as possible the work on the draft accession agreement.
8. We consider that intercultural dialogue, education, mutual respect and understanding – within and beyond our borders – are key responses to intolerance and effective tools for building sustainable peace. We take note with thanks of the contribution of the report “Living together – Combining diversity and freedom in 21st century Europe”, prepared by the Group of Eminent Persons, towards strengthening our societies through shared values and the active participation of all individuals, without discrimination. To this end, we ask the Ministers’ Deputies to examine the report of the Group of Eminent Persons.
9. We believe that Europe’s stability and security will benefit from sharing our values with neighbouring regions. We invite the Deputies, on the basis of the Secretary General’s proposals and through the bodies of the Council of Europe, to actively develop cooperation with third countries seeking our support for the transition to democracy. We also call to reinforce synergies with the other international organisations, including the partnership with the European Union, in areas of common interest.
10. Through this Declaration we affirm our political commitment to the Council of Europe and its mission. We remain convinced that in a period of challenge and change it is only by being true to our common values that we will contribute to peace, democracy and prosperity for our people.