by H.E. Mr. Pavlo KLIMKIN
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
under item 2
(CoE CM meeting, Sofia, 18 May, 2016)
As we live in times of tectonic changes in various spheres of life, the Council of Europe has all good reason to play one of the main roles in shaping European affairs. At this dramatic moment, we can and should be ambitious in pursuing Council’s goals as vigorously as the founders of this organization did under very similar circumstances.
In 1950, Jacques-Camille Paris, the first Secretary General of the Council of Europe, delivered a prominent speech on the Council’s role in European politics. He spoke about the importance of solidarity to prevent Europe from repeating its worst political and social experiments. With two World Wars behind, he was realistic about the threats posed to Europe and European freedoms by propaganda and what he called “the threat of a third and final conflict”. The issue of migration in post-war realities also found its place in his speech.
Significantly, the first Secretary General made a profound comment on the need for nations to follow the path of true democracy in order to keep them away from the temptation to engage in dictatorial experiments and military adventures.
The parallel between some of the key problems Europe was facing then and is facing now is striking. Indeed, the Council of Europe is much stronger today than it was sixty-six years ago, but in 2016 its eventual success depends on the same principles as in 1950 – solidarity and resolve to defend democracy, human rights and freedoms.
Solidarity means that no nation or institution can stand idly by as the evil of fake democracy and militarism is taking over another nation or as terror and intolerance are trying to spread across Europe.
Resolve means that based on our shared values and principles we should not be making compromises with these threats and their masterminds. We should not keep polite silence or look for political, economic and historical excuses for the wrong things happening in Europe. I hope you will agree that if European history is any lesson, in times of danger it makes a lot of sense to call a spade a spade.
Now, turning to the issue of the state of democracy, human rights and the security imperative for Europe, I am sure that this Committee in its many decisions on Ukraine made it absolutely clear that Russia’s aggressive policies are the main challenge. And turning a blind eye to this will seriously undermine public trust in the Council of Europe.
An effective response to this challenge is one of the most burning security imperatives for the whole continent. In order to avoid drastic consequences, nations and institutions have to demonstrate sufficient solidarity and resolve to stop Russian aggression. Failure to address this challenge as the security imperative for Europe will effectively remove the Council from the vanguard of European institutions.
One of the root causes of aggressive policies is the absence of democracy in Russia and truly deplorable state of Russian civil society. I strongly believe that one of the tasks for the Council of Europe is to closely monitor the situation in Russia and to save Russian NGOs, journalists and human rights defenders to restore democratic values and mechanisms in Russia.
As I address this distinguished meeting, on this very day Ukraine marks the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, ordered by Stalin in 1944. In 2014, Crimean Tatars lost their native land again. Under Russian occupation, Crimea has become a «grey zone» where injustice, terror, intimidation, kidnapping and torture prevail.
The decision of the occupying authorities to ban Mejlis of Crimean Tatars under the false accusation of its extremist activity proves that repression against pro-Ukrainian communities were upgraded to yet another level of gross systemic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Such a decision threatens more than 2000 members of about 250 central and local Mejlis. Continuing arrests and persecution of Mejlis representatives clearly demonstrate that this threat becomes reality.
We, members of the organization that stands for human rights and democracy, have to strengthen our solidarity and resolve to stop the abuses and make sure that such horrors as deportations and mass violations of human rights and freedoms never happen again. This is our common responsibility.
In this regard, I praise the Committee of Ministers decision of 27 April, which reiterated the call for allowing full and unrestricted access for Council of Europe conventional and regular monitoring mechanisms to Crimea. Needless to say, any international presence on the ground should be well coordinated and agreed with my country. I also strongly believe that any attempt to erode the existing position of this Organization on Crimea should be considered as an attempt to erode the fundamental principles and purposes of the Council of Europe.
Donbas, another part of Ukraine, also suffers from Russian aggression. Killings, arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, tortures and ill-treatment, and other grave human rights violations have become a routine practice of terrorists and Russian soldiers.
Ukraine underlines that only due implementation of the Minsk Agreements by Russia and full demilitarization of Donbas under international security mission can be a credible threshold of transition from security to political settlement phase. Otherwise, it is impossible to talk about future political processes, including preparations for local elections.
One provision of the Minsk Agreements is unconditional and should not be made conditional on the fulfillment of other provisions. I refer to the release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons. This issue remains a high priority for the Ukrainian side. In the light of the last Committee of Ministers' decision on the situation in Ukraine and PACE Resolution 2112, I urge Russia to immediately release all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and Crimea.
Special attention should be paid to the case of Nadiya Savchenko, our political prisoner in Russia, who is illegally detained in Russia in violation of her privileges and immunities as member of Ukrainian Parliament and PACE. In this regard, I would like to convey my thanks for the attention the Committee of Ministers has paid to her case and to the continued efforts to keep her alive, to ensure her release and return to the motherland.
Despite the extremely difficult times for Ukraine, the country is changing for the better. A number of important reforms have been undertaken and a number of others are underway. Ukraine will keep intensifying this positive dynamic. I would like to express my gratitude to the Council of Europe and its Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland for developing and implementing Action Plan for my country.
We look forward to continuing close cooperation with the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and other bodies to ensure the success of these reforms. Allow me to assure you that international assistance to internal transformations is essential and much appreciated by Ukrainian people.
I would like to wrap-up by thanking Bulgaria and welcoming Estonia as the outgoing and incoming chairmanships.
The Bulgarian Chairmanship managed to maintain constructive dialogue among national delegations and find broadly accepted solutions to some very difficult issues, including the ones related to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
I would also like to commend the Chairmanship for launching the 2016-2021 Strategy for the Rights of the Child, for adopting a number of very important Committee of Ministers Recommendations in the field of media activities and Internet Governance Strategy, and for organizing a series of events on the protection of vulnerable groups.
Today, I also wish the Estonian Chairmanship every success in implementing its important agenda. We welcome your priorities, in particular those related to the respect for human rights and the rule of law on the Internet, gender equality and protection of children`s rights. Ukraine stands ready to contribute to their implementation.
We also believe that under Estonian Chairmanship the Committee of Ministers will continue efforts to strengthen democratic security in Europe and adequately respond to violations by member States of international law and their commitments within the Council of Europe.