Edward Nalbandian: Armenian Chairmanship will combat racism and xenophobia in Europe

Statement by Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia at the Standing Committee of PACE

Distinguished President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Mr. Mignon,

Distinguished Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly Mr. Abrahamian,
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all in Yerevan in my capacity of the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

On 16th of May 2013 Armenia has assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which took place during the 123rd Ministerial Session of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Assuming for the first time the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers since Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe is an important task. It is an opportunity, a challenge and a big responsibility.

It is an opportunity because Armenia for the next six months will be at the forefront of our common efforts to contribute to democratic development of Europe.

It is a challenge as we all are facing numerous problems on the continent, which can create difficulties in consolidation of our fundamental values.

It is a big responsibility because the success of our common efforts not only depends on individual contribution of each and every member state, but also on the leadership in streamlining our joint activities. Armenia, as a nation, whose European identity has been defined and shaped by common values, ideals and heritage, confidently takes this responsibility.

Our Chairmanship priorities have been defined in response to the challenges that we – as member states of this Organisation – are facing today, with specific focus on issues, which we consider the most pertinent and require immediate action. We will endeavor to bring our contribution also to strengthening the capabilities of the Council of Europe in addressing those challenges.

We will continue supporting the ongoing reform process of the Council of Europe, initiated by the Secretary General, as we believe that this is the right way to raise the effectiveness and responsiveness of our Organisation.

The Armenian Chairmanship will pursue the goals of combating racism and xenophobia in Europe, of promoting European values through intercultural dialogue, of strengthening European standards on human rights and on the rule of law, of fostering democratic societies and of reinforcing the role of the Council of Europe in the European architecture.

Intolerance and xenophobia violate human dignity and challenge the cohesion of our societies. We would like to focus our attention on the hatred and intolerance, racist and xenophobic rhetoric used in political discourse as a tool for political propaganda, which contaminates the souls of the people, incites distrust and creates images of public enemies and leads to hate-induced crimes. The Armenian Chairmanship will contribute to the efforts by organizing a High-Level Conference on Combating Racism and Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe.

The Armenian Chairmanship will also support the activities within the framework of the No Hate Speech Movement, as we consider the Youth project on combating the hate speech on-line as a timely response to these threats.

Promoting intercultural dialogue is an effective tool for forging greater understanding in European societies. Diversity is the strength and richness of Europe and we should spare no efforts towards maintaining and preserving our distinct cultural heritage. Armenian Chairmanship will host the 2013 Exchange of the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue.

The setting of standards for the human rights and the rule of law is the area of excellence of this Organisation. We need to further strengthen the application of the European Convention on Human Rights, especially at national level. This is a necessary precondition for securing the rights and freedoms of all individuals.

To further reflect on the European standards on the rule of law, in continuation of the efforts of the UK Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, in the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship, the Constitutional Court of Armenia will organise a Conference in Yerevan. It will focus on the role of public administration, notably, the scope and the limits of the States powers’ discretion in designing, implementing and interpreting laws.

Local democracy has been a priority area for a number of previous Chairmanships and we will continue their efforts in this regard, as we firmly believe that local democracy is a crucial element for the democratic advancement of the society. We will focus mainly on the aspect of citizens’ participation and the ways to increase that participation in the decision-making process on matters of local and regional concerns. This issue will be addressed in detail during the conference, which will provide an opportunity to reflect upon all the relevant aspects in order to draw a comprehensive picture, in particular, with regards the best practices, as well as on policies applied in member states of the Council of Europe.

The Armenian Chairmanship will also pay special attention to the problems of the capital cities and their role in overall development of local democracy, given their weight and influence in political, economic, social and cultural life.

Education will also remain within the focus of the Armenian Chairmanship and we will contribute to the cooperation and policy dialogue in the field of higher education. This Organisation has carried out important work in support of the implementation of the Bologna Process, which is currently led by Armenia. Although tangible results have been achieved, nevertheless, there is a need to consolidate the implementation and to further build on the progress achieved.

Armenia will also pay special attention to the area of education for democratic citizenship and youth participation. In this regard we will organize a Youth Policy Symposium in Yerevan, which will serve as a platform for exchange of views and in-depth discussion on youth participation.

The Armenian Chairmanship attaches great importance to the cultural dimension of the Council of Europe activities aimed at raising awareness of European citizens about rich and diverse cultural heritage of Europe.

The Armenian Chairmanship will also contribute to furthering Council of Europe’s cooperation with other international and regional organisations. Such cooperation is essential for better synergies of activities, for an enhanced effectiveness and impact of efforts. In this regard, we will closely follow the process of accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights, which will further strengthen the protection of human rights and will contribute to the creation of a single European legal space.

We will ensure the continuity of efforts in areas identified as shared priorities and we will be in close cooperation with previous, Andorran and next, Austrian Chairmanships.

To conclude my presentation on the priorities of the Armenian Chairmanship I would like to inform you that on 3rd of May the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on draft priorities and that the ideas and suggestions expressed by the members of the Armenian parliament have been taken into account while preparing the final document. I believe this is an exemplary evidence of engagement of the elected representatives and their contribution to the work of the Council of Europe.

Mr. President,
Dear colleagues,

I would now like to highlight decisions adopted at the 123rd Ministerial Session of the Council of Europe, which are important and relevant in terms of bringing more synergy and targeted approach to the work of the Committee of Ministers.

I would like to inform distinguished parliamentarians that during the Session of the Committee of Ministers we have adopted a decision on securing the long-term effectiveness of the supervisory mechanism of the European Convention on Human Rights. A report on the follow-up to the Brighton Declaration, which was adopted during the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, has been prepared for the Ministers’ approval. The report presented measures and efforts taken to improve the work of the supervisory mechanism of the Convention and to raise the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. It referred to positive developments with regards the situation in this area and it has been endorsed by member states, who reiterated their determination to implement, as a priority, all envisaged measures in order to consolidate the positive trend.

The member states also welcomed the measures taken by the Court to increase the effectiveness of its work, as well as the work of the Ministers’ Deputies on the supervision of the execution of judgements. The Brighton Declaration specifically referred to the need for a coordinated action on part of States Parties to the Convention, the Committee of Ministers and the Court in order to find way to resolve a large numbers of applications arising from systemic issues identified by the Court.

Armenia as a chair of the Committee of Ministers will follow up the efforts of previous Chairmanships aimed at strengthening the application of the Convention, and will pay close attention to all related issues and at the same time will support all the proposed measures and will encourage necessary actions.

I would also like to mention that within the scope of actions aimed at improving the system of the European Convention on Human Rights the Ministerial Session also adopted the Protocol No 15 and decided to open it for signature in Strasbourg on 24 June 2013. This Protocol gives effect to certain provisions of the Brighton Declaration. As you well know, the Protocol has been earlier presented to the Parliamentary Assembly for examination and the Assembly approved the draft in the Opinion No. 283 (2013) adopted on 26 of April 2013.

The State Parties to the Convention are invited to take steps in order to sign and ratify the Protocol as soon as possible.

The Ministers also considered the report on the implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions. Significant progress has been achieved, particularly, through Neighbourhood Cooperation Dialogue – political dialogue at the highest level – and Neighbourhood Cooperation Priorities, which set out specific activities in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The Organisation now needs to consolidate and build upon those achievements. With this in mind the Ministers welcomed the progress made in the implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions and encouraged its further development. However, further cooperation will depend on the interest and needs of the countries concerned, their readiness to engage and capacity to deliver.

On cooperation with the European Union, the Ministers endorsed the summary report prepared by Ministers’ Deputies. The cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union is important, which has been confirmed on several occasions, most notably by the Secretary General Jagland and by High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle, who addressed the Assembly during the January part-Session.

The cooperation develops along two important tracks: the preparation and implementation of joint programmes and the further development of legal cooperation.

Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights will be an important step in order to achieve further coherence. Successful conclusion of negotiations on EU’s accession to the Convention will bring almost all of the European continent under the same set of rules and standards and the role of the Council of Europe as a reference organisation when it comes to common standards and values will be reinforced.

I also wish to inform you that at the level of the Ministers’ Deputies a yearly overview of the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union is being conducted.

The main discussion of the Ministers focused on the issue of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe and the strengthening of the impact of the Council of Europe’s activities. To facilitate the discussion the Secretary General Jagland presented an overview document, outlining his approaches and made concrete proposals. In this document the Secretary General identified threats to the European political, social and institutional model and proposed as a response to those threats to better use the resources, sharpen the focus on the most important issues and improve the impact of Council of Europe various instruments through a more effective assistance to member States. The bottom line is the need for a better coordination of activities and more attention to the follow up efforts.

This approach of the Secretary General and his proposals for follow-up actions have been generally shared by the Ministers. Moreover, they have encouraged the Secretary General to pursue his efforts aimed at optimising the functioning and coordination of the Council of Europe’s monitoring mechanisms, as well as a better use of their conclusions. The Ministers also invited the Secretary General to present on a regular basis to the Committee of Ministers an overview of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe, accompanied by proposals for action to be taken by Organisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly share the same objective, which is to promote the Council of Europe’s values regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

It is essential that, with due respect for their respective mandates, they work in synergy to achieve this objective. This does not mean that their views and approaches should necessarily be identical. Each legitimately holds its own perspective.

There has been a marked improvement in relations between the Committee of Ministers and the PACE over the last few years.

Increasing contacts have been developed through various channels, such as cross-participation of Assembly Rapporteurs and Chairs of Rapporteur Groups of the Committee of Ministers in their respective meetings.

I would like to thank the President of the Assembly, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, for his initiative in regularly meeting with the Ministers’ Deputies to inform them of the results of the Assembly sessions.

The Armenian Chairmanship is willing and ready to cooperate in good faith with the PACE aimed at contributing to the realization of the objectives of this Organisation and further strengthening of the political dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly.

Thank you.

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