On November 14 Armenia handed over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to Austria.
Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, presented the stocktaking of the Armenian Chairmanship. Minister Nalbandian’s speech in full is provided below:
“On May 16, the Republic of Armenia assumed its first Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe since Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe in January 2001. It was an important task, opportunity, challenge and responsibility for the country.
After six months of intensive work the time has come to present the activities of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
For the last six months Armenia has been in a forefront of streamlining common European efforts for the democratic action. Today I should state that our mission has been accomplished. We have done utmost to have effective and agenda-driven Chairmanship.
During our Chairmanship we had maintained close cooperation with all statutory organs of the Council of Europe. We have had active interaction with the Secretary General and Secretariat, the Parliamentary Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner of Human Rights, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
I take this opportunity to thank warmly the Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, President of the Parliamentary Assembly Jean Claude Mignon, President of the Congress Herwig van Staa, President of the European Court of Human Rights Dean Spielmann, Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, President of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations Dr. Jean-Marie HEYDT. I also appreciate the work of the Secretary to the Committee of Ministers, Mireille Paulus and her team.
And last but not least I would like to thank Permanent Representative of Armenia, Ambassador Armen Papikian and his staff.
Armenia attached great importance to its Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. On October 2 President Serzh Sargsyan paid an official visit to the Council of Europe and met with the leadership of Organisation, and addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. President Sargsyan attended the official gift presentation ceremony of the Armenian Chairmanship.
The priorities as well as objectives of the Armenian Chairmanship were defined in response to the challenges that the Council of Europe member States are facing today with regard to the protection of human rights, the further strengthening of democracy and respect for the rule of law. During its Chairmanship, Armenia brought its contribution to strengthening the capabilities of the Organisation and to maximising the efforts in addressing the challenges in the Council of Europe’s fields of excellence, with specific focus on the most pertinent and pressing issues.
The Armenian Chairmanship also supported the ongoing reform process of the Organisation initiated by the Secretary General.
Our main goals were:
- combating racism and xenophobia; promoting European values through intercultural dialogue;
- strengthening European standards on human rights and on the rule of law;
- fostering democratic societies;
- reinforcing the role of the Council of Europe in the European architecture.
On October 21-22, in Yerevan, the Armenian Chairmanship organised a High-Level Conference on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Europe which brought together more than 130 representatives from Council of Europe member and observerStates, international organisations, including CoE, UN, OSCE, EU and League of Arab States, independent and governmental experts, civil society.
The Armenian Chairmanship welcomed the No Hate Speech Movement launched by the Secretary General and supported activities in this framework. In order to raise the visibility of the campaign, the Chairmanship devoted special attention to promoting the implementation of the youth campaign No Hate Speech Movement across all the Council of Europe area. The European campaign conference took place on November 7-9 and constituted the major institutional activity of the No Hate Speech Movement.
Armenia is convinced that the promotion of European and universal values through intercultural dialogue, including the religious dimension, must remain a priority for our societies. In this context, on September 2-3 Armenia hosted the 2013 Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue: “Freedom of religion in today’s world: challenges and guarantees”.
The Armenian Chairmanship built upon the efforts of previous Council of Europe Chairmanships aimed at strengthening the application of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The consolidation of the Council of Europe system of human rights protection is becoming a topic of great importance. Armenia is pleased that during its term of office, major initiatives have been carried out to reinforce the Council of Europe’s action. I would like to particularly underline the adoption and opening for signature of Protocols 15 and 16 to the Convention.
To ensure the effective implementation of the Convention at the national level, we need to provide appropriate information and training about the Convention in the study, training and professional development of judges, lawyers and prosecutors. To this end, the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) Network Conference, which was organised on June 18 under the auspices of the Armenian Chairmanship, focused on cross-cutting aspects of the issue of capacity building for legal professionals.
The Armenian chairmanship further reflected on the European standards on the rule of law. On July 3-5, a conference on, “The European legal standards of the rule of law and the scope of discretion of powers in the member States of the Council of Europe” was held in Yerevan.
An awareness raising conference on the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism training course were held on October 1- 4 in Dilijan, Armenia.
Local democracy remained high on the agenda of the Armenian Chairmanship.
The meeting of the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities was held in Yerevan on June 18.
On 19 June, a Conference on Participatory Democracy at Local Level was held in Yerevan in close co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
An international Conference of capital cities of the Council of Europe member States “Making the metropolis citizen-friendly: a challenge for public authorities” took place in Yerevan on October 11.
The Armenian Chairmanship paid special attention to education related issues, particularly through increased co-operation and policy dialogue in the field of higher education.
Having in mind that the Bologna Follow-Up Group Secretariat is now held by Armenia, the regional meeting of Ministers of Education on the implementation of the European Higher Education Area was held in Yerevan on October 17-18.
Armenia also pays special attention to the area of education for democratic citizenship and youth participation. In close co-operation with the EU- CoE Youth Partnership, a Youth Policy Symposium was held in Yerevan on November 13-14.
As a country which is highly sensitive to preservation of cultural heritage, Armenia gave high importance to the cultural dimension of the Council of Europe activities aimed at raising awareness of European citizens about the richness and cultural diversity of Europe. In this context, the 2013 European Heritage Days Programme and Communication Platform was officially launched in Armenia on August 30.
In the framework of the Armenian Chairmanship, a Conference on the rights of people with disabilities “Towards inclusive society” was held in Yerevan on October 15.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, with the support of the Armenian Chairmanship a Workshop entitled “Building Europe through Human Rights: Acting together against Extreme Poverty” was organised on October 17.
Against the background of the successfully implemented reforms of last years, the Armenian Chairmanship continued to fully support ongoing reform efforts to make the work of the Council of Europe more streamlined and more effective.
Armenia was pleased to host the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly on May 31 2013 in Yerevan.
As Chairman of the Committee of the Ministers I presented two communications on the activities of the Committee of Ministers to the June and September sessions of the PACE.
The implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring regions continued to be on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers. On July 3, within the package of decisions related to the Council of Europe external presence, the Committee of Ministers decided to establish Council of Europe offices in Rabat and Tunis.
The Armenian Chairmanship contributed to the Council of Europe’s co-operation with international and regional organisations in order to ensure a better co-ordination and synergy of their efforts.
The EU remains one of the main partners of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers closely followed the process of the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. Negotiators for the Council of Europe and the European Union finalised the draft instruments, paving the way for accession.
The level of co-operation between the OSCE and the Council of Europe with a regular pattern of consultations and high-level meetings, is an evidence of close interaction. The Armenian chairmanship contributed to the promotion of targeted and result-oriented co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This was the general overview of our activities of the last six month.
As we are handing over the Chairmanship of this Committee to Austria I would like assure the Austrian Chairmanship of Armenia’s full support and wish every success to my good colleague Michael Spindelegger.”