01/24/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/24/2023 04:38
Plenarsaal im Europarat, © dpa/KEYSTONE
Foreign Minister Baerbockvisits the Council of Europe four months before the first Council of Europe Summit in 17 years. In her address before the Parliamentary Assembly, she focuses on what the Council of Europe now needs to become fit for the future.
During her visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will meet its President, Martinus Kox, and address the Assembly. The Parliamentary Assembly is the central platform for parliamentary debate and convenes once a quarter for one-week plenary sessions. The Minister intends to use her speech to generate impetus in the run-up to the Summit in May. The Heads of State and Government of the member States will meet then in Reykjavik under Iceland's Presidency for the first time since 2005. The goal is the strategic reorientation of the organisation following Russia's exclusion in March 2022.
Foreign Minister Baerbockemphasised the following prior to her departure:
Just like the OSCE, the Council of Europe is more important than ever today as a place where nations can come together and exchange ideas - as a place which embodies the very pan-European unity that Putin wants to destroy. We must stand our ground in the face of this attack. Our response must be a resolute "now more than ever".
The Parliamentary Assembly is entitled to make recommendations and has a number of important decision-making powers. For example, it elects the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. It has 324 seats, which are distributed among the national delegations of the Council of Europe's member States. The delegations reflect the majorities in the national parliaments. There are five parliamentary groups: the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group (SOC), the Group of the European People's Party (EPP/CD), the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance (EC/DA), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL).
The flagship of the Council of Europe and its human rights protection system is the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). During her visit, Foreign Minister Baerbockwill meet Síofra O'Leary, President of the ECHR and the first woman to hold this position, and German judge Professor Anja Seibert-Fohr. Their talks will focus on the current challenges facing the ECHR given the more than 18,000 cases it has pending. One of Germany's priorities is to improve the implementation of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. A large number of judgments are implemented, but there are also deficits. Foreign Minister Baerbock:
One key objective for Reykjavik must be to strengthen protection of human rights. Council of Europe conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights must be consistently implemented, while the ECHR must be supported and its judgments respected. States which fail to do this are denying their citizens their enshrined rights.
The ECHR rules on applications relating to breaches of the rights enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Members of the public can lodge individual applications before the ECHR if all domestic remedies have been exhausted. The Parliamentary Assembly elects one judge for each member State of the Council of Europe. The judges act independently, i.e. not in the name of their respective countries. Pursuant to the Convention, the Court's judgments are binding on the states concerned.
Foreign Minister Baerbockwill also hold talks with Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights. The main aim of the meeting with the Commissioner is to obtain information on the human rights situation in the 46 member States, focusing particularly on the situation in the areas occupied by Russia.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights works as an independent body to protect human rights in the member States, especially with regard to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). She publishes public opinions in this field and reports to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. The Commissioner for Human Rights is elected every six years. The Bosnian Dunja Mijatović was appointed to the post in 2018.
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