Council of Europe is being "put to the test", says President

Council of Europe – Joint statement by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, and Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe – Remarks by M. Emmanuel Macron

Paris, 6 May 2019

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I’m delighted once again to welcome Mr Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, at such a historic moment. Exactly 70 years ago yesterday, 10 European countries, including yours – Norway – and France, signed the Treaty of London, establishing the Council of Europe. And in a few days France will hold the presidency of the Council for six months.

During the past 70 years, the Council of Europe has allowed us to make huge progress on protecting human rights, the rule of law and democracy in its now 47 member states. The European Court of Human Rights, before which I have had the honour of speaking, is the guarantor of this and offers legal protection to more than 800 million Europeans.

The Council of Europe is celebrating its 70th birthday, but today it is being put to the test.

Firstly, on the very way it functions, on its vocation to be the “common house” for Europeans, and in this respect I would like Russia to remain in the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe needs Russia, just as Russia and the Russians need the Council of Europe, and this requires these member-state rights to be respected but also that Russia fulfil its obligations to the institution.

Secondly, the Council of Europe is being put to the test on the values of democracy and respect for the rule of law which it promotes and upholds, and which are being undermined today in several member states. It is these challenges the Council of Europe must take up today, and these challenges which make it more essential than ever for bringing peoples closer together, bringing calm to our societies and upholding the principles and values which are our common heritage.

This is why I’d like to commit to ensuring that the Council of Europe will overcome the current crisis and turn resolutely to the future by adapting its protection of human rights to today’s challenges and emerging even stronger from this period. I know we can count on you, Secretary General, to make the most of the last few months of your mandate to move the Council of Europe forward along this path. I would like our presidency to provide an opportunity to begin a discussion with the 47 member states about the future of the Council of Europe in the coming decades as regards health, innovation and many other issues.

So I’d like the French presidency to commit itself, with you, to several priorities. Firstly, to consolidate what the Council of Europe has achieved, particularly the European system of human rights protection. Secondly, to step up our fight for equality thanks to the universalization of the Convention on combating violence against women, and for cohesion between European peoples – this is the purpose of the plan for a watchdog on the teaching of history, whose creation I support –, and finally, to address the challenge posed by new technology. The plan for a convention on artificial intelligence and human rights will be carried forward among other things in the framework of the justice ministers’ meeting we’re organizing in October.

This is how wider Europe, too, can and must rediscover a deep meaning and the sense of a common ambitious project. This is what you have striven for since your work began, and what we shall be fighting for during this French presidency. Thank you, Secretary General, for being in Paris today./.

Published on 14/05/2019

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