Statement on the occasion of the 126th session of the Committee of Ministers
Sofia, Wednesday 18 May 2016

Ministers, Secretary General,

If I asked you to pick the terms that define our Organisation, what would you choose?

Human rights, rule of law and democracy is the most obvious answer but there are other important defining terms reflected in the Preamble of the Statute.

Let me highlight four of them:

  • Pursuit of peace
  • International co-operation
  • Common heritage
  • Closer unity

Without peace, it is impossible to realise the ideals of the Council of Europe.

The other three defining terms I mentioned can be summarised as ‘working together'.

Unfortunately, today we have all too often forgotten how to put aside our own interests for the common good – building Pan-European unity around shared values and common interests.

Today, the values of human rights, democracy and rule of law are being challenged.

Our human rights standards are the ‘Gold Standard'. But if States pick and choose which judgments of the Strasbourg Court they are ready to accept, our Convention system will collapse.

Our democracies are confronted with issues of legitimacy, lack of checks and balances, misuse of the role of opposition and majority, and the strengthening of extreme and populist movements.

Our rule of law should not become, as Secretary General Jagland has said, ‘rule of MY law'.

Our peace is not something to be taken for granted. We have recently seen the frozen conflict flaring and the ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine heating up. And, most importantly, the people living in conflict areas have limited – if any – access to our human rights protection mechanisms. 

We have to work together across the board and tackle all these issues, as well as the pressing global challenges including fighting terrorism without fear and addressing the refugee crisis where we still need a stronger response despite the welcome appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary General.

The Secretary General's third Report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law sets priorities for addressing the challenges Europe's 47 are facing. The Parliamentary Assembly stands ready to provide support to this ambitious programme.


You are well aware of past calls by the Secretary General for a new Summit of Heads of State and Government.

The Assembly supports these and we stand ready to developing this idea further.

I will close with words from Miguel de Cervantes who died four hundred years ago. He said ‘It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.'

The European Convention on Human Rights has established the fundamental "rules of the game" for our Pan-European family. We need to reaffirm our commitment to upholding the Convention system and to realising our common objectives, for there to be peace, security and stability on the Continent.

Thank you.