Austrian President reiterates attachment to the Council of Europe and its values

In his speech, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen made a strong commitment to Europe and its values, and reiterated Austria’s attachment to the Council of Europe. “Without the principles this organisation stands for,” he said, “we cannot have the Europe that we all want.” He stressed that democracy, human rights and the rule of law have to be regained every day and that hence “a premise, based on these values, is something that we need more than ever”.

In the face of “worrisome trends” with respect to these values in some member States, the Council of Europe should “revive the spirit of the strong basic consensus of its earlier years, especially after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It’s about Europe’s ability to take responsibility on the international stage, to show leadership, to radiate and to influence other regions, be they close or far away,” he said.

“The Council of Europe is not the UN Security Council, nor the OSCE, yet the Council of Europe has important instruments which, if applied wisely and properly, can make a contribution to stabilisation and to the possible solution of conflicts,” he said, referring to conventions and monitoring mechanisms on issues such as torture, discrimination against minorities, corruption and trafficking in human beings. “In fulfilling these tasks, the Council of Europe is not dependent on other international organisations. This tremendous potential should be used to the full,” he stressed.

Addressing “a particularly painful hotspot in Europe”, created in spring 2014, he called for a sustainable and lasting solution to the conflict in Ukraine and around Ukraine. “It can only be achieved by the will to peace and serious efforts on all sides. This requires more dialogue to rebuild trust,” he said.

“The question of a possible return of the Russian parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly is currently one of the most difficult topics in the Council of Europe. I very much hope that the members of the Parliamentary Assembly will in the near future arrive at some kind of agreed method, one that would be based on a consensus, one that would bring us forward together, without any winners or losers. I think this quest for a solution is a concern for all of us, and it is also a matter of urgency,” he concluded.