Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 27 April 1978

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all I thank you very much for your invitation. It is a privilege for me to address this Assembly, the first international parliamentary assembly to be founded in Europe. I apologise for my late arrival, which was due to the cancellation of a plane.

After almost thirty years of work in this institution, a time which has certainly brought you all kinds of disappointments but also recognition and certainly success, let me begin by making one point: my government sees in the Council of Europe not only the most wide- ranging gathering of Western European states for service of the common interest in meeting, exchanges and co-operation; it also regards it as a vital link between the nine states of the European Community and the other democracies of this continent. A continued policy of European unification cannot do without this link, for without a doubt Europe consists not only of the Nine – even if it is so far only among the Nine that political unity by treaty, in the narrower sense, has so far been achieved.

The Council of Europe has served well the cause of European unity, especially the conservation of the spiritual heritage that unites us Europeans and gives us – despite innumerable wars and continual suffering – the hope of a common future in peace and harmony.

“The people in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw, Leningrad and Moscow are also Europeans, they belong to Europe’s history and need peace just as all of us need peace, in the West and East.”

It was a political breakthrough on the part of the Council of Europe to give an international parliament the right to co-operate in the framing of international relations.

Yet another great achievement was the fact of expressing requirements concerning the internal order of its member states, and stringent requirements at that. The fact that access to the Council of Europe entails the acknowledgement of freedom and democracy – as the President of France said in this place, “No state which does not recognise and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms shall enter here” – has been, and is a commitment for our relatively young German democracy. After the war, and a few years before the foundation of the Council of Europe, one of the great leaders of German social democracy, Kurt Schumacher told a large open-air gathering of German miners in Essen, “To be German means to be European, and to be European means to be a democrat”.

If I may speak for a moment as a social democrat, one who feels bound by the best traditions of the German labour movement, I should like to add this: Europe can only be fulfilled in democracy, for only thus will she remain true to her history, the history of her own spiritual and political development.

I believe it is one of the great practical achievements of Western European democratic policy – and of the statesmen and parliamentarians who carry out this policy – that the requirements I spoke of just now have not remained only written or printed on paper.

In the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe, long before the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights and long before the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, made the internal implementation of human rights a joint concern of its member states. With the creation of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, states for the first time subjected themselves, on the basis of a voluntary agreement, to an effective supervision machinery. The right of any citizen in our states to lodge applications with these bodies against infringements committed by his own government or his own civil service makes the work of the Council of Europe a fundamental prototype. This is indeed a breakthrough in the implementation and protection of human rights.

This autumn we shall be able to look back on a quarter-century of application of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to note with thankfulness that the convention and the bodies that ensure this protection have stood the test of time.

Individual citizens have applied for their rights in over 8 000 applications. Through the Commission and Court of Human Rights they have experienced objective investigation and carefully considered judgements. Certain member states, too, have appealed to the common, independent European supervision machinery. The Commission and the Court have proved to be vigilant protectors of the rights of the individual.

Of course, by no means all decisions have been convenient to the governments concerned. However, they have avoided circumscribing the legitimate political area of discretion of national parliaments and national governments. The careful legal and factual evaluation of each individual case, the consideration of the different social, cultural and legal conditions in the individual states of Europe, and also the cautious but nevertheless determined elaboration of the content and limits of human rights in Europe – all these account for the high esteem that has been acquired by the Commission and Court.

The Council of Europe system for the protection of human rights is a model, an example. It is the only one of its kind. Nowhere else in the world is there effective international supervision of the internal practice of states in the observance of human rights. This model is also unique in that human rights in the European sense are genuine rights of the individual person. We European states regard these rights of the individual as a common feature of law, binding on our national authorities, and in this we subject ourselves to judicial supervision.

That is what distinguishes the European human rights system not only from the less stringent human rights system of the United Nations but also from the interpretations of human rights that we have encountered in the past few years in political discussions throughout the world, discussions in which human rights are understood not so much as a legal obligation but rather as a political philosophy or principles of political morality. Obviously this too has great value. But the crux of the matter is to convert our thought and intention, namely the categories of everyday humane behaviour, into the practice of the life of states.

While we acknowledge and are proud of this system, which works, we must also however ask ourselves whether, after the twenty-five years in which it has been in force, this system as it exists at present meets the requirements of the future, and whether we are satisfied with it on all counts.

The most urgent task seems to me – and in this I support the Parliamentary Assembly’s initiatives – to achieve the uniform application of the convention and its protocols in all the states of the Council of Europe. My country’s experiences with its own Constitutional Court and also with the Strasbourg Court strengthen my conviction that this would not only provide better security for the rights of individuals but would also prove advantageous for states and for Europe as a whole. I consider that one of the most important tasks for the Council of Europe is the establishment of legal unity, in other words the harmonisation and dovetailing of national legal systems. An essential prerequisite for this is uniformity of law and the same legal force for human rights and fundamental freedoms. After that a cautious extension to embrace further fundamental rights, further human rights, should be considered. In this context, I would particularly welcome the inclusion of the principle of equality of men and women in the European Human Rights Convention. (Applause)

The United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contains such a commitment, but in the form of a duty incumbent on states, not a right of the individual, and without any guarantee that it will be implemented, such as the European Court of Human Rights provides. The Council of Europe could remove a shortcoming in legal protection here, an act which would of necessity have far-reaching, beneficial effects for women in our societies. In addition, rights which take into account new technical and social developments, such as the protection of the person against abuse of data banks, or the protection of the sick and of the dying, should also be considered. But, of course, these must be individual rights such as can be enforced by the judgements of the Commission and Court. This control machinery should not be weakened. Furthermore, an extension of the Council of Europe’s system for the protection of human rights is meaningful only if all member states ratify such additional protocols within a reasonable time and thus ensure that they have the same effect in all of them.

Of course I realise that agreement among twenty member states on international conventions is difficult and time-consuming. But in the future the political significance of the Council of Europe will depend greatly on whether its members are ready, for the sake of the whole of Europe, to undertake new efforts in this field.

Another matter which, for reasons of internal social stability, seems to me particularly important is the safeguarding of social human rights. I am speaking of freedom from want, which it is our responsibility to secure. Sufficient food, housing and health protection are all human rights which must have the same priority as fundamental civil freedoms. We know that this situation has by no means been reached and cannot by any means be reached everywhere. The provision of work or jobs, by the constant securing of a high level of employment is relevant here. Of course, we cannot guarantee that everyone who can work and wishes to work is certain of a job. But we should all consider work to be an important basic value for the individual, for human beings, because a person develops and fulfils himself to a very high degree through his work. A further question is whether the enforcement machinery provided in the convention for fundamental freedoms is also appropriate for these social human rights.

The guaranteeing of socially acceptable living conditions and chances in life is of course primarily a political task, not a legislative one. Economic and social measures depend on the resources available and often on factors which governments cannot influence at all. A sober examination must therefore be made of the means to be employed to improve social living conditions. I think that we, and you, cannot escape doing this. (Applause)

I imagine that both sides of industry, the trade unions and employers’ associations, could play a more active part than has hitherto been the case. I personally think their collaboration is absolutely essential because we can learn from their experience in developing social rights. Perhaps I might just say here in passing how glad I should be if parliaments of every kind, and you too, Ladies and Gentlemen, would in future make even more use than has hitherto been the case of contact with trade unions and employers’ associations and of their advice. (Applause)

I for my part would ask the Parliamentary Assembly and its committees to associate both sides of industry very closely with their work. I am quite sure that a partnership of value to all three sides can be established between the Council of Europe and the trade unions and employers’ associations.

For these reasons I was pleased to note that in their statement today – which you mentioned just now, Mr President – the Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe states advocated effective protection for human rights in the world and the further development of the rights of the individual in the social, economic and cultural fields. I regard this as a contribution to the continued preservation of peace, and especially social peace in our states. For one thing is certain: in all our states we shall henceforth have to concern ourselves much more with the social deficiencies within our societies than we have done in the past.

The states of Western Europe really do not need to hide their light under a bushel where political freedoms and their realisation are concerned. Our liberal, constitutional doctrines demand human rights and freedoms not for a few but for all, all who share our common humanity. Everyone counts, everyone must be able to develop his abilities freely, everyone is entitled to have his freedom and rights respected and protected against the demands of others.

But social reality is still often utterly in contrast with this idea. Just as equal suffrage has little meaning for people who cannot read or cannot write, property rights or freedom to contract are of little consequence to people who have no real economic opportunities for exercising them. (Applause)

We all remember Anatole France’s ironic comment, with reference to criminal law, that the sublime majesty of the law forbids both rich and poor alike to beg in the street, steal bread or sleep under the bridges across the Seine. We have all read or heard that at some time, and it is still true.

Since then many people have realised that the freedom of the individual has to be protected not only against the superior strength of the authorities or the power of the state but also against economic and social forces in the hands of other people. To put it a different way, the traditional freedoms need supplementing by social, economic and cultural human rights. Real freedom must have social and economic foundations. Everyone must have real opportunities of his own and to this end, this purpose, we must organise our societies. That is one of the most important tasks facing us. In performing it we should not be deterred by our social achievements, however great they may seem, from thinking about the elimination of social deficiencies.

In another connection I should like to say that we Germans see in the Council of Europe the first international organisation to have opened its doors to us after the war and invited us to co-operate in the rebuilding of Europe. For us it was the symbol of a twofold hope, in European partnership and democracy. As a piece of Europe on French soil, the Council also signified to us the reconciliation that was then beginning, as a matter of historical necessity, between the neighbouring states of Germany and France; a reconciliation which mostly took the form of gentle steps on the French side but which was to play a key role, which it still possesses, in European co-operation.

This dual hope which we Germans then placed in the Council of Europe has not deceived us. It has proved to be a most firm foundation for the European dimensions of our German policy. We knew then, as we still know, that a return to the traditional nation state as we had experienced it was not and is not compatible with the spirit of our time, with the present- day conditions of life in Europe and the world or with international policy. Our age is typified by the dominance of continental powers – the United States of America, the Soviet Union and now the People’s Republic of China – and also by the economic and political interdependence of the major groups of states: the industrial countries, the communist states, the oil-producing countries and the developing countries, which should in turn really be subdivided into several highly diverse groups. All this makes it clear to us that today the national sovereignty of states – at least of the medium-sized European powers – needs a supporting fabric, such as the Council of Europe’s wider union, the firmer links of the European Community or other communities of nations. For us Germans it was easier than for others to put behind us the traditional thinking of a nation state. But it was, and is, also harder for us. It was, and it remains, easier, because every German has experienced in his own country and his own person the spiritual, moral and indeed physical bankruptcy of perverted nationalism. It is harder for us, because since the division of Germany, of our people, we have not given up the hope, and we will not give up the desire and the determination, to live together again one day as one people under a single roof. However, we have learned from our history, from our experience, that the nation can no longer be the ultimate yardstick of policy. Even our efforts for the unification of our people must not, and will not, be allowed to usurp the place of peace as our policy’s first objective. (Applause)

That realisation has enabled us to work with all our strength for stability and co-operation in Europe. One expression of this is the contribution we have made to the policy of détente with the East, which we intend to continue with the utmost conviction. Another expression of it is our contribution to collective security. The fact that European unification has given us Germans fresh hope for partnership and for democracy also represents a contribution by our partners for which I want to express our gratitude – a contribution not only to us but to peace in Europe.

If, despite the East-West division, Europe has now not experienced war for over thirty years and if we here are able to pursue a realistic and effective policy of détente, we certainly owe it on the one hand to the alliance of a large number of European states and to our partnership with the USA and Canada; but the fact that Europe’s voice is heard and heeded and that it is influential – for example in the Atlantic Alliance but also in the world, both in East and West – is something that we owe to the European policy of unification in all its various manifestations, of which the Council of Europe was one of the very first. After the catastrophe of the second world war, extremely favourable conditions of economic growth and technical progress enabled Western Europe to experience an economic recovery and also a state of well-being unparalleled in history. With this went a new political confidence which has also been of benefit to our European policy.

However, since the beginning of the world economic crisis a few years ago the prospect is somewhat different. Doubt and scepticism about the possibility of further economic progress have spread here and there even in Europe. For example, in the European Community many of the plans made for the creation of a single economic area are coming up against the hard facts of widely varying economic performance, facts which have been emphasised by the pressure or a structural crisis in the world economy.

I do not wish to belittle these problems, which we are facing in common and each state is facing separately, least of all the accompanying economic and human misery of persistent unemployment. But on the other side there is one thing that I want to make perfectly clear. If in these four and a half years since the outbreak of the economic crisis, the world crisis, the European Community had not existed, and if the nine European states had not agreed within the Community on a common course of action, if it had not co-operated with other states here in Europe and elsewhere in the world, then the whole world’s industrial states might in fact – and this was a possibility with which I reckoned for a moment early in 1974 – have fallen in the middle 70s into just as deep an economic crisis, and with it a domestic and international crisis, as happened in the early 1930s. That this did not come about in 1974, 1975 and 1976 is, I think, very largely to the credit of all the European institutions – our common interests, our cooperation, the fact that we listen to each other, our readiness to recognise the interests of others and consider their needs. That is largely to the credit of the European Community. I therefore see absolutely no reason for Europe to be despondent.

Let me now move on to another question. The states of Eastern Europe that belong to Comecon or the Warsaw Pact are also, by their history and tradition, part of Europe. In the multilateral process of détente we have developed flexible but thoroughly effective forms of co-operation that have made a very important contribution to the balanced nature of the Final Act of Helsinki, the declaration of intent. Pan-European political co-operation has continued in the follow-up meeting of the CSCE in Belgrade, which is now just behind us. I am convinced that the close consultation among the EEC states and between them and their partners in the Council of Europe will continue in future proceedings, especially in the preparation and the conduct of the Madrid meeting two years from now.

At all events, both sides in this process of détente will have to give more concentrated attention to specific areas of co-operation. I should therefore like to take the opportunity before this Assembly, which comprises parliamentary representatives of most of the states taking part in the CSCE, to formulate one observation: I am convinced that the CSCE process, which is a very decisive factor in multilateral détente throughout Europe, and which has world-wide effects, is so important for the future – not only the future of our continent – that we cannot afford to limit it to technical details and an exchange of executive statements of position.

Helsinki showed the great importance of the personal meeting of leading politicians, the heads of state and government, which affords an opportunity for them to inform each other directly and to get to know each other directly. I should therefore welcome agreement on a further meeting at political level as part of the follow-up to the CSCE.

One essential condition for any further success in the policy of uniting Europe – and now I am speaking again of all the states that you represent, Ladies and Gentlemen – is mutual confidence in the constitutional and democratic character of every member state. I know that such confidence cannot be automatic everywhere and at every time. I know that historical experience frequently offers the temptation to present somewhat negative pictures of others to the outside world – and, I would add in parentheses, I know that internal political considerations frequently offer the same temptation. I know, for example, that it is difficult for many people to accustom themselves to the idea that nearly thirty years ago the Germans founded a state, the Federal Republic of Germany, that has now been a constitutional democracy for a whole generation.

We Germans regret the occasional perverse criticism, but we bear it with complete composure, partly because in hard trials such as we endured last autumn, we have experienced in so many ways the solidarity of neighbouring states, especially our partner governments. But let me add this: anyone who keeps alive or reanimates the old mistrust – whether from prejudice or political calculations – is not being at all helpful.

I want to take two very different examples of how important it is that trust in the constitutionality and democracy of every partner should be apparent in practical politics. The first example concerns the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which is an important step towards adapting the traditional right of extradition to European requirements. We have seen how modern terrorists naturally use every opportunity provided by freedom of movement. The old principle of not extraditing a person for a political offence, which was originally intended to protect politically-motivated offenders against political justice, could in our present circumstances in Western Europe become an obstacle to the legitimate prosecution of lawbreakers who are bent on destroying constitutional democracy.

Consequently, I think that, under the convention, there should be extradition for typically terrorist crimes of violence even if the offenders specifically claim political motives.

I should like to say here how deeply the crime against Aldo Moro has moved us in Germany. Many of us have felt the inhuman outrages of deluded terrorists in our own flesh, and we realise what the Italian people must feel. Let me again declare the inflexibility of democracy in this hour. No terrorist can, no terrorist shall, force us to sacrifice constitutionality and democracy. If they could be endangered, it could only be by ourselves. (Applause)

At the same time I should like on my government’s behalf to declare my great respect for the attitude of the Italian Government and our sympathy for the Italian people.

Let me now speak of a second example of our trust in constitutionality and democracy. The Council of the European Community has agreed that the first direct election of the European Parliament, its first election by universal suffrage, shall take place in June 1979. That election will create a new and more firmly established legitimacy. We all know that this direct election is not being born without protracted labour; we all know that it touches the traditional roots of our previous conceptions of the nation state. That is what creates the difficulties.

But to my way of thinking it is also necessary that the limited powers of that Parliament should be looked at from a pragmatic point of view. I am sure that, where it is felt appropriate or needful, they can be gradually extended.

The two examples I have mentioned show that we Europeans can, if we really want to, reach for the very same goal, each of us playing his own part. Here in the Council of Europe twenty countries have come together. Some of the individual states belong to the European Community, some do not. Some belong to the Atlantic Alliance, others do not. Some have a neutral status. The differences that result for co-operation towards European unity cannot however overlay or counteract the similarities.

For us Germans – and perhaps I may add, certainly for our partners in the European Community too – the Council of Europe is the complement and connecting link between the member countries of that smaller community and those European countries that by reason of their own national policy requirements have not joined or cannot join it. We respect that. But we value the contact here. I am also speaking of the Ministers of those states that meet regularly under the Council of Europe’s roof, Ministers of twenty states, twenty governments. We think that the contact here, the political exchange, the cross-fertilisation, the fact of receiving and put- ' ting out stimuli, our understanding of the interests and aims of others, of the cares and constraints of others, all this is of tremendous importance for the future of our continent. Indeed, it is not only important for Europe but has also been fruitful in such countries as the United States and elsewhere too.

Perhaps it should be mentioned in passing that the way for Greece, Portugal and Spain to enter the European Community – as I hope and am sure they will – is here through the Council of Europe. In the Council of Ministers the Committee of Ministers of the Twenty has fully committed itself to strengthening EEC and developing it further and welcome progress is being made by the two organisations, EEC and the Council of Europe, in working together.

I should like to quote a great European, the Frenchman Jean Monnet, who was one of the spiritual fathers of European unity and to whom I personally have felt for twenty years that I owe a great deal. In addition he was a very pragmatic political reformer. He wrote twenty-eight years ago, in his historic memorandum on the Schuman Plan, that the aim was to make a breach in the fortress walls of national sovereignty, a breach that was narrow enough to achieve agreement but still deep enough to induce states to accept the unity that was necessary for peace. What is perceived and expressed in that single sentence written three decades ago is a tremendous intellectual achievement; and this sentence is just the core of all that Jean Monnet and many other women and men following in his spiritual and political footsteps have brought about since then.

The result of nearly thirty years of European co-operation towards unity cannot yet completely satisfy anyone, and certainly the European visionaries still find themselves a very long way from the federation they have worked for. For in practice, what we have is very complicated hybrid forms of European and national decision-making combined. But – and I think this is no small comfort but a great one, a great encouragement – the only people who could be completely dissatisfied with what we have achieved are those who want to hold fast to unrestricted national sovereignty as the final political yardstick.

What I mean is that Europe’s emancipation lies in overcoming selfish nationalism. The Council of Europe is making its contribution to that – and here I quote from Article 1 of the Statute – by “safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles” which are the member states’ “common heritage”. That may sound like an abstract formula. But it is not. It is a concrete reality, and I am thankful that since the foundation of the Council of Europe it has been brought into being, extended and filled with true life.

We certainly still have a long way to go in the future. But on this point there ispne thing that I should like to say to you all today, whether you represent countries of the European Community, countries of the Atlantic Alliance or neutral countries: I am convinced that what holds us together is quite strong enough to sustain us in the way we have to go. To overcome selfish nationalism can, in one sense, be understood as to return to the beginnings of European history.

Such a return cannot mean a return to the Holy Roman Empire, with German Kings as emperors at its head, for then many nervous people today might fear a new hegemony. It is also certain that we are not building a Europa Imperialis like the vision of a certain Hohenstaufen who, though born German, was Mediterranean in spirit. After him came others with ideas of Europe as a unity. Very much later came Charles V, and also European humanism. But at the same time came the religious division of Europe. There came particularism, and the rise of nation states. In Germany that was the day of the feudal knights, and of the robber barons too. The diversity of the peoples took root and spread.

This suggests that there can be no return to a universal philosophy of Europe. Our duty does not lie in a Renaissance of Europe in the political sense of the word. Nothing can be reborn from the past and nostalgia serves no useful purpose. A Western ideology cannot be either the content or the measure of our common political endeavour. Policy certainly is made and must not be made without vision. Quite certainly it must not be made without values. Undoubtedly faith has before now moved mountains. But policy-making means before everything being conversant with reality, with how to change gradually things as we find them. For that we need moderation, sound judgement and realism; we need to look to the horizon and to keep before us the direction in which we must go.

It seems to me that Europe must understand her common history, but also her national and regional variations and her largely similar social culture as a blueprint for plurality, a blueprint of how people and states can live together decently in a small space and also take together in a seemly manner the political decisions that need to be taken. We are quite certainly something very much more than a pressure group, a consumers’ association or a producers’ co-operative with ideological pretensions. We are most certainly more than that. There is, to be sure, no Europe in the form of a nation state, but Europe undoubtedly exists as a political moral code, a historical necessity. One of the realities is that Europe is divided into two political and social blocs. None of us can close his eyes to this reality, no matter what side he is on. But one of our duties is to see to it that Europe’s continuity does not end at the frontiers of those blocs. The people in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw, in Leningrad and Moscow are also Europeans and they belong to Europe’s history and need peace, just as all of us need peace, in West and East. (Applause)

I should like to voice the hope for all of us that we can set our own house in order. But I should also like to voice the hope that we here in Western' Europe shall not become self-satisfied but shall stretch out our hands in the future too. Reason demands this of us, and so does peace.

Thank you very much for your attention.

(Loud applause)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you very much indeed Mr Federal Chancellor for your extremely interesting speech. Unfortunately we have only a few minutes left for the questions. I hope that you can stay with us for another quarter of an hour at least.

(The President continued in English.)

The first group of questions includes those concerning the European Community, questions Nos. 1, 3 and 5.

Question No. 1 from Mr Jager reads as follows:

“Mr Jager

To ask the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany:

does he consider that, as the direct election of the European Parliament has become a certainty since the European Council’s last session in Copenhagen, the limited powers conferred on this Parliament under the Treaties will suffice for resolving the present day problems of European societies, or does he consider that the problems of the quality of life, energy, trade, communications and industrial restructuration, which have become European problems, demand a European answer;

does he not consider that the parliamentarians elected under this European election will have to render account of their activities before European public opinion and that the latter will have difficulty in understanding why these parliamentarians invoke their legal incompetence to explain that they can do nothing for Europe;

does he agree with the opinions expressed some time ago by his predecessor at the Federal Chancellery according to which extended powers should be given to the European Parliament speedily.”

Question No. 3 comes from Sir John Rodgers and reads as follows:

“Sir John Rodgers,

Recalling Resolution (74) 4 of the Committee of Ministers on the future role of the Council of Europe, in which member governments express their appreciation of the contribution which the Council of Europe has made since its creation in 1949 in promoting greater unity in Europe, and further express their conviction that the Council of Europe will be better able to play its specific role and fulfil its mission if full use is made of its political potential;

Considering that the future enlargement from “9” to “12” of the European Community will direct its development rather towards increased intergovernmental co-operation than towards economic and political union,

To ask the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

his own appreciation of the development of future European co-operation and the specific role to be played in this context by the European Community and the Council of Europe, and in an even wider context by new forms of European co-operation as initiated by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.”

Question No. 5 is from Mr Czernetz and reads as follows:

“Mr Czernetz,

Recalling that in the report of the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Tindemans, on European union, there is a proposal for the drawing up of a catalogue of fundamental rights for this union; that although this report

has not, or not yet, led to concrete results, the Commission of the Community and the European Parliament are currently working to a similar end; and that at the present time a working party in Brussels is considering the inclusion of the standards laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights in Community law – a development to be welcomed as such but only if in applying these standards the Community does not separate itself from the organs of the European Convention on Human Rights;

Recalling that in the European Parliament, a trend has been making itself felt recently to extend the Community’s role in the further development of law also to specialised fields which regulate the situation of the individual in the Community – therefore also to human rights in the broader sense and that it has been proposed, for example, that marriage law, too, be harmonised in the Community,

To ask the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany if he does not consider that if such projects were to be implemented in the framework of the present Community, they could lead to a division of democratic Europe in the major area of human rights as such solutions would without a doubt put in question the legally and politically binding power of the European Convention on Human Rights as the joint expression of the concept of democracy of twenty European countries.”

Would the Chancellor please reply to these questions?

Mr Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

Certainly, Mr President.

With regard to Mr Jager’s question about the powers of the European Parliament, I said earlier that it can be safely assumed – or at all events I hope that is the case – that this European Parliament of the European Community will undergo a pragmatic extension of its powers and will certainly achieve that itself. One should not underestimate its present powers of control and consultation vis-à-vis the Commission and the Council. I myself – and I know that many others think quite differently and would prefer to think that the Parliament is not going to extend its role too quickly – I myself have great faith in the reinforcement of the political signifiance of the European Parliament that is to be elected next June. The increased legitimacy of which I spoke earlier will also bring with it increased legitimacy for the European Community as a whole. Public opinion will realise that this increase is attributable to the direct election of the Parliament. On this point also I am quite confident.

I would join Mr Jager in hoping that in the course of time the European Parliament will gain in importance. But I have no doubts whatsoever about this happening. There is a German proverb that says that Rome was not built in a day, and in the same way this jointly and directly elected European Parliament will surely not achieve its final form within the space of a year or even in a single lifetime of the Parliament.

On the matter of Sir John Rodgers’s question, I think I have already had something to say about it previously. I was particularly pleased and grateful to be able to emphasise those forms of European co-operation that have grown out of the CSCE. I believe that during 'the next few years we shall experience more of this. As I understand it, the will is there in all quarters, in all twenty states. We, the nine states that are members of the European Community and the North Atlantic Alliance must always remain conscious of the fact that the other European states which do not belong to this union are even more dependent than we are on this exchange of opinion, this co-operation. We must take care that neither the first nor the second of the communities just mentioned becomes too inward-looking as time goes on.

With respect to Mr Czernetz’s question, I would agree that it would be a matter for congratulation if not merely the nine member states but also the European Community itself should feel bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. The relationship of the European Community as a body, as an international union, to the Council of Europe creates a great many difficult problems connected with the protection of fundamental and human rights by the organs of both these communities of states. That, the questioner certainly knows. As I see it, these problems have for some years past been the subject of scientific discussion and possibly even a subject for political discussion as well.

The tasks of the Council of Europe on the one hand and of the European Community on the other are distinct, Mr Czernetz. We shall have to take care to make the demarcation of the two spheres of competence one from the other as well as the demarcation of the powers of the decision-making bodies on either side. There are a number of different solutions to this. I do not feel competent to give an opinion on them at the moment nor do I think that the time at my disposal will allow me to give you a long talk on the subject.

However, as I have already said earlier in my speech, I really do think that the unifying force of the European Convention on Human Rights must not only be maintained but extended still further. I have already answered this part of your question very carefully and must crave your indulgence if I do not revert to it once more in detail. Most definitely we must avoid a situation whereby the two spheres in Europe arrive at a different interpretation with respect to human rights and a different interpretation of democracy.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Jager, do you wish to put a brief supplementary question?

Mr JAGER (France) (translation)

I would simply reply to the Chancellor that I well understand his celebrated phrase, which is well known in Germany, that “Rome was not built in a day”. I thank him and have nothing else to add.

Sir John RODGERS (United Kingdom)

Last week I heard a British Minister say that he regarded the Council of Europe as the authentic voice of Europe as it is and the Parliamentary Assembly as the Europe of tomorrow.

Be that as it may, does not the Chancellor agree that the time is long overdue when it is essential for the two European parliamentary organisations to discuss together to try to rationalise the work of the two organisations to prevent overlapping and gross waste of public funds?

Finally, may I ask one other short question? Would the Chancellor, for example, support the representation of the Council of Europe in the forthcoming conference in Madrid?

Mr Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (translation)

Perhaps I might be allowed to say in answer to Sir John Rodgers’s question that co-ordination of any possible collaboration between the two parliamentary assemblies should – according to my admittedly pragmatic understanding of the matter – best be left until a year from now when the European Parliament will be operating under a different constitution and on a different basis created by the elections. I notice here and there – I do not know whether I ought to say this aloud – that in these times the European Parliament is sometimes in danger of anticipating a number of decisions which really ought to be dealt with by the elected Parliament.

I therefore think that you were right in putting your question but that it should not be answered until the newly elected European Parliament is in being. On the other hand, I do not wish to deprive anyone of his right to take action. If in the meantime colleagues from both assemblies want to get together, there are certainly no contractual obstacles to prevent it.


I am extremely sorry that because we are delayed the Chancellor will not be able to answer more questions at present, on account of our ceremony and the protocol. I have to apologise to all those Representatives who have put down questions, and I hope that they will find some of the solutions to their problems in the interesting statement from the Federal Chancellor.