Prime Minister of Luxembourg

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 25 January 1978

Thank you, Mr President, for your kind welcome. I would also like to pay my tribute to your own work, both as President and member, in this Assembly of which you have been one of the leading figures for so many years. By your personal endeavours you have contributed very largely towards improving what I would, if I dared, describe as the cohabitation within our organisation of this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers – a co-habitation which, as we know, is not always easily established between two bodies whose outlook and means of action are not necessary identical. You have done everything possible to avoid useless friction and to promote fruitful co-operation between the organisation’s parliamentary and intergovernmental sectors by insisting not on what divides us, but on what we have in common: a close union between the member countries based on democratic principles and the rule of law, on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr President, we all recognise and admire the depth and sincerity of your personal attachment to those ideals which have been the guiding principles of your whole life and action, even in what I know to have been the darkest and most difficult hours for you yourself and for your country. Europe has need of men like you, Mr President, and I trust that, even when you have ceased to preside over the Assembly, she may be able to count, for many years still, on your interest and counsels as a senior statesman.

Mr President, honourable members, before presenting the Communication from the Committee of Ministers, accompanied by some comments of my own as Foreign Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, I wish to pay a deeply felt tribute to the memory of a man whose loss has been a grievous blow to your Assembly, to the Committee of Ministers and to all who are and remain believers in the cause of European unity.

Count Sforza, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, who died a few weeks ago, had, I need not tell you, devoted the major part of his life to that great cause and made a lasting impression on our organisation by his character, his wisdom, the spirit of conciliation he always showed, his discretion and with it all, his efficiency. That impression I like to believe will not die. A great artisan of Europe is dead but his work, like our own, will live on.

Mr President, members of the Assembly, I have no intention of wearying you by reading out even part of the written Communication from the Committee of Ministers which has already been distributed. I shall content myself with drawing attention to one or two of the more striking aspects of our work since my predecessor in the Chair, my colleague and friend, Mr Arnaldo Forlani, reported to you last October.

The most important event that has occurred since your last part-session is certainly one of the most outstanding in the Council’s recent history. I refer, I need hardly say, to Spain’s accession to our organisation. At a time when, all over the world, the number of states measuring up to the criteria we here regard as representing democracy is steadily diminishing, the frontiers of democratic Europe are actually being extended and the organisation which groups the states belonging to that Europe is becoming larger. In 1974, Greece rejoined us after the unhappy eclipse suffered by democracy in the very country which had given that term to the world. In 1976, Portugal, freed at last from the yoke of a dictatorship that had lasted for nearly half a century, took her place in our family of European democratic countries. Finally, last year, thanks to the wisdom at once of her people and of her political leaders, Spain in her turn achieved what only a short time before we had hardly dared to hope for and passed smoothly, peacefully, without undue disturbance from dictatorship and authoritarian rule to democracy.

I know that during your last part-session you had a moving debate with the representatives of the chief political movements of the new Spain who, at the time, were here as observers only. What they were able to tell you was no doubt a decisive factor in the speed with which you recommended that the Committee of Ministers should invite Spain to join the Council of Europe. The Committee did so at its meeting on 24 November last, at which we were able to welcome, for the first time, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, my friend and colleague Mr Oreja Aguirre. During the present part-session, it is now the turn of the Assembly to see the freely-elected representatives of the Spanish people seated for the first time on its benches as full members. Speaking on behalf both of all my colleagues, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, and on behalf of the Government of Luxembourg, I extend to them the warmest welcome. (Applause).

The Committee of Ministers’ meeting on 24 November, to which I have just referred, emphasised once again our Committee’s importance as a great political forum for democratic Europe and for each of the governments of the twenty member states. Our discussions centred on the various aspects of co-operation between Western European countries, the Belgrade Conference, and the work of the United Nations General Assembly.

The participation of the Chairman of the Commission of the European Communities, Mr Roy Jenkins, in our discussion on progress in European co-operation shows the wish for co-operation and the desire to synchronise activities of the Council of Europe on the one hand, and the European Communities on the other. We have noted with satisfaction the existence of real and increasingly effective co-operation between the European organisations as well as of greater solidarity between the European democracies in their relations with the rest of the world. This encouraging development is the reply to the concern expressed so frequently and so justifiably by your Assembly.

The Committee of Ministers has also considered one of the most serious problems we have to face at present and one which has often engaged your own attention, namely that of terrorism and violence. The Ministers have reaffirmed their support for increased co-operation between member states in this field, and welcomed the proposal for implementing effective, preventive, punitive and coercive measures provided, let me insist, that they are compatible with our countries’ belief in the fundamental freedoms in which we all share.

Questions of human rights have figured largely in our discussions. This is hardly surprising in an organisation whose noble aim is to defend and promote those rights. We have had before us some extremely interesting proposals by my colleague, Mr Simonet, the Foreign Minister of Belgium, for a joint study of European viewpoints on the protection and promotion of human rights as elements of international relations, and we have instructed the Ministers’ Deputies to consider the follow-up action to be taken on the Belgian proposals. The Committee of Ministers has also expressed its serious concern about torture as a continuing practice in the world and decided to contribute to an international campaign by preparing, within the framework of our organisation, proposals to put an end to torture in the world.

This year we shall be celebrating both the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights which, I would emphasise, is to this day the most effective internationally agreed instrument in the field of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Despite the achievements of our organisation and our countries in this field, achievements of which we have indeed every reason to be proud, this dual anniversary should – far from allowing us to rest on our laurels – spur us on in the search for ways of developing human rights and fundamental freedoms, not only within the framework of Western Europe, but in the far wider context, first of Europe as a whole, and then of the world.

As regards the Belgrade Conference, the Committee of Ministers has emphasised the importance of maintaining the stimulus provided by the Helsinki Final Act as a whole; it has further emphasised the value of regular exchanges of views on this subject within the Council of Europe, exchanges to be held at Ministers’ Deputies level, with the assistance of experts.

As regards the 32nd General Assembly of the United Nations, the Committee of Ministers was very appreciative of the value of the preparatory discussions held between the Ministers’ Deputies and the competent experts of national administrations. We have instructed the Deputies to continue and develop this activity along the same lines. The Committee of Ministers has also expressed its determination to further co-operation between the democratic countries of Europe within the framework of the United Nations, particularly as regards human rights and other directly connected subjects.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, you will see from the written Communication that apart from the eminently political activities I have just described, our Committee has made important progress in certain apparently technical fields, which are nevertheless of great political importance. In particular I would mention the signing by various member states of the European Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers. And in this connection let me remind you that at our last ministerial meeting, my Swedish colleague proposed the convening of an ad hoc meeting of European Ministers responsible for Migrant Workers.

With your permission, Mr President, I will now make a few comments in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg which will not therefore engage the responsibility of the Committee of Ministers.

As regards the Near East, great hopes were aroused by the courageous step taken by President Sadat in going to Jerusalem. That visit and the ensuing contacts, more particularly the visit of Prime Minister Begin to Egypt, gave a new impetus to peace. For this reason, even if negotiations at present appear to have ground to a halt, we can nevertheless hope that the way to a peaceful settlement opened two months ago can never now be closed. This is my profound conviction, and it is essential that this move towards peace be given the fullest and widest encouragement possible.

I am sorry for that reason that all parties concerned did not all feel themselves able to rally round President Sadat in order to make the talks as exhaustive and promising as they should have been. I hope, however, that with time the movement will grow, since it seems to me that only an overall settlement covering every aspect of the problem and all the interested parties can in the long run usher in an era of peace for the Middle East.

The attitudes of either side are widely divergent on many fundamental issues, but it is clear that they can only be a starting point from which to move towards a gradual rapprochement. That is indeed the only way international negotiations can proceed. It would be unrealistic to expect each side to make all possible concessions right from the start, just as it would be unnatural to expect the initial positions to remain unshaken. That seems to me an essential point where the Palestinian problem or the interpretation of Resolution 242 are concerned.

On the one hand, I fervently hope that those who claim to represent the Palestinians will draw the proper conclusions and behave like acceptable and hence responsible parties to the negotiations. I hope just as fervently that Israel will show itself sufficiently pliable so that the Palestinians will not remain the only people in the region not to have a homeland. The nature of that homeland and the links it may have with other countries in the area will be a matter for negotiation between all the parties concerned. The only thing that matters is that the solution found should gain sufficient general acceptance, leaving aside only the extremists, whose demands can never be satisfied so long as they refuse to admit the right of all the states in the region to live in peace together. Failing which, a state of tension dangerous not only for the Middle East but for the whole world will be perpetuated.

Where human rights are concerned, recent events, whether in the United Nations or at Belgrade, point to a growing insistence on economic and social rights or again on a more collective concept of human rights, differing from our traditional and rather more individualistic one, and which some people would like to set up in opposition to the latter.

This trend calls for two remarks.

I should be the first to admit the importance of economic and social rights and, in a wider sense, the considerable degree to which a country’s economic situation determines its ability to apply our principles of democracy and respect for human rights. Anybody who has travelled knows that people who are ill fed, not to say half starved, and poorly educated place the right to free elections or to freedom of speech very differently from us in their list of priorities. It is accordingly important for each one of us to give full weight to these factors, specially in our dealings with the developing countries.

On the other hand, and this is my second remark, this new economic concept of human rights must be prevented from appearing as a possible substitute for the former one or as taking precedence over it. We must take care to establish a new balance by means of constructive additions and not by allowing individual freedoms to be eliminated by new demands. If such a negative trend were to prevail, which I do not think it will, we would eventually reach a point where only the nationals of developed countries could claim the right not to be tortured. The Council of Europe is capable of drawing from its long attachment to the cause of human rights the strength to encourage a movement in what is the only right direction.

Mr President, you will no doubt consider it natural for the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers – who also represents one of the member states of the European Communities – to say a few words about the Community of the Nine as you have indeed suggested that I might.

Where the European Economic Community is concerned, I have to say that it has reached a critical stage in its development. The major purpose of the Rome Treaty – to establish a customs union – seems to me to have been accomplished. Where European integration is concerned, considerable success has been achieved, chiefly in the sphere of commercial transactions and agricultural policy; but the rapid growth both in internal trade and trade with outside countries has made the Community of the Nine the first economic power in the world. That is something to which we often point with pride, but let us admit that the statement is true only if the volume of trade is taken as the sole criterion.

The external action of our Community, thanks to its association agreements with a large number of developing countries, has also been seen to be positive. Nor has its force of attraction weakened, since recently three more countries – Greece, Portugal and Spain – have applied to join it.

There have, however, been profound changes on the international scene. The economic crisis which is rocking our Western world, inflation on the one hand and the high rate of unemployment on the other, has only served to increase the danger of the relative stagnation that has characterised European integration over these last few years, whereas I personally had hoped that the Nine would face the issue by strengthening their cohesion and advancing further along the road to integration. In order to succeed in overcoming the difficult problems confronting it, whilst at the same time avoiding the snares of reawakening protectionism and the temptation to withdraw into itself, the European Community will have to develop its ability to work out solutions at the European level.

In order to do so, and at the same time to ensure satisfactory growth and full employment as well as economic stability within the Community, it will be absolutely necessary to remedy its internal structural and regional imbalances.

That supposes, or presupposes, the full realisation of a genuine Common Market, guaranteeing the free and unrestricted movement of goods, capital and persons.

A market of that kind cannot, however, be created unless the process is accompanied by an effective policy of structural reorganisation, and I am thinking here in particular of areas as important as the iron and steel industry and the textile industry, not to mention the permanent problem of agriculture.

Now achievement of these aims depends in its turn – since everything is related – on adequate harmonisation of different economic and monetary policies. For that reason, I can only express my gratification at the recent moves initiated by the President of the European Commission, Mr Jenkins, which are designed to revive the already long-standing idea of an economic and monetary union.

At present, two opportunities are offered to us, Mr President, which might create the stimulus necessary to lend renewed impetus to the process of European integration.

First of all, the future enlargement of the Community by three new members will give rise to economic problems which are not negligible and which Europe will have to endow itself with the means to overcome, whilst at the same time respecting the famous threefold integration principle of 1969, today almost forgotten: “Enlargement, deepening and completion”.

The second opportunity is the election by universal suffrage of the European Parliament, about which Mr Kirchschläger was speaking this morning. This process whose ultimate realisation, as you are aware, has been subject to fresh vicissitudes during the past few weeks will, we still hope, make it possible to ensure the participation of dynamic forces in building up the European Communities through the introduction of democratic voting procedures at European level and the simultaneous establishment of political parties whose audience will no longer be confined within national frontiers.

In this way we shall be able to move on, from an entity whose unduly technocratic character is often criticised, to a genuinely democratic Europe, one owing its existence to the clearly-expressed will of the people.

Perhaps these two happenings will, as hoped by Mr Kirchschläger, succeed in inspiring Europe as a whole, even the Europe which extends beyond the Communities, with that new breath of life which Europe itself, and all of us here, so sorely need.



I thank you very much, Mr Thom. We are glad to have had this extensive explanation of your views of the situation. Before we come to questions, I shall make a statement in respect of the points of order raised this morning by Mr Jessel and others.


There is one difficulty. Mr Thorn has functions other than being President of the Committee of Ministers and he has to leave at 5.45 pm. We have thirteen questions down and two members who wanted to speak in the debate. These two have been added to the question list, making a total of fifteen. It is now six minutes past five. If all members want to put a question, obviously they will not get answers from Mr Thorn. We cannot have the Prime Minister of Luxembourg here to answer questions if they go on too long. Therefore I ask members to be as short as possible and we will see how far we can go. The questions are contained in Document 4110. The first question is from Mr Margue on the report of the Commission of Human Rights in the case brought by Cyprus against Turkey.

It reads as follows:

“Mr Margue

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers when will the Committee of Ministers take a stand on the report of the Commission of Human Rights in the case brought by Cyprus against Turkey?”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, I should like to reply to the questions of Mr Margue and Mr Molin at the same time.


In that case I shall read out Question No. 2 presented by Mr Molin:

“Mr Molin

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

– whether the report from July 1976, by the European Commission of Human Rights in the case brought by Cyprus against Turkey, and the subsequent decision by the Committee of Ministers, will be published, and

– it the answer is no, for what reason.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

The case brought against Turkey by Cyprus has been considered by the Committee of Ministers but, since our discussions are confidential, I am not in a position, as you will all understand, to tell you what took place. I would point out that the Committee may only decide to publish a report on a human rights petition as provided for in Article 32 of the convention. In this case, no such decision has in fact been taken. More than that I cannot tell you.

In my own personal view, however, the present situation and, in particular, the attitude recently adopted by the new Turkish Government give reason to hope that some progress will be made towards solving this extremely thorny problem. Public statements regarding what is only one aspect of the question, though certainly an extremely important and painful one, are not likely, I think, either to promote or to hasten such a solution.


Thank you. Mr Margue, are you satisfied with the reply?

Mr MARGUE (Luxembourg) (translation)

I just wish to put one further question, Mr President.

The Chairman of the Committee of Ministers reminded us just now that our Convention on Human Rights was the most effective instrument that existed for the protection of those rights. Does he genuinely believe that by combining the two roles, political and judicial, the Committee of Ministers which, should the defendant countries so decide, is obliged to assume what in other cases would be the function of the Court, is really running no risk of being accused of denying justice if it continues to do nothing at all?

It is not for us to instruct the Committee in its duties, but once it has received a petition does the Chairman not think it ought to take a decision?


The answer from the Committee of Ministers was a little disappointing. The Committee of Ministers has now had a considerable time for its consideration. After all, this report from the European Commission of Human Rights was delivered to the Committee more than a year ago, in August 1976, and we have read of it in different international newspapers. We do not know whether or not that press information was true. It would be very valuable to have an open discussion in this Assembly on these alleged violations of the Human Rights Convention.

I well understand that the Committee of Ministers has responsibility to promote a settlement of the Cyprus problem, but an open debate here could also promote a fair settlement of the Cyprus crisis – a settlement in accordance with the principles of human rights and national sovereignty.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

It is my impression, Mr President, that every member of this Assembly is well aware that, by definition, any reply to a question by the Committee of Ministers is necessarily unsatisfactory to the persons putting it. That, at least, has been the tradition so far as any delicate questions are concerned. The Assembly ought, in any case, to realise that I am certainly not authorised to reply to a supplementary question on behalf of my nineteen other colleagues.

The problem which has been raised both by Mr Molin and by my compatriot, Mr Margue, in all its acute legal implications, perhaps has a reverse side when seen from the political angle. Speaking personally, I would say that the risk of a denial of justice which Mr Margue was apparently envisaging does exist, and is even deliberate. The Committee was given this possibility and I think those, of whom I was not one, who devised this particular procedure also envisaged that that might be its effect.

You say, Mr Molin, that you have learnt the elements of the report from the press and you would like a full debate on the subject. This is a case in which the Committee of Ministers is sitting as at once a judicial body and a political committee and we know that the interests of the two may not always coincide. Publication of the report would, in itself, constitute a sanction.

You are all politicians, Ladies and Gentlemen, and we know that if an end is to be put to a situation which we are all ready to condemn, an end must also be put to the political dispute. So we have to choose between two types of risk, two points of view, which are open to us. Do we really want to have the whole thing set out in detail in public, knowing that one or other party will take advantage of this? In that case, the necessary majority will not be forthcoming and that is something I can do nothing about. Rules are rules and there has to be a majority of two thirds. Do we really want to insist on the Committee of Ministers taking action that would appear in the light of a sanction and merely render a political understanding more difficult at the very moment when, as politicians, we see that a rapprochement between the two sides is conceivably possible?

What, speaking only for myself, I would like to make you understand, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that my colleagues on the Committee of Ministers are not at present prepared to follow the line you suggest and, further, that it is perhaps not the best line to take at the moment.


Thank you. Next we have Question No. 3 from Mr Machete, which reads as follows:

“Mr Machete,

Noting with satisfaction that in his reply to the written question put by Mr Hengel in the Luxembourg Parliament on Recommendation 821 of the Council of Europe Assembly, in which he analysed the political situation in Europe, the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Luxembourg Government stressed that in the future role of the Council of Europe, the safeguard and development of human rights and fundamental freedoms was a priority issue;

Welcoming the fact that, in a message to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at their 61st Session on 24 November 1977, Mr Henri Simonet, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, stated that the sphere of human rights should continue to be the Council of Europe’s ‘visiting card’ adding that it was not enough that it should be affirmed and strengthened vis-à-vis member states but that it should show Europe’s true face to the outside world, that it should be one of the main channels whereby Europe took part in the action being conducted at world-wide level for the defence of human rights;

Noting with interest the favourable reception given by the Committee of Ministers to the Belgium proposal,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

a. to what extent the role of the Council of Europe continues to have priority in the field of human rights among its twenty members states, especially with regard to the increased activity by the European Community in this same field of human rights;

b. what practical steps will be taken by the Committee of Ministers to give effect to the Belgium proposal that the Council of Europe should be one of the main channels through which the European democracies contribute towards world action in the defence of human rights.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

First, let me congratulate Mr Machete on being so well informed about the debates in the Luxembourg Parliament. It is always a pleasure when one comes across this. (Smiles)

In my reply to Mr Hengel’s written question on Recommendation 821 on the European disease I said:

“There is no intention of diminishing the role which in this field falls naturally to the Council of Europe. According to Resolution (74) 4 on the future role of the Council of Europe, the safeguard and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms are among its first priorities. That principle appears in concrete form in the Work Programme in the shape of action designed to extend the rights conferred by the European Convention on Human Rights and their improved implementation.”

That is a view shared by the Committee of Ministers.

So far as concerns the activities of the European Communities in the field of human rights, let me say first of all that there can be no question of any competition between the two organisations. One proof of this seems to me to be the joint declaration on the safeguard of human rights and fundamental freedoms adopted last year by the European Communities’ three institutions. As you know, that declaration refers explicitly to the European Convention on Human Rights, which thus constitutes the common “bible” of the Council of Europe and the Communities.

I think the Council of Europe has every reason to congratulate itself on this development. I am sure that the Nine, like the rest of the states belonging to the Council, are not blind either to its achievements or to its future role as promoter of those rights which the statute has fixed as its aim.

It is in this connection that I think we should consider the very interesting proposals put forward through his Ambassador at the 61st meeting of the Committee of Ministers by my Belgian colleague, Mr Henri Simonet. Basically, they are a recognition of the Council’s role in the human rights field, a role to which our member states should give increasing weight as an element in their international relations.

Our Committee is giving serious consideration to the follow-up action to be taken on those proposals. I have myself already agreed to the action suggested but I am not at the moment in a position to give you details. I hope, however, to be able to do so between now and the next session during which I shall have the pleasure of being with you again.


The fourth question is from Mr Karasek and reads as follows:

“Mr Karasek,

Noting that proposals for a programme for Community action in the cultural sector have recently been submitted to the Council by the Commission of the European Communities,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers whether he can give assurances that:

the competence of the Council of Europe in the cultural field will continue to be recognised within EEC, not simply on the level of research but also in practical measures;

EEC Ministers, when they come to consider the recent proposals, will take due account of the role of the Council of Europe in the cultural field.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

On 22 November 1977, the Commission of the European Communities sent the Council a communication entitled “Community action in the cultural sector” which will be considered by the Council once opinions on it have been received from the Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament. The communication in no way suggests formulation of a cultural policy, as is obvious from its definition of the cultural sector as “the body of persons and organisations concerned in the production and distribution of cultural goods and services”.

It is the duty of our Community to apply the Treaty of Rome in this, as in all other sectors. The Commission’s proposals include free exchange of cultural goods, freedom of movement and establishment for workers in the cultural field, harmonisation of taxation in respect of such matters as, for example, VAT, and also harmonisation of legislation, especially that affecting copyright.

The action suggested is therefore mainly economic, and to a certain extent social. As such, it is not likely to involve duplication with the Council of Europe’s work which is somewhat different, having a wider and, I might say, nobler aim. So far as I know, moreover, cooperation between Council and Commission at Secretariat level is all that could be wished. There is a great deal to be done in the cultural field and any and every initiative will be welcome. In saying that I am speaking for the Council. We have to guard against the risk of the economic and social crisis in the cultural sector degenerating into a cultural crisis which is something that the Council of Europe and the Community, each according to its capacity and jurisdiction must work together to prevent.

Mr KARASEK (Austria) (translation)

Thank you, Mr Minister, for answering that question.

Nevertheless I still feel somewhat doubtful about the danger of duplication, for example in the case of copyright already referred to, where the Council of Europe has already done a certain amount of preliminary work and should be made responsible for achieving a European agreement on as wide a scale as possible. It would be very helpful if an arrangement could be reached on some division of the tasks with the Communities.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

I think that is less a supplementary question by Mr Karasek, Mr President, than a statement. I am bound to admit that he has touched on what is the sensitive point, where friction may develop between the two. I will note what he says and also do my best, so far as I can, to see that consideration is given to this matter.


Thank you, Mr Minister. The fifth question is by Mr Ménard and reads as follows:

“Mr Ménard,

Considering that the Committee of Ministers, supported by the Assembly of the Council of Europe, has adopted a European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism;

Noting that the Council of Ministers of the Nine is at present apparently drafting a similar agreement;

Recalling that the nine member states of the European Economic Community are also members of the Council of Europe,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, bearing in mind his leading and practical role in promoting EEC;

a. what exact necessities have made it desirable for such a text to be prepared by the Community, whereas certain members of the Nine have expressed their great satisfaction with the European convention, as witnessed by the fact that the ratification procedure is practically complete;

b. whether he considers that this step is likely to make relations between the Nine and the Twenty as harmonious, trustful and effective as they ought to be.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

As Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers I can only express my great satisfaction at the action taken by the Council for the suppression of terrorism, especially the opening for signature of the convention to which Mr Ménard has referred. Unfortunately, it is not quite true to say that the ratification procedure is practically complete, but I think I am right in saying that, in addition to the two governments which have already deposited their instruments of ratification, several others, including the members of the Community, are preparing to ratify it in the near future, a fact which I can only welcome.

So far as relates to the draft Community agreement, it seems to me that, provided it is fully in line with the European convention and does not hinder the application of the latter by the largest possible number of Council of Europe members, it could facilitate implementation of the purpose of the convention.

May I remind you also that the European Parliament has twice expressed itself in favour of ratification of the European convention by the governments of the Nine. I would add that, as you know, one member of the Community has not signed the Council of Europe convention but there are grounds for hope that the work being

done by the Nine will have the further advantage of enabling a formula to be found which the country concerned will also' be able to accept.

Mr MÉNARD (France) (translation)

Thank you for your reply, Mr Minister. It is very satisfactory, because I was a little worried before. There appeared to be some disagreement or lack of co-ordination between the Committee of Ministers of the Twenty and the Council of Ministers of the Nine. But your reply, I think, shows that that is not the case. Thank you.


Thank you very much, Mr Ménard. The sixth question is by Mr Pelletier and reads as follows:

“Mr Pelletier,

Noting that the recent case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities following the precedent set by the judgment in the Nolde case, and the recent proceedings of the European Parliament, illustrated in particular by the Scelba Report on special rights, tend to show that the defence of human rights is regarded more and more as coming within the competence of Community institutions;

Noting that this trend was formally confirmed by a joint declaration made on 5 April 1977 by the European Parliament, Council and Commission,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers;

a. if he does not think that the creation of two distinct courts of law with overlapping powers is likely to raise certain problems;

b. if he does not also think that, since the application procedure, the powers of decision and the case-law of both courts are quite distinct, it will be necessary sooner or later to tackle this problem at the root and to define in greater detail how competence is to be shared out in a field where the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has, after all, proved its worth for a quarter of a century.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

I think it would be wrong of me, Mr President, to reply, as the honourable member has invited me to do, in terms of the “jurisdiction” – or perhaps he was even thinking in terms of “competition” – of the Community, on the one hand, and the Council of Europe, on the other. On the contrary, as Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, I have to welcome the support given by the Community institutions to the European Convention on Human Rights, whether in the form of the joint declaration by the organs of the Community issued on 5 April last, the resolution on special rights adopted by the European Parliament last November, or the case law of the Court of Justice.

The ultimate point at issue here is the penetration of the Community judicial system by the principles that have emerged in the Council of Europe and are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights which, let me stress, constitutes and will, I feel sure, continue to constitute the typical bond linking all the members of the Council, whether or not they also belong to the European Economic Community, and whatever the developments that may take place at Community level.

I have to admit to my friend, Mr Pelletier that if the present trend were to be confirmed, it might one day create certain legal problems of a technical nature but for the moment any such problems are hypothetical only.

In any case, for a long time now the members of the Court of Justice of the Community and of the Court of Human Rights have been in regular contact with each other and I know that contact is also maintained with the appropriate sections of the Council of Europe and Brussels Commission Secretariats. I think we may all congratulate ourselves on that.

Mr PELLETIER (France) (translation)

While thanking the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers for his reply, I still think there may be a long-term problem here. For some time now we have been watching the gradual extension of the jurisdiction of the European Communities’ Court. For my own part I welcome this, because it proves that despite various obstacles the integration of the nine Community countries is gradually making headway.

All the same, I think some difficulties may ultimately arise from the existence of two distinct Courts whose powers already overlap and will overlap more and more in future. Sooner or later, it seems to me that this basic problem will have to be tackled and the powers of the respective Courts in a field in which the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights has proved its worth for nearly a quarter of a century will have to be defined more clearly. I firmly believe it to be the duty of the Committee of Ministers, under the leadership of its dynamic Chairman, to waste no time in examining this problem.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, you will understand that I have nothing to add to what Mr Pelletier has just said. I can only tell him that I am alive to the problem and that if there were the slightest danger of the kind he seems to apprehend – and the possibility cannot a priori be excluded – then the matter is one that would require to be dealt with both by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and by the Council of Ministers of the Community.

Speaking for myself, I intend to do everything in my power to have it considered and to prevent overlapping.


Thank you, Mr Minister.

I remind the Assembly that we have seven more questions and two members who wish to participate in the debate, with three minutes each. It is impossible. Members will understand that even if they are very brief not all our colleagues who have asked to speak will have an opportunity to get an answer from the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. I call Mr Péridier.

Mr PÉRIDIER (France) (translation)

My question relates to Cyprus but, as you will see, from a rather special angle.

Can you tell me why it is that Cyprus, which is a member of the Council of Europe in exactly the same way as Luxembourg and all the other countries represented in the Council; which participates in the Committee of Ministers in the person of Mr Christophides, its Minister for Foreign Affairs; which has an office here and which contributed to the cost of this building in which we are so happily settled; why it is that Cyprus, a member of the Council, has not the right to come here and defend its policy and its interests as Turkey is able to do today?


That is really a question not for the Committee of Ministers but for the Bureau of the Assembly. I hope you will understand that giving an answer to it will consume all the time for further questions, as there are seven more questions still to be asked.

Mr PÉRIDIER (translation)

The Committee of Ministers has the right to intervene with the Bureau, Mr President, because the Bureau has never so far explained to us the reasons for this interdiction on a country which is a member of the Council of Europe.


If the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers wishes to answer the question, we have nothing against that.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, what I wished to tell the Assembly, which is well aware of the limitations on the competence of the Committee of Ministers of which it has had frequent occasion to complain, on the whole justifiably, – what I wished to tell it was that it ought to know that what you have just said is true and that the question raised by the honourable member – not, I think, for the first time as I have heard him before on the subject to which he attaches great importance – that that question does not come within the competence of the Committee of Ministers. At the level of our Committee, Cyprus is represented. As you have just said, there have been difficulties preventing the Assembly from approving the credentials of the Cyprus delegation. That had nothing to do with the Committee of Ministers and I really do not see how the Assembly, or any of its members, can ask the Committee to intervene in a matter that comes within the competence of the Assembly itself when on numerous other occasions its tendency would quite justifiably be to do the exact opposite. So do not ask me to do something for which you would only be blaming me tomorrow.

Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for my nineteen colleagues as well, what we should like to see would be the two ethnic communities succeeding, with your help, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Assembly, in coming to an agreement that would enable you to approve the credentials of a delegation from Cyprus. That is my own desire. It would be in line with our Statute and with our wishes, but it is not my fault that it is not at the moment the case.

Sir Frederic BENNETT (United Kingdom)

If I may ask my question in two parts, I give an undertaking that there will be no supplementary question.

We know that up until now at the Helsinki meetings at Belgrade there have been certain attempts to achieve a consensus of approach by the EEC countries.

Has there also been an attempt by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to achieve some kind of consensus? Does the Minister think that the voice of the Committee of

Ministers in international meetings of this sort would be strengthened if there were a directly elected Assembly here, as opposed to an appointed one?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

At Helsinki and Belgrade there was the kind of consultation you mention between the governments of the Nine but we also tried both through our representatives and at Committee of Minister level to achieve a consensus between the twenty governments; at the level, that is to say, to which you refer. As could be seen from Mr Kirchschläger’s speech this morning and the questions put to him, the Assembly includes various so-called aligned countries, other non-aligned countries and others again which are neutral but nevertheless faithful adherents, with the rest of us, to the Council of Europe. We are trying at governmental level to arrive at a common position and we are all remaining in contact.

With regard to your second point, may I ask you to explain it a little more clearly?

Sir Frederic BENNETT

When I said that I would not ask a supplementary question, I was trying to expedite the business.

Would the Committee of Ministers find themselves threatened in adopting a common approach to problems such as this if there were an elected, as opposed to an appointed, Assembly?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Speaking for myself, I do not think that would alter the dimensions of the problem. I heard the question put to Mr Kirchschläger this morning about a new election and I think some members of the Community are already running into enough difficulties over elections to the European Parliament without our adding any more by asking them to elect other Assemblies as well. If tomorrow we were going to have to elect the Benelux Assembly, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe Assembly and the NATO Assembly, it really would be a bit too much.

When an assembly has a power of decision vis-à-vis the executive it is essential that it be elected. But the question, however interesting, has not got the same importance in the case of assemblies which have no such power.


I wish to ask the Minister what will happen to the Council of Europe draft recommendation relating to the security of foreign correspondents. My information is that there is no possibility of resuming this. If that is the case, would the Minister remit it to the CSCE Basket 3?

Finally, as a member of the Community, has the Minister any suggestions on the final date for elections to the European Parliament?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

So far as the Council of Europe is concerned, a draft European convention on foreign correspondents was examined by the Ministers’ Deputies early in 1977. It was then sent to the Steering Committee on Human Rights to be finally settled. The Committee of Ministers will certainly keep the Assembly informed of subsequent developments.

Speaking as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, I regard the matter as one of those which needs further discussion by the countries at the Belgrade Conference. Such problems as may exist in connection with press correspondents are mainly due to the restrictive policies of certain of the countries making up the Thirty-five. The aim for which we should work in the widest possible European framework is to ensure that those policies are abandoned and the protection of press correspondents secured.

You ended with a question about the possible date of the European elections. As Prime Minister of Luxembourg I am particularly badly placed to reply to that; others of my colleagues would be in a better position to do so. Not being a crystal-gazer, I cannot tell you when those elections will take place but the nine heads of government will have to consider the questions at the next meeting of the European Council and decide on a new date.

Know only that your humble servant would like it to be as soon as possible.

Mr RADIUS (France) (translation)

During your visit to Vienna you said the Council of Europe had a special role as an intermediary in the East-West dialogue. I have three questions on that I would like to put to you:

Do you think that role has been sufficiently emphasised so far?

Do you not think that our debate last year should have begun with some constructive contacts between members of East and West parliaments?

In your opinion, has the Committee of Ministers given evidence of enough political determination and initiative to make an effective contribution towards détente?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

If I have understood my friend Mr Radius correctly, he is trying to tell me tactfully that Ministers should do less talking. May I inform him that when I was questioned by journalists in Vienna, I indicated quite frankly what I regarded as the spheres which offered most scope for the development of Council of Europe activities as compared with the Communities and other institutions where everyone is trying to discover a part to play.

Mr Radius ought not to ask me to express an opinion on the value of the Assembly’s activities. That is something for the Assembly itself to do.

This larger Europe which you represent, which we were talking about this morning and which includes neutral and non-aligned countries and others as well, should try if it wants to – this is still my personal opinion – to formulate clearly its policy, views and objectives. If the Assembly wants to go further than that and become more than a bridge between various countries, it will find the necessary ways and means of doing so.

Personally, I shall encourage it to do this for just so long as we all remain believers in détente and an open policy towards other countries but also – let there be no misunderstanding about this – believers in strict adherence to the principles we hold in common and which we have no intention of allowing to be watered down.

Mr MÜLLER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr Chairman, you have already said that European direct elections might act as a stimulant. My concrete question is: have the fixing of a date for these direct elections and the repeated postponement of that date been beneficial or harmful to the movement towards unity?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr Müller, like any intelligent man, only puts questions to which he already knows the answers. (Laughter)

Once it had been decided that European elections were necessary, essential, and would reinforce European unity, the refusal to organise them, or the fact of their deferment, do not strike me as particularly likely to help in the work of European integration. Such is my unequivocal answer to the question.

In saying this I am not trying to pass judgement as to the reasons which have induced this or that government or sovereign assembly not to proceed with these elections. After twenty years, the danger lies less in deferring them for one, two or three months than in the fact that it has taken almost twenty years to reach agreement in principle on the subject and that, now that that agreement has been reached, we have failed, after two more years, to put it into practice.

What is even more serious is that there may even be a risk of the elections themselves not being held at all because of events which could take place in the meantime. By thus continually putting off the practical realisation of the hopes of the European peoples, the hopes set out in the treaty, we run the risk of making Europe still more incomprehensible to the ordinary citizen.


Thank you, Mr Minister. We have two minutes, and then the Minister has to go. It is not sensible to start a debate when the Minister will only hear part of the first speech. I think it is reasonable to say that we shall have the debate on the next possible occasion, but not today. Is that the opinion of the Assembly? It is impossible to have a speech and an answer by the Minister in two minutes. I call Mr Coutsocheras.

Mr COUTSOCHERAS (Greece) (translation)

Mr President, may the sitting continue for long enough to allow the Prime Minister of Luxembourg to answer the question I have put to him in my capacity as Greek Representative?


We can continue, but the Minister has to go. I explained that before. We cannot detain him.

Mr COUTSOCHERAS (Translation) (translation)

In your speech you proclaimed your belief in the defence of human rights, Mr Minister.

Since the decision reached by the Committee of Ministers on 21 October 1977 as to what action it should take on the report by the Commission of Human Rights regarding the violation of the European convention by the Turkish authorities in Cyprus, examination of the matter has been suspended for a period of nine months. No decision has been taken on the report although it was submitted to the Committee a year ago.

Mr Minister, does not the attitude adopted strike you as entirely contrary to both the spirit and the letter of Article 32 of the convention? Moreover, since it was prompted by political considerations, does it not seriously undermine the safeguards we have established for human rights as well as damaging both the prestige and effectiveness of the Council of Europe itself?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Thank you for all your efforts. I can only refer you to the answer I gave Mr Margue and Mr Molin just now on the same subject.

I told you all then that discussion was confidential. I cannot therefore say more. To the extent that our decision was taken in application of, and in conformity with the Rules of Procedure, whatever may be its consequences I cannot agree that it is contrary to the spirit of those rules. It is not.

For the rest, let me repeat that I refer you to the explanation I gave just now. I remain at your disposal and I hope to be able to tell you more at our next meeting.


Thank you. Mr Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, I have two speakers here, Mr de Koster and Mr Otero Madrigal. Have you enough time?

(Mr Thorn nodded his assent.)

Mr de KOSTER (Netherlands)

I have listened to the excellent address of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, especially on the harmonisation of philosophy and voting conduct in the Assembly of the United Nations. I would like to know what kind of better co-ordination between the member states has been decided on. A reply to this question would allow us to check the eventual follow-up to tomorrow’s recommendation of the Political Affairs Committee on the question of human rights as they affect international relations. Will the results of these exchanges of views on human rights and connected United Nations issues be transmitted from Strasbourg to New York and followed up there by the delegations of our member states? Although there is often some kind of common approach and consensus on the fundamental values underlying the public order of the member states of the Council of Europe, our member states often vote in opposite directions within the context of the United Nations General Assembly.

Finally, it appears to me that the large majority of the United Nations member states is particularly keen on collective economic and social rights, while the Council of Europe seems so far to have given more prominence to traditional civil and political rights.

Does the Prime Minister see any practical possibilities of our member states both increasing their concern for the protection of economic and social rights within the Council, and maintaining their concern for the protection of civil and political rights within the United Nations framework?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

My reply to Mr de Koster must be, I think, that consultations and exchanges of views on these political problems have taken place between Council of Europe members but, as you may imagine, given the slight difference in our various aims, it is, I would venture to say, harder to arrive at common positions in the case of the Twenty than in the case of the Nine, and that is already hard enough. However, next week, for example, our representatives will be meeting at ambassador level to exchange views on political problems and try to reach some common viewpoints.

At the present stage of discussion, everything that is possible is being done on the basis of the treaties we have signed. But I would add that, in my own view, the repercussions are perhaps not all they should be. Discussions are held at ministerial and ambassadorial level as also between the Permanent Representatives, but they produce no repercussions in the outside world, in New York, at the United Nations, for instance.

While I have no wish to enforce any binding procedures, I should like to suggest that my successors in the Chair of the Committee of Ministers might at least keep their diplomatic representatives at the United Nations or elsewhere regularly informed when they are preparing an exchange of view so that, if such an exchange takes place between Council of Europe members, it would at least be known about outside, although this need not involve the adoption of detailed positions or texts that would actually be binding on the Twenty.

This is a way in which, little by little, I think we might improve our procedure. For myself, I have gone far enough already in what I said just now. So we shall be able to meet your request in the course of the discussions we shall be having on Mr Henri Simonet’s proposals.

Mr OTERO MADRIGAL (Spain) (translation)

I am delighted to find myself, here in this beautiful city of Strasbourg, and I should like to thank the Council of Europe for the welcome it has given us. I would also take this opportunity of thanking Mr Thorn, Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, for his friendly references to our country and for the welcome he has extended to the Spanish delegation to the Council.

We also wish to thank all the other members of the Assembly, as well as to say that we shall be interpreting the feelings of the Spanish delegates here – and I think I am speaking for all our political parties here represented – when we say we support everything Mr Thorn has said about strengthening Europe.

At this moment, as at every other decisive moment in history, Europe has need of all our goodwill and all our imagination if she is to follow the road that other great Europeans have traced out for us. Yesterday, one of my compatriots was quoting Mr Monnet and Mr de Madariaga. As Spaniards, we intend to do everything we can to foster in every country the idea of a united Europe.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

I thank the honourable member, and also you yourself, Mr President.