Prime Minister of Luxembourg

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 26 April 1978

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the second time within a few months that I have had the privilege and the pleasure of addressing you in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers in order to report to you on the Committee’s activities.

But I hope that my friend President de Koster’s allusion to the fact that this is the second time I have held this chairmanship will not make some of you think the pleasure has lasted all too long. (Laughter)

Allow me first of all, Mr President, both personally and on behalf of the Committee of Ministers as a whole, to congratulate you most sincerely on your election. I am sure that with the skill, the faith in the European cause and the determination you have always possessed you will succeed in carrying on the work of your esteemed predecessor, Mr Czernetz, who will always remain in the minds of all Europeans as one of the most fervent builders of Europe and for whom your own human and intellectual qualities make you, Mr President, a worthy successor. I am convinced that under your leadership the dialogue between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers will continue to be both real and effective, and I have no doubt that our co-operation will be fruitful for the cause which unites us and which we serve together, perhaps with different means but with the same ideal.

I shall not reply in any greater detail to your all too kind words: only friendship can be an excuse for the way in which you somewhat distorted the truth. Let me nevertheless say in reply, with all due sincerity, how much I have always admired not only your European faith and sense of vocation but also the courage with which you have expressed them. There used to be quite an army of such people, though it now seems to be getting smaller and the burden is becoming increasingly difficult to bear. It is not only as a friend that I say how glad I am to see a European of your calibre at the head of this Assembly.

I should also like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere congratulations and those of the Committee of Ministers over whose destiny I am briefly presiding to Mr Adinolfi on his very recent election.

I now come to the heart of the matter, and I would inform you, Mr President, and through you your colleagues, that you will find details of the activities of the Committee of Ministers and its committees of experts in Document 4142, which has been distributed to you and which I shall refrain from commenting upon or paraphrasing. I forget who once said that the best way to exhaust an audience’s patience was to be exhaustive, but I think we all agree with him and I shall try to follow his wise advice. I shall therefore confine myself to a few comments on what I regard as the most outstanding events since my last address and on the Committee of Ministers’ activities in the near future.

On 9 March, the Belgrade meeting on co-operation and security in Europe came to an end, with the results you all know about, on which varying judgments have been passed. I think it would serve no purpose to deny the disillusionment felt by those who were present at Helsinki and Geneva and witnessed the beginnings of a dialogue which they then saw degenerate at Belgrade into a succession of monologues between spokesmen for whom words clearly do not always have the same meaning but correspond to quite different realities.

While it is undeniable that the text adopted at Belgrade after long and painstaking negotiations marks a step back from the Helsinki Final Act about which so much has been said, we must not content ourselves with registering a failure: we must also analyse the reasons behind it and draw the necessary lessons, not only in the light of what happened between Helsinki and Belgrade, but also any lessons which you and we should draw for the future. I am pleased to note that you have just devoted a major debate to the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act and the Belgrade meeting, and a number of you will presently be discussing these matters with us in the traditional colloquy.

Similarly, the Committee of Ministers, at its meeting tomorrow, will be making a political evaluation of the Belgrade meeting and considering possible future action as well as the general follow-up to the Helsinki Final Act itself, which – let us hope – will lose none of its significance. I sincerely hope for my part that those responsible for the foreign policy of the twenty democratic countries which belong to the Council of Europe will strongly reaffirm the paramount importance they attach to the implementation of all the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, including those concerning human rights.

As regards the role of our Committee of Ministers concerning the CSCE, there is no doubt that the exchanges of views held at not only Deputy but also ministerial level, with the participation of qualified experts from our ministries, have been extremely useful from every point of view, in all circumstances and for all purposes. These exchanges of views should therefore be continued and I personally consider that we would be well advised to increase their frequency and depth. After our ministerial meeting tomorrow, the next exchange of views between our Deputies, assisted by experts, will take place on 29 and 30 May. On this occasion, I think, the main concern will be to pave the way together for the meetings which have been planned as a follow-up to the CSCE, namely the meeting to prepare a scientific forum to commence in Bonn on 20 June 1978, the meeting at Montreux on the peaceful settlement of disputes and the meeting to be held in Valletta next February on the more specific problems of the Mediterranean.

I have just referred to our now traditional exchanges of views on the CSCE, which have more than proved their worth. The same may be said of our discussions on the United Nations, which we owe to a felicitous initiative of my German colleague, Mr Genscher. The last of these exchanges of views between our Deputies, assisted by experts from our capitals, took place on 31 January. It provided an opportunity, firstly, for a general assessment of the results of the 32nd Session of the General Assembly and also for a special examination of the problems of human rights, terrorism and the situation in Southern Africa at which, I think, we are all concerned. The most positive conclusion of this discussion was no doubt the fact that there has been increased co-operation within the United Nations between the countries of Western Europe, not only among the Nine, who – if I may say so – serve as a kind of driving force in this respect, but also among the twenty member states of the Council of Europe as well as the countries belonging to the group of “Western European countries and others”, as it is so delicately called.

Co-operation between member states of the Council of Europe has been particularly close in the field of human rights. This is to be welcomed, even though such co-operation between countries sharing the same approach to the subject would seem only natural.

During the exchange of views on 31 January, it was agreed that the member states of the Council of Europe would do well to think more deeply together about the relationship between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other, as well as between individual rights and collective rights. The importance of this problem is, or should be, obvious to everyone, and, as some will perhaps remember, I brought it to the attention of this distinguished Assembly in my address last January.

As far as the grave problem of terrorism is concerned, our Deputies and experts unanimously supported the draft convention on the taking of hostages which the Federal Republic of Germany submitted to the United Nations.

The next exchange of views in this series will take place towards the end of June, chiefly for the purpose of preparing the 33rd United Nations General Assembly. There is no need, I think, Mr President, to say how urgent this problem and these proposals, unfortunately, still are.

I should like at this point to make a brief personal comment. Whenever I go to the United Nations, it is brought home to me with glaring clarity that the democratic states are, as you all know, a tiny minority numbering only about thirty of the hundred and fifty or more states represented at the United Nations. When one sees how seriously our democratic Europe is taken elsewhere, in the third world especially, and when one observes the extent to which the ideals we have just been talking about and which you and I talk about all the time – the ideals of human rights, freedom, fraternity and equality which we uphold – are seen by everyone in the world as a ray of hope on an otherwise very gloomy horizon, I say to myself (and I would like to assert this forcefully here) that we Europeans simply have no right to keep quiet about this problem or, in so doing, to abdicate our responsibilities.

This thought leads me to say a few words about our ministerial meeting tomorrow, in which the question of human rights will loom very large. Even though I speak here in an international organisation which – let it be said in all sincerity and modesty – has, more than any other, made an effective contribution to the international protection of human rights, you as parliamentarians, will perhaps share with me a certain feeling of uneasiness at what might be called a bandying about of human rights or abuse of the concept. Human rights seem at present to be somewhat fashionable; it is impossible to read a paper or listen to a speech without finding one or more references to human rights.

If this makes us feel uneasy, it is because the current enthusiasm for what is and remains one of our civilisation’s fundamental values is, I regret to say, all too often superficial in many people’s minds and, in the end, rather than serve the cause of human rights enables those who abuse human rights to use the concept for their own ends. Are not the numerous international discussions on human rights often in flagrant contradiction with the realities of a world where human rights as we understand them are more or less consistently violated and where torture – one of the most scandalous assaults on human dignity – is more or less regularly practised – need I say so here? – in a large number of states?

What unites us at the Council of Europe is the existence not just of political and legal texts establishing human rights and fundamental freedoms, but of the very means of safeguarding those rights and freedoms effectively for the community. That is why I hope that the twenty Foreign Affairs Ministers of the states of democratic Europe will tomorrow adopt a declaration of human rights to mark the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that we shall set the major objectives of our future action in the essential field of human rights, including economic and social rights, even at the present time of economic and social controversy, not to say upheaval.

Since I have just mentioned economic and social rights, I should like to add a word about a problem which is of particular interest to your Assembly, namely the relations of the Council of Europe with management and labour. Following Recommendation 805 which this Assembly transmitted to the Committee of Ministers, a dialogue has begun between the Committee and the representatives of both sides of industry, who load an opportunity to express their wishes and make proposals at a meeting with our Deputies in February.

I would add that, in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, I received the Vice-President of the European Trade Union Confederation, Mr André Bergeron, in the course of the trade union campaign for full employment. Mr Bergeron presented me with a precise proposal for the attention of the Committee of Ministers: this was that the Council of Europe should organise a tripartite conference of representatives of governments, trade unions and employers’ organisations, of which the theme would naturally be the employment situation in Europe, a disturbing situation for us all if ever there was. Mr Bergeron explained that the reason for this proposal was the need to alert international public opinion to the very serious social problems arising throughout Europe and to the inadequacy, indeed harmfulness, of isolated and in some cases mutually incompatible efforts by countries to deal with them.

As Prime Minister of Luxembourg, I would add that I and my government fully agree with Mr Bergeron’s analysis, and that of the European Trade Union Confederation, concerning the importance of ever greater awareness of our interdependence and of the consequent need for joint action against unemployment on an international scale. I shall be submitting this proposal to my colleagues in the Committee of Ministers tomorrow in the hope that they will respond favourably to it.

I referred just now, Mr President, to the European trade union campaign for employment. I mention it again in order to emphasise the importance of international solidarity for solving the present difficult social and economic problems, first and foremost that of unemployment. National measures can vary in effectiveness – and I personally do not think they would be very effective – according to the resources available to each of us and the degree of freedom with which we may use them.

Needless to say, as a representative of a small, indeed very small country, I can claim no credit for being aware of the frailty of such a national undertaking, for when there is a personal or national mood of “everyone for himself” the little ones will quite naturally – if you will pardon the expression – be eaten first, then the slightly less little ones and then the slightly less big ones.

Leaving aside all national egoism, however, there are two points which need to be stressed. The first is that no country in Europe, as I am firmly convinced and would even be inclined to add “no country in the world”, can solve its economic problems and hence its unemployment problems by itself.

Embarking on the path of national isolationism in the present circumstances will inevitably lead to the final disaster, which will occur earlier for some, perhaps a little later for others but is undoubtedly unavoidable for all of us. What is an immediate and glaring truth for a very small country, namely the absolute inadequacy of national resources, is also true of medium-sized countries and even of bigger ones, even if it should take some time to materialise.

A cumulative effect in a negative sense – and this is my second point – will or would still further accentuate the disadvantages or dangers of “going it alone” at national level. Such is the interdependence of economies that a crisis in any of our industrialised countries will inevitably create or aggravate difficulties for other countries through the very commonplace phenomenon of a loss of customers and a loss of markets, due either to a fall in purchasing power or to protectionism, often – alas – to both. The snowball effect of such a situation will undoubtedly lead to a major crisis for all countries.

It is therefore undeniable that the premonitory signs of national self-rescue policies, or at least of professedly national self-rescue policies, which quite simply are uncontrolled reflexes of fear, are already to be seen. I greatly fear this resurgence of protectionism, despite all the professions of faith in the virtues of free trade, as many countries are on the point of giving way to the temptation of seeking an apparently easy but in fact illusory remedy to their own difficulties through the closing of their frontiers or through administrative pettifoggery which has the same effect. I nevertheless believe that it is not yet too late for all those responsible to become aware of the need for international solidarity, not only in the abstract but in terms of practical realities.

It was therefore in the hope of helping to achieve that aim that I assured the European Trade Union Confederation of my government’s full sympathy and support. I shall be informing the Committee of Ministers of this tomorrow, in the belief that I shall thus be making my own and my government’s contribution to the establishment of an international solidarity which must be more durable and hence stronger.

The European Economic Community has been concerned with these economic and social problems for a long time. I would nevertheless emphasise that this should in no way be taken as a pretext for not tackling them and discussing them in the Council of Europe. Indeed, everyday experience shows that the effectiveness of international solidarity is directly proportionate to the number of countries taking part in it, genuinely acting together at international level.

It would, however, be a grave mistake to think that these problems arise solely between industrialised and developed countries or solely within such countries. Undoubtedly, there are already very substantial differences between the levels of development of the Council of Europe member countries, and they can be seen to become even bigger the further one moves from the centre of Europe. It is our duty – the duty of all of us – as well as in our interests to try to reduce these inequalities. To speak of morality may seem out of place in a political gathering. However, it would, if you will pardon the expression, be shamefully immoral to regard as natural the state of under-development which most of the countries of the world are in. An organisation like ours, statutorily based as it is on democracy, respect for human rights and justice in the world, has a duty to heed and disseminate the moral considerations underlying development aid. It is thus in our own interests to endeavour to eradicate economic inequalities in the world. On this depend peace and security, economic balance and development.

Thanks to modern mass media, we can see for ourselves what the situation is anywhere in the world. While the separation of economies and levels of development may possibly be continued for some time yet, it is far less possible to count on the separation of wishes and even less on the separation of demands. It is surely inconceivable that large masses of people fully aware of the riches accumulated in a minority of countries would agree indefinitely to wallow in relative and often, indeed, absolute poverty. Not to do everything humanly possible to provide all countries with a decent level of development would be to run the certain risk of creating serious social tension at world level and prejudicing peace and security, not to mention our economic future.

I therefore welcome the progress recently made in what is generally called “North-South dialogue”, at least as far as the problem of indebtedness is concerned. It is now important to put rapidly into practice the decisions of principle taken in this connection as well as to make further progress in the search for solutions concerning other aspects of the dialogue.

In this Assembly, composed as it is of parliamentarians who are in continuous contact with public opinion in their countries, I would like to emphasise that efforts on behalf of the third world cannot be painless for us. Whether it be a question – and the realities should be fully appreciated – of cancelling or reducing debts, stabilising raw material prices or supplying actual aid, the decisions taken or to be taken are resulting or will result in practice in a shrinking of our budgets or of our countries’ production and purchasing power. Each of us should realise that the transfer of technology denotes – as we are indeed aware today – increased competition at world level. A great effort of education is still necessary, I feel, to drive home to every individual in our countries the fact that aid supplied by his country is not provided by some abstract, remote entity with which he does not need to concern himself. In the short term, a better international distribution of resources will result in fewer of those resources being available in the richer countries. We must accept this, and we must realise what our acceptance implies. However, it may seem difficult to accept at a time of fairly low, even zero growth, for it is easier to share a surplus produced by rapid expansion than to draw on what might possibly be called our reserves.

The reason why I maintain that we must nevertheless carry on and even step up our aid or our efforts to assist development is that I am convinced that world peace and our own economic future depend on this in the long run. In terms of economic advantage, it is also clear that in the long run a healthy world economy – not necessarily a perfectly balanced one, but at least a rather better balanced one – will be far more beneficial even to the richer countries than an economy suffering from ineradicable pockets of poverty and from distortions which most of the world’s population regard as intolerable.

I am particularly anxious to rebut the simplistic and somewhat demagogic view that the transfer of modern technologies to the developing countries should be prevented merely because their industries could then compete with our own. What would the alternative signify? In purely economic terms – which is the standpoint adopted by those who hold this view – it would mean trying to deprive many countries quite simply of the possibility of increasing their exports and thus obtaining the resources they need in order to pay for their imports from our countries. The only good customer – as everyone must be aware here – is a solvent one, and we cannot therefore aspire to sell our own products to the developing countries unless we are also prepared to buy theirs or at least enable them to pay for ours.

At the same time, however, I should like to emphasise here, at the birthplace of the European Convention on Human Rights and on the eve of its twenty-fifth anniversary, that while a certain amount of economic development is no doubt necessary, perhaps even essential, for the effective observance of our ideals of democracy and freedom, we cannot regard it as a substitute for or an alternative to respect for human dignity. Ensuring or trying to ensure a decent standard of living cannot be an excuse for delaying or withholding the introduction of the elementary rights of the human person or of people’s elementary right to self-determination. The fact that many black people in South Africa live better than black people elsewhere is no justification, in my view, for the hateful system of apartheid. The standard of living achieved in Rhodesia or Namibia (assuming the statistics do not cover up any inequalities; but statistics are made to say a lot of things) cannot serve as a pretext for maintaining power in the hands of a minority. We have not accepted this in any of our countries; how could we accept or endorse it elsewhere? My government accordingly supports all efforts to ensure a peaceful transition in Rhodesia and Namibia to a regime enabling the populations concerned to choose freely their own governments for themselves. This, too, seems to me to be a matter for international solidarity, and I should like to pay tribute to the efforts made in this direction by some of my colleagues, particularly Dr David Owen.

Human dignity cannot be fully safeguarded unless all people have a certain amount of economic and social well-being. Human dignity cannot be fully safeguarded unless all people – I repeat, all people – enjoy elementary rights and freedoms. Human dignity cannot be fully safeguarded unless all people enjoy, as we have demanded, the right to self-determination. These three factors, all three together, seem to me to be indissociable, and I would like to express the hope that our Council of Europe, particularly in this anniversary year of the Universal Declaration and the European Convention on Human Rights, will, so to speak, give itself an anniversary present by contributing to their effective implementation through far greater solidarity between all its member countries.



I thank the Prime Minister of Luxembourg for his very interesting statement.

We come now to questions. They appear in Document 4163. I ask Mr Thorn to reply to Question No. 1 from Mr Berrier, as follows:

“Mr Berrier

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

What impact will the enlargement of the European Community have, in his opinion, on the Council of Europe’s activities and, in so far as Community competence tends to undergo extension to encompass culture, defence of human rights and even youth questions, and in the measure in which the enlargement will increase EEC’s economic and political weight, what will be the future relations between the Europe of the Nine and the Europe of the Twenty?

Is he able to draw a fresco – to use Community terminology – of this future, in particular with reference to the direct election of the European Parliament whose date was set at the recent meeting of the European Council in Copenhagen?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

In reply to Mr Berrier’s question, may I say that the problems which he raises would certainly be an excellent subject, not just for a reply to a parliamentary question, but for several seminars at least. God knows, many more brilliant minds than mine have dealt with the problem.

Mr Berrier asks me for a fresco. May I say quite honestly that I do not feel I possess the talent to paint this fresco. I hope he will understand that I cannot satisfy his wish in the few 'minutes which are the most I can give to this matter. All I can provide is a very modest sketch. I must confess that the art form practised in the Communities at the present time is rather, if you will allow the expression, the jigsaw puzzle or the patchwork rather than the fresco. As a member of the Council of Ministers of the European Community, of which I have had the honour of being Chairman three times, I welcome the prospects for the enlargement of the Community to include Greece, Portugal and Spain, while fully aware of the problems which this further enlargement will pose to the Community, particularly from the economic point of view and, just as much, from the institutional point of view.

Howbeit, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, I do not think that this enlargement of the Community, which will mean closer economic and political ties between a larger number of states sharing the same ideals, will diminish the usefulness of the Council of Europe. On the contrary, it will serve or should serve – I will go even further, it should make it possible to do more – to bring closer together the twenty states which compose it. After all, the European Community and the Council of Europe share the same ideals, as we and you have so often pointed out, even if the means we use to translate these ideals into facts are different. We know the historic reasons for this. For my part, I have always considered that we should look at the relations between the Communities and the Council of Europe in terms not of competition or rivalry, but of sincere co-operation.

Of course, the enlargement of the powers of the Communities beyond what was provided for in the Paris and Rome Treaties and in areas which, up to now, have, whether rightly or wrongly I do not know, been regarded as areas reserved to the Council of Europe, may have certain repercussions on our activities, but the will to synchronise the work done in Brussels and in Strasbourg has been recently expressed on numerous occasions, and this synchronisation is effected after all in a pragmatic way. Moreover, practical means are at present being studies for bringing about a greater degree of complementary action.

Personally, I am firmly convinced that a spirit of co-operation and mutual understanding will mark the relations between our two institutions to an even greater extent in the future.

In reply to several questions which were asked during the last part of your Assembly session, I raised the question of direct elections to the European Parliament. Since then, the date of the direct elections has been fixed, but I do not think that I can add very much to what I have already said. I hope that the immediate effect of these elections will indeed be a greater awareness of European problems, not only in the member countries of the Community, but perhaps also beyond the Community’s frontiers.


Thank you. I remind members of the Assembly that question and answer sessions are not the occasion for speeches. After the Minister’s reply, members who have asked questions will be permitted to say whether or not they are satisfied with the reply and to ask one supplementary question. I propose that they do so very briefly. I call Mr Berrier.

Mr BERRIER (France) (translation)

I am very satisfied with your reply, Mr Thorn. My question, which was of very general purport, was of course only intended to get you to say what you have just said.

I listened very attentively to your statement, which contained many points which replied to the concerns I explained in my question.


I now call Mr Thorn to reply to Question No. 2 from Mr Radius, as follows:

“Mr Radius,

Recalling that the Assembly has constantly – recently once more in its Recommendation 804 (1978) – declared itself in favour of strengthening the European role of Strasbourg as one of the components of a polycentric European capital, to which end the primary condition is the improving of communications between Strasbourg and the main European towns;

Learning that for some weeks past there has been a question of abolishing the TEE Brussels-Zurich which is the fastest land link between the three towns serving as headquarters for Community institutions, this rumour being all the more disquieting as a section of this same line, linking Brussels with Amsterdam, was abolished a few years ago,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers

a. does he not consider that this would be a regrettable decision which would render more difficult the necessary communications between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg and would be detrimental to the effectiveness of the work of the Communities as well as of the Council of Europe;

b. does he propose, in his capacity as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and member of the Council of the Communities, to approach the competent authorities with a view to preventing deterioration of the communications between Strasbourg and European capitals and obtaining, on the contrary, that study be given to the possibility of providing really high-speed links through recourse to new techniques.”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

In my threefold capacity, which Mr Radius was good enough to mention, I am clearly in favour of the most rapid possible links between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. I therefore very much hope – and I shall play my part – that the competent authorities will decide either to keep the present TEE link to which Mr Radius particularly referred, or to replace it by a train at least as rapid as the TEE, for we all know how impatient we are to get to Strasbourg. (Laughter)

With regard – I quote Mr Radius – to the “really high-speed links through recourse to new techniques”, I agree that the possibilities should be examined. And since the march of progress cannot be stopped, I am sure that we shall go more and more rapidly from one European capital to the other. Some malicious people will say that there are too many European capitals, but I shall not dwell on that subject.

To my very great personal regret, it does not seem, alas, that we shall go ever faster in the direction of European unification, but that is another matter.


Minister, you may expect next time a question on the cost of flying in Europe, because it may be less costly to hold our next Assembly in New York. Flying the ocean is cheaper than flying to many of our capitals from here.

Mr Radius, are you satisfied' with Mr Thorn’s reply?

Mr RADIUS (France) (translation)

I thank the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers for his reply, which, though a little ironic, nevertheless reassures me, and I firmly count on him and on his support to achieve rapid rail links through the TEE. He takes the TEE, as I do, quite often and in fact it is not so quick as all that. New technological methods will perhaps make it possible to reduce by a third the time needed to get to the different capitals.

I count on you, Mr Minister – I did not add a fourth title, that of friend – to support the efforts which we are making in this direction. A recent study showed that on French territory a rapid Europol link was viable.

I would ask your support for having a similar study made further afield, to the North, as also to the South, so that Brussels can be linked to Geneva, even via Luxembourg and Strasbourg. I should like to thank you in advance.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, let me reply in a friendly way to Mr Radius. He knows as I do that the rapido are not always rapid, just as all the directissimo are not always direct! We must not be deceived by the names given to certain means of transport, including rail transport. However, with my limited means, I shall be very happy to do what I can. If I may count on his help and on that of his French colleagues, we shall together succeed perhaps in covering, so to say, a little ground.


I now call on Mr Thorn to reply to Question No. 3 from Mr Brugnon, concerning action taken on Recommendation 830 of 1978 on the situation of political prisoners in Chile, as follows:

“Mr Brugnon

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

a. what action has been taken on Recommendation 830 (1978) on the situation of political prisoners in Chile;

b. does the Committee of Ministers intend in particular to inquire into the fate of Chileans who have disappeared for political reasons but have not been arrested or prosecuted legally yet are imprisoned, tortured and sometimes assassinated;

c. does the Committee of Ministers propose to condemn these unlawful methods and bring pressure to bear on the Chilean political authorities with a view to securing the necessary explanations from them and urging them to extend to these ‘vanished’ persons the measures proposed recently for prisoners;

d. what action does the Committee of Ministers intend to take to facilitate the arrival and integration of political prisoners and persons having disappeared for political reasons who desire to settle in Western Europe?”

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Recommendation 830 is at present being studied by the Committee of Ministers, but I can say this now: the Committee of Ministers entirely shares the Assembly’s concern about what is happening to the opponents of the Chilean regime.

With regard to the position of political prisoners in Chile or those who have disappeared, the member countries of the European Community and the other – or, to be more cautious, other – countries which are members of the Council of Europe have been taking continuous diplomatic action to secure the restoration of human rights in Chile since the coup d’état in September 1973.

With regard to the reception of political refugees, most member countries of the Council of Europe have already issued and continue to issue visas to Chileans who are being persecuted for political reasons and who demand the right of asylum. Similarly, they have on several occasions made representations to the Chilean authorities to allow the political prisoners held in Chilean prisons to leave the country and, in effect, to commute prison sentences to exile, when the prisoners have a visa.

It is clear that during the last few weeks several new events have occurred, in particular on 5 April 1978 with the announcement by the Chilean military government of new measures to commute the sentences of all Chilean political prisoners to banishment, whether they have a visa or not.

In this respect, we must be aware of the danger of supporting a systematic policy of banishing opponents of the Chilean regime by taking in perhaps far larger numbers, because the only truly satisfactory solution in this matter appears to us to be amnesty in Chile itself.

On 24 April 1978, new measures were proclaimed by General Pinochet, decreeing a general amnesty for all persons sentenced by military courts since the coup d’état of September 1973. We cannot but welcome this measure, provided of course that it is actually implemented in practice and that all the Chilean political prisoners and those in exile benefit from it unconditionally. When I say “all prisoners and those in exile”, I also include those who are held in prisons or who have been expelled from the country without having been tried and sentenced.

Pending the practical results of these measures, the member countries of the Council of Europe will continue, within the limits of their economic and material possibilities, to take in Chilean political refugees who ask for the right of asylum.

Mr BRUGNON (France) (translation)

Mr President, I am grateful to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers for the reply he has just given, but it is only partial, since it is mainly concerned with the reception of prisoners who will come to our country. You are right, Mr Minister; measures have been taken and they have been helpful.

But I also asked about the problem of those who have disappeared, about whose fate we know absolutely nothing. We do not know whether they have been interned or whether they are dead.

Last week I received a delegation of Chilean women whose husbands disappeared several months ago. Nobody knows anything about them. This is a distressing situation. It is not known whether they are in prison or dead; it is often said that these persons have in fact been murdered. There is nothing so cruel for a woman as to be ignorant of the fate of a person dear to her.

May I thank you in advance, Mr Thorn, for all that you can do to try and obtain information on the fate of these persons.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

A mistake, I think, occurred in the first sentence, in which there is mention of the reception conditions for persons who have disappeared.

It is difficult for us to say anything about the conditions for the reception of persons whose existence is, by definition, in doubt and can no longer be proved.

I should like to say to Mr Brugnon that everyone in this Chamber shares his anxiety and his concern and understands the anxieties of a family one of whose dear ones is reported missing.

That is why I spoke just now briefly – but perhaps a little obliquely – of this category of people who have never been sentenced or even tried.

You know, as I do, that what we can do varies according to whether it is a question of the conditions in which we take in these people, in what conditions too we may negotiate with the Chilean Government to have transferred to our countries persons who are known to exist and who have perhaps been sentenced – and so identified even by the regime – and finally persons of whose existence there is the greatest doubt.

International law and relations between states being what they are, what are the means of investigation and inquiry that we can use?

You know as I do that approaches may differ even between the member states of this Council.

Perhaps we should try, within this framework, to get closer and more effective co-ordination? We shall do all we can, as in the past. But to give you legal assurances in this matter would be to exceed both our rights and our hopes.

Mr BRUGNON (translation)

I shall send you a list of the missing persons in accordance with the statements made by their wives...

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

You can still ask a supplementary question, Mr Brugnon. Perhaps at the end of the debate we can give you the floor again. But in deference to your colleagues who have not yet spoken in the debate, I cannot now give you the floor in order to put a second question.

There is one more question. I call Mr Büchner and I insist that it should be a question, because he is not inscribed for the debate.

Mr BUCHNER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr Minister, I should like to ask you two short questions relating to two different areas of concern. The first of them concerns a remark of yours which strikes me as extremely important. You said that tomorrow you are to present to the Committee of Ministers a proposal from the acting President of the European Trade Union Federation, to the effect that governments should discuss proposed solutions to the problem of unemployment with both sides of industry, in other words with the trade unions and with employers. I can only hope that your colleagues on the Committee of Ministers will take up your proposal and that a joint conference comes about. But I have a short question: what will you suggest, what role will parliaments have to play, and particularly this Parliamentary Assembly, against the background of the fact that the Committee on Social and Health Questions has recently been very intensively concerned with these matters?

My second question concerns a quite different field. At the Copenhagen Conference the Council of the European Communities decided to establish a European Foundation. What functions and what financial arrangements are envisaged for this foundation? If it is true that youth work in Europe is to be one of the focal areas of the foundation’s concern, is the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe thinking in terms of co-ordination with the European Youth Foundation and the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg, which have done successful work? Could the Council of Europe approach the people in the European Communities responsible for the European Foundation in order to ensure that youth work in Europe is organised in a complementary way?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

May I say to Mr Büchner that a “tripartite” arrangement at Council of Europe level, which Mr Bergeron wants in the name of the trade unions, is asking a great deal. I shall endeavour, Mr Büchner, to ask for it tomorrow and defend it in the Committee of Ministers. I do not know if the Committee will accept it. I do not know what opinion you have of the speed at which the Committee of Ministers operates. Clearly you have a very good opinion of this, for you assume that it suffices to submit a request to this Committee for it to reply “Yes” immediately and to go on to the next stage. You say to me: “And then, Mr Thorn, what action will be taken?” Well, I, who am considered to be an inveterate optimist, have not yet reached the point at which I consider even the idea as accepted. My first ambition, as a man of limited means, is to get my colleagues to accept the idea and to envisage its realisation and then, Mr Büchner, it will be for us all to see how the Council of Europe will act, since there will be three parties: the two social partners, employers and employees, and then the public authorities.

You know how the problem was solved in the European Community. It will then be for the Council of Europe to see what kind of scheme it wants. Do not make me say any more, since I think that for you and me, who both hope that this will come about, it would be bad tactics to try to couple to this train, which is already heavy enough, and to this locomotive, which is in any case rather frail, wagons which carry too much cargo.

Tomorrow I will say: let us first look into the general idea of a “tripartite” scheme.

The two other parts of Mr Büchner’s question concern what to do about the idea of a European Foundation which we discussed at Copenhagen. It will not have escaped the perspicacity of any of the parliamentarians present in this Chamber that this is not a problem which arises from spontaneous generation, since it is the third time, if I am not mistaken, that it has been decided to set up this foundation. This does not mean that it will come about rapidly, but finally the decision has been taken. In this matter there is a danger of some interference with other institutions.

To be quite honest, and I do not think that this is betraying a secret of this summit meeting, the discussions on the subject were limited to saying that we agreed with the Nine, and it would have been considered a nuisance to ask questions of detail at this stage. All this will be referred to the Council of Ministers of the Community. Then, Mr President, with all the respect that I have for the Council of Europe, it is asking too much of me to say to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe what the Council of the Community may do. Since I do not have my “crystal bowl” with me I cannot predict the future.

Mr BUCHNER (translation)

I shall be very brief. I should like simply to express my gratitude for the answer and beg understanding for my expectations in respect of the first point, that of the talks about unemployment in Europe. Especially because this problem is not a new one in Europe and very many people are affected by it, we should be collectively concerned to ensure that the solution to the problem is not impeded by any procedural obstacles or other difficulties. Joint discussions should be held at the earliest opportunity. I am very grateful to you, Prime Minister, for using your influence in this direction.


We come now to the debate on the Communication from the Committee of Ministers. We can finish it with the three speakers if they all limit themselves to approximately two minutes as they have announced. I call Mr Coutsocheras, the first speaker on the list.

Mr COUTSOCHERAS (Greece) (translation)

Mr Minister, at our last session, the Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, and I myself, asked why the Committee of Ministers had adopted delaying tactics in the procedure under Article 32 of the European Convention for the publication of the report of the Human Rights Commission concerning violations committed by the Turkish authorities in Cyprus. You replied that this affair could not be dealt with without reference to political considerations. You said that the publication of the report or any other measure for redress taken at this stage would be untimely and might have regrettable consequences for the negotiations being envisaged for a settlement of the political question of Cyprus. However, the negative attitude adopted by the Turkish authorities in presenting recently proposals which have lead to a dead end in the Cyprus problem has shown that the arguments invoked by them were just protests and that the delay allowed to Turkey in violation of Article 32 of the European Convention only served to make her more intransigent and take a tougher line.

Do you not think, Mr Minister, that after this unfortunate experience, which has been to the detriment of our system for the safeguard and protection of human rights, the Committee of Ministers should face up to its responsibilities and expedite the procedure under Article 34 of the European Convention?

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

This is certainly a very important problem, but, as Mr Coutsocheras has reminded us, I replied on this subject at the last meeting. If I were to answer in the British way, I would say “I have nothing more to add to what I said last time”, for the simple reason, which you all know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the Committee of Ministers at our level has not held another meeting since then. To add anything more would be tantamount to soliciting the thoughts and not just the words of a colleague, since I gave you an account of the position after a ministerial meeting and since then there has been no change.

May I be allowed, however, to state that the Committee of Ministers decided, for reasons which were of course political, not to publish the report. If I am well informed – but is one ever? – your honourable Assembly – though I have no intention of taking refuge behind its vote – decided by a majority not to ratify but to approve this attitude of non-publication. This makes it all the more difficult to ask the person who, in alphabetical order, is at this moment Chairman of the Committee, to add anything, when you know the political decision of that Committee and you know, Ladies and Gentlemen, your own decision.

But, personally, I would say this to the honourable parliamentarian whom I know to be very concerned about this problem which is on all our minds. We know that too little is being done in the matter, but something is nevertheless being done; that there was a meeting at Montreux, that there were others elsewhere, that there will be a meeting in Washington in the context of or on the occasion of the meeting of NATO at the end of next month.

Do you not therefore think that this is the time to push for and encourage a rapprochement, to find solutions – which no doubt, to your taste as to mine, will certainly be too slow – or do you think that we should instigate debates, that we should reopen wounds, cruel wounds I am sure, but which, in the name of the Council, I feel I have no authority to try to heal?

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

We have all, I think, enormously appreciated, as usual, the Communication of the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, particularly when he spoke of the duties which the industrialised countries have towards the developing countries in any circumstances, whether there is expansion or not.

We share this view which is, it is true, a moral one, but which is also in the interests, properly understood, of our countries.

Mr Chairman, you have not spoken of the financial problems, in particular monetary problems, which govern the economic relations between our states. In this respect, Copenhagen, as you know, took decisions to reactivate the European Monetary Fund. You also know that we will be dealing with this subject in connection with the reports on the new economic order during the present session.

I should like, in this matter, to emphasise the importance, in my opinion, of monetary problems and to be assured that you share this view.

It is a happy move by the Europe of the Nine, with a view to the meetings in July. But I should like to be sure that this move will meet with a response from the American side, since, all said and done, the dollar is a big factor in our trade and even a priority one. I think that our sincerity towards the developing countries rests on the solidity of the currency concerned.


I shall not hit the same balls as my colleague Mr Coutsocheras. In this debate we are supposed to stay within the limits of the report and the rules of order concerning our speeches. That is why this debate is not the occasion on which to answer Mr Coutsocheras. I shall therefore say no more about his contribution and will proceed to my question to Mr Thorn. It might not be connected directly with Mr Thom’s speech, but in view of its importance I must ask it.

With regard to the serious nature of the development of political terrorism, which has been borne out by the tragic events that have affected some of our member countries – for example, Turkey, whose ambassadors in Paris, Vienna and Rome were murdered, the Federal Republic of Germany, where Mr Schleyer was murdered, and more recently Italy, where Mr Aldo Moro and others have been kidnapped – and as such events will probably occur again, does Mr Thorn, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, think that these activities are generally directed against democratic parliamentary regimes? If so, does he consider it necessary that a convention to combat international terrorism should be put into operation within the framework of the Council of Europe as promptly as possible?


Now I shall ask Mr Thorn to give a rather short reply because we have only two minutes left. I hope that that will be sufficient for him.

Mr Thorn, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

In reply to Mr Valleix, I agree with his reasoning. He will certainly have read with the care that all French parliamentarians give to the communiqués of the European councils, that the Nine agree on the importance of monetary problems. It was not therefore his intention to attack me when he asked if I shared their opinion. Since I was present at Copenhagen, I do share that opinion, Mr Valleix. I have nothing to add in this respect.

The matter becomes more delicate when you look for an assurance that there will also be a favourable response from the United States. We are here in the Council of Europe and I have no particular authority to speak in the name of that great country, our friend and ally, the United States. Like you, Mr Valleix, I hope that they will respond. There have been a few promising signs in recent times. As the popular philosopher would say, provided it lasts and goes ahead!

I share the opinion expressed by the honourable Turkish parliamentarian. Terrorism, particularly political terrorism, on the scale it is now reaching in this part of the world, is a serious attack against the democratic parliamentary systems. We cannot reply to it in isolation. We should face up to it together. For that, Mr Karaosmanoglu, our parliaments and our governments, within their respective competences, should ratify this convention and all do their bit.


I thank again the Prime Minister of Luxembourg for the very thorough way in which he has answered the various questions from the Assembly.