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Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe: Strengthening the Impact of the Council of Europe’s Activities

Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eid: Strengthening the impact of the council of Europe's activities

Mr Chairman,

We meet at a very important moment. As we hear from the Secretary General the founding principles of this organisation, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are again under pressure in Europa. We have to take that very seriously. Because this continent has a shared memory  - a shared history - that contains in my view both the very best and the worst examples of what human kind is able to do.

What we are seeing again is a crisis of the economy, of institutions, of trust and of balance. We have to wake up and remember why this organisation was created in the first place. Again we are seeing countries which are talking about “us versus them”. Dehumanizing minorities. The minority of choice can be Jews, Muslims, Roma or Homosexuals. The point is that they are different from the majority. This has been seen before. It is dangerous. We have to speak up about it. I am concerned.

This does not only happen in places far away. In my own country we have a debate today about the Roma population, which is actually very small. But big enough to trigger a debate along these lines, which I do not like and that we have to deal with.

We need to work together with the Council of Europe and actually look to the Council of Europe for leadership on these issues. The Council of Europe has unique instruments. It has the European Court of Human Rights and has existing monitoring mechanisms that do work. But what we need to do is just what the Secretary General is proposing: We need to make better use of them. We need to make them more visible. And we need to enhance the impact of the institutions that we have developed. Hence, I fully share the proposals discussed by the Secretary General in his analysis provided today.

I also want to say that this is not only words. Norway is through its EEA and Norway Grants and a Framework Agreement working in several countries and members of the EU and the Council of Europe (and actually partnering the Council of Europe) is promoting these very values, and the institutions that are trying to uphold the standards that we all share in principles and signed up to when we joined this organisation.

There are standards and values to be upheld. When they are challenged we need to redouble our efforts to actually uphold them.

To conclude, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the excellent chairmanship of Andorra and warmly welcome Armenia, which has presented a set of priorities for its chairmanship, that we fully endorse.

Good luck to you and thank you for the attention.

 

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