Address by Mr Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, on the Occasion of the Standing Committee of the PACE
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me a great honour and pleasure to open this meeting of the Standing Committee which is being held in Edinburgh, within the framework of the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. On behalf of the Assembly and myself, I should like to thank the British Parliament for its warm welcome and hospitality, as well as for the excellent organisation of our meetings. I am extremely glad that Mr. David Lidington, Minister for Europe, has found time for this exchange of views with us today.
The priorities that the UK Chairmanship brings to the table are of vital substance to our organisation and their significance should not be underestimated. I am confident that under the UK leadership, the promotion and protection of human rights, which are a fundamental principle of our institution, will be given great importance.
The first priority is indeed of the outmost importance – reform of the European Court of Human Rights and strengthening of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been at the centre of our concerns for years. The Court is an essential element to the protection of human rights across Europe. But it faces different challenges, the main one probably being the large number of outdated and backlogged requests, over 155.000 of them. This gives a negative picture of our organisation as this issue undermines the effectiveness and credibility of the European Court of Human Rights.
We clearly need new ideas to deal with this situation. Just recently the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Head of the judiciary and President of the Courts of England and Wales, suggested to a parliamentary committee what he sees as a possible solution. He stated that the number of cases clogging up the system could be cut by "hundreds of thousands" if applicants were required to obtain permission to go to Strasbourg. Obviously such proposals would change the nature of the Court, whose principle is based on the right of appeal by each individual to Strasbourg. Therefore, all such proposals should be considered with extreme caution. However, the situation of the Court is such that in my opinion, we should be open to considering even different solutions.
In our Resolution 1726 the Assembly clearly indicated how it sees the essential elements of the reform: the need to strengthen the implementation of Convention rights at the national level; the improvement of the effectiveness of domestic remedies, and the need to rapidly and fully execute the judgments of the Court. The Assembly has also repeatedly stated that the authority of the Strasbourg Court depends on the stature of its judges and on the quality and coherence of the Court's case law.
In this connection, we also count on the British Authorities to make progress as regards EU accession to the European Court of Human Rights. As you know, the Assembly has made its contribution to this accession: we reached an agreement on the participation modalities of the European Parliament representatives in the sittings of the Parliamentary Assembly and its relevant bodies when the Assembly elects judges to the European Court of Human Rights.
We obviously welcome the second priority – support the reform agenda of the Council of Europe carried out by the Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. We strongly support this reform which will focus on carrying out more efficient and focused use of resources. As you know we already approved a reform on the functioning of the Assembly which will enter in force on 23 January 2012, at the beginning of our next session.
The third priority is also of great importance - Internet Governance, including the freedom of expression on the Internet. We can see the significance and power of Internet in the political sphere in recent events such as the Arab Spring. National uprisings and protests were organised by the means of Internet, particularly through social networks, and it is in the interest of the Council of Europe to protect freedom of expression through all means of public communication.
The fourth priority is strengthening the rule of law. It is in our best interests to continue promoting the rule of law in our member states but also in neighbouring regions, and the United Kingdom has our full support in this task.
In this connection we look forward to close cooperation with the United Kingdom authorities on further development of the Council of Europe's Neighbourhood Policy, both in Northern Africa and Central Asia. We have two new Partners for Democracy – parliaments of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Palestinian National Council; we are developing relations with Tunisia, Algeria, as well as with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I am sure we will intensify our cooperation with the Committee of Ministers in this field even further.
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your attention and let me now give the floor to the Rt. Honourable David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe.