Greece takes over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers
Strasbourg, 15.05.2020 – Greece today took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from Georgia during a video-conference meeting with representatives of the 47 member states of the Organisation.
The Georgian Foreign Minister, David Zalkaliani, presented the stocktaking of his country's presidency. The Greek Minister with responsibility for Foreign/European Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, outlined the priorities of the Greek Chairmanship for the next six months.
Given the current context, Greece has chosen to focus its chairmanship on the protection of public health and responses to the health crisis, while at the same time ensuring respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Other priorities include the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, along with the protection of vulnerable children and the rights of the younger generations in the fields of digital education, the environment and social issues.
On 4 November, Athens will host the session of the Committee of Ministers bringing together the 47 Foreign Ministers, and the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Germany will then succeed Greece as Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Organisation.
Greece to take over from Georgia Chairmanship of CoE Committee of Ministers
The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will officially be transferred from Georgia to Greece today. The chairmanship will be passed at the meeting of the CoE committee of ministers in Strasbourg.
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting will be opened by Irakli Giviashvili, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the Council of Europe.
Georgia’s Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani will deliver a speech and sum up the achievements and results of Georgia’s Presidency, will review the measures taken in terms of the implementation of the priorities of Georgia’s chairmanship and the cultural program.
The meeting will also be addressed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
After Davit Zalkaliani’s speech, the Ambassador of Georgia will hand over the symbolic key of the chairmanship to the Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe.
The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was transferred from France to Georgia during a meeting held in Strasbourg, the Organisation’s headquarters, on November 27 of 2019. The priorities of the Georgian Chairmanship included human rights and environmental protection, the participation of civil society in decision-making, child-friendly justice, and education, culture and youth engagement in strengthening democracy.
Justice systems must help children overcome fear and trauma, not make them worse
Every year, thousands of children across Council of Europe member states are involved in judicial proceedings. Whether a victim of crime or in conflict with the law, they are often vulnerable and in need of protection: in other words, they need justice systems to be “child-friendly”.
Promoting child-friendly restorative justice and exchanging best practices in this area has been one of the priorities of the Georgian Presidency of the Council of Europe.
Today, the Council of Europe has published a set of statements and resources on restorative justice and participation of children in judicial proceedings that were meant to be presented at a high-level conference in Strasbourg cancelled due to the COVID 19 health crisis in Europe.
The crisis and particularly the introduction of broad confinement measures in an effort to save lives were mentioned by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić in her welcome message. “However, confinement can leave children locked in with their abusers, with little opportunity to raise the alarm”, she warned. “These children must have a place to go with access to professionals who can help them to piece their lives back together”.
The difficulties in accessing justice is not something new, Secretary General Burić underlined. “Victims may experience fear, shame and feel that they are among the least likely groups to be heard or have their views taken into account during judicial processes,” she stated. “Our justice systems must help them to overcome the trauma, not compound it.”
In her statement Thea Tsulukiani, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Georgia presented the Georgian national experience with restorative justice for children in conflict with law since the launch of reforms several years ago. “Breaking away with the zero-tolerance in the juvenile justice system highlighting criminal sanctions and massive use of detention rather than non-custodial alternatives, prevalent in Georgia before 2012, was the single biggest challenge that we encountered.”
The Juvenile Justice Code adopted in 2015 introduced an entirely new philosophy for children in conflict with the law, where non-custodial measures were made a default and criminal sanction the exception, the Minister said.
“We are making maximum use of diversion and mediation for children and young people under the Code whereby juveniles are dealt with without resorting to judicial proceedings or trial with human rights and legal safeguards respected”, she stated. “It is an encouragement offered to young people in conflict with the law to return to law-abiding life without punishment nor conviction, in exchange for voluntary participation in the programmes tailored to their needs, with the involvement of an independent and neutral person – a mediator,” the Minister explained, stressing that as of 2019, only 9% of juveniles previously involved in diversion/mediation programs committed crime again.
The creation of a Child Referral Mechanism and Referral Centre for juveniles in January 2020, and the introduction of “micro prisons” (family-type establishments), with the first two to be operational by the end of 2021, are examples of the holistic approach to child-friendly justice, Minister Tsulukiani said.
All the documents and statements, including those by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the European Court of Human Rights, by Irakli SHOTADZE, General Prosecutor of Georgia, Stefan SCHENNACH, member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Maria-Andriani KOSTOPOULOU, Chair of the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child of the Council of Europe and Drahoslav ŠTEFÁNEK, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on Migration and Refugees, can be found on the dedicated page.
Statement of the President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, regarding the 71st anniversary of the Council of Europe
Today, the 5th of May, marks the anniversary of the signing of the Statute of the Council of Europe in London by ten countries.
This historic development represents the first attempt towards a united European action to promote peaceful coexistence, prevent conflicts and promote and protect the fundamental rights of all individuals in Europe, without exception.
The Council of Europe, with its 47 member States, has been instrumental in agreeing common standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law for over 7 decades. Let me underline the fundamental role of the European Convention on Human Rights, drafted seventy years ago in 1950, by the then newly founded Council of Europe, that enabled the setting-up of a unique human rights protection system, constituting the anchor of European co-operation. I hope that this new decade will bring us the same determination to defend human rights as that of the authors of the Convention 70 years ago. It should be recalled that more than 830 million people living in our common European space have an ultimate right of appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
This important anniversary coincides with an unprecedented global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our heartfelt sympathies go to those who have lost their loved ones, family members and friends. At this critical crossroads, we all have to be united and determined to do our utmost to overcome the current crisis.
After more than 7 decades of service to peace, democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, the Council of Europe has contributed to number of significant achievements but there is still much more to accomplish. It is more urgent than ever to intensify our efforts to solidify respect for human rights in the years to come.”
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Information Document was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.
The toolkit is designed to help ensure that measures taken by member states during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time.
The document covers four key areas:
• Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency
• Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures
• Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education
• Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.
The Information Document also refers to new advice from the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes.
Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the COVID-19 pandemic
David Zalkaliani, President of the Committee of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, has expressed his satisfaction following the Committee of Ministers’ adoption of a Declaration on the COVID-19 pandemic.
"During this very difficult time we are living through, I am pleased that the 47 member States of the Council of Europe have agreed on the need to continue to co-operate to fight the pandemic together, without ever losing sight of the Organisation's values and standards," he said.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in which all of its 47 member States are represented, expresses its deep sadness at the suffering and bereavement caused in Europe and elsewhere in the world by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It expresses its profound gratitude to all those who, at the risk of their own health, are fighting to overcome this terrible disease and bring relief and care for those who are seriously ill. It also expresses its deep gratitude to all those who continue to work in order to ensure that people’s basic material needs can be met.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst health crisis since the Organisation was founded in 1949, and authorities at all levels must do their utmost to protect people's health in all circumstances, including the most vulnerable members of our societies.
The challenge we face today is unprecedented. The Committee of Ministers recalls its deep and constant attachment to its core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as expressed in the Statute of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights. It also recalls that measures to combat the disease and its wider consequences must be taken in accordance with the Organisation's principles and the commitments entered into by member States. The Secretary General’s information document on “Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis: a toolkit for member States” provides useful guidance in this respect.
The Committee of Ministers considers that solidarity and co-operation between States is essential to deal effectively with the pandemic, and underlines that the Council of Europe, including its Development Bank, will continue to make every effort to assist its member States during this crisis and its aftermath.