Member States of the Council of Europe issued a unanimous Declaration and made significant decisions in Helsinki
The Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe ended successfully. The member States unanimously adopted a Declaration, which emphasises the far-reaching significance of the Council of Europe for human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
The Declaration also highlights the importance of the unity of Europe and the important role of the agreements and mechanisms that have been prepared in the framework of the Council.
“Finland had a successful term as Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We promoted our selected priorities and organised a fruitful Ministerial Session, which adopted decisions that strengthen the Council of Europe. The meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers from over 30 countries,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini says.
The meeting adopted not only a Declaration but also several decisions. On the initiative of Finland, holding the current Presidency of Council of Ministers, member States adopted a decision that strengthens the protection and promotion of civil society space. The decision was an expression of the general concern about the shrinking civic space in Europe. It includes very concrete elements pertaining to the matter. Openness and inclusion are examples of the priorities of Finland’s Presidency Programme.
Political challenges and future of the organisation
The Session of the Committee of Ministers adopted a decision on the member States’ rights and obligations, which was influenced by the widely discussed question relating to Russia’s participation and non-payment of its budget contributions. The decision will not resolve the question, of course, but it will promote the process that aims to improve the organisation’s capacity to react in situations in which a member State violates the organisation’s rules or values.
The complex nature of the Russia question, which originates from the illegal annexation of Crimea, is partly based on ambiguities in the organisation’s internal competences, which this decision will clarify. It is clearly stated in the decision that one of the obligations of member States is to pay their obligatory contributions. Finland has tried to keep Russia as a member State partly because of the protection that membership of the Council of Europe gives to the citizens.
The decision concerning the future of the Council of Europe mentions, among other things, potential new challenges for human rights that may arise from AI, as well as the freedom of the media and safety of journalists.
Finland has held the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe since November 2018 and will transfer it at the end of this Session to France.
Riikka Taivassalo, Special Adviser to the Foreign Minister, tel. +358 46923 4581, Nina Nordström, Director of Unit, tel. +358 295 350 104. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ email addresses are in the format firstname.lastname@example.org.