Speech by Minister Soini at the Council of Europe 70th Anniversary Ceremony

Address by Mr Timo Soini, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers The Council of Europe 70th Anniversary Ceremony, 16 May 2019, Finlandia-hall, Helsinki

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Let me begin by congratulating the Council of Europe on its 70th anniversary! It is a great pleasure to host this special occasion during the last days of our Presidency. I am thankful that, for the last six months, chairing the Committee of Ministers has been an important part of my work. I would also like to congratulate you, Secretary General Jagland, for your tireless work for the organization during the past years. Warm thank you for your work!

Tonight is all about celebrating and cherishing the Council of Europe. Over the past 70 years, Europe has seen great advancements in the field of international law as well as stability, economic prosperity and well-being of people. This is not least due to the Council of Europe and its wide-ranging convention system. 

When we talk about human rights, the Rule of Law and democracy, we talk about the foundations of our societies. They make our countries stable and prosperous. No other international organization in the world has such comprehensive mechanisms and forms of co-operation to protect these foundations. It is essential that the Council of Europe can continue its work also in the future. This will not happen by itself, without our efforts to protect and maintain the organization. 

The Council of Europe is facing challenging times. The winds have changed. The core values of the Council of Europe are not enjoying the same appreciation as they have before. Acts against independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member State must be fully condemned. The basic principles of the European security, international law and respect for territorial integrity of all countries must be defended.

I believe that – with hard work and the desire to cooperate - the organization will overcome its challenges and continue its work united and strong. It requires appreciation of the rules-based multilateral system. We must not let our guard down. The Council of Europe is needed more than ever.

It is useful to reflect on the concrete and positive effects of the Council of Europe throughout the societies of its member States.  

The European Convention on Human Rights and the Court protect the rights of more than 830 million people. Also, numerous treaty monitoring mechanisms and instruments are for the benefit of all individuals. For example, the Council of Europe is actually the only international organization that has a convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence - the Istanbul Convention. I hope all member States will join it. In the field of Rule of Law, I would like to mention the important work of the Venice Commission in helping states to develop their legal systems. 

The Council of Europe has greatly improved our lives in the past 70 years. When building the foundations for the future, listening to young people is particularly important. During past years, I have visited schools and discussed with students on the topic of the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation. These encounters have been truly inspiring.  

I am pleased that there are a plenty of young people among the audience tonight and that we have a possibility to hear the views of young experts during a panel discussion. 

The Council of Europe is not alone with its agenda to promote and protect human rights, the Rule of Law and democracy – as well as peace and stability in Europe. Cooperation between international organisations such as the UN, the OSCE and the EU, including its Fundamental Rights Agency, is crucial. I am happy that tonight we have our dear friends, OSCE Secretary General Mr. Greminger and EU Special Representative Mr. Gilmore here to celebrate with us. Both organizations are very important partners to the Council of Europe and the organizations complement each other’s work for the common good.  Welcome and thank you both for joining us! 

Tonight, let us cherish all the great things that the Council of Europe has brought to Europe. Let us keep in mind the importance of multilateral co-operation. And finally, let us celebrate! Happy 70th Anniversary, Council of Europe! Thank you! Merci! Kiitos!

Speeches held by Ministers and the top leadership of the Ministry.