Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney visited Strasbourg today for a series of events marking the end of Ireland’s six-month Presidency of the Council of Europe.
In his final meeting as Chair of the Committee of Ministers, joined by the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister Coveney secured agreement of the Council of Europe’s 46 member states to hold a historic Summit in Reykjavik next May.
Speaking of the summit, Minister Coveney said:
“Six months ago, in Turin, I called for the Heads of Government of the Council’s 46 states to convene for just the fourth time in the organisation’s 73 year history. Today, I am grateful we have reached agreement to do so. And grateful that, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir, our leaders will gather next May in Reykjavik to reaffirm Europeans’ rights and renew Europe’s democracies.
“The recent report of the High Level Reflection Group, chaired by our former President, Mary Robinson, provides a blueprint for renewing what we consider ‘the conscience of Europe’. Amidst war on our continent, and with democracy under threat, never has Europe needed its conscience more.’’
Reflecting on Ireland’s six-month Presidency term, Minister Coveney added:
‘‘Ireland assumed the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers six months ago, at a point of profound crisis for our continent and challenge for the Council of Europe. Alongside strengthening support for Ukraine, our Presidency’s primary goal was to reinforce the Council of Europe’s founding freedoms. Across our six-month term, alongside weekly meetings of the Committee of Ministers, our Presidency held over forty conferences, seminars, and roundtables devoted to advancing democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As at the UN Security Council, we prioritised engaging civil society, hosting the Committee of Ministers’ first formal meeting with LGBTI+ rights activists in June, as well as exchanges on such key issues as press safety, anti-Semitism, and environmental rights.
“We are proud to have presided over some historic agreements in that time, including: a new Dublin Declaration on tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; the establishment of a new Contact Group to strengthen relations with democratic forces in Belarus; and Ukraine’s fast-tracked accession to the Council of Europe’s Development Bank. And proud that our term as chair saw a number of outstanding Irish women elected to key positions across the Council of Europe, most notably Judge Síofra O’Leary’s election as President of the European Court of Human Rights.’’
While in Strasbourg, Minister Coveney also addressed the World Forum for Democracy, reflecting on the role the Council of Europe can play in countering democratic decline. The Minister joined Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Buric in announcing additional funding to support the European Court of Human Rights, bringing Ireland’s voluntary contributions to the Council of Europe this year to over €2 million. Finally, he addressed a ceremony honouring the former, Icelandic, President of the European Court of Human Rights, Robert Spano, whom Judge O’Leary succeeded on 1 November.