Minister Byrne to address Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne T.D., will address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Wednesday, 12 October, during the PACE’s final plenary session of the Irish Presidency of the Council of Europe.
In his address, the Minister will welcome the recently published report of the High Level Reflection Group on the future of the Council of Europe, and call for a summit of heads of state of the Council of Europe to be convened in early 2023, to reaffirm the Council’s important role in promoting democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Speaking ahead of his address, Minister Byrne said:
‘At the heart of the High Level Reflection Group’s report, and at the core of Ireland’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, is a recommitment to this institution’s ‘Founding Freedoms’. Above all else, this means refocussing on human rights protection for civilians across Europe, not least through the work of the European Court of Human Rights.’
During the four-day plenary session, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, will also address the PACE, as will President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, and President of Switzerland Ignazio Cassis. Debates will be held throughout the week by the PACE’s 324 members on topics such as the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine and the impact of Brexit on human rights on the island of Ireland. Other issues under debate include the hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, countering Islamophobia in Europe and discrimination against women in sport.
While in Strasbourg, Minister Byrne will meet senior leaders across the Council, including the President of PACE Tiny Kox, the Council’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić and President of the Council’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Mr Leendert Verbeek. The Minister will also visit the European Court of Human Rights, meeting President of the Court Robert Spano and President-Elect Síofra O’Leary.
12 October 2022
Notes for editors
- Established in 1949, and headquartered in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe is the continent’s largest and oldest intergovernmental organisation.
- Ireland was amongst the organisation’s ten founding members. Today, following the expulsion of the Russian Federation on 16 March, it comprises 46 member states, including the 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Ukraine.
- The organisation plays a leading role in the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across Europe and beyond – notably through the European Court of Human Rights, which ensures the observance by member states of their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The European Convention on Human Rights is also a key element of the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement saw the Convention’s incorporation into Northern Ireland law, ensuring citizens have direct access to the European Court of Human Rights.
- The Committee of Ministers is the principal intergovernmental decision-making body of the Council of Europe. Chaired on a rotating basis by member states over six month terms, Ireland has held the Presidency of the Committee on six previous occasions, most recently in 2000.
- The Parliamentary Assembly is the second of the Council’s key statutory organs. It comprises 324 parliamentarians from the national parliaments of the 46 member states.
- Having assumed the Presidency in Turin on 20 May, Minister Coveney will represent Ireland as Chair of the Committee of Ministers until November.
- Over the course of the six months, Ireland will be chairing more than a dozen meetings of the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg, strengthening standards across a range of key areas, from media freedoms to the protection of human rights in conflict zones. Ireland will also host more than thirty Council of Europe conferences and seminars across Strasbourg, Dublin, Galway, Kerry and Cork.
- Notable events in Ireland include: a meeting of the Council’s 46 Justice Ministers in Dublin on 29-30 September, at which Minister for Justice Helen McEntee T.D. chaired discussions on how to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence in all its forms, culminating in the Dublin Declaration on the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence; the annual meeting of the Board of the Council of Europe’s Development Bank in Dublin on 8-9 July, at which it was agreed to accept Ukraine as a member of the Bank; and European Conference on Global Education, at which Member States will adopt a Dublin Declaration on how we can build societal commitment to greater justice, sustainability, equity and human rights through education.
- At the request of the Committee of Ministers under the previous Presidency of Italy, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General set up a High-level Reflection Group in June to consider the institution’s responses to the new realities and challenges it faces.
- The Group comprises seven eminent individuals, all former heads of State or Government, Foreign Ministers or Parliamentary Speakers, selected by the Secretary General with consideration to balanced geographical distribution, gender and age, as well as diversity of competences. Alongside former President Robinson, its members are: Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, former Prime Minister of France; Ms Iveta Radičová, former Prime Minister of Slovakia; Mr Evangelos Venizelos, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece; Ms Federica Mogherini, former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Foreign Minister of Italy; Ms Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, former Foreign Minister of Norway; and Mr Josep Dallerès Codin, former General Syndic of Andorra.
- The High Level Group published their report on the future of the Council of Europe on 5 October, which recommended a variety of possible reforms and areas of focus for the Council, including the hosting of a summit of heads of state. The PACE has also convened an ad-hoc committee to similarly reflect on the future of the Council of Europe. The head of Ireland’s PACE delegation, Fiona O’Loughlin, is serving as rapporteur for this committee. A working group has also been set up by the Committee of Ministers, chaired by Icelandic Ambassador Ragnhildur Arnljótsdóttir, to consider the possibility of holding a summit of heads of state.