Straßburg, 26. Februar 2014 Rede/Interview

Message of Mr. Sebastian Kurz, Foreign Minister of Austria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

on the occasion of the Extraordinary Meeting of Ministers‘ Deputies on the situation in Ukraine on 26 February 2014

Ambassadors,
Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me state at the beginning – and I know that I am speaking for all of us – how relieved we are that the violent events in Ukraine have come to an end. There is nothing as precious as human life and it is the biggest achievement of the last days that the bloodshed has stopped. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who lost beloved ones.

We convened the Committee in Strasbourg today to discuss the situation in Ukraine and to formulate an adequate response by the Council of Europe. I am aware that in the past weeks this Committee has already discussed the events in this Member State on several occasions and has adopted important decisions and messages of support for Ukraine. The events, however, developed in an incredible pace, which nobody had foreseen. This new situation in my view justifies that we convene this meeting, in order to pass on another clear message of support to Ukraine. So thank you for coming to this meeting, and special thanks to the Secretary General and his team.

Our message must be twofold:

First, the Council of Europe continues to stand ready to assist its Member State Ukraine with its expertise. As has already been signalled by this Committee and the Secretary General in the past, the institutions and bodies of this organisation offer their independent knowledge and advice, in particular in the legal field. The Venice Commission already during the last weeks was prepared to contribute to a solution of the situation with an analysis of the legislation adopted on 16 January. We want to encourage our friends in Ukraine to use the wealth of experience of this organisation in its key areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in order to sustainably continue its development in line with the obligations and values of the Council of Europe.

Let us therefore start discussing with Ukraine a revision of the Action Plan for Ukraine, as referred to by the Secretary General in his intervention to this Committee on 5 February. This would allow to rapidly adapt the Action Plan to possible new needs identified by our Ukrainian partners.

Since the Council of Europe is not the only organisation in which Ukraine is a member or participating, it appears wise to coordinate closely with other organisations our efforts to assist Ukraine. An international platform could be created for co-ordination of international activities and information sharing, based on the principles of impartiality and inclusivity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second part of our message is also linked with Ukraine’s membership in this organisation. Being a member of the Council of Europe does not only bring about rights, it is also linked to obligations. One of these obligations is to respect the rights enshrined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This convention obliges its signatories to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in it. I strongly encourage our Ukrainian partners to keep this obligation in mind when new laws are being prepared and adopted, including on the constitutional level.

We all have to pool our efforts in order to support Ukraine in its endeavours to further consolidate a democratic state, which fully respects human rights and provides for institutions which are acting in accordance with the rule of law.

I trust that today’s meeting here in Strasbourg will be a further step forward in assisting Ukraine to face the challenges ahead.