Strassburg, 17. November 2005 Press release

Winkler: “Strengthening social cohesion is a pan-European matter”

17.11.2005

State Secretary at meeting of Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe at Strasbourg

Strasbourg, 17 November 2005 - "The long-term nature of the European social model will be a major priority of Austria’s Presidency. Strengthening social cohesion is a pan-European matter to which the Council of Europe will have to devote itself more intensively in the future," emphasised State Secretary Hans Winkler in his speech at the 115th Meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg. As representative of the forthcoming EU Presidency, Winkler gave a keynote address on the improvement and intensification of the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. He also reaffirmed Austria’s interest in a continued close cooperation with the Council of Europe.

The meeting focused on the follow-up to the third summit of the Council of Europe which took place in Warsaw in May. Referring to the efforts regarding the institutionalisation of the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the EU, Winkler said that "respect for human rights, the rule of law and social cohesion" were "important pillars of any democracy." "Our priority is the fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia. At the same time, it is imperative that the promotion of a pluralistic democracy built on the rule of law, political cooperation, social cohesion and intercultural dialogue is in the foreground," continued Winkler.

Winkler also pointed out that the future European Human Rights Agency "would constitute an important step towards increased cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe," emphasising that "the issue was not to create an institution competing with the Council of Europe". The aim was that the Council of Europe would continue to carry major responsibility for monitoring human rights in the Member States. The Human Rights Agency was mainly intended as a body providing expertise and information for the EU institutions’ decisions, thus "making a decisive contribution to improving the coherence of the EU human rights policy," continued Winkler.

Referring to the current situation in the Caucasian region, Winkler stressed the important role of the Council of Europe and the OSCE in maintaining stability and building democratic structures.

Romania took over the chair in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in mid-November. Talking to the Romanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, Winkler emphasised that "Austria as the forthcoming Presidency would fully support Romania in the Council of the European Union in carrying out this important tasks."

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