Davos, 28 January 2010 Press release

Spindelegger: Rule of law is in Europe’s own best interests

Spindelegger chairs discussion on the rule of law at the World Economic Forum in Davos

Davos, 28 January 2010 - Strengthening the Rule of Law is the title of today’s high-calibre panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Chaired by Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, it is being attended by a number of experts, including David Kennedy, director of the Institute for International Law and International Development at Harvard Law School, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and Columbia University Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz. The discussion shall mainly revolve around the question as to how legal certainty could be strengthened and implemented globally. Another point for discussion is the question as to what are today’s greatest obstacles to achieving this goal as well as what new approaches and options could be embarked upon?

Spindelegger outlined the importance of the rule of law as a guiding principle of foreign policy: “For a small country like Austria the rule of law is not an elective but a must. The rule of law and human security are inseparably connected. One cannot exist without the other,” emphasised the Foreign Minister. “Our commitment to peace and security is rooted in the firm conviction that law must come before power. There can be no legal vacuum at the international level. Austria has therefore placed the rule of law at the centre of its membership of the UN Security Council,” affirmed Spindelegger.

The Foreign Minister referred to Austria’s experience as regards this subject in the UN Security Council as well as to the difficulties that arise time and again in practical work. Most recent examples included, for instance, discussions over the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, because of suspected crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, as well as preparations for Resolution 1894 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict: “The debates going on during the preparation of the Resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which was adopted by the UN Security Council under Austria’s chair in November, again showed that persistent efforts were required in order to convince others as to its efficacy.” Those parts of the Resolution that dealt with the responsibility of protection by states vis-à-vis civilians, and the imposition of possible sanctions in the case of crimes against civilians, were particularly controversial. “We literally struggled for every single word when formulating these provisions,” stated Spindelegger.

Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger concluded by emphasising that “we must not stay put at international conventions and international law if we want to accord the rule of law the importance required for societies to move forward in a tangible manner. It is necessary to formulate holistic, sustainable concepts which comprise social and cultural developments as well as economic progress.”

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