Address by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, at the 5th Intercultural workshop on democracy, in Lefkosia

The assumption of the Chairmanship comes at a time when Europe is faced with economic hardship, migratory flows, terrorism, the dangerous rise of populism, xenophobic rhetoric and extremism, and other phenomena, which test our democracies and shake public trust in state and international institutions.

The overarching theme of our Chairmanship is Reinforcing Democratic Security in Europe; we focus in particular on the following areas: a. Rights and freedoms for all people without any discrimination; b. Democratic citizenship; and c. Prevalence of the rule of law.

In promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, we contribute to a Europe without dividing lines and where values enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights are enjoyed by all. The ultimate goal and objective of the Council of Europe (CoE) remains the establishment of stability, security and prosperity throughout its entire membership; a Europe without forced divisions, military occupations or lines of separation.

The Republic of Cyprus places significant weight to strengthening the rule of law in Europe. In giving priority to upholding the rule of law and ensuring full respect for human rights, we will strive through diplomacy and democratic procedures to support the efforts of the CoE to fulfill its mandate, and achieve democratic stability and improvements in human rights protection. Cyprus considers strong diplomatic ties with its partner states and the peaceful settlement of disputes, the way to respond to global challenges.

Cyprus holds the relations of the Organisation with its southern neighbours in very high regard, and we take the opportunity of the Chairmanship to bolster the relations of the Organisation with its southern neighbours, primarily through enhanced dialogue and invitations extended to neighbouring countries to take part in events organised during the Chairmanship. We, undoubtedly, fully support initiatives to support democratic reforms in the Southern Mediterranean.

In this frame, it was our pleasure to host the Regional Steering Committee meeting of South Programme II, which was organised and took place, with great success, on 12-13 December 2016, in Lefkosia. In that context, we are also proud to take under the auspices of the Cyprus Chairmanship the 5th Intercultural workshop on democracy, organised by the Venice Commission.

Excellencies,

You know very well that, since 2012, the Venice Commission has launched a programme of intercultural workshops on democracy and organised four intercultural workshops, which enabled lawyers, politicians and academics from different Arab countries and their European colleagues to hold fruitful exchanges of views on subjects such as constitutional reforms and their implementation, as well as freedom of association and political parties. Representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestinian National Authority, Tunisia and Yemen participated in these activities, and had a unique opportunity to discuss these important issues with their peers and a number of high level international experts.

The aim of this year’s workshop is to discuss the “Interaction between Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Jurisdictions and Ordinary Courts”, in countries of the Southern Mediterranean. We are proud to have here today with us representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as leading constitutionalists from different European countries.

This topic is particularly pertinent for the Southern Mediterranean region, since several countries either established a constitutional court in recent years, or expanded the scope of its jurisdiction. From judicial expertise to strengthening of institutions’ capacities through peer-to-peer exchanges, this initiative contributes to the establishment of legal and judicial networks between the two shores of the Mediterranean and highlights the significance of exchanging experiences and good practices between different jurisdictions.

In Cyprus, the three Powers of the State, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial, are separate, independent and distinct from each other. In particular, as far as the Judiciary is concerned, it is fully independent from the other two Powers, and free to perform its duties impartially. It is also of great importance that the Supreme Council of Judicature is composed only of the President and Members of the Supreme Court, all Judges, and is responsible for the appointment, promotion, transfer and exercise of discipline on all Judges of the lower courts, without any external interference.

The independence and the impartiality of the Judiciary in a country are the essential guarantees, which are fundamental for a democratic State. This is why this workshop is of great importance. The subjects under consideration, such as the different models of constitutional control and their impact on the relationship between the Constitutional Court and other high jurisdictions, the independence of the judiciary and the implementation and binding effects of the Constitutional Court and the Council judgments, are very complex matters, and it is not easy to provide exhaustive or definitive solutions.

This event provides a unique opportunity for Cyprus to highlight the added value of the legal instruments of the Council of Europe, inviting further participation and enhancement of cooperation. ? am sure this workshop will deepen the understanding of the ongoing direction of the current judicial developments in these issues and contribute to reinforcing the need of independent judicial authorities.

I wish you all the best in your work and a pleasant stay in Cyprus. Thank you very much for your attention.

Source: Press and Information Office