Presentation by the Foreign Minister of the priorities of Cyprus’ Chairmanship of the CoE Committee of Ministers at PACE meeting

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you today in Cyprus. I wish you all the best in your deliberations and I hope that during your stay you will enjoy the sun, the cuisine and the culture of our island.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Republic of Cyprus is proud to assume the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers for the fifth time during its membership. As a member of the Organisation since 1961, we take the responsibility of the Chairmanship as an opportunity for Cyprus to play a leading role in the vital work of the Council in promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent.

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. In that context, dear Mr Agramunt, the campaign of the Parliamentary Assembly ‘No Hate No Fear’ acquires a particular importance, and I wish to congratulate you on this initiative.

At times like these, the Council of Europe is more relevant than ever. During our Chairmanship we aim at highlighting the role that the Council of Europe can play with its significant expertise, instruments and mechanisms, but also by its capacity to reinforce cooperation between member states.

The enhancement of democratic security in Europe is a sine qua non. To that end, we need to invest in democratic institutions, transparent processes, pluralistic and inclusive societies that foster tolerant and democratically active citizens. We need to embrace the fundamental principles upon which the Council of Europe is based.

Cyprus highly values the European Court of Human Rights as the guardian of the Convention in our continent. Our unconditional obligation for full execution of the Court’s judgments remains a fundamental requirement for democratic security in Europe.

Cyprus holds the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in very high regard. As a forum of democratic dialogue, representative of political opinion across the continent, the Parliamentary Assembly has a leading role to play in deepening democratic security and reinforcing public confidence in the Council of Europe.

Dear members of the Standing Committee,

I do not want to take your precious time by referring to each of the events, which make up the programme of the Cypriot Chairmanship, as these are duly analysed in the document of priorities that has been distributed. I would like, however, to refer to some of the major thematics underpinning Cyprus’ priorities.

The Chairmanship of Cyprus attaches great importance to the protection of cultural heritage. Cypriot diplomacy has undertaken an international initiative to bolster the protection of cultural property from wanton destruction and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, by exploring innovative approaches for the creation of synergies and the strengthening of international capacities. Culture, defined as the common heritage and the cultural values of Europe, is an integral part of European identity.

In March 2016, Cyprus led a cross-regional Statement on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts in the framework of the Human Rights Council, co-sponsored by an impressive number of 146 states. In September 2016, in collaboration with a core group of partners, Cyprus presented to the Thirty-Third Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva a comprehensive Resolution on “Cultural rights and the protection of

cultural heritage”, which was adopted unanimously, putting the issue firmly on the agenda.

In the context of the Council of Europe, Cyprus will do its utmost to promote the efforts to finalise the new Convention on Offences related to Cultural Property and to draw international attention and support for the pioneering work of the Organisation in this field. In this respect, the Cypriot Chairmanship is organising a Colloquium, on “Initiatives to strengthen international capacities for the protection of cultural property and the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural goods” on 13 January 2017, to which PACE will be invited to participate. The Cypriot Chairmanship aspires, with the cooperation and support of the Assembly, to open this Convention for signature, during the meeting of the Committee of Ministers which will be held in Nicosia in May 2017.

I would further like to highlight the Ministerial Conference of the Ministers of Education on “Securing Democracy through Education”. The Conference will evaluate the progress made on the implementation of educational aspects of the Action Plan on “the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism” and the “Action Plan on Building Inclusive Societies (2016-2019).” Furthermore, the Office of the Ombudsman is organising a Thematic Roundtable of the European Governmental LGBTI Focal Points Network, which will focus on homophobic and transphobic hate crime; whilst the Supreme Court will host two international seminars on The freedom of expression and the judgments of the ECHR in the digital era and on “Social rights in today’s Europe: the role of domestic and European Courts” organised in co-operation with the European Committee on Social Rights.

The Chairmanship will also host two thematic discussions in Strasbourg, the first one dealing with human rights and security; and, the second one, with the approach of the Council of Europe and the European Union to the migration crisis.

Building synergies is another important element in fostering democratic security. The Chairmanship of Cyprus will focus on enhancing dialogue and co-operation with regional and international partners. In that regard, we welcome the efforts of the Parliamentary Assembly to enhance dialogue with national, as well as regional parliamentary assemblies in Europe. Cyprus will take the opportunity of the Chairmanship to bolster the relations of the Organisation with its southern neighbours. Through enhanced dialogue and invitations extended to neighbouring countries to take part in events organised during the Chairmanship, Cyprus will highlight the added value of the legal instruments of the Council of Europe, inviting further participation and enhancement of co-operation. The Parliamentary Assembly is an existing important channel of dialogue and co-operation with our southern neighbours who are observers to the Parliamentary Assembly (Israel) or partners for democracy (Jordan, Morocco, Palestine).

ChAres collAgues,

L’Europe et sa longue histoire ont connu des periodes d’incertitude et d’horreur, mais le continent a aussi ete central dans la promotion des valeurs humaines, des principes democratiques et des chemins de la paix. La necessite de sagesse politique et de dialogue n’a jamais ete aussi imperative qu’aujourd’hui.

Dans les temps fluides et changeants que nous traversons, nous sommes obliges de considerer ce qu’on donnait pour acquis et agir peut-A�tre autrement. Travaillons donc ensemble pour transformer ces defis en opportunites pour consolider nos valeurs et principes, et avec persistance et coherence nous allons, tous ensemble, y arriver.

Je vous remercie de votre attention.

Source: Press and Information Office.