Europe Day 5 May 2021: 72nd anniversary of the Council of Europe

Joint statement by Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers Heiko Maas

On May 5, we celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the Council of Europe – the key international organization of our continent for the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Together with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, it offers a common legal area, encompassing 47 Member States and 830 million inhabitants. It sets the highest standard for human rights in the world, and that deserves to be celebrated.

This year we also celebrate the 70th anniversary of Germany’s accession to the Council of Europe. After the Holocaust and a devastating war started by Germany, this was a remarkable act of reconciliation. The founding members of the Council of Europe offered the young Federal Republic the opportunity to come to terms with its neighbors and to participate in the creation of a new Europe which would be firmly based on multilateral co-operation as well as on the rights rights, democracy and the rule of law. Today, these fundamental principles of the Council of Europe are more relevant than ever.

All European citizens have access to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court guarantees and applies the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all member states are contracting parties. This is why the implementation of the Court’s judgments is so important and has therefore been a priority of the German Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. Moreover, we remain firmly committed to defending the rights of minorities and promoting the participation of young people in society. Their voices must be heard.

In times of crisis, it is often the most vulnerable who suffer. Unfortunately, the pandemic has worsened the situation for those who have been victims of domestic violence. We defend the Istanbul Convention as an instrument for the protection of women and children. A few days before the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention, on May 11, we urge Member States to stand up for those who so often find themselves marginalized and neglected.

Rapid advances in technology continue to pose new challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Online hate speech threatens to erode the very foundation on which our democracies are built. The Council of Europe is currently preparing a recommendation on a comprehensive approach to hate speech, including online, from a human rights perspective. The Council of Europe is working on European legal standards on artificial intelligence that will protect human rights also in the digital sphere.

The German Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has endeavored to advance the work of the Council of Europe in all these areas. The progress made and the work to be continued under the incoming presidency will be discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers in Hamburg on 21 May.

We will continue to work together for a good future for European citizens.