Jan Petersen
The Council of Europe - Politics and Practice
NUPI seminaret ''The Council of Europe - Politics and practice. Is there a place for the Council of Europe in a changing European landscape"
Oslo, 6. september 2004

President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Secretary General,  
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The last days we have been witnessing one of the most terrible and barbaric terrorist actions since the 9.11 attacks against New York and Washington.  This act of terrorism, only the latest in a spate of terrorist attacks in Russia, is an acute reminder that we still have a long way to go in the fight against this scourge. Like others, including the members of the UN Security Council, I have in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers strongly condemned these acts of terrorism. I am particularly appalled by the fact that the terrorists have deliberately targeted children, killing hundreds of them in cold blood.

We must all work to avoid such situations in the future. The Council of Europe will continue its co-operation with the Russian Federation on the institutional reconstruction of the Chechen Republic, with a view to promoting social and economic welfare in this region. I believe that other international organisations could also make useful contributions towards a sustainable political situation in the Chechen Republic. The OSCE has done so in the past, and could do so in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am especially pleased to welcome both the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Peter Schieder, and the new Secretary General, Mr Terry Davis to this seminar.

As a founding member of the Council of Europe, Norway has always given high priority to the organisation and supported its work. During our current chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, we wish to strengthen the role of the Council of Europe and adapt it to a changing European landscape. We should do this by focusing on the organisation's core values and areas of expertise, and at the same time promote an even more constructive relationship with the other European organisations.

For this seminar we have chosen to focus on two seemingly different subjects, which both represent challenges to the Council of Europe - the Council of Europe's interplay with the OSCE and the EU, and the societal role of prisons in the democratisation process.

In the Council of Europe we have a unique set of common principles - human dignity, rule of law, mutual respect and reconciliation. With its 45 - soon to be 46 - member states, the Council of Europe is a pan-European network that safeguards the fundamental rights of 800 million citizens. However, size alone does not guarantee an organisation's viability.

An important objective during our Chairmanship has been to strengthen the co-operation between the Council of Europe and other European organisations. Today's part of the seminar provides an opportunity to explore how the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the European Union can co-operate and complement each other.

The Council of Europe exists side by side with an enlarged European Union and an active OSCE. The three organisations contribute each in their own way, to the promotion of prosperity, security and democratisation in Europe. In turn their roles and the way they interrelate will have to be adapted to the new environment created by their efforts.

The Council of Europe and the European Union are based on the same fundamental values - respect for the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They both focus on democratic and economic development as a means of promoting stability. The member states of the enlarged EU make up the majority of the Council of Europe's members, and together have the potential to exert significant influence on the way the Council of Europe works.

With the new Constitutional Treaty of Europe, we may also be looking at a new institutional relationship with the EU as such. We should take full advantage of the opportunities for closer co-operation this situation presents, taking into account both the increasingly overlapping membership, and the wider geographical scope of the Council of Europe.

Whereas the origins and history of the Council of Europe and the OSCE are different, the two organisations have in many ways become more alike in recent years. They both have a pan-European scope, and they engage in the same areas and on similar issues. This situation could lead to competition, especially when it comes to activities in the field.

During our Chairmanship, we have taken an initiative to strengthen the relationship between the Council of Europe and the OSCE. With the support of the secretariats of the two organisations, as well as the current Bulgarian Chairmanship of the OSCE, we will later this month establish a Task Force to look at ways of enhancing co-operation and co-ordination in areas of interest to both organisations.

There would to my mind be obvious benefits from a closer cooperation in fields such as democracy building, monitoring of elections and trafficking in human beings, to mention a few.

There is no lack of important tasks to take on, and there is certainly enough work for the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the EU in a changing European landscape. The aim should be for these organisations to focus on what they do best and to complement each other, rather than to compete. Only through a constructive dialogue will we be able to solve the problems we are still faced with.

For the Council of Europe, this also means focusing more clearly on the organisation's key objectives and the areas where it can make a difference. The Council of Europe's Third Summit, which will take place in May next year under the Polish Chairmanship, needs to address precisely these issues. The preparations for the Summit have started under the Norwegian Chairmanship, and we will do our best to keep the work focused on how we can most effectively play our role side by side with the other European organisations.

This seminar should be an excellent opportunity to discuss in greater detail the challenges that I have only just touched upon.

Thank you for your attention.