Prague, 17 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The 46-member Council of Europe at the end of its two-day summit unanimously adopted a final declaration and an action plan calling for enhanced co-operation and interaction between the council and the European Union in areas of common concern, in particular human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, the host of the summit, oversaw the adoption of the documents at the end of the summit:
"I want to ask you, can we adopt this text [applause], thank you that is a good answer, I see and I hear that we can. Thank you very much!" Kwasniewski said.
The council, which was founded in 1949 to oversee western Europe's post-World War II democratization, wanted European leaders to clarify its relation with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The roles of Europe’s largest three bodies sometimes overlap and create rivalry.
Today’s final declaration called for the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, to draw up a report on relations between the Council and the EU.
Juncker, in his address, admitted that there is “some duplication of effort, sometimes even rivalry in certain areas" between the ever-expanding EU and the council and said it was time “to introduce some order in all of this.”
"We need close cooperation with our sister institutions and I therefore welcome the signing early today of a declaration of enhanced cooperation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE." -- Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said both bodies have a common foundation and must “join forces” to enhance their cooperation in the face of new challenges.
"The Council of Europe as the organization which was the first to promote the principle of Europe based on a set of fundamental values has indeed a vital role to play in responding to our common new challenges in the 21st century. As we all face these challenges, the EU and the Council of Europe, we are convinced, must and will join forces and we will cooperate better. We [the EU] are ready to take our full share of this responsibility," Ferrero-Waldner said.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sometimes overlaps with the council's role of promoting human rights and democracy. Earlier today, the council and the OSCE signed a bilateral declaration providing for better cooperation between the two.
The Council of Europe’s secretary-general, Terry Davis, saluted the initiatives to step up the council’s cooperation with the OSCE and the EU.
"We need close cooperation with our sister institutions and I therefore welcome the signing early today of a declaration of enhanced cooperation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and the adoption of the guidelines on the relations between the Council and the European Union and the appointment of Mr Junckers [to draw a report on bilateral relations]. They provide the basis for new projects and common action," Davis said.
The current chair of the OSCE, Slovene Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel, told the summit, which included 22 presidents and 13 prime ministers from around Europe, that "while the architecture of Europe may change, the foundations remain the same."
Rupel said the two organizations must reinforce each other based on the model of the EU and NATO.
"The Council of Europe and the OSCE not only share similar objectives but also similar memberships, with a couple of important exceptions. For this reason, it is necessary that the OSCE and the Council of Europe pull the available resources and enhance synergy between the two organizations. [The] Council of Europe and OSCE must continue to coexist and cooperate. They reinforce each other the same way that other European organizations, for instance EU and NATO, are reinforcing each other," Rupel said.
Delegates also pledged to reform the European Court of Human Rights, the council's judicial body, which is struggling with a backlog of some 79,000 cases.
Delegates called for procedures for minor lawsuits to be simplified and for more judges to be hired. They decided that an international panel will be set up that will come up with a set of recommendations to ease the court's workload.
Participants also signed three Council of Europe conventions on terrorism, human trafficking, and money laundering, which, once ratified by the summit, must be accepted by individual member states.