On 17 May 2023, in Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the official handover ceremony for the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. For the coming six months, Latvia will be at the helm of the Committee of Ministers work.
The Minister drew attention to the fact that it would be Latvia’s second time chairing the organisation’s work since 1995 when Latvia became a member of the CoE. “The Council of Europe was founded to protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law. For almost 75 years, it has greatly contributed to the rules-based order in Europe. However, the international rules-based order has been fundamentally challenged by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Democracy and human rights are the bedrock of freedom and peace in Europe. They must never be taken for granted. Therefore, I welcome the Member states’ strong commitment to protect the standards and values of this organisation,” the Minister underlined.
Edgars Rinkēvičs affirmed that Latvian Presidency’s work will be guided by the decisions taken at the Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe as well as working closely with other Member states in order to strengthen the Council of Europe.
“Today, we have reconfirmed unwavering support to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Council of Europe must continue support to Ukraine and its people as long as necessary. We condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Such a behaviour can never be normalised. Russia must comply with its international obligations and withdraw its forces from Ukraine, as well as from Georgia and Moldova. We must ensure comprehensive accountability. It means responsibility of Russia as a state for violations of international law. And it means individual liability for the most serious crimes of international concern. As Presidency, we intend to keep these issues high on the agenda. Russia must pay for the damages caused by the war against Ukraine. I welcome the first practical step towards future international compensation mechanism – the establishment of the Register of Damage. Latvia is among its founding members. As the Presidency, we will advance its operational launch,” the Minister emphasised.
The Minister informed the Summit that Latvia would retain its position in favour of establishing an ad hoc international tribunal under the auspices of the United Nations. Latvia condemns the deportation of Ukrainian civilians to Russia or to the Ukrainian territories under temporary Russian occupation. The practice of the forcible transfer and unlawful adoptions of Ukrainian children is especially alarming.
The Foreign Minister called on the Council of Europe’s Member states to provide support to the Action Plan on Resilience, Recovery, and Rebuilding of Ukraine. He noted that Latvia had just provided a financial contribution to the action plan. The organisation must also continue supporting the efforts of the Belarusian society to build a free and democratic Belarus.
Edgars Rinkēvičs then presented Latvia’s national priorities for its Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, “First, strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Europe, including promotion of the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments. Second, promotion of freedom of expression, safety of journalists and digital agenda of the Council of Europe. Third, advancement of reforms of the Council of Europe.”
“The current geopolitical situation provides an opportunity for changes of the Council of Europe as an organisation. Latvian Presidency is committed to increase the transparency, visibility and efficiency of the work of the Committee of Ministers. The civil society and youth must be involved in the policy discussion processes. The situation when citizens of Russia continue working in the Council of Europe’s structures is unacceptable. We will work and follow up on this issue at the Committee of Ministers,” Edgars Rinkēvičs said in conclusion.
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland