Priorities of the Latvian Presidency
of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
(17 May – 15 November 2023)
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Council of Europe was founded to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. As Europe’s leading human rights organisation, it has upholded a rules-based order on our continent.
Russia’s unjustified and brutal aggression against Ukraine is a threat to peace and security in Europe. It undermines the existing rules-based international system and the core values the Council of Europe and its Member States. Therefore, more than ever, it is important for Europe to unite around the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Latvia will assume its second Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at a critical juncture. The primary task of the Latvian Presidency will be to launch the implementation of the decisions taken at the Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe. Given the unique expertise this Organisation has accumulated over the years, it must provide all necessary support to Ukraine. Russia’s accountability for its crimes committed against Ukraine will be high on our Presidency’s agenda, including the call for a special tribunal on the crime of aggression, and establishment of a register of damages as part of compensation mechanism.
We will work together with other Member States to strengthen the political role, impact and visibility of the Council of Europe. While implementing the existing strategic priorities of the Council of Europe and initiatives introduced by the previous Presidencies, the Latvian Presidency will highlight the following thematic priorities:
- Strengthening of democracy and the rule of law.
- Promotion of freedom of expression, safety of journalists and digital agenda of the Council of Europe.
- Advancing reforms of the Council of Europe, including through implementing the decisions of the Fourth Summit.
While facilitating these thematic priorities, youth and civil society participation in democratic processes, as well as gender equality will be promoted.
Strengthening of democracy and the rule of law:
Latvia has always been a strong advocate of the values and principles enshrined in the legal instruments developed under the auspices of the Council of Europe, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. For more than half a century, this Convention and its Protocols, as well as rulings of the European Court of Human Rights have helped the Member States to improve domestic legislation and practice. Often the Council of Europe Member States engage in the execution of judgments process, yet require guidance in the choice of means that would better address the inconsistencies with provisions of the Convention found by the Court. The Latvian Presidency will further explore the role of national courts in the execution of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights by organising an international conference for judges of Constitutional and Supreme Courts.
Latvia devotes particular importance to the rule of law through an effective functioning of justice system. One of its pillars is efficient organisation of work of the national judiciary. In order to exchange the expertise among Member States, Latvia will organise an informal conference of European Justice Ministers in support to resilience of Ukrainian judicial system at the time of war and post-war reconstruction.
The crucial role of education and youth in promoting democracy and the rule of law will be addressed at the 26th Session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education. Conference “The Transformative Power of Education: Universal Values and Civic Renewal” will focus on the renewal of the civic mission of education, education in times of crisis and digitalisation, and the use of artificial intelligence in education. In addition, the Summer University of the Management Committee of the European Youth Policy University will be organised in Latvia to increase public understanding of the role of youth in strengthening democratic values and civil engagement.
The Latvian Presidency will promote the right to a fair trial at an international conference “Rights to a fair trial in the hearings of anti-doping cases”. Member States will have an opportunity to analyse the progress in the implementation of the respective Council of Europe recommendations.
Corruption and money laundering cause threats to democracy and the rule of law, therefore financial ecosystem in Europe must be further strengthened. The conference “Future of Anti-Money Laundering: Building Resilience in the Evolving Financial Crime Environment” will gather experts from financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies to share best practices on managing and mitigating AML risks.
In light of the comprehensive work carried out by the Council of Europe for development and application of human rights-based responses in mental health care, the Latvian Presidency will address the protection and promotion of the autonomy and dignity of persons in mental health care. The international conference “Promoting person’s autonomy in mental health care” will share practices aiming to promote the autonomy of persons, including children and adolescents, with mental health conditions relevant to prevention, support and care. It will raise awareness and provide tools for application of human rights-based responses in mental health care services.
In order to strengthen the good governance at local government level, the initiative “European governance excellence mark” will be implemented in Latvia for the first time.
Promotion of freedom of expression, safety of journalists and making headway with the digital agenda of the Council of Europe:
Media freedom is a fundamental pillar of any democratic society. As the cornerstone of free expression and a basic human right, it must be respected and protected by all countries. Unfortunately, there are alarming trends and challenges, including increasing censorship and suppression of independent media, information manipulation conducted by government-affiliated actors, harassment and violence against journalists.
Media freedom and the safety of journalists, including in the digital environment, is a long-standing priority for Latvia. Therefore, Latvian Presidency will work together with the Council of Europe to promote the protection of journalists and media professionals, including during conflicts and wartime. We will promote media and information literacy while addressing disinformation and illegal content online. These topics will be discussed at an international conference on freedom of expression and safety of journalists in digital age.
There is also a need to address the questions about impact of new technologies in our daily lives. Applications powered by artificial intelligence are developing faster than our ability to understand their societal, political and economic impact. It must be ensured that applications meet standards of protection of human rights and that they do not infringe on democratic processes of our societies. In that respect, experts’ discussion on the human rights and societal impact of post-social media technologies will be organized.
The Latvian Presidency will contribute to the work of the Council of Europe in the area of artificial intelligence by supporting the ongoing negotiations on the framework convention on artificial intelligence, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Advancing reforms of the Council of Europe, including through implementing the decisions of the Fourth Summit:
The current geopolitical situation not only demands a strong and effective response, but also provides an opportunity for changes of the Council of Europe as an organisation. The Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe will seek ways for the Organisation to become more impactful, efficient, responsive and resilient to external challenges. The Latvian Presidency will launch the process of the implementation of the Summit’s decisions.
The current working methods of the Council of Europe, especially those of the Committee of Ministers, no longer correspond to the standards of openness and transparency of the 21st century. We should modernise the existing operational practices and make the Council of Europe more accessible and visible to the outside world. The civil society and youth should be involved in the policy discussion processes in order to improve the quality of the Council of Europe decisions. The Latvian Presidency is committed to increase the transparency of the work of the Committee of Ministers.
The Latvian Presidency will support the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General to increase the mobility of the staff and to improve the communication of the Council of Europe in order to increase its visibility.
More on Agenda see here.