Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini's speech at the Council of Europe, 128th Session of the Committee of Ministers, 18th of May 2018, Elsinore, Denmark.
The Council of Europe was established to protect and advance human rights, the Rule of Law and democracy in Europe. This work is at the core of the organization and continues to be vitally important. This work protects human rights of individuals and also helps to promote and safeguard stability and prosperity.
The functioning human rights and Rule of Law system in Europe is at the same time a basis for rule-based multilateral cooperation. Currently, unfortunately, the system faces challenges as respect for human rights and the Rule of Law has weakened in Europe and globally. This trend must be reversed.
I wish to thank the Secretary General for your insightful annual report. As pointed out by the report, we must defend freedom of speech, association and assembly. Discrimination is not acceptable on any grounds.
The Council of Europe also struggles with political and financial questions. Finland strongly believes that all of us, the Member States, need to recommit ourselves to the work of our common organization and its core values. On that note, it is also important that all Member States fulfill their membership obligations, including payment of the membership fee.
Allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly are alarming. Corruption is unacceptable and negatively affects the credibility of the whole organization. Cases need to be investigated thoroughly and required measures taken.
Finland reiterates its strong condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. Full access to Crimea of the relevant Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms must be provided. We also fully support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, and continue the non-recognition policy of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia.
Despite the many challenges around us, there is no room for hopelessness and pessimism. The Council of Europe has legally binding human rights instruments and other standards that have improved the lives of Europeans tremendously. The European Court of Human Rights is a crucially important institution and its effective functioning and independence should be fully guaranteed. Furthermore, the organization is a unique forum for dialogue and cooperation on human rights among states as well as other stakeholders.
It is important that the Council of Europe remains strong in order to address current human rights problems but also ready to analyze and prepare for new human rights questions. These include issues related to new technology, cyber space and artificial intelligence.
Lastly, congratulations to Denmark for the successful chairmanship and thank you for your hospitality. I wish best success to upcoming chair Croatia and express our full support and cooperation. To conclude, I am pleased to inform you that the Ministerial meeting next year, 16 – 17 May 2019, will be arranged in Helsinki, Finland. Warmly welcome!