Foreign minister Timo Soini's Press Conference with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland on 8th November 2018.
- I was very happy to welcome Secretary-General Jagland to Finland. Thank you for your work for the Council of Europe.
- Finland has very active and good cooperation with the Council of Europe in many fields. We strongly support the work of the organization.
- We had an excellent discussion on the current situation in the Council of Europe while we are approaching the Finnish presidency in the Committee of Ministers.
- We exchanged views on topical political and economic challenges of the organization.
- The question on Russian non-payment of membership fees and participation rights in the Parliamentary Assembly causes tensions. The situation is challenging. We will work to improve the situation.
- As a chair we will facilitate discussions and initiatives that can lead to finding a solution to the current question related to Russian participation issues and non-payment of the membership fees.
- Members leaving the Council of Europe would not be good for neither the organization nor the protection of human rights in Europe, including Russia. We are strong defenders of human rights and we need strong organizations to defend human rights.
- We seek to engage all countries, in particular the next chair coming after us, France, who is the host-state of council of Europe, in solving the problem. Alone Finland cannot solve this.
- The second important and long-term question during the Finnish presidency is the reform process of the Council of Europe. In the reform process elements to be discussed include the focus of the organization as well as the structure and working methods.
- Finland stresses that the core work of the Council of Europe in human rights and the Rule of Law must be secured..
- Thirdly, there will be a selection process of a new Secretary-General of the organization next spring. Secretary-General Jagland has done excellent job as leader of the organization. His successor will have big shoes to fill.
Presidency programme - three thematic priorities
During the presidency Finland will strongly highlight the core work of the Council of Europe in strengthening of human rights, the Rule of Law and democracy. Our aim is to promote the rules-based multilateral international system.
Finland has three thematic priorities during the presidency.
1. Strengthening the system of human rights and the Rule of Law in Europe.
Under the first priority we will also address new questions affecting human rights, namely new technology – and in particular artificial intelligence.
We organize a high level conference on artificial intelligence and human rights in Helsinki in February 2019.
2. Promotion of equality and women’s rights.
Finland has traditionally a high profile in supporting the rights of women and girls. It is logical for us that this work is visible during our presidency.
We promote initiatives of the Council of Europe in the field of equality between men and women and women’s rights and organize events on this theme together with the Council of Europe in Finland and elsewhere.
3. Openness, inclusion as well as a focus on the youth and the prevention of radicalization.
Free and active civil society is a key importance for Finland. Shrinking space of human rights defenders in many countries, also within the members of the Council of Europe, is a trend we wish to stop.
Focus on the participation of young people is important for us. In addition, the Council of Europe has useful tools for the prevention of violent extremism and radicalization. Human rights and democracy education is one the many strengths of the Council of Europe.