The Council of Europe deserves its own commemorative day: founded in 1949 in order to rebuild war-torn Western Europe and to make social and economic progress possible, it has developed into a key pan-European institution. The Council of Europe promotes respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
Nowadays almost every country on this continent is a member of this Strasbourg-based organisation; Switzerland joined in 1963. In many countries, joining the Council of Europe has led to the modernisation of their systems for protecting legal rights and freedoms.
One of its main instruments is the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This convention enables any individual to seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights if all legal avenues have been exhausted in their home country.
The ECHR is one of the mainstays of European law, from its ban on torture to defending freedom of speech. It protects individual citizens from arbitrary state action and guarantees the fundamental rights of minorities. As a land of minorities, Switzerland has a close affinity with the ECHR.
A secure and peaceful Europe is in Switzerland’s interest
As successful as the Council of Europe has been in the past 70 years, its future remains uncertain. Allegations of corruption against several members of the parliamentary assembly have hit the headlines recently. Political polarisation has also increased in recent years. Of particular concern is the trend in some states to be selective in their implementation of Council of Europe recommendations and the decisions of the court in Strasbourg or to use their contribution payments as a means of exerting political pressure.
It is in Switzerland’s interest that the Council of Europe works well. Open, democratic countries like ours, with its global economic commitments, rely on respect being shown for international law. This protects smaller states by making larger states comply with jointly defined rules.
The Federal Council therefore supports the ongoing reforms of the Council of Europe. It also rejects the popular initiative calling for Swiss law instead of foreign judges. This initiative would not only weaken Switzerland’s position in the Council of Europe, but also our worldwide commitment to the rule of law and international legal certainty.
Europe Day offers us the opportunity to reflect on the values that, since the Second World War, have made our continent one of the most stable, attractive and prosperous regions of the world. Celebrating 5 May is a sign of appreciation and serves as a call for us all to safeguard the European success model.
Address for enquiries:
Peter Lauener, FDHA press officer
Tel. +41 79 650 12 34