During the 120th session of the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg, Micheline Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), handed over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to her successor, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the “ex-Yugoslav republic of Macedonia”, Antonio Milošoski.
Before handing over the chairmanship, Ms Calmy-Rey presented the report of the Swiss chairmanship on the activities that she has overseen between 18 November 2009 and 11 May 2010. The Head of Switzerland’s Department of Foreign Affairs declared herself very satisfied with the result of the high-level conference in Interlaken on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, which constituted the highlight of the Swiss chairmanship. “With the Interlaken Declaration and the action plan, we have laid some important milestones in assuring the process of reform at the Court. A smoothly functioning Court is important for the protection of human rights in Europe”, she stated.
During her presentation before the Committee of Ministers, Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey indicated that she had wished to draw attention in particular to strengthening the political position of the Council of Europe by travelling in person to Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. “I encouraged the authorities in these two countries to continue their efforts in terms of fully respecting the commitments they entered into when they joined the Council, while assuring them of the Council’s full support for their reforms”, she said. The Head of the FDFA travelled to Georgia in January with the aim of supporting the efforts of the Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, and of obtaining better access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Following the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in December 2009 in the Sejdic-Finci case, the already difficult situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has become even more complex. This was the reason for Ms Calmy-Rey’s trip to Sarajevo in April when she spoke to the authorities and political leaders about the importance that the Committee of Ministers attaches to settling the problems identified as quickly as possible.
The foreign affairs ministers had the opportunity to examine the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina at this meeting of ministers, which was held as an informal lunch. At the joint press conference for the outgoing and incoming presidents, the Head of the FDFA said: “Minister Milosoki and I agreed on a declaration on Bosnia-Herzegovina to express our joint determination to support this country in the current situation, while calling on it to implement the reforms that have been awaited for some considerable time.”
The Swiss chairmanship also continued its predecessors’ efforts aimed at a rapprochement between Belarus and the Council of Europe. The president of the Committee of Ministers discussed the terms of the rapprochement with her Belarusian counterpart and with President Lukashenko. The question of the abolition of – or, in an initial phase, a moratorium on – the death penalty remains a key issue. “The efforts I have undertaken will have to be continued by the next presidencies. Despite the considerable difficulties, I remain convinced that the rapprochement must continue, so that one day we will be able to welcome Belarus into our pan-European family”, Ms Calmy-Rey stated.
During the six months of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Switzerland focused on three main areas: the protection of human rights and the primacy of law, strengthening democratic institutions, and consolidating the transparency and efficacy of the Council of Europe.
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