Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kosovo figures as Sweden takes over the reins

Cyprus, Turkey, Russia also on the agenda

Kosovo and other European flashpoints figured prominently in the informal luncheon of the 118th session of the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg on May 7.

On Kosovo, Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, told journalists: “There was an informal discussion and there were different views and those views will remain for some time to come without putting any time perspective to it. There were certain agreements like rights for each and everyone in Kosovo, economic and social development of each and everyone in Kosovo, rule of law for each and everyone in Kosovo and hopefully also strong support expressed for the European direction for the policies of Serbia.”

Leaving the ball in the court of Belgrade, Bildt said, “Although that is not for us to decide and that is up to the electorate of Serbia. If Serbia does not want to cooperate with the European Union that is a decision for the Serbia.”

Earlier in the day, Sweden took over from Slovakia the reins of the Council of Europe’s decision-making body as Jan Kubis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, took stock of the country’s chairmanship before passing the chairmanship to Bildt.

During its mandate, Slovakia said it respected its priorities by working to strengthen and promote a citizens´ Europe and a transparent and efficient Council of Europe, as well as respect for the organisation’s core values.

Through special conferences planned for its chairmanship (May- November 2008), Sweden vowed to take initiatives aimed at the stronger implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights at the national level, work systematically for the promotion of human rights, develop a new strategy for the rights of the child and strengthen the realisation of the rights of disabled persons. Congratulating Slovakia for a very successful presidency, Bildt outlined the priorities of the Swedish presidency to the journalists.

“We will continue to focus on the core values of the Council of Europe - human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” he said. With the new Russian President Dimitry Medvedev taking over in Moscow, Bildt expressed optimism that the rule of law will prevail and that “he will live up to the words he has spoken and ratification or trying to ensure ratification by Duma for Protocol 14 might be an extremely good way of demonstrating that commitment to the rule of law that President Medvedev has earlier committed himself to so explicitly.”

On the question of the Turkish situation, Bildt told journalists, “One of the difficulties that Turkey is facing is terrorist activities of PKK and the fact that we had acceleration in last two years is an expression of the fact that they see the ground slipping under them to certain extent.”

“On the subject of unification of Cyprus, it’s very important for stability of the region, for respect of human rights in all parts of Cyprus and also for the international organisations for cooperating in resolution of conflicts in other parts of the world,” Bildt added.

Sweden also started a new format where there is a formal session of a few hours and then a brainstorming “luncheon with a very open discussion on South Eastern Europe and tasks ahead of us and the important role that Council of Europe has there, touching regions of Southern Caucasus and other regions of Europe where we face somewhat bigger challenges,” in the words of Bildt. CoE head Terry Davis called the Swedish chairmanship “one of the best prepared chairmanships I have seen in all the time I have been involved in the Council of Europe.”

Sweden earlier issued a statement looking forward to co-operate closely with all member states of the CoE as well as with other actors in order to advance the work of the organisation and thus the realisation of its core objective.

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