Address at the 1101st Meeting of the Permanent Council (OSCE)

Dear Secretary General, Chairperson-in-Office,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

It has been just one week and one day when Estonia took over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from Bulgaria in Sofia.

Many of our priorities during our Chairmanship correlate with similarly topical issues within the OSCE. And this is the reason why I am happy to address the Permanent Council at so early stage of our Chairmanship.

We stand strongly for Europe’s fundamental values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Human Dimension, in particular, is a solid link between Council of Europe’s and the OSCE’s field of activities.

We highly commend the cooperation between two organizations on common areas of concern, like elections observation and assistance, promotion of tolerance, fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalization, cyber-crime, migration crisis and on other issues.

We recognize the significant role and value highly the work done by the OSCE and its field missions, as well as independent institutions of Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM), and High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). Their contribution to conflict prevention and democracy building is of the utmost importance.

We appreciate the leading role of the OSCE in conflict resolution to the crisis in and around Ukraine. As we discussed this morning with the Chairman-in-Office, restoring security requires collective effort of the parties involved and asks for international attention and support. I´m pleased that Nadiya Savchenko, who was unlawfully detained has now safely reached her homeland.

The unresolved regional protracted conflicts in the common area of OSCE and Council of Europe, form another realm of challenges that require both organizations’ mutual efforts and cooperation.

Of course, the list of challenges facing OSCE and Council of Europe today that could potentially have wider international repercussions does not stop here.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me give you now a short overview about Estonia´s priorities for the period of our Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Firstly, human rights and the rule of law on the Internet. In times of fast development of information communication technologies (ICT) and the impact on everyday lives of most individuals in Europe, the protection of human rights and the rule of law online are therefore needed more than ever. In this respect, the Council of Europe’s instruments, its unique mandate of core values, its extensive network of state and multi-stake holders within and beyond Europe, and its potential to develop functional and comprehensive working methods are of considerable added value. In the framework of our chairmanship, we aim to work together with all partners to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms both offline and online, contribute to the implementation of the Council of Europe Internet Governance Strategy (2016-2019), and promote relevant Council of Europe standards.

To underline the importance and implementation of the Council of Europe new guidelines on Internet freedom, we will host a conference, together with OSCE Chairmanship on 9 September 2016 in Strasbourg. The conference will explore the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on Internet freedom, which Estonia will be actively implementing as part of the Council of Europe’s follow-up to the instrument.

Secondly, we would focus on issues related to gender equality. It is one of the main areas in protection of human rights, as well as an essential element in functioning of democracy, respect for the rule of law, and an integral part of economic growth and sustainability. Both organizations have worked determinedly to achieve gender equality. We should continue the work to overcome the remaining barriers and challenges in implementing the OSCE’s Action Plan combined with Council’s Strategy.

The Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017, aims to increase the impact of gender equality standards, and supporting their implementation by member States. The overall goal of the document is to achieve the advancement and empowerment of women through the effective realization of gender equality in Council of Europe member states through activities five strategic objectives:
1. combating gender stereotypes and sexism;
2. preventing and combating violence against women;
3. guaranteeing equal access of women to justice;
4. achieving balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making;
5. achieving gender mainstreaming in all policies and measures.

A high-level stock-taking conference with a working title: “Are we there yet? Assessing progress, inspiring action – The Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017” will be held in Tallinn on 30 June and 1 July 2016. The aim is to examine the progress of the current Strategy and to launch discussions on the priority themes for the next Strategy.

Thirdly, Children’s rights are an integral part of human rights. We will continue with the work of Bulgaria in this field. We wish to highlight a few themes of the new Strategy for the Rights of the Child, placing emphasis on three key areas: child participation, children’s rights in the digital environment and children in migration.

These topics will be addressed at a high-level conference dedicated to the promotion of children rights on 4 November 2016 in Tallinn. The conference will focus on the opportunities and challenges of the digital world and topics related to children in migration crisis. What makes this conference special is that we run these discussions together with children.

As Estonia is also holding the presidency of UNICEF this year, we will organize a UNICEF-Council of Europe joint event on children in the migration crisis on 19 September in New York.

The prevention of and fight against the sexual abuse of children will remain one of the priorities in the children’s rights agenda. Estonia will ratify the Lanzarote Convention during the chairmanship and emphasize better implementation of the Convention throughout the member States of the Council of Europe.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

We hold the Council of Europe in high regard as an organization for creating norms and standards. It has considerably influenced my country’s internal politics and legislation since our accession in 1993. During our second chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, we aim to reflect in the Council of Europe the same spirit of leadership and inspiration, which our country has benefited from in the past 23 years.

Let me conclude by quoting my dear colleague, Chairperson-in-Office Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom I will be hosting tomorrow in Tallinn, and who has recently said that we have to remain firm in our principles and that we need to promote dialogue and a cooperative approach to overcome our differences and to put us back on track towards restored security.

Thank you for your attention!

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