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Statement by the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

The Danish Government’s Draft Copenhagen Declaration on the continuing Reform of the Council of Europe’s Convention System: The current negotiating Process in the drafting Group of the Committee of Ministers

 Denmark’s Chairmanship of The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers November 2017 – May 2018

 Copenhagen, April 4th, 2018

The Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights reminds that the provisions of the European Convention of Human Right (ECHR) are brought to life by the Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Solutions are found to a variety of serious legal problems and situations in member States, also when societal norms and conditions change. The relevance and dynamism of the ECtHR’s decisive contribution to a “future-proof Council of Europe” for member States’ citizens are fully demonstrated. However, when different political forces generate an unstable equilibrium, democracy and political pluralism increasingly become subject to pressure. The rule of law may thereby be defied to the detriment of member States’ citizens. As a consequence, the ECtHR’s importance is further enhanced.

A couple of weeks before Denmark took over the chairmanship, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, in his speech given at the occasion of his visit to the Council of Europe stated that the ECtHR is “an institution that we must bequeath intact to subsequent generations”. Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark followed in the president’s footsteps stating in her speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2018 at the occasion of the chairmanship that “human rights and democracy as well are not secured with legal rights alone – their principles and values need to be understood, felt, lived and guarded by future generations.”

Referring to the above, to its statement of February 16th, 2018, on the draft declaration, and the Council of Europe’s coming 70th Anniversary in 2019, the Danish Helsinki Committee:

  1. Calling attention to the Danish Government’s chairmanship programme: “Europe in a time of unrest and upheaval – strong values and a future-proof Council of Europe.”;
  2. Appreciating that the most important priority of the government is to ensure that the European human rights system is effective and relevant, maintaining its vital role;
  3. Deploring, however, that the government’s endeavour – during the negotiation process – to promote national interests has taken precedence;
  4. Welcoming that many member States have found these interests to be contrary to the stated aim to ensure the European human rights system as they would tip the balance of power to the detriment of the convention system;
  5. Taking note of the fact that a third revised and much improved draft is under preparation and negotiations will continue on April 6th with the aim of reaching consensus;
  6. Referring to the current budgetary crisis and to which the Secretary General has stressed that “the continuation of zero nominal growth will no longer be viable as it will erode the capacity of the Organisation to fulfil its mandate.”
  7. Recalling that the member States in July 2002 were able to reach a decision concerning an additional budget for the court, and stressing that increases in resources must go hand in hand with concrete proposals to maintain and strengthen the effectiveness of the Convention system;
  8. Looks forward to information on the status concerning the Chairman’s diplomatic undertaking to concretely advance the entry into force of protocol 15 amending the ECHR as well as a status of protocol 16.
  9. Prompts the Danish chairmanship to during negotiations impartially ensure sufficient time in order that all member States regardless of their positions and if they so wish may intervene verbally and participate actively in the formation of a sound and informed consensus;
  10. Urges the chairmanship to work for such a consensus that the declaration from the Copenhagen Conference April 11th-14th (“Better balance, Improved Protection”) to be presented at the Ministerial Meeting (Foreign Ministers) in Elsinore in May can be endorsed with a possible action plan completing the reform process initiated in Interlaken instead of only being taken note of by the Ministers;
  11. Urges the chairmanship to work actively for a sustainable budget for the ECtHR as well as for a supplementary budget to clear the backlog as proposed by the ECtHR in 2015; with reference to the Secretary General’s above-mentioned earnest strategic warning member States should be urged to discontinue the almost 10 years general policy to exclude even budgetary compensation on account of inflation.