Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s speech at the annual meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 18 May in Elsinore.

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Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Danish Government, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Elsinore.

Once upon a time Denmark gained from Elsinores ability to collect duties from our fellow Europeans.

No foreign vessel was allowed transit to the Baltic Sea without paying.

With the guns of Kronborg looming in the background most ships decided to do so - with very positive effects for our national budget, I might add!

As European and global commerce grew Denmark had to give up this ancient way of putting our country first.

Today Denmark is one of the most open economies in the world.

I am proud of that.

And I am proud to take part in a meeting like this – in a spirit of peace and fellowship.

Since it was founded, The Council of Europe has protected and promoted the core values of Europe: Human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Still today – this effort is badly needed. Perhaps more than ever.

***

Denmark took over the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in November last year.

We presented an ambitious programme under the title: “Europe in a time of unrest and upheaval – strong values and a future-proof Council of Europe”.

As one of the ten founding fathers of the organisation, Denmark has always been a firm supporter of the Council of Europe.

We want The Council to flourish and keep its relevance in the future.

We believe that equality, regardless of race, gender or sexuality is a cornerstone of democracy.

That is why we have worked on securing the fundamental rights of LGBTI-people.

We are worried about the misinformation and the rise of anti-democratic forces.

That is why we have encouraged the involvement of children and young people in democracy.

We believe every human has the right to be treated with respect and decency.

That is why we have strengthened cooperation between Member States on human rights in the disability field with a focus on changing attitudes and fighting prejudice.

And we condemn every kind of torture towards human beings.

That is why we have continued the important work on combating torture all over Europe, with a specific focus on torture in the early stages of police custody and pre-trial detention.
Lastly, we have worked to reform the European human rights system.
We have done so – not because we doubt the value of the human rights. But because we find them more important than ever.

***

Denmark is – and always has been – a strong supporter of the European human rights system.

But in order to be strong, the European human rights system requires full support from all of Europe.

That is why I am very pleased that on 13 April, at a High-Level Conference in Copenhagen, all 47 Member States of the Council of Europe agreed on an important and ambitious political declaration on continued reform of the European human rights system – The Copenhagen Declaration.

With the Copenhagen Declaration we have consolidated the important developments, which have taken place during the so-called Interlaken-process, and also introduced an ambitious package of further reforms.

This will lead to a more balanced, focused and effective European human rights system. For the good of more than 800 million Europeans.
At the same time, we have reinforced the commitment of all Member States to respect basic human rights.

The Copenhagen Declaration makes it clear that the primary responsibility for guaranteeing human rights rests with the government, the parliament and the courts of a country.

The role of the European Court of Human Rights is not to intervene where national courts have clearly applied the Convention properly.

The Court must focus on allegations of serious violations and major points of misinterpretation of the Convention. And the Court must have the tools and resources to do that.

The European Court of Human Rights must be in a position to ensure the highest level of protection of fundamental rights. And with the Copenhagen Declaration we will help secure this vital role of the Court.

Another key point in the Copenhagen Declaration is about ensuring a stronger dialogue between the national and European level.

We have seen cases where it has been considered a violation of the right to family if hardcore foreign criminals were deported to their home countries.

To me – such decisions are hard to understand – and impossible to explain.

We must be able to discuss whether this makes sense. Openly and honestly. Involving member states, civil society and the Court. And of course, with respect of the Court’s independence.

This will help anchoring the human rights more solidly in our European democracies. Ensuring stronger support and a contemporary system.

I want to thank you for your important contributions in the process of agreeing on these important outcomes.

***

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like any other family, our European family has its differences. We consist of individual countries. Each with our own particular preferences.

Nevertheless, we do have a common history and background as well. We depend on each other and we always have.

I am delighted that the bedrock of western civilisation still has common ambitions for a better future. And I am proud to live in a part of the world, which actually cares about human values and prosperity for all.

This meeting marks the end of the Danish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

In a few minutes Foreign Minister Samuelsen will report on the discussion you had last night at Kronborg Castle on the future of the Council of Europe.

It has been a privilege to chair this great and important council.

We look forward to engaging actively in the discussion to secure a strong and relevant Council of Europe – also in the future.

Thank you.

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