South East Europe/Chechnya: 15th Quadripartite meeting- European Union/Council of Europe

News and Press Release
Originally published
Strasbourg, 14 March 2000

1. The 15th Quadripartite Meeting between the European Union and the Council of Europe was held in Strasbourg on 14 March 2000 at the initiative of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The participants were:

Mr F SEIXAS DA COSTA, President of the Council of the European Union and Minister for European Affairs of Portugal;

Mr C PATTEN, member of the European Commission;

Mr T KITT, Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Minister of State, Ireland;

Mr W SCHWIMMER, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

2. The participants considered that the recent crises in South-East Europe and in Chechnya underlined the necessity for ever-closer co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe in order to defend and promote democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights.

3. In this context, the participants expressed their concern with regard to the situation of human rights violations in Chechnya. While recalling their attachment to respect for the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, the Representatives of the Council of Europe appealed to the Russian authorities to respect fully the commitments accepted at the time of accession to the Council of Europe, particularly with regard to the peaceful solution of conflicts, freedom of information and, first of all, upholding and protecting human rights. It is in this context that the efforts of Council of Europe bodies including the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General and the Human Rights Commissioner are to be seen, with a view to restoring the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy in Chechnya.

While recalling the primary responsibility of the Russian Federation for the solution of the crisis, the participants considered that the latter demonstrated the necessity of close co-operation between the various international organisations, institutions and agencies, notably for assistance in the fields of legislation, institution-building and the protection of human rights.

The participants expect the authorities of the Russian Federation to create the conditions for an effective presence of international organisations in Chechnya. The participants noted the initial report of the mission to the area of the Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with a view to the forthcoming debate of the Assembly in April.

The EU Representatives have reiterated their concerns about the situation in Chechnya. They have recalled the declaration made by the Presidency of 1st March 2000, where the European Union has called for an international monitoring of the humanitarian situation and Human Rights, including the possibility for access in detention camps in the region and the necessity of ensuring the free access of the media.

4. Conscious of the important contribution that the Council of Europe can make - in the fields of its responsibilities - to the realisation of the aims of the Pact for Stability for South Eastern Europe and in the pursuit of peace efforts in Kosovo, the participants expressed their determination to explore the possibilities of intensifying their co-operation in this region.

5. The representatives of the Council of Europe expressed their appreciation for the possibility to designate two observers to participate in the Convention instructed to draw up the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. By this means, the Council of Europe intends to offer its support and assistance to ensure that this process leads to true progress in the protection of fundamental rights throughout the whole of Europe. The representatives of the EU Council Presidency reiterated that the European Convention of Human Rights should remain an essential reference point for the protection of human rights.

6. The Council Presidency gave an overview of the main dossiers the European Union is currently working on. It drew attention to the work of the Intergovernmental Conference which is preparing the necessary adaptations to the evolution of the European Union. It stressed the major challenge which enlargement represents, both for existing member States and for the acceding countries. Lastly, it highlighted the importance the Charter of Fundamental Rights will have in terms of bringing citizens closer to the European institutions and developing a sense of common membership.

The Council of Europe representatives reported on the state of progress of the examination by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the applications currently submitted for membership.

The participants took note of the state of preparation of the European contribution to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance and welcomed the fruitful co-operation that had developed in this connection between the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

7. The Council of Europe representatives reiterated their request that the Community should join the Council of Europe Development Bank.

The Commission representative indicated that the institution's services were on the point of completing their technical examination of the issue and that an initiative on the matter could be expected in the months to come.

8. The participants welcomed the concrete results of co-operation between the European Commission and the Council of Europe, notably the development of the joint programmes in the context of activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability.

They took note of the progress made with the preparation of a joint declaration on co-operation and partnership which will create a framework for regular discussion between the European Commission and the Council of Europe regarding the planning, management, implementation and evaluation of the joint programmes. The participants will work to ensure that this joint declaration can be adopted as soon as possible in order to give a new impetus to their joint actions and projects.

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