Udenrigsministeriet

The Nordic Ministers of Foreign Affairs: The Council of Europe – upholding our common values for 75 years

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Established in the aftermath of the World War II in 1949 to ensure sustainable peace and democracy, the mission of the Council of Europe as the continent’s leading human rights organization remains indispensable. Its core values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – are fundamental also for the Nordic societies and form a longstanding basis for Nordic foreign policies.

The Council of Europe has been able to respond to geopolitical changes and human rights violations in Europe. It has contributed to the upholding of the international rules-based order in often difficult conditions. Today, supporting Ukraine and ensuring Russian accountability are our clear priorities. Russia was expelled from the Council soon after it started its war of aggression against Ukraine. The Council soon after established a Register of Damage for Ukraine, serving as a record of evidence and claims for damage, loss or injury caused by Russia’s wrongful acts to Ukrainians or to the state of Ukraine, which is an important first step for justice for victims of the war. The Council of Europe also facilitates efforts towards a compensation mechanism and can contribute to discussions in the core group working for the establishment of a special tribunal for the Russian crime of aggression. 

The Council of Europe plays an important role in ensuring security in Europe. We need to uphold a comprehensive concept of security, meaning that democracy and human rights within states are connected to security between states, as violations of for example rights of persons belonging to minorities or erosion of rule of law can transform into very hard security questions. Russia is a clear example of the link between internal repression and external aggression.

The Council of Europe delivers. More than 700 million people in 46 member states benefit from the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights and the oversight of the European Court of Human Rights. In addition to having created a death penalty free zone, the creation of common legal standards expands to more than 200 human rights conventions.

Council of Europe and the EU share fundamental values but have their own, essential complementary roles in the political architecture in Europe. The Council of Europe makes important contributions to reforms in the EU candidate countries and the EU enlargement process and thereby strengthening democracy, the rule of law, stability and respect for human rights on our continent.

Having the most advanced human rights system in the world comes with a responsibility to reach out beyond Europe. At present more than 100 non-European states are also Parties to Council of Europe treaties or instruments. Cooperation with other international organizations like the OSCE and the UN is essential, too.  

Yet progress in human rights, democracy and rule of law cannot be taken for granted as the core values of the Council of Europe are increasingly contested on various fronts throughout our continent and beyond. Worrisome trends include the decline of democracy, attempts to erode gender equality, disregard of gender-based and domestic violence, and threats to media freedom and safety of journalists. Also, deliberate negligence of the rule of law can be seen in many places. 

Human rights cannot remain static and must adjust and evolve as the world changes. The recent Council of Europe’s Convention on Artificial Intelligence is a clear example of the Council responding to new challenges also for future generations.

The Council of Europe has for 75 years proven its capability to be forward looking and to adapt to changing times and needs. Thus, it continues to be highly relevant both for us Nordics and for the continent as a whole. 


                             Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs

                                  Elina Valtonen, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs

                        Thórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs

                                Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs

                                  Tobias Billström, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs

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