French Presidency of the Council of Europe

Priorities of France’s Presidency of the Council of Europe

France will serve as President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 17 May to 27 November 2019.

France wants to take the opportunity offered by its Presidency of the Committee of Ministers to help build tomorrow’s Council of Europe. Since being founded, the organization has continually reinvented itself, overcome obstacles, claimed new rights for all, enhanced cooperation between States, and brought European peoples closer together.

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The French Presidency will underline the importance of the Council of Europe which, with 47 Member States, is a key platform for European dialogue and cooperation, helping to create a shared legal space. The Council of Europe should be proud of its history and firmly focused on the future. This is an essential step in ensuring that Europeans support the organization. France’s goal is therefore to strengthen the Council of Europe’s main acquis, established after 70 years of victories and progress, and to accompany societal change through unity and innovation.

This goal will be reflected in three priorities:

France’s three priorities

Preserving and strengthening the European human rights system

The Council of Europe has one of the world’s most robust legal mechanisms for protecting citizens’ rights. However, human rights violations are still all too common. For this reason, the European Convention on Human Rights system must be promoted and strengthened. This means supporting the European Court of Human Rights, enhancing dialogue between judges (between national judges and between the Court and national judges), and improving the implementation of the Convention in each Member State.

The French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers wishes to discuss ways of defending and enhancing the rights of Europeans, especially those who are most vulnerable – including children. The Council of Europe has played a key role in protecting rights in recent decades. Nevertheless, much remains to be done, despite this year marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Strengthening Europeans’ rights also means defending social rights, which need to be better articulated with European Union law.

Working towards a unified Europe and promoting equality and community

Given the rise of reactionary views and hate speech, the Council of Europe needs to affirm its values: equality, tolerance, sharing and living together.

The fight for peaceful and unified societies involves the fight for gender equality. For this reason, combating violence against women will be a key theme underlying France’s Presidency. Our goal is for as many States as possible – within the Council of Europe and beyond – to join the Istanbul Convention, which is the most advanced and comprehensive instrument in this field.

This fight also involves tackling all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance. All hate speech and discrimination, whether based on gender, origin, beliefs, sexual orientation or otherwise, must be resolutely targeted. The way history is taught is therefore of central importance in bringing Europeans closer together and creating a sense of shared belonging. For this reason, the French Presidency will launch reflections on setting up an observatory for history teaching in Europe. European history is part of our shared heritage: it should unite rather than divide us.

Modernizing the Council of Europe by rising to new challenges facing human rights and the rule of law

Today, the main issues facing human rights and the rule of law are digital technology and artificial intelligence, which create both opportunities and challenges. The French Presidency wants to bring new momentum to these topics at the Council of Europe, to ensure that the organization plays a pioneering role in these fields in the coming decades.

Democracy and the rule of law are facing a number of other challenges, which could erode the trust placed by Europeans in their institutions. To respond to these concerns, which affect all of Europe, we must guarantee accessible, reliable and transparent information for everyone, everywhere. We also need to remain vigilant with respect to corruption, another threat. France will work on responding to all of these challenges while presiding the Committee of Ministers.

May 2019