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  • NEWS 2006-2010

  • 22 February 2010

    In the framework of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, on 18 and 19 February 2010 Switzerland organised a High-Level Conference in Interlaken on the future of the European Court of Human Rights. By issuing a joint declaration the representatives of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe confirmed their intention to secure the long-term effectiveness of the ECHR.

    The delegation of Poland was headed by Mr Andrzej Kremer, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Igor Dzialuk, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Justice also formed part of the Polish delegation which consisted also of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ambassador Piotr A. Świtalski, Permanent Representative of Poland to the Council of Europe, and Mr Jan Sobczak from the Bureau of the Plenipotentiary for Proceedings before International Human Rights Protection Bodies) and of Ministry of Justice.

    The Swiss presidency was represented by Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and by Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). The Head of the FDJP chaired the two-day Conference. Besides the representatives of the remaining Member States of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, the President of the European Court of Human Rights Jean-Paul Costa and the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Mevlüt Çavusoglu also took part in the event.

    The Conference adopted a political declaration setting the course for the future reform of the ECHR. According to the declaration, the reform measures should be based on the one hand on the respect of the right of individual application and, on the other hand, on the principle of subsidiarity of the Strasbourg system, in which the primary responsibility for securing human rights protection is on Member States. The Declaration aims at reaching a balance between the incoming cases and the settled ones and to reduce the volume of approximately 120,000 outstanding cases as well as at securing full and effective implementation of the Court's judgments.

    On the Polish initiative, such topics as the necessity to introduce a national effective remedy in case of violation of the Convention rights and the need to provide potential applicants with better information at national level, in particular by means of Information Offices of the Council of Europe (using the experience of the so-called "Warsaw pilot project") was included in the discussions on the reform of the Convention system. Poland also came up with an initiative to adopt a Statute of the Court to facilitate the process of amending procedural regulations applying in the proceedings before the Court.  

    In order to reach these objectives the political declaration contains an action plan with a list of short and middle-term measures as well as an agenda for their implementation. Many of these measures address the questions related to the right of individual petition, the problem of implementation of the Convention at national level, the issue of the filtering of the manifestly inadmissible applications, the aspect of examination of repetitive cases as well as matters linked with the functioning of the Court and of the supervision of execution of judgments.

    Minister Kremer recalled: "The principle of subsidiarity implies that it is its Member States who actually guarantee the Convention, and therefore national authorities and national courts should be the primary arena for examining violations and for taking effective remedies before a complaint is sent to the Court in Strasbourg. One of the key elements of the debate on the future of the Convention system should therefore be the improvement of domestic remedies, whether they be of a specific nature or a general domestic remedy". He further stressed that "It is also indispensable at the national level to guarantee the co-operation of all authorities involved in the execution process". In this context he recalled that Poland has created a special interministerial committee, which analyses the reasons of the violations found by the Court, and makes concrete recommendations to the Government.

    The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland declared: "We will save the Court as we do not have any other choice. The European citizens demand this and they deserve nothing less". Jean-Paul Costa, President of the ECHR, said: "I can assure you that in its independence our Court is extremely willing to follow the road indicated at the Interlaken Conference". The President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Mevlut Cavusoglu, welcomed the measures taken to increase the efficiency of the Court bit insisted that such measures can only bear fruit within the context of a strong CoE.

    Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey underlined that: "In Interlaken we have laid the foundations that will enable us to accelerate the reform process of the Court. Switzerland will actively pursue this target during its Chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers and thereafter". Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declared: "I wish to point out that we can be very pleased with the result of the Interlaken Conference. It was important that the result was not limited to a merely political declaration of intent, but suggests more concrete measures".

    On Thursday, just before the opening of the Ministerial Conference, the Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov in the presence of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland and of Federal Councillor Widmer-Schlumpf deposited the ratification instrument. Protocol 14 will therefore enter into force on 1 June 2010.

    The Ministerial Conference in Interlaken is a key event of the six-month Chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, which Switzerland took over on 18 November 2009.

    Interlaken Declaration

    Interlaken Declaration (unofficial translation into Polish)

    Speech by Minister Andrzej Kremer at Interlaken Conference

    Conference file


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