Monday

20th Sep 2021

Opinion

The Nordics unite to support the Council of Europe and ECHR

  • The Council of Europe HQ in Strasbourg, where 47 European states are members. Finland has just made a voluntary contribution of €1.25m – over and above its Council of Europe membership fees (Photo: Council of Europe)

In the aftermath of the World War Two, the Council of Europe was established in Strasbourg on the basis of international law - including human rights and the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Today, 47 European states have committed to this foundation upon which our societies are built.

It continues to be our firm belief that international law, these principles and multilateral commitments are the necessary preconditions for peaceful, safe and just societies where everyone can thrive.

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  • The European Court of Human Rights, also in Strasbourg, has seen its caseload hit by the Covid-19 pandemic (Photo: EUobserver)

Significant progress has been achieved in Europe in the last 70 years.

Now over 830 million people benefit from the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights and the oversight of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as numerous other human rights conventions.

However, despite significant progress in many aspects, it is deeply concerning that the common core principles of the Council of Europe are increasingly contested on a number of fronts.

One particularly regrettable case in point is the undermining of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention.

Violence against women

Since being opened for signature 10 years ago, the convention has had a documented positive impact on prevention, ending impunity, and protecting victims – those who have survived domestic and gender-based violence.

Violence against women is a grave human rights violation, and international standards to combat such violence must be upheld, implemented and strengthened.

The elimination of gender-based violence, including against women, is central to advancing gender equality and ensuring women's full enjoyment of human rights.

Another worrying trend is the threat to media freedom and the safety of journalists in Europe and beyond.

Intimidation of media

Without access to information and freedom of expression, the pluralism upon which democracy is predicated is seriously eroded. Journalists must be free to do their work without fear of violence, intimidation and harassment. It is deeply concerning that during the Covid-19 pandemic the threats faced by journalists have increased.

The challenges to human rights in Europe are also reflected in the caseload of the European Court of Human Rights, which, despite many reforms, continues to be high, placing the court under significant pressure.

Moreover, changing circumstances – such as the current pandemic - present a host of new questions for the protection of human rights.

These and many other issues need to be addressed promptly by the court to ensure that the protection attained to date is not eroded.

We, the Nordic foreign ministers, are convinced that threats to international human rights law, to democracy and the rule of law are best confronted through strong multilateral efforts. We therefore reaffirm our unyielding commitment to multilateralism and the rules-based international order where we all work together towards common goals.

We further express our firm support for the European Court of Human Rights and its role as the guardian of human rights in Europe.

To this end, we, the five Nordic countries, also pledge to support the court in strengthening its overall resources.

Author bio

Jeppe Kofod is Danish minister of foreign affairs. Pekka Haavisto is Finnish minister of foreign affairs. Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson is Icelandic minister for foreign affairs and international development cooperation. Ine Eriksen Søreide is Norwegian minister for foreign affairs. Ann Linde is Swedish minister for foreign affairs.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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