Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Bern, 7 September 2023

The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, visited Switzerland on Thursday, 7 September, and met with President Alain Berset. The talks were devoted to the Council of Europe’s outlook in the follow-up to the Reykjavík Summit. Other key topics included addressing the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the protection of human rights in Europe. The president presented the secretary general with Switzerland’s instrument of ratification on Convention 108+ strengthening data protection.

Both parties praised the momentum generated by the summit in the spring and the results achieved, including the Reykjavík Principles for Democracy. The task now, in a time of great challenges for the continent and scarce resources, is to put these goals into practice. President Berset reiterated Switzerland’s position that the ties between the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Political Community and the UN organisations – including those based in Geneva – should be strengthened.

The outcomes of the summit include the establishment of a register to document the damage caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This should help to secure evidence of the crimes committed by Russia. President Berset signed a declaration of intent in Reykjavík, and the Federal Council announced its decision to join the Register of Damage on 30 August, thereby underscoring Switzerland’s support for the political process of reconstruction initiated by the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in Lugano last year.

A further topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting was Kosovo’s aspiration to join the Council of Europe. Switzerland welcomes this step. Among other things, the country’s inhabitants – including members of the Serb minority and other communities – would gain access to the European Court of Human Rights. In April, in a first step, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers approved Kosovo’s accession request.  Before a final decision is taken, an evaluation will take place as to whether Kosovo’s legal. system meets the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Convention has become a key point of reference for European legislative and judicial authorities. From Switzerland’s perspective, the independence and strong role of the European Court of Human Rights is one of the most important achievements of the Council of Europe and its member states. President Berset expressed his regret that the Convention and its mechanism are under pressure today. It is more important than ever to stand up for the fundamental values on which it is based. In 2024, the Council of Europe celebrates its 75th anniversary. This will also mark the 50th anniversary of Switzerland’s ratification of the Convention. The two anniversaries will once again provide an opportunity for the organisation and Switzerland to highlight the Council of Europe’s achievements in advancing the protection of human rights.

Strengthening data protection

At the meeting in Bern, President Berset also presented the Council of Europe’s secretary general with the instrument of ratification confirming Switzerland’s adoption of the modernised Convention on Data Protection of 1981 (Convention 108). The amending protocol (Convention 108+) is intended to respond to the challenges resulting from the use of new information and communication technologies.

As the only legally binding international instrument for the protection of personal data, Convention 108 plays a crucial role in promoting the right to privacy worldwide. The modernised convention (Convention 108+) will reinforce this role, but it will not enter into force until it has been ratified by 38 States Parties. The Convention and the amending protocol are open to states that are not members of the Council of Europe and so also have an impact beyond Europe.

Source – Swiss Government

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