ZAGREB, May 18, 2018 – The Council of Europe (CoE) did not lose its importance, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said in Helsingor on Friday, adding that he wanted the oldest European organisation to continue its development and remain strong and relevant in the future.
Rasmussen spoke at the start of a session of the CoE Committee of Ministers at which Denmark, which assumed the CoE chairmanship in November 2017, is expected to hand it over to Croatia. Six months later, Croatia will be replaced by Finland.
The CoE today has 47 member states, that is, all European countries with the exception of Belarus. The CoE was founded in 1949 by 10 countries – Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Croatia joined the CoE on 6 November 1996 as the organisation’s 40th member. Accession negotiations lasted unusually long because the Committee of Ministers considered that Zagreb was meddling in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it wasn’t respecting minority rights or freedom of the media. The Parliamentary Assembly gave Croatia the green light for membership on 24 April 1996 after Croatia’s then president, Franjo Tuđman, and parliament speaker Vlatko Pavletić signed a list of 21 demands.
At the session in Helsingor, Rasmussen spoke about the priorities and the results of Denmark’s six-month presidency, underscoring the adoption of the Copenhagen declaration in April, the key objective of which is reforming the European human rights protection system. He said the reform of the European human rights system would lead to a more focused, more balanced and more efficient system to the benefit of more than 800 million Europeans.
After Rasmussen’s speech, the ministers started discussing behind closed doors democratic security, the future of the CoE, conflicts in Europe and cooperation between CoE and the European Union, which will be presided by Croatia in the first half of 2020.
Later today, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić is expected to present Croatia’s priorities of its CoE chairmanship.