Of what 47-member body is Ukraine about to assume the Chairmanship, followed by the United Kingdom?  The answer is of course the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE), whose Chairmanship Ukraine will take on on 11 May.  The UK, in turn, takes over the chairmanship from Ukraine in November.  CoE Chairmanships are held for six months, following the English alphabet (it is a pleasing coincidence that Ukraine and the UK often come together at meetings and conferences of all kinds because of our alphabetical proximity).  

Established in 1949 by the Treaty of London, The Council of Europe now has 47 member states covering almost the entire European continent.  The headline aim is to create a common democratic and legal area ensuring respect for three fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  The logic is that these are the foundation of a tolerant and civilised society and underpin the European model which has created stability and economic growth for the last 60 years.  By promoting cooperation between different member states, the Council of Europe aims to tackle problems such as terrorism, organised crime, corruption and trafficking in human beings.  All this is backed up by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, a permanent court designed to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights.

This year will be the first time that Ukraine has ever assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and is a big opportunity to show that it can do.  That will include both working on specific dossiers such as reforming the Council of Europe itself, ECtHR reform, and local and regional democracy, on all of which we hope Ukraine will work closely with the UK.  The UK and Ukraine have already both agreed, with Albania – whose Chairmanship will follow the UK’s – on a number of priorities for our three successive Chairmanships.  Indeed, we were delighted to work with our Ukrainian and Albanian colleagues in such a constructive and innovative way: this is the first time there has ever been such an agreement on common priorities between three successive CoE Chairmanships.  Ukraine will also need to demonstrate that its own activities in the key fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law support the core values of the Council of Europe itself.  I look forward to a fruitful six months.  

For a summary of how I think Ukraine is doing on the key issues, see my recent speech in Oxford

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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