Finland’s Presidency of the Council of Europe
Finland held the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is the highest decision-making body of the Council of Europe (CoE), from 21 November 2018 to 17 May 2019.
During the Presidency the weekly meetings in Strasbourg were led by Finland's Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers meets at foreign ministers' level once a year. The annual foreign ministerial session was held on 16–17 May 2019 in Helsinki. Finland held the rotating Presidency previously in 1997–1998. The Unit for Human Rights Policy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs coordinated matters during Finland's Presidency.
Priorities of Finland's Presidency
Finland prepared the Presidency Programme in cooperation with different ministries and in dialogue with civil society representatives. Various events were organised under the following themes, which were the Presidency's selected priorities:
- Strengthening the system of human rights and the rule of law in Europe
- Supporting equality and women’s rights
- Openness and inclusion — as well as a focus on young people and the prevention of radicalisation.
Finland is actively involved in the promotion of human rights matters in the CoE and is known for its strong contribution to the development of human rights. The impacts of artificial intelligence on human rights, for example, will be discussed during Finland's Presidency.
Finland considers it important that the CoE concentrates on its core tasks and has consistently sought to strengthen the organisation's human rights role and tried to safeguard the operation of the European Court of Human Rights.
Finland has been among the ones in the front line in nearly all topical human rights issues that have been raised in the Council of Europe, especially in the promotion of the human rights of the most disadvantaged groups, including women and the Roma. The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights has been established on Finland's initiative and Finland supports the work of the Commissioner.
The Council of Europe in a nutshell
The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organisation, which focuses on the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Founded in 1949, it is an organisation with 47 member States, which makes it larger than the European Union, for example. The European Flag was originally created for the CoE, but it is currently used by the European Union, too.
The basic task of the CoE is to promote human rights, a pluralistic democracy and the rule of law. The most important instruments in this work are binding agreements and the monitoring of their implementation. The European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and many other human rights agreements lay a strong foundation for European human rights work. Finland has ratified 112 CoE treaties.
The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body, whose membership comprises the foreign ministers of the member States or their deputies (permanent representatives to the Council of Europe). The Committee of Ministers approves agreements prepared by the CoE and determines the action to be taken on its recommendations. In addition, the Committee of Ministers discusses questions of common political interest. It also monitors that the States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights implement the judgments passed by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is a deliberative institution that makes initiatives. It is made up of parliamentarians designated by the member States. Finland's delegation comprises five members of Parliament and five substitutes.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is an advisory institution composed of representatives of the member States’ local and regional authorities. Its main objective is to foster these authorities' self-government and to strengthen the implementation of human rights at local level.
The most important mechanism of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights. It oversees the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgments of the Court are binding on the defendant state. The European Court of Human Rights consists of one elected judge from each member State of the CoE.
The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights was originally established on Finland’s initiative. The post is currently held by Dunja Mijatović. The Commissioner for Human Rights promotes the implementation of human rights.