Ávarp ráðherra á fundi ráðherranefndar Evrópuráðsins
Let me welcome you to this extraordinary meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies, to mark one year of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Let me also welcome those joining us live, as this meeting is being broadcasted live from the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg.
I am very pleased that we are joined here today by Emine Dzapharova, First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine. Madam Minister, it is an honour that you have decided to join us here in Strasbourg.
I am also pleased that we are joined by Mr. Tiny Kox, President of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Before we move on to our meeting let me get a few procedural aspects out of the way and ask if there are any questions concerning the draft agenda.
I see none, so I declare the agenda adopted.
Let me now move to the draft decisions that were approved at the meeting of the Deputies’ meeting on Wednesday and state that they are now formally adopted.
I am very pleased that we could start the meeting with the adoption of this strong message of support to Ukraine, following on to similar decisions taken under the Presidencies of Italy and Ireland.
I would also like to draw your attention to the joint statement on Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine that was issued last night by the Council of Europe leaders, namely myself in my role as the President of the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Commissioner for Human Rights, and the President of Congress.
Before commencing our discussions, I would like to invite delegations to view parts of the documentary called “Oh, sister” featuring Ukrainian women in war – a stark reminder of why we are here today.
Against the background of this film, we will mark the year that has passed since the launch of Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine.
One year ago, the Committee of Ministers agreed, only 24 hours after the Russian aggression had started and in agreement with the Parliamentary Assembly, to suspend the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe.
The Russian authorities decided to continue their war of aggression in flagrant violation of international law and its statutory obligations.
This Committee therefore excluded the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe as of 16 March 2022, again after consultation with the Parliamentary Assembly, which unanimously supported our action.
The then Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers skilfully led this process, and we are grateful for their resolute leadership.
A year has gone by, and on a daily basis we are witnessing grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by Russia against Ukraine and its people.
We can be proud that we reacted immediately and in a clear and decisive and unified manner to the aggression and the atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine.
We can only wonder, had we acted with the same decisiveness in 2008 when Georgia was attacked by the Russian Federation, or in 2014, when the same former member State invaded and occupied the Crimean Peninsula, if the enormous suffering and devastation we have seen in Ukraine in 2022 could perhaps have been avoided? This should be a lesson for the future.
Following the decision to expel Russia, the Committee of Ministers has taken important decisions on the legal and financial consequences of the expulsion and on assistance to Ukraine.
Meeting at ministerial level in Turin on 19 May 2022, the Committee adopted priority adjustments to the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2022, aimed at helping Ukraine and its people to face the challenges and consequences of the Russian aggression.
In December 2022, it adopted a new Action Plan "Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction" developed in close cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities.
We must continue to stand by Ukraine - for as long as it takes.
During our solemn ceremony earlier today outside the Council of Europe, I asked the question what the future is for our European project. How can we strengthen democratic security on our continent? How can we ensure that Russia is held accountable for the crimes committed and the suffering and damage caused?
There’s an urgent need to establish a comprehensive system of accountability and these questions must be addressed with resolve.
The Council of Europe is apt and ready to play an important role in holding Russia accountable and accountability will be high on the agenda of the 4th Council of Europe Summit to be held in Reykjavik in May.
The decision adopted today on the “Consequences of the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”, which invites the Secretary General to present modalities for the possible establishment and functioning of a register to record and document evidence and claims for damage, loss or injury as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine, is a very important step.
Dear ambassadors, dear friends, the weeks ahead of us – or 81 days to be exact - will be decisive for a successful Summit in Reykjavik. We count on your investment and full support.