One voice could send a stronger message

Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council wants to cooperate more with the EU

Event contributions, Berlin, Nov. 22, 2012
Ed.: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.

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Beate Neuss and Jean-Claude Mignon
Beate Neuss and Jean-Claude Mignon.

As being a European citizen himself who also has to pay tax money, Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe spoke in Berlin at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung about the needs for more cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. “It is hard to explain a European taxpayer, that a Special Representative working for the Council and a European commissioner working for the EU, are doing almost the exact same thing.”

While sharing the same anthem and the same flag, the two institutions however are not part of each other. But as being a ‘product of the same idea, the same spirit and the same ambition’ a lot of jobs are very similar. Even though the Council came to existence a few years earlier (1949), as the European Community, European Union’s forerunner, it is the one that stays unlighted most of the time. “The Council of Europe may sound nice, in public unfortunately, not a lot of people know where it stands for. Even journalists sometimes think we are part of the EU,” said Mignon who said to be honored to speak in Berlin so close before the 50th anniversary of post-war Franco-German cooperation. A cooperation based on the Élysée Treaty which was signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer on January 22, 1963. “This symbolism is and will remain important for the cooperation within European countries today and for our next generations,” he added.

After a word from the deputy chairwoman Beate Neuss who praised the Council for being an ‘actor with a voice and influence on today’s issues and the work being done by the European Court of Human Rights’, Mignon took over and continued by suggesting how the two institutions could work together on particularly the field of human rights.

Mignon campaigned for a common legal framework for the protection of Human Rights “Since our existence more than 200 initiatives have been taken on many different topics like sexual abuse to women or kids, but also for more Internet freedom. We showed we can step out of the shade.” Also he suggested the EU’S fundamental Right agency to tune and match their monitoring methods with those from the Council. These two bodies should meet each other to exchange information and contacts. It could than speak with one, probably also stronger, voice. In the 2011 elections in Belarus for example, they worked together and had a big impact on the Belarusian politics. Results for example where a resolution from the European Parliament that ’reiterates its conviction that political freedoms need to be fully respected and that all individuals and groups must be able to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including when harshly criticizing the authorities and the conduct of the elections,’ and a Resolution from the Council on the Freedom of Association in the Republic of Belarus.

On a question if there is any competition between the two institutions he convincingly said no. “We are on our way to cooperate more and more. The problem has to do with ignorance. Many people don’t know what our job is, what we stand for. When I was having lunch with Martin Schulz, the current president of the European Parliament, there is no jealousy between us. We both want to build something. We owe it to our history that we work together for our values.”

With a meeting four times a year open for public, the Council should try stepping out of the shade. The EU has a much bigger budget and has the ability to put laws through. But whereas the EU only exists out of 27 member states, the Council represents 800 thousand Europeans with having 47 of Europe’s 50 countries as a member. The both institutions therefore need each other. A stronger cooperation could lead to better democratic developments and a stronger voice.