Priorities of France’s Presidency
The European Convention on Human Rights system must be promoted and strengthened. To do so, we need to build on the different changes that have taken place over the past 10 years. New tools should enhance dialogue between judges, which is essential to the system’s daily work (conference of the heads of the Supreme Courts of the Council of Europe member States).
Defending the rights of Europeans means defending the rights of the most vulnerable, especially the children. We must constantly strive to be more ambitious in protecting against violence and discrimination, and in including children. Protecting the vulnerable also means defending social rights. The European system for the protection of social rights is one of the Council of Europe’s most important acquis, and France is committed to strengthening it (seminar on the protection of social rights).
Lastly, the abolition of the death penalty has been a major achievement by the Council of Europe, which France will promote in conjunction with the city of Strasbourg (conference on the death penalty).
2. Working towards a Europe that unites and brings us closer, and promoting equality and living together
The fight for peaceful and unified societies is dependent on the fight for gender equality. For this reason, violence against women will be a key theme underlying France’s Presidency (Women’s Rights at the Crossroads conference, conference on the role of police in fighting violence against women). France’s goal is for as many States as possible – within the Council of Europe and beyond – to join the Istanbul Convention, which is the most advanced and comprehensive tool in this field.
This fight also involves tackling all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance. All hate speech and discrimination, whether based on gender, origin, beliefs, sexual orientation or otherwise, must be resolutely targeted (conference on the fight against racism and discrimination, celebration of the 25th anniversary of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, seminar on hate speech and homophobic and transphobic violence, meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM)).
Living together is not only an issue within societies ; it is also an issue between societies. We must work tirelessly to build a sense of shared belonging while bringing Europeans closer together, regardless of their country of origin. The way history is taught is therefore of central importance : France wants to study the possibilities to create an observatory for history teaching in Europe (conference on the teaching of history, meeting of Education Ministers). To bring our peoples closer together, we must also promote a shared European culture, which the Council of Europe supports through heritage and film (celebration of the 30th anniversary of Eurimages). In addition, the Council of Europe carries out lesser known but equally important activities for citizens’ health. It ensures the quality of medicines in Europe (conference on the 10th edition of European Pharmacopeia).
3. Adapt the Council of Europe by responding to new challenges facing human rights and the rule of law
Today, the main issues facing human rights and the rule of law are digital technology and artificial intelligence, which create both opportunities and challenges. These evolutions are affecting the way the legal system works and its interactions with legal subjects (conference of Ministers of Justice).
They are transforming the relationship between democracy and information (2019 edition of the World Forum for Democracy). Part of the digital challenge is protecting users : safeguarding their data (conference on the globalization of Convention 108) and fighting cybercrime (Octopus Conference). The issues of digital technology and artificial intelligence affect all of the Council of Europe’s fields of action. For this reason, they will be a cross-cutting theme at most events organized by the French Presidency (events on children’s rights, fighting racism and intolerance, etc.).
Another major challenge to establishing and consolidating the rule of law is corruption. Fighting corruption is a key issue in our democracies, as it affects the trust citizens place in institutions. The French Presidency will address this issue generally (conference on the fight against corruption) and specifically, with respect to sport (meeting on fighting corruption in sport).
Bioethics is another important contemporary issue where European States will gain from sharing their experiences and views. France wishes to highlight the role of public debate in developing consensual conclusions and rising above tensions (seminar of the Committee on Bioethics).