Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders closed the Belgian Presidency of the Council of Europe during the 125th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, on Tuesday 19 May at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. He officially passed the Presidency to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor Crnadak. Belgium chaired the Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe since 13 November 2014.
Discussions during the conference were marked by important issues such as the prevention of radicalism leading to terrorism. They also focused on the role of the Council of Europe in the consolidation of the democratic institutions in its member states, particularly through an effective, independent and impartial judiciary, respect for freedom of expression and of media, and safety of journalists.
The 47 member states of the Council of Europe, an institution dedicated to the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, adopted during this Ministerial meeting a series of measures to prevent terrorism in the short term, but also in the medium and long term. An Additional Protocol to the Convention of the Council of Europe on the prevention of terrorism has been adopted to fight more effectively against foreign terrorist fighters.
It obliges countries to criminalize various acts such as intentionally participating in terrorist groups, receiving terrorist training or traveling abroad for purposes of terrorism. This protocol will allow to intercept more quickly foreign terrorist fighters after their return on European soil and also includes measures to strengthen international anti-terrorist cooperation.
The Ministers of the 47 Member States also endorsed a political declaration and a three-year action plan against violent extremism and radicalization. It puts forward a series of measures to combat radicalism, particularly in schools or prisons, as well as online. In his speech, Minister Reynders stressed that we must fight against radicalism and terrorism, but with respect for our values and human rights.
Like many other delegations, Didier Reynders insisted on the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, referring in particular to Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
On the occasion of the Ministerial Session, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ) conducted consultations on the strengthening of their cooperation. The strengthening of the democratization process in Europe was also discussed. Particular attention went to the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.