ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey will take over the Council of Europe’s decision-making body next week, one day after the EU Commission releases its annual report on the country’s progress toward accession to the bloc.
“We’ll chair both the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. This is a historic occasion,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a group of journalists accompanying him on his China trip that began last week.
Turkey, which has been a Council of Europe member since 1949, will assume the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers on November 10, one day after the EU Commission releases its annual progress report on Turkey.
Ruling party deputy Mevlut Cavusoglu was elected the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, or PACE, in January for a two-year period, becoming the first Turk to do so. From next week, Turkey will undertake the responsibility of the two main mechanisms of the Council of Europe.
“Turkey’s November agenda is not the missile defense system but its takeover of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, which shows the level of democracy in this country,” Davutoglu told a group of journalists accompanying his Chinese trip that began last week.
The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe’s decision-making body and comprises the foreign ministers of the 47 member states or their permanent representatives in Strasbourg. In close cooperation with PACE, it is considered the guardian of the council’s fundamental values and monitors member states’ compliance with them. Turkey will hold the post until May 2011.
“Missile issues or others of course have strategic importance but eventually they are not as important as this event in terms of a country’s transformation,” Davutoğlu said.
The foreign minister, who will go to Strasbourg next week, is expected to unveil the country’s six-month priorities and program next Wednesday.
“The Council of Europe is currently the world’s most comprehensive institution, with its established traditions on human rights and democratic values, and Turkey has passed through rising and falling periods in this institution,” said Davutoglu.
The foreign minister pointed out that he knew very well the times when Turkey’s membership was suspended in the wake of the Sept. 12 military coup and the speeches made at the time that caused the then-Turkish minister to leave the room almost in tears. He hailed the two positions Turkey will hold as the highest-ranking positions held by Turkey in the European state system since the creation of the Vienna Congress in 1815.
“We should know its value. In the 1990s, Turkey was a country which was criticized at every occasion and was left alone in all its votes. … Only a decade ago, Turkey was a country being excluded and judged due to violations,” said Davutoglu. “But today all the responsibility of an institution considered the zenith of democracy will be upon us.”
Turkey’s growing role in the Middle East and outside is resulting in more Turkish representation on international platforms. Turkey currently holds a nonpermanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and Turkey’s Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu leads one of the world’s largest Muslim organizations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Also, a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu, chairs the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers meets at the ministerial level once a year, in May or November. The meetings, known as sessions, are normally held in Strasbourg and usually last one full day or two half days.
While the greater part of each session is usually devoted to political dialogue, the ministers may discuss all matters of mutual interest with the exception of national defense. Although the records of the sessions are confidential, a final communiqué is issued at the end of each meeting. The ministers may also issue one or more declarations.
Below are a list of priorities for the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry:
- Encouraging the Council of Europe’s role in the European political structure.
- Supporting the Council of Europe’s reform agenda, making the organization more politically visible.
- Contributing to the reform of the European Court of Human Rights, which currently faces three major problems: the length of time the court takes to deal with applications, the quality of its rulings and the efficiency with which the rulings are implemented.
- The Turkish chairmanship will do its best to expand European Union efforts to provide access to the European Convention on Human Rights. The early conclusion of that study is expected to mark a turning point in the protection of human rights in Europe.
- Turkey believes independent monitoring mechanisms should be developed for a more influential Council of Europe. The Turkish chairmanship will work to strengthen these monitoring mechanisms.