RIGA - The Latvian Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will advance the implementation of the summit's decisions in support of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) said in his address to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers on Friday.
The Latvian minister noted that the Council of Europe's Reykjavik Summit reaffirmed unwavering support to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Council of Europe must continue supporting Ukraine and its people as long as necessary, Rinkevics said.
"We condemn in the strongest terms Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. Such a behavior can never be normalized. Russia must comply with its international obligations and withdraw its forces not only from Ukraine, but also from Georgia and Moldova," the Latvian minister stressed.
He underlined that crimes committed by Russia and its political and military leadership cannot and will not go unpunished. No efforts must be spared to ensure comprehensive accountability.
The foreign minister thanked the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for exploring ways to hold Russia accountable for the crimes committed in and against Ukraine. As Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, Latvia will keep this issue high on the agenda, Rinkevics pledged.
"I strongly welcome the decision by the Summit to establish the Register of Damage caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It is a first practical step towards a future international compensation mechanism. Latvia is among the founding members of the Register, and as Presidency will support its operational launch," Rinkevics said.
He went on to emphasize that international efforts must continue to establish a special tribunal for the crime of aggression. The crime of aggression is a leadership crime and a source of other crimes committed by Russian armed forces against Ukraine and its people.
Voicing Latvia's position, Rinkevics indicated that the creation of an ad hoc international tribunal under the auspices of the United Nations would provide the strongest international legitimacy. The Council of Europe can contribute with its expertise.
"I am convinced that international efforts to investigate and document the horrific crimes committed by Russia against Ukraine will continue. Particular attention must be given to the issue of forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, and their safe return home," the foreign minister said.
Turning attention to the national priorities of the Latvian Presidency, Rinkevics firstly mentioned strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Europe, including promotion of the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments.
Latvia will devote particular importance to the rule of law through an effective functioning of justice system.
In September, Latvia will organize an Informal Conference of European Justice Ministers in support of resilience of Ukrainian judicial system at the time of war and post-war reconstruction.
"Latvian Presidency will explore the role of national courts in the execution of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. We will emphasise the need for a dialogue-based monitoring process over the execution of the judgments. It can be done by greater cooperation among states, and with experts from the Council of Europe," Rinkevics said.
The Presidency will address the crucial role of education and youth promoting democracy and the rule of law at the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education in September.
Secondly, the Latvian Presidency prioritizes promotion of freedom of expression, safety of journalists and digital agenda of the Council of Europe.
Latvian Presidency will join efforts with the Council of Europe to promote the protection of journalists and media professionals, including during conflicts and wartime.
The launch of the new Council of Europe campaign on the Safety of Journalists will take place in Riga in October. It will be followed by an international conference on freedom of expression and safety of journalists.
The Latvian Presidency is committed to contribute to the work of the Council of Europe in the area of artificial intelligence. We hope that in the coming months substantial progress will be achieved in the negotiations of the new framework convention.
Thirdly, Latvia prioritizes advancement of reforms of the Council of Europe.
The current geopolitical situation provides an opportunity for changes of the Council of Europe as an organization. The summit has given us policy direction in this regard.
The Latvian Presidency is committed to increase the transparency, visibility and efficiency of the work of the Committee of Ministers. The civil society and youth must be involved in the policy discussion processes.
The situation when citizens of Russia continue working in the Council of Europe’s structures is unacceptable. We will follow up on this issue at the Committee of Ministers.
Latvian Presidency will work closely with all partners to strengthen the Council of Europe. We are open to a dialogue on all issues of the agenda.
Given the important role played by the civil society in upholding the values of this Organisation, the Council of Europe must continue supporting the efforts of the Belarusian society to build a free and democratic Belarus.