Globalisation, xenophobia and social exclusion are the “centrifugal forces” tearing apart Europe, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland told the organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly today.
He said there should be “no second class citizens” in Europe and underlined the organisation’s commitment to the work of the ‘Eminent Person’s Group’ and ideas for Europe’s post multi-cultural future.
Jagland declared that “achieving more social cohesion should be seen as part of a security concept for Europe that goes deeper than traditional tools, including military tools, can provide.”
In a wide-ranging speech, the Secretary General stressed there would be no “sacred cows” in his reform of the Council of Europe and urged full government compliance with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
He called on authorities in Belarus to make a choice “not between Russia and the EU but between Europe and isolation from Europe.
The Secretary General also outlined his programme for restoring popular confidence in national and European political institutions, admitting that “extreme forces in Europe and in Europe’s neighbourhood are feeding on each other.
“Many of our citizens feel that our societies are under threat from the multitude of social, political, cultural and religious and other tensions which foment mistrust and fear. This is fertile ground for nationalist and populist forces.”
The Secretary General warned that Europe’s post-war “culture of togetherness” has been weakened by a “cold wind blowing over Europe.”
He urged governments to respond not with denials but by restoring “the ability of political institutions to solve problems.”
The Secretary General said that the “growing political relevance and impact of the Council of Europe in European affairs” gave it a “pivotal role” as an essential partner in efforts to maintain the “great European project.”
He added: “Dealing with the most urgent challenges today must be a pan-European project which includes everyone.”