Press releases, 21.05.2021

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, took part today in the 131st ministerial session of the Council of Europe (CoE), held online because of the pandemic. In his speech, he hailed the CoE's key role in protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the digital age. At the session, the foreign ministers of the 47 member states reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the European Court of Human Rights effective.

"It is our common duty to prevent the risks of digitalisation without impeding progress," stated Cassis. In his remarks, he stressed that digitalisation is one of the priorities of Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. He also highlighted International Geneva's leading role in this domain.

In view of the growing importance of digitalisation, the ministers underscored the CoE's contribution to safeguarding its key values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In particular, they expressed their support for the ongoing work on artificial intelligence and cybercrime.

Greater foresight through four-year planning
In the course of the session, the ministers also decided to increase their planning periods from two years to four years. Furthermore, they agreed to pursue their efforts to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights can continue to function effectively. This decision is part of the ongoing Interlaken court-reform process launched under the Swiss chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in 2010.

The outgoing German chairmanship organised this 131st session, held virtually for the second time in a row. During its six months chairing the Committee, Germany's core priorities included strengthening the implementation of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, protecting minorities and women, and fighting online hate speech.

Hungary taking the reins
Today, Germany is passing the torch to Hungary, which has announced that it will focus its efforts on technological and environmental challenges, and protection of national minorities. 

The CoE is a pan-European organisation with 47 member states. Switzerland joined the Council in 1963, 14 years after it was founded.

Further information:

A journey into cyberspace guided by the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
Speech: "Digitalisation - an opportunity for Europe's democratic values"

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