Statement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the General Debate of the Fourth Council Of Europe Summit

Secretary General Pejčinović Burić, 
Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir,
Esteemed colleagues,

This month marks 75 years since the foundations of the Council of Europe were laid at the Congress of Europe in The Hague.
The aim of that historic gathering was simple: to ensure peace and prosperity after a devastating war that cost millions of lives and left our continent in ruins.
The participants shared one firm conviction: that armed conflict in Europe must become a thing of the past.
There can be no doubt that a lot has been achieved since then.

But nor can there be any doubt that the European community of values we created back then is under siege today.
So this summit couldn’t be more timely.
Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine goes against everything the Council of Europe and its member states stand for.
Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law – these are our common values.
They need protecting when threatened and defending when attacked.

The government of the Netherlands believes that Russia must be held accountable for all the pain and misery it is inflicting on the Ukrainian people.
Not only with regard to war crimes and human rights violations, but also for the damage and destruction it has caused.
So I fully agree with our Secretary General and others who called for the establishment of a register of damage.
And we are proud that the register will be housed in The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, and the legal capital of the world.

But let us be frank today.
Let’s tell it like it is.
Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are backsliding in other parts of Europe, too.
And that is a serious cause for concern.
Wherever and whenever media freedom, gender equality, LGBTIQ rights and the independence of the judiciary are under pressure, we must take action.
Indeed, as we’ve concluded here in Reykjavik, we must unite around our values.
And here I believe that the European Convention on Human Rights and the work of the Court remain crucial.
Let us acknowledge and cherish the strength of the foundations we have built together, including the institutions that support the Council of Europe, like the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
Let us make sure our continent remains what it has been for so long: a champion of human rights, peace and justice for all.

Thank you.