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President Higgins to address Council of Europe today in Strasbourg

Date: Tue 11th Oct, 2022 | 09:20

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, will today address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

This will be the second time that President Higgins has addressed the Council of Europe as President, having previously addressed the Assembly on 27 January 2015. Today’s visit takes place during Ireland’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which runs from 20 May to 7 November.

In his address, entitled “Reasserting the Moral Weight of the Council of Europe”, the President will consider the extreme challenges currently facing multilateralism, including the consequences of the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. He will also be addressing the devastating food insecurity crisis in the Horn of Africa, as well as highlighting the need to set out a longer term vision of the role of the Council of Europe in a post-conflict Europe, and how that role might fit within a wider and more effective global multilateral and institutional architecture.

Given the profound ethical significance of the European Convention on Human Rights, one that is admired and emulated across the globe, the President will emphasise the Council’s fundamental strengths and opportunities in rebuilding peace, and he will suggest that the Convention be re-invoked, extended, bolstered and re-asserted in order to become part of the discourse of the European Street.

The President will stress that no more than the work of the United Nations, citizens must be engaged with the work of the Council of Europe, with Member States providing mechanisms of transparency and accountability for the work of the global and regional institutions.

President Higgins will note that the year of his last address to the Council was also the year of some of the world’s brightest moments of hope, in the form of the agreements in New York and Paris on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and COP21, which provided us with a model for the construction of a sustainable future for humanity and for our planet. 

Building on that model, the President will argue that the Council of Europe must focus on the indivisibility of human rights, in all its dimensions, and commit to a wider definition of comprehensive security in Europe. Such a definition could contribute a European step towards a universal human rights-based approach to security, a security that includes the rights to live free from food insecurity, and all of the rights of participation. 

In addressing the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, President Higgins will state the importance of reaching all the short-term humanitarian targets which have been agreed in order to tackle the immediate shortages and save lives. He will further note however that this alone is insufficient, and highlight the need to address the structural factors contributing to food insecurity and to do so from a rights-based perspective, dealing with issues such as debt, monopolistic control of production and distribution of staples in food.

Later this afternoon, President Higgins will visit the European Court of Human Rights, where he will meet with the President of the Court, Róbert Spanó. Mr Spanó will be accompanied by the Vice President of the Court, Síofra O’Leary, who has recently been elected as the next President of the Court and will assume office on 1 November. Ms O’Leary will be both the first female and the first Irish President of the Court.

In addition to his address, President Higgins will also hold meetings this morning with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Tiny Kox, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić. The President will also view a photo exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Bern Convention in Ireland, a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation.