A century ago, shortly after the end of the First World War, the League of Nations was founded; 30 years later, after the Second World War, the Council of Europe was established in a bid to resolve open issues on the continent through cooperation rather than violence. The Council of Europe had been the first instrument designed to create a 'Europe of values', said Mr Cassis in his speech at the ministerial session in Helsinki. He noted that the conventions of the Council of Europe had created a common legal and democratic space, adding that Switzerland attached as much importance to the work done by the Council of Europe as to the values promoted by that organisation, namely the protection of fundamental freedoms and respect for the rule of law and democracy. "The same values are at the heart of the Swiss Federal Constitution," he said.
However, in its 70th year, the Council of Europe is contending with institutional and financial problems. In Helsinki, Mr Cassis argued for better coordination between the institutions. He also said that Switzerland supported the reforms designed to make the Council of Europe's work more efficient and effective. The goal was to strengthen the organisation and make it fit for the 21st century, he said. This would also mean the Council of Europe focusing more on topics such as digitalisation and artificial intelligence.
On the eve of the session, Mr Cassis attended a ceremony to mark the Council of Europe's 70th anniversary and deposited the instrument of ratification of its Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. In Macolin in 2014, Switzerland became the first country to sign the convention, which governs mutual legal assistance in the fight against the manipulation of sports competitions. The Macolin Convention will come into force for all contracting states three months after being ratified by Switzerland.
The head of the FDFA also used his presence in Helsinki as an opportunity for bilateral meetings. Among other people, he met with Liliane Maury Pasquier, a member of the Swiss Council of States representing the canton of Geneva, who is currently president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He also met the foreign ministers of Belgium, Slovenia and Malta – Didier Reynders, Miro Cerar and Carmelo Abela – for bilateral talks.
Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg and currently has 47 member states. Switzerland became a member in 1963.
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