The Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which Hungary officially took over for six months on Friday, comes with “serious responsibility” and also “a special opportunity”, Justice Minister Judit Varga said.
In an English-language Facebook post, Varga said that the responsibilities that came with the presidency, which include coordinating the standpoints of 47 member states and consulting continuously with their representatives, were not easy tasks.
The priorities of the Hungarian CoE Presidency include the protection of minority rights and maintaining a dialogue on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Varga said. “Our principle is to respect the cultural, legal and historical traditions of nations and to represent the interests of future generations,” she said.
The main topics the Hungarian presidency will focus on future challenges including the digitalisation of the judicial system and the application of artificial intelligence in justice administration, Varga said. A conference of justice ministers focusing on these issues will be hosted by Budapest in the autumn, she added.
Varga noted that Hungary’s parliament on Tuesday adopted a political declaration reaffirming the national assembly’s commitment to the work of the CoE, which functions as a framework of cooperation among free, independent and democratic European states. “Hungary has been, for a long time, a devoted participant and shaper in the development of law in Europe, a fact that will be proved in the following months again,” the justice minister said.
Besides the pandemic, fresh political conflicts have arisen in the recent period with tit-for-tat sanctions and “verbal incidents” between major players in global politics and economy, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Friday, adding that the developments were “a cause for concern”. Szijjarto said in his English-language address to a Council of Europe meeting, also posted on his Facebook page, that he represented a central European country whose people understood that “geography determines the house number of the countries, which is unchangeable”. “Based on geography we have learnt the lessons of our history and have drawn the conclusions,” he added.
“Maybe the most important conclusion is that whenever there’s a conflict between East and West, central Europe usually loses,” he said, adding that “we don’t want to be losers anymore”. As a result, Hungary wants a pragmatic cooperation based on dialogue between East and West, Szijjarto said. “We are absolutely not interested in a new cold war to be launched,” he said. “Under these circumstances, the significance of the organisations which offer a platform to East and West dialogue is getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “Council of Europe is serving as one of the best frameworks for that,” he added.
During the next half year, Hungary will do the best it can to help and support the Council of Europe, he said. The pandemic offers a chance to re-establish pragmatic cooperation between East and West because the aim is to save people lives and this requires close cooperation, the minister added.