Without peace it is impossible to secure human rights

5 May is Europe Day – in memory of the founding of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949, when Europe lay in ruins. Since then, the Council of Europe has promoted human rights, the rule of law and democracy. In the face of war, these values are of particular importance, writes President Ignazio Cassis in his message for this year's Europe Day.

Federal Councillor Friedrich Traugott Wahlen signs the instrument of Switzerland's accession to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

On 6 May 1963, Friedrich Traugott Wahlen signs Switzerland's instrument of accession to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, whose values it shares until today. © Keystone

There are events that accelerate the course of history. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is just such an event. The differences that separate Europe’s democratic states from each other, whatever they may be, recede into the background.

And instead what unites us becomes even more important. These are the values of the Council of Europe: human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The Council of Europe, whose founding in 1949 is commemorated today, is sometimes overshadowed in public perception by other Europe-wide institutions, but it is needed – more than ever!

Without peace, it is impossible to safeguard human rights. But even in times of peace, there is a need for lasting, well-established guarantees. Safeguarding these guarantees is one of the Council of Europe's core tasks. Promoting an independent judiciary and a vibrant democracy at all political levels will be among the organisation's priorities when it comes to rebuilding Ukraine - hopefully in the near future.

The European Convention on Human Rights is a key instrument for the continent as a whole. It ensures the protection of the individual against arbitrary state action and guarantees fundamental rights. This is of inestimable value to Switzerland as a liberal country that also relies on the rule of law internationally. In addition, our country is able to participate in the Council of Europe on an equal footing. We are committed to a platform that serves to strengthen mutual trust between 46 states.

The anthem of the Council of Europe, the European anthem, is Beethoven's ‘Ode to Joy’. The title may seem oddly out of place at the moment. But today is a reminder that in 1949 large parts of our continent lay in ruins and were rebuilt.

5 May is a day of gratitude for the peace and stability of post-war Western Europe - but this year, especially, it is also a day of hope for an early end to the war in Ukraine, the reconstruction of the country and a new start in the effort to anchor the values of the Council of Europe throughout Eastern Europe.

Message from President Ignazio Cassis on the occasion of Europe Day, 5 May 2022

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