Berlin – ESI on the future of the Council of Europe at 75

25 April 2024
Gerald giving the keynote
Keynote by Gerald Knaus. Photo: ESI

Gerald Knaus gave the keynote speech, titled „Zukunft des Europarats“ or “The Future of the Council of Europe, at the SPD parliamentary faction’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe’s (CoE) founding. Gerald gave his speech at the invitation of Germany’s CoE Delegation Chair, SPD MP Frank Schwabe.

In his speech, Gerald detailed ESI’s work on the topic of corruption in the Council of Europe. He recalled ESI’s research into Azeri vote-buying in the Council – or as Azerbaijani officials themselves called it internally, Caviar Diplomacy – and the threat this corruption posed to the Council’s ability to fulfil its critical mission of strengthening human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

Gerald noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine proved a potential turning point for the Council, which was finally forced to acknowledge the failure of its policy of accommodation towards Russian authoritarianism and suspend and eventually expel the country. This has empowered good actors on the Council to hold Azerbaijan to its obligations as well, as was shown when Azerbaijan’s delegation to the Council had its credentials refused in January 2024. In selecting its next Secretary General in 2024, the year of the Council’s 75th anniversary, Gerald argued that the Council has the chance to demonstrate its commitment to effectively champion human rights in Europe over the next 75 years.

To this effect, in his speech – which followed that of Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti – Gerald noted the importance that the Council advances Kosovo’s membership, which is currently in jeopardy. Noting that Kosovo has made a successful effort to fulfil the Council’s standards of membership, Gerald said that accepting Kosovo as a new member would demonstrate the importance the Council places on rule-of-law above other political considerations. Rejecting or delaying Kosovo’s membership for political reasons – namely to appease the illiberal Vucic government in Serbia – risks repeating the Council’s past mistakes.