Council of Europe Secretary General Pejčinović Burić on visit to Vienna: Focus on accountability issues on Russia and the situation in the Western Balkans BMEIA

On April 20, 2023, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg received the General Secretary of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, for a working meeting in Vienna. The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental political organization made up of 46 member states with the aim of strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Europe. The focus of the exchange was the role of the Council of Europe in the face of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and how to deal with the few European states, such as Kosovo, that are not yet part of the Council of Europe.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Schallenberg and Secretary General Pejčinović Burić addressed the upcoming fourth summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member states in Iceland on 16 and 17 May 2023. taking place against the backdrop of the Russian war of aggression and the consequent exclusion of Russia from the organization rather than. Foreign Minister Schallenberg emphasized in the meeting with General Secretary Pejčinović Burić:

I warmly welcome the Council of Europe’s renewed commitment to democracy and values ​​at the Iceland Summit. For in the future, more than ever, we need a weighty Council of Europe that will be a strong shield to defend the universality of human rights.

With Russia’s exclusion from the Council of Europe, the organization is experiencing a strengthening of its role in Europe’s political-democratic value system. Foreign Minister Schallenberg was pleased that negotiations on the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) had picked up speed again. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Schallenberg, in conversation with General Secretary Pejčinović Burić, paid special tribute to the pioneering role of the Council of Europe in implementing issues of responsibility in relation to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Those militarily and politically responsible for Russia’s war of aggression must be held accountable. There must be no impunity here. Austria supports the Council of Europe and other international forums that promote accountability,

said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

In addition to the Russian war of aggression, Foreign Minister Schallenberg also addressed the situation in the Western Balkans – a region that is not only a yard for the EU, but is also particularly affected by Russian attempts at destabilization. Foreign Minister Schallenberg confirmed to General Secretary Pejčinović Burić:

In the Western Balkans, we need to be aware of Russia’s potential as a disruptive force in the region. I welcome the Council of Europe’s continued engagement with the region and support for EU membership reforms for all Western Balkan countries.

Foreign Minister Schallenberg is therefore particularly concerned about Kosovo’s accession process to the Council of Europe. Alongside Belarus, the state is a “blank spot” on the Council of Europe map. Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed to General Secretary Pejčinović Burić the need for close cooperation with local democratic forces and civil society. According to Foreign Minister Schallenberg, it is also important to clarify how long-term working relations with Russia will be structured in the future.