Hungary took over the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) from Germany at a meeting in Hamburg on Friday.
Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, said after the meeting at which he briefed participants about the Hungarian Presidency’s programme running until Nov. 17, that Hungary had chosen three priority areas: national minority protection, religious communities, and the rights of children and families.
Concerning the protection of national minorities, Szijjártó highlighted Minority SafePack, an initiative urging European Union protection for national and linguistic minorities in the bloc, which the European Commission had not added to its agenda. The minister said he hoped Hungary’s chairmanship of the CoE council of ministers would lead to “Strasbourg doing a better job than Brussels”.
As regards the protection of religious communities, Szijjártó noted the issue of the persecution of Christians “in Europe’s neighbourhood”.
He said it was especially worrying that protests against the Israel-Palestine conflict had recently taken an “anti-Semitic turn” in several European countries.
Turning to the protection of children and families, the minister said the pandemic had forced many children to “join the digital space without experience”, making them vulnerable to cyber criminals and predators.
Szijjártó said the protection of families and children required broad European regulation, adding that Hungary, too, was introducing strict regulations in this area.
Szijjártó also said that the CoE provided a sufficient platform for “relaunching civilised dialogue” between the East and the West, which he said was all the more necessary in light of growing political conflicts.
Being a central and eastern European country, Hungary’s interest lies in dialogue, rather than conflict, he said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pledged his country’s support for the Hungarian presidency, adding that common values should guide its work.
Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the CoE’s secretary general, said the outgoing German presidency had “set a high bar”, adding that multilateral cooperation to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law was “perhaps more important than ever.”