On 17 November, with an opening speech by Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Italy will assume its six-month Presidency of the Council of Europe (CoE), the multilateral organization based in Strasbourg whose raison d'etre consists in the protection and affirmation (within the territorial area of its own competence) of human rights, the rule of law and the principles of democracy. It is an activity of great relevance and almost inexhaustible in terms of the commitment required, as the Conventions signed (of which there are approximately 200) since its foundation in 1949 clearly testify.

It is an event that is both rare and important. Rare because with 47 member states (representing 840 million inhabitants) it means that on the basis of the principle of alphabetical rotation, a State has this area of responsibility only every 23/24 years. Before now, Italy had occupied the Presidency at the dawn of the new millennium, in 2000, while I gladly entrust the readers with the task of verifying when this will happen again.

Important because in the 6 months of presidential mandate it is possible to direct the attention of other countries towards certain issues, those that appear in the program presented by the corresponding capital, thus influencing the agenda of the Committee of Ministers, the highest aspiration within the CoE.

We may assume then, in this context, that the new Presidency does not wish to neglect any of the traditional lines of work and therefore political, cultural and social themes (possible update of the Turin Charter) will be pursued simultaneously, in addition to the identification of mechanisms for strengthening the enforcement of Court sentences.

That said, it is not the aim of this article to go into detail regarding the priorities of the Italian government, particularly since they are not yet fully known at the time of writing. Subsequent issues of the «Voice» will in fact present the evaluations of the experts, certainly in possession of more concrete information. What is certain right now is the strong expectations in the Strasbourg sphere of a new Presidency deemed capable of “leaving its mark”, coherently and in continuity with the very authoritative and qualified role played by our country in the Pan-European forum, of which it is a founding member alongside nine other countries. The fact, then, that the “handing over of the baton” takes place with a country like Hungary which is heavily conditioned, in relation to its work in Strasbourg, by the well-known anti-democratic regulations imposed internally by those authorities, only increases the belief that the Italian term will help to restore strength and vigour to the Strasbourg organization, whose recent activity has inevitably been affected in terms of reduced operations as a result of the long lockdown period.

More generally (and far from being a criticism for it is only an observation) the Council of Europe must often live with the image that it is less “accomplished” than it actually deserves credit for. The European Union is not exactly an innocent by-stander in light of this perception with its much greater visibility, not to mention significantly greater financial means, that it has at its disposal. It might be a detail of less importance, but the sharing of the logo (the 12 gold stars on a blue background) and the anthem (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy) seem to contribute to the unjustified “reliance” of Strasbourg to Brussels.

In reality, after an even superficial observation of the various opinions that characterize the Pan-European area today, also made up of exacerbated nationalisms and related discrimination, there can be no doubt that it needs, today as in the past, the irreplaceable presence and fundamental activity of the Strasbourg organization over which Italy is preparing to preside, with the strong expectations mentioned above, for the eighth time in its history.


Reggente Marco Marsilli, Foundation President.

Subscribe to our newsletter

When you submit the form, check your inbox to confirm your subscription