Azerbaijan handed over the presidency of the Committee of Ministers to Belgium, the Belga agency has learned. The Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders took part in several official events in Strasburg, where the Council of Europe is based. In his introductory speech to the Committee of Ministers, Didier Reynders reminded us that Europe “is facing the biggest crisis since the end of the Cold War” and this will show “the crucial role of the European Council”. As a consequence of the economic crisis, “citizens adhere to extremist ideas and beliefs and question our fundamental values. Intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and neo-Nazism have almost become banal”, the minister said. The crisis between Ukraine and Russia is also a priority. Didier Reynders announced he was going to Kiev and Moscow from the 7th to the 9th of December. The Belgian presidency will give special attention to the prevention of hate speech, especially through social media. It will organize a conference on this subject.
Didier Reynders wants a Belgian presidency “that serves the Council of Europe, serves the member States, but above all serves European citizens”. After receiving the keys to the Council of Europe from the Azeri delegation Thursday lunchtime, the minister and the Belgian delegation opened a photo exhibition called “Birth Day” by Lieve Blancquaert, to the sound of a Belgian jazz folk group. The minister then took a tram in the Belgian presidency colours to go to the Strasburg town hall, where the Belgian flag was raised to the national anthem. Belgium is this year’s country of honour for the famous Christmas market in Strasburg, that opens in two weeks.