Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks says that human rights in Europe are currently eroding due to economic woes, a refugee crisis that gives rise to fears and leads to erection of walls, and terror attacks.
Speaking in an interview with Hina, Commissioner Muiznieks said that the ongoing generation change was also having an impact as memories of atrocities and wars which had prompted the establishment of the European human rights system were fading.
This is a big problem as people do not realise that the alternative to the rule of law and European cooperation is a rather terrible future, said Muiznieks, a Latvian-American human rights activist and political scientist who has been serving as the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights since 1 April 2012. Muiznieks's parents emigrated from Latvia to the United States as refugees during WWII.
I encourage politicians throughout Europe to assume a principled position. In the short term this will deprive them of votes in their favour, but I believe that in the future the history will be grateful to them, Muiznieks said when asked if politicians were abandoning increasingly unpopular advocacy of human rights in order to remain in power.
In this context, the CoE commissioner said that he supported German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as other politicians who are raising their voice for the vulnerable and for those in need of help. I think those people will go down in history as genuine statesmen and stateswomen and not as opportunists, he said.
Muiznieks underscored that the work on human rights was ongoing, noting all 47 Council of Europe member-states had shortcomings in this regard.
As far as human rights in Europe are concerned, I am a cautious optimist, he said.
"I am very concerned about negative trends, but I think that we have made progress in many areas."