After being a member of the Austrian Parliament (National Council) for 28 years, serving as chairperson of several committees (Justice, Health, Housing and Construction) and deputy leader of his political group (ÖVP – Austrian People's Party), he was elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Schwimmer held this post from September 1, 1999 until September 1, 2004. At the beginning of his term, The Economist accused him of being a "timid moral policeman" over his treatment of the Chechen–Russian conflict.  In June 2004 his attempt to be elected to a second five-year term as secretary general failed, like all his predecessors of whom no one was reelected.
Schwimmer is (honorary) Secretary General of the Maison de la Méditerranée/Fondazione Mediterraneo (Naples) and Chairman of the International Coordination Committee of the World Public Forum - Dialogue of Civilisations.
In a 2015 with Russia Direct he emphasized that the Euromaidan "was originally a civil society movement against corruption and had nothing to do with pro-European or anti-Russian choice. However, it was seen by Russia as a coup d'état and by the EU as a kind of strategic decision of Ukraine to go not with Russia but with Europe, which Schwimmer dismissed as a "misinterpretation" and "nonsense." In the same interview he blames poor European communication for the Russian military getting "concerned about the possibility of losing the naval base in Sevastopol." Not giving Russia a guarantee to keep the naval base in Sevastopol was a mistake, according to Schwimmer: "now Russia and the EU are trapped. Russia will not retreat from Crimea and the EU cannot acknowledge its annexation, since it was against international law. And now Russia and the EU are trapped in this escalation of sanctions that are leading to nothing."
Honours and awards
- Austria: Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria (2005)
- France: Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour
- Mexico: Order of the Aztec Eagle (Águila Azteca)
- Romania: Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
- "The European Dream", Continuum Publishing, London 2004 (translated from the German "Der Traum Europa, Springer-Verlag 2003, also available in Russian, Italian and Serbian).
- Maison de la Méditerranée/Fondazione Mediterraneo
- World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations
- World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations/Vienna headquarters
- European Democracy Forum
- Austrian Parliament
- "Walter Schwimmer, timid moral policeman.(Council of Europe equivocates over conflict in Chechnya)". The Economist. 1999-11-27. Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2009-09-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Walter Schwimmer CV". European Democracy Forum. Retrieved 2009-09-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2010-04-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Khlebnikov, Alexey (19 March 2015). "There is no Europe without Russia and no Russia without Europe". Russia Direct. Retrieved 17 April 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (pdf) (in German). p. 1637. Retrieved November 1, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
| Secretary General of the Council of Europe
1 September 1999 - 31 August 2004