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Opening speech of the meeting of the Standing Committee

Opening speech of the meeting of the Standing Committee
Paris, 16 March 2018

15.3.2018

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Dear Secretary General, [Dear Deputy Secretary General],

Dear President of the European Court of Human Rights,

Dear Colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to open this meeting of the Standing Committee in Paris. Allow me from the outset to thank the French National Assembly and the French authorities for hosting us, and for the warm welcome and hospitality.

We have before us a full programme, including gender equality and child maintenance issues, the impact of the budgetary crisis on the list of working languages of the Assembly, and the future of the ECHR. In this connection, we are most honoured to have the opportunity of exchanging views with the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Guido Raimondi.

Furthermore, this afternoon we will hold the second meeting of the ad hoc Committee of the Bureau, which will allow us to continue our deep reflection on the role and mission of our Parliamentary Assembly.

Dear colleagues,

Before moving on with our busy agenda, I would like to make two short remarks.

As you are all aware, in January I launched the idea of having the Assembly take a more prominent role in the dissemination of information and implementation of the main Council of Europe Conventions, notably, the Istanbul Convention and the Conventions against Corruption.

The response to this idea has been positive, and I am pleased to share with you some preliminary developments that have occurred since our last meeting.

On 8 February, I participated in the OECD Parliamentary Days in Paris, during which I had the opportunity to meet with OECD Secretary General, Mr Angel Gurría, as well as with other OECD Senior officials. My interlocutors welcomed this project of Academic Networks with interest and enthusiasm. Secretary General Gurría, in particular, put forward the idea of having the OECD closely associated with the anti-corruption network.

I will thus continue to work on the implementation of this initiative in the weeks to come, and to seek synergies with our international partners, especially the OECD.

I trust I can continue to count on your active support in this.

The second remark I would like to make is with reference to a deeply alarming development on our continent.

On 16 October 2017, Europe mourned the death of Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia, a brave and well-respected investigative journalist, who was cowardly killed by a car bomb near her home in Malta.

In January, I met in my office with her three sons: Andrew, Paul and Matthew. I reiterated our strongest condemnation of their mother's assassination, and assured them that the Assembly would continue to fully play its role of defending media freedom and to speak out loudly against any acts of violence or intimidation against journalists.

No one could have expected that, only four months after this assassination, we would witness the barbaric killing of another investigative journalist in Europe - this time in the Slovak Republic.

On 22 February, Jan Kuciak, an investigative journalist working, among other issues, on large-scale tax fraud, was shot dead in his home near Bratislava, along with his partner, Ms Martina Kusnirova.

I cannot but condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this extremely worrying trend affecting media freedom in Europe. We cannot accept to live in a continent where journalists are harassed, physically attacked or killed, simply because of their work.

Without a free media and without freedom of speech there can be no free society.

Democracies can only function when journalists can ask questions, write articles and conduct investigations – without intimidation or coercion from any source.

The Assembly has the obligation, in close cooperation with "the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists", to continue to keep the attention focused on this matter. I will strongly support any actions or activities to be promoted in this area.

And now, Dear colleagues, having made my two opening remarks, let us proceed with the first item on our agenda.