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Speech delivered on behalf of the President of the Assembly by Mr Antonio Gutiérrez (Spain) at the opening of the Third part of the 2017 Ordinary Session

Speech delivered on behalf of the President of the Assembly by Mr Antonio Gutiérrez (Spain) at the opening of the Third part of the 2017 Ordinary Session
Strasbourg, 26 June 2017 – 11h30

Dear Colleagues,

Let me at the outset start, let me pay tribute to the memory of all those who died in tragic circumstances since our last part session. I am thinking in particular about the victims of terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, in Manchester and in London, but also about the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London as well as the victims of forest fires in Portugal. 

Let me invite you to join me in a minute's silence.

Colleagues,

Unfortunately, terrorism continues to hit our member states causing dozens of victims and leaving many more injured.

Regrettably, terror and violence continues to impact the feeling of anxiety and insecurity among our population.

The recent attack at the Finsbury Park Mosque targeted the members of a particular community: the Muslim community. It would appear to be a worrying and dangerous attempt to make an amalgamation between religion and terrorism. We should oppose all such attempts.

Each terrorist attack leaves only heartache and anger. But we should not give in to the hate and fear that terrorist seek to instill. The #NoHateNoFear initiative of our Parliamentary Assembly can play a role. I encourage you to continue supporting it as a platform for fighting fear and hatred.

Against these ongoing terrorist attacks, our citizens are questioning the authorities' response to the terrorist threat and the effectiveness of our prevention policies and measures. They want concrete action to strengthen their safety and security.

This is especially important today, when populists seek to capitalize on people's fears by developing a demagogical and irresponsible rhetoric which seeks to divide our societies further.

As politicians we must have a sober, realistic and critical look at our mechanisms to combat terrorism. We should not be afraid of acknowledging some failures and mistakes that may have been committed, in order to find – on the basis of the lessons learnt – new mechanisms and approaches that will strengthen our resilience against terrorism.

We should do it together – among all member States of the Council of Europe – in the spirit of solidarity and constructive co-operation. We should bear this in mind when we come to the adoption of the agenda of the session, which includes a proposal for a current affairs debate on "Europe's common response to terrorism: successes and failures".

* * *

Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On Wednesday, our Assembly will hold a major thematic debate devoted to the issue of migration management and the refugee crisis.

As you are aware, I attach a particular importance to this issue and I am glad that, thanks to the support of our committees – on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Political Affairs and Democracy, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, on Equality and Non-discrimination, on Culture, Science, Education and Media, and on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development– we have the opportunity to make a comprehensive assessment of the main migration and refugee challenges, so as to come up with effective strategies.

The debate will be structured in two parts.

During our morning sitting, we shall focus on the movement of people and our humanitarian and legal obligations in terms of refugee and human rights law. I have always said, our response to the migration phenomenon and refugee crisis should be based on solidarity, fair responsibility-sharing, and respect for human rights and rule of law. The European Continent has the most advanced human rights and rule of law protection system in the world. This is our major achievement and it is our duty, as guardians of the European Convention on Human Rights, to make sure that all people arriving in European waters or on European soil can benefit from the protection granted by the Convention.

Our discussions will greatly benefit from contributions of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe as well as of the Mayor of Athens, Mr Giorgos Kaminis.

The afternoon sitting will be devoted to the issue of integration. Integration allows us to turn the phenomenon and crisis we are experiencing into an opportunity to make our societies richer, stronger, more dynamic and more resilient. We must remember that integration is a two-way process: both the hosts and the newcomers have duties and responsibilities. In this context, successful experiences of integration are important to analyse, as are failures. Together though we can find appropriate solutions.

Therefore, the contributions of our eminent guests – Mr Morgan Johansson, Minister of Justice and Migration of Sweden, and Mr Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, - will be particularly important in this regard. We look forward to hearing their statements and I would like to thank them for accepting our invitation.

* * *

Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues,

As you are already aware, the Bureau of the Assembly, at its meeting in Prague, appointed the members of the Independent External Investigation Body to look into allegations of corruption within our Assembly. We have chosen three highly-qualified persons

- Sir Nicolas Bratza (United Kingdom), former judge and former President of the European Court of Human Rights

- Jean-Louis Bruguière (France), former judge in charge of investigations in particular on cases related to terrorism, expert with international organisations and states on anti-terrorism issues

- Elisabet Fura (Sweden), former judge at the European Court of Human Rights and former chief parliamentary Ombudsman of Sweden.

I strongly hope that the Assembly will endorse their appointment when we adopt the Progress Report. I am sure these persons will be able to conduct a serious, professional and impartial inquiry into the allegations of corruption and misconduct that affect the Assembly's image and reputation.

* * *

Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to end my statement by announcing the visits of several eminent guests to this Assembly's part-session.

In addition to the participants in the Migration debate, we will be hosting the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Moldova and of Montenegro, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic who is the current Chairman of our Committee of Ministers.

I am confident that their contributions to our debates will be interesting and thought-provoking. I am looking forward to these exchanges of views.

Thank you for your attention.