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Address on the occasion of the 125th Session of the Committee of Ministers

Address on the occasion of the 125th Session of the Committee of Ministers
Brussels, 19 May, 2014

Chairperson,

Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since we met last year nothing but bad news: to the conflict in Ukraine other priorities have to be added, the migration drama, the increase of violations of human rights in numerous countries as well as the increase of hate speech and intolerance.

First Ukraine:

Over the last year we have seen hostilities expanding in the East of Ukraine, the death toll rising, and the number of IDPs increasing.

Under these circumstances, in January, the Parliamentary Assembly continued to restrict the voting and other rights of the Russian Delegation. It did not take away the credentials so as to allow contacts and dialogue to continue. The Russian Delegation however chose to withdraw from all contacts with the Assembly until the end of the year.

This is regrettable, as it is only through dialogue that we can begin to find solutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second issue is the migration drama.

We can't paddle in our ponds in Europe and forget those drowning in the Mediterranean. Neither can we forget that Turkey now takes 2 million refugees from Iraq and Syria. No country alone can solve this mixed flow of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Governments have to stop defending their corners and show greater solidarity.

The third concern I want to express is a dangerous questioning and lack of respect for human rights in a number of member states.

 - Detention and silencing of critics;

- Restrictions on freedom of expression and the media;

- Talk of reintroduction of the death penalty;

- Picking and choosing judgments of the European Court of Human Rights that member states feel happy with, and even more bringing the fundamentals of the Convention system into question.

Finally I want to comment on the worrying increase of intolerance and hate speech.

In January we launched a no hate parliamentary alliance. I propose that the Council of Europe takes the initiative to ask all democratic political forces - despite their differences -, civil society, as well as religious leaders, to join in one large movement to say NO to hate and intolerance. Hate and intolerance are undermining our democracies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The solidarity that came out of the ashes of the Second World War was what created the Council of Europe and then brought Central, Eastern and Western Europe together following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Erosion of solidarity is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing Europe, without solidarity everything our foremothers and forefathers fought for 70 years ago begins to unravel.