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Address to the Nordic Council - General Debate

Address to the Nordic Council - General Debate
Reykjavik, Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am addressing you in my capacity as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a parliamentary body of a Europe-wide International Organisation bringing together 47 member states and 820 million inhabitants, to which all countries of the Nordic Council also are members. And I would like to thank you for the invitation to address this important audience. In my address I will focus on the priority number one for all of us: migration.

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Distinguished colleagues,

Migration has become a global phenomenon that must be addressed within the framework of a global and strategic approach, together with local action.

As a global player, Europe must lead and shoulder its responsibilities in managing this crisis.

I am sometimes puzzled by the way discussions evolve. While – clearly – there is broad agreement on the need for more international solidarity and support, it is also clear that there are deep disagreements on concrete actions to be taken.

"Too late and too little" – this is what I would say about our response to the refugee drama up till now.

We have failed to anticipate the problem and now that we are overwhelmed by its consequences and implications, we are bargaining as carpet sellers about quotas and figures.

Colleagues, we are talking about human lives.

Providing shelter and support to those who flee conflict and extreme poverty is not only our moral duty. It is also our international obligation.

Let me add that we also need more solidarity within Europe, North/South and East/West solidarity. We cannot continue to let the front-line countries struggle alone with the arrivals simply because of their geographical position. It is about time that the Dublin system dissolves.

Let me give you eight priorities for parliamentarians, which I also presented before the IPU a few days ago: 

Ring the alarm bells

We must raise awareness.

Get organised

A migrations management strategic policy is needed in each of our countries and at European level.

Just do it

We have to tackle the root causes of refugee situations and irregular migration. Countries of origin need our help to build sustainable societies with accountable institutions and strong rule of law.

Human rights are yours and mine …. and theirs…

Any person coming to our countries must enjoy the same rights and the same protection as we enjoy. We must be guided by the highest human rights standards, including those enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Integrate – integrate - integrate

Refugees and migrants have to become active members of our societies. We cannot afford to marginalise them. We must remember that integration is a two way process involving migrants and their host society.

Educate – educate - educate

This is one of the most important tools to promote integration and cohesion within our societies. A lack of education can lead to radicalisation.

No to discrimination 

We must speak out against any type of discrimination, intolerance or xenophobia. This is all the more important as populist and extremist ideas are on the rise within our societies. The threat to our democratic systems is not migrants, but hatred and intolerance.

Think global, act local

As elected parliamentarians, we have to be active in the field, within our constituencies: talk to our citizens and reassure them, explain policy decisions, support grass-root initiatives, especially, in the field of integration and education.

I am strongly convinced that combined action in these areas will help us find solutions to one of the greatest challenges we are facing in this century.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has already taken some initiatives.

To combat intolerance and hate, we have established a No Hate Parliamentary Alliance as a platform for parliamentarians to speak out against manifestations of extremism and hate, combat populist rhetoric, and share good practices. Many Speakers of Parliaments and Heads of State and Government have already spoken in support of the Alliance. Recently, I had the immense privilege of presenting the Alliance to His Holiness Pope Francis. I am proud that he had agreed to support our Alliance.

As most of you will surely know, we support, together with the Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen, the idea of making 22 July a European Day for Victims of Hate Crime and I hope that with the support of the parliamentarians from all 47 Council of Europe member states this initiative will take shape.

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Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,

Addressing the migration phenomenon is a global issue, but it requires local action by every single one of us.

Therefore, let me appeal to all of you, on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to take action at national and local levels.

I am confident that by joining efforts and we can and shall succeed, because we have to succeed, together.

Tusind tak !