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Opening speech of the 4th part of the Ordinary Session of 2017

Opening speech of the 4th part of the Ordinary Session of 2017
Strasbourg, Monday 9 October 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Today, I open this part session as Acting President of the Assembly, following the resignation of
Mr Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

As you are aware, two candidates have been nominated for the post of President of the Assembly. They are, in alphabetical order:

  • Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus, EPP/CD)
  • Emanuelis Zingeris (Lithuania, EPP/CD)

According to our Rules we should proceed with the election of the President. We shall come to this shortly, as one of the first items on the agenda of this part-session.

In the meantime, allow me to share with you some information about my activities, as Acting President, since the June 2017 part-session.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, allow me to reiterate our strongest condemnation of terrorism and express, on behalf of the Assembly, our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families following the recent terrorist attacks in Spain, the United Kingdom and France. I have written to the Speakers of the Parliaments concerned, communicating our condolences, but today we have an opportunity to show, in this Chamber, our solidarity with the many Europeans and others directly or indirectly affected by terrorism, including those in the recent horrendous Las Vegas shooting.

Therefore, I call for a minute of silence to the memory of the victims of recent and past attacks.

[….]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After the terrorist attack in the London tube, I praised Londoners for their courage because they were not intimidated by the attack. Just like the Londoners, just like the people in Spain, France and elsewhere, we shall not be intimidated by terrorism because the values which underpin the foundations of our societies – democracy, human right and dignity and respect for the rule of law – are stronger than the violence and fear that terrorists seek to propagate. Our Assembly will continue to defend these values and I count on your support.

Dear colleagues,

I would also like to inform you that I have personally issued a statement condemning the use of excessive force during the imposition of order in Catalonia last Sunday. I am pleased that the Spanish authorities locally have apologised to those injured or distressed. There can be no place for violence within or between Member States of this Council of Europe. The only way to resolve differences must be through the dialogue that I trust will now take place.

Colleagues,

You are aware that, since the June part-session, an important development affecting not only our Assembly but the whole of the Council of Europe has happened: one of our member states – the Russian Federation – informed the Secretary General of the Council of Europe that it was suspending the payment of the remaining part of its 2017 financial contribution to the Organisation's budget. It has declared that it is doing this until the full and unconditional restoration of the credentials of the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in the Parliamentary Assembly. Clearly, this decision represents an unprecedented challenge for the Organisation.

As Statutory Bodies of the Council of Europe, both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, bear a shared responsibility for preserving the Organisation's unity, viability and effective capacity to deliver the results that our citizens and our governments expect from us. Therefore, both Statutory Bodies need to work together to address the current situation. In this context, the meeting of the Joint Committee has been convened for Thursday, 12 October at 3 pm.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As usual, during the October part-session, we will award the 2017 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

I chaired the meetings of the Selection Panel, in Prague and in Strasbourg.

Therefore, allow me to thank wholeheartedly the members of the Panel for their competence, professionalism and dedication. I would also like to thank our partners - the Václav Havel Library, Charter 77 and the Czech authorities - for their support to the Prize and excellent organisation of our meetings in Prague.

The Selection Panel shortlisted three candidates. They are:

  • Mr Murat Arslan from Turkey, who is a former Rapporteur of the Turkish Constitutional Court and President of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV).
  • The Hungarian Helsinki Committee which is a non-governmental human rights organisation founded in 1989 and based in Budapest which carries out a broad range of activities in the area of human rights with a particular focus on access to justice and the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.
  • Father Georg Sporschill from Austria, who is a Jesuit who has devoted his life to the care of the most vulnerable, notably children.

The award ceremony will take place this afternoon, at 3 pm, and I appeal to all of you to be in the Chamber on time, so as to participate in this Ceremony.

Dear colleagues,

Allow me to announce the visit of a number of distinguished guests who will address the Assembly during this part-session.

  • the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mr Lubomir Zaorálek;
  • the President of the Czech Republic, Mr Miloš Zeman;
  •  the President of Ukraine Mr Petro Poroshenko;
  • the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Mr Angel Gurría
  • and finally the President of the Venice Commission, Mr Gianni Buquicchio.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Finally, I would like to thank all of you for your support and commitment during this interim period. Together, we have demonstrated that in times of crisis and turmoil, our Assembly can act with courage and determination.

As a Pan-European Assembly founded on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, we have an important mission to fulfill. We are going through a difficult period but I firmly believe that our commitment to the ideals of the Council of Europe is strong and our Assembly will not disappoint the hopes and expectations of Europeans.

Thank you for your attention and we shall now move to the agenda of the part-session.