Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić has told members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that the relative peace of recent decades has been underpinned by the organisation’s commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
She emphasised that even as the threat of war loomed over Europe “We should never forget that these shared values far outweigh the single issues that divide us”. Earlier in her speech she made reference to the law against so-called “foreign agents” and the situation of Alexey Navalny in Russia, as well as Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which she described as “deeply regrettable”.
The Secretary General also underlined the importance of political will in protecting core values and again welcomed the renewed commitment of member states to those same values at last May’s Ministerial Session in Hamburg. “We rely on those member States to ensure that the European Convention on Human Rights is implemented at the national level, along with all of the instruments that we have developed” she added.
In response to a question about the military tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the Secretary General underlined that the Council of Europe is not a security organisation. She said that the best course of action would be for the two member states to move towards dialogue.
In reply to a question on the situation in Belarus, the Secretary General replied that it was very concerning, and the Council of Europe had been very vocal on the subject, but the reality was that Belarus is not yet a member state. She explained that if it wanted to join the Council of Europe, it would first have to abolish the death penalty and commit to democracy. Meanwhile the organisation was engaging with Belarus through various channels, including the Venice Commission and the Commissioner for Human Rights.