The Spaniard Pedro Agramunt (EPP/CD) has been elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for a mandate of one year, renewable once.
He succeeds Anne Brasseur (Luxembourg, ALDE), who has occupied the post since January 2014. He is the fourth Spaniard to take up this post and the Assembly’s 28th President.
“We are not assembled here today in the belief that Europe is perfect. We are here because we believe that in Europe we must solve our problems together,” the newly-elected President said in his inaugural speech, before presenting four major inter-related challenges that Europe is confronted with.
“First, international terrorism constitutes a fundamental, multi-faceted danger. (…) If we wish to defeat terrorism, we need to co-operate and recognise Muslim communities as one of our strongest allies, instead of pushing them towards suspicion and hatred. We should not forget that the majority of the victims of terrorism in the world are also Muslims,” he said.
“Second, the refugee crisis, which has triggered much debate about European identity and values,” the President continued, suggesting two lessons that could be learned from it: “to dismantle state institutions without acting quickly and effectively to set up new political, administrative and security structures has always been a high-risk operation. The difficulties involved in integrating these new communities in European societies has led to political radicalisation, playing into the hands of the nationalist parties, and a consequent fragmentation of the continent.”
“Third, the conflicts still unresolved in Europe. The situation in Ukraine remains very delicate. The conflict has already taken over 9 000 lives, Russian-backed separatists still control part of the country, and peace remains elusive,” he said.
“Threats to security and frozen conflicts still exist in the regions of Transnistria, Republic of Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan,” Mr Agramunt pointed out.
“Lastly, I would like to mention the wave of left and right-wing populism, rising nationalism and the erosion of democratic principles and human rights in some places, which affect our cohesion and our capacity for joint action,” the President said.
“All these questions threaten to undo decades of progress towards greater union, more open borders and closer integration. We have to change this now because Europe is lost if it remains divided. We must not forget that we have to be militant democracies and we have the legal basis for that,” the new President concluded.