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Pedro Agramunt in Hungary urges European solidarity: ‘No country can solve the challenges we face alone’

Speaking at the end of a two-day official visit to Hungary, PACE President Pedro Agramunt called for a comprehensive pan-European approach to meeting the challenges of the refugee crisis, and the threat of terrorism and radicalisation, as well as finding solutions to “frozen conflicts”.

“The challenges we are facing affect all 47 members of our Organisation. No country alone can cope with them. We need more European solidarity and a multilateral approach to uphold the standards and international commitments we have subscribed to,” said the PACE President.

He pointed out that last year alone Hungary was confronted with an unprecedented challenge, with around 400,000 asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants passing through the territory of the country within a very short time.

Referring to the refugee crisis, Mr Agramunt called for international agreements, and the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, to be respected. “We must examine the cases of all individuals arriving in Europe in accordance with international standards, so as to ensure that every person in need of international protection receives it. This is our international obligation. I encourage the Hungarian authorities - as well as the authorities of all member states - to seek the advice and expertise of the Council of Europe, in particular by closely co-operating with the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, so as to find appropriate solutions which respect human rights standards and are adapted to the local situation,” he said.

As regards the threat of radicalisation and terrorism, the President called on parliamentarians, governments and democratic political forces to join efforts to defend Europe’s democratic institutions and fundamental values. “We must defend out democratic institutions and our way of life against extremism and terrorism. In response to terrorism we must reaffirm our core democratic values and denounce demagogy, populism and xenophobic rhetoric. Populist movements exploit public fears and contribute to radicalising our societies even further,” said Mr Agramunt.

The PACE President underlined the importance of guaranteeing the security of citizens amidst the increasing threat of terrorism. The President expressed hope that the new anti-terrorism legislative package to be presented by the Hungarian Government will enhance the security of the country and of the whole region, while highlighting the need to ensure that measures to combat terrorism comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. “The Council of Europe is ready to provide the authorities with the necessary expertise as may be requested,” he underlined.

Turning to the issue of the so-called “frozen conflicts”, the PACE President highlighted the role that parliamentary diplomacy could play in this field. “Conflicts between our member states are a matter of serious concern and it is our duty, as Europeans, to find solutions to these conflicts together. Dialogue between parliamentarians is our main tool and international law provides the appropriate legal framework for this. We must support our member states in their efforts to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts, within the framework of international law and insisting on the need to respect their commitments and obligations relating to membership in the Council of Europe.”

Finally, turning to co-operation between Hungary and the Council of Europe, the PACE President encouraged the authorities – and in particular the Parliament - to make full use of the Council of Europe’s expertise in the drafting of laws and their implementation. “It is important to highlight that the Government of Hungary is open to discussing issues with the Council of Europe so as to find common solutions to the political challenges we face. The recommendations of our monitoring bodies and the advice of our experts - in particular, the Venice Commission - can help Hungary make full use of the best practices existing in Council of Europe member states, so as to support domestic reform processes,” concluded Mr Agramunt.

During his visit, the PACE President met the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He also held an exchange of views with the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and visited the European Youth Centre.