In his opening speech at the Assembly’s spring part-session in Strasbourg today, Pedro Agramunt warned against the adoption of far-reaching restrictive measures and policies. “Often, after a barbaric attack, the most immediate reaction is to step up security measures at the expense of individual freedom. This can have dangerous consequences,” he said.
“We will combat terrorism and its root causes through two fundamental lines of action. Firstly, we need a strong political narrative: we must stand together and protect our freedom. Only together will we overcome the fear that terrorists create. Secondly, we must look into the root causes behind terrorism and extremism,” explained the President, pointing out that the promotion of freedoms and individual rights enabling all Europeans to live their daily lives without having their freedoms restricted by terrorist threats or conflicts was one of the priorities of his Presidency.
With regard to the migrant crisis, the President warned against divisions among EU member states with respect to responsibility sharing and the relocation and resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers which, in his view, “create a breeding ground for populist rhetoric. We should not underestimate the risks linked to the rise of far-left and far-right nationalist and anti-immigration parties that call for their nations to turn inward.”
“National interests must be subordinated to collective need. It is time to come to a broad agreement among all political forces on the need to reject populist and extremist rhetoric. Our Assembly should set the example and we should denounce - in Strasbourg and in our capitals - any populist, xenophobic and intolerant rhetoric,” he stressed.
Another cause of great concern to the PACE President was the decline in democracy in Europe.
“We are extremely concerned when some states take decisions that contradict democratic principles enshrined in their own constitutions. In particular, I can refer to interferences with the operation of media outlets critical of official government policies. In response to these challenges, our Assembly must sound the alarm bell and engage in a constructive political dialogue with the authorities, on the basis of our standards and commitments,” said Mr Agramunt.
Lamenting the loss of human life from the violence that had broken out at the beginning of the month in the Nagorno-Karabkh region, the Pace President said that “although the Council of Europe has no direct mandate in the settlement of the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, I believe that parliamentary diplomacy may help bring positions closer. As elected representatives, we cannot afford not to talk to each other. We must build bridges and help restore confidence and trust, which is essential for any meaningful discussion about the settlement of conflicts. I shall continue to keep this issue high on my agenda.”