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President to CIS: ‘Let us work together to tackle global challenges’

Speaking at the 44th plenary session of the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Saint Petersburg, PACE President Pedro Agramunt praised the role that parliamentary assemblies can play in promoting dialogue and co-operation between states in tackling the global challenges of combating international terrorism, addressing the refugee crisis and the wider migration phenomenon, tackling hate and intolerance, and counteracting the dangerous rise of populist and extreme movements in politics.

“The global challenges our continent is facing require a comprehensive, multilateral and strategic response. We have to work together to tackle these, and inter-parliamentary dialogue appears to be the ideal tool at our disposal. Parliamentarians must meet and talk to each other and jointly seek solutions,” said the PACE President.

In his address, President Agramunt suggested that international parliamentary assemblies should join efforts to combat terrorism and hate. “Terrorism – as well as the hate that fuels it – destroy the very foundations of democratic societies. As elected politicians representing our voters, we must protect our freedoms. We must publicly say NO to terrorism, NO to hate, and NO to the fear that the terrorists want to instill within out societies,” he continued.

In this context, the PACE President suggested launching a “NO FEAR” initiative – focusing on the right to live without fear – which would aim at mobilising politicians, civil society and ordinary citizens against hate speech, populist rhetoric and stigmatisation of certain groups and communities, all of which contribute to creating a general feeling of suspicion, insecurity and fear within societies. “PACE plans to launch this initiative during its June part-session, on 20-24 June 2016, and I hope that parliamentarians and our partner assemblies will join this endeavour,” he said.

On the sidelines of the CIS Assembly session, the PACE President held a number of bilateral meetings, in particular with the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Ilkka Kanerva, the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Saber Chowdhury, the Speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan Ogtay Asadov, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Belarus Anatoly Rusetsky, as well as the Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Sergey Naryshkin and the Speaker of the Council of the Federation of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko.

Speaking after the meeting with the Speakers of both Chambers of the Russian Parliament, Mr Agramunt welcomed the continuation of dialogue between PACE and the Russian Parliament. “Russia is an important member state of the Council of Europe and, therefore, it should participate in all activities of the Organisation, including in the Parliamentary Assembly. We have to work together to achieve this. They say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. I am confident that we have the will to progress and I am looking forward to the continuation of our contacts,” concluded the PACE President.