"I firmly believe that our common interests in protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, both at national and international level, are stronger than the issues that divide us," the PACE President said at the opening of the June session.
"We must keep open the communication channels with our interlocutors and explore all possibilities for dialogue offered by parliamentary diplomacy. We must shoulder our responsibility to address the difficult points and disagreements that exist among us. Because we should not ignore our vocation to be an Assembly of 47, not 46," the PACE President underlined.
PACE decided to hold a current affairs debate on "reaffirming the role of the Parliamentary Assembly as a pan-European forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue and co-operation”.
“More dialogue and co-operation is also needed with regard to the refugee crisis,” he added, urging member states to address the root causes and to share responsibility more fairly between European States. “Today is World Refugee Day, and an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to international refugee obligations and standards.”
Welcoming Nadiya Savchenko as a colleague in PACE, the President said: "This house of democracy is now also your house and we look forward to your contribution to the work of the Assembly."
He encouraged Ukraine and Russia to seize this opportunity to intensify diplomatic efforts in search of a peaceful solution to a major conflict and crisis that has repercussions throughout Europe and beyond.
"It is particularly important that all sides fulfill their commitments to implement a credible ceasefire in the east of Ukraine, release all hostages, organise free, fair and democratic elections according to international standards, also in areas outside the control of the Ukrainian authorities and - finally - return to Ukraine the full control of its international borders," he said.
The President also expressed PACE's solidarity with the family of Jo Cox, UK Member of Parliament, who passed away last Friday after a brutal attack. "She was a victim of a terrible crime fueled by hate. We must strongly condemn this attack and stand up against hate!"
PACE observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of recent terrorist attacks.