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President calls for principles to be respected and warns against double standards

In his opening speech of the PACE autumn session in Strasbourg today, PACE President Pedro Agramunt made a plea for the strict respect of principles and rules and warned against double standards.

He urged PACE to react firmly whenever someone faced persecution for his or her political views or activities; to closely scrutinise the effects of derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds of an emergency situation, irrespective of the reasons that compel the authorities to resort to such a serious measure; and to prevent a pick-and-choose policy when it comes to implementing judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, stressing that “anyone within our jurisdictions must enjoy the same level of protection of human rights”.

The President also warned that “simply asking our citizens to choose among two or three options in a proposed referendum whenever serious and complex issues are on the table” would not resolve the challenges at stake – and nor would building walls to keep migrants out.

He also stressed that it was crucial to eradicate mistrust amongst nations and hold direct talks with a view to resolving tensions and conflicts. “While we must listen to everyone and give due consideration to the interests and concerns expressed, we should not lose sight of the bigger objective: overcoming divisions and working together to solve the problems we are confronted with. Excluding anyone from discussions does not help make progress,” he said.

“A situation where one of our member states – Russia – is not present in the Assembly benefits no one: not this Assembly, not Russia, and not any of the 46 remaining member states,” Mr Agramunt added, stressing that “among 47 we are stronger on the international scene”.

“However,” he added, "the pursuit of this objective should by no means undermine our principles. It is imperative to preserve the territorial integrity of states. Borders cannot be changed unilaterally or by force. The conflict in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, conflicts in Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Azerbaijan are unacceptable,” he said.