"2017 has been a year of extraordinary challenges for the Council of Europe. Now, as we approach 2018, we need to take stock of where we are and to provide hope for the coming year", PACE President Stella Kyriakides said.
"Terrorism, xenophobia, populism, 'frozen' and open conflicts are ongoing concerns, and to these we also have to add the worrying trend amongst some member States to question the authority of the Convention system and to challenge the legally binding judgments of the Strasbourg Court. Against the background of these momentous challenges, it is of paramount importance to urgently reaffirm the authority of our unique Human Rights protection system as a Pan-European common legal space to guarantee the rights and freedoms of our 835 million Europeans. So, let us together, today, more than ever, recall the courage of the founding fathers of the Council of Europe who, after the horrors of the Second World War, were guided by the spirit of reconciliation, consensus and co-operation to restore the credibility of Europe's commitment to peace, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These principles – courage, credibility, co-operation and consensus – must always be our beacons not only in order to overcome existing challenges but also to preserve the ethos of our Organisation", she added.
"We must not focus on what divides us but on our common agenda to avoid new walls being built across Europe. We need to bridge the gaps by showing more solidarity, not only amongst member States but also vis-à-vis the most vulnerable, especially refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants who flee war, conflicts and poverty – it is not only our legal obligation but, above all, our humanitarian duty to provide them with shelter and, to safeguard their human rights.
The challenges of 2017 must nevertheless not overshadow the excellent achievements of the Parliamentary Assembly at all levels of protection of human rights and the rule of law, with many of our campaigns setting the pace in many member States, inspiring many to follow, bringing about an air of change. As we are reflecting about the challenges ahead of us, I am confident that we shall succeed because we share a firm commitment to the same ideals. Indeed, the only way we can make a difference is by upholding these very principles, and by doing so, we give hope to the many millions of citizens. On behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly I wish you all a happy, successful and peaceful New Year!", PACE President concluded.