Ending an official visit to Greece (21-22 May 2018), the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Michele Nicoletti, praised the excellent co-operation existing between the Council of Europe and Greece, especially at the parliamentary level.
The President warmly welcomed, in particular, the recent vote by the Hellenic Parliament on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. “This is a huge step not only in ensuring stronger prevention of violence against women and greater protection of women victims of violence, but also in breaking stereotypes and creating a more equal society.” He continued: “I hope that Greece’s choice will inspire other countries that have still not ratified this important instrument to follow this example.”
Speaking about the current migration and refugee crisis, the PACE President recognised the incredible efforts made by the Greek authorities and Greek society since the outbreak of the crisis. “I was part of the PACE delegation which visited Greece in 2016, and I had the opportunity at that time to better understand the challenges surrounding this issue. Visiting Greece two years later, I was therefore pleased to note the tangible improvements made throughout the Greek mainland, including by the closure of the informal camps and the implementation of UNHCR accommodation programme. However, in my discussions with the Greek authorities, I also stressed that the situation on the islands requires urgent attention, as arrivals are now on the rise again and overcrowding and deteriorating sanitary conditions continue to be a serious concern. I insisted that further efforts are needed for a viable solution, respecting the rights and human dignity of the people in the camps on the islands. I agreed with my interlocutors, however, that a new European approach to this issue is needed. In this respect, I stressed that the Assembly will continue to contribute to the debate on reforming European migration policies, geared towards the revision of the Dublin Regulation and the creation of a genuine European asylum system based on common standards and equal distribution” he said.
President Nicoletti’s discussions focused also on the main current political challenges for the Council of Europe, as well as on regional challenges for Greece in particular. During these discussions, the PACE President stressed the importance of European unity and the role the Parliamentary Assembly can play in bringing people together and contributing to the promotion of good neighbourly relations. Discussing relations between Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, and especially progress over the name issue, the PACE President said: “I was positively impressed by the genuine will of the Greek authorities to find a long-standing solution which respond to the needs and concerns in both Athens and Skopje. I assured the authorities of PACE’s full support for this process.”
Finally, while in Athens, the President of the Assembly also participated in the meeting of Assembly’s Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, where he presented his initiative to create a European Academic Network on Council of Europe Conventions against Corruption, also in the framework of the follow-up to his report on “Promoting integrity in governance to tackle political corruption”. At the end of the exchange of views with Maria Gavouneli, Head of the Greek delegation to GRECO, the committee recognised that the Academic Network could be a powerful mechanism to share knowledge, support community-building and encourage scholarship and innovation in the fight against corruption. It therefore adopted a declaration strongly backing this initiative, and it called on academic institutions, individual academics and scholars from all over Europe to come together and form a European Academic Network on Council of Europe Conventions against Corruption. This initiative has also found the strong support of the President of the Hellenic Republic, His Excellency Prokopios Pavlopoulos.
During his visit, Mr Nicoletti met with the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, Nikolaos Voutsis, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, and the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. He also held exchanges of view with the Minister for Migration Policy, Dimitrios Vitsas, and the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs for European Affairs, Giorgios Katrougalos, as well as with members of the Greek delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.