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Miltiadis Varvitsiotis: ‘States contribute to limit the negative effects of the pandemic on society’

“Since our last digital meeting in June, we have still been facing many of the questions and the concerns raised by the pandemic regarding respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights in this extraordinary situation,” said Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, addressing the PACE Standing Committee today.

He stressed that the continuous activity of institutions and authorities in member States could significantly contribute to limit the negative effects of the sanitary crisis on society, social cohesion, the economy and employment, and “help tackle more efficiently problems of a social nature that hit our societies during these times of social distancing and isolation”.

“The issues of domestic violence against women came to surface in a more pressing manner than before. I sincerely regret the fact that certain member States have expressed their will to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention,” Mr Varvitsiotis added.

“Pursuing our efforts to highlight the importance and the relevance of the Council of Europe in protecting and promoting fundamental principles and values, we have considered since June important issues of concern such as the elections in Belarus and its recent developments,” he said, recalling the joint statement on the situation in the country, issued by the President of the Assembly, the Secretary General and himself, in the context of a ‘trialogue’.

He highlighted the importance of concentrating on younger people and sending a message to the younger generation. “The Greek Chairmanship continues to attach special emphasis to certain thematic priorities relating to the rights, the hopes and concerns of young people, including education and democratic culture in a digital era; children as vulnerable persons at risk of poverty and victims of violence, trafficking, forced labour; unaccompanied migrant minors; as well as the issue of safeguarding the rights of the younger generation affected by the impact of climate change.”

He also believed that part of the Athens Declaration on the protection of democracy, rule of law and human rights in times of pandemic – due to be adopted on 4th November at the 130th session of the Committee of Ministers in Athens – should be dedicated to vulnerable social groups, namely children, women, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and refugees.