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‘Enlarged’ Standing Committee: debates on the impact of COVID-19 and the challenges of artificial intelligence

The Standing Committee (*) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) met successively on 12 and 13 October, then on 22 and 23 October, by video-conference. This “enlarged” meeting replaced the October part-session of PACE and allowed all PACE members to take the floor – however, only members of the Standing Committee had the right to vote.

Highlights of the meetings included debates on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of artificial intelligence, as well as an urgent debate on the “New crack down of political and social opposition in Turkey: how to safeguard human rights, fundamental freedoms and the protection of Turkish citizens by the European Court of Human Rights”, and a current affairs debate on “Armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, failure of peaceful conflict resolution and a risk to regional stability”.

  • Meeting of 12-13 October

On 12 October, after the opening of the meeting by PACE President Rik Daems, the parliamentarians held an exchange of views with Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. They continued with a second exchange of views with Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and with a current affairs debate on “Armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, failure of peaceful conflict resolution and a risk to regional stability”.

On 13 October, Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her annual activity report for 2019. The day was also devoted to a series of debates on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on democracies, human rights and the rule of law, equality, as well as on migrants and refugees.

  • Meeting of 22-23 October

On 22 October, several debates were held on the challenges of artificial intelligence, in particular: the need for democratic governance of AI; the role of AI in policing and criminal justice systems; discrimination caused by AI; threats to fundamental freedoms; medical, legal and ethical challenges in the field of health care; consequences on labour markets; and legal aspects of ‘autonomous vehicles’.

On the following day, discussions focused on an urgent debate on the “New crack down of political and social opposition in Turkey: how to safeguard human rights, fundamental freedoms and the protection of Turkish citizens by the European Court of Human Rights” and on the principles and guarantees of advocates; the gender dimension of foreign policy; and threats to academic freedom and autonomy of universities in Europe.

Timing:

- Monday 12 October (from 2.30 pm to 6 pm)

- Tuesday 13 October (from 9.30 am to 1 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm)

- Thursday 22 October (from 9.30 am to 1 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm)

- Friday 23 October (from 9.30 am to 1 pm)

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  • The meetings were streamed live in English, French, German, Italian and Russian on the following link
  • The meeting were also streamed live on the YouTube Channel of the Parliamentary Assembly.

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(*) The Standing Committee, which acts on the Assembly’s behalf between plenary sessions, is made up of the President and Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, the chairpersons of political groups, the chairpersons of national delegations and the committee chairpersons, totalling some 60 parliamentarians from the Council of Europe's 47 member States.