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Rik Daems: 'Life will be different when the crisis is over, but the values and freedoms we share should stay the same'

Addressing the Annual Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Athens today, PACE President Rik Daems commended the Greek presidency for its leadership during tough times and particularly welcomed the ongoing trialogue between the Assembly, the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers.

He welcomed the Athens Declaration as a political response to the very difficult situation surrounding COVID-19, outlining “the red lines not to be crossed when it comes to upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law”. He added that all the measures should be scrutinised all the time by parliaments. "We see attempts at times to abuse the situation. But while life will be different when the crisis is over, it is important that the values and fundamental freedoms we share stay the same," he underlined.

Referring to the possible reluctance that the Athens Declaration could arouse in certain member States, “maybe with regard to the mention of the Lanzarote and Istanbul Conventions”, he again underlined that “violence against women is intolerable”, adding that “any man who hits a woman is a coward”.

For the PACE President, COVID-19 has also shed light on a new generation of rights - the link between the environment and human rights, artificial intelligence, and the right to know the truth. The Assembly also provides the European Convention on Human Rights with a strong political network which will continue to stand up to unfair attacks against the Court, and will continue to put forward constructive and innovative proposals, including on ways to tackle these new challenges.

He expressed hope that in the near future "we can all work together on these important issues", because the Council of Europe is a standard-setting organisation at multinational level. "We don’t imitate, but we are a model for others," he concluded.

The PACE President also took part in a ceremony to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the presence of the Greek President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and other Council of Europe leaders.