Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2021 winter plenary session, the Assembly decided to hold current affairs debates on "The arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny in January 2021" and on "Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by ‘Big Tech’ Companies". Following the challenge on substantive grounds of the credentials of the Russian Federation delegation, the Assembly held the resulting debate.
The Assembly held its 2021 winter plenary session from January 25 to 28 in a hybrid manner, allowing members to participate remotely or attend in person in Strasbourg.
The Assembly debated the ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed parliamentarians in the debate.
Other topics on the agenda included ethnic profiling in Europe, restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States, and discrimination against persons dealing with chronic and long-term illnesses.
During the session, the Assembly elected the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Assembly and the judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Greece and Switzerland. These elections were held by individual electronic voting.
The European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders addressed the members of the Assembly and answered their questions, as did the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas (within the framework of the German presidency of the Committee of Ministers) and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić.
Debates were also held on the independence of judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova (with the participation of Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany), on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure.