In his opening speech at the PACE spring session, taking place in hybrid manner, PACE President Rik Daems warmly welcomed the presence of some 100 members of the Assembly in Strasbourg, as well as the first physical visit of a Head of State since the beginning of the COVID crisis, the President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu.
“Physical presence is important and affects the result of our work,” he said, noting that a certain number of countries were beginning to let national interests become more important than their shared values and standards, and to let national agendas take priority over international agendas. He referred to a recent withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention as one of the most prominent examples of this trend, and urged the Assembly to join efforts with the Secretary General to counter the trend of deviating from the essence of what the Council of Europe stands for.
Finally, he called on the Assembly to “talk with a country and its authorities, rather than about it” and to address issues instead of only raising them. “We have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said. “Parliamentary diplomacy should lead the way in becoming part of the solution, for that is what matters to the 830 million citizens in Europe we have pledged to defend within one legal space of 47 member states. We have pledged to uphold and extend their fundamental rights and freedoms as part of our promotion of the rule of law and democracy across the continent.”