At the opening of the PACE spring session in Strasbourg, President Tiny Kox urged members to help restore peace in Ukraine and the entire continent, and to assist Council of Europe member State Ukraine “to regain its national sovereignty and territorial integrity and rebuild its society, which is suffering from a terrifying and brutal assault by the Russian army.”
“Thousands have lost their lives or been injured, while millions have left their homes, looking for shelter inside or outside Ukraine. We know that behind each and every statistic there is a real human being, whose life has been taken away or whose future has been devastated,” he added. President Kox called to urgently end the sufferings of the city of Mariupol, where humanitarian catastrophe has been unfolding for weeks. He also strongly condemned the horrific atrocities and war crimes committed by the Russian forces in Bucha (and other towns around Kyiv) and urged to bring those responsible for these and other violations of the humanitarian law to justice. The President invited members to hold a moment of silence for all the victims of “a war that should never have started and should now end immediately”.
“Mourning should go hand in hand with offering concrete solidarity with, and support for, the citizens and the state of Ukraine. Therefore, the focus of this session will naturally be on the situation in and around Ukraine, as well as the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. […] When I described this Assembly in January as an agora for Europe, I could not have imagined what would happen afterwards. But these developments only emphasise the dire need for such a European meeting place,” Mr Kox said.
“What is happening now on our continent forces us to rethink the very essence of our Council of Europe, and its goal of pursuing peace by protecting and promoting the rule of law, human rights and democracy in all our member States. […] The war in Ukraine has made us aware that we must do better in order to prevent worse from happening. And we must do this together. For this reason, especially, I am looking forward not only to this week’s debates but also to the forthcoming Ministerial Conference in Torino in May where – I hope and expect – our Foreign Affairs Ministers will add their voices to this call for a redefinition of European multilateralism and a reconfirmation of the need for an inspiring and effective Council of Europe, especially in these most challenging times,” he said.
The President also paid tribute to the first female President of PACE, Leni Fischer from Germany, and her important achievements. Recalling her words at the 2nd Summit of the Organisation in 1997, Mr Kox underlined that they were more relevant and inspiring than ever: “Europe is an imposing construction, but it needs a solid foundation. This foundation is provided by democracy and human rights in a pluralist society governed by the rule of law. These are the principles defended by the Council of Europe.” He added: “Today, we are hopefully heading for a 4th Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government do redefine our principles and our role in the years to come.”
Finally, the President paid his respects to former PACE Vice-President Elsa Papadimitriou of Greece, recalling her commitment to the work of the Assembly and her dedication to peace.