“Thanks to your efforts and creativity, you have enabled your respective parliaments to continue to function in times of Covid and to maintain dialogue with our Parliamentary Assembly and the continuity of your work,” said PACE President Tiny Kox, opening a meeting of Secretaries General of parliament in Strasbourg today. “The more you support our parliamentarians, the better they are able to respond to the current challenges,” he added, referring to Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
“PACE has re-focused its activities on addressing the consequences of the war in Ukraine, so as to provide targeted support to the authorities, in particular the Verkhovna Rada,” said PACE Secretary General Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, in her welcome address.
Parliaments and international organisations can take concrete initiatives, such as a physical presence on the ground (by sending delegations to visit the country), guaranteeing accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine, as well as supporting the country’s long-term recovery, she pointed out. “Parliaments have an important role to play by generating political support behind these initiatives at domestic level, and this could be reflected in specific parliamentary activities,” she said.
“The war in Ukraine cannot stop our will to keep our institutions and parliament alive,” said the Secretary General of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Viacheslav Shtuchnyi (speaking by videoconference), opening the first session on “The consequences of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine for parliaments and inter-parliamentary co-operation”. He emphasised that despite the risks, the parliament had decided to maintain its plenary sessions in its buildings.
"We had to act swiftly to strengthen security and logistics to allow the Ukrainian Parliament to continue its work,” he explained, adding that since the declaration of martial law, the parliament had met 33 times in plenary, 589 agenda items had been discussed and 287 laws adopted.
Mr Shtuchnyi expressed his gratitude to the international community for its support and “unprecedented mobilisation”, thanking the PACE Secretary General for her efforts to enable the Ukrainian delegation to participate in all PACE sessions and the initiative to provide women parliamentarians with specially-designed flak jackets. He appealed for continued provision of food, medical assistance and protective equipment.
In a second session on "Green Parliaments", the Secretary General of the Parliament of Austria Harald Dossi shared good practices implemented in the Austrian Parliament in the ecological effort. “The situation of the planet and the current energy crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine force us to handle the resources we have with care,” he said. “Parliaments should use as little energy as possible, including the renovation of buildings and heating systems and the maintenance of equipment,” he added.
Peter Finnegan, the Secretary General of the House of the Oireachtas, the Irish Parliament, took the floor to remind participants that the next Conference of Presidents of Parliament will be held on 28-29 September 2023 in Dublin.
The meeting was also attended by Secretaries General of parliaments holding Observer and Partner for Democracy status with the Assembly, as well as by a number of international parliamentary assemblies – the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation (PABSEC), the Baltic Assembly, the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean.