PACE President Tiny Kox and Birgir Ármannsson, Speaker of the Alþingi, the Parliament of Iceland, opened today's meeting of the Standing Committee in Reykjavik, bringing together around 60 members of the Parliamentary Assembly.
“We are gathered here shortly after the historic decision by the Committee of Ministers to convene a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member States, a decision that takes up a proposal our Assembly has been making since 2017, and on which we strongly insisted after the beginning of Russia's aggression against Ukraine in February this year,” the President said.
“Now we are on the road to Reykjavik - and by ‘Reykjavik’ I do not just mean a geographical location, but something that has clearly acquired major political significance. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a place more fit for purpose. It was here in Reykjavik where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in October 1986 to essentially agree to end the Cold War," he said.
"This is today the place where we must find effective answers to the challenges that Russia's aggression against Ukraine has posed for the entire continent of Europe, in order to preserve peace, strengthen multilateralism and avoid a new world war. We must make sure that the Summit is a success!"
In his welcome address, Althingi Speaker Birgir Ármannsson underlined that Iceland was a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949 and that the Althingi was first represented in PACE ten years later, in 1959.
“From the outset it has been the core purpose of the Council of Europe, and its Assembly, to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe. During the 73 years that have passed, we have regrettably witnessed conflict and civil war on our continent," he said.
"Earlier this year the Russian Federation launched an illegal invasion of Ukraine, a terrible war of conquest on a scale that we have not seen since the end of World War II. I condemn in the strongest terms this illegal invasion by Russia, which has had such devastating consequences for the people and infrastructure of Ukraine and led to the expulsion of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe," he said.
The rule of law, international conventions, and respecting human rights, he pointed out, “is paramount, not least for smaller states like Iceland, now assuming the Presidency in the Council of Europe for the second time since 1949. With the amendments to the Constitution of Iceland in 1995, a special chapter on human rights was introduced, based to a large extent on the European Convention on Human Rights.”