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PACE President urges a flexible, credible and coherent ‘toolkit’ for dealing with states that do not respect their Council of Europe obligations

PACE President Tiny Kox has urged Council of Europe member states to respect the rulings of the Strasbourg Court, boost the Council of Europe’s “early warning capacity” and develop a more flexible, credible and coherent “toolkit” of measures for putting pressure on states that do not respect their obligations.

Speaking at a special open meeting of the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, the PACE President said of the new Joint Procedure: “It has never been used, but we should not be hesitant to do so”, while acting with flexibility, and privileging co-operation and dialogue.

He said the “hefty and laudable” pledges made at the Reykjavik Summit – to uphold the Statute and follow international law, and to prevent democratic backsliding – had now to be transformed into concrete action: “The proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating.”

The different monitoring activities of the Council of Europe – whether of the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, the Secretary General and the Commissioner for Human Rights – should co-ordinate more effectively, while closer co-ordination with other international bodies, such as the UN, should be explored, he said.

He again underlined the authority of the European Court of Human Rights – and the need for its rulings to be fully respected by member states: “One of the main challenges are recent attempts to undermine the authority of the European Court of Human Rights, and their elimination should be considered another top priority for all sectors of the Organisation.”

Referring to the Assembly’s own monitoring procedure, the President said this was “not about policing or control” but was intended as “an honest and constructive dialogue between friends with a view to helping each other to live up to our ideals, promises and obligations”. Greater heed should be taken of the valuable early warnings provided by the Monitoring Committee, while the procedure itself could be adapted to react more effectively to developments in member states.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani also addressed the event, as well as the Chair of the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee Piero Fassino, the Chair of the Italian Senate’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Stefania Craxi, and the Chair of the Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Sub-committee Laura Boldrini.

Other participants included the judge on the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Italy Raffaele Sabato, Venice Commission President Claire Bazy Malaurie and the member of the Sant’Egidio Community in charge of international relations Mario Giro.

Meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella

In a separate meeting with the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, the PACE President discussed the situation of women in Italy.

Commenting on the killing of 107 women and girls in Italy since the start of the year - including the case of 22-year-old Giulia Cecchetin, which caused uproar and a strong mobilisation of civil society in protest - Mr Kox noted that the Istanbul Convention was one of the best tools at states’ disposal to counter violence against women and domestic violence.

“Violence against women and girls continues to plague the European continent, and there needs to be a better concerted and more structural response to this plague. A strong commitment to the Istanbul Convention, and collaboration between states and the Organisation, is needed," he said.

President Mattarella echoed these concerns, remarking that recent news of feminicides in Italy was "a sad reminder of how intense an effort is still needed to achieve radical cultural change". This was a change that demands action from families, the whole of society and governments themselves, he added. 

The Italian President praised the Istanbul Convention, which - he said - “is founded on the conviction that the achievement of gender equality, de jure and de facto, constitutes a key element to prevent violence against women”.

PACE Secretary General Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella