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Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis – Main achievements

Political and legal experience

Contributing to the Organisation’s enlargement and monitoring function

Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis contributed to the definition of accession criteria for new member States;

She played an active role in the accession of six member States, having assisted the “eminent lawyers” (former judges of the European Court of Human Rights) and/or the rapporteurs of the Political and Legal committees to prepare respectively pre-accession legal reports or accession opinions. In this, she put to the disposal of the Parliamentary Assembly her legal experience and knowledge of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) as well as her strong negotiation skills and political flair;

Fact-finding mission to the Russian Federation with "eminent lawyers", in 1994


She contributed to the development of the Assembly’s monitoring mechanism to accompany reforms in new member States and verify the implementation of accession commitments which led to the creation of the Monitoring Committee in 1997; she assisted rapporteurs in charge of monitoring with respect to 14 member States and participated in numerous election observation missions;​

She contributed to developing country specific monitoring within the Committee of Ministers, linked to intergovernmental co-operation programmes and activities.


Handling politically sensitive and complex files

Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis provided appropriate advice and support to parliamentarians handling with skill, impartiality and discretion politically sensitive and complex files and issues such as crises and conflict situations in and between member States, including frozen conflicts;​

Meeting with civil society representatives, including local and international NGOs, in Mariupol (Eastern Ukraine), in April 2016


She assisted parliamentarians to identify priorities for the Assembly, enhance its role and mission as the Council of Europe’s political engine, streamline its action, improve synergies with the Committee of Ministers and thus strengthen its relevance for the benefit of citizens and member States;

She contributed recently (April 2019-January 2020) to the definition of a complementary joint procedure by the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in case of violations by member States of their statutory obligations.

During the Assembly debate, with Rapporteur Frank Schwabe, in January 2020


Preparing responses to democratic challenges in Europe

Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis contributed to setting up the World Forum of Democracy, having assisted the rapporteur and in close co-operation with the intergovernmental sector in promoting the role of the Council of Europe as a global reference on Democracy and coordinating the Assembly participation in the first editions;

She assisted parliamentarians to identify good practice on electoral matters, based also on the findings of the Assembly’s election observation missions, and make proposals which fed into the work of the Venice Commission and follow-up conferences i.a. on the abuse of administrative resources; the updating of the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice on Referendums is another example of follow-up;

With Chairperson Ria Oomen-Ruijten, Rapporteur on referendums, Dame Cheryl Gillan, Expert and Secretary of the Venice Commission, Pr Nicos Alivizatos and Simona Granata-Menghini, in September 2018


She contributed to the Assembly’s endorsement of the initiative by youth activists to make 22 July the European Day for Victims of Hate Crime through her work on counteracting neo-Nazism.

Fact-finding mission to Schwerin (Germany), with Rapporteur Ms Pourbaix-Lundin, when preparing report on Counteracting right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism, in 2015

External relations


Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis assisted rapporteurs in promoting stronger Council of Europe – European Union partnership in the aftermath of the Lisbon treaty, including EU accession to the ECHR;​

Meeting with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, in April 2019


She provided assistance to the Assembly — European Parliament Joint Informal Body which in 2011 agreed on arrangements regarding the European Parliament’s participation in the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights following EU accession to the ECHR;

She put in place streamlined co-operation between the Assembly and the OECD, ensuring the Assembly’s participation in the OECD Global Parliamentary Network as an institutional partner, thus strengthening synergies and enhancing the parliamentary dimension of the co-operation;

With members of Political Affairs Committee, Rik Daems (now President of PACE), and Georges Papandreou at the OECD Headquarters, in December 2019


With Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, in December 2019


She contributed to the implementation of the Assembly’s neighbourhood policy by assisting parliamentarians to promote Partnership for Democracy status or ad hoc cooperation with parliaments from neighbouring regions, accession to Council of Europe conventions, co-operation with the Venice Commission and the North-South Centre and thus adherence beyond its borders to standards and values upheld by the Council of Europe, including in the area of gender equality;

She co-organised several regional conferences, meetings and visits, bringing together PACE members with parliamentarians and experts from the Middle East, the Southern coast of the Mediterranean and the Arctic region.

Institutional experience and working together


Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis led the Secretariats of the Monitoring Committee (2008-2009) and of the Committee of Political Affairs and Democracy (2010-present);

She put to the benefit of the Assembly her broad knowledge of the Organisation and in particular: initiated and promoted the co-operation between the Assembly and the Venice Commission; developed synergies with the Committee of Ministers, the Commissioner for Human Rights and other monitoring bodies, and drew examples from the Court’s case-law to substantiate the political positions of rapporteurs;

She initiated the practice of complementing Assembly monitoring reports with recommendations to the Committee of Ministers proposing concrete assistance and co-operation activities for the countries concerned thus linking Assembly and intergovernmental action;

She provided advice and guidance to the President of the Assembly as secretary to the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Role and Mission of the Assembly which, in the first half of 2018, brought together Chairpersons of all national delegations, political groups and committees and helped him reach consensus on a report summarising proposals for future Assembly action;

She forged close working relationships of trust with MPs, including Assembly Presidents and committees’ Chairpersons, from different political cultures and traditions, thanks to her interpersonal skills and human approach;

She demonstrated her strong resilience capacity and managerial skills in leading and motivating teams, both in the Assembly and in the intergovernmental sector, even in situations of acute pressure;

She developed human resources management experience through special training and as Human Resources Correspondent for the whole Directorate of Strategic Planning.