The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) met at the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki on Friday 23 November 2018, as Finland began its six-month chairmanship of the Council of Europe's ministerial body (21 November 2018-17 May 2019).
PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier opened the meeting, followed by a welcome address by the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Paula Risikko, and an exchange of views with Anna Rurka, President of the Council of Europe Conference of INGOs.
On this occasion, on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), the PACE President and Speaker launched a Europe-wide initiative to combat violence against women in parliaments, #NotInMyParliament.
In the afternoon the parliamentarians held an exchange of views with Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Timo Soini, who will chair the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for the next six months. Discussions focused on Finland's priorities during its chairmanship and other issues in the framework of the Assembly's ongoing political dialogue with the ministerial body.
The parliamentarians also debated a report on the protection and promotion of sign languages in Europe, after which Finnish rap artist Signmark will perform in sign language.
Other topics debated included the provision of palliative care in Europe, the movement of international students across Europe, and the procedure for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the recent observation of the general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The President also held a number of bilateral meetings with leading Finnish officials during her visit, including the Speaker of Parliament, the Justice Minister and the Secretary of State at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. She also held an exchange of views with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament.