Opening Speech - Standing Committee
Tallinn, Friday 27 May 2016

Dear Speaker,
Dear Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to open this Standing Committee in Tallinn. I am grateful to the Estonian Parliament and the Estonian authorities for hosting us and for their warm welcome and hospitality. I am also pleased that both the Speaker of the Riigikogu, Mr Eiki Nestor, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia – Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, - Ms Marina Kaljurand, will exchange views with us later today.

Dear Speaker, Dear Minister,

Estonia is a strong defender and active promoter of democratic values that the Council of Europe stands for. This will be your second Chairmanship of our organisation and I am sure it will confirm, and even strengthen, your commitment to our shared values and principles.

You are taking the Chairmanship in a very difficult time for all member States of our organisation: fences have been built on our continent; hostilities are being renewed between some of our member States; the threat of terrorism has become our daily reality, creating a sense of insecurity, fear, lack of trust and even hatred.

In this sensitive context, it is important for all of us to stay united around the values and standards of our organisation. Let me remind you of our plan to launch a new initiative - "Terrorism: No Hate, No Fear"- during the next part-session of our Assembly. It aims at mobilising politicians, civil society actors and ordinary citizens to defend our right and freedom to live without fear and to oppose all groups which contribute to create a general feeling of insecurity and suspicion in our society. I hope you will support this initiative and join me for the launching ceremony on Monday 20 June.

Speaker, Minister,

I congratulate Estonia on the priorities set for your Chairmanship – human rights and the rule of law on the internet, gender equality and Children's rights.

I welcome your decision to continue the excellent work done by Bulgaria during the last six months in the field of Children's rights. I completely share your view that "investing in children is the driving force in creating a just and more inclusive society". I am sure the Assembly can make an important and useful contribution to the relevant activities of your Chairmanship. As you know, the Assembly is playing an active role in the 1 in 5 campaign, and the Children's rights conference to be held in Tallinn in November will certainly be an opportunity to highlight this work.

Gender Equality is also one of the core issues we have been working on during the past years, thanks in particular to our "Parliamentary Network of Women Free from Violence".  I welcome your decision to focus activities on five strategic objectives, including combating and preventing violence against women, as well as the focus of the chairmanship on the role of the media and their impact on gender equality.

In this connection, let me highlight that Romania ratified the Istanbul Convention a couple of days ago, and that Latvia signed it last week. There are now only five remaining Council of Europe member States which neither signed nor ratified the Istanbul Convention. Estonia signed the Convention in December 2014 ad I hope that you could use the Chairmanship to further advance the ratification process.

As regards human rights and rule of law on the internet, Estonia has a lot to share with fellow Europeans in this field! You are an ardent advocate of free and open internet, where human rights are fully respected. We look forward to co-operate with you on this front.

Finally, I would also like to praise your investment in the promotion of Council of Europe conventions and their better implementation, in particular the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, and the Convention on Cybercrime. I am glad that Estonia is planning to ratify the Lanzarote Convention during the Chairmanship. I expect more countries to follow your example.

Dear Speaker, Dear Minister,

I would like to assure you that you can count on the support of the Parliamentary Assembly in the implementation of your chairmanship priorities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we will also hold an exchange of views with the Chairs of two important monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe: Mr Marin Mrcela, President of GRECO, and Mr Daniel Thelesklaf, Chairman of MONEYVAL.

Mr Mrcela, Mr Thelesklaf,

Thank you for being with us today. I welcome the good relations which exist between our respective bodies. I should mention, in particular, the close and fruitful collaboration between GRECO and our PACE anti-corruption platform, as well as between MONEYVAL and our Monitoring Committee. I hope this cooperation will strengthen further.

And now, dear colleagues, let us proceed with the first item on our agenda, that is, the exchange of views with Mr Eiki Nestor, Speaker of the Riigikogu.

Dear Speaker, you have the floor.

* * *

Dear Speaker,

Thank you very much for your presentation and for this exchange of views. We appreciate your availability and your hospitality. I am looking forward to working closely with you during these six months.  And – of course – I look forward to welcoming you in Strasbourg, on the occasion European Conference of Speakers of Parliament as our important guest and keynote speaker on the topic "National Parliaments and the Council of Europe: Together promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law".

And now I give the floor to Ms Marina Kaljurand, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers.

* * *

Dear Minister,

Thank you very much. We greatly appreciate this possibility of having a first exchange of views with you at the start of the Estonian Chairmanship.

We look forward to welcoming you in Strasbourg during our June part-session and to continuing our discussions.

Thank you very much once again.