Statement - International Parliamentary Conference on Combating Terrorism co-organised by the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member States and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
St. Petersburg, Tuesday 28 March 2017

Honorable Madam Chairperson Matvienko,
Honorable Madam President Muttonen,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a special privilege to participate in this conference and I would like to thank the co-organisers – the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe – for this initiative and for the invitation.

Dear colleagues,

We came here today because we are all fully aware of the gravity of the terrorist threat and of the need to take urgent action together to combat it.

Terrorists seek to destabilize our societies and to destroy our way of life.

They seek to restrict our fundamental freedoms and rights, and to destroy the very foundations of our societies – the supreme value of human life and dignity, democracy, the principles of respect, tolerance and non-discrimination.

By propagating suspicion and mistrust, they want to turn members of a community against each other in order to divide us and create a sense of fear and hate among our citizens.

From this analysis, one can draw only one conclusion.

As democratic societies, we have the inalienable right, and the inseparable obligation, to defend ourselves against the terrorist threat.

As Parliamentarians, we bear a special responsibility in this process. Let me now highlight four areas of action where I believe we should concentrate our efforts.

Firstly, it is our duty to reaffirm – publicly and in the strongest possible terms – our absolute condemnation of all acts of terrorism. No arguments can justify terror. Our role as politicians is particularly important in this context because we have a pedagogical role vis-à-vis our citizens: we should reject any attempts to justify terrorist attacks. We must applaud and support political and civic initiatives that denounce the fear and the hatred that terrorists seek to create.

The Parliamentary Assembly's #NoHateNoFear initiative is an ideal tool at our disposal. Through this initiative, we seek to engage politicians, civil society actors and individuals in a vast civic movement against the hate and fear that terrorist seek to create.

About a year ago, I presented this initiative in this hall, speaking at the 44th plenary session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member States.

Since its official launch, in June 2016, #NoHateNoFear has gained the support of many parliamentarians, Heads of State, Ministers, high officials, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I am proud and humbled by what we have achieved over 9 months, especially because among the supporters of the #NoHateNoFear initiative we count those who have a personal experience of terrorism - Antoine Leiris, Luciana Milani, mother of an Italian victim of the Bataclan attack, Bjorn Ihler, one of the survivors of the Utøya attack, to give some examples.

They overcame their trauma with reinforced conviction of the values of humanity and democracy. Their experience is a strong motivation for us to continue, while putting a special emphasise on the need to protect the victims of terrorism. This is a priority activity for our Assembly.

Secondly, our actions to combat terrorism must strictly respect our human rights and rule of law standards, as well as the democratic principles and values on which our societies are based.

We have to be aware of the risk that counterterrorism measures may introduce disproportionate restrictions or sap democratic control and thus violate fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, in the name of safeguarding State security. We should not allow this to happen. If we fail, terrorists will achieve their goal, that is to destroy our democratic values and principles.

Therefore, our role as parliamentarians is to bring our Governments to account and to ensure that counterterrorism policies and measures respect our standards and conventions. We must scrutinize policy proposals and draft legislation against our standards, to ensure that sufficient legal safeguards are put in place.

Thirdly, on the basis of our legal standards, we must develop further our legal arsenal to combat terrorism.

As you are aware, the Council of Europe has developed a solid international binding legal framework to combat terrorism. Our Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism has been signed and ratified by 38 member states of the Council of Europe. This treaty is open for accession by non-member states and I would like to use our today's meeting to appeal

  • first of all, to our member states, to ratify this convention if they have not done so already;
  • to our observer states and our neighbours – to consider acceding to this convention, so as to enlarge our common legal framework to prevent and combat terrorism.

Recently, our legal toolbox was substantially strengthened by the Additional protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism which deals with the issue of so-called foreign terrorist fighters.

The Additional Protocol is a unique international legally-binding instrument in this field. To date, it has been signed by 29 Council of Europe member states as well as by the European Union. It is open to observer and non-member states which accede to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

Since October 2015, the Additional Protocol has been ratified by 5 member states of the Council of Europe. It means that we need only one more ratification for this Protocol to come into force.

Therefore, I urge all of you today to work with your Governments and to press for the ratification of this Protocol, so that it can become effective.

I shall continue to promote the ratification process in my visits to member states.

Fourthly, I would like to highlight the need to address the root causes that lead to violent extremism, radicalisation and terrorism.

It is clear that terrorism is likely to remain one of the major threats for our democratic societies for years to come. It is therefore essential to deepen the understanding of its root causes and to devise appropriate policy responses to address them.

We must eradicate breeding grounds for terrorism and religious fanaticism, especially through education, social policies and an inclusive society. Concrete measures should be taken to prevent and fight radicalisation, in particular in schools, disadvantaged neighbourhoods, prisons and on the Internet and social media.

Reports and Resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe offer a wealth of concrete examples that you can draw inspiration from.

Inclusion and integration are the key to combat radicalisation leading to terrorism. As direct representatives of citizens, Parliamentarians have a special responsibility to work within their communities, promote dialogue, understanding and inclusion.

While reassuring our citizens, we should also denounce the populist discourse and any attempts to use and misuse the security rhetoric to divide our societies further. Populist rhetoric may play in the hands of terrorists. We should not allow this to happen.

Dear colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that these four concrete points will help us develop further our discussions today and I am looking forward to hearing the contributions from the parliamentarians so as to explore concrete synergies between our Parliamentary Assemblies as well as between our National Parliaments.

Thank you very much for your attention.