Statement at the 44th plenary session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (anglais uniquement)
St. Pétersbourg, vendredi 20 mai 2016

Madam President, 
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour and a special privilege for me to address the Plenary session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States in this splendid Tavrichesky Palace which is a symbolic place for Russian and European parliamentarism. 

Almost exactly 110 years ago, on 27 April 1906, the first Russian State Duma held its inaugural session in this building. 27 April is celebrated in Russia as the Day of Russian Parliamentarism and I would like to congratulate our Russian colleagues and friends on this occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, since 1997, PACE and the CIS Assembly co-operate within the framework of a special agreement. Next year, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our institutionalised co-operation and I believe it is now the appropriate moment to take stock of the results achieved and start reflecting about new projects.

The agreement I referred to a moment ago, established modalities for pragmatic co-operation between our parliamentary Assemblies "in view of common concern for the respect of pluralistic parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and human rights and in order to promote parliamentary dialogue". Our co-operation is based on the same principles and values, and pursues similar objectives.

Indeed, our Assemblies have many things in common.

Firstly – member states. Five of the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States are also members of the Council of Europe – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine. Moreover, our Assembly enjoys privileged co-operation relations with the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, within the framework of the Partnership for Democracy Status, and the Parliament of Kazakhstan – within the framework of a specific co-operation agreement.

This is extremely important, as the global challenges our Continent is facing require a comprehensive, multilateral and strategic action. Therefore, we need common platforms to meet, discuss possible approaches and solutions, share experiences and good practices, in order to come up, eventually, with proposals for joint or co-ordinated action.

Secondly, our Assemblies pursue the same objectives, in particular,

  • building a common legal space for our Continent, based on shared principles and standards, and
  • promoting parliamentary dialogue.

In this context, I believe that Council of Europe conventions – many of which are open for non-member states – offer a good basis for harmonizing our standards and legislative frameworks.

Let me also mention that many of the CIS member states have joined the Council of Europe Venice Commission – our expert body on constitutional law matters. I would encourage you to seek the Venice Commission's advice in your legislative activities.

Moreover, our Assemblies actively support the consolidation of democratic institutions in our member states, in particular, by conducting election observation activities. In the last couple of years, co-operation between international parliamentary assemblies on election observation has been largely successful thanks in particular to our institutional co-operation within the framework of International Election Observation Missions and to regular consultations between observer delegations. Let me highlight that consultations on the spot between the leaders of observer delegations from PACE and IPA CIS have become a common practice, whenever our Assemblies observe the same elections. We should continue this practice.

My third and last point concerns inter-parliamentary dialogue.

Today, our Continent is facing major challenges, including the fight against terrorism, the refugee crisis and the wider migration phenomenon, and the dangerous raise of populist, extreme and radical ideologies, to give but three examples. These challenges undermine the security, stability and prosperity of our Continent. They are global by their very nature and, therefore, require a multilateral, comprehensive and strategic response.

We have to work together to tackle these and inter-parliamentary dialogue appears to be the ideal tool at our disposal. Parliamentarians must meet and talk to each other, discussing the concerns of their voters, sharing each other's experiences and jointly seeking solutions.

Over the past 19 years, PACE and the CIS Assembly have jointly contributed to fostering inter-parliamentary dialogue around issues of common interest and concern across the Continent. We have organised a number of joint conferences focusing on the issues of migration, inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue, fight against terrorism, as well as the building of a common European space without dividing lines. Our sectoral Committees have held a number of joint meetings.  I believe we should continue along these lines, focusing on concrete topics corresponding to priority activities of our Assemblies, so as to ensure appropriate follow-up. I am looking forward to your proposals.

On my part, I believe that counteracting terrorism, extremism, radicalisation and hate could be one such topic.  Terrorism – as well as the hate that fuels it – destroy the very foundations of democratic societies. As elected politicians representing our voters, we must protect our freedoms. We must publicly say NO to terrorism, NO to hate, and NO to the fear that the terrorist want to instill within out societies.

In this context, I would like to inform you that during our June part-session, to be held on 20-24 June 2016, we will launch a "NO FEAR" -the right to live without fear- initiative. Initially, it is going to be a hash-tag campaign to mobilise politicians, civil society actors and ordinary citizens against hate speech, populist rhetoric, stigmatisation of certain groups and communities which contributes to creating a general feeling of suspicion, insecurity and fear within our societies. I hope that the Parliaments of our Member states, as well as our partner parliamentary Assemblies, will join this initiative.

Moreover, the role of Parliaments in combating hate and building inclusive and non-racist societies will be one of the topics of the European Conference of Speakers of Parliament which will be held in Strasbourg, on 15-16 September 2016.

I am looking forward to welcoming at this conference the Speakers from our Member states as well as the leaders of our partner parliamentary Assemblies.

Thank you for your attention.