Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Holy Father’s reference to the people who are arriving on our continent should motivate our thinking about the complexity of migration and humanitarian considerations. The migrant situation shows the unbreakable links between our continent and the circumstances of our neighbours, particularly those from North Africa and the East. Europe today finds itself having to manage the difficulties of uncontrolled migration and a mass exodus that are the result of confrontations that are themselves the outcome of inequities and mindless armed conflicts involving self-proclaimed terrorist States.

The Republic of San Marino does not want to be an idle bystander in the face of a humanitarian tragedy that is increasing exponentially and difficult to contain. With the force of its law and pursuant to all the norms, San Marino intends to condemn and act as a mediator. We have adopted acts and declarations from our national parliament that call for a co-ordinated response that does not ignore the countries on the front line of the issue of refugees and migrants escaping a desperate situation. We are proud to remember our friendliness in the Second World War when our State, despite its small size, was able to offer asylum for 100 000 people fleeing neighbouring countries, including the Jews who sought refuge there.

San Marino has accepted the invitation to make a voluntary contribution to the Council of Europe fund for refugees and migrants, and we have also set up various initiatives. We are also happy to announce that we have fully ratified the Istanbul Convention and have adopted all the measures necessary to combat the terrible phenomenon of violence against women. The campaign against this social scourge, including domestic violence, was launched in Madrid on 29 November 2006 under the San Marino presidency of the Committee of Ministers. It represents a commitment by member States to increased awareness at a national level. The campaign gave a further boost to the commitment to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"We are witnessing an escalation of attacks on freedoms. It is therefore more necessary than ever to fight against extremism and radicalisation that lead to terrorism "

The convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011 and entered into force on 1 August 2014. It was created to fill a legal void and to harmonise legal measures across Europe to overcome the legacy of discrimination that undermines the success of a culture that offers equality for all. The significance and value of the Istanbul Convention to San Marino is clear, so we are happy to confirm officially today, within its natural home, the most recent ratification of the text of the convention, which happened this very month. We are now personally involved in the battle for civilised behaviour, which should be without boundaries. We also adopted measures to improve the defence of the rights of children and desire to provide a legal order, within which will be the full panoply of the most effective instruments for such a vulnerable category of people.

Our country was one of the first to sign the convention of the Council of Europe for the protection of babies and children against exploitation and sexual abuse, an international text that is aimed at combating one of the most perverse phenomena of our society, which we must continue to fight to be able to extirpate this inhuman violation of human rights. We are convinced that the protection of children should be one of prime concerns of governments, social institutions and families. There should be a global mobilisation to deal with these violations, which undermine the development of human beings. We need to defend children and protect their identity and integrity. During the current migration, there have been clear violations of their rights. More than 20 children have died in the Aegean Sea, to quote just the most recent example.

We should also mention the importance and value of culture. As John Paul II said, culture makes humans more human. Educational establishments are important and deserve particular attention. They inform future generations about the culture, in the highest sense of the word, of democracy and respect, and about the institutions and political life of the country. School should be a special place to raise awareness and share knowledge of traditions, institutions and democracy in respect of human dignity, and to bring about a civilian force for providing true education in goodness and beauty.

The Regency congratulates you, Mr President, on your recent election. I wish you all the best in the exercise of your functions. The regency is particularly happy to have the opportunity today to give our best wishes to this parliamentary institution. You are carrying out your duties on behalf of 800 million citizens in 47 member Countries. We join in mourning all the victims of the Holocaust and all the victims of the massacre of Srebrenica, one of the darkest pages of our history in the last 20 years. We must never forget what happened and we must defend peace for peoples and nations.

We pay tribute to Anne Brasseur, who was the President of the Parliamentary Assembly until a few days ago. All best wishes for 2016. After a year of indifference and crisis, we hope that this will truly be a year of hope and solidarity.


Thank you very much, Your Excellencies, for your most interesting address.

Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

The first question is from Mr Allavena, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr ALLAVENA (Monaco) (interpretation)

As a representative of the only other tiny country in this Assembly, I welcome this double presentation, which was full of wisdom. What can small countries such as ours in this Assembly do to inculcate in our own countries the good practices of others, or perhaps you think we have a different part to play? What can we do about the more serious problems that face us? Are there ways in which we can hold our weight, or punch above our weight, in negotiations?

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

Thank you for your question, which provides me with an opportunity to say again how the values of small States in Assemblies such as this and in the Council of Europe mean that they are strengthened. In democratic institutions, we must ensure that the number of citizens is not the main feature; the main feature should be participation and the values and implementation of human rights in all our States. The role of small States should be welcomed and enhanced, particularly because they do not have major economic interests to defend. As a result, they can be free to act as mediators with regard to the situations around them, so we think it is important to belong to the major European family of the Council of Europe. We feel that it is strengthened by that.

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

I thank you for your question, because it is at the heart of the interests of those of us who come from small countries that are of strategic importance. The approach of San Marino is to have an ever closer rapprochement with Europe. There have been various stages. The first stage was cultural and social awareness of what this choice would mean. Then there was a period of maturity. Then there were negotiations, with a certain determination to find those goals that would be in the interests of both sides. Therefore, we do not look at this particular phase with any fear of slipping backwards. We know that, in various aspects, our role as small States is recognised for its fundamental contribution to Europe. There is also an openness on our side perhaps to give up some of our own peculiar characteristics to be able to join in something that would be of interest and value to both sides and an openness to supranational interests.


Thank you. The next question is from Ms Bonet, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Ms BONET (Andorra) (interpretation)

I welcome you to the Assembly. I have more or less the same question but I will pose it differently. San Marino and Monaco are establishing this special status with the Council of Europe. There are countries that are not members but involve themselves in the Assembly to be more effective on issues such as immigration. They offer, in their idiosyncratic situation as small countries, a different view or approach to solving these issues.


As you say, this question is rather similar to the first. We small countries play a fundamental role at this stage. The Republic of San Marino has, in the past few years, faced two crises, which are linked: the international economic crisis, of course, which had important knock-on effects for us; and a more structural crisis, to do with the decision to change the main assets on which the economy of the republic was based. That was a brave and important decision to take. With regard to our efforts to ensure greater integration, if other countries find themselves in the same position, we hope that we can share our experience regarding our courageous decision. We are fully aware of our counterparts. We are on a small scale, but we have our own special characteristics, and we are sure that our negotiations will have a very positive outcome.

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

I would like to answer the second part of your question, about the role of small States in human and humanitarian tragedies. What can small States do? We can do a lot – perhaps not a great deal in terms of hosting refugees and providing them with a haven, but a lot to raise our citizens’ awareness of these issues and of the need to be welcoming. We can provide solidarity and support, particularly of an economic nature. We are only 60 sq km, of course, and we do not have much space or any reception centres, but there are a lot of humanitarian organisations on our territory, and of course they are trying to help as many refugees as they can, as fully as they can. Our Regency aims to make a targeted appeal to our population, so that they respond generously, and show human solidarity. We hope that families can take in some of these people, and we hope to provide some State support for those who say that they can take refugees – particularly children fleeing war zones – into their homes.

On the role of small States, two years ago, the small States, including the Republic of San Marino, finding themselves in agreement on many points, set up an initiative. We agreed to present a recommendation to the Parliamentary Assembly on the need to face up to the global problem of immigration, which the few States that are on the frontline, including small States such as Greece, Cyprus and Malta, cannot deal with alone. Small States can easily play an active role in raising awareness of this great tragedy of mass migration – a phenomenon of the last year or two.


Thank you. The next question is from Ms Brasseur, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg) (interpretation)

Thank you. Your ancient land – the land of freedom, as you called it – has welcomed many people. In Europe, fundamental freedoms are at risk. What can we do to fight together against the deterioration in our fundamental and human rights? I have just been appointed ambassador for the No Hate Speech campaign. I have listened carefully to what you have said, and take it that both of you will be able to sign up to the campaign. Thank you.

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

Of course, the Council of Europe’s activities are extremely important for us. We have been part of the campaign against hatred, and there is an important role for us in making our citizens aware of it. We are an ancient country of liberty, and our liberties are fundamental rights. If events pose any risk to the fundamental rights that we have had for thousands of years, we will work together effectively through dialogue and public awareness – they are the key to everything – to resolve issues, using frameworks such as the No Hate Speech campaign. In our charter of rights, we underline the importance of dialogue, opposing war, and dealing with the issues that are critical to our times; we can do this through the Council, by taking action in our republic, and through the international community. There ought to be inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. We must repudiate war above all; that ought to be at the core of our dialogue.


The next question is from Mark Pritchard, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

Mr PRITCHARD (United Kingdom)

Whether we are talking of San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, Luxembourg or even the United Kingdom, there is a huge difference between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion. What more do you think that all Council members can do in their respective countries to increase transparency in banking, while ensuring that large companies and very wealthy individuals pay the tax that they should pay, so that we can run our countries?

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

Thank you for your question, because it allows us to remind colleagues of the great steps our republic has taken on this issue, which is of course very delicate; since 2008 and 2009, it has been at the forefront of our considerations. We have adopted a clear approach of transparency – of being open to all international bodies, in complete accordance with international laws and standards. I am sure that you can recall various past situations. This issue involves fighting corruption, setting up support structures, and avoiding complicated structures. There are costs for the countries that take this route, but that should not deter leaders and populations from adopting this important approach. We have to be able to succeed in embodying these aims. We have to further examine the issue in future, too.


Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Kox, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr KOX (Netherlands)

I recall that, after the Council of Europe summit in 2005 in Warsaw, negotiations started between the Council of Europe and the European Union. We still have to thank you, because it was the San Marino presidency that was finally able to arrange a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations. Almost 10 years later, how do the Captains Regent evaluate the development of the co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe? Would the San Marino Government support the organisation of a fourth summit of Council of Europe Heads of State and Government, as proposed by the Standing Committee in Sofia last year?

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

It is an invitation that we accept with great excitement and enthusiasm. The Government of San Marino supports the idea of a fourth summit and would very much like to undertake its organisation. Why not? The question emphasises some of the responses that we have given about small States and the roles that they can play. Our activities over the last couple of years have served some important causes.

The Council of Europe and the European Union are a reality not only for the European continent but much broader in world economics and humanitarian activity. One major institution complements the other, and they are important for economic development. The co-operation agreement has served all very well, and anybody who refutes that argument can be proved false.


The next question is from Mr Vareikis.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

Everybody asks what small countries can do for international organisations to solve problems that big countries cannot solve. My question is the opposite. What are your expectations of what the bigger countries can do to help you feel a respected and fully fledged member of international society?

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

That question gives us the honour to state what we can offer within a larger community. Our sovereignty is guarded on a daily basis; that is an important battle. Numerous events show again and again the role of small States in large forums such as this.

Our history shows the role that we have played in immigration and taking in refugees, which tells us about the importance of small countries. Emigration is important too. Part of our population had to leave San Marino after the war in search of new opportunities, and for that reason many of our citizens no longer reside within our territory. We have hosted large waves of immigrants during the major world conflagrations because of our neutrality in those conflicts. Many people have sought refuge in San Marino. There is a museum dedicated to immigration in San Marino that records our experience of major movements of population, and tells us all something about the importance of those events in the history of both San Marino and the world. The role that we have played with regard to those movements of peoples must be alive in historical memory. It is not only something of the past, but very much the reality today. Our contribution is valuable; there is no question about that.


The next question is from Mr Ghiletchi, but I do not see him so I call Mr Gopp.

Mr GOPP (Liechtenstein) (interpretation)

You said that San Marino finds itself in a process of transformation because of its financial status. Does that have any effect on the budget? What measures are you taking? You talked about your integration into Europe. Are you interested in the European Economic Area?

Captain Regent, Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino (interpretation)

I tried to explain this before, but the question provides me with an opportunity to reiterate it. Our brave and firm decision – we do not want to go back on it – has had considerable impact on the State budget. It is not a concern but an observation: the choice must remain irreversible and we must remain resolute. We need to explain to our population of 33 000 what the choice involves, what its down side will be, and what possible new developments for our economy might lead on from it.

Perhaps I can respond to the previous question too. We want an audience, because we are convinced that internationalisation pursuant to the rules of transparency might open up new possibilities, give a boost to our economy and attract foreign investors. That is important for our country and we will, of course, follow the rules of transparency when dealing with international and supranational organisations.

We are clear that this is a choice that may involve considerable sacrifices for our population. None the less, we stand by it resolutely. We want to emerge from the two crises, one of which was a structural crisis, while the other was a specific momentary crisis. We are changing the strategic assets of our country, although that will not provide an immediate response to the global crisis. Our country was helped by the supranational organisations of individual States, which may be able to offer further assistance.

The economic area is part of the ongoing negotiations. There have been various phases and, in recent years, close links with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) have given us an opportunity to consider possible means of integration with other States. We are looking further into those possibilities. Further steps have been taken and we have to bring up to speed our – how shall I put it? – special, privileged position with regard to the proposals made by EFTA and other European bodies.


Thank you, Mr Renzi. That brings to an end the questions to their Excellencies. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank them most warmly for their address and for the answers given to questions.