Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Mr President, Secretary General, honoured members of parliament, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the Regency would like, first, to congratulate the newly elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and wish him every success in his job. The Regency is particularly pleased and honoured to pay an official visit to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today – it is the oldest of the European parliamentary institutions and it is a great honour to be able to take the Floor in the Chamber. Indeed, almost the whole of Europe is in attendance here, with its representatives, and its cultural and linguistic expressions, bearing witness to the lively diversity of our continent. It is our desire to pay tribute to this important European institution, of which we have been a part for more than 27 years, and to reaffirm our full support for, and the active participation of the Republic of San Marino in, the decision-making processes, which are part of the constant effort towards democratisation in European States.

The thousands of years of democratic tradition of our Republic, with its roots in Roman history and civilisation, which stretches back to the time of local communities that were autonomous and which is embodied in the institution which we represent still today, allows us to be numbered among the European family of nations. That family is based on the principles of the rule of law and the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are determined to make an effective and passionate contribution to this consensus. The Regency would like to reiterate the great value of the European Court of Human Rights, which represents the strongest bastion of the defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Court in tandem with the European Convention on Human Rights makes up a system of protection of rights and fundamental freedoms that is without equal in other continents in its effectiveness and moral strength. It therefore goes without saying that San Marino recognises the overarching nature of the Convention, meaning that all our laws and case law, which is tantamount to law, must be in compliance with the Convention, because otherwise they would become unconstitutional.

On this occasion, we would also like to confirm the great value of all the other bodies of the Council of Europe, whose representatives regularly visit our Republic, and whose recommendations and suggestions provide a valuable input towards improving and updating our regulations. Among those institutions, I particularly wish to mention the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and its President Marin Mrcela, who was the official Republic orator on 1 October last, when we were sworn in as Heads of State. In his speech, he highlighted the enormous strides made by our Republic on stamping out corruption more and more effectively. That recognition carries a lot of weight, and we feel it is a further incentive to pursue our efforts and to maintain our vigilance at all times.

"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 "

It is also a great honour to be here today at the first part-session of 2016, at a time when our State is depositing the instrument of ratification of the Istanbul Convention. In depositing this instrument, San Marino is bearing witness to its clear determination to say that violence against women is an odious, uncivilised attack on the person and a deep wound on the whole of humanity, and it must be opposed with the full force of the law, without any qualms. The recent deplorable episodes in Cologne show that we must keep up our guard at all times in the face of this social scourge, and that there should be no sweeping under the carpet of such acts, even when they occur in States where, predominantly, the political classes are champions of the multicultural society.

Dear esteemed members of parliament, human rights are put to a great test at this time. Our democratic societies therefore have to face major and compelling challenges: we need to reject war as a way of resolving conflicts between States in favour of dialogue; we need to cope with mass migration phenomena; and we need to respond with adequate policies to the danger of a declining faith in our democratic institutions, which derives from the fact that national and supra-national governments do not seem to be fully able to provide immediate and effective answers to the drama of new and old types of poverty and unemployment, especially youth unemployment. The economic crisis can lead on to a crisis in democracy. The current situation, which directly or indirectly affects the whole of the old continent, is characterised by upheavals and crises that are happening all the time and which deserve carefully considered political responses, because otherwise they could undermine the values of our societies, which we thought were unassailable.

It is still worth reiterating that given the challenges Europe has been facing in this century, within these walls, which represent the home of pan-European democracy, the Regency still feels very strong ties, arising because of our shared roots and the fact that the ongoing dialogue about democracy in this House feeds into constant reflection and consensus. Given our concern about the escalation of attacks on our freedom, it is vital to fight against extremism and radicalisation, which may lead to terrorism. That is the biggest priority for this organisation at the moment, because these phenomena are diametrically opposed to the fundamental values on which European societies are based: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Any advanced democracy can see how religion is now invoked as a pretext to fight absurd battles and to achieve aims that are purely political in nature. Terrorist attacks, which recently undermined the rules under which we live together, feed an unparalleled hatred between people, and they are nothing but an insult to any form of spirituality or humanity and have no justification in whatever religion, ideology or philosophy.

In remembering the barbarous attacks that affected societies in Paris, Tunis and, recently, in Pakistan, our thoughts go out once again to the families of the many innocent victims and to the States which were the victims of such cruelty. We are facing a chilling scenario which cries out for the Council of Europe now to lead the drive to develop measures that will help us to form a collective conscience and reclaim the values of the rule of law and respect for the human person. There is a strong warning that the Regency would like to issue, even here in Strasbourg. Faced with an emergency that is without precedent and which does not allow any State, however small or big, to escape, we need a collective, concerted project to use all the resources at our disposal: the strength of the rule of law, education and general culture. Those are the only legitimate weapons that can be used by countries that subscribe to the values of the Council of Europe. These are our defence against extremism and radicalisation. We are also convinced that only through promoting and pursuing a true culture of peace and respect for others can we defeat the toxic ethos of death and violence based on hatred and intolerance between peoples. Respect for others must be based on full awareness of who we are and what our values, traditions and cultures are.

In Brussels, in May 2015, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted an action plan on “extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism”, bringing to fruition the work done by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General. The decision adopted following the Paris attacks in 2015 led to specific proposals, such as further developing the annual meetings of the Council of Europe Exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. This is all part of the fight against terrorism. Since 2008, the meetings have provided an excellent opportunity to discuss and compare questions linked to religious faith in Europe. In Sarajevo, a symbolic place for inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue and venue of the exchange’s recent eighth meeting, we discussed among other things Recommendation 2080 (2015) on “Freedom of religion and living together in a democratic society”. It is just one example of how the Assembly is very much engaged in defending dialogue and supporting a sustainable and long-term peace.

We should highlight the historic speech that His Holiness Pope Francis gave in this very Chamber on 25 November 2014. The Holy Father spoke of a Europe of dialogue such that shared opinions and thoughts would serve peoples who are united in harmony. On many occasions, the Assembly has firmly opposed the violence of terrorism on the basis of human rights and democratic values, and there is no doubt that the Council of Europe will continue to face up to the present situation and all its implications. The problem of terrorism is far from being resolved. We also cannot be sure that democratic forces will overcome, but they are duty bound none the less to combat radicalisation and hate, which feed violent extremism. It is necessary to strengthen our commitment and to find more effective initiatives to raise awareness of racism, hatred and intolerance. Our republic has not hesitated to support the No Hate Speech campaign, created in the Council of Europe last year, and its alliance of members of parliaments from all member States of the Council of Europe. It is necessary to set about creating an inclusive society that provides plenty of room for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.