President of the Hellenic Republic

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, members of parliaments throughout Europe, I feel a particular honour – indeed, I am quite moved – to find myself here before you today as President of the Hellenic Republic. This emotion is all the more intense because of the fact that for 20 years, I was a member of the Hellenic Parliament, and I had the experience of contributing in this Chamber. I am aware of the major contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly to the work of the Council of Europe, and I simply will not forget, as I speak to you at this moment, that you provide the democratic legitimacy of the Council of Europe. Through the popular will that you express, you give the Council of Europe its weight and gravity. This Assembly’s mission and origins demand the reverence that I wish to bestow upon you today.

I have chosen as the topic of my presentation not an issue that concerns my country, such as the refugee issue, or an issue of the politics of our times. That might have been interesting for all those who follow the activities of this Assembly, but as I am addressing you I wanted to choose something more general but absolutely compatible with the role of the Council of Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of parliament, we live in very turbulent times that touch the broader European space as well as the narrower world of the European Union. There is a great victim in these times – human beings and their rights. The role of the Council of Europe in that regard is absolutely necessary, because it is imperative that we defend human beings and their rights in these critical times. If we did not defend human rights and dignity, and if we did not have discussions with other cultures and civilisations in order to achieve peace in the world, our civilisation – western civilisation and European civilisation as we know it – would not be able to survive. The role that the Council of Europe plays in that is clear. It serves fundamental human rights, and its obligation at this time is to fight for those rights and to find the causes of the undermining of human rights.

Human rights function not outside any institutional framework but within a particular one, so I begin by simply saying that representative democracy as a system of governance was born out of fundamental human rights, which are the safeguard for the exercising of what is necessary to keep that system in place. Putting human rights at risk also puts democracy overall at risk.

What does representative democracy mean for human rights, what risks exist that undermine it, and how can we detect those risks and get rid of them effectively? And what is the role of the Council of Europe in all this? Of course, we all know what representative democracy means – it is common sense. It is a system of governance in which authority is exercised by directly elected individuals or bodies. Through the legitimacy of these elected individuals, a representative democracy can exercise authority, but within a democratic framework and respecting human rights.

Very important here is political freedom. Political liberties allow the election process to take place, but they are the source of everything, including all human rights and the institutions that defend them. So, elected bodies and individuals allow for the exercising of an authority that incorporates within it respect for human rights and representative democracy – all within the broader framework of a State under the rule of law. Representative democracy was born as a system of governance – it is of course the best one to defend human rights – and thereafter, it supports the rights of individuals, which are an integral part of that system. There is no question about that whatsoever.

We are talking about a system of governance that is the most effective in exercising, protecting, defending and bolstering human rights. Any power that wants to impinge on human rights can be dealt with only through a system of representative democracy and the institutions that crystallise as a result of it. It allows the exercising of democracy and deters all those who would like to abuse power and impede individuals exercising their rights. Representative democracy helps individuals to exercise their rights and defends human rights against any risk or threat, which may come not only from State authority, but from private, non-governmental entities. In this globalised world, such entities have become stronger – stronger sometimes than governments themselves – and have usurped power to a certain extent.

Why is representative democracy the best form of governance for defending people against the threats to their rights coming from State institutions? An institutional system of checks and balances makes representative democracy the best, because nobody is completely in charge, in that one institution checks the other. If these institutions function, as they should, according to the constitution and international law, the system of checks and balances blocks any violation of the exercising of individuals’ rights, particularly when it concerns the Executive. The Executive are blocked when they want to overstep their authority.

Representative democracy is based on the principle of minority and majority, which is its strength when compared with direct democracy. The latter is a system whereby the minority view has no weight whatsoever, whereas the opposite is true of representative democracy. The minority does not simply exist institutionally; it can control, monitor and supervise. In the system of checks and balances under representative democracy, the operation of a State under the rule of law is extremely important. This goes hand in hand with representative democracy. These concepts and principles are linked: they cannot be separated.

What do we mean by a State under the rule of law? The rule of law involves not only rules under which the exercising of power takes place – in other words, rules and regulations that involve legislative and judicial aspects – but sanctions and penalties. A system of sanctions is in place, should there be an infringement or overstepping of authority. So we have this system of control, and a system of sanctions, should institutions of the State overstep their remit.

I will move on from the system of regulations and pause on the issue of sanctions. Numerous different mechanisms bolster a State under the rule of law. For example, there is administrative self-control, or parliamentary control, through which parliament checks and monitors. But these forms of control have been shown to be not completely effective and for that reason, in my opinion – it is also a general opinion – the best sanction mechanism for implementing the rules and regulations of a State under the rule of law is an institutionalised judiciary system. There is no question about that whatsoever. An independent judiciary makes possible an effective and just system of sanctions, and all within the framework of representative democracy. So, the State is controlled and its legitimacy maintained. In order to do that, numerous different controls are in place, but the most important is the judiciary, which must function effectively, so that it truly defends the rights of individuals. That is the supremacy, if you like, of representative democracy compared with other forms, when it comes to controlling State authority.

Numerous different problems have arisen in these globalised times. It is not only the overstepping of State authority that causes a problem; other, legal entities are capable of violating the rights of individuals. Representative democracy has its particular power: it can set up these deterrence mechanisms to protect individuals from other people and from other such entities. It is clear that we have the necessary legislation in place. We have rules, regulations, national constitutions and international and European law, which function against not only the State but any individual entity that may be violating the rights of other individuals. In representative democracy we have certain mechanisms that place a coat of mail around human beings, protecting them from such threats.

What are these guarantees? In summary, in all constitutions, including that of the Hellenic Republic, there are laws that fall within the constitutional framework and that have to be compatible with European Union and international law. We need laws that deal with all those various aspects, but within the framework of international law.

However, rights are not one-sided; they have two sides. There is the core, which is the social dimension, and there are other dimensions. Every right is exercised within a particular social framework. Therefore, in order to be exercised legally and appropriately, every right ought not to lead to the annulment or obliteration of the rights of others. That is why we need national solidarity, which is the concept that lies behind this. When you exercise your rights, yes, you must meet your needs, but in doing so you cannot infringe upon the rights of others. The first parameter is what is set out in legislation and the constitution. The second parameter is the social dimension and coexistence, within a legislative framework. That second parameter is underpinned by the extremely important principle that the abuse of rights is prohibited. Abusing rights works like a boomerang: it might seem good at first, but in the end everyone loses. We have seen that so frequently in our times.

It is not enough simply to declare that certain rights exist and that we all have them; the State has to secure the conditions under which all individuals can exercise their rights without abusing the rights of others. Without that equality, the exercise of rights could simply become an intellectual exercise. Once again, representative democracy has its role to play in protecting individuals. The social welfare state, under the rule of law, has to enable the weak and vulnerable in society to exercise their rights effectively. Otherwise, we do not have the equal exercising of the rights of individuals, which is the foundation of representative democracy.

When those who are economically stronger in society – everybody has a different starting point in life, of course – can somehow impose their will on others, the exercising of rights does not work. We see that right now in our societies. It is representative democracy that will protect us from all that. On the one hand, we have the protection of individuals from the arbitrary use and abuse of authority, and on the other hand – within the social dimension – we have the protection of individuals from the arbitrary exercising of rights by their fellow human beings who happen to be more powerful, either economically or in some other way. All those limitations have to be enforced through legislation. Once again, prohibiting the abuse of rights has to exist in the social welfare state, and it is the responsibility of the social welfare state to protect individuals from the abuse of rights by others. That is what representative democracy has to do in order to protect human beings, to create that protective coat of mail.

We have seen things change. We have seen representative democracy being undermined in such a way that human rights are not protected. We face numerous threats that are undermining the very foundation of representative democracy. Its institutional and political structures must therefore be vigilant. What are these threats? We have to detect them in order to get rid of them. That is the role of the Council of Europe. All those institutions that support and defend human rights have to be protected at this point.

What are these threats, where do they come from, and why have they appeared now to undermine democracy by eating away at its core? What we have seen, particularly in these times of crisis, is that we have a kind of despotic governance in place. In other words, we do not have the balance of powers that is necessary in a representative democracy. In order to function properly, a representative democracy needs balance between the three branches of government. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary all have to function equally. What we have seen, however, is the executive creeping in and grabbing more power than it ought to have, by taking over the legislature and controlling the judiciary. There ought to be a balance in the way a parliament legislates, following an initiative proposed by the executive – that is how it works in most countries.

However, countries in crisis, such as Greece, have serious problems indeed. The executive has assumed powers that did not exist in the past. The executive, simply because there is a crisis, has moved forward in such a way that it is taken as a given that it has to have more power. We have decrees being issued, which systematically excludes the legislature and prevents its participation in legislating, so there is an imbalance. The essential balance in a representative democracy – between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – is being skewed. In these times of economic crisis, we once again see the executive taking over. Once again, what we have is arbitrary behaviour on the part of the executive. That has serious consequences for human rights, and for rights overall. This threat to individuals comes from the executive. That is the first aspect that we ought to look at: in other words, despotism in government.

The second issue, which is very serious in our times, particularly in countries that are in crisis, such as Greece – which shows us once again how a representative democracy and a State under the rule of law is being undermined – is the ineffective operation of the most important mechanism: the judiciary. A State that is truly under the rule of law has mechanisms in place for sanctions and penalties, and the judiciary is the steward of that. However, in these times of crisis, the judiciary has found itself under attack. It finds itself in a position in which is can no longer deliver justice. It cannot operate in this new environment of decrees, where the executive has encroached upon the authority of the other branches of government. We have seen numerous examples of that inability to deliver justice as it ought to be delivered in a truly democratic State and a truly representative democracy.

Frequently, in times of crisis, there is such a need to resort to justice that cases multiply and there is great delay in the issuing of justice. You are all familiar with that. There are numerous cases in the European Court of Human Rights concerning violations of the provisions or principles of the charter of human rights. Where there are particular concerns with the issuing of true justice in home countries, people go elsewhere in search of it. There is a great delay in the delivery of justice, and we essentially have a system where people remain in limbo and are simply disappointed. In the end, people simply accept, in a passive fashion, the fact that justice is not being issued – that there are no rulings or they are terribly delayed. There is a serious threat there.

In delivering justice, which is absolutely necessary in a representative democracy, we have a system where people are left in limbo and there is no intermediary phase, so they do not know what to do in the period before a judgment is issued. There are certain systems of temporary judicial protection during that waiting period, but they do not exist everywhere. In numerous countries issuing temporary judicial protection is extremely difficult. Since rulings are delayed, and with the delayed issuing of temporary protection on top of that, in the end when those rulings come, after great delay, they are almost theoretical. Sometimes the issue has gone – evaporated – and no longer exists, so there is essentially theoretical justice. A decision is issued, but then there is no implementation. Sometimes there are mechanisms to enforce implementation, but often no such mechanisms are in place.

With the crises that exist throughout Europe, rulings are frequently not implemented. Often, those concern the protection of human rights. On the one hand we have despotism, and on the other we have the ineffective or delayed issuing of justice. That causes serious problems for representative democracy and the operation of an overall system. We have frequently seen all that happen in the name of broader social good – I say that, to a certain extent, facetiously.

My third point is that there are supranational entities functioning in this globalised world that have no democratic legitimacy whatever and are not subject to any rules, laws, regulations or constitutions. With globalisation we have seen new forms of intervention in the international economy, directly affecting human beings and nations, which do not have the necessary legislative framework in place either to operate democratically or to confront those supranational bodies. I have a couple of examples. The first is what we call markets – the market. There are markets, and then there are markets. There are markets that adhere to international law, but then there are extreme forms of markets that do what they want and can essentially overturn an entire country or government. They can do what they want and manipulate situations as they like. Of course, the most vulnerable suffer first.

There are also the rating agencies. There has to be some sort of framework whereby rating agencies function and there has to be a way of judging them. In other words, those who judge have to be judged. For example, rating agencies set a grade on some sort of undertaking in the United States. It then emerged that that undertaking had been involved in the mass embezzlement of funds and different types of financial corruption, but it already had that grade. We need a system in place that will control such supranational entities. The agencies and markets affect international development. We have to have an overall system of checks and balances in place to deal with the new types of institutions and structures. There has to be control. We cannot, on the one hand, speak of a State under the rule of law and check the various institutions of the State when, on the other, we have entities under private law that have the ability to control the world and wipe entire nations off the map.

Finally, another element is the collapse of the social state. One of the pillars of western civilisation – of European civilisation – is the social state. We know that the welfare state was established after the horrific events of the First World War – we first saw that in the constitution of Weimar in Germany. We had the creation of the foundations upon which the European Union and institutions such as this one were established. From the primordial, embryonic form of the social state the European Union and all the entities whose role is to protect human rights have developed.

If we do not have a social state that supports those individuals who are the victims and the weak in society, what sort of exercising of rights are we talking about? The social welfare state is not only an issue of social justice and does not only concern social cohesion; it is an issue of real democracy. A real democracy – a representative democracy – has to serve human beings; however, if it is impervious to the weaker in society, because of a non-existent or poorly functioning welfare state, that unfortunately does not hold. Anatole France said that for some equality means they have the ability to sleep under a bridge over the Seine. With those ironic words, we must be clear and understand that we cannot have development, progress, monetary unity or any sort of properly operating structures unless we have in place a social welfare state to protect individuals’ rights.

Those four threats – despotism, an ineffective judiciary, unbridled globalisation and the lack of a social welfare state under the rule of law – undermine human rights in general. That is where the Council of Europe’s role comes in.

What are we going to do today? We all participate in this emblematic Organisation, which it should be recalled is much larger than the European Union. It is a kind of antechamber through which we have to pass in order truly to exercise democracy. Countries that want to become members of the Council of Europe have to pass through this antechamber. We have to detect threats, raise our voices against them and get rid of them, because they undermine democracy, our civilisation, our culture, and the ability of the West and the European Union to play the global role that they ought to.

Europe has a broader role than simply that of protecting its peoples. I do not want to underestimate the strength of any other country or continent, but Europe is best placed to protect the basic principles on which our culture and civilisation are based: humanism, peace, democracy and justice. If Europe collapses, who will better defend these valuable principles? Our role is a historic one, and we cannot forget or be unresponsive to that. We cannot give in to populism, which leads, and has led, to alienation and isolation. The fourth report of the Secretary General touches on the dangers of populism for Europe and representative democracy. In these times, it is important for us to understand the threat that populism poses to representative democracy. The role of Europe is to protect our culture and civilisation and these important principles.

The Council of Europe has to understand that it defends not only our countries, but Europe and the world. Of course we represent our countries, but we also represent something far greater, and we have to be aware of that. It is important that we protect this institution. There are numerous problems, including within the European Court of Human Rights, but it is possible for us to move forward, beyond primary law, and to transcend all existing problems. It is extremely important for the European Union to participate as a legal entity in the Council of Europe. The path is there, because the jurisprudence of the Court has stated that human rights law and the Council of Europe are a source of inspiration. If that is not paving the way for the European Union to be here, I do not know what is. The European Union has to be present here.

The Council of Europe has to look at the European Social Charter, which at this point looks like lex imperfecta, or lex minus quam perfecta. I understand and respect the effort made by the European Commission within the framework of the Council of Europe. However, if under the Council of Europe some rights are protected by the Court, but other social rights, which are extremely important for the social welfare state, are not protected by the same jurisprudence and legal structures, there is a problem – a lacuna to fill. The European Social Charter has to have the regulatory authority that it deserves, so that the social welfare state is protected. The social welfare state is the pillar of our continent, our culture, our civilisation.

The ideas behind representative democracy and human rights have to go beyond the borders of Europe and become part of humanity in its entirety. There are many lessons to learn from our experience and the way in which the West and Europe have functioned over the past couple of years. Representative democracy will not be transplanted simply because that is what we want. We have to take serious account of the idiosyncrasies of other cultures and peoples, because if we try to do that transplanting with a sense of hegemony or superiority, we will undermine international peace. We do not want to do that. Democracy is so precious; we have to protect it, as though it were the apple of our eye. We have to understand that this transplanting can take place only through dialogue and discussion, and not through an attitude of, “We decide and implement as we like.” We need cultural dialogue within an atmosphere of peace, and that can take place only where there is mutual understanding and respect. This forum is the best place for us to learn this major truth about conveying the principles of democracy to the entire world.

We have to defend human beings, who are the source of everything and of all these systems. We have to protect, very tenderly, everything that has been created. Once again, I thank you for the extremely valuable work that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly do.


Thank you, Mr President, for your truly illuminating address. Representatives of the party groups wish to put questions to you. I remind colleagues that questions are limited to 30 seconds, and should be questions, not speeches.

Mr FEIST (Germany), Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party (interpretation)

Thank you, Mr President, for once again making clear to us the basis of everything that we do: representative democracy, which depends on participation. I am pleased that you talked about economic and social participation. We cannot speak only to people who have completed high school; we have to speak to all sectors of society. Ought we to do more in terms of vocational education and training?

Mr Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

Of course, it is a given that we have to work through education. Everything begins with school, and with those tender, young years. That is when equality can be instilled in individuals. Equality is found where it is cultivated, and the principles of democracy have to be instilled in people from a very young age. We have to fight populism at its root. We see how the message of populism is being delivered by the media and the Internet, and how it tries to undermine young people from very early on. You are absolutely right; in education, we have to emphasise excellence. We Greeks have been familiar with the concept of excellence since the time of Homer. He was the first person who spoke about excellence. Excellence does not mean elitism; it is justice that it should be delivered to all, and it includes the ability of people to empathise and give what is best in them. As you said, everybody has to begin, at school age, to defend democracy and equality, and we have to bring the best out of individuals. I wanted to touch on education, including vocational education, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria), Spokesperson for the Socialist Group

I thank the President for his impressive speech, and I thank Greece for taking care of thousands of refugees. In the context of concerns from NGOs and Pope Francis, what European and international support does Greece need to guarantee the human rights of all refugees and, in the light of the previous debate, to protect women and girls from gender-based violence?

Mr Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

The first thing that Greece would like is solidarity between the peoples of Europe regarding the distribution of refugees. Greece has made major sacrifices and cannot bear accusations of not protecting sea or land borders. What are our partners in Europe teaching us when they say that? We do not want financial support; we want practical support. We want to be able to share refugees and to help these individuals, because Greece cannot deal with the situation alone. We have not only refugees but numerous illegal immigrants. The phenomenon that we are experiencing right now – the people who have died at sea and the horrific images we see on television – is difficult for us to bear. What Greece needs above all is for refugees to be distributed so that they have better prospects. We need support for special groups and for individuals who need particular help. We also want some recognition of the work that we have done, not just a barrage of criticism. People regularly work day and night to deal with the situation. We want to feel that we have some support from our family – from Europe as a whole. We want that support.

Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom), Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group

Following your remarks, Mr President, all of us recognise and greatly appreciate the migration crisis burden that Greece in particular has shouldered since 2015. Almost 1 million migrants have made their way via Turkey to Europe; Greek islands are still confronted with daily arrivals of around 30 to 60 migrants; and you currently host a population of 60 000 migrants across the country. On the tackling of organised criminals who smuggle or traffic migrants and refugees, it was heartening to learn that arrests were made last month owing to joint work by Greece and the United Kingdom and that 130 migrants were rescued. To crack down on the problem, a great deal more must be done. What further plans does Greece have, including co-operative measures with other States and relevant agencies, both to reduce migrant crime and to improve systems for receiving migrants among our Council of Europe States?

Mr Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

I thank you because you have pointed out that Greece is hosting not only refugees. If we only had Syrian refugees, we would be able to deal with the problem effectively, because it is easy to integrate refugees into the population. The major issue is the illegal migrants who have arrived in our country. Such people are often not looking for a better future; they are criminals. Greece has to make that distinction and act as it has to act. What is missing from the responses of the European Union and NATO, which was involved in the agreement that we forged with Turkey? We need better control of our ports in order to control trafficking and, as you will understand, it is difficult to control sea borders effectively. Turkey is also part of the agreement, and I will not say that it has not done its part. We live side by side. We all know how many millions of refugees are in Turkey right now, and we have to recognise that and express our gratitude. However, we need to co-operate on the apprehension of traffickers, and we need Europe’s help.

Europe forgets that the framework of the European Union contains a policy on illegal migration. It has been in place since 2008, but it has not been implemented. The text states that the European Union should forge readmission agreements with countries that are the source of illegal migrants so that they can be sent back home. I am not speaking about refugees or the illegal migrants who are dying; I am talking about other elements – criminal for the most part – that do not come under the category of migrants or refugees. The 2008 agreement must be implemented. Excuse me for having gone on about this, but I was Minister for the Interior at the time and we said then that we must work with countries in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa to put in place a system so that people stay in situ. However, we did not do anything after those discussions. Absolutely nothing has been done, and we are not really thinking about it even now. We should help those African countries with technical aid and economic support. All that was discussed on 18 October 2008, and the things that were discussed then have been regurgitated in recent times, but nothing has been done.

Mr COMTE (France), Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (interpretation)

Cyprus is highly topical because negotiations are under way between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots about the unification of the island, and Greece plays an important role in the Cypriot question. What is Greece’s view on the negotiation process? What contribution would Greece like to make to resolve the situation?

Mr Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

I reassure you that Greece and Cyprus are ready to contribute to a resolution of the Cyprus issue. It has been an open wound since 1974, and a foreign army is occupying part of Cyprus. It is not a national issue of Greece or Cyprus; it is a European and international issue. Where does the disagreement lie? The Cyprus issue must be resolved on the basis of European law. Cyprus is a member of the European Union and is in the eurozone, too, so the solution has to come from within European legislation, because only then will the acquis apply to the entire island. For that to happen, we have to respect primary European laws about the sovereignty of a member State of the European Union. Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Treaty on European Union States what sovereignty entails, and it is clear that an occupying army is totally incompatible.

We have a kind of precedent in the reunification of Germany, and those of you from Germany will be very well aware of what took place. We are all aware of how long-winded and difficult the process in Germany was before real reunification, after the reunification in 1990, as far as the implementation of the acquis communautaire was concerned. There was a key moment in March 1993, when the last former Soviet Union soldier left eastern German territory. It has been mentioned on numerous occasions when discussing Cyprus – the President of the Federal Republic, Mr Steinmeier, made mention of it recently.

The resolution of the Cyprus issue has to take place within European legislation, but it cannot include occupation. If it includes occupation and the archaic system of guarantees, none of it will really work. You cannot have third parties guaranteeing the sovereignty of a country. That does not exist in our times or within the framework of European legislation. For those that insist that there have to be guarantees in place and an occupying force, they do so because they have interests there – but which European country would accept that? It is necessary for us to deal with this situation. It has been an open, festering wound since 1974, but we will never commit the crime of accepting a solution that undermines the sovereignty of a member State of the European Union, its unity and its ability to defend the members of its family. We are not only defending ourselves on the Cyprus issue: we are defending primary European law and the acquis communautaire.

I say that with all due respect for Turkey. You all know what our position is with regard to Turkey and Cyprus. Turkey too has much to gain from a resolution of the Cyprus issue, because the Turkish Cypriot community and the Greek Cypriot community within a federal State – we are speaking about a federation, not a confederation – would be European citizens and enjoy all the rights of European citizens. Only in that way will Cyprus be able to move forward effectively into the future. The non-solution, the troops on the island and the system of guarantees from the past, is not compatible with resolution of the issue.

Mr NICOLINI (San Marino), Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left

Your country is a paradise for tourists, but like most Mediterranean countries it is a real hell for animals. As a defender of animal rights, I am in contact with many Greek volunteers. Many animals have a miserable existence, tied on short chains under a merciless sun. Stray dogs and cats are systematically exterminated in painful ways on the sole ground that they exist. Your country has taught civilisation to the whole world: please do something to reform the mind-set of the new generation, train the police to stop cruelty and ensure that European funds for animals are properly spent.

Mr Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

I share your views and I am very sorry, but over the last couple of years major efforts have been made to create legislation. This type of behaviour towards animals has been penalised and our courts have been quite active on this front. We have also initiated a campaign to sensitise people and make them aware of this issue, especially young kids from an early age.

I do not say that everything is a bowl of cherries. There are problems and we are doing what we can, irrespective of the difficulties we confront. We can use how people behave towards animals to judge individuals, a culture and a civilisation. It is not only for the image that we present abroad: we have to understand that our culture and tradition are important and we have to protect them. We also have to protect animals within that framework.


From the cradle of democracy, Mr President, your reminder that representative democracy is the cornerstone of our existence is very timely, especially as we are about to be tested in France, Germany and, of course, in the United Kingdom. We are deeply grateful to you for your address and for the manner in which you have answered our questions.