During this session, the Parliamentary Assembly is due to debate two major issues which lie at the very heart of its mission as Human Rights Watchdog.
On the one hand, an urgent debate was requested on “the recent rise in national security discourse in Europe – the case of Roma”, on the other, the Assembly will discuss “the fight against extremism: achievements, deficiencies and failures.”
The recent rise of populist and extremist candidates and groupings, obtaining significant results in many countries at regional and national elections, is a matter of concern to the Council of Europe and the values it stands for. They exploit the resentments stirred by economic decline and social crisis as they are elected on an “ANTI”-ticket, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-Europe. We have to carefully monitor these movements as they have become a parliamentary force and start to influence how other parties behave and speak.
Another matter of concern for us are the recent outrages against Roma in Europe. I stressed that measures taken in some European countries certainly did not help to improve the integration of this vulnerable minority and I warned that they were likely to lead to an increase in racist and xenophobic feelings in Europe.
I have had several other occasions to recall the principles and recommendations made by the Assembly in our resolution adopted last June, in particular during my official visits to Romania at the end of August and to Paris last week.
We must now concentrate on giving the much needed political impetus to existing national and international efforts for the sustainable integration of Roma. I therefore give my full support to the Secretary General’s initiative to convene a high-level meeting on Roma on 20 October 2010 in Strasbourg and I am confident that the work done by the Assembly in this field, including its urgent debate on Thursday will be taken into account in the Final declaration. I am very pleased to see that the French authorities support this initiative and are ready to co-operarte with the Council of Europe.
I will also raise the issue of integration with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Mr. Westerwelle, during our meeting later today. For me, integration does not mean assimilation.
During this part-session, we will also have the opportunity to commemorate a great anniversary – 60 years since the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights on 4 November 1950 in Rome.
As for the Assembly, in the sixty years since, safeguarding and expanding the Convention has never ceased to be at the heart of the Assembly’s work, this session being an excellent illustration: with reports on children rights with the participation of Mrs Gül, patron of the Turkish “Education enables” campaign, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, national procedures for the selection of candidates for the European Court of Human Rights and an important report on human rights and business: our commitment to human rights, including social rights, is always best tested in crises. We need to send a strong message from Strasbourg to the people of Europe to ensure them that the Parliamentary Assembly will stand up for their rights even more strongly when times are difficult.