COVID-19 / The challenge of European unity: preserving Europe’s common good in times of crisis

“The Council of Europe was born on the ashes of World War Two, thanks to brave people who, in a spirit of sacrifice, resisted tyranny and oppression to affirm the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said Rik Daems, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in a statement to mark Europe Day (5 May).

“These values have been enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights whose 70th anniversary we are celebrating this year. In times of crisis and moral disarray, they helped Europeans overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable and build legal and political tools and institutions that made our common European home more just, pluralistic, modern and cohesive.”

“Today, inspired by the founding fathers’ boldness and ability to overcome adversity, we must continue their work and remain united more than ever, with a view to preserving, through mutual co-operation, our common good – the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our national interests and political views may at times be different, but these fundamental values unite us all because the Council of Europe of 47 is not just our common home but also our common destiny.”

“As Winston Churchill said in his first speech to the Parliamentary Assembly, ‘we are growing a living plant, not making a machine’ and it is our duty to keep nurturing and protecting the European spirit, especially at this challenging time.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is testing, in an unprecedented way, each of us individually, as well as our institutions and our economies. Therefore, the Council of Europe 47 must – in the spirit of European unity – shoulder their responsibilities to protect our democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law. These are the result of decades of efforts and cannot be wiped out by the pandemic. The European Convention on Human Rights is not a scrap of paper.”

“Parliaments in particular are the ‘lungs’ of our democracies and must play a central role in handling crisis situations in the search for fair, democratic and shared solutions. Stifling them equals suppressing democracy.”

“The Council of Europe and its Assembly are ready to rise to the challenge and to play their role in strengthening multilateral action and in finding a common roadmap to recovery, toward a more resilient and a more democratic Europe.”