On Friday, 17 March, in preparation of Latvia’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE), Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the CoE, visited the Saeima and met with Edvards Smiltēns, Speaker of the Saeima, and the leadership of the Latvian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
At the meeting, Speaker Smiltēns underlined the significant role of the CoE in strengthening democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. At the moment, as Russia is trying to trample these values, it is an important task and challenge for the CoE to remain a firm defender of them.
Physically, the war is taking place on Ukrainian soil, but it is clearly an attack not only against Ukraine, but also against the entire Western civilisation, our values and lifestyle. We must not let Russia switch the Earth’s poles and impose its upside-down worldview on others, expressed Smiltēns.
The Speaker of the Saeima underlined that exactly one year ago the CoE affirmed its unity and strong position, as it removed Russia from the organisation after its invasion in Ukraine. The officials agreed on the importance of preventing situations where persons associated with the aggressor state continue working in CoE bodies, as it could damage the reputation of the CoE or threaten the interests of its member states.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Head of the Latvian delegation to PACE and Deputy Speaker of the Saeima, affirmed Latvia’s readiness to overtake the duties of the Presidency in spring and noted that the Saeima was working hard on the development of the parliamentary dimension of the Presidency.
As part of its Presidency, Latvia will advance its national priorities—strengthening democracy and the rule of law, further developing the reform processes of the Council of Europe, strengthening freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, as well as digitalisation of organisations. However, all parties agreed that support for Ukraine would undoubtedly be an important part of the CoE agenda.
The participants also spoke about the need to set up a special international tribunal for investigating the crimes of aggression committed by Russia and discussed the role of the CoE in gathering evidence and testimonies.
The Latvian Presidency of the CoE Committee of Ministers is scheduled from 1 May to 15 November this year.
Normunds Dzintars, Deputy Head of the Latvian delegation to PACE, also participated in the meeting with the Secretary General of the CoE.
The Council of Europe is the oldest political organisation in Europe. The aims of the CoE are to protect human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, to harmonise social and legal standards of its member states, as well as to promote understanding of European identity and values by embracing the cultural diversity of European nations. The CoE establishes binding international standards for its member states in areas such as human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Latvia joined the CoE in 1995.
PACE is the parliamentary dimension of the CoE and one of its largest and most visible institutions. The Saeima has established its own delegation to participate in the work of PACE.
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Saeima Press Service