The Council of Europe is currently facing the task of reorienting itself in a difficult environment in order to be able to respond in the best possible way to the challenges on the continent. President Cassis emphasised Switzerland’s solidarity with the organisation, which Switzerland considers an essential element for constructive dialogue in Europe. He also reiterated Switzerland's commitment to the organisation.
“The crises we are currently experiencing (...) must not leave us in disarray. Nor can they leave us indifferent. On the contrary, they remind us of our duty to commit ourselves to the values which are ours and which are those embodied by the Council of Europe,” stated President Cassis in his address before around 600 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). “At this decisive moment, we must, together and with the support of the Council of Europe's governing bodies, give it an ambitious new vision and a strong new political impetus.” For Switzerland, it is vital that the Council of Europe should underline its qualities as a proven forum for dialogue and strengthen multilateralism by focusing on essential tasks.
Strengthening human rights in Europe
In addition to the speech before PACE, several high-level meetings were on the president's agenda, including with Tiny Kox, president of the Parliamentary Assembly. President Cassis took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the work of PACE and its democratic anchoring in Europe. In a conversation with the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić, Mr Cassis discussed how the organisation can best exert its influence to promote European values in times of upheaval. The aim is to demonstrate an undeniable added value of the Council of Europe; an example of this is the work currently under way on an international set of rules on artificial intelligence. The meeting with the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Róbert Ragnar Spanó, focused on strengthening the court.
President Cassis opens exhibition
President Cassis' programme on Monday also included the opening of the exhibition ‘Shame – European Stories’, which draws attention to the fate of victims of abuse. An initiative launched in Bern in autumn 2021 calls for a Europe-wide reappraisal of the abuse of children and young people. The benchmark is how Switzerland has dealt with the past in the area of contract children and children placed in homes.
The last Swiss president to pay a visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was Flavio Cotti in 1991.
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