Strasbourg, 22.01.2024 – Theodoros Rousopoulos (Greece, EPP/CD) has been elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Taking over from Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), he is PACE’s 35th President since 1949 and the first Greek national to hold this office. The President serves for a one-year term of office, which may be renewed once.
In his opening speech the newly-elected President referred to 24 February 2022, when “we all witnessed the savage, merciless and unjustified attack by Russia – which was then a member of this Council – on a free country, Ukraine”. Since then, “Ukrainian citizens, and especially children, have been suffering, living every day in fear of death rather than in hope of happiness,” he added. “I will not surprise you if I tell you that during my presidency, Ukraine and securing accountability for the horrific crimes committed on its territory will be my main priority,” Mr Rousopoulos stated.
“Our Council is confronted every day with the lack of concern for human rights, with oppression caused by the lack of democratic ideals even in countries that democratically elect their leaders,” Mr Rousopolos said. “We are here to remind them of what they have signed up to in ratifying the European Convention of Human Rights and all the many other commitments they have designed and created together”, he added.
Among the challenges highlighted by European leaders at the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavik last May, “there are some that are particularly close to my heart,” he said. The first, he underlined, “concerns the problems and dangers that may arise for democracy from any indiscriminate expansion of Artificial Intelligence. AI is to be welcomed and it must remain a tool to assist human capabilities and not a substitute for human will and autonomy”. The second challenge, he stated, is “the urgent need to agree upon how best to protect our fragile environment. My own country is witnessing the ravages of climate change in real time, and we must act.” The third one, Mr Rousopoulos pointed out, relates to “social, professional, economic and other gender inequalities which have not been eliminated to the extent we would like. We must continue this struggle until the equality we all desire is achieved.”
He also underlined his will to work towards “even greater visibility” for the Council of Europe among its member states and the rest of the world. “Not visibility for its own sake, but so that what we do here is taken up and multiplied by governments, parliaments, civil society, and citizens.”
Referring to his will to work “in harmony” with the different Council of Europe statutory bodies, the leaders of the political groups and “every single Assembly member”, he promised “to continue on the path of synergy on which the previous PACE President, Tiny Kox, has worked so hard and which certainly has borne its fruits”.
“As in any parliament, battles are fought within this Assembly”, the newly-elected President said. “But our weapons are not bullets; they are merely the words that combine to create arguments. Sometimes I know that words hurt just as much and can be used to break our opponent’s spirit. Let us remember that words too are often the best – sometimes the only – way to heal wounds”, Mr Rousopoulos concluded.