Precarious peace and rights

Migrants and Ukraine at the centre of Parliamentary Assembly works " "

Spotlights on Ukrainian President Poroshenko making his debut in Europe, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, deaths in the Mediterranean, humanitarian crisis in Iraq: these were the main themes addressed during the plenary of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which ended on June 27 in Strasbourg. As expected, outgoing Secretary Thorbjørn Jagland, (Norway), was re-elected for a new five-year term. He will take office on October 1st. Former president of Oslo’s Parliament (Storting), since 2009 Jagland serves as president of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee. Kiev closer to Europe. On the eve of the signature of the financial chapters of Ukraine’s Association agreement with the EU in Brussels – with unquestionable political bearing – on June 26 newly-elected Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in his speech at the Assembly called for a de-escalation of the conflict in the eastern regions of the Country and for the recovery of peace: “Conflicts will be solved only through dialogue”. “Poroshenko said that support from Moscow remains “inadequate” and demanded its support of the peace plan with concrete actions. “We must give no chance to the separatist movements”, he said. Ukraine has started implementing a package of measures to fight corruption within the country “to ensure greater transparency and public confidence”, Poroshenko concluded after having presented the measures taken to decentralize administration in Ukraine. CoE Rapporteur Stella Kyriakides voiced concern for the situation of children in these areas, and called for the creation of a “a humanitarian corridor to transfer them to safer areas with their families. One hundred years since World War I. Appeal to dialogue recurred also in the speech delivered by PACE president Anne Brasseur during the ceremony commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Whilst recalling the “spirit of dialogue, co-operation and openness of founding fathers of the Council of Europe who strove to build a new international order that would guarantee sustainable peace in Europe”, PACE president deplored the armed conflicts still waged in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, former Yugoslavia, the North and South Caucasus, and now Ukraine. “If we do not want to betray those who sacrificed their lives for peace”, she concluded, “we must remain committed do even more”. Deaths in the Mediterranean. The death toll is still high. On the evening of June 29, a fishing boat with more than 600 refugees and at least 30 dead, probably due to asphyxiation, was towed by a ship of the Italian Navy in the Strait of Sicily. It’s an unending tragedy that challenges the conscience of Europe and has been at the center of a lively debate. Two resolutions have been adopted on the basis of reports by Tineke Strik and Christopher Chope. In the former, MEPs demand “zero tolerance” approach of human traffickers and to lives lost at sea”, filling the gaps in the legal framework, policies and practices of rescue at sea and disembarkation, “assisting coastal States” thereby “encouraging the creation of safe legal channels in Europe by harmonising the common asylum standards and procedures and through greater solidarity”. The second resolution, regarding mass landings on Italian coasts, acknowledges “improved efforts of Italian authorities in response to emergencies”, particularly through the operation Mare Nostrum, but it calls for “immediate action” in the procedures for identifying migrants and arresting traffickers. Finally, the resolution calls upon the Committee of Ministers to consider the introduction of a new international criminal offense, similar to a crime against humanity, to punish the illegal activities of human traffickers. Humanitarian emergency in Iraq. “Europe cannot just stand idle while this major crisis unfolds. Some Mediterranean countries, including some member States of the Council of Europe, are already facing a major burden trying to cope with massive arrivals of refugees. Timely decisions on the question of European borders and on co-ordinated assistance to asylum seekers are urgent in order to share this burden”, the PACE Bureau affirmed in a statement on the humanitarian emergency in Iraq resulting from the escalation of violence perpetrated by the terroristic organisation ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Other themes addressed by the Assembly in Strasbourg include organ trafficking, for which was reiterated “a total, unconditional ban”, and the proposal of measures to step up the independence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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