(COE) - RenГ© van der Linden (Netherlands, EPP/CD) was today unanimously re-elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe (PACE) for a third mandate of one year.
Among PACE highlights and priorities in 2007, Mr van der Linden announced the organisation of a first annual debate on the state of human rights and democracy in Europe in April, which should provide a point of reference for debates in national parliaments including on issues such as racism and xenophobia and combating violence in everyday life, reports Trend.
RenГ© van der Linden pledged to continue his successful efforts in the last two years in the following areas of priority: the promotion of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, strengthened co-operation with the European Parliament, a forward-looking approach to the developing partnership with Russia as well as assistance for the process of democratisation in Belarus.
In his opening speech, Mr van der Linden also quoted the executive director of Human Rights Watch as saying since the US can't provide credible leadership on human rights, European countries must pick up the slack, referring to PACE's ongoing work on alleged secret detention centres involving Council of Europe member states.
We must take courage and inspiration from these words and promote our common values in the wider world, he said. In this context, he also stressed that he expected 2007 to see fresh momentum behind the campaign for world-wide abolition of the death penalty, starting with the organisation's observer states, Japan and the United States, and neighbours Belarus and Kazakhstan.
With regard to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the President once again stressed the necessity to avoid unnecessary duplication of the Council of Europe's work. He underlined that the very same states that caused most difficulties with the organisation's 2007 budget were, at the same time, agreeing to the creation of an Agency that risks duplicating Council of Europe activities, at a spiralling cost of tens of millions of euros per year.