Speech of George Katrougalos in the Debate: Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 23-01-2023)


Thank you very much Mr Chairman.

Allow me to express my warm congratulations for your reelection. It’s going to be difficult to have a second mandate [which is]more successful than the first one, but I would like to wish you this too.

So the Bureau appointed me as Rapporteur for this report which covers the period from October practically to this day.

It’s going to be a very pedantic and futile exercise to refer to all that we have done at the Bureau, so I’m going to stick to the essential.

The essential is, that I think we have succeeded in responding to the basic challenge of this period, which is of course the Russian aggression, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, avoiding however the danger of becoming a mono-thematic Parliamentary Assembly – because we have a duty towards the peoples of Europe to respect all fundamental values and rights covered by our statutes, and the subsequent conventions.

Of course I consider our reaction to the Russian invasion not just as our response based on humanitarian reasons, or out of solidarity to our nation state which is a member of our Parliamentary Assembly, but also as an act of support to our fundamental values for peace; but also rule of law and justice.

In this framework, on 14 October the Bureau approved the urgent procedure debate on, I quote: “recent outrageous and inhuman activities of the Russian Federation”, which evolved to a report on the political consequences of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

Then, on 24 November, the Bureau decided to hold a debate on escalation in the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This discussion was later transformed into a report on the political consequences of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. That was a report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

And then another one by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, regarding the legal and human rights aspects of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

The second, let’s say big decision-making of the Bureau, was related to the Fourth Summit of Heads of States and Governments, exactly like the previous series of discussions, decisions and reports on Ukraine, that of course was a collective act of the Assembly, of all of us.

But I think the Bureau has been very efficient in handling challenges related to a big event, and also trying to synthesise different suggestions and proposals, and trying also to make the Assembly at least as relevant as the Committee of Ministers.

In addition, as I said before, we tried at the Bureau – as we tried at this Parliamentary Assembly – to avoid the danger of a mono-thematic institution. So we had a current affairs debate on military hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia – a sequel, one could say, of this debate, the current affairs debate – is the decision we just recently took in the morning, to proceed with a debate on the humanitarian corridor there.

And we will not stay just on events which hold a high geo-strategic interest. We hold also a current affairs debate on the threatened bans of Pride events in Council of Europe member States, because it’s obvious that we must have the same interest in protecting the values of our organisation at all levels.

Having said that, allow me also two remarks at a more personal level.

I think that all that we have done at the Bureau is of course a collegial effort, but I must not limit myself by again explaining my deep appreciation as to what Mr Tiny KOX has managed to do; to synthesise different opinions, sometimes divergent enough, so that we as an organisation have a unanimous standing on the most crucial issue of the period – the Russian aggression.

I think if one compares what we have done in comparison with the European Parliament – which is the only other analogue institution to our own – one could find that we have reacted in a swifter way, more efficient way, and above all, a more, let’s say, coherent and unanimous way.

Finally, we must not allow ourselves to not face new challenges regarding other important cases of non-commitment with our values. I have in mind especially the reluctance of Turkiye to execute in many ways the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights – the case of Mr Osman Kavala is the most eminent, but not an exclusive one.

And I think we should remain focused on what’s happening in Ukraine, supporting our solidarity there, but trying to investigate if we can also promote perspectives for peace there.

Many thanks, Chair.