The role of the Council of Europe in supporting Ukraine and addressing threats to human rights and democracy in Europe in the face of continued Russia’s aggression was the main theme of Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić’s address to members of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
“Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are illusory in today’s Russia, and this is why violence has reappeared on our continent,” she said. “Everywhere in Europe, people pay for it with increased costs of energy, rapid inflation and palpable anxiety. In Ukraine, people pay for it with their blood”.
What the role of the Council of Europe should be in reinforcing the values underlying its work in its 46 states will be a key question for the 4th Summit of the Heads of State and Government in Reykjavik in May. The needs of Ukraine and its people will occupy a prominent place on the agenda. The Council of Europe has already taken a number of specific steps, such as the new Action plan “Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction”; expert assistance and financial support to the Council of Europe member states welcoming Ukrainian refugees, as well as the work to ensure accountability notably by putting in place a register of damage as the first step in the compensation mechanism.
The Congress is taking part in these efforts, the Secretary General emphasised: a project to promote multi-level governance is being developed under the Action plan for Ukraine, initiatives to support youth participation, to help prepare legislative frameworks at the local level are ongoing, as well as the online platform “Cities4Cities” to match the needs of Ukrainian local communities and cities and regions in Europe.
“Our collective determination to do all we can to help and support Ukraine,” Pejčinović Burić concluded. “We are compelled to act, each of us in our own way, to the greatest extent possible, so that we might bring closer the day when peace returns, where a free and democratic Ukraine enjoys the safety, security and dignity that come with human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These values must permeate every layer of government and every aspect of our lives – In Ukraine and throughout our continent, now and far into our shared future.”