Responding to questions from members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić began by emphasising the importance of coordinating work with the European Union in order to avoid duplication. She underlined the shared values of the two organisations, with particular respect to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. She called for closer cooperation in new priority areas such as Artificial Intelligence and environmental protection, as well as on long standing issues like equality and anti-discrimination.
Asked about the protection of national minorities, the Secretary General acknowledged the negative impact of the pandemic on vulnerable minority groups. But she said that regarding national minorities and regional and minority languages, the effectiveness of the relevant monitoring bodies had been greatly strengthened by recent initiatives.
In response to a question on the development of a legally-binding instrument on human rights and the environment, Ms Burić paid tribute to three recent and consecutive presidencies of the Committee of Ministers, which had prioritised and embraced this policy. Georgia, Greece and Germany, she said, had demonstrated the potential for making progress in a new area in a short period of time. She said she was looking forward to the World Forum for Democracy, whose theme this year will be “Can Democracy save the Environment?”.
Other questions concerned post-conflict reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, respect for human rights in conflict-affected areas of Georgia and promoting dialogue between the Palestinians and the new ruling coalition in Israel.