Parliamentary Assembly session

Strasbourg , 

Acceptance speech by Thorbjørn Jagland
Secretary General- elect of the Council of Europe

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I am very proud and happy to be with you today as your new Secretary General. I am grateful that you have elected me and I am also pleased to see full participation in the election. I will do my utmost to deserve your trust and respect. As a parliamentarian myself, I know very well the importance of parliamentary assemblies. I will see to it that this Assembly's potential is fully used. Bearing in mind that this Assembly is an intergovernmental organisation, I think that it is equally important to work closely with governments. You cannot achieve anything without close contact with all the governments of this great Organisation.

One of my first priorities will be to continue the constructive process between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly that has already been started. There will always be tensions and disagreements between governments and parliamentarians. That is part of our democracy. That is why we have a dynamic in our democratic institutions. I want to ensure that that dynamic is part of the Council of Europe. This dynamic, these tensions and these discussions of views that take place between parliamentarians and governments can benefit our great Organisation. If we could also mix it up with some humour that would be very good.

In Norway, the British television series, "Yes Minister", is very popular. In one episode, Sir Humphrey, the high civil servant, says to another civil servant from another department, "My Minister had to resign today." The other civil servant asks why and Sir Humphrey replies, "He was sleeping in parliament." The other civil servant replies, "Doesn't he always do that when he's in parliament?" Sir Humphrey says, "The problem is that today he fell asleep and was speaking at the same time."

This is a moving moment for me. I believe in Europe. Europe is the greatest peace project ever in history. What has happened on our continent after the two world wars in the last century is a miracle. The Council of Europe has been indispensable in that respect. Enhancing human rights and democracy is the best way to build peace. We must never forget what the famous philosopher Edmund Burke said: "Where the rule of law stops, tyranny begins." That is the purpose of the Council of Europe. That is why it is so important, reaching out to the entire continent. Therefore, we are in a good position to have a constructive partnership with the other European institutions such as the EU and the OSCE. We must act together to safeguard peace and enhance human rights on the entire continent.

We must also be able to reform and to be more flexible and relevant. We are living in a changing world. We must be able to adapt to the new realities. In running my campaign, I have always expressed the need for reform and to have a more flexible and more adaptable Organisation that deals with the new realities in the world.

I will do my best. I thank Mr Włodzimierz Cimoszewewicz for a fair campaign and I wish him all the best. I will serve here in the same manner in which I have served in the Norwegian Parliament, namely, by representing all parties. I will represent everyone, whether they voted for me or not. I will serve the Council of Europe, a very important Organisation. I will serve the ideals and standards which are so important for our continent. Thank you.