New Chair of Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers: Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, H.E. Mr. Miltiadis Varvitsiotis

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The UK welcomes His Excellency, the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece to the Permanent Council. Thank you for setting out the priorities for your Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Congratulations on the strong start to your ‘digital’ Chairmanship during these unprecedented times. That Greece has been able to set out, and make progress on, an agenda that speaks directly to this crisis, demonstrates your expertise in digital transformation, and we support you in this effort. While we should not think of ‘the digital’ as a solution in itself, isolated from other supporting structures, this crisis has shown that strategic use of digital technologies can be a vital part of our work. We commend, therefore, Greece’s intention, through such methods, to bring the Council of Europe even closer to the 830 million citizens of its constituent members, especially young people.

The use of digital methods must of course be underpinned by our core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as expressed in the Statute of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.

We are reassured to hear that Greece values, appreciates and will highlight those instruments and principles that have been proven to deliver on our obligations as members of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. We encourage Greece, in the important work toward November’s Declaration in Athens, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, to recognise the achievements of our existing bodies.

I will not attempt to address the full extent of the collaboration between the Council of Europe and OSCE. We fully support this cooperation between our two organisations. Both bring unique expertise to assist States, for example through Venice Commission and ODIHR opinions, election observation, or expertise in tackling human trafficking or combating hate crime and discrimination.

Your Excellency, as you outline, we agree wholeheartedly that our work in response to the crisis must continue to examine and address the impact on the human rights of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in our society. In reflecting upon what States might do to build back from the pandemic, we would support strongly a Declaration in Athens reaffirming that no crisis should ever be an excuse to depart from core principles of democracy and the rule of law; or core liberties such as the freedom of expression, including the freedom of the media.

As Greece continues its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers you can rely on the support of the UK in addressing these many challenges. The UK supports Greece’s focus on both the pandemic response, in the short term, and the longer-term task of recovery. The UK is committed to working with others to ensure this recovery delivers safer, more inclusive, and resilient societies, underpinned by our shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

We thank you again, Your Excellency, for taking time to address us today. We wish you continued success in We thank you again, Your Excellency, for taking time to address us today. We wish you continued success as Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

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