On 25–28 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, held their winter session. The session included debates on issues such as ethical, legal and practical considerations in connection with vaccinations against COVID-19, the arrest of Alexei Navalny in Russia and the importance of politically independent judges in the courts of member states. The Riksdag delegation consisting of 12 MPs participated in the winter session.
The PACE winter session was held for the first time as a hybrid plenary session, in other words, it was possible to participate in the session both on line and on location in Strasbourg. The 12 MPs from the Riksdag participated in the session on line
Debate on COVID-19 vaccinations
On Wednesday, a debate was held on a report dealing with ethical, legal and practical considerations in connection with vaccinations against COVID-19. The Secretary-General of the World Health Organisation, WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, participated in the debate, who in his contribution emphasised how important it is for poor countries to obtain access to vaccine to stop the pandemic globally. Vaccination nationalism was a recurring theme during the debate. The Swedish MP Momodou Malcolm Jallow (Left Party) participated in the debate.
Current affairs debate on Navalny
On Wednesday, a current affairs debate was held on the arrest of Alexei Navalny in Russia. Thomas Hammarberg (Social Democratic Party) from the Swedish delegation participated in the debate. The question of the arrest of Alexei Navalny also came up in debates during the week of the session, for example at a question-and-answer session with the German Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas, the Chair or the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, who urged for the immediate release of Navalny and the detained demonstrators. On Thursday, another current affairs debate was held, this time on the threat to the freedom of expression from the "big tech" companies.
Independent courts on the agenda
At the session, the implementation by member states of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights was also the subject of debate. The importance of politically independent judges was also raised, focusing on the situation in Poland and Moldova. The rule of law is one of the pillars of the Council of Europe and came up in several debates. The European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders answered questions from members of the Assembly.
Other resolutions that were considered during the week concerned ethnic profile development, limitations of the activities non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and questioning the accreditation of the Russian delegation.
The first woman to be elected Secretary-General of PACE
In conjunction with the session, there were elections of people to a number of positions. One of these was Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis from Greece, who was elected Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This is the first time during the Assembly's 72 years that a woman has been elected to the post. A new Deputy Secretary-General to the Council of Europe was also elected and two judges for the European Court of Human Rights.