Parliaments are crucial in upholding the European values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, House President Annita Demetriou said on Friday while speaking at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament in Athens.
Demetriou was a keynote speaker during a discussion on the common future of all European citizens, one of the three themes discussed during the conference.
The discussion considered what elected representatives can do in the face of changes that have come rapidly as a result of the pandemic, “exposing human vulnerability, shattering certainties, redistributing wealth, recasting priorities, disrupting the way in which people live, work and interact, affecting the way public institutions deliver governance and the way in which States co-operate with one another”.
Demetriou said that parliaments must see these changes as an opportunity to become the real agents of necessary reforms, “for a more human-centred state and future strategy that will establish human rights, democracy, and the rule of law”.
Ensuring a peaceful, safe future for the next generations presupposes respect for international law, and a commitment to the principles and values of the Council of Europe, she said, adding that this is exactly why conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter must be properly respected and implemented throughout Europe.
Demetriou added that even though the European Court of Human Rights protects the rights of 830 Europeans, thousands are still deprived of a dignified, safe and peaceful life, which “undermines these principles and subjects people to discrimination, poverty, violence and misery”.
She also said that there should be no tolerance for member states who do not fulfil their obligations as they are defined by the Council of Europe acquis.
At the same time, she talked about the prospects of the digital transition to strengthen the relationship between governments and the public, and by extension democratic and participatory processes.
To illustrate, she referred to the ‘Citizens’ House’, an initiative by the Cypriot House of Representatives that offers the public the opportunity to be informed about, and participate in, the lawmaking process.