Oslo - Europe is faced with many difficult challenges such as millions of jobless people, violations of human rights in parts of the continent, serious breaches of international law and armed conflicts that inflict suffering on civilians, notably in Ukraine, said speakers who opened the European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments in Oslo on Thursday (ECPP).
The two-day conference has brought together parliament speakers from the 47 Council of Europe member states, including Croatia's Josip Leko, as well as parliament speakers from many neighbouring and observer countries.
We share the same visions for a developed, dynamic and democratic European continent, but we are also faced with the same challenges. Although we have witnessed great progress since the fall of the Berlin Wall, including periods of economic development, democratisation and more open societies, dark clouds are looming over the horizon, said the President of the Norwegian parliament (Storting), Olemic Thommessen, at the opening of the conference.
Millions of citizens are unemployed... The human rights situation in parts of our continent is not in compliance with the standards we are committed to. Armed conflicts inflict suffering on civilians and create tensions between countries that should be close partners. We face serious violations of international law when a European country annexes a part of a neighbouring country, Thommasen said in an evident reference to the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea. The Storting speaker believes that the conference provides an excellent opportunity for dialogue and exchange of opinion.
The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Anne Brasseur, said that Europe was faced with a crisis of sovereignty and security. I cannot underestimate the threats I can see in the conflict that is going on in Ukraine and Russia's involvement, including its annexation of Crimea, which is unacceptable, Brasseur added. The developments in Ukraine and some other parts of Europe are some of the most serious challenges facing Europe since the Cold War, she said. The PACE President said that Olso was chosen to host this biennial summit given that Norway was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its constitution.
The main topics of the Oslo event are fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms, as well as democracy, sovereignty and security in Europe.
The first conference of this kind was held in 1975. It takes place every two years, hosted alternately in Strasbourg or in the capital of a Council of Europe member state.