Group of the European People's Party at Council of Europe EPP/CD


Axel E. Fischer on the “International Conference ‘Religions against Terrorism’”

Mr. President, Excellences, Ladies and gentlemen,
we are all horrified by the terrorist attacks in Europe, Asia, Afrika and all around the world in which numerous people are killed and injured.
In March, lots of people were killed in Brussels, in Ankara and in other places around the world. Few days ago, on the May, more than 70 persons were killed in Bagdad .
We emphasise the dramatic consequences of these terrorist acts and threats on individuals, and on our societies. Besides the tragedy of innocent people losing their lives, being injured and traumatised, growing unrest, mistrust and fear destabilise our societies. We deplore the loss of innocent lives and we express our sympathy and solidarity with the families of victims and all those who suffered in these inhumane attacks.

Most of the terrorist massacres in Europe were attacks against the very values of democracy and freedom in general, against the type of society that our pan-European Organisations – as the Council of Europe – have aimed at building since the end of the Second World War. Responsibility for all these terrorist attacks was claimed by terrorist groups which call themselves “Islamic”. But we have to reject the abuse of the description “Islamic” by terrorist criminal organisations. Neither Daesh nor similar terrorist groups have any right to claim they act in the name of Islam, or that they represent the Muslim community. On the contrary, most of their victims to date are Muslims.

They have been and are still being terrorised, abused, exploited, tortured and massacred by these terrorist groups, whereas their religion is slandered by the abusive use of the term “Islamic” by these very groups.
We have to take particular care in condemning such attacks to avoid making stigmatising generalisations that portray whole groups of the population as responsible for the acts of individuals. At the same time, we should encourage Muslim leaders and intellectuals to publicly, clearly and continually condemn the shameful abuse of their religion by fanatical murderers, whose goal is to intimidate individuals and States using all kinds of violence against innocent people.

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an established, universal and inviolable human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in international treaties at global and regional levels, and in national constitutions. We have to call on Muslim leaders to emphasise that Muslims, as well as followers of other religions, in Europe greatly benefit from the protection of their rights and freedoms by the European Convention on Human Rights. For that reason, their communities should fiercely and publicly defend around the world these standards and values against terrorists who threaten them. Therefor the Council of Europe call on the parliaments and governments of States and the religious leaders and representatives to ensure that, in their fight against terrorism there is effective democratic oversight exercised by both the parliament and other independent actors, such as national human rights institutions and civil society.

We all should do our utmost to eradicate breeding grounds for terrorism and religious fanaticism, especially through education, social policies and an inclusive society. In the Kazachstan 2050 strategy of the President of the Republik of Kasachstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, I perceived lots of good ideas for a successful way, especially in the chapter about a good basis for success of our multiethnical and multi-confessional society.
So concrete measures should be taken to prevent and fight radicalisation, in particular in schools, disadvantaged neighbourhoods, prisons and on the Internet and social media and also by religious communities. I think, the religious leader have to be included in these initiatives and they should support counterterrorist measures taken by the States. Churches and religious organisations are an integral part of our civil society and must, with secular organisations, take part in the life of society. National authorities should take more account of religious communities’ potential to work for dialogue, mutual recognition and solidarity. For their part, those communities have a fundamental duty, which they must fully assume, to promote the shared values and principles which underpin “living together” in our democratic societies.

Education is the key to combating ignorance, breaking down stereotypes, building trust and mutual respect and promoting sincere support for the shared values of living together. Many factors are influential in the formation of the individual personality. Families and media, as well as cultural and religious communities themselves, should support the development of open-minded individuals, capable of critical thinking and of constructive dialogue with others.

It is crucial to fight against intolerance on the Web. School should also be a meeting point and a place for constructive dialogue between individuals of different – religious or secular – beliefs.
All the religious communities which accept shared fundamental values are able to benefit from an appropriate legal status guaranteeing the exercise of freedom of religion. In my view, States and religious communities should work together to promote coming together, dialogue and mutual respect:
There is no better way of effectively combating all fanaticism and extremism, religious or anti-religious. We should put into practice a “secularity of recognition” and treat religious organisations as partners in the development of inclusive and mutually supportive societies, while respecting the principle of the independence of politics from religion and the rule of law.
In this context we should develop projects in collaboration with religious communities to promote shared values and “living together”, and involve these communities in the combating of all extremism and fanaticism and the fight against discrimination. Public-service media should firmly oppose any form of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or beliefs and contribute not only to fighting stereotypes, but also to upholding the vision of a plural, intercultural and inclusive democratic society. In school and extracurricular frameworks, we should promote opportunities for people of different beliefs to meet and talk so that they can learn to express their religious identity without fear, but also without provoking others or prevaricating, and both open up to other visions of the world and learn to respect them even if they do not share them; in this context, co-operate with religious communities so that the teaching of religion becomes an opportunity for reciprocal listening and for developing critical thinking.

All actors – including religious communities – should do their utmost to eradicate breeding grounds for terrorism and religious fanaticism, especially through education, social policies and an inclusive society. In this context I welcome the initiative of the President of the Republic of Kasachstan. Nursultan Naszarbayev, to create an UN global antiterrorist coalition. It fits very good to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) a soft power tool for bridging divides and promoting understanding between countries or identity groups, with a view toward preventing conflict and promoting social cohesion. United, the world community may be strong enough, to make significant efforts in its fight against terrorism and for freedom and democracy.


Attack on our European values and freedoms

“I am very deeply shocked by the series of attacks in Brussels that have killed so many people and left many others injured,” said Axel Fischer, chair of the EPP-CD group at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“These heinous attacks of violence at the heart of Europe are a direct attack on our European values and freedoms. We cannot accept it and we must continue to fight against terrorists. Each terrorist attack touches us profoundly, but we must firmly defend the values that unite us in order to live in a free Europe without fear”.


President calls for intensified co-operation between the Council of Europe and the EU

“In the face of the challenges ahead, in particular the refugee crisis and the rise of populism, we need Pan-European solidarity and a multilateral response based on the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said PACE President Pedro Agramunt, speaking at the end of a 3-day visit to the European institutions in Brussels.

“I would like to praise EU leaders and in particular President Juncker and President Schulz for their commitment to this idea. This is particularly important when the EU and one of our member states – Turkey – are discussing the measures to address the unprecedented refugee crisis. These measures must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe expertise is essential to ensuring this”.


Supporting reforms in Council of Europe member states was also in the focus of PACE President’s discussions: meetings were held with the Heads of European Parliament’s Committees and delegations dealing with Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Russia as well as the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly. “The Council of Europe expertise is instrumental for the success of reforms and I welcome the extensive use by EU bodies of the reports and assessments of Council of Europe monitoring bodies.”

Speaking about the relations with Russia, PACE President said that “although our positions differ in some areas, there are much more issues that unite us. Russia is one of our member states. It is bound by our conventions and standards. Therefore, we have to talk to each other and work together.”

Turning to relations with the neighbourhood, PACE President held an extensive overview of co-operation between the EU and the Council of Europe with the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. Discussions focused inter alia on Belarus. “Our approach follows the same general line: we should develop relations with Belarus but Belarus has to show its commitment to the values we share, in particular, by introducing a moratorium on the use of death penalty and creating conditions for free and fair elections ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections” stressed Pedro Agramunt.


Statement on the 24th April Parlamentary Elections in Macedonia

The forthcoming elections in Macedonia are the most important part of the democracy. On that day the citizens have the opportunity to choose their representatives. No party, organization, or institution can obstruct this right. I support the 24th April parliamentary elections in Macedonia as highest Democratic opportunity for the citizens to elect their representatives in the Parliament, to choose who will lead the country in the forthcoming four years. It is obvious, that the June/July political agreement that overcame the political crisis in Macedonia last year is implemented in good faith and the elections are the last and most important part of it. VMRO DPMNE has implemented all subjects of the June/July agreement. I appeal to the all parties of Macedonia not to boycott the elections from narrow party reasons. I ask the State electoral Commission and the Ministry of interior lead by the opposition according to the June/July agreement to do all preparations for credible elections. No one should obstruct this important process. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will deploy its observation mission to observe the 24th April elections. I hope all political parties will participate the 24th April elections thus accelerating the integration process for Macedonia and its citizens.

Axel Fischer

Axel E. Fischer elected as Chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP-CD)-Group

Axel E. Fischer, Chairman of the German Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has been elected Chair of the European People’s Party (EPP-CD)-Group of the Parliamentary Assembly. He succeeds the Spaniard Pedro Agramunt who has occupied the post since June 2013.

“I am aware of the responsibility we bear as the largest group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Our task is to promote the values of the Council of Europe, to which we are all committed. This is not as easy as it sounds,” the newly-elected Chair said in his inaugural speech.

“After all, people in our 47 member states do not all necessarily interpret the concepts of human dignity, rule of law, democracy, media freedom and family in the same way. Our task is thus to develop an understanding of different points of view and build a shared bedrock of common values,” Fischer pointed out.

As unifying all members of the EPP-CD-members Fischer identified the support an open society, with rules and restrictions kept to a minimum.

“This is the main distinguishing mark in relation to the socialists or the left. All too often, they think that people should be told what to do,” Fischer further stated.

“Our policies revolve around people. We stand for values-oriented policymaking, with marriage and the family as the cornerstones of our free and solidarity-based society. We stand for positive interaction between the generations. We uphold faith-based values and people’s responsibility to their own consciences and to God. We want to ensure access to education and training for all. No talents should go to waste!

We want all people to be able to live safely in our countries.

We are the people’s party of the centre.

We know that human beings are created free. The freedom of others determines and limits one’s own freedom.

It is up to policymakers to ensure that people have the necessary freedom, whilst reminding them of their responsibility towards society,” Fischer outlined the challenging practical tasks forthcoming.

“On the basis of our beliefs, we work together in a spirit of positive cooperation, we maintain dialogue. Together, we want to shape the future and ensure respect for human rights in all member states. Let us work together to achieve this shared aim,” Fischer concluded.

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