Word of welcome by Jan van Zanen at the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), 2 March 2023
Welcome to The Hague.
Where we are hosting the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
An exceptional honour.
Because normally this meeting would have been held in Iceland.
The country currently chairing the Committee of Ministers.
But we are celebrating a special anniversary this year.
Something that was already mentioned this afternoon.
May will mark 75 years since the Congress of Europe.
Which took place here, in The Hague.
Where the effects of World War II were still visible everywhere at the time.
It was here that work began on the integration of Europe.
On the road towards a peaceful future.
The intended role and structure of the Council of Europe were among the topics discussed at the congress.
A year later, in May 1949, the Council of Europe had become a reality.
But that anniversary of the Congress of Europe is not the only reason why The Hague is a fitting location for this meeting of the Standing Committee.
The Council of Europe exists to protect and strengthen human rights, the rule of law and democracy throughout Europe.
As international city of peace and justice, The Hague pursues these same goals.
As a Shelter City, we provide refuge for persecuted defenders of minority rights.
As well as journalists at risk.
To give them respite here.
Europol and Eurojust, too, both based in The Hague, have an important role.
In their battle against the subversive nature of organised crime, they also combat the undermining of our values.
Something which is a major threat to any open and free society, as you know.
The Council of Europe was born out of the post-World War II desire: never again.
It is therefore bitter that war is now back in Europe.
But, above all, let the war in Ukraine be an incentive for us to work even harder for peace, freedom and human rights in Europe.
The Council of Europe is a valuable instrument in this.
I wish you a fruitful continuation of your meeting tomorrow.