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Politics

Council of Europe Ministers Sign Declaration of Athens for Human Rights during Pandemics

November 4, 2020

ATHENS — The Declaration of Athens, supported by 43 countries of the Committee of Ministers at the Council of Europe, shows the way that democratic societies deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said after the completion of the Committee's 130th Session that took place online in Athens on Wednesday.

Varvitsiotis, representing Greece's presidency that ends in November, said the Council of Europe's Athens Declaration coincides with the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. "The narrow-minded approach of certain countries, especially in relation to women's rights, did not allow a unanimous agreement," he said, referring to Hungary.

But this, he noted, "does not reduce in any way the significance of the Declaration of Athens, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the members states and relates to the way in which democratically organized societies must face such types of pandemics." Pandemic measures adapted must be proportional in nature, he said, be continually reevaluated, and be sanctioned by democratic laws.

The Greek minister also said that the countries approved a proposed Observatory for the Study of History, an independent organization that will help countries with issues related to teaching national history in schools in a manner that does not contribute to tensions in the future.

In their videoconference, the ministers reaffirmed their deep commitment to upholding, implementing and reinforcing the values, principles and rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, the Declaration itself also stressed the need to safeguard the right to health for all and other social and economic rights, such as the rights to social protection, education and safe and healthy working conditions, on the basis of inclusiveness, non-discrimination and gender equality.

The topics on their meeting agenda included the annual report of the Council of Europe Secretary General, Marija Pejcinovic-Buric, who congratulated the Greek chairmanship for organizing the first online conference despite the difficulties of travel because of coronavirus. The Greek chairmanship, she said, set high standards for future chairmanships.

In the framework of the Greek chairmanship, which hands over to Germany on November 18, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou will deliver an address on Wednesday evening about the principles and values of Europe, Varvitsiotis said, adding that Greece had organized close to 100 online events during its tenure.

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