Together here "in the shadow of war"

Iceland's Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir opened the European Counci Summit …

Iceland's Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir opened the European Counci Summit with an address for the attendees. Magnússon

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir opened today’s European Council summit in Harpa with an address to attendees. There she laid out the lines for what will be discussed at the meeting.

Jakobsdóttir says that the meeting’s three goals are; reiterating support for Ukraine, renewing commitments regarding human rights and addressing the challenges worldwide, “by sticking to our values.”

Started the speech in French

“It is a real pleasure and privilege for me to welcome you to Iceland,” she said at the start, then welcomed everyone in French.

It continued in French, saying that the Council of Europe has been a guiding force for member states since its creation “in order to make progress in human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

She said that even though the values of equality for all were still today considered radical ideas by some, there was still a basis for the human rights treaty.

Europe more than just a continent

“We are gathered here not for joyful assembly, but in the shadow of war. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is the most serious attack on peace and security in Europe since World War II; it has also resulted in bloodshed, rape, and the murder of civilians.”

She then addressed Ukrainians and President Zelensky, saying: “We have tremendous respect for your determination to fight back. We will continue to stand by you,” she said, also calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine as their first step to end the war.

Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the assembly in Harpa today.

Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the assembly in Harpa today. Magnússon

“We also demand accountability and a righteous peace. The victims of war have the right to be listened to and not be forgotten.

This pointless war in our continent goes against all the values we united around in the establishment of this council; it is a serious attack against the values that make Europe something bigger than just a continent, but a common cause.”

Democracy can’t be taken for granted

Jakobsdottir went on to talk about how in recent years the world has witnessed political attempts to undermine the core values of democracy, overthrow its practices and weaken the rule of law adding that democracy has been under great strain due to various forms of constitutional conflicts.

“We are facing a lot of violent attacks against women’s rights and freedoms, gender equality and the rights of queer people,” she says. “We must not forget that the idea of democracy, underpinning the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, is for everyone,” she says.

“The term “human rights for all” continues to be controversial – and without resistance, these rights may disappear in a moment, or atrophy in silence. It is also a reminder that the democratic political system is not a sure thing; it can only survive if it is entrapped into a society that allows it to thrive.”

In Zelensky's address to the assembly he said how Ukraine's …

In Zelensky's address to the assembly he said how Ukraine's air defense systems had intercepted 18 Russian missiles last night and that would have been impossible a year ago. Thanking for the support for Ukraine he asked the meeting whether unified they couldn't do everything? He said his country needed more weapons to ensure a 100% success againsts Russia's aggression, and that should be what Europe should strive for, both to secure Ukraine and the whole continent.

The three main objectives

Katrín said the summit has three main goals. The first is to reiterate support for Ukraine, “so that concrete measures can be developed to leave responsibility for war crimes and strengthen the Council of Europe’s role as a leading human rights organisation.”

The second main objective is to renew our commitment to 'the democratic human rights values upon which our societies are based and which we must nurture and protect'.

“And finally, by sticking to our values, we try to meet challenging challenges worldwide. The threat of climate and biodiversity is affecting all parts of the earth, and rising temperatures are fueling natural disasters, food and water shortages, economic disturbances, and wars.” she said.

“The rising trend of artificial intelligence raises serious questions about its harmful but also beneficial effects — questions about the nature of knowledge, its effect on information and, ultimately, its effect on democracy.”

Make the most of this opportunity

Jakobsdóttir went on to say that the summit had a big responsibility. “We are here to discuss problems where urgent action is needed – let us make the most of this opportunity.”

“In conclusion, I hope that the summit will be remembered as an event in which European leaders showed solidarity with Ukraine,” Jakobsdottir said.

“In order to secure a common cause, Europe, we will be able to face the huge challenges ahead,” she concluded, stating that the Reykjavík European Council summit was officially set to begin.


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