Following this admission, one cannot but notice that in every corner of Europe and beyond, the pandemic has put on display old social, political and economic fractures requiring a swift and thorough response. The Greek presidency has well spotted some of these persistent problems. Characteristically, the protection of children as a particularly vulnerable category is going to be one of the core priorities of the new leadership. Very often at risk of violence, poverty, trafficking, forced labour or irregular migration, children are now also affected by the consequences of the sanitary crisis. School lockdowns, domestic violence, distant learning and insufficient access to digital technology are some of the issues which will need careful consideration. The problem of migrant children and especially unaccompanied minors is also of particular concern for the Greek government. A photo exhibition, as well as a high level forum on child protection, poverty, forced labour, trafficking and unaccompanied minors will take place under the aegis of the Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in October.
The importance of democratic education and culture in a digital era is another key priority, with a special emphasis on the threats posed by disinformation and fake news. The Greek presidency intends to draw special attention to the familiarization of children with democratic institutions and values from an early age, as well as the empowerment of young people as active participants in the public life. In the same vein, the socialization of the youth into democratic and European values would further be strengthened by the creation of an Observatory on History Teaching in Europe, to which a conference of Education Minsters of member states will be dedicated in October.
Furthermore, safeguarding the right of younger generations to enjoy cultural heritage unaffected by the effects of climate change also features amongst the Greek priorities. A digital exhibition on the damage inflicted on cultural heritage monuments as a result of climate change, planned by the Greek Ministry of Culture, should help steer the reflection on the importance of preserving cultural patrimony and hand it over to the next generations while mitigating the devastating effects of climate degradation.
As regards social rights, the last two months showed that universalization of social goods and services is now more needed than ever before, as unpreparedness and systemic inequalities have resulted in a disproportionate impact of the pandemic on vulnerable categories. Therefore the access of vulnerable groups to social rights, particularly healthcare as a public good, is prominently featured by the Greek presidency. According to the official priorities handout, “Roma, persons with disabilities, the unemployed, single-parent families […] are only a few of the population groups, for which every organised society must provide equal access to social and public goods as housing, employment, satisfactory income, education, social insurance, medical care”. An expert conference looking into the avenues offered by Council of Europe instruments such as the European Social Charter will be organized by the Greek government with a special focus on building social cohesion and resilience in the post-pandemic period.
‘The prospect of accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights is supported by the Greek Chairmanship, as a significant step that would contribute to ensure a more coherent protection of human rights throughout Europe.’
The celebration of the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights on 4 November this year is expected to be the landmark event of 2020 on the side of the Council of Europe. The 130th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers, taking place on the same day in Athens, will set the premises for a meaningful dialogue around the principles and values underpinning the European continent and its societies. Moreover, the 70th anniversary of the Convention provides another occasion to reaffirm our commitment to joining the continent’s most important human rights instrument. The Greek presidency hopes for significant progress in the EU’s accession to the Convention during its mandate. Our organizations’ joint values should indeed translate into a process of legal harmonization, with the EU accession to the Convention at its core.