STATEMENT BY MR MEVLÜT ÇAVUŞOĞLU,
PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
My visit to Armenia was amongst the priorities of my presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly. For me it was important to start with dialogue with these member states which need the most the support and assistance of the Council of Europe.
I have already visited Albania, B&H, Moldova , Azerbaijan. I am planning to visit Russia and Georgia at the beginning of June.
I wish to express my thanks to the Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Hovik Abrahamyan, who addressed his best wishes to me on the very day of my election as President and invited me to visit the country. I would also like to stress the excellent cooperation that we in the Assembly have with the Armenian delegation and its Chairman Mr Davit Harutyunyan.
During these two days, I met with the President of the Republic, the Speaker of Parliament, most political forces represented in Parliament, the PACE delegation, the Human Rights Defender, the National Commission for Radio and Television, NGOs and the extra-parliamentary opposition. I also had a very emotional meeting with the relatives of victims of the events of 1-2 March 2008.
When Armenia joined the Council of Europe, it committed itself to developing and strengthening the fundamental principles and values that unite our member states: democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The role of the Parliamentary Assembly is to accompany this process. We have been doing through our monitoring procedure and through constant parliamentary dialogue.
For the Council of Europe, peace, stability and a thriving democracy in each one of its member states are of fundamental importance. This also applies to Armenia. First of all, they are important for the benefit of the citizens of the country. But they are also important for the peace and stability of the region and the whole of Europe.
As you certainly know, the Parliamentary Assembly was deeply concerned with the events that followed the elections of 2008. We have been doing everything in our power ever since to assist the country to overcome the crisis in public confidence and to move towards reconciliation and constructive dialogue.
Our Monitoring Committee examined carefully the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee of your Parliament which was investigating the events of 1-2 March 2008. Our conclusion was that these recommendations, in combination with our Assembly recommendations, can comprehensively address the circumstances that led to March 2008 events. It is important, however, that these recommendations are implemented in good faith and without undue delay.
The Parliamentary Assembly has called on the Armenian authorities to establish a roadmap for the implementation of the recommended reforms. We had some very encouraging response by Mr Harutyunyan, as the Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on State and Legal Affairs, which is responsible for the monitoring of the implementation of these recommendations.
This Committee will submit reports to the National Assembly and this will be a good opportunity for your parliament to strengthen its vital function of parliamentary control.
But we hope that the executive branch will also play its role in this process to the full. We are now expecting that the authorities provide to the Assembly a detailed list of all the reforms that need to be implemented along the line of the parliamentary recommendations, as well as specific deadlines.
However, there are still two outstanding issues that have not received a satisfactory solution.
- First of all, it is unacceptable that nobody has been held responsible in relation to the 10 deaths that occurred during the March 2008 events. Public confidence will not be restored until individual justice is made.
- for our Parliamentary Assembly, the issue of persons detained in relation to the events of March 2008 is not fully resolved either. In this respect, I have raised with the authorities in particular the case of Mr Pashinian.
Over the last two days, our discussions with all my Armenian interlocutors have concentrated on the most important reforms that are needed in the country:
- electoral reform - it is of utmost importance that the next elections in the country in 2012 are organized up to the highest European standards. This would really show to your citizens and to the outside world that Armenia has turned a dark page of its recent past and is determined to move forward in its democratic transformation.
We are now expecting that a new version of the Electoral Code will be submitted to the Council of Europe for expertise as soon as possible. We appeal to the Armenian legislators to commit themselves to implementing the standards and recommendations advocated by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission.
- reform of the police – it is a positive step that the authorities authorized the publication of the report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. What is needed now is implementation of the reforms. Education and change in the mentality of the law-enforcement bodies is just as important. In addition, the Assembly has been recommending the establishment of an independent oversight and complaints body, which can investigate all the complaints received in full independence;
- reform in the justice sector – the independence of the judiciary is one of the key elements in restoring public trust and strengthening the rule of law in the country. You have a wealth of expertise by the Council of Europe which should be used to the full;
- freedom of assembly – the existing legislation is good and progress has been achieved in its implementation. It is important to make sure that no undue restrictions will be placed in the future to public demonstrations. The election campaign for the 2012 elections will be an important test for this.
- freedom of the media – we have mostly been concerned with the independence and pluralism in the TV sector. We hope that the public tender for broadcasting licences, which has to be organized in July, will be a major step forward in this respect.
- finally, we have also discussed are the need to fight corruption.
Another part of the discussions with my Armenian interlocutors focused on the role that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly can play in preventing and overcoming conflicts within and between member states. The Council of Europe is not a military organization and can not intervene in a military way in conflicts. But we are the only organisation that unites all the countries of Europe (without Belarus ) – therefore we are a major forum for dialogue between states and between parliamentarians. And dialogue is the first and most important step in building mutual trust and understanding.
This is why in the PACE we have been using to the full the potential of parliamentary diplomacy, both in frozen and “hot” conflicts. I can give as an example the dialogue that we have been trying to establish between the Russian and Georgian delegation following the war between the two countries in 2008.
Regarding the Nagorno Karabakh issue, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has a very clear position which has been expressed in several resolutions and in particular Resolution 1416 of 2005. In this resolution, the Assembly makes some very clear demands and recommendations to both sides of the conflict. So, on the one hand, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have a duty to comply with these recommendations. On the other hand, the Parliamentary Assembly has the duty to monitor how its recommendations are implemented by member states.
As a part of this process, in paragraph 5 of the Assembly resolution, the Assembly asked its Bureau to create an ad hoc committee, comprising amongst others, the heads of the national delegations of the countries participating in the Minsk Conference, in order to report to the Assembly on the progress made.
Since there has been much speculation in the media over the last days about this issue, I would like to stress the following.
- this ad hoc committee functioned until the death of the Chairman, Lord Russell-Johnston
- since then, there have been no agreement as to the person who is the best suited to chair the committee as well as its precise format and mandate
- the issue has been on the agenda of the Bureau for at least one year now. My duty as a President, just as it was the duty of the previous President, is to follow the agenda of the Bureau until a decision is reached;
- all the member countries of the Assembly have to abide by the Assembly resolutions; but we are also pragmatic in our approach, especially when there are differences of opinion.
This is why, since I took over as a President, my primary concern has been to listen to both sides. I have had separate meetings with the leaders of the Armenian and Azeri delegation and have had also useful meetings with the two leaders together. We have agreed to pursue these informal meetings, including also a representative of the opposition on each side, until we find a solution and a format which is acceptable and satisfactory for both sides.
Finally, and to finish on a very positive note, I wish to congratulate Armenia for hosting this year’s Forum for the Future of Democracy . I know the programme is very ambitious and interesting and it will be a major contribution by Armenia to the ongoing reflexion about challenges to democracy in the 21st century. I wish your country good luck in this process and I hope to be back here in October to take part in the Forum.