AACR5

AS (2008) CR 5

 

DVD edition

2008 ORDINARY SESSION

________________________

(First part)

REPORT

Fifth Sitting

Wednesday 23 January 2008 at 10 a.m.

Link to the voting results


In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are summarised.

3.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

4.       Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.

The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.


Mr Gross, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.

THE PRESIDENT. – The sitting is open.

1. Minutes of proceedings

THE PRESIDENT. – The minutes of proceedings of the Third Sitting have been distributed. If there are no objections, the minutes are agreed to.

They are agreed to.

2. United Nations Security Council and European Union blacklists

THE PRESIDENT. – I am very proud that we come to an issue of special importance. I am informed that we are the first body to deal with this issue, which comes under the auspices of human rights and is one of the hottest that we and citizens in our countries face.

This morning we have a debate on the United Nations Security Council and European Union blacklists, Document 11454 and addendum, after which there are 17 amendments to consider. We must finish this item by 12 noon, when there will be an address by Mr Bamir Topi, President of Albania. We must end the session at 1 p.m.

I remind members that the Assembly decided at the sitting yesterday afternoon to limit the time for speakers to four minutes for all debates today.

I call Mr Marty, the rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report, the contribution after speakers of the political groups and the reply to the debate. Those are the new rules, decided last November in Bratislava.

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) said that fighting crime and injustice was one of the fundamental duties of the institutions of any state. Crime and injustice took new forms and had expanded from the local to the global level. The world was faced with new threats such as corruption; trafficking in drugs, arms and people; and terrorism. Countries had to adapt to these new threats by fostering international co-operation and developing new instruments to meet the challenges with which the world was now presented. Blacklists were one such instrument.

The issue at stake was not the usefulness of blacklists but rather the way in which they were used. He had discovered with surprise and alarm that states had created instruments and processes for use against individuals in which there was no right of appeal, and in which those people who were put on the blacklists were unable even to hear the charges against them. This was a serious problem, as the sanctions of blacklists included the freezing of assets and prevention of free movement between countries. In addition, there was no proper procedure for an individual to try to remove himself from a blacklist.

The system of blacklists had been set up outside the normal institutions of democratic debate. No national parliament had debated the concept, yet governments were obliged to enforce them. This was unacceptable. It was true that there had been some improvements to the system, but it remained well below the standards of a democratic society, especially given that no trial, let alone a fair trial, was involved. In some cases, people had been on blacklists for more than six years, so enduring a kind of civil death in which they could not travel freely nor conduct any kind of normal business. The Assembly needed to be very sceptical of the use of any instrument outwith the realm of democratic institutions under the justification of the fight against terrorism.

The Prosecutor General of the European Union had recently asked the European Court of Justice to remove someone from a blacklist, on the ground that they did not enjoy proper legal protection. In the United Kingdom, where there was a national system of blacklisting, an independent authority existed to hear appeals against inclusion on such lists and this authority had recently removed someone from the list and condemned the system as “perverse”. Problems certainly existed, admitted even within the systems which had been created.

Today, for the first time, a body with great legitimacy, namely the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, had the opportunity to express its own concern about blacklists. The Assembly needed to take a clear stance, consistent with its own high standards. The fight against terrorism was extremely important but one of the main allies of terrorism was injustice and that, too, had to be fought.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Marty. I can now give the floor to the political groups. I call Mr «avuşoğlu, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Mr «AVUŞOĞLU (Turkey). – The fight against terrorism has been a long- standing concern for the international community. Indeed, efforts aimed at setting up an international legal framework to combat terrorism date back to the early 1960s. Today, there are 12 major multilateral conventions on the fight against terrorism.

Universal counter-terrorism conventions are fully compatible with international human rights law. They do not contain provisions whose implementation would lead to limitations on human rights. Respect for human rights remains an integral part of any counter-terrorism strategy.

Under a number of resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and Commission on Human Rights: “states are obliged to ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law”. UN guidelines developed to help states in their fight against terrorism strike a balance between human rights and combating terrorism.

Therefore, as a first step towards meeting the challenges posed by terrorism to our collective peace and security, it is important to ensure that member states become party to, and implement, all major international instruments in this domain.

As is explained in the report, targeted sanctions against individuals and organisations were developed in response to concerns about certain negative consequences of comprehensive sanctions imposed on states. While a system of targeted sanctions is an improvement, concerns persist about their impact on individual rights and freedoms, particularly in respect of procedural guarantees. The report points out such concerns and proposes to establish clear standards and criteria that would ensure the credibility and effectiveness of the system.

In our view, the lack of effective information-sharing at all levels, including for the listing procedures, delisting and possible remedies, is one of the main impediments in this system. We therefore encourage the member states first to improve all their information-sharing capacities – something that is also required by joint counter-terrorism strategies. To our dismay, the report and the draft resolution fail to recognise the importance of a unified international stand in the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, the report somewhat challenges the binding nature of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. However, these resolutions constitute its solid and comprehensive basis for combating terrorism on a universal scale and provide a clear road map for the steps that need to be taken.

The global nature of terrorism requires a uniform approach by the entire international community to fight this evil scourge. However, in the absence of a common universal definition of terrorism, identifying terrorists is based on subjective criteria, and one man’s terrorist might become another man’s freedom fighter. As a consequence, in the drawing up of the blacklists, different standards of investigation are sometimes applied. Owing to the contentious nature of terrorism and anti-terrorist activities, the geopolitical dimension becomes a determining factor in the approach that is adopted. Relying on national interpretations leads to inequalities and a lack of uniform standards.

We should not overlook the fact that terrorism is a violation of human rights, and that it needs to be condemned and combated in all its forms and manifestations wherever it occurs.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I now call Mrs Postoico, on behalf of the Group of the United Left.

Mrs POSTOICO (Moldova) congratulated Mr Marty on the content of his report, which she considered an in-depth report on a most horrific subject.

She agreed with the rapporteur that the system of blacklists represented a threat to fundamental human rights. The debate that day was an important opportunity to examine and discuss the report and to focus on the shortcomings of blacklists, especially in relation to their abuse of fundamental human rights. She hoped that looking at the problems of blacklists at Assembly level would in fact help to resolve them.

Blacklists were outside the normal judicial process: there was no mechanism for judicial review or control and she wanted a much more transparent system for individuals to lodge complaints about sanctions imposed by the European Union or by the United Nations.

Terrorism was a global threat and combating it was a necessity for all states. But states had to combat terrorism without turning away from their basic principles: human rights always had to be protected. Not to do so was very dangerous and could destroy the whole system of fundamental human rights for which the Council of Europe had worked so hard. Joint efforts had to be taken by all governments to prevent this from happening. If a state set up a blacklist process, it was essential for that process to include a right of appeal for any individual put on the list. As well as having access to a judicial process to remove themselves from the list, those found to have been wrongly included on a blacklist had to be eligible for compensation.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mrs Postoico. I hope that you are not too disappointed that you were not elected yesterday, and I hope that you are happy to continue working with us in our Assembly.

I now call Mr Dreyfus-Schmidt on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr DREYFUS-SCHMIDT (France) said that his only reproach to Mr Marty was that he did not belong to the Socialist Group. Mr Marty’s report and its conclusions had been widely used by the media to demonstrate the high quality of the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The fight against terrorism could not justify breaching fundamental human rights. Blacklisting, the GuantŠnamo Bay Detention Centre, and the legalisation of torture had not prevented terrorism: they had instead made organisations like al-Qaeda even more intent on their objectives. The Court of First Instance had found no evidence for justifying placing the People’s Mujahideen of Iran on a blacklist. United Kingdom courts had ruled similarly. On 16 January 2007, the Advocate General for Scotland had recommended de-listing a Saudi-Arabian National as his rights had been breached, but an appeal had been lodged against that decision. The refusal of governments to follow these judicial decisions meant that the Assembly should accept Mr Dreyfus-Schmidt’s amendment. Blacklisting had been widely criticised in the European Parliament and in other parliaments as a breach of fundamental human rights.

He reminded the Assembly that over 95% of the victims of terrorism were from southern countries. He noted that the exchange of information between the governments and intelligence agencies of various states had been shown to be effective but, in his opinion, that extent was still not sufficiently good. Europol and Eurojust had been criticised by others in this regard. Member states and the international community needed both to fight radicalisation and to encourage dialogue between civilisations. He supported Mr Marty’s report.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Dreyfus-Schmidt. I call Mr Omtzigt on behalf of the European People’s Party.

Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands). – I congratulate Mr Marty on yet more thorough work on upholding the standards of law. After his report on the secret rendition flights, this is another piece of work that deals with how we fight terrorism. Sometimes, it may feel as though we are fighting with one arm tied behind our back, because the terrorists have more options at their disposal. They do not have to apply to court.

As Mr Marty just said, combating terrorism requires legal systems, although we might want to have more room to work within those legal systems. The terrorism that we see these days shows an absolute lack of respect for human rights. We have seen indiscriminate killing in cities such as Madrid, London and New York and in embassies in Africa, as well as in Bali. That demonstrates a complete disregard for human life. Obviously, there was no judicial or any other remedy for the victims against those terrorists. However, in our counter-terrorism work we should not make the mistake of following their strategy. It is our duty to stay within the limits of the rule of law and to fully uphold human rights. If we do not, we would give the terrorists what they want – fear in our society. They wish to destroy the very basis of our society, our democracy, and that is why it is important that we maintain our strategy of staying within the rule of law.

The EPP believes that it is extremely important that the judicial safeguards of the blacklist are kept in place. Mr Marty has clearly outlined in his report the measures that should be taken and people certainly should have a remedy against being blacklisted. That remedy should be available within a reasonable time frame, and in the meantime they should have a means of living and a form of compensation.

We are slightly more optimistic about the rule of law being upheld. We have heard about the cases in the United Kingdom and we now have the opinion of Mr Poiares Maduro last week in the European Court, which clearly states that even if measures are intended to suppress international terrorism, they should not inhibit a court from fulfilling its duty to preserve the rule of law. That is a very positive development, because it means that we will stay within our Community law and I hope that the European Union will follow that lead, just as the United Nations has.

The new rules allow me to ask Mr Marty one or two questions, which I gladly do. What exactly would he like the Committee of Ministers to do in respect of governments in the next few months? I ask that question because I am very interested in his opinion of how the Committee of Ministers and the government have followed up on his earlier report on rendition flights. Was he satisfied with their response or does he want a stronger response this time?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Omtzigt. I call Mrs Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mrs LEUTHEUSSER-SCHNARRENBERGER (Germany) congratulated Mr Marty on the content of his report, and said that she was proud that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group supported the report.

The Parliamentary Assembly was the only parliamentary body which had spoken out about the downsides to blacklisting. These downsides were no second-tier issue: those blacklisted were human beings. She reminded the Assembly that the rights of all those on a blacklist had been restricted. Blacklists did away with the fundamental initial presumption of innocence. This particularly mattered when an individual was unjustly entered on a blacklist. Even when that individual was eventually removed from the list, his life had still been affected detrimentally.

It was not acceptable that the basic principles of the European Convention on Human Rights had been set aside as states adopted the measures they needed to tackle terrorism. The rule of law did not prevent states from tackling terrorism but they had to maintain their compliance with fundamental human rights. Those accused of terrorism had to have the right to be informed of the charges against them; to engage a lawyer; and to defend themselves in an established process of law. Blacklisting had to comply with basic legal standards. Individuals had to have access to a process to seek to remove themselves from a blacklist and, if proved that they had been entered on the list unjustly, they had to be entitled to compensation.

The Parliamentary Assembly should encourage the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to agree that blacklist procedures should comply with the fundamental human rights which the Council had agreed so long-ago.

THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Marty, would you like to respond now or at the end of the debate?

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) replied that he would wait.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Vettros.

Mr VETTROS (Greece). – Mr Marty’s excellent report allows us to debate the notion of blacklists. We want to reaffirm the report’s position that terrorism can and must be fought effectively in a way that respects human rights and the rule of law.

The sanctions proposed by the United Nations seem to have a direct impact on human rights, such as personal liberty and the protection of property. It is wise that the present report focuses on the deficit in the protection of human rights. Despite the fact that listing and de-listing procedures have been improved by the United Nations and the European Union sanctions regimes, I believe that we still have a substantial deficit in protecting human rights.

Blacklists are not a new notion. In the 1950s, the McCarthy blacklists contained names of possible communists. The social costs of McCarthyism have to be evaluated. Modern Internet technology has also created current versions of social blacklists. The question is whether blacklists contribute to social inclusion or, by labelling individuals, especially using unclear procedures, further enlarge social exclusion. The fundamentals of a democratic society include values and human rights, which should not be sacrificed in the name of combating terrorism. We should therefore persist on the following issues. Individuals should be allowed to have access to the evidence against them. States should individually improve their procedures for protecting fundamental human rights. The procedures implemented should be as clear as possible so as to ensure the protection of human rights. Measures taken should deal with not only terrorism in the classical sense, but new forms of terrorism and crime which are related to new forms of technology. We should also define procedures not only to combat terrorism but to prevent it.

What is regarded as terrorism has to do with the notions of lawlessness and lawfulness. The best and the only way to fight terrorism is to ensure that the law is applied, that access to justice is provided to all people, and that civil liberties and human rights are protected.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Vettros. I call Mr Sasi.

Mr SASI (Finland). – The draft resolution on sanctions is a good one. We must fight terrorism, because it is a way of protecting human rights. In that fight, we must use due process. When I listened to Mr Marty, I thought there was a misunderstanding about the way in which the system is working. The United Nations Security Council makes decisions concerning sanctions, but it does not implement them. They are implemented by national states in accordance with national laws. Those laws are approved by national parliaments, and are applied by the officers of those countries. When countries fulfil their commitments to the United Nations, human rights must be taken fully into consideration.

Some ask whether the United Nations Security Council is a democratic organ as not all countries are represented on it, but it is a way to express international law. If there are any problems, they must be solved through national legislation, so that when officials make decisions they take human rights into account.

People can go to the European Court of Justice and try to get justice. There has been a case that was won at the court but the decision was not implemented, and that case is continuing, but people must have the right to go to the court. The rules expressed in Article 5 of the draft resolution are important. The United Nations process is not very open, and the safeguarding of the individual is not considered enough, so there is a need to improve the process.

If people are put on a list it is important that they have a right to defend themselves. It is not enough for a government to think that a person should be on a list. There must be due process, and all aspects of the case must be considered. In that way, we can guarantee the system. We must examine all stages of the UN procedures, because the process must be improved to improve human rights.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Sasi. I call Mr Adonts.

Mr ADONTS (Armenia). – I should like to express my appreciation to Mr Marty for the good work that he has done.

The profound reality of the world we live in today is that terrorism bred in one country knows no boundaries and can threaten the security of all the world’s citizens. Terrorism proposes new challenges to the civilised world. No country is fully protected from terrorist attacks. Therefore, there is no alternative to the combined international, regional and national efforts aimed at fighting terrorism.

All of us strongly support the use of any appropriate and available means to combat terrorism, the awful consequences of which are unquestionable. There is an imperative to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. However, I share the concerns raised in the report about the necessity to protect fundamental human rights in the process of terrorist blacklisting by the UN and the EU, even if the measures taken are targeted at the terrorist suspect.

We should consider it quite unacceptable to violate the fundamental principles of a democratic society in the name of the fight against terrorism. Personal liberty, freedom of movement, property rights, the right to a fair trial, the right to information, are among those fundamental rights stipulated in most international documents. Such documents include clear limitations on the action of the state in the context of the fight against terror.

Drawbacks in listing and delisting procedures may conceivably occur occasionally but should never occur on a structured, permanent and clandestine basis. The final decision to list a person, organisation or group should be based on sufficient clear evidence. The procedural norms which are vague enough to allow arbitrariness should be substituted by a clear set of rules. Although the report mentions that there are some improvements, the sanction regimes still fail to provide satisfactory protection of fundamental human rights, including both procedural and substantive rights. Governments should justify all restrictive measures publicly, submit them to judicial review and circumscribe them with sunset clauses to guard against the temporary becoming permanent.

In addition, the application of double standards should be excluded. Unfortunately this happens universally from time to time and these bad practices range from the evaluation of elections to the fight against terrorism.

Success in defeating terrorism can come only if and when we remain true to the values that terrorists reject.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Vis.

Mr VIS (United Kingdom). – Thank you, Mr President. Allow me to congratulate you upon becoming the leader of the Socialist Group this morning.

I, too, commend the work of Dick Marty in producing this report. I have tabled some amendments which he has not accepted but that does not mean that I do not think that his work is brilliant. It is. The report has highlighted a number of issues, including the case of the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, the PMOI. We have heard and read the findings of both the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission and the European Court of First Instance with both courts annulling decisions to place the PMOI on the United Kingdom and EU blacklists.

The merit of the findings of the POAC are undoubted, with the unprecedented analysis that it conducted in reaching its judgment. Its findings were clear – the PMOI is not concerned with terrorism. This is in conjunction with the ECFI case and makes the continued terror listing of the PMOI not only unjust but unlawful. The POAC case was brought by 35 members of parliament and members of the House of Lords and it has not been accepted by my own government. I am embarrassed by that.

The POAC has assessed this case in five days of open and two days of closed hearings. The judges have trawled through all this material, even material made available in the first instance. They concluded that the decisions were “perverse”, “flawed”, and “must be set aside”. The POAC went on to say that the United Kingdom Government stance was perverse. If that is the case, and the EU accepted the decision of the British Government, the EU case is likewise “perverse”, “flawed”, and “must be set aside”. The EU has based its decision on that perverse set of decisions, which leaves the EU listing evidently also perverse and thus in the same setting. The findings of this report in the case of the PMOI are wholly justified and must be supported.

The PMOI is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and if the PMOI is removed from the blacklist the NCRI can call itself the official opposition against the mullahs. The Iranian people and their opposition can, with the removal of this unlawful tag, finally lay the stepping stones for democracy in their country. This is an ideal we should all support.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you very much, Rudy. The next speaker is Mr Malins.

Mr MALINS (United Kingdom). – Thank you, Mr President. I speak today as an individual but also as a member of the European Democrat Group and I wish to congratulate Mr Marty on a truly outstanding report. He is a shining light in this Assembly when it comes to the issue of human rights. Of course, the fight against terrorism is important and no effort should be spared. It is quite understandable and welcome that the United Nations Security Council can and does impose targeted sanctions such as travel restrictions or the freezing of assets upon an individual. But, and here I speak as a part-time United Kingdom judge, it is our duty to confirm the principle that the individual subject to targeted sanctions also has rights, in particular the right to see and challenge evidence against him, the right to a fair trial, to legal representation, of appeal against an adverse finding and the right to have all matters dealt with promptly.

I was under the impression, mistaken as it happens, that the person in the United Kingdom who was subject to targeted sanctions on a blacklist could seek the protection of the United Kingdom courts and in particular the House of Lords in respect of any appeal. How wrong I was. I tabled a written question to the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary asking whether he would make it his policy to ensure that United Kingdom courts have powers to vary or remove restrictions on a person within the United Kingdom imposed as a result of that person being placed on a UN security blacklist. I was under the naÔve impression that the United Kingdom courts were sovereign and I was utterly wrong. If our own House of Lords cannot assist a United Kingdom resident, it seems absolutely vital that we have an outside court or tribunal that can hear appeals from individuals who are aggrieved, a tribunal that will have the power and authority to grant a remedy to that individual.

I have tabled 13 amendments to Mr Marty’s report. I am delighted that he has been kind enough to accept 12 of them and I shall probably withdraw the 13th if I am in a good mood then, as I am now. My comments have been designed to help the report. It stands as an excellent report, one of the most important that we have ever had the privilege to consider.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Malins, and thank you for your good mood. I call Mr O’Hara of the United Kingdom. He is not here. I call Ms Lundgren.

Ms LUNDGREN (Sweden). – I, too, congratulate Mr Marty on an excellent report. I rise to speak for two reasons. First, I would like to stress the importance of this work, and of continuing to scrutinise this topic. For me, it is one of the key issues for the Council to consider. Parliamentarians of the Council of Europe must be watchdogs for fundamental human rights in Europe. As Mr Marty pointed out, we need new instruments to combat new crimes such as terrorism, but we must ensure that they do not breach fundamental human rights. Mr Marty has proved that that is possible. The report and our debate today will give us a good ground for acting to improve our own systems.

Secondly, I would like to share the experience in my country. Some people in Sweden have been targeted by the blacklist. They have been totally blocked in our society for years without any chance to have their sanctions brought to court. People have tried to help them by collecting money and so on, but they too have been targeted by various actions. Such people have been living for years without a chance to defend themselves, but now one of them has been removed from the list. I am happy to say that we are now showing a better track record; they have a say in the procedure for getting compensation.

We must find a way back to procedural standards under the rule of law that ensure a minimum of rights. Mr Marty’s report has given us common guidelines for finding that way back. Let us vote in favour of it today, and go home and do our work for change.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Pourgourides.

Mr POURGOURIDES (Cyprus). – Even God, who obviously knows everything and cannot make mistakes, did not condemn Adam and Eve without giving them the chance to be heard. The United Nations Security Council and the European Council, which obviously can make mistakes, condemn people without giving them the chance to be heard.

No one can be against sanctions in the fight against terrorism, but those affected by sanctions must surely have the right to be heard and to challenge effectively the decision to impose those sanctions. One might argue that the right to be heard is a procedural right and is therefore not that important. I wonder whether it is simply a procedural right, but even if it is, procedural rights are as important as substantive rights. Justice is simply impossible without procedural rights.

Victory against terrorism is today the main aim of all civilised nations. However, victory, as we have repeatedly declared in this Assembly, can be achieved with full respect for basic human rights. For that simple reason, I am in full agreement with the report, and I warmly thank Mr Marty for yet again making this Assembly proud with his work. God bless you, Dick.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you very much. I call Mr Huss.

Mr HUSS (Luxembourg) expressed his thanks to Mr Marty for his remarkable work and agreed fully with his conclusions. Everyone was opposed to terrorism. The regime in Iran was an undemocratic theocracy, guilty of many infringements of human rights. Iran was a state which sought to export its ideology by supporting terrorist groups abroad. It seemed to him extraordinary that an organisation which opposed the Iranian regime should be put on a blacklist. This, however, was exactly what had happened in 2002. It was a move which had now been declared illegal by a number of international organisations and it was essential that Europe now fully implemented these decisions.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr Huss. I call Mr Matušić. Is he present? That is not the case. I therefore call Mrs Narochnitskaya. Is she here? That is not the case.

I call Mr Bargetze.

Mr BARGETZE (Liechtenstein) expressed his thanks to Mr Marty for an excellent report with which he was in full agreement. The blacklist procedures being used were unworthy of the United Nations and the European Union. Liechtenstein had been trying to reform and improve the system and had insisted that correct legal procedure be followed.

There had to be a way to conduct investigations and then adduce the necessary proofs instead of having people put on the blacklists with no evidence to support the proposal. Those put on a blacklist had to be informed of the move being taken against them and given the opportunity to defend themselves. A workshop had been set up in New York in December 2007 to look at ways in which the process could be reformed. There had to be opportunities for re-evaluation of an individual’s position and for appeal, as well as some recourse for those who were not on a blacklist but were in practice affected by one. An independent body was needed to investigate all the evidence available and, where necessary, to remove people from blacklists where there was no evidence for the need for their inclusion.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Bargetze. The next and last speaker on the list is Mr Kosachev, but it seems that he is not here. I therefore invite Mr Marty to reply. As we shall have enough time, I will then accept any spontaneous contributions to the debate and allow Mr Marty to reply to them also. I call “the shining light of the Assembly”!

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) gave his thanks to all those who had contributed to the debate. Mr Omtzigt had asked him what he thought the Committee of Ministers should do. He thought that it was the Committee’s duty to reaffirm forcefully that the European Convention on Human Rights was not simply a piece of paper, but a set of values which protected the citizens of Europe. He wanted to ask the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to intervene, so that the blacklisting procedure could be worthy of the name of “procedure”.

The response of the Committee of Ministers to the recent report on secret prisons and rendition had been not just disappointing but very disappointing. Even the attitude of the United States Administration was preferable: at least it had made a strategic choice and had taken responsibility for that choice, although he disagreed with it. European governments had to say clearly that secret prisons and rendition were unacceptable. Europe had to devise rules to govern the activities of foreign secret services within their borders and it was not enough simply to say that the responsibility lay with the countries to whom the secret services belonged. European governments were duty bound to apply international law.

A Swiss court had recently been forced to admit that someone asking to be deleted from a blacklist, although they had been declared innocent by Swiss and Italian prosecutors, could not be de-listed. The Swiss court lacked the power to do so. Such a system was totally unacceptable.

Everyone in the Assembly seemed to agree on the basic principles on which a blacklist system needed to be founded and he urged members to return to their parliaments and from there convey the message forcefully to each of their governments.

Blacklisting was a political system not a legal one. It was based on negotiations between states, which had nothing to do with the concept of justice. Those who were placed on blacklists were presumed guilty by default and, even if they were later removed from the list, the taint of terrorism still remained with them. The situation was very similar to that of the detention centre at GuantŠnamo Bay. He hoped that the European Court of Human Rights would soon be able to take a stand on the matter.

The European Convention on Human Rights had been endorsed by parliaments across Europe as well as by the Council and so enjoyed great democratic legitimacy. The European Court of Human Rights would soon have to decide whether or not the convention applied to blacklists. If it did apply, then there would be no alternative to a substantial reform of the system of blacklisting which currently existed. It was not blacklisting in its own right that was unacceptable, rather the way in which it was operated.

He thanked his colleagues for their contributions to the debate and said it was his ambition that his report and draft resolution should become a report and resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly. Terrorism had to be fought, but fought in a fair and legal way.

THE PRESIDENT thanked Mr Marty for his reply to the debate and called Mr Kosachev.

Mr KOSACHEV (Russian Federation) congratulated Mr Marty on his report and said that he would take the opportunity to speak about the broader issues of freedom of movement in Europe as enshrined in the Council of Europe agreement of 13 September 1957.

The standards of the Council of Europe had not been implemented because they conflicted with the European Union’s rules on the freedom of movement of people. Although an increasing number of member states of the European Union belonged to the Schengen Agreement, so providing opportunities for free movement between those countries, there were negative aspects to this agreement.

He highlighted the case of a citizen of the Russian Federation who, when she attempted to cross the Russian-Finnish border, had had her Schengen visa withdrawn. Her right to move had been contested by the Estonian authorities because she had participated in a protest in St Petersburg against the treatment of Russian-speakers in states that had formerly formed part of the Soviet Union. She would now not be able to visit Strasbourg or Spain because she had demonstrated in the Russian Federation. The right to travel had to be implemented prudently for it would otherwise be taken as a statement of the weakness of an individual state.

In accordance with the rules of the Parliamentary Assembly, he intended to submit a report on the position of the citizen of the Russian Federation whose case he had raised.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Kosachev. Now we have some time for spontaneous contributions. Mr Kox, I saw you first, so you have the floor.

Mr KOX (Netherlands). – As Chairman of the Group of the Unified European Left, I want to say that this has been a very inspiring debate. It is the sort of debate that this Assembly is for, as it involves seeing whether we can unite and overcome political differences. That is the core business of the Council of Europe. I appreciated very much the fact that Dick Marty drew attention to the relationship with his other report. He also said, importantly, that when we criticise GuantŠnamo, we should also consider what is happening in Europe.

This is a day of hope – hope that a large majority will adopt the analysis, conclusions and recommendations of our rapporteur. This is also a day of hope in respect of Iranian resistance, for example. This matter has featured on the list for a long time for unjust reasons, without the possibility of its getting off the list. Furthermore, this is a day of hope for the individuals – we do not always know them – who are subject to the circumstances we are trying to deal with.

I ask all my colleagues to take this report back home. In the Dutch Senate, we said, “Listen. You have to discuss this report. It is important and you paid for it, because you pay for the Council of Europe.” Please, colleagues, not only vote in favour of this report, but take it home to your national assemblies and continue your work on it there. Everybody realises that this is only the beginning and that far more things remain to be done.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Kox. Now Mr Hunault has the floor, after whom I will call Mr MacShane and Mr Omtzigt.

Mr HUNAULT (France) congratulated Mr Marty on his remarkable work for the Assembly, and said that some very important issues had been raised since 11 September 2001. The threat of terrorism faced all humanity and, although governments were doing all that they could to tackle terrorism, their actions nonetheless had to respect fundamental human rights.

Since 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly had considered various reports on the issue of combating terrorism while maintaining fundamental human rights. Groups and individuals were seeing their freedom of movement restricted: it was the Assembly’s duty to defend the rights of such people. A person on a blacklist had to have access to some sort of appeal mechanism. It was also necessary to consider the question of the freezing of assets, for money was naturally vital to the funding of terrorism.

In congratulating Mr Marty again, Mr Hunault said that fundamental human rights had always to be protected no matter how terrible the acts of terrorism which we feared.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Hunault. I call Mr MacShane.

Mr MacSHANE (United Kingdom). – I congratulate you, Mr Gross, on your election as Chairman of the Socialist Group. I am always a little nervous when I hear complete unanimity. The moment that everyone agrees, from the far left to the far right, I tend to think, “Hello, what’s going on?” I would therefore like to suggest, respectfully, to Dick Marty and other colleagues that we need to take into account some wider considerations.

I agree with the point made by Mr Kosachev about what has happened to the young Russian lady, and if he wishes to write to me I will certainly take that issue up with my government. It would be helpful if Russia would stop intimidating, arresting and harassing British Council workers, both British citizens and Russian citizens, for simply trying to increase cultural understanding. There is a serious problem with the whole Russian approach to what goes on inside Russia, which weakens their case when they demand that the highest international human rights and legal standards be applied elsewhere.

On Mr Marty’s report, I thought that the core of his intervention came when he said that there was a struggle between political decisions and justice. I think that he is right about that. To take the example of the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, we all have to take a political decision, based on our estimation of that organisation, its terrorist activities in the 1970s, its lining up on the payroll of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, the way it has behaved in exile and the way that it is the personal property of just two of its leaders. That is my political interpretation, but other colleagues will have a different view. I am not sure that there is an exact judicial system that can make a final deliberation on that organisation.

On the issue of blacklisting, I spent Saturday distributing leaflets in the district for which I am a member of parliament against the British National Party, which is a fascist party that hates Jews, Asians and now Poles. There are now many eastern European workers in Britain, and they are attacked by the right, especially by the fascists, as unwelcome intruders in our pleasant island society and economy. I have no problem with saying that we have a political right to say that some forms of political activity are not acceptable. For example, I do not disagree with the German constitutional ban on extremist political expressions. I have no problem with the French legal ban on the wearing of the hijab in French schools.

In Britain, our lawyers defended for 10 years a man called Rashid Ramda, using many of Mr Marty’s arguments. Ramda was the financier of the attacks on the Paris metro in 1995. For 10 years, human rights organisations, lawyers, some ministers and officials said that Mr Ramda’s right not to face justice in France had to be protected at all costs. He is now serving a life sentence, but that does not bring back the victims killed by the men whose actions he financed. I agree that complete transparency from Swiss banks about all the accounts they hold would make a dramatic contribution to ending drug trafficking, people trafficking, sex slave trafficking and terrorism.

I urge colleagues to be careful before absolutely assuming that the work that is undertaken by democratic governments, which sometimes goes badly wrong, should simply be handed over to the lawyers and judges, after which we will all live in the most perfect of perfect worlds. The victims of terrorism on our continent and elsewhere would give a different answer if they were still here to give it.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Omtzigt.

Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands). – I join Mr Kox in saying that we must also look at what we are doing ourselves. I wish that Mr Malins and Mr Kosachev, who are both members of leading political parties and from countries that are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, had made a commitment to ask their governments to do something with this report, because they could change the situation. If they were to make changes at home, perhaps relations between Great Britain and Russia would improve. If they started taking positive unilateral action, that is, because every time we talk about such action it is negative, but it could be positive.

I thank Mr Marty for his thorough reply. He was deeply disappointed with the Committee of Ministers, and I kind of share that feeling, but what does that mean? Do we take follow-up action, here or in our home parliaments? Do we stay deeply disappointed until the next time? If we want to do something about it, we need a strategy.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Ayva.

Mr AYVA (Turkey). – This is my first speech in the Assembly and I am one of its newest members, so I am excited. I wish to emphasise how people suffer if their names are on the blacklist. We have to protect the rights of those people, because it would be dangerous to do otherwise. We describe terrorist action as rebellion or guerrilla war, but in some languages such words encourage or motivate the terrorists. For example, in Turkey, seven young citizens were killed by the Kurdistan People’s Party, whose members are terrorists. So I ask the media and my colleagues to be careful about what they call such people.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Ayva. If we can facilitate your work in the Assembly, will you please tell us and we will try to do so? I thank Mr Azzolini for his support. I call Mr Marty.

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) questioned whether it was right that someone should find out that they were on a blacklist only when they came to use their credit card and found it rejected. How could it be right for an individual, six years after having been blacklisted, still not to know the reason why they had been placed on the blacklist? He said that it had been implied during the debate that it was difficult to get information from Swiss banks but, in his experience as a lawyer in Switzerland, he had had no problems in obtaining information from banks. The only problem he had ever had was from a British bank.

THE PRESIDENT. – Let us hope that you and Mr McShane bring some light to the banks in London and Zurich. I call Mr Pourgourides on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Mr POURGOURIDES (Cyprus). – The vast majority of those who took the Floor supported the committee’s work, and I thank them for that. I have no doubt in my mind that it is totally unreasonable to place someone on a blacklist, with its serious repercussions, without the chance to challenge that decision. That is contrary to every legal and moral principle on which our civilisation is based. All actions by the United Nations Security Council and the European Union can be taken using procedural safeguards for those affected by their decisions. That is what the Assembly is demanding, and I think that everyone supports that.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Pourgourides. If I understand correctly, of the 11 amendments, 10 have been supported unanimously so we do not have to deal with them as long as no one objects to that. Those 10 amendments are Nos. 1 to 7, 9, 10 and 12 to the draft resolution and Nos. 13, 14 and 17 to the draft recommendation. Are there any objections? That is not the case.

The amendments are adopted.

We begin with the amendments to the draft resolution, which are as follows:

Amendment No. 1, tabled by Mr Francis Grignon, Mr Jean-Guy Branger, Mrs Marietta Karamanli, Mr Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Mr Jacques Legendre, Mr Jean-Paul Lecoq, Mr Philippe Nachbar, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 27.3, delete the following words: “, and to initiate, though appropriate arrangements, motions for resolutions and recommendations”.

Amendment No. 2, tabled by Mr Francis Grignon, Mr Jean-Guy Branger, Mrs Marietta Karamanli, Mr Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Mr Jacques Legendre, Mr Jean-Paul Lecoq, Mr Philippe Nachbar, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 27.2, after the word “sub-committees”, add the following words: “, without having the right to vote”.

Amendment No. 3, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8, insert the following paragraph:

“In this respect, referring to its Resolution 1560 (2007) and its Recommendations 1760 (2006), 1627 (2003) and 1533 (2001), the Assembly reiterates that the application of the death penalty is a violation of fundamental human rights. Therefore, the Assembly deeply regrets that, to date, two Council of Europe observer states, namely Japan and the USA, continue to have recourse to and to apply the death penalty.”

Amendment No. 4, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 9.

Amendment No. 5, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 11, delete the last sentence.

Amendment No. 6, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 12, after the words “a clearly defined set of standards”, insert the following words: “to be elaborated by the Council of Europe Statutory Organs”.

Amendment No. 7, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 13, replace the words “would be a perfectly acceptable response” with the following words: “would need to be assessed by the Assembly”.

Amendment No. 9, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 20, second sentence, replace the word “signature” with the following words: “signature and ratification”.

Amendment No. 10, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 22, replace the word “signatories” with the following word: “Parties”.

Amendment No. 12, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, delete paragraph 26.

We come now to the amendments to the draft recommendation, which are as follows:

Amendment No. 13, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 27.5, insert the following sub-paragraph: “present to the Assembly an annual report on their involvement as observers;”.

Amendment No. 14, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 27.5, insert the following sub-paragraph:

“In addition, referring in particular to its Recommendation 1760 (2006), the Assembly urges Japan and the United States of America to place an immediate moratorium on executions at last, and to abolish the death penalty as soon as possible.”

Amendment No. 17, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, delete paragraph 30.1.

We come to Amendment No. 8 and I call Mr Malins to support it.

Mr MALINS (United Kingdom) . – As the committee has been kind enough to accept 11 out of my 13 amendments, and because my mood remains good, may I have leave to withdraw Amendments Nos. 8 and 11?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you Mr Malins, that helps us.

We come to Amendment No. 15, tabled by Mr Pieter Omtzigt, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 28, replace the words “the Political Affairs Committee (through its External Relations sub-committee)” with the following words:

“its committees, in particular the Political Affairs Committee and the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights”.

I call Mr Vis to support Amendment No. 15.

Mr VIS (United Kingdom). – We often rightly complain that the Committee of Ministers does not take any notice of parliamentarians. The Committee of Ministers only sees the recommendations and not the reports. Therefore, I want this recommendation to go before the Committee of Ministers so that it has to make a difficult decision on a recommendation before it. Otherwise, it will not see it at all. I do not disagree with Mr Marty. We should not refer to single cases, but I hope that, even if you are somewhat doubtful about this, you will vote for this amendment.

THE PRESIDENT. – An oral sub-amendment has been proposed by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, delete the second paragraph to be inserted by the amendment. I call Mr Marty to support the oral sub-amendment.

Mr MARTY (Switzerland) confirmed that this was the case and said that he was not against the content, but in the text they should not refer to individual cases otherwise people would ask why other individual cases were not mentioned within the text.

THE PRESIDENT. – What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

Mr VIZ (United Kingdom). – I do not accept the oral sub-amendment. I do not disagree with Mr Marty, but I believe that we should make the life of the Committee of Ministers a little more difficult. It should consider recommendations that make it react when the EU and Great Britain have not accepted the courts decisions. I hope that the Assembly votes for this amendment.

THE PRESIDENT. – The rule is that 10 people can object to a debate and vote on the oral sub-amendment. Do 10 people have the courage to do so? That is not the case. The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

Does anyone wish to speak to Amendment No. 15, as amended? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr POURGOURIDES (Cyprus). – The committee is in favour of the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT. – The vote is open.

Amendment No. 15, as amended, is adopted.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 11454, as amended.

Mr DREYFUS-SCHMIDT (France) asked the President what had happened to Amendment No. 17.

THE PRESIDENT said that Amendment No. 17, which had the unanimous backing of the committee, had been declared as adopted by the Assembly under Rule 34.10.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 11454, as amended.

The vote is open.

The draft resolution in Document 11454, as amended, is adopted, with 101 votes for, 3 against and four abstentions.

We now come to the draft recommendation. The committee has presented a draft recommendation with four amendments. The Assembly has already adopted several amendments.

The only remaining amendment is Amendment No. 16, tabled by Mr Rudi Vis, Mr John Prescott, Mr Mark Oaten, Mr Bill Etherington, Mr Rudi Vis, Mr Edward O'Hara, Lord Russell-Johnston, Mr Michael Hancock, Mr Nigel Evans, Mr Paul Rowen, Mr Jean Huss, Mr Jaakko Laakso, Mrs Pernille Frahm, Mr Tiny Kox, Mr Alessandro Rossi, Mrs Sabina Siniscalchi, Mr Yevhen Marmazov, Mr Geert Lambert, Mrs Lydie Err, Mr ōyvind Vaksdal and Ms Karin S. Woldseth, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 1.2, add the following sub-paragraph:

“the Council of the European Union, to give effect to the judgments of the Court of First Instance of 12 December 2006 and to recognise the findings of the UK Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (POAC) of 30 November 2007, and to remove the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran from the blacklist.”

I call Mr Vis to move the amendment.

Mr VIS (United Kingdom). – I have essentially the same reason for moving this amendment as I gave earlier, and it is to make the life of the Committee of Ministers a bit more horrible than it would otherwise be in having to make a decision.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr MARTY (Switzerland). – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT. – The vote is open.

The amendment is rejected.

I ask you to vote on the draft recommendation, as amended.

The vote is open.

The draft recommendation in Document 11454, as amended, is adopted, with 110 votes for, 2 against and 3 abstentions.

I thank Mr Marty and the committee for their excellent work. I hope that it will impress our Committee of Ministers.

I am told that we should suspend the sitting for five minutes until the President of Albania arrives.

(The sitting, suspended at 11.55 a.m., was resumed at 12 noon with Mr de Puig, President of the Assembly, in the Chair.)

3. Address by Mr Bamir Topi, President of Albania

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – We now have the honour of hearing an address by Mr Bamir Topi, President of Albania. After his address, Mr Topi has kindly agreed to take questions from the floor.

(The speaker continued in French)

He said that he was delighted to welcome the President of Albania six months after his election as Head of State. His election had been auspicious as it had ended a period of crisis and ushered in a new phase in Albanian politics. Since then, Mr Topi had played a vital role as a moderating force in his home country, allowing important reforms to take place, especially in the field of justice. He encouraged Mr Topi to continue helping Albania to fulfil its commitments to the Council of Europe, especially with regard to electoral reform and the fight against organised crime. These were essential for all the people of Albania. The Assembly greatly appreciated the constructive role which Albania had played in the international arena. Having adopted a resolution the previous day on the situation in Kosovo, the Assembly looked forward to Albania playing a key part in establishing stability in the Balkans. He gave the floor to Mr Topi.

Mr TOPI (President of Albania). – Mr President, from the outset I would like to thank you for the invitation and opportunity to address the distinguished members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly during this plenary session.

I would like to hail the outgoing President, Mr van der Linden, for his dedicated and serious work in heading the Assembly at a time of great political transformations in Europe, and to wish him further personal and professional successes.

It is also my pleasure to wish good luck and success to you, Mr de Puig, in your mission as the new President of the Assembly, and to assure you of my support, and that of my country’s representatives to this Assembly, in fulfilling your duty.

(The speaker continued in Albanian)

He said that the Parliamentary Assembly that he was addressing was the most dynamic force in furthering European integration and was in many ways the conscience of Europe. The Council of Europe had been the first genuinely European Assembly and its contribution in the Balkans during the early 1990s had been vital in bringing new nations into the family of Europe. It played a major role in preparing candidate countries for accession to the European Union.

It was a particular pleasure, but also a great responsibility, to address the Assembly on behalf of the Republic of Albania. He was speaking with the voice of the Albanian people and expressing their European aspirations. Albanians had a desire to complete their process of reform as quickly as possible and their aim was to increase living standards to match those of the rest of Europe and for Albania to become an inseparable part of a united Europe. The integration of Albania into the European Union was a national priority and a strategic goal, one which had the full support of the Albanian people. As President, he gave a strong guarantee of that public support and would continue to pursue those objectives.

The Republic of Albania appreciated the support of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Many of its members had closely followed and supported Albania’s progress in transforming itself into a democratic state. This transformation, while sometime painful, had been vital to allow Albania to become a fully fledged member of the European family of nations.

Public sector reform was a priority: that was seen not as a burden, but as a mission. European standards in that regard were continuously developing, which made Albania’s task of matching them an ever-evolving one. Particularly important was the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers in respect of the European Convention on Human Rights. He was determined to support the reform of the judicial system in Albania to allow it to serve all of the people. The elimination of corruption was a vital part of that reform. The co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Commission to help train members of the judicial system had been particularly helpful, and he was optimistic about the results that this co-operation would produce.

Reforming the electoral system was also important. The debates that had been conducted in Albania had to bear fruit in the form of a pluralist democracy served by an electoral system of the highest standards. In this, Albania had been greatly assisted by support from the Venice Commission, and remained fully committed to implementing the framework for the protection of minorities. Mr Topi also acknowledged the help of the Council of Europe in opening a school of politics in Albania. That would help Albania progress to a situation in which the Council of Europe’s monitoring systems could be wound down.

Albania was fully committed to implementing its Stabilisation Agreement and hoped that it would be ratified by the European Union within months, after which it would seek candidate country status. He was grateful to European Union member states for their contribution and emphasised that Albania wanted to play its part in the European Union. It had to be remembered that the unification of Europe was an ongoing process. Only a united Europe could eliminate war as a tool of international relations and so bring stability and prosperity.

Albania had followed closely the discussions between the European Union and NATO. It was determined to join NATO and hoped for an invitation at the forthcoming Bucharest summit; moreover, Albania deserved an invitation and was fully united in pursuit of that goal. Accession to NATO would enhance regional security and offer a further positive example of the triumph of democracy. Albania’s transition from dictatorship to democracy was a beacon showing the benefits of integration into the wider European community.

Albania also encouraged regional co-operation. It sought to co-operate with its neighbours on diplomatic, economic, political and cultural levels. He was pleased that Albanians were convinced that the Euro-Atlantic partnership would provide a safer future for them.

Kosovo remained an unresolved issue following disintegration of the artificial state that was the former Yugoslavia. Albania supported swift independence for Kosovo: that was driven by the political reality within Kosovo and would also be in the interests of the region. Kosovo, within its present borders, had to be oriented towards the Euro-Atlantic partnership to ensure the long-term stability of the Balkans.

He condemned calls for the partition of Kosovo, which would revive the nationalist feelings, and said that Albania was determined to respect the borders of its neighbours. President Ahtisaari’s proposals were the only realistic prospect for a long-term solution. They offered a solution that had the support of a majority in the key international organisations. Kosovo could not be held a hostage of its undetermined status. If the United Nations process failed, as seemed to be the case, he urged the European Union, NATO and the United States to implement the Ahtisaari proposals and so allow Kosovo to join the family of nations. Kosovo’s election of a president and the appointment of an inclusive coalition government showed that Kosovo would be a credible partner in the European Union.

The world had become smaller, not just due to technology but through the globalisation of problems and policies. Albania had joined the multinational fight against the crisis of values, world poverty, terrorism and ethnic and religious conflict. Islam and Christianity co-existed in Albania and her happy experience of this could positively contribute to programmes for a Europe free from ethnic and religious conflict.

He concluded by welcoming the fact that the European notions of the 19th century had become a reality: the nations of Europe were assembled together, democratically governed, with the right to freedom and justice established on the principle of peace.

THE PRESIDENT thanked Mr Topi for a speech of great interest and for the way in which he had set out the changes and reforms that Albania had undertaken. He was proud that Albania wanted to join the European institutions of which the Council of Europe was part. He also thanked Mr Topi for his comments on stability and inter-religious dialogue.

Eleven colleagues wished to ask questions and, to ensure that all had the chance to do so, he would not allow supplementary questions. The session would end at 1 p.m. and he would stop questions at that point.

He called Mr Iwiński.

Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland). – A great number of Albanians are living beyond the borders of your country, Mr President, mainly in the Balkans but also in the United States, for instance. What is the policy of the Tirana Government on this diaspora? With regard to Kosovan independence, what type of relations could exist between two independent European Albanian states? Could they be based on a German, Chinese or Korean model, or another type of model?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that in his address he had said that Albania was in favour of the independence of Kosovo within its current borders. The integration of all countries in the Balkans into the European family would contribute to the stability of the region.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Bender.

Mr BENDER (Poland). – Yesterday, we had a fruitful discussion about Kosovo, which is currently pre-eminently Moslem. In Albania, the biggest religion is Islam, but the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are also present. Can those three religions co-exist in harmony?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI thought that the greatest achievement of Albania was religious tolerance. The three main religions in Albania co-existed well. He said that a holiday for one religion was a holiday for all Albanians. Inter-marriage between people of different religions was not prevented by law or society. He was proud of what Albania had achieved in relation to religious tolerance and considered religious tolerance to be part of the tradition of Albania.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Kox.

Mr KOX (Netherlands). – In your speech, Mr President, you called this Assembly the conscience of Europe. Yesterday, we accepted a report on the future status of Kosovo which read, after being amended, “As a consequence, the Assembly concludes that … alternative ways should be envisaged to secure the continuation of the talks on the basis of the UNSC Resolution 1244 and the attainment of a compromise solution”. How will you respect that statement by the conscience of Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI appreciated the role of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and its respect for diverse opinions. On the question of independence for Kosovo, he said that Albania had encouraged the process of dialogue. Albania had allowed the 120-day discussion period on independence and he had hoped that the United Nations would find a solution. Albania had not, however, moved from its position that the independence of Kosovo would offer the best prospects for long-term security in the Balkans. That position was now supported by the United States and by the majority of European Union member states.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mrs Hurskainen.

Mrs HURSKAINEN (Finland). – What is the current situation with human trafficking in Albania and what measures are the government taking to eradicate both internal and international trafficking of women and girls for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that Albania had made progress in tackling the issue of the trafficking of women. It had adopted the relevant conventions and was co-operating with non-governmental organisations and with the media to reduce incidences of trafficking. Guaranteeing borders, fighting organised crime and reforming the judicial system had all helped this process.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Pollozhani.

Mr POLLOZHANI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”). – As you said, Mr President, the Balkans need stability and we are all committed to working towards that. But the Balkans also need co-operation between countries. One of the most important components of that co-operation is Corridor 8, which connects Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria in the west, and Italy and Turkey in the east. Many commitments, memorandums and agreements have been signed, but nothing concrete has been achieved. Do you intend to undertake additional initiatives to accelerate the achievement of concrete results, and what might those initiatives be?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that Corridor 8 was a very sensitive issue. The corridor was vital to the economic future of the region. It was important to open new corridors for the flow of information as well as to ease the movement of people and goods.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Ivanov.

Mr IVANOV (Bulgaria) said that there were many minority groups in Albania and in other south-eastern European countries. The Bulgarians in Albania were one such minority. He asked what were the President’s intentions for protecting Bulgarians and allowing them to be taught in their mother tongue.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that the missions of the Council of Europe that had visited Albania had recorded that they had found on the ground evidence that Albanian institutions took minority rights seriously. Minorities now enjoyed more standards and rights than the native Albanian population. Standards in schools and classes were higher for minorities. Minorities were fully integrated and it was sometimes difficult to distinguish who was from a minority group and who was not.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Vareikis.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania). – My question relates to the internal political life of your country. You have two strong political parties, the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which disagree on almost all issues. When we read reports about your country, we see that sometimes the ruling party and the opposition have completely different views. How can you as President help to change that negative situation?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that Mr Vareikis was missing some recent information. New ground had been opened up after the opening of the new parliamentary session in Albania. There had been a pact between the political parties to carry out fundamental internal reforms. That clearly demonstrated co-operation between the political parties within Albania, showed that democracy ruled and that there was political will for this to be the case.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Pavlidis.

Mr PAVLIDIS (Greece) congratulated Mr Topi on the progress made by Albania. He asked when there would be regional co-operation within the Balkans, and whether Mr Topi would agree with and support that co-operation, for the international community had waited long for that to occur.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that he thought that the visit that he had made two months previously to Greece, which had included talks with the President and Prime Minister and with the leader of the Parliamentary Assembly, had demonstrated the foundations of good relations between Albania and Greece. It had been an opportunity to strengthen relationships – economic, regional and global. He felt that there were no bad influences on the relationship between Greece and Albania, although there was still work to be done at professional level. Great willingness to co-operate had been demonstrated by both sides.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Dačič.

Mr DAČIČ (Serbia). – As there have been some misunderstandings about terminology, I should like to know whether the people who live in your country and in Kosovo are the same. There are two names in use: Albanians and Kosovars. Does that mean that Kosovars are a national minority in Albania, and that Albanians are a national minority in Kosovo? Or are they the same people who want to have two Albanian national states in Europe that will eventually become one?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that he thought that the same situation had not happened to other people. Albania and Kosovo were two countries with two separate sets of institutions. The minorities in Kosovo had representation following the recent free and fair elections held there. Serbians and other minorities had taken part in the Kosovan Parliament. Albania and Kosovo were two countries with their own institutions and threatened neither their own nor anyone else’s borders.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Matoshi.

Mr MATOSHI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) . – Albania, Macedonia and Croatia are part of the Adriatic Charter. It is expected that they will receive an invitation to joint NATO in April. Could you please briefly explain the readiness of Albania to join NATO, and whether you expect to receive such an invitation?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. You have the floor, Mr Topi.

Mr TOPI said that he was full of optimism that Albania would receive an invitation to join NATO later in 2008. Albania had undertaken a long preparatory period for acceptance, which had included military reforms. He said that everything had so far gone as predicted in their preparations for meeting the requirements for joining NATO and that all the institutions had complied with the requirements of the invitation. NATO ambassadors had recently visited Albania and had observed the reforms for themselves.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr President. I call the last speaker, Mr Branger.

Mr BRANGER (France) said that the French appreciated Albania’s foreign policy and the courage it had shown in implementing its internal reforms. In the Assembly there had been talk of obstructionism and the need for further reform to the judicial system in Albania. He asked what measures had been taken, and would be taken, to reform further the judicial system in Albania.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Mr Topi, you have the floor.

Mr TOPI said that the Albanian political class was taking time to mature and to do so had gone back to the primary issues of importance for the country. There had been a willingness within both the political parties and the judicial authorities to reform. They were currently enjoying fruitful co-operation. Further co-operation would bring Albania up to date with prevailing global standards.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Thank you, Mr President. That concludes the questions and I would like to thank you very much for answering. Members of the Assembly have asked you all sorts of questions on many different subjects. There has been full freedom to raise any issue. Thank you for having submitted yourself to this exercise and for giving such detailed answers.

4. Date, time and orders of the day of the next sitting

THE PRESIDENT. – I propose that the Assembly hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the orders of the day that were approved on Monday 21 January.

Are there any objections? That is not the case.

The orders of the day of the next sitting are therefore agreed.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 12.55 p.m.)

Contents

1.        Minutes of proceedings

2.       United Nations Security Council and European Union blacklists

3.       Address by Mr Topi, President of Albania

      Questions:

      Mr Iwiński (Poland)

Mr Bender (Poland)

Mr Kox (Netherlands)

Mrs Hurskainen (Finland)

Mr Pollozhani (Fryom

Mr Ivanov (Bulgaria)

Mr Vareikis (Lithuania)

Mr Pavlidis (Greece)

Mr Dačič (Serbia)

Mr Matoshi (fyrom

Mr Branger (France)

4.       Date, time and orders of the day of the next sitting