AS (2010) CR 26
2010 ORDINARY SESSION
Thursday 24 June 2010 at 3 p.m.
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 Cebeci, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.05 p.m.
THE PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Current affairs debate: the situation in Kyrgyzstan
THE PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is a current affairs debate on the situation in Kyrgyzstan.
I remind the Assembly that speakers’ contributions are limited to four minutes with the exception of the first speaker, Mr Wilshire, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 10 minutes. As there are seven speakers on the list, we will conclude this item of business at about 3.45 p.m.
In the debate I call first Mr Wilshire.
Mr WILSHIRE (United Kingdom) – Thank you for that. As you will notice, word must have travelled that Wilshire was about to speak and therefore people have stayed away. I am well used to that. Nevertheless, those who are here may find it strange that someone who regularly stands up in this Chamber and cautions against the Council of Europe trying to turn itself into a mini United Nations should be asked by the Bureau to speak about a country that is not a member of the Council of Europe. Those here may find it even stranger when I confess to not being a serious expert on Kyrgyzstan, although I have been there and I know a little bit about it.
Perhaps it might be helpful if I start by explaining why I thought it sensible to accept the invitation from the Bureau to open this debate. I did not accept this job to talk about the history of what has happened or to launch a debate on who might be to blame. The Parliamentary Assembly has done too much of that sort of thing in recent months and years – the last thing we want is to do it again, because it brings this Assembly into disrepute and makes it seem irrelevant if we try to do things that we are not qualified to do.
I agreed to do this for two straightforward reasons. First, death, suffering, homelessness and becoming a refugee are universal matters. You cannot just say that because we are the Council of Europe and it happened somewhere else, it is nothing to do with us. It is everything to do with everyone of us, in the context of saying to ourselves, “Is there anything that we can do to help wherever these people are and wherever this disaster has happened?” I will come back to that, if I may.
The second reason why I said I would speak about this is that I am clear in my mind that there are some important and serious lessons for us, the 47 members of the Council of Europe, in what has happened in Kyrgyzstan, and we could well address those in the time available to us.
There are at least three lessons that we could usefully learn from these events. Kyrgyzstan – formerly part of the Soviet Union and a former Soviet republic – set its sights on becoming a new democracy based on the standards that apply in western Europe. At the outset, it was one of those new countries and new democracies that probably made more progress than some others, but that attempt to build a new democracy has run into trouble.
We should think about that in the context of the Council of Europe and the circumstances within Kyrgyzstan. Within the 47, we have quite a few former Soviet republics trying to do the same thing, and doing it successfully, but it would pay us to consider an example in which things have gone wrong to see whether we can give even more help to those within the 47 that are doing the same thing. They have a shared history with Kyrgyzstan.
The second lesson that we can usefully learn is to note that Kyrgyzstan has had two of what came to be called “rose” revolutions. What happened in Kyrgyzstan was not referred to as a “rose” revolution, but I am sure that colleagues take my point. These were occasions when public anxiety, without civil war, removes regimes.
Such events have happened twice in Kyrgyzstan, and we welcomed them when they occurred in countries that are members of the Council of Europe. The two “rose” revolutions failed. In the end, instead of bringing progress, they brought trouble, unrest and violence. Within the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, we have quite a few countries that have been through such a process involving a “rose” revolution. They are moving ahead, but it might just pay us to look at the situation in Kyrgyzstan, where a “rose” revolution has failed, to ensure that we understand why it has failed. That will enable us to consider our own member states and say, “Look, here are some lessons. If we are not careful, it might happen within Council of Europe member states.” That is an important lesson that we can usefully learn from this experience.
Another lesson that I think is crucial is looking at a bit of the history of this. Go back to the Soviet Union and the situation in the Fergana Valley, where, historically, ethnic groups – a lot of them nomadic – did not really have boundaries and there is a great mix of people.
Josef Stalin and others chose to draw boundaries that did not make much sense, ethnically or historically. The boundaries that they drew put people on the wrong side of borders: Uzbeks were in Kyrgyzstan, with Kyrgyz somewhere else, and Tajikistan having bits of the valley.
To make matters worse, as well as boundaries, there were enclaves in one place of people from another. That was a recipe for chaos at some stage in the future. Sadly, that is what we have got. I am not saying that it is all Stalin’s fault – we have to look at recent history – but there is something of a similarity to Russia-Georgia and the situation of Georgia, which was emerging from the Soviet Union with borders that, historically, were not the sort of borders that people were used to.
If such a thing happened again in Kyrgyzstan, we would be well advised to look carefully – very carefully – at all the member states to see what the boundaries might throw up for the future.
With an eye on the clock, may I turn to what, if anything, we can do now and whether we can help at all? We should say to ourselves, “Ought we to be worried?” We should be.
Within the Fergana Valley, there are a lot of devout and committed Muslims. Next door in Afghanistan are the Taliban. Afghanistan is the source of western Europe’s drugs and the Fergana Valley is quite a route for them. A situation is developing in Kyrgyzstan whereby the government of that country appears not to have control of those two particular problems. If there is a lack of control and of peace, there is scope for the Taliban to move in. There is also scope for the drug situation to get worse. My word, that is a problem for the 47 of us. It is a worry that I have.
What can we do? We can continue with certain activities because – surprise, surprise – we have been doing things up until now. Kyrgyzstan makes use of the Venice Commission. Indeed, on 27 June it is supposed to be having a referendum on a new constitution and the Venice Commission has played a part in that new constitution. Therefore, we can go on saying to Kyrgyzstan, “The Venice Commission is there to help you.”
Kyrgyzstan has signed at least one of the conventions, and we can help it to sign more. It takes part in some of our activities, and we can continue with that. There are ways that we can go on helping.
We must lastly ask the question whether there is anything more that we can now do. The Council of Europe has no role in peacekeeping. We have no troops; we do not want troops. We cannot suggest that. We are not really a source of humanitarian aid because we do not have the money and resources to make such things available.
There is only one thing that we can do, which is turn to the possibility of whether there will need to be intervention by outside people to restore law and order. We can send a clear message that we would support intervention if it were absolutely necessary, provided that it was multinational, not a unilateral one-country intervention, and provided that it had a mandate from either the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe or the United Nations.
We are looking at a tragedy on our borders. The challenge is, how can we help and how can we learn lessons?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mr Wilshire. In the debate, I call Mr Zingeris, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Dear colleagues, one year ago, I was in Kyrgyzstan, in Bishkek, observing the situation in the country. The American Manas military base is situated at the airport for American troops on their way to Afghanistan. The country is far from reaching European standards, it has a more or less independent press and it was on its way to democracy. Unlike Mr Wilshire, I do not blame the “rose” revolutions. The rose revolution in Ukraine and other countries brought them closer to accepting more diverse opinions. Mr Yanukovych was elected as a result of the “rose” revolution, so those revolutions were useful, not useless.
We should appeal to the Uzbek Government to open its boundaries to refugees. They need to be safe before the temporary government in Bishkek will be capable of ensuring order in the country. Some 100 000 ethnic Uzbeks have sought refuge in Uzbekistan, and the border is closed. Some 40 000 fled the violence and sought shelter. Given the destruction of hundreds of houses, many of the displaced have no homes to return to, even if they felt that it would be safe to do so. Repatriation of the displaced will require greater security and confidence among the displaced community. We should concentrate on providing humanitarian aid and we should urge the temporary government to influence local Kyrgyz communities to be responsible for Uzbeks in the country. We should also appeal to the United Nations to organise an international presence as soon as possible. Without any international presence, it will be difficult to solve the problem.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Mr Iwiński, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland) – Kyrgyzstan is a country of some 5 million people and is sometimes called the “Nepal of central Asia”. It has a unique landscape – I have been there twice so I can confirm that. Today, it faces a major crisis. In the worst case scenario, this crisis could spread over the whole strategic region, encompassing five states, threatening their stability. However much the world would prefer not to think about it, the violence in mid-June has caused almost 2 000 deaths and the number of refugees and displaced persons, because of the dramatic events, has increased to 400 000, according to UN sources. Precise data are not available.
The main victims of the pogroms have been the Uzbek minority living in the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley and accounting for 15% of the population. The situation reminds me of the tragic ethnic conflict in Soviet Kyrgyzstan 20 years ago and in the Uzbek town Andijan five years ago. One of the reasons for these situations is linked to the arbitrary decisions by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s, setting borders in the region without following strict ethnic lines. Today, it turns out that for Washington and Moscow the military bases are the most important. The Americans keep the Manas base and use it to support NATO forces in Afghanistan. There is also a Russian base, in Kant.
We should pay tribute to the UNHCR and International Committee of the Red Cross which have been noble exceptions in their attempts to diminish the humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, there is no time to focus on the stormy history of the independent Kyrgyzstan, but it is the only country in central Asia that has had two revolutions – in 1995 and in April this year. The so-called “tulip” revolution five years ago brought down President Akayev, a scholar who now lives in Moscow. The second revolution, two months ago, resulted in the abrupt departure of his successor, President Bakiev, who is now living in Minsk. He was replaced by the interim government led by Roza Otunbaeva, whom I know personally, a former ambassador and foreign minister and the first woman in the history of central Asia to lead a country.
The main problems for Kyrgyzstan remain intact – widespread corruption, nepotism and the existence of several clans. Despite the chaotic situation, a referendum will be held this Sunday on constitutional changes with the intention of switching to a parliamentary system. Such a novelty would be a breakthrough in central Asia.
I am afraid that the latest outbreak of violence in the ethnic boiling pot of Asia will take a generation to heal. What can we do in the circumstances? The OSCE is analysing the possibility of introducing an international stability and peacekeeping force. What about the Council of Europe? We should nominate a rapporteur on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, who could visit Kyrgyzstan, perhaps during the future parliamentary elections in October.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Mrs Reps, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mrs REPS (Estonia) – Thank you, Mr President. First, why are we discussing Kyrgyzstan today? Just a few months ago, we were discussing mainstreaming in the Council of Europe. Is Kyrgyzstan really in the mainstream? That is the question that many Assembly members would ask first. However, if we go into the substance of what is happening there – the humanitarian crisis, the violation of human rights and the suffering of civilians, with more than 100 000 internally displaced persons as well as those refugees who have already crossed the Uzbek border – we can conclude that we probably need to act. When it comes to questions of migration, human rights and the rule of law, we have to act.
Our good Polish colleague has already gone through the detail of what is happening in Kyrgyzstan and some of its history, so I shall not cover it again. What is happening there now and what can we do? I have a couple of proposals.
First, I agree with previous speakers that the biggest question facing us today is whether the conflict will spread further. Will it go further than just the southern part of Kyrgyzstan or will unrest spread to other countries? How much Uzbek involvement will there be? Will there also be an influence in Kazakhstan? How much can we rely on support from the Russian Federation or, for example, from Turkey? In the end, we are talking about Turkish people.
Secondly, how much can we do to provide humanitarian help? We are talking about more than 100 000 internally displaced persons and refugees, so we cannot overlook it. Of course, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the ICRC are already playing their part, but I call on the Assembly and members of the Council of Europe to do more. We can help these people. As always, the elderly, women and children will suffer the most. Very young children in particular might not have enough support in this situation. It is very clear in this humanitarian crisis that people want to go back and there are reports of people returning to Kyrgyzstan and their homes. However, it is clear that there are no homes because they have mostly burned down. So, what can the Council of Europe and its member states do to help people return home?
Thirdly, and most importantly, what assistance can we give? I support the proposal to have a special envoy or perhaps a committee. Perhaps we can merely rely on our commissioner to go and see what the Council of Europe can do, in addition to what our member states can do.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Chope, who will speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – May I begin by congratulating my friend and colleague, David Wilshire, on introducing this debate so ably? This Assembly will miss his wisdom and experience when he retires later this year.
Kyrgyzstan is, as my friend said, not in Europe. It is in central Asia. So, I have come to make this speech in the context of asking how it is relevant for this Assembly to discuss Kyrgyzstan. I was inspired by what we heard this morning, when the President of Macedonia spoke about inclusive democracy, integration without assimilation, respect for different cultures, religions and ethnicities and the importance of promoting the values of the Council of Europe. It occurred to me that in our 60th year we could perhaps spawn a Council of Asia to promote the values that we hold so dear – democracy, human rights, and the rule of law – in these new countries and republics in central Asia. If we are going to send a delegation to look into this, it would be much better for us to see whether we could set up an alternative organisation to take on the responsibility of promoting our values across Asia and across the world.
I went to a school in England that is now setting up another school on a similar foundation, with the same principles and values, in south-east Asia. There are quite a few examples of institutions that have been successful in replicating themselves in other parts of the world. It seems to me that what is happening in Kyrgyzstan and other central Asian republics calls for a solution and for advice and help.
The wisdom and experience of this Organisation could be made available to enable a Council of Asia to be set up to promote the values that we hold dear. Otherwise, we will continue to see common reports in the press of autocratic government, corruption, violence, organised crime, drug smuggling, interethnic violence, fraud, deaths, injuries, genocide, refugees, internally displaced persons, reprisals, the blame game and calls for international help. We will continue to have debates on those topics. We must try to think together about how we can build an alternative organisation within Asia to promote this important body’s values.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Lotman, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr LOTMAN (Estonia) – First, let me thank everybody who has helped me to gather information on the situation in Kyrgyzstan, including several of you. Quick fact finding would not have been possible without the help of several individuals, some of whom responded to my urgent phone calls and requests for information from the centre of the events. Let us consider the situation on the ground as it appears on the basis of those sources.
The estimates of the death toll of the recent ethnic violence vary. Although the official death toll from the clashes stood at 214 last time I checked, interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva is reported to have said that 10 times as many people – that is 2 000, as others have said – have been killed. It is estimated that there are more than 100 000 refugees and some sources put the figure as high as 400 000. Again, there is huge variance in the estimates and little knowledge of what is going on.
Assessments of who is guilty are even vaguer. Apparently, the Uzbeks blame the Kyrgyz for starting the violence and vice versa. That is not surprising. All that can be said for sure is that, whoever started the violence, the Uzbeks have suffered most. Most of the casualties and refugees are Uzbeks. Different conspiracy theories abound about who organised the initial attacks, and some might even be true. They vary from blaming the former president and his family members – who of course deny any involvement – to claiming that rogue elements in the police, army or other security forces have organised the whole thing.
The good news is that mob violence has subsided, some refugees have started to return home and the police and army are largely in control of the situation. However, there is bad news within the good news in that those forces are specifically targeting the Uzbek population by searching houses in what they claim is an effort to restore law and order. There is further news that police officers are destroying documents of the Uzbeks in what seems to be an effort to stop them from voting in the constitutional referendum scheduled for Sunday. There are also reports of abductions and heavy beatings by the security forces, which come from those in the middle of the situation. Again, it has mostly been Uzbeks who have been the victims. The police and army officers in charge locally are ethnic Kyrgyz from the conflict region who, according to some sources, have a biased view of the situation. Furthermore, the provisional government, which is also ethnically Kyrgyz, has no strong ties to the region and might not be in control of its armed forces there. So, a pessimistic view could be that mob violence has simply been replaced by the misuse of the armed forces.
The international community has been a bit slow to react but it seems that things are getting on the move. The OSCE is there, but its presence probably needs to be strengthened. The USA and Russia have provided some humanitarian relief and the OSCE, EU and UN are working on planning common actions in Kyrgyzstan. The question for us is what we, as the Council of Europe in general and as the Parliamentary Assembly in particular, can do. It is clearly the obligation of the interim government to solve the crisis as soon as possible but can we be of any help? Can we contribute more to solving the humanitarian crisis now or to building democratic society in the future? Do we need a more active role in Kyrgyzstan? We have recently been successful in conflict resolution in some of our member states, but can we help there? The region clearly needs help in conflict resolution and the hard task of rebuilding trust between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Do we have resources for that? We should look into it and see whether we can help, because help is needed.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Lotman. I call Mr Vareikis.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – Thank you, Mr President. My speech will be of a more general nature. Some days ago, The Economist – that famous weekly – published an article about Kyrgyzstan entitled “Stalin’s latest victims”. Why are these people the latest victims of Stalin? It is because national minorities are fighting against national majorities as a result of the wrong state borders having been drawn up by Stalin’s administration almost 100 years ago, in the early 1920s. The Economist thinks that these people are the victims of Stalin, but I wish to ask a question: was Stalin a smart guy who predicted that if he drew up these borders in this way, the people would fight each other rather than the Moscow regime, or was Stalin a stupid guy who just created a problem to last for at least a century?
Irrespective of the answer to that question, I say to the people of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and all the other nations living in the region, “Don’t be the victims of history and don’t try to defend what was done in the wrong way. If you have the wrong borders, you can change them. If you have the wrong arrangements, you can change them. Instead of being the victims of history, be its creators.” We are now in the 21st century, and we can reshape history.
In my experience, the nations of central Asia were never divided by geography; they were divided by profession. Traditionally, the Uzbeks were land farmers; the Kyrgyz were shepherds, and the Tajiks were traders, fighters and administrators. When these people are divided on the basis of geography, national minorities and ethnic enclaves are created, and this is a precursor to ethnic conflict.
The reality is that innocent people are being killed, not mostly by freedom fighters, but by criminals. We must highlight the fact that the state administration cannot prevent that, because it is very weak. The problem is that the people and the administration do not trust each other, so the people rely on their own knives and rifles rather than the might of state administration.
Kyrgyzstan is a member of a few international organisations that are responsible for not only national security but human security. However, the United Nations is doing nothing more than saying, “Stop the fighting.” The OSCE, which is chaired by Kazakhstan, is closing the border of Kyrgyzstan instead of applying any solutions. NATO cares about military bases, and that is fine, but it could do something more. Given that the state administration is very weak, what can we do? We can do something, because we know how to solve problems in Europe; we have the methods and we have some recipes, and when we propose things to countries in Europe, they work. Therefore, my suggestion is that we should be very active in tackling this conflict. We might need to appoint a rapporteur, we could use our mediators and we can ask different organisations for peacekeepers. We must be very active, because this is about not only the tragedy of the people in Kyrgyzstan, but our credibility.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Vareikis. Our last speaker is Mr Sudarenkov.
Mr SUDARENKOV (Russian Federation) said that he had worked in the region under discussion during the leadership of Mr Gorbachev. The situation in Kyrgyzstan in many ways reflected yesterday’s debate on the state of democracy in Europe. The economic crisis had had many adverse affects and in other countries governments had been able to cut their budgets to cope, but in Kyrgyzstan there was no budget to cut.
The main problem was the Ferghana Valley, a unique, fertile gem, which provided food for 10 million people and which was very densely populated with around 1 700 people per sq. km. This dense population had lost most from the collapsed economy and people had lost faith in democratic institutions, and that had allowed the seeds laid by extra-institutional actors to fall on fertile ground.
The biggest hindrance to any solution of the problems of the area was lack of knowledge about the region. The contradictions and tensions in the Ferghana Valley had built up over a long time and were exacerbated by an economic crisis that had left people without prospects. The Council of Europe could do many things to bring stability to Kyrgyzstan; it should make efforts to legitimise regimes, encourage other states to join Russia in providing financial assistance, improve the education of the young, help remedy the problem of surplus labour, and help to tackle the problem of drug trafficking. In short, the Council of Europe needed to make the Ferghana Valley a place of peace once again.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Sudarenkov. That concludes the list of speakers. I thank Mr Wilshire and all other colleagues who contributed. Dear colleagues, I remind you that at the end of the current affairs debate, the Assembly is not asked to decide upon a text; but the matter may be referred by the Bureau to the responsible committee for a report.
Before we move to the next item of business, I must inform the Assembly that a large number of speakers have registered for tomorrow’s debates. Therefore, I propose that the time limit for speeches tomorrow should be four minutes. Is that agreed?
It is agreed.
2. The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: more transparency needed
THE PRESIDENT – Our next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled “The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: more transparency needed” presented by Mr Paul Flynn on behalf of the Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs, Document 12283.
We will aim to finish this item by 5 p.m., which means that we shall interrupt the speakers list at about 4.50 p.m. to allow time for replies and votes.
I first call Mr Flynn, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr FLYNN (United Kingdom) – Exactly a year ago, a very bad decision was taken by the World Health Organization that now seems unscientific and irrational. The result of that decision was that the whole world became scared that a major plague was on the way – a new pandemic that would have been as bad, according to reports, as the flu pandemic of 1918. There seems to have been no scientific basis for that decision. It rested on the change in the definition of a pandemic that took place last year. Hitherto, the definition of a flu pandemic was one in which thousands of deaths occurred. That definition was changed to include conditions that could be either “severe” or “mild”. According to the epidemiology, this swine flu was likely to be mild. As a result of that decision, the countries of the world wasted billions of pounds on medicines that were never used and that will never be used. They suffered fear and anxiety. They suffered the disruption of their health services, whose priorities were distorted to concentrate on swine flu rather than on other issues, and the world was exposed to taking in a vaccine that had not been properly trialled.
We are now looking into the results of all that, and many countries are undertaking their own investigations. Preliminary results show that there is no correlation between the amounts spent on taking precautions and the results. The country that spent the least was Poland, which rejected the idea that this disease was dangerous and which had suspicions about the safety of the vaccine. Other countries – including France, the Netherlands and my own country, the United Kingdom – spent very large sums of money. Britain spent £570 million on medicines that will never be used. The outcome, however, was that the number of deaths per million from swine flu in Britain was about twice the number in Poland.
There is a great deal of evidence that the decisions were taken on an unscientific basis. We are not making accusations, but we are entitled to transparency. There is no transparency. Our committee has held three hearings and we have invited the WHO to come along. I have also visited Geneva, but we still do not know the answers to the questions. Who took that decision? Who were the members of the emergency committee? If we can find out who they are, we should also like to know what their interests are. The only ones to benefit from the decision were the pharmaceutical companies and the vaccine manufacturers. They made billions of euros.
Without transparency, suspicion remains. We are not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing, but we are entitled to know what went on. We have cried wolf four times in recent years – on sudden acute respiratory syndrome, on Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease, on avian flu and now on swine flu – and the world has been greatly alarmed, yet in all four cases, there were very few deaths around the world. In the United Kingdom, we were told that swine flu would cause about 65 000 deaths. The truth is that fewer than 500 people died with the disease, and probably fewer than 100 died of the disease. That is all very tragic, but in a normal year between 2 000 and 3 000 die of seasonal flu, so the effect was much milder than that. There was no reason for the alarm.
In the past few days, the WHO has held a rather remarkable event. We want to thank it for holding its own investigation into this matter, although we were not pleased when we heard that six members of the review body that was looking into the emergency committee’s decision were themselves members of the emergency committee. On Tuesday, two of them quite rightly resigned, but I think that the other four should resign as well. They cannot pass judgment on their own decisions. We call on the WHO to ensure that the investigation is a thorough one.
National governments are also holding their own investigations – my country will announce its investigation next week – but we know what is likely to happen. Nations will defend their own conduct. I am sure Egypt will say that it did not suffer from swine flu because it killed all the pigs in the country. I am sure that Britain will say that it did not have many cases because it spent £1 billion, and that Poland will say that it spent very little and had none.
So nation states will defend themselves, as will the WHO and the pharmaceutical companies, but who will speak for the 800 million people who suffered badly as a result of this decision? And, given that we have cried wolf four times, who will suffer in the future if a very nasty disease comes along but no one believes the WHO because they no longer trust it? The United Kingdom is the second biggest payer to the WHO and we greatly admire its work in eliminating smallpox, and now polio, from the world. We need a World Heath Organization in which we can have absolute confidence, but without transparency, that is not possible.
This report speaks on behalf of the people we represent, and I urge you to support it.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Flynn. You have five and a half minutes remaining.
In the debate I call Mr Huss, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr HUSS (Luxembourg) congratulated Mr Flynn on his critical, yet constructive report. He did not want to criticise the World Health Organization in itself, but it had to be accepted that its management of the pandemic had been poor.
Democracy meant dialogue, the provision of information and transparency. The WHO committee of experts was not transparent and had provided no explanation for its decisions or of the criteria for what constituted a pandemic. It was worrying that this secret committee had the power to instigate wide-ranging and powerful public health campaigns. The WHO handling of the pandemic could affect its response to the many other pandemics developing throughout the world, pandemics such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and obesity. The kitty was empty, there was no money left, vaccinations were very expensive, and the pharmaceutical companies had filled their pockets.
The criteria for a pandemic had to be redefined, and membership of the WHO expert committees to be clarified. Monitoring processes could be more democratic, and the Council of Europe could enter into dialogue with it to encourage a change of approach. To make the WHO less dependent on the pharmaceutical companies, alternative funding arrangements could be found. The crisis would have provided at least one benefit if it brought these changes to the WHO.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Marquet on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr MARQUET (Monaco) was glad that the H1N1 pandemic had been debated because, although he had great respect for the work of the World Health Organization, there had been serious problems with the management of the pandemic. Those problems required caution and measured discussion, not a witch hunt. Mr Flynn was to be congratulated on his work on a real governance issue within the WHO.
States had signed extensive secret contracts with laboratories. Too much secrecy had surrounded the declaration of the pandemic in June 2009, and the WHO needed to modify its guidance. There was still insufficient information about the expert panel who had determined the definition of the pandemic.
The lack of transparency raised wider issues, such as the increasingly technical nature of issues on which politicians were required to make decisions. Experts should help decision makers, but not replace them. There was a need for the ethical questions to be considered and probably for a code of conduct.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call next Mr Parfenov on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr PARFENOV (Russian Federation) thanked the rapporteur for his work and for his determination in insisting that the issue be raised on Thursday and not at the end of the part-session on Friday. As the disease had spread, many in the world had waited to see whether it would reach the level of pandemic. Then, after the declaration in June 2009, doubts began to arise. The report did not answer all the questions that had been asked, probably rightly, but the amounts of money earned by the pharmaceutical industry and spent by countries were known. Answers were needed, both about the interests of the pharmaceutical industry in having a pandemic declared, and about how such problems could be avoided in future.
The WHO was an excellent organisation but it was notable that its long-term work was very good while its efforts to deal with emergencies were poor. It was a very closed organisation and there was not sufficient information about it. It was known that state contributions to the WHO accounted for only around 20% to 30% of its costs, and that had to be addressed. Transparency was the best way forward.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Parfenov. The next speaker is Mr Hunko, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr HUNKO (Germany) thanked Mr Wodarg for the original initiative and Mr Flynn for his work on the report. The H1N1 virus had turned out to be very mild. In Germany between April 2009 and April 2010, there were only 200 cases, a small number in comparison with the number of deaths from normal influenza.
Predictions of the seriousness of the outbreak and its designation as a Phase 6 pandemic were based on a limited range of scientific opinion. Billions of dollars had been spent on the vaccine and it was necessary to clarify what had happened to avoid future repetition of the problems. The WHO had changed the criteria for a Phase 6 pandemic, basing it on this outbreak. There had been no clear answer from the WHO as to why that had happened. He had received a secret report, placed on the internet by a whistleblower, concerning what had transpired between the German state and the pharmaceutical industry.
Some very deft marketing by the pharmaceutical industry had resulted in huge costs for states. The German people had lost trust in the WHO as a result. The WHO was under pressure from private interests, and steps had to be taken to ensure its independence as there were many other diseases which could lead to similar problems.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Hunko. The next speaker is Mrs Circene, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mrs CIRCENE (Latvia) – On behalf of my political group, I thank Mr Flynn for his report, which is very relevant. The H1N1 pandemic raised many unanswered questions and involved global organisations such as the World Health Organization. I want to stress the fact that, because this is not the first such case, it is particularly important to discuss the matter publicly on the international level. Several years ago, there was avian flu. Although it did not infect humans, billions of dollars of medicines were sold. Those medicines were not clinically tested in relation to humans and avian flu.
In June 2009, the WHO declared a level 6 pandemic and vaccines were purchased in massive quantities. Without sufficient justification, 100 000 children were vaccinated. The way the pandemic has been handled – not only by the WHO, but by the competent health authorities at European Union level – gives cause for alarm. As early as 2009, doubts were expressed about the need for such vaccinations, the lack of transparency and the possible influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Given the inadequate transparency of the process, such influence could have been exerted.
The Parliamentary Assembly was unable to obtain the names of people in charge and their possible conflicts of interest. That is why we need specific guidelines to prevent experts from becoming associated with the industry’s private sector. All information, without exception, should be made public. That is the key factor, because the pandemic vaccines have a distinctive feature – their development and production can take place only on the basis of a special order being made. Governments place orders only after an announcement has been made by the WHO.
Furthermore, the information available on this pandemic was ambiguous for several reasons: a virus similar to H1N1 has been known for nearly 100 years, because in 1918 a similar virus caused the Spanish flu, and in the 1960s US soldiers brought back a similar legionnaire’s disease from Vietnam.
It was already known that the mortality rate from that virus was not very high. Therefore, in co-ordination with international organisations, the strategy used by the WHO in declaring a level 6 pandemic and in naming a responsible person should be revised because each declaration of a pandemic incurs enormous costs.
Every day, tens of thousands of children die from hunger. The mortality rate from non-infectious diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, oncological diseases, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure and so on is even higher. Therefore, it is important to hold regular discussions on drafting international and national guidelines in the sphere of health care, as well as good governance in the public health sector and independent research.
I am grateful for the report, which raises awareness of this serious problem.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mrs Circene.
I understand that the rapporteur, Mr Flynn, does not wish to respond at this stage, but will reply at the end of the debate.
Our next speaker is Mrs Caparin.
Mrs CAPARIN (Croatia) – It is a well-known fact that the possibility of pandemic spread of the flu virus exists, so it is necessary to have a completely prepared epidemiologic service which is well organised and capable of counteracting an epidemic on a daily basis. It must be ready for a new virus appearing and quickly spreading the world over, bearing in mind that most – perhaps all – of the citizens of the planet would have no immunity.
The H1N1 virus quickly showed all of its pandemic characteristics. No classification as a pandemic by WHO is needed for the epidemiologists to know how to act when a pandemic virus appears. Epidemiologic services monitored the spreading of the virus in the world and noted the moment that it reached Croatia. The services daily informed the commission set up by the Ministry of Health and Social Care to monitor pandemic flu, which was the co-ordinating body for all involved in the fight against the pandemic and was headed by the minister himself.
Information on the problem was made available transparently every morning without giving rise to worry or panic, and that is how epidemiologic services must function. The virus appeared in the middle of the tourist season in Croatia, but there was no panic. The characteristics of the pandemic that were registered in Croatia were the appearance of the virus during the summer, not the usual flu season; the epidemic peaked in the autumn, with a rise in the number of patients with common flu much earlier in the season than usual, and the number fell quickly after the peak; the number of hospitalised patients was much greater than usual among those with common flu, with more than 2 500 from the appearance of the new virus until the end of the epidemic wave, whereas the number for common flu is usually only 300; the dominant complication of the pandemic H1N1 flu was the primary viral inflammation of the lungs, which is rare in common flu; 86 people were treated in intensive care, because of complications; the number of registered deaths from pandemic flu was higher than the average yearly deaths from common flu; and the pandemic virus has expelled from circulation the common seasonal flu virus.
In Croatia, all the anti-epidemic measures that were undertaken, including vaccination, took place without even a wink from WHO or its proclamation of a pandemic, because the epidemiologic services co-operate with similar services in Europe and the European Centre for Disease Control, and their monitoring spotted all the characteristics of the pandemic. It was their duty to protect citizens, together with the Croatian crisis headquarters for the health ministry. The degrees of pandemics announced by WHO are based on the international agreement of experts and are there to ease the organisation of scientifically based anti-epidemic measures in such a situation.
Taking information from some non-expert sources, parts of the media wrote about the H1N1 problem without transparency, inconsistently and vaguely, alternately exaggerating or diminishing the pandemic, questioning anti-epidemic measures and compromising the vaccine – all of which was totally unjustified. Bearing that in mind, we need to evaluate communication with the media, the role of the internet and new technologies, and how users can be encouraged to recognise proper sources of information.
Finally, the question remains of whether the H1N1 virus has appeared as a natural mutation or emerged from some other source.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mrs Caparin, but we have to move on. I now call Mr Kucheida of France, but I cannot see him, so the next speaker is Mr Ünal.
Mr ÜNAL (Turkey) was glad to have an opportunity to discuss a report on an issue that had long dominated the health care agenda. He thanked Mr Flynn and Mr Wodarg for their work in putting the issue on the agenda.
Potential pandemics such as swine flu demonstrated the importance of having a body such as the World Health Organization, able to respond to major health threats. It was important that countries were prepared for pandemics and primed to act should there be an outbreak. It was important that countries should take preventive measures but it was wrong to force people to take such measures under the pretence of a pandemic.
Countries had borne a high cost in preparing for the pandemic, and the decision-making process that led to their purchasing vaccines could have been more transparent. That fact that it had not been had caused questions to form in people’s minds. The dangers of the pandemic had been exaggerated by the authorities, and public health had been endangered by the actions of pharmaceutical companies. That was a global scandal.
While the WHO was an effective organisation, there had been too much doubt and insufficient information about the dangers posed by H1N1. He wanted to know whether such mistakes could be prevented when dealing in future with pandemics, such as bird flu.
Some countries had bought large qualities of vaccines in anticipation of the pandemic, and no one would compensate them for these unnecessary costs. The WHO was the international organisation best placed to give guidance on health but recent events had had raised questions about on its processes. To answer such questions would strengthen, not weaken, the institution’s credibility.
More ethical regulation was required of the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the WHO. National health care organisations also needed to learn lessons from how they had responded to the pandemic
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Hancock.
Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – I congratulate the rapporteur on the excellent work that he has done, and thank the staff of the Secretariat for the work that they have done on this issue. Our colleague from Germany, Mr Wodarg, is no longer a member of the Assembly, but I thank him for the efforts that he put in to raising this issue in the first place. It was well worth the effort, and the two hearings that have been held have demonstrated, for the first time in a long time, that the Council of Europe can come up with a real response to a public concern. If it had not been for us, that would have gone relatively unnoticed and that would have been a tragedy. If it had not been for this Assembly, the issue would have been easily and simply swept under the carpet. Little or nothing would have come out of it. To use the parlance of football – as the World Cup is with us every day – the World Health Organization would have been shown a red card and it would have been seriously suggested that it might have taken a bung from the drug companies to manipulate the system in such a malicious and possibly even illegal way. It changed its criteria – when you consider it in the cold light of day and in the context of all the facts that have come out, you have to ask what the reason behind the change in the definition might have been. You cannot find anything on its website to suggest why that might have happened, who wanted it changed and on what the criteria to which it was being changed were based. There is no evidence to support that. That alone would make even the most supportive person begin to smell a rat, as they would realise that there was something seriously wrong with why such a change was being made.
We have the so-called “advisers”, who offer advice to the WHO. Nearly every one of the people concerned either was or had been in the pay of one or another of the drug companies. In what other business or institution would it be possible for somebody in the pay of a body that would be the significant beneficiary of any change be able to give such unfettered advice? When the WHO received the advice, it did not even bother to challenge it. Once again, there was nothing in the evidence submitted to the two Council of Europe meetings to suggest that the WHO was critical of what it was being told. Surely any organisation that exists to promote good health and good governance and to ensure that the right thing is being done not just to one patient but to millions around the world has an obligation to go beyond what is reasonable and not to assume that what it is being told is correct. On that, the WHO failed miserably.
The Council of Europe and its members are to be congratulated on having the tenacity to keep going at this, particularly Mr Flynn. He is a bit like a Welsh terrier that, once it gets hold of your trouser leg, will not easily let go. He has dragged the WHO screaming and, sadly, not bawling, to this Assembly. It is an indictment of the WHO that it has not been prepared to come here and defend its position for the rostrum. I am sure that the Assembly would have welcomed such an opportunity, because the WHO would have to have performed a tour de force to convince us that it did this for the right reasons. There is a nasty smell about this, and as Paul Flynn said just before he concluded, it will make it difficult for people to trust the WHO in the future and so a lot of people’s health will suffer.
(Mr Mignon, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the chair in place of Mr Cebeci.)
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I want to reassure Mr Flynn that apparently everything is in order. Apparently, Sir, you are similar to a Welsh fox terrier – I do not see the resemblance. I call Mr Rouquet.
Mr ROUQUET (France) said H1N1 was a complex problem. The Assembly had had an important earlier debate on democracy, and this discussion on H1N1 and the question of how organisations had managed it related to issues raised in that debate. One such was how to have democratically accountable decisions when it was necessary to rely on expert technical advice in making them That problem arose in many areas of democratic life, but it was particularly difficult when taking public health decisions because it was necessary to take into account much technical and medical information. Information was necessary to enable decision makers to make the right decisions, but there were questions of democratic accountability.
In the case of H1N1, the relevant figures were not available for consultation which meant that it was not possible to come to a balanced conclusion based on the evidence. The low level of transparency in the WHO had led to questions being asked about the role of pharmaceutical companies in the decision-making process. It was the role of politicians to hold their governments to account and to raise issues of transparency, especially when expert opinion was needed to enlighten decision making.
It could be true that wanting to know everything before acting meant not acting at all. It was not right to condemn the WHO, which had had to rely on expert opinions. Perhaps the French Government could be criticised for buying vaccines on the advice of experts. On the other hand, the criticisms that would have been made of the government had the worst predictions been realised had to be taken into account. A French inquiry on the matter would soon report its findings, and it was to be hoped that this would provide more information on exactly what had happened.
There was a need to re-examine the relationship between experts and the rest of the body politic in complex democratic societies. A paper had been written on that very topic, which had explored whether it was possible for citizens and experts to enter into discussion, and under what conditions that process could be successful. Conclusions needed to be drawn from that work for individual countries
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I call Mr Agramunt Font de Mora.
Mr AGRAMUNT FONT DE MORA (Spain) reminded delegates that it was difficult for politicians to find the courage to resist fear and say, “No, we are not afraid.” He congratulated Mr Flynn on his brave report, particularly as it was hard to criticise other international organisations. He was obviously pleased that there were few victims of H1N1, but bemoaned the enormous amount of money spent on large quantities of vaccines and regretted the loss of confidence in all public authorities that would stem from the incident. He emphasised and supported the report’s conclusion of the vital need for transparency.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Agramunt Font de Mora. I call Mr Díaz Tejera.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) said that, despite their political differences, he agreed wholeheartedly with Mr Agramunt Font de Mora. Everyone had been a victim of a chain of massive deceptions. He, too, was glad that nothing serious had happened, but governments and citizens had been deceived and much money had been invested as a result of the deception. It was impossible truly to measure the harm done but the money could have been better used to fight diseases in poor countries.
He was saddened that the civil service of the World Health Organization had not co-operated with the Council of Europe and he reminded the WHO that it was in the service of the general interest. The WHO’s management processes and protocols had to change to prevent such an occurrence from happening again, as the credibility of the WHO and national governments had been damaged. It was clear that the drug companies had failed in respect of their social responsibilities and had put private interests above the general interest. It was equally clear that the response of public authorities had been inadequate.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Díaz Tejera. It was an absolute pleasure to hear from you. I am from neither the right nor the left, because I am the President, but I wish to say what an excellent debate we are having – that applies to all the statements I have heard since it began. I am entirely neutral, although of course my heart tends toward one direction.
I call Mr Ivanji.
Mr IVANJI (Serbia) – Who truly holds fate in their own hands? Is it me or is it you? Does anyone? I certainly hold my fate in my own hands, and it was up to me to decide whether or not to receive the vaccine. My wife and I have not received it, and neither has my child, who, like all children around the world, hates vaccinations. When people are scared, they try to find comfort in their faith in God, their faith in themselves or, if they are suffering from an illness, faith in a doctor. One’s faith in a doctor or a health minister is supported by faith in the World Health Organization. However, one cannot put one’s faith in every minister and every doctor. My doctor said that I should make my own decision, and I believed in him as much as I believe in myself – all the same, I said a prayer.
The Polish Minister of Health had faith in herself and, unlike some other ministers and governments in the world, she was fully aware that her position as minister obliged her to take full responsibility for her actions. Brave decisions call for brave individuals. Is it not the brave ones who make history and thus become a part of it? Mrs Eva Kopac says, “When prescribing a medicine, first ask yourselves: would you give that medicine to your own child or to your own mother?” That approach obliges people to take responsibility and, as much as I hate to admit it, that quality is not something with which most doctors are endowed.
Swine flu revealed all the deficits of the world in which we live; a lack of transparency in decision making, a lack of responsibility and good governance means that we, the citizens, can be easily misled by important organisations, in which doctors obediently trust. The epidemic resulted in more than 18 000 victims, each one of whom is equally important. However, we need to discuss the fact that governments throughout the world were also the victims of the WHO and that each taxpayer suffered a loss because the WHO was advised by those who had a conflict of interest. As a result, 88 million vaccines lie stored in warehouses while the profits of pharmaceutical companies grow. If I were a malicious person, I would say that many profited from this illness and the trust that has been betrayed.
On this occasion, the world reacted in the same way as it always does when a pandemic is declared. Any person who dared to sneeze was, all of a sudden, a suspect while many people stayed locked in their homes because of a simple cold. The world was divided into the cautious and the incautious – those who wore masks and those who did not. People refused to send their children to kindergartens if one child there had a temperature, and people who were infected hid their illness because they did not want to risk being proscribed and ignored by their friends for months after they got well.
All that happened, while others were making good money, because we were not informed, we panicked and we believed our doctors, ministers and governments – we believed the World Health Organization. I agree that we still have to believe them, but we must believe that the WHO will find the strength to face its own deficiencies. That is why we are sending this resolution out to the world; we do so in good faith and as an appeal. We have to face and handle all future epidemics responsibly; we must gather and act on transparent information and facts that are available to all in order to accept and estimate the degree of danger to ourselves. We should not allow ourselves to be treated as guinea pigs by anyone ever again. That is the reason why I am a proud Member of our Parliamentary Assembly today, because it has shown courage and responsibility towards European citizens. I congratulate us all on that, and I thank Mr Flynn for his brave report.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next speaker is Mrs Vėsaitė.
Mrs VĖSAITĖ (Lithuania) – Dear colleagues, I read this report as though it were a detective story. If the facts indicated in it are correct, a criminal offence has been committed against the taxpayer. Only 10% of the vaccines were used; the rest will never be used. At the moment we have more questions than answers. Who will trust the World Health Organization next time? If we tell people that there is a fire when there is no fire they will not trust us again.
I believe that the pharmaceutical corporations should take some responsibility, but they take none. Why do the 800 million citizens of the Council of Europe states not have the right to know who the decision makers in the expert group were? Those people influenced the national decision makers into taking the wrong steps. That is really scandalous. I support the report, and I support the idea that the investigations should continue. Those who made the wrong decisions should be punished. Thank you, Mr Flynn. I also send my thanks to Mr Wodarg, who initiated the report.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I now call Mrs Andersen.
Mrs ANDERSEN (Norway) – The handling of the swine flu outbreak has harmed our trust in the World Health Organization, as many of my colleagues have said. It scared our populations, resulting in a risk that, the next time we tell them to take a vaccine, they will say no. That could be dangerous. We have allocated a lot of money to a minor problem, leaving help for those hit by the big killers in the world unfinanced. In Norway, people were almost fighting each other in the queues for the vaccine, and accusing us politicians – almost to the point of threatening to kill us – because there was not enough to go round.
Everyone is still confused about what happened. I was confident that the decisions had been taken on a solid basis until I attended the hearing here in Strasbourg in January. However, we are still not hearing good answers to our questions about the change of the definition of a pandemic, and about whether there were secure rules on the connections between the pharmaceutical industry and the WHO to ensure that no biased advice was given during the process. That is all mentioned in the report, and I was really disturbed to read it. The months have passed since January, and there has been enough time to clarify those important issues. That has not happened, however. That is why I am quite convinced that we have to take this action, and why I strongly support the report and the resolution.
There are big killers in the world: AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, famine and diahorrea are just some of them. They affect poor people and poor countries, and perhaps that is why they are not so interesting to the pharmaceutical industry. They ought to be our concern, however. We ought to be spending more money on them, as well as on the other health problems affecting our populations. As many of my colleagues have said, however, there are many problems involved. No government, or individual politician can say that it will not take the advice of the WHO if it says that a pandemic is likely to occur. That is why it is crucial that we clarify the definition of a pandemic, to determine whether it will be dangerous. We must also have transparency over the connections between the WHO and the pharmaceutical industry, to ensure that we can trust the advice that we receive. This is a signal that we need financing for the important health matters throughout the world.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I call Mrs Frahm.
Mrs FRAHM (Denmark) – I am last but, I hope, not least. First, I want to congratulate the reporter on his splendid report. He has done a splendid job. Perhaps we should also celebrate the fact that the pandemic was not so bad, and that relatively few people were hit by the flu or died from it. Exactly a year ago, newspapers and other media in Europe had one big item on the agenda: the flu. People all over Europe were afraid to travel. People here in this building stopped giving each other friendly kisses, and small bottles of sterilising gel were sold and used everywhere. These were all good examples of how people took responsibility for not spreading the H1N1 virus.
Now, a year later, we can see that the threat from the virus was exaggerated, and the rapporteur, Mr Flynn, has made it clear that we have some cleaning up to do after the experience of the so-called H1N1 pandemic. It seems that the exaggeration of the pandemic was perhaps neither a mistake nor a coincidence. The pharmaceutical industries that earned a fortune from the pandemic had their people in the WHO, which had the power to declare the pandemic and thereby oblige a number of countries to buy large supplies of products from those industries.
The WHO and health authorities at European and national level broke with the principles in the European code of conduct in their handling of the situation. They thereby forced countries to spend billions on unnecessary supplies of medicine, as well as scaring the public all over Europe and the rest of the world. After a year, they are now willing to evaluate the process, but we need them to do more if we are to prevent health authorities from repeating the mistakes.
Organisations such as the WHO and the European health authorities need to be transparent and to publish information on the connections and economic interests of people in committees or other bodies who have an influence on decision making in these matters. The Assembly must support the line in the recommendation and call on the Committee of Ministers to instruct the European Health Committee and related bodies to promote good governance and to live up to the standards in the European code of conduct on lobbying.
Also, the Committee of Ministers must urge member states to put pressure on the WHO in order to secure an open and thorough evaluation of the process followed by a change towards good governance and a clear policy on lobbying. If it does not, the loss of faith in these institutions may be disastrous if – or when – a real pandemic threatens the lives of people in Europe and all over the world.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. By the way, I have a frog in my throat; I do not have the flu myself.
That concludes the list of speakers.
I call Mr Flynn, rapporteur, to reply. You have five and a half minutes.
Mr FLYNN (United Kingdom) – My great thanks to the team that created this report: Mrs Maury Pasquier, who showed admirable fairness as a citizen of Geneva in leading the report and chairing our committee in a thorough way, as the health professional that she is. The team realised that this was not like any other report; it was much more important. They were speaking for the people of Europe – not for private interests, not for privilege or wealth, but for the interests and health of the 800 people who we represent.
The two heroes of this debate, and I am grateful for all the kind things that have been said, are Wolfgang Wodarg – it was not a Welsh terrier but a German dachshund that kept biting at the heels of the World Health Organization – and Mrs Ewa Kopacz, the great, courageous woman, another health professional, who said to the pharmaceutical companies, “I don’t believe that there is a danger. I won’t accept from you that I should buy a drug whose safety you won’t guarantee.” Those companies had told the Polish Government that it would have to pay for any adverse side effects, and she very bravely made a statement in November and faced them down.
We have had a magnificent debate. How often is it that we hear voices in here from all parts of the political spectrum and from every corner of Europe singing a Hallelujah Chorus in harmony, saying the same thing? Our message is a powerful, thunderous and intelligent one of anger against a foolish act by the World Health Organization. We are the first body in the world to look at this problem and to denounce what happened. This is not going to go away.
We need to take a lesson from this. We need a firewall between the pharmaceutical industry, commercial industry, science and public health. At the moment, that firewall is porous. We must see decisions made about our health in future for the best possible scientific reasons – they must not be contaminated by the need for profit. I urge you to reinforce that message with a vote now in favour of this report.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Does Chair of the Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs wish to speak?
Mrs MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) thanked the rapporteur for what he had done in producing a balanced report that had attempted to find answers to legitimate questions surrounding H1N1 and the links between the WHO and the pharmaceutical industry. Representatives from the WHO had been invited to attend but had declined to do so. The WHO was conducting its own investigation.
It should be clear that the Assembly was being hardest on those it most loved. The objectives of the WHO were the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health and the development of informed public opinion on health matters. What had happened in the summer of 2009 went against those objectives. Transparency was needed to restore trust, but the Assembly should also appeal to governments to ensure independent funding and expertise for the WHO
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. You were able to express that on our behalf, and we thank you for that. You mentioned Mr Wodarg and other ex-colleagues, and I congratulate them on this important work.
The debate is closed. I thought for one delightful moment that you were applauding me, but, alas, my joy was short lived.
The Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs has presented a draft resolution and a draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 12283.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 12283 is adopted, with 60 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 12283.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 12283 is adopted, with 62 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Congratulations to the chairperson. Congratulations, too, to the Chair I am temporarily standing in for.
3. The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” presented by Mr Joseph Debono Grech and Mr Andres Herkel on behalf of the Monitoring Committee, Document 12270.
We will aim to finish this item at about 6.30 p.m., so we shall interrupt the list of speakers at about 6.15 p.m. to allow time for replies and votes.
I first call Mr Debono Grech, the co-rapporteur. You and Mr Herkel have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – After six years’ work on the topic of Azerbaijan, this is my last report. Five reports have already been presented, so today I want to start with emotions. I am extremely sad for the people in Azerbaijan. I had a lot of meetings in the parliament, in the ministries and in the president’s office, as well as in modest tea houses to meet the opposition in the regions of the country. I met some very interesting and well educated people, even in the prisons.
These years have given me a unique experience and I love Azerbaijan. During recent months, one question has been asked several times: whether I am satisfied with the results of my six years’ work. The honest answer is no. I wanted to record many more achievements in the fields of human rights and pluralistic democracy.
However, several positive aspects are mentioned in the report: a number of journalists were released following different presidential pardons, and the technical administration of the 2008 presidential elections reached quite a high level. Several changes in electoral law were adopted in close co-operation with the Venice Commission. Unfortunately, all those positive aspects lie in the shadow of deep concerns relating to the other side of the coin.
Some journalists are still in prison, and I must mention the name of Eynulla Fatullayev with regard to whom a positive decision was made by the European Court of Human Rights. However, he is still in prison, as well as two bloggers who were convicted last year on doubtful grounds.
Election day administration was one of the achievements, but it cannot compensate for the lack of pluralism and of a competitive context in which to hold elections. For example, according to the most recent news, freedom of assembly does not currently exist in the country. Opposition parties have difficulty in holding public gatherings and there are still unresolved problems in the electoral code, as expressed in paragraph 6 of our draft resolution.
I want to emphasise a point that is not included in the report: our initial idea was to present the classic country report covering all the necessary topics of the monitoring procedure, but we also wanted to cover the question whether there was a free electoral situation in the period before elections. Our final choice was to cover the functioning of democratic institutions. Therefore, we do not cover many questions that remain extremely important, such as the constitutional reform to abolish the two-term limit on the office of president. As it was adopted last year, it remains in contradiction with democratic principles.
The systematic handling of the question of political prisoners is a separate topic, and several other questions – for example, national minorities – remain outstanding. However, a lot of aspects are clarified in our explanatory memorandum, including my extremely interesting visit to the Nakhchivan region, which is separate from the mainland of Azerbaijan. It is a very special and complicated region.
That is my introduction and we look forward to hearing your comments during the debate.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Herkel. Mr Debono Grech, do you wish to speak?
Mr DEBONO GRECH (Malta) – I thank Mr Herkel for the wonderful job that he has done. I have been a rapporteur for only six months and his work has been very helpful to me.
I went twice to Azerbaijan. As Mr Herkel said, we met people from both sides – government and opposition. Those on the government side were very helpful wherever we went. We asked questions. They gave us answers. Some were very good while some were doubtful. However, I want to say that the work that the Council of Europe is doing in Azerbaijan is very helpful for the people.
We must keep in mind the fact that Azerbaijan has been in the Council of Europe for the past 10 years. As it had come from behind the Iron Curtain, we did not expect it, in just a few years, to achieve the terms of reference of the Council of Europe, especially with regard to democracy as we know it. From what I have read in the previous reports and what I heard in talking to people from the opposition and from the government, I think that we are making progress. It is not progress as we would wish to make it, but we will arrive at our destination.
With the help of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan will be a country that can contribute to the Council of Europe and to the region. We must bear in mind the fact that Azerbaijan is a very young democracy. Progress is being made slowly but surely. With the help of the Council of Europe and the work that my colleague has done, we will reach that stage.
I thank Mr Herkel for his work. I also thank the people and the Government of Azerbaijan. It is a very beautiful country and the people are very friendly. With our help and what we can do for Azerbaijan and for the region, we will have a democracy like we know in the west.
What we have done is encouraging. With the help of the Council of Europe and its member states, and with the co-operation of the opposition and the Government of Azerbaijan, we will arrive at the point that we are aiming at.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Debono Grech. You have four minutes and 15 seconds left for reply at the end of the debate.
In the debate, I call Mr Hancock, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – Thank you, Mr Mignon. I am always fascinated by the way you mention my name. It is like nobody else has ever said it before. It is always an interesting comment.
I thank the rapporteurs for their report and for the generosity of the Monitoring Committee in accepting some of the amendments that I put forward. I think that they went a little way to improve the report. That is an immodest statement, but I think that it is correct. It would be wrong of me, as the first speaker in the list, not to thank Mr Herkel. We have not seen eye to eye sometimes, on this and many other matters, but I appreciate his tenacity and his willingness to fight his corner when pushed to do so. I thank him on behalf of the Assembly for the six years of commitment that he has shown.
As a new rapporteur, Mr Debono Grech brings a refreshing view to the situation and he made some interesting points about the short time that he has been able to spend in Azerbaijan. It is difficult for anyone who has the opportunity to visit Azerbaijan not to be captivated by the beauty of the country, whether of Baku or the mountains – I urge members to go on the election-monitoring trip later this year and try to see the wonderful country. The people are also very friendly. They are unquestionably some of the most friendly and straightforward-speaking people you could wish to meet. That is why I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of Azerbaijan.
It is wrong to say that they do not have a democratic system or that they are working towards one. They do have a democratic system and, whether we like it or not, the people of Azerbaijan have got the government that they voted for. Okay, they voted for it in large numbers, but that was not the fault of the government or the president. It was the fault of the opposition. If you have a miserable opposition which is not prepared to work together or put coherent points of view to the public, you can hardly expect people to vote for it. That cannot be the responsibility of the Council of Europe. It is not our job to persuade the opposition to get its act together. We can suggest that it does so, but it has to do it. That is a fundamental part of democracy. If an opposition chooses, in a democratic system, not to get its act together to excite the electorate, that is nobody else’s problem. We cannot legislate to make those changes. That can only be done from within, and we have to accept that. So when Mr Herkel repeats his old adage about the lack of pluralism in Azerbaijan, we should remember that it is not our responsibility or of the people who win elections. It is the responsibility of people who fight elections to ensure that they offer people a choice. I am sick to death of hearing about opposition parties across Europe who, because they have lost an election, want to change the rules or think that everybody has something against them. That is what we hear in Azerbaijan, but the opposition never wants to hear the fair criticism that is levelled at it.
I welcome the report and the changes that have been made. I agree with Mr Debono Grech in the sense that the Council of Europe can still work with the administration there, and we have a delegation from Azerbaijan here who really do want to make their presence in the Council of Europe felt, especially when it comes to their own country. They have a president who sat with us in this Chamber and who knows only too well the responsibilities that now fall on him to deliver the commitments that the country has made. I have no doubt that in your possible five years as rapporteur, Mr Debono Grech, we will see not just a blossoming democracy, but one that has truly flourished.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Wilshire, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr WILSHIRE (United Kingdom) – On behalf of my group, I too welcome the report. If memory serves, the first election observing that I ever did was in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately – whether for me or for them, I am not sure – it was in an area in which a rerun had to be organised and I know from first hand that things were not very clever. I am able to look back over that and see how things have improved – and they have improved.
At the same time, it is no secret that Azerbaijan – it is not alone in this – has found it a difficult challenge to move on from their Soviet past to a 21st century pluralist democracy. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that. It is hard work. The leader of the Azerbaijan delegation is a senior member of my group and therefore I know, again at first hand, how much hard work has been done and how much hard work is being done. It is not a criticism to say that all of us know that there is more work to be done. The test that one has to apply on these occasions is whether good progress is being made – not whether perfection has been reached. There is not a country in the Council of Europe that has reached perfection in these matters. Some are better than others, but time will see progress.
As the report shows, there are some concerns and we would should not just pass them by. Paragraph 12 lists seven items that need to be addressed to ensure that November’s elections comply with European standards. I am sure that those seven recommendations will be attended to, and we can look back later and see progress. The Venice Commission remains ready to help. Paragraph 17 gives a list of three items that need to be addressed to ensure that Azerbaijan has a free and independent media. It is sad and a little serious that one of those recommendations involves complying with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. I say to my friends from Azerbaijan that, without a free press, a pluralist democracy is nearly impossible. I know that it is a challenge and I am sure that those three items will be addressed.
Building a democratic Azerbaijan is a work in progress. As it says in paragraph 4, “much remains to be done”. Much has already been done. Paragraph 5 says that the democratic credibility of the country is at stake in the elections. I am sure that that will be attended to. It also says that “shortcomings…need to be redressed.” I am sure that they will be.
It is now safe for me to agree with Mr Hancock, because back in London his party and my party are all happy together. So the days of me disagreeing with him are behind us. Mr Hancock said that he is enthusiastic and optimistic about Azerbaijan – so am I.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Laakso, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr LAAKSO (Finland) – I thank the rapporteurs for the excellent work that they have done. I had an opportunity to visit Azerbaijan recently, and it has been 30 years since my last visit. I visited Azerbaijan when it was part of the Soviet Union. President Kekkonen of Finland made his last official visit to the Soviet Union and I was part of his delegation. It was very interesting to see the development that has taken place during that time. I could hardly recognise the capital, because it was so different to 30 years ago.
As we know, there will be parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan in November. This report is meant to help the political parties, the politicians and the relevant authorities. The report is a road map for fair and free elections. It is based on experiences drawn from previous elections in Azerbaijan, both parliamentary and presidential. Its main message is clear: electoral fraud must not be tolerated in any form. My political group – the Group of the Unified European Left – agrees with the conclusion of the report: considerable progress has taken place in Azerbaijan, especially during the last presidential election in 2008, in meeting European standards of free and fair elections.
There has been intensive co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Azerbaijan authorities and also quite effective co-operation with the Venice Commission. However, we must regret that there was no prior request to the Venice Commission for an opinion on the proposed constitutional amendments in 2009.
There is a clear tendency in many member countries of the Council of Europe to “forget” the Venice Commission when dealing with difficult issues – I am not now talking just about Azerbaijan. We must not allow this to continue. It is even more dangerous, if we in the Assembly or in the side of the Committee of Ministers “forget” that the Venice Commission has an opinion on many important matters, which should be taken into consideration and followed.
Naturally, problems, both big and small, still exist in Azerbaijan, such as the election law. When we follow up, we must monitor election law very carefully, because the electoral code is very complex, as it is in many countries. There are complicated processes in the registration of candidates and in financing election campaigns, as well as slightly curious limitations on the content of election campaign material.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I call Mr Mendes Bota to speak on behalf of Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – In the opinion of the EPP, a healthy and democratic environment must be prepared in advance, before an electoral period. The breath of transparency is not compatible with journalists in jail, demonstrators arrested or limited access to the media. Democracy means the art of making a synthesis of the people’s wishes and thoughts – by that I mean all the people, not just some of them. In a democratic society, the role of NGOs is the best barometer to show how the system of power functions. If NGOs can influence the course of political change and if they have freedom of expression and action, it is possible to gauge the pluralism and diversity of opinions in a society.
The Assembly and this report recognise the efforts carried out by the Azerbaijan authorities to improve democratic standards since their accession to the Council of Europe 10 years ago. However, further important steps need to be taken, and the forthcoming parliamentary election will be a perfect opportunity to put behind us the atmosphere of suspicion that poisons the pathway to a generally recognised democratic system in Azerbaijan and undermines its credibility. The opportunity to issue a driving licence for the highway of democracy is not to be missed. It is getting late for the positive signs for which the international community is waiting. The release of Eynulla Fatullayev and other journalists who remain in prison is one such sign.
The arrest, intimidation, harassment and physical threatening of journalists or opposition members should be banned from day-to-day life as they will make an environment of dialogue and freedom of expression impossible. Special attention must be paid to transparency in the counting of votes from every single ballot box from the central electoral commission. Suspicion about electoral fraud is a main contributor to demotivation among voters, especially those from the younger generations.
We congratulate the co-rapporteurs on their balanced and straight-talking report, which deserves our support. Something was missing however: women’s access to political decision-making bodies. Only 11% of members of the parliament are women and there are no female ministers and only three female deputy ministers. Only 14% of judges are women. That is only a part of the picture of gender inequality in Azerbaijan, despite the fact that a Gender Equality Act was approved in 2006. The gap between the de jure and de facto situations is enormous and the country must do something about it. That justifies one of our amendments to the draft resolution.
The Council of Europe served as a way in for many countries to the club of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, as we like to label ourselves. However, it has also served as a school of ethics and democratic principles. Over 10 years, Azerbaijan has demonstrated an interest in graduating from that school. As a student, it frequents classes and participates in school activities. However, when it comes to the final examination, it has already missed the approval of the examiners twice. I believe that Azerbaijan has enough intelligence to understand that it should not miss a third time.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I call Mr Iwiński, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland) – On Tuesday, we discussed the situation in the North Caucasus region, mainly in the field of human rights. The Assembly is keeping an eye on what is going on in three South Caucasus states. On Azerbaijan, like others I want to commend the reports on its honouring of its obligations and commitments prepared by Mr Gross and Mr Cassan in 2002, by Mr Herkel and Mr Lloyd in 2007, as well as the report on political prisoners produced by Mr Clerfayt in 2003. Moreover, our delegation observed the last parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan five years ago and the presidential elections two years ago.
On behalf of the Socialist Group, I congratulate the co-rapporteurs on the report. It is particularly important given that we are approaching the 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership in the Council of Europe and that there will be parliamentary elections in November.
The report is versatile and balanced. The co-rapporteurs, in their various teams, visited Baku four times. They aimed to update the information on democratic reforms and to check whether progress had been made on human rights. Fortunately, they met not only the highest state representatives but NGOs, the media, the leaders of opposition parties and prisoners, including the two bloggers arrested last July. Moreover, Mr Herkel visited Nakhchivan.
In recent years, Azerbaijan has opted for European standards in respect of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Our Assembly has had the effective co-operation of the Azerbaijani delegation, which was once led by the current President Aliyev. I share the co-rapporteurs’ belief that progress has been made since the last presidential election in meeting European standards, but at the same time none of the previous elections has fully complied with democratic requirements. The most recent period has been marked by a weakening of the opposition both inside and outside the parliament. By and large, the parliament’s role vis-à-vis the executive needs to be stronger. What often happens in the South Caucasus is that some political parties do not take part in elections, and that has to change in the forthcoming elections. In that context, I welcome the international conference that took place in Baku two months ago. It was organised by two non-governmental organisations, one French and one Azerbaijani, and considered how to hold a more democratic and transparent election in which the main opposition parties take part. As has just been said, more changes need to be made, for example in the situation of women. Last year’s report by British think tank Chatham House stated, “Azerbaijan seems to be sleeping…The West must engage in this crucial, pivotal, strategic energy-rich state, but not only on Azerbaijan’s terms”.
I believe that Azerbaijan has woken up, as since that report we have observed more changes. The trickiest issue to address is probably that of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which has been analysed in the recent report by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. We welcome the release of several imprisoned journalists following the presidential pardon, but we regret that some remain in prison and the fate Mr Fatullayev is an acid test in this field. He should be released rapidly, as has been ordered by the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights. The Socialist Group is looking forward to the next report, which will be made following the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan in November.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Iwiński.
The co-rapporteurs will reply at the end of the debate, but does either Mr Debono Grech or Mr Herkel wish to respond at this stage? They would have four minutes in which to do so. That is not the case.
I call Mrs Hajibayli.
Mrs HAJIBAYLI (Azerbaijan) – Distinguished President and dear colleagues, we are tired of speaking about double standards, and I suppose that you are tired of hearing about them too. However, despite our tiredness or willingness, there are some things that we cannot avoid talking about, because we are elected representatives and we have responsibility, not only to those who elected us, but to our past and our future. The Council of Europe is an organisation that protects human rights and democracy, which are the highest values that all progressive societies try to achieve – my nation is no exception. When it claimed its independence in 1918, Azerbaijan became the first democratic republic in the Muslim world and some 23 months later, it became the first in the region. However, it was subsequently occupied by the Red Army.
In 1991, Azerbaijan regained its independence and, just one year later, became the first, and still the only, country in the region to lead all the former Soviet troops out of its territory. History repeated itself soon after as Azerbaijan became the first country in our region to have 20% of its territory occupied; we were punished because of our aspiration to be together with Europe. Those are lessons from our history, with us receiving our last lesson less than two years ago.
Over the years, we became more mature, and we started to learn from what happened close to our borders. We are not afraid. We realise that democracy and human rights are sacred values that demand sacrifices, but that should not be at the expense of our lost territories. The officials of the Council of Europe so easily and kindly refer us to the Minsk group of the OSCE whenever we remind them of the resolution adopted in this Chamber, which has not yet been examined. A country that occupied our territories is also a member of our Organisation, but it has never been seriously condemned or criticised.
Democratisation is a political process that requires political will and a political environment. Do we ask ourselves why we have the same or similar problems in Azerbaijan and Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, and Armenia and Russia? What are the roots of these problems? It demands political courage to respond to that tough question, and one then finds that it is much more difficult to criticise Azerbaijan or Ukraine. Let us imagine a big orchestra where many cellos, violins, pianos and wind instruments are conducted by a very experienced and strong conductor, but he is playing his music and we do not like it. If some players try to play their own, more melodic, more beautiful and more contemporary music, they are doomed.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the rapporteurs for their balanced and well-prepared report and for their efforts, especially those of Andreas Herkel, who is leaving us. I thank the Council of Europe, which has become one of the driving forces of the democratisation process in my country. If we are not strong, rich or courageous enough to support our own principles and values, as well as to defend those who are punished only because of their aspiration to be with us and share our values, we cannot demand heroism from them.
My final conclusion is that when we are not consistent in defending our principles and values, when we support them selectively – where necessary and when necessary – these values and principles gradually turn into interests. The Council of Europe is not an organisation of interests; it is a high-level European body of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mrs Hajibayli. I call Mr Rustamyan.
MR RUSTAMYEN (Armenia) said that the functioning of Azerbaijani democratic institutions should not, in logic, depend on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The idea of suspending monitoring of Azerbaijan had been raised but that would leave everything in place and allow the Azerbaijan authorities not to meet their obligations with regard either to democracy or Nagorno-Karabakh.
If this report were used to the full, he feared it would only reinforce the position of the president and allow him to be re-elected many times over. It might even make the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continue without resolution. He noted that Azerbaijan even now seemed to be preparing for war and had adopted a new military doctrine that risked escalating the conflict. In the most recent border clash five deaths had been caused by aggression from Azerbaijan. If the values held so dear by the Assembly were no longer paramount, the Assembly itself would become a party to the conflict. All the recent clashes had been caused by Azerbaijan, and a zone of separation was vital to protect the citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I now call Mrs Türköne.
Mrs TÜRKÖNE (Turkey) – Distinguished parliamentarians, I would like to start by warmly thanking our co-rapporteurs, Mr Herkel and Mr Debono Grech, for their detailed and balanced report on the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Azerbaijan. Since January 2001, when Azerbaijan became a member of our Organisation, it has undergone an overall transformation and made remarkable progress. Many political, economic and social reforms have been carried out in line with that goal. This has been a long and difficult process, as could be expected in any young democracy. As members of the Parliamentary Assembly, we should welcome the sincere efforts of the Azerbaijani authorities to honour the obligations and commitments resulting from their membership.
I am confident that the Azeri authorities are aware that the forthcoming general elections in November 2010 will be interpreted as a test of the level of maturity of Azerbaijani democracy. In that regard, I believe that the calls in the draft resolution to ensure that the conditions necessary for the full compliance of the general elections with European standards will be duly considered by Azerbaijan. I have full confidence that the Azerbaijani authorities will do their utmost to achieve that end.
The Council of Europe is not a club of perfect democracies. In fact, no country can be considered impeccable when it comes to human rights and democracy. There is constant work to be done by all member states to do better and to go further towards meeting the obligations and commitments resulting from their membership. We must acknowledge the fact that some member states face more difficulties than others in their efforts to achieve further democratisation. We should openly and boldly voice our concerns in those circumstances, but always in a constructive manner, as a friend would do to another friend in need. Let us always remember that we are here to achieve the collective goal of raising democratic standards across the entire European continent.
As a Turkish parliamentarian and a friend of Azerbaijan, I am confident that the Azerbaijani authorities will make every effort to address the constructive criticisms voiced in the report. I am sure that they will do that with a view to preventing the recurrence of any shortcomings and to ensuring Azerbaijan’s full compliance with the obligations and commitments resulting from its Council of Europe membership. In that regard, it is essential that all political groups in Azerbaijan work together and join forces for the sake of their country’s future.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I now call Mr Rafael Huseynov.
Mr R HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – The title of the report – “The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan” – reflects not only the essence of the topic but the social life and political ways of Azerbaijan as a whole. The fact that the substance and intensive functioning of the democratic institutions in that country are being debated for the fifth time in the Council of Europe – which is considered a school of democracy – means that democracy is an endless process in Azerbaijan. We have been keeping our eyes on the state of progress of democracy there through these debates over the past 10 years. That progress is now so obvious that it is impossible to overlook it.
Azerbaijan acceded to the Council of Europe in January 2001, but our co-operation goes back to an earlier time and has stood up to that initial test period. I recall one meeting from the period before Azerbaijan’s accession, at which I was an invited guest. I observed the meeting, and was at the time a correspondent of the “Voice of America” radio network in Azerbaijan. Haydar Aliyev, a leader in Azerbaijan, said the following in his communication with the experts in the Council of Europe: “We see the demands and terms put forward before us, as well as criticism regarding us. We know this is the style of Council of Europe, and that all these will go on after our genuine membership in Council of Europe. Nevertheless, all these cannot remove us from our aim. Our intention is to assert ourselves as a democratic European state and we are ready to overcome all obstacles in our way.” Our years of efficient co-operation with the Council of Europe, and our loyalty to our obligations and their full and successful fulfilment prove Azerbaijan’s devotion to the above-mentioned statement.
When comparing present-day Azerbaijan with the Azerbaijan of 2009, we can see that we are one step ahead. When we compare it with the situation in 2008, we are able to see much more progress. And compared with the situation in 2001, the extent of the difference is obvious. What is the philosophy behind this? The essence of it is that the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan will be more democratic and more perfect than those of 2000 and 2005. The essence is also that freedom of expression and freedom of the media, as well as respect for human rights, will be ensured at a higher level than in previous years.
Furthermore, the essence is that, in our years of Council of Europe membership, we have learnt to be tolerant, too, and to react to hatred and blackmail not with hatred but with a smile. Right now, I shall react to the speech by my Armenian colleague, which contradicts the truth, with a smile. I would like such people to learn the lesson of democracy from the Council of Europe as well. The essence is also that Azerbaijan, which has made a fairly active contribution to the Council of Europe in the past few years, will now make more efforts and acquire more decisive power in the Assembly. Finally, the essence is that the monitoring procedure carried out by the Council of Europe in Azerbaijan has been successful, and that it is high time for thinking about finishing that process.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Mr Seyidov.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I am honoured to speak in front of my colleagues here today, and I should first like to express my gratitude to both rapporteurs. They have done an important job for Azerbaijan. Mr Herkel is now presenting his last report as a rapporteur on Azerbaijan, and I want to express my gratitude to him on behalf of my delegation. During the past six years, we have not always had an easy time. Sometimes we have criticised each other or disagreed with each other, but we have learnt important lessons from these communications.
I also want to express my gratitude to Mr Debono Grech, who has created a constructive atmosphere between the rapporteurs and the delegation. We are now able to discuss very difficult issues in a constructive manner. At the same time, taking into account the fact that Mr Marty has just left the Chamber, I express my gratitude to the tough and difficult but objective Chairman of the Monitoring Committee, who always took an objective position regarding the parties taking part in the discussions.
During the discussions today, we have heard both compliments and criticisms about Azerbaijan. Today Azerbaijan is a different country which has done a lot of things and implemented a lot of the values of the Council of Europe. I cannot compare Azerbaijan 10 years ago with the Azerbaijan of today. I do not want to speak about the obligations that we have fulfilled, about our economic progress or about the fact that today the country looks more like a modern European country; instead, I want to talk about why these things have happened. From my point of view, it is because of the political will of my country and its leadership, especially the President of Azerbaijan, who worked for the Council of Europe for a long time, who knows the values of Europe and who tried to do his best for the integration of my country into the European family. In this way, we will be able to do much more than we have in the past.
At the same time, dear friends, Azerbaijan is not in an easy situation. We have lost part of our territory. We all know about the problem of refugees and IDPs and about neighbours who are not easy for us. Despite all these difficulties, though, as my colleague mentioned previously, we have learnt from the Council of Europe that with logic, a smart approach, political will and a desire to be together with the European family, we can and will do a lot.
Again I thank my colleagues and partners from the Council of Europe. I hope that the next report will show more progress than the report we have today.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I call Mr Rouquet.
Mr ROUQUET (France) paid tribute to the quality of the report, which had underlined concerns about the democratic credibility of Azerbaijan. There were well-founded concerns about the forthcoming election, 10 years after Azerbaijan’s accession to the Council of Europe. Journalists had been threatened and imprisoned. The climate of fear was contrary to what the Assembly was entitled to expect. He himself had visited Nagorno-Karabakh in order to meet President Aliyev, NGOs and others, but his delegation had been blacklisted. Others had been similarly declared persona non grata.
The situation was very worrying. Since the armistice with Armenia, there had been 30 000 casualties and many refugees. There were still many uncertainties, but it was important to follow the rapporteur’s recommendations in order that individual freedom and human rights might be respected.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Rouquet. I call Mr Fischer next.
Mr FISCHER (Germany) said that, after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, many countries had taken the path towards becoming democratic states. That path had proved rather tortuous. He wished to point out both progress and shortcomings but thought it better to begin with positive encouragement for states such as these. It was necessary to evaluate all states according to the same system; there should be no double standards.
Azerbaijan had taken great steps towards democracy. The elections in November would be of great importance. Electoral fraud would be unacceptable. He thanked the rapporteurs for their excellent report which he urged the Assembly to support.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Fischer. I call Mr Slutsky to speak.
Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) said he agreed with Mr Iwiński. Azerbaijan had awoken when it took its first steps towards the path of democracy. The current president had done much. Many refugees had been living in poverty in Nagorno-Karabakh, but they had been found places to live and work, and this was much to the credit to the government and parliament in Azerbaijan.
The current president was working hard to improve the situation; new criminal and civil codes had been drawn up, and the country had signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights. There were new laws regarding the media and the Courts. There were still problems, but Azerbaijan was honouring the majority of its commitments. Of course, further work was needed with regard to the opposition and the media, but there were huge differences between this report and the last. There had been 13 armistices between 2002 and March 2010. On 20 June, Azerbaijan had celebrated Human Rights Day. Of course, critics could say that Azerbaijan was preparing for war but every country had to ensure military readiness. Criticism should be more constructive.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Slutsky. I call Mr Ghiletchi.
Mr GHILETCHI (Moldova) – About 10 years ago, following the example of the other former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan sent a clear message to Europe saying that the future of the country was membership of the pan-European family. That courageous and historic decision will determine the destiny of the nation.
I was glad to read in the report that “considerable progress has been made, particularly during the last presidential election in 2008”. At the same time, however, the report makes it clear that the country’s democratic credibility is again at stake. There is even an amendment to delete the word “considerable.” There are serious concerns, especially with regard to the media and political prisoners. Despite the progress that has been made, those problems have still not been resolved.
In addition to the serious problems mentioned in the report, I want to raise another significant difficulty, which is religious freedom. Azerbaijan’s religion law is very restrictive. Under that law, it is almost impossible to register churches, which limits and discriminates against the Christian community, especially minority denominations. It is obvious that there is a need for a new religion law based solely on the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Baptist church in Aliabad has tried for 15 years to obtain state registration, but without success. Furthermore, one minister of that church, Zaur Balayev, was arrested in 2007 and condemned to two years in prison. In 2008, the other, Hamid Shabanov, was arrested and received the same sentence. I should welcome the release of both ministers following presidential pardon. On the other hand, the harassment continues and the church is still not registered.
In April 2009, a group of ladies from Agdash was arrested because they were teaching Bible stories to children in their homes. I would like to ask our Azeri colleagues in the Assembly to do their best to ensure that core Europe values such as freedom, democracy and human rights are implemented by their national government.
Yesterday, Mr Rafael Huseynov said that the key notion of modesty in Islam incorporates justice, tolerance, mercy and balance. It would be wonderful if those values were implemented in Azerbaijan. At the same time, I believe that the Council of Europe has a significant role to play in assisting Azerbaijan in its efforts to achieve full compliance with democratic standards outlined by the European Convention on Human Rights.
My sincere wish is that, next January, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership of the Council of Europe with a very positive report, covering both political and religious freedom.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Ghiletchi. I call Mrs Naghdalyan.
Mrs NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) found the report extraordinary. She did not recognised the picture of progress that had been painted. Azerbaijan had adopted changes to its constitution to enable power to be transferred from father to son. Mr Herkel had described what was an absolute monarchy as a “strong presidential system”. As for the election, the government was shortening the length of the campaign period to cut down on exposure for the opposition. The shortcomings were enormous; Azerbaijan was ignoring the Assembly’s opinion. The Assembly had stood silent as Azerbaijan had armed itself. There were serious concerns about the aggressive nature of its military doctrine, which flagrantly violated the principles that should apply to the use of force. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Minister wanted conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the government was preparing for war while the Assembly stood silent. Mr Slutsky had not portrayed the true situation.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I now call Ms Pashayeva.
Mrs PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) announced that this would be her last speech as a member of the Assembly and so she would speak Turkish. She was confident that her country’s translators would be able to convey her meaning with no loss of detail.
She emphasised the significance of the issues that had been discussed. She had a few ideas she wanted to put across and she asked the President not to limit her speech to four minutes as the Armenian delegation had made many claims and allegations to which she wished to respond.
She wanted to take a map and show it to all members of the Assembly so that they could see where the Armenian military forces and bases were. The territorial integrity had been recognised by all international organisations, including the Council of Europe and the UN. Armenia controlled 20% of Azerbaijani territory and she asked how this could be justified. The Armenian military was violating the ceasefire, burning the houses and villages of civilians and yet they tried to give Azerbaijan a lesson in how democracy should operate. She asked how a country that occupied 20% of another country’s territory, and had made millions of people refugees and migrants could justify doing so. Some 20 000 people had died in the conflict.
There were reports by the Council of Europe on the state of democracy in Armenia. They were not complimentary, and this made Armenia’s lecturing of Azerbaijan on how to run its democracy all the more implausible.
She wished to ask Mr Rouquet a question. As an Azerbaijani citizen and parliamentarian she held a non-Schengen visa. Would she be allowed to visit any part of France she wanted with that? France had recognised the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and some French representatives had visited parts of Azerbaijan that Armenia was occupying, lending the occupation credibility. She asked that France’s electoral representatives should act in a way that supported France’s decision to recognise Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. She was saddened that she had had to end her final speech in this way.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report.
I call Mr Herkel, co-rapporteur, to reply. You and Mr Debono Grech have four minutes to reply.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – I would like to thank everybody who has participated in the discussion, especially the Azeri delegation, the NGOs who are following our debate, the monitoring group and, of course, my co-rapporteur, Mr Debono Grech, and the former rapporteur, Mr Gross. I also had experience of very good reports with Mrs Jivkova and Tony Lloyd. I also thank the staff of the Monitoring Committee and their predecessors.
I especially thank those who mentioned the names of Mr Fatullayev and two young bloggers in their speeches. In April, I expressed my hope that those issues would be resolved before our report. Now I urge my successor, Mr Agramunt Font de Mora, and Mr Debono Grech to ensure that during their mandate and before the upcoming elections they try to ensure that the journalists who are in prison are released. That could change the feeling of freedom in the society and make it much more promising.
Mr Hancock, who is no longer here, said that I talked too much about the lack of pluralism, and that that is not my responsibility. But freedom is the first precondition of pluralism. If there are problems with freedom in a society, there can be no genuine pluralism. I emphasise that point.
This is the second report in which we have mentioned in our memorandum that one of the opposition leaders cannot travel abroad because he has a foreign passport. That is unbelievable.
I shall finish with a quotation from an old friend whom I have met many times in Azerbaijan. He said that when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, people dreamed about having their own independent democratic state. Now they dream that their own state will stop all the intimidation and undemocratic practices so that they can feel themselves to be the dignified citizens of a fully democratic state. That is what I wish for the Azerbaijani nation.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I call Mr Debono Grech, co-rapporteur for the report to reply.
Mr DEBONO GRECH (Malta) – I wish to thank all the participants in this debate. I can understand their feelings – both those who are in favour of the document and those who are against. I come from a colony and I have suffered. I was thrown in jail when we were fighting for our independence from Britain. We always monitor the former Soviet colonies, but we do not monitor former western colonies. We should do so, because when my country was fighting for independence, the Council of Europe blamed us for doing so, not Britain.
Even though we have our independence and our government, we have been through the same martyrdom as Azerbaijan is going through. I hope that the Azerbaijani people and both the government and the opposition can come to terms and that they can have fair and democratic elections. I hope that, with the help of the Council of Europe, they will make progress and succeed.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Does the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee wish to speak?
Mr MIGNON (France) wished to thank Mr Herkel for all his work over the past six years. He had been a tranquil, calm yet determined force in his role. The name of his successor had been announced, and the new rapporteur should be wished good luck. He had a difficult job to perform, doing detailed, in-depth work that ran the risk of identifying the country being monitored. That was why rapporteurs had to show courage in their work. Courage was a display of truth and dignity
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The debate is closed.
The Monitoring Committee has presented a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the following amendments, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, can be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.10.
The amendments are Nos. 3, 5 and 6 to the draft resolution.
The Committee also wishes to accept Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 as amended by oral sub-amendments. Therefore Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 must be taken separately.
As there is no objection I declare that Amendments Nos. 3, 5 and 6 to the draft resolution are agreed.
The following amendments have been adopted:
Amendment No. 3, tabled by Mr José Mendes Bota, Mrs Doris Stump, Mrs Lydie Err, Mr Paul Wille, Mrs Carina Hägg and Mrs Birgen Keleş, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 22, to add the following paragraph:
“The Assembly invites Azerbaijan to deposit as soon as possible the instruments of ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, to bring its legislation in line with the provisions of the convention and to ensure its effective implementation.”
Amendment No. 5, tabled by Mr Andres Herkel, Mr Göran Lindblad, Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk, Mr Zhivko Todorov and Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 14, to replace the words “Azerbaijan Federation of Human Rights Organisations” with the following words: “human rights organisations in Azerbaijan”.
Amendment No. 6, tabled by Mr Andres Herkel, Mr Göran Lindblad, Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk, Mr Zhivko Todorov and Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 15, to replace the words “, together with 99 other prisoners following the presidential pardon of 25 December 2009” with the following words: “following the presidential pardons”.
We will now move on to the other amendments and they will be called in the order in which they come into the text and in which they have been published in the compendium of amendments. For each amendment, you may speak for 30 seconds only. Please abide by that time.
We come to Amendment No. 1, tabled by Mr Andreas Gross, Mrs Marlene Rupprecht, Mrs Doris Barnett, Mr Alan Meale and Mr John Prescott, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 3, to delete the word “considerable”.
I call Mr Gross to support Amendment No. 1.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) spoke in support of the amendment, asking that “considerable” be deleted because it was incompatible with the next sentence which highlighted the many steps that still needed to be taken. He believed that judgements should be made post facto, not before the event.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the Committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) (Translation) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 1 is adopted.
We come to Amendment No. 2, tabled by Mr José Mendes Bota, Mrs Doris Stump, Mrs Lydie Err, Mrs Carina Hägg and Mrs Birgen Keleş, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 12.7, to add the following sub-paragraph:
“take all necessary steps (including the introduction of quotas or positive measures) to guarantee access for women to elected offices at the next parliamentary elections, thereby contributing to the efforts made during the local elections of December 2009 which resulted in women being elected to 30% of seats in the local assemblies.”
I call Mr Mendes Bota to support Amendment No. 2.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) said he really had a point of order. He wanted to clarify what the effect of the sub-amendment would be.
THE PRESIDENT confirmed that Mr Mendes Bota’s understanding of the effects of the sub-amendment effects was correct.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – The figures speak for themselves. Only 11% of the members of parliament are women and only three women are deputy ministers. There are no women who are ministers. We believe that in the local elections positions should be given to women in decision-making bodies. We are incentivising Azerbaijan to take measures.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I have been informed that Mr Herkel wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, on behalf of the Monitoring Committee, as follows:
“In Amendment No. 2 to delete the words (including the introduction of quotas or positive measures).”
In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated? That is not the case.
I call Mr Herkel to support the oral sub-amendment.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – We propose this sub-amendment because the question of the introduction of quotas would be very complicated. It is better to delete the phrase.
THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.
We have already heard from the Mr Mendes Bota.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – What is the opinion of the committee?.
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
The oral sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment No. 2, as amended? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 2, as amended, is adopted.
We come to Amendment No. 3, tabled by Mr José Mendes Bota, Mrs Doris Stump, Mrs Lydie Err, Mr Paul Wille, Mrs Carina Hägg and Mrs Birgen Keleş, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 22, to add the following paragraph:
“The Assembly invites Azerbaijan to deposit as soon as possible the instruments of ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, to bring its legislation in line with the provisions of the convention and to ensure its effective implementation.”
I call Mr Mendes Bota to support Amendment No. 3.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – On the sub-amendment, first –
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I am sorry, Mr Mendes Bota, but we have to play by the rules. If the President does not play by the rules, where are we headed? Therefore we have to speak about Amendment No. 3 first. You support that amendment and then I shall support that there is an oral sub-amendment.
MR MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Last month, in the ad hoc sub-committee, we had talks with representatives of the Parliament in Azerbaijan. We learned that the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was already adopted. We have asked for the instrument of ratification to be deposited according to the rules.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Now, I can tell you that I have been informed that Mr Mendes Bota wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment as follows:
“In Amendment No. 3, to delete the words ‘to deposit as soon as possible the instruments of ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings’.”
In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, if 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment it cannot be debated.
I call Mr Seyidov on a point of order.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I want rather to make a point of information. I want to express my gratitude to Mr Mendes Bota but we do not have information. I have the necessary documents presented to the Council of Europe and this question is already resolved because we have already done what is required by Amendment No. 3. We have already done it and we presented all the necessary documents to the Secretary General.
THE PRESIDENT said that he could not speak as president about issues of substance. He could only apply the rules of procedure.
He then called Mr Mendes Bota on a point of order.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – The oral sub-amendment was not exactly as you read it, Mr President. In the oral sub-amendment that I wish to present, I do wish to remove the words “to deposit as soon as possible the instruments of ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings”. However, I wish to keep the words in the amendment that come after “provisions of the convention”. The instruments of the ratification of this convention were deposited yesterday, but the provisions should ensure effective implementation. I do not see any contradiction in our congratulating Azerbaijan on the improvement and our asking for this to be implemented.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I think that is exactly what I said, was it not? I read out exactly what you just said, and I am not going to read it out a third time. Our time is running out, and I think that everyone has understood this now.
In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules.
However, do 10 or more Members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated? That is not the case.
In theory, I should give the floor back to Mr Mendes Bota at this point, but he has already discussed this oral sub-amendment, and everybody has understood what it says.
Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) said that the committee had not been informed of the amendment. But if the convention had been ratified in the last few hours he was in favour of the amendment.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The committee is happy to trust the wisdom of the Assembly. The vote is open.
The oral sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment No. 3, as amended? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 3, as amended, is adopted.
We come now to Amendment No. 4, tabled by Mr José Mendes Bota, Mrs Doris Stump, Mrs Anna Čurdová, Mrs Lydie Err, Mr Paul Wille, Mrs Carina Hägg and Mrs Birgen Keleş, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 22, to add the following paragraph:
“The Parliamentary Assembly congratulates Azerbaijan for its contribution to the parliamentary dimension of the Council of Europe campaign ‘Stop domestic violence against women’ (2006-2008) and for the current drafting of a law against domestic violence. It invites Azerbaijan to enact, before the next parliamentary elections, the law on preventing and combating domestic violence including violence against women, in accordance with the standards of the Council of Europe and the other international instruments, and to support the preparation of the future Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, in accordance with Assembly Resolution 1635 (2008) and Recommendation 1847 (2008).”
I call Mr Mendes Bota to support Amendment No. 4.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Azerbaijan made a good contribution to the campaign against domestic violence and violence against women between 2006 and 2008. However, a draft law to prevent and combat domestic violence was lying in its Parliament until last May, when it was approved in its first reading. We are asking that this necessary law be fully approved this summer or certainly before the next election.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Mendes Bota.
I have been informed that Mr Herkel wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, on behalf of the Monitoring Committee, as follows:
In Amendment No. 4, to delete the words “enact, before the next parliamentary elections,” and to insert the words “put into effect as soon as possible”.
In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules.
However, do 10 or more Members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated? That is not the case.
I therefore call Mr Herkel to support the oral sub-amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – I fully agree with this wording, which was in fact proposed by our friend, Mr Hancock, who is not in his place.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? I call Mr Mendes Bota.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – I oppose this proposal because we should make an effort, together with the Azerbaijan Parliament, to get this law approved. Of course, if it is approved, it will be implemented as soon as possible. I do not know why we should make it easier for Azerbaijan by removing the certainty over the date. Last May, commitments were given that this law should be approved before the next elections, which will take place in November. It is better for this law to be approved before then.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I call Mr Herkel on a point of order.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – This was adopted in the parliament. It stayed in the parliament, but it should be implemented.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
The oral sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment No. 4, as amended? That is not the case.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr MARTY (Switzerland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 4, as amended, is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 12270, as amended. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 12270, as amended, is adopted, with 46 in favour, 1 against and 0 abstentions.
4. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the agenda which has been approved on Monday.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting closed at 6.50 p.m.)
1. The situation in Kyrgyzstan
Mr Wilshire (United Kingdom)
Mr Zingeris (Lithuania)
Mr Iwiński (Poland)
Mrs Reps (Estonia)
Mr Chope (United Kingdom)
Mr Lotman (Estonia)
Mr Vareikis (Lithuania)
Mr Sudarenkov (Russian Federation)
2. The handling of the H1N1 pandemic
Mr Flynn (United Kingdom)
Mr Huss (Luxembourg)
Mr Marquet (Monaco)
Mr Parfenov (Russian Federation)
Mr Hunko (Germany)
Mrs Circene (Latvia)
Mrs Caparin (Croatia)
Mr Ünal (Turkey)
Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)
Mr Rouquet (France)
Mr Agramunt Font de Mora (Spain)
Mr Diaz Tejera (Spain)
Mr Ivanji (Serbia)
Ms Vésaité (Lithuania)
Mrs Andersen (Norway)
Mrs Frahm (Denmark)
Draft resolution in Doc. 12283 adopted.
Draft recommendation in Doc. 12283 adopted.
3. The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan
Mr Debono Grech (Malta)
Mr Herkel (Estonia)
Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)
Mr Wilshire (United Kingdom)
Mr Laakso (Finland)
Mr Mendes Bota (Portugal)
Mr Iwiński (Poland)
Mrs Hajibayli (Azerbaijan)
Mr Rustamyan (Armenia)
Mrs Türköne (Turkey)
Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan)
Mr Rouquet (France)
Mr Fischer (Germany)
Mr Slutsky (Russian Federation)
Mr Ghiletchi (Moldova)
Ms Pashayeva (Azerbaijan)
Amendments 5, 6 and 1, adopted, and 2 as amended, and, 4 as amended, adopted.
Draft resolution in Doc. 12270, as amended, adopted.
4. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting.