AS (2012) CR 19


Provisional edition



(Third part)


Nineteenth Sitting

Monday 25 June 2012 at 11.30 a.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 report.

Mr Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.

1. Opening of the third part of the 2012 Ordinary Session

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I declare open the third part-session of the 2012 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

2. Statement by the President

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Dear colleagues, welcome to Strasbourg for this third part-session. The economic and financial crisis in Europe and its consequences for our political and economic model are the issues dominating the international and European headlines at present. The agenda for this part-session is no exception to the rule. The austerity policies being carried out almost everywhere in Europe are clearly necessary in the current context of the sovereign debt crisis. However, their impact on our social model is severe. Millions of Europeans, in many Council of Europe member states, are affected and given the decline in their purchasing power and the increase in unemployment, they are showing exasperation with the social cost of the efforts required. The crisis also has political consequences. Many people no longer believe in the traditional mechanisms of democracy and are venting their dissatisfaction on the streets or by supporting political movements and parties of extreme or even extremist persuasions.

As members of this Assembly and elected representatives, we have a constant duty to listen to the views of millions of Europeans. We have to take action to find responses to their concerns. Obviously, over the next five days, we will not be able to find the solution to the crisis. However, we must draw on the experience of all 47 Council of Europe member states and make practical proposals to our parliaments and governments. First of all, we are going to examine strategies for responding to the social consequences of the crisis. The reports on austerity measures and their impact on society include many examples of interesting initiatives. In this context, I am particularly pleased that Mr Sigfússon, our former colleague who is now Minister of Economic Affairs of Iceland, will be here for the debate to give us his insights into the issues, as well as practical examples.

At the same time, as part of the debate on the state of democracy in Europe, we are going to continue our discussion of a comprehensive approach to the future of our democratic model. I hope that the debate will produce innovative proposals to feed into discussions at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments in Strasbourg on 20 and 21 September 2012, as well as at the future World Forum for Democracy, which, if you recall, we expressed a wish for in a report on Council of Europe reform. It is one of our flagship proposals, and I am delighted that the Secretary General of our Organisation has picked up the idea and fleshed it out. The World Forum for Democracy will undoubtedly be one of the great moments in the history of the Council of Europe.

While holding general discussions, we must remain on our guard to make sure that all member states of our Organisation respect our values and honour their undertakings in this time of crisis. I am thinking, for instance, of the developments in Hungary, where some laws passed recently raise doubts about compliance with our standards, in particular regarding the independence of justice. We can only welcome the major work carried out by the Venice Commission, which was consulted on this matter. I am also concerned about the possible consequences of the new Russian legislation on demonstrations, as respect for freedom of assembly and freedom of expression is vital in democratic societies. Lastly, our eyes are on Ukraine, and not only because of Euro 2012. Major reforms in the country are making little progress ahead of the parliamentary elections, due to be held in the autumn. Moreover, I must reiterate my concern about the situation of the former prime minister and opposition leader, Ms Tymoshenko – whom we had the pleasure and honour of receiving in this building – who is currently in jail. The Supreme Court in Ukraine will begin considering her appeal on points of law tomorrow and I hope that she will soon be released.

In these circumstances, it is vital to make sure that all European institutions take a united stance, particularly with regard to human rights. As you are aware, the European Union will shortly appoint a Special Representative for Human Rights, and it is essential that we create the conditions to build complementarity and synergy in our co-operation with the new body.

For over a year now, we have been very closely observing developments in our neighbourhood. Issues related to the Arab Spring regularly play a key part in our work and this part-session is no different. Our aim is always to ensure respect for fundamental rights in the process of democratic transformation taking place in the region. It has to be said that, on this front, the efforts of the international community and our Organisation are not always effective. In Syria, the massacres are continuing, in breach of the commitments made under the Annan Plan. In a climate of violence and impunity of this kind, it is impossible to talk about establishing a process of democratic transition. Today, on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, I once again appeal to all parties, and especially the armed forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, to end the violence and give the peace process a chance. There is a very real threat of civil war. We therefore need to act now and I call on all members of the Security Council, in particular the permanent members, rapidly to enter into practical dialogue about more decisive international action which could be envisaged in response to this intolerable situation, while complying strictly with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

I also feel bound to express my concern about developments in Egypt, where the process of democratic transition would appear to be in jeopardy. The dissolution of parliament and the granting to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of major powers, in particular the power to draft the new constitution, could seriously destabilise the situation. Although the results of the elections were announced yesterday, we still have doubts about the president’s actual future powers. We must keep a close eye on this rapidly changing situation. I therefore hope that we will decide to hold a debate under urgent procedure on the issue during this part-session, so that we can respond rapidly to any negative developments.

Overall, however, the Arab Spring offers an excellent opportunity for promoting democratic stability in the region. During the session, we will have the honour and privilege of welcoming Mr Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President of the National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia. The Council of Europe supported the holding of the elections and our Assembly observed them. Of course, we are only at the start of a long process of change in Tunisia and major reforms of democratic institutions and in the justice system will have to be implemented. The Assembly is willing to support the Tunisian authorities in this major undertaking, and I hope that our discussions with Mr Ben Jaafar and the efforts of the rapporteur, Ms Brasseur, will enable the National Constituent Assembly to apply for Partner for Democracy status, thereby opening up new opportunities for stepping up our co-operation.

During this part-session, we are going to welcome the heads of government of two of our member states: Mr Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania, who will address us as the head of government of the country currently chairing the Committee of Ministers, and Mr Zoran Milanović, Prime Minister of Croatia. These addresses are very symbolic because our Assembly has always fully supported the countries of south-eastern Europe in the process of European integration. In this context, we will be very interested to hear Mr Milanović, who will report on his country’s progress on the path to membership of the European Union and give us his views of the European perspective for the region. We will also listen very closely to the address by Mr Berisha in order to join together in identifying practical ideas for offering further support to regional co-operation in south-eastern Europe, taking full advantage of the momentum of the Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

In conclusion, I should like to mention another very important event which is taking place during this session: Euro 2012. I do not want to talk about the defeat of France or England yesterday evening and the victories of Spain, Italy and Portugal, but I want to express the wish that the team spirit which prevails in football and the sporting values of respect and friendly competition will also guide our work during this part-session. To succeed, a team must be united and cohesive and every team member must give their best to build victory together. I hope that over the next five days, our Assembly will be the winning team which always finds the right solutions at the right time. Being aware of the great competence and commitment of the members of this Assembly, I am sure that we will succeed.

I thank you for your attention and hope the session goes well for you all.

3. Voting Cards, register of attendance and written declarations

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I remind all members, including any non-voting substitutes and observers, to sign the attendance lists outside the doors of the Chamber at the beginning of every sitting.

I also remind members that a number of written declarations that were tabled in the April part-session will remain open for signature until the end of this part-session. These are listed in this morning’s Organisation of Debates document. In addition, a written declaration on surrogate motherhood, No. 522, has been tabled, which has been signed by 22 members, Document 12934. To add your name to a written declaration, please go to the Table Office.

4. Examination of credentials

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The first item of business is the examination of credentials of new members submitted in accordance with Rule 6.

The names of the Representatives and Substitutes are in Document 12962. If no credentials are contested, the credentials will be ratified.

Are any credentials challenged?

The credentials are ratified.

I welcome our new colleagues.

5. Election of a Vice-President of the Assembly

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item on the agenda is the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of the Slovak Republic.

In accordance with Rule 15.3, the chairperson of the Slovak delegation has proposed Ms Oľga Nachtmannová. If there is no request for a vote, she will be declared elected.

Since there has been no request for a vote, I declare Ms Oľga Nachtmannová elected as a Vice-President of the Assembly. She takes precedence following the Vice-Presidents previously elected.

I congratulate Ms Oľga Nachtmannová on her election.

6. Changes in the membership of committees

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Our next item of business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in document Commissions (2012) 06.

Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?

The changes in membership of committees are agreed to.

7. Requests for urgent procedure and current affairs debates

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Before we examine the draft agenda, the Assembly needs to consider requests for urgent procedure and current affairs debates. The Bureau received requests for an urgent procedure debate entitled, “Crisis of democracy in Egypt” from the Group of the European People’s Party supported by all political groups and for a current affairs debate entitled, “European institutions and human rights in Europe”, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe supported by all political groups. The EPP withdrew its request for a current affairs debate entitled “The European crisis boosts illegal trade in body parts” this morning.

Does the Assembly agree to these proposals?

The proposals are agreed to.

It has been decided that the current affairs debate will be introduced by Ms Anne Brasseur.

We now have to decide which committee will deal with the urgent procedure debate. The Bureau suggests that the Political Affairs Committee should deal with the debate under urgent procedure.

Does the Assembly agree to that proposal?

The proposal is agreed to.

The Political Affairs Committee will have to appoint a rapporteur to introduce the debate.

8. Adoption of the agenda

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item is the adoption of the agenda for the third part of the 2012 Ordinary Session.

The draft agenda which is submitted for the Assembly’s approval was brought up to date by the Bureau this morning. It has been distributed.

Is this draft agenda, as amended, agreed to?

The draft agenda, as amended, is agreed to.

9. Time limits on speeches

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Given the large number of speakers on the list for the various debates in this part-session and the number of amendments that have been tabled, to enable as many members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that speaking time be limited to three minutes for the debates from Monday to Wednesday inclusive.

Is this agreed?

The proposal is agreed.

10. Adoption of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee in Tirana on 25 March 2012 have been distributed, Document AS/Per (2012) PV 02.

I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.

Are there any comments on these minutes?

Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal) said that he objected to the spelling of his name in the minutes. This spelling had negative connotations in his country.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – We apologise, and we will correct the name. We see nothing but positive things in you.

11. Address by Mr Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – We now come to the address by Mr Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania. After his speech, Mr Berisha will reply to questions from members of the Assembly.

(The President continued in summary)

He said that Mr Berisha knew the chamber very well as a former member of the Assembly. His address would be very symbolic, as Albania held the chair of the Committee of Ministers for the first time.

The Council of Europe had been very supportive of Albania in the past: it had been the first international body to observe elections in Albania in March 1991, and Albania had joined the Council of Europe in 1995. Since then, there had been enormous progress and Albania’s chairmanship was a recognition of that progress. Its aim to join the European Union was legitimate, but there was much to be done, for example through parliamentary reform and anti-corruption measures. The Council of Europe would be there to provide support and assistance in finding solutions to the remaining issues.

Mr Berisha was intelligent, a great orator and a politician of vast experience. His speeches to the Assembly in 1992 and 2006 had been of keen interest, and again today many questions were likely from members. He was therefore very pleased to welcome Mr Berisha to speak.

(The President continued in English)

I invite Mr Berisha to address the Assembly. Mr Prime Minister, you have the floor.

Mr BERISHA (Prime Minister of Albania) – Dear Mr President, Jean-Claude Mignon, Mr Secretary General Thorbjřrn Jagland, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour and special pleasure for me to address this Assembly in the Palais de l’Europe on behalf of the first Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

I would like to start by extending to you, Mr President, my most hearty congratulations on your election as a member of the National Assembly of France. We are very pleased that you will continue the successful chairing of this Assembly in the years to come. I would also like to cordially thank you for the words and hospitality that you have offered me and my delegation during our stay in Strasbourg. I avail myself of this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to Secretary General Jagland for the excellent job that he is doing at the helm of the Council of Europe. Secretary Jagland and his team have been carrying out important reforms that provide this prestigious Organisation with the necessary impetus to move ahead towards its objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly, 20 years ago, on 6 May 1992, in my first official visit outside my country, as the first President of Albania – it had just come out of the worst dictatorship in Europe after the Second World War – I presented before this honourable Assembly the will of my government and of my nation for Albania’s membership of the Council of Europe. This dream, which Albania has nourished for many decades, came true in May 1995. Today, my country leads the Committee of Ministers for the first time.

(The speaker continued in French)

He said that he was at home within the walls of the Assembly. As a member of the Council of Europe, while opposition leader, he had shared his most exhilarating and important moments as a politician. Today was an historical moment. He was here as Prime Minister of Albania, one of the youngest democracies in Europe, which had assumed the chair after the United Kingdom, the oldest democracy. The UK deserved cordial congratulations on the success of its presidency. This year was the centenary of independence for Albania. After suffering splits, ethnic cleansing, and Orwellian dictatorships, it was now a free nation. To be president of the oldest temple of European democracy was the diamond in the centennial crown of independence.

Only 22 years ago, Albania had prohibited rights and freedoms and enforced atheism. Now, human and minority rights were respected, with religious tolerance for all, Albania was a member of NATO and was aiding the mission in Afghanistan, and its citizens did not require visas to travel in Europe. While Albania used to be one of the poorest countries in Europe, with per capita income of only $204 per annum, citizens now had medium-high incomes. The country was not developed per se but had the same child, maternal and general mortality rates as well as Internet, education and health access, as many developed countries. In 2001, the number of houses per capita was lower than in any other European nation, but in the last 10 years it had reached the level of developed countries and had surpassed five EU and OECD countries. In fact, despite the crisis, Albania had maintained considerable growth: 22% over five years, four times the average growth rate in the region. With this, Albania was building one of the most modern infrastructures in the region. It was also attracting significant numbers of tourists, with 2 million visitors last year.

(The speaker continued in English)

Albania is fully engaged in the process of integration into the EU as the best project for its future and the future of Albanian citizens. My government has always considered it a merit-based process. Certain internal problems have slowed it down for some time. However, those problems are finally being solved and the country will continue to press ahead vigorously towards the EU. The Presidential Committee of the Council of Europe has brought a real contribution to solving those problems in my country and I am really grateful. We have come a long way and still a bumpy road lies ahead for us, but the truth is that this is the success story of freedom.

In the last two decades, on our difficult but successful journey of building freedom and its values – democracy, the rule of law and an open society that respects human and minority rights – we have always had the valuable and important support of our loyal and outstanding partner, the Council of Europe and its institutions. I take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude.

Distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, it is for me a great occasion to reiterate the full determination of Albania’s chairmanship to work relentlessly in the next six months in close co-operation with the member states, this Assembly and the Secretary General to further promote and enhance the common values and objectives of our Organisation. Those common and universal values of freedom, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the free market, together with our people’s aspirations for peace and prosperity, are the strong bonds that unite our countries in spite of their unique and distinct historical, cultural, linguistic and religious traditions – hence the motto “United in diversity”, chosen by our chairmanship.

No topic could have been more appropriate at this time of major economic and financial crisis and other challenges than “Democracy at risk: the role of citizens and of the State today”, for these crises are often followed by the emergence of populist and extremist trends, not to mention the reappearance of xenophobia and even renewed racism and nationalism. This is why we welcome the decision to implement some of the important recommendations of the report, “Living together – combining diversity and freedom in the 21st century” as a clear indication of our firm determination to address any challenge that European democracy must face nowadays as regards the full respect of human rights. I take this opportunity to express my utmost gratitude and that of the Albanian chairmanship to the group of eminent persons for its commitment and professionalism in drafting this report.

To raise awareness of the significant findings of the report, the Albanian chairmanship is organising a high-level conference at which the following topics will be discussed: diversity in Europe as an asset for the future; promoting intercultural dialogue – a task for society as a whole in Europe and beyond; and the role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration into society.

In this context, we hope to strengthen the dialogue and co-operation with the countries of North Africa and the Mediterranean. The so-called Arab Spring is also a field where the Albanian chairmanship and my country intend to offer their modest contribution. We strongly support the democratic aspirations of those nations. We believe that they can find in the abundant experience of the Council of Europe and its related organisations helpful models for their historic undertaking of transforming their countries and societies towards more democracy, the rule of law, civil society and higher standards of human and minority rights.

That is why we fully support Secretary General Jagland’s initiative for more democracy and stable societies in the region neighbouring Europe. In close co-operation with key partners and through well-designed practical co-operation, this initiative could become an important framework for real progress in this direction. We trust that the Council of Europe possesses all necessary mechanisms in this respect.

I am also very pleased to note that this part-session will discuss the report on the political transition in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring. We commend the Secretariat for preparing the Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities 2012-14, especially with Morocco and Tunisia. We strongly appreciate the role of the Venice Commission and its valuable advice on the Tunisian constitution, and the adoption of legislation implementing the constitutions in Morocco and Tunisia. These reforms are essential for bringing the national legislation of these countries into line with international human rights standards.

The religious dimension of the intercultural dialogue is an important element in the democratic traditions of Europe. The Government of Albania adopted the National Strategy for Intercultural Dialogue in the framework of the Alliance of Civilisations and has established an intergovernmental mechanism for its implementation. The 2012 Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue will be our further contribution in this direction.

We Albanians are a small nation, but we are bearers of a great message – the message of exemplary inter-religious respect and tolerance par excellence, which is a centuries-old tradition of our nation. By presenting this valuable tradition of Albanian society, we aim to raise awareness of stereotypes and prejudices against the different religions, which are often used for purposes of indoctrination and conflict creation.

Other priorities of our chairmanship focus on the further consolidation of functional democracy, including that at the regional and local levels, and the rule of law throughout the continent. Following the well-established tradition of former chairmanships, we will continue to press ahead with the political reform of the Organisation and the Interlaken/Izmir/Brighton agenda for a more efficient system of protection of human rights, in particular with regard to reducing the burden on the Court.

Promoting closer dialogue with international organisations, particularly with the EU and supporting its enlargement in the western Balkans, is another important priority of our chairmanship.

The Albanian chairmanship will pay close attention to issues pertaining to young people and their education with respect to the values of the Council of Europe. To this end, a special event with youngsters has been planned to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and those who put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk to save Jews. As you know, Albania is probably the only country in Europe that sheltered, protected and saved its Jews during the Second World War and the dark years of the Holocaust. The number of Jews in Albania was many times higher at the end of the war than it was at the war’s beginning. You will become more familiar with those priorities when Albanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Haxhinasto speaks to you tomorrow.

Despite the devastating wars and painful dramas that the Balkan peninsula has lived through, nowadays it is experiencing a time of great effort among its peoples to achieve closer co-operation with each other and regional and European integration. Those integration processes have proved the main driving force for our countries as they pursue the path ahead. Albania maintains friendly relations with all its neighbours and other countries in the region. We believe that full respect for current international borders, regional co-operation and integration, and consolidation of the rule of law and democratic institutions represent the most secure path for building the European future that our countries deserve.

Albania has firmly supported the dialogue between the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia, and welcomed the EU-facilitated agreement between those two countries. We consider their full implementation an important factor not only for good bilateral relations between those two countries, but for the region as a whole. The Republic of Kosovo has turned out to be a real factor for peace and stability in the region. The Government of Albania greatly appreciates the significant role of EULEX and KFOR in this respect.

On 2 July 2012, the international community will officially withdraw from the process of observing Kosovo’s independence. This is an undeniable success as regards the consolidation of democratic institutions, the rule of law and respect for the rights of minorities in this country. In all these processes, the Council of Europe has offered valuable help. I hope and wish for further strengthening of that co-operation, which will result in bringing Kosovo even closer to the Council of Europe and in gaining soon its rightful place within this institution of the democratic nations of Europe.

The Balkan peninsula is one of the richest with regard to minorities. Therefore, expanding and strengthening their rights will continue to remain a priority for all our countries, as well as a condition sine qua non for peace and stability. I am fully convinced that the best way to address their concerns and problems is full implementation of the documents and conventions of the Council of Europe on the rights of minorities.

To conclude, I wholeheartedly invite you all to co-operate closely in the months ahead to give life to all those priorities, while assuring you that the Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is fully committed to work hard to promote the values of this prestigious Organisation, with the aim further to consolidate the democratic spirit and institutions in our societies and the rule of law, and to enhance democratic institutions at the regional and local levels, while continuing political reform with the intention of achieving a more efficient political organisation and a Court that fully guarantees the highest level of human rights protection everywhere on the continent. Let us work together to turn the Albanian chairmanship into a success story for my country, for your countries and for the Council of Europe. Thank you very much for your attention.

THE PRESIDENT – (Translation) Thank you very much, Mr Berisha, for your very interesting address.

Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you now.

I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

The first question is from Mr Volontč, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr VOLONTČ (Italy) said that Mr Berisha had evoked the Arab Spring and the Balkans with reference to religious freedom and asked how Mr Berisha saw his role regarding these turbulent areas.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) –Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA said that he was concentrating on the human rights of minorities. Albania was a genuine contributor to the rights of minorities in Kosovo. There was a tradition of mutual respect of minorities and the experience in Kosovo after the war had been positive. Albania had a tradition of respect of minorities which could be offered to other countries, including those of the Arab Spring. He had encountered representatives of Libya and other Arab countries and they had expressed interest in Albania. Albania was a majority Islamic multi-religious country and had demonstrated that Islam was compatible with democracy. Islam did not have to be associated with oppressive, theocratic regimes. Within a month, he would set-up a conference for dialogue on this issue.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I call Mr Schennach, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) said that Albania was a modern, dynamic and pleasant country which had undergone huge reform. In the context of Albania’s centenary and its chairmanship, he asked what was the Prime Minister’s position on the problem of blood feuds and revenge, which were contrary to human rights and the rule of law.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA Thank you for your question. I definitely have to accept that vendetta was a tradition in the old codes of my nation, but it has almost been archived into the past. There are still cases; they have not been reduced to zero, but they are very few. Last year, the chairman of the United Nations human rights body investigated the matter and found that the phenomenon did exist, but that it was much smaller than had been proclaimed. If you ask me what the remedy should be, I would say that it is to strengthen the rule of law. Allow me to give you a statistic. When I came to power in 2005, the population of our prisons was 1 800; it is now around 5 000. Criminality in our country is lower than the average for the European Union, but the law is enforced. The best way to prevent crime is to enforce the law. I am happy that we do not have the death penalty, but we have other sentences that will help to make this unhelpful old habit disappear.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next question is from the Earl of Dundee, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

EARL OF DUNDEE (United Kingdom) – Prime Minister, you have already referred to the problems of the western Balkans. During your country’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, what plans do you have further to assist stability in the region of south-east Europe?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – The greatest leverage for our nation and our countries is EU integration. When I look at the situation 12 to 15 years ago, I see a tragic recent past, but today all those nations are seeking to work with each other and to have a common future. In my humble opinion, that is because all those nations see EU integration as the best way forward. That is why it will be crucial for those nations to join the EU. The last agreement between Serbia and Kosovo was a great success. It is going to be implemented, and it will provide a solution – not a total solution, but an important one none the less – with big consequences for a small region. In my opinion, EU integration is the best way to consolidate peace and stability in the western Balkans and in the Balkans as a whole.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next question is from Mr Xuclŕ, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr XUCLŔ (Spain) said that he had twice visited Albania and appreciated the democratic process that was going on there. The opposition had not played its full part for some months. He asked when this situation would be normalised and about representation in the Assembly.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Thank you for your question. It is true that after the 2009 elections the opposition adopted a boycott – or half-boycott – because they were very disheartened about the results of those elections, even though international observers stated that the elections met most OSCE standards and that there was no evidence of the results being manipulated or irregular counting. It took some time, because the Albanian opposition is pro-European Union – it is not at all anti-European. The problem was that the leader of the opposition thought that blocking the government would increase the opposition’s political capital. Local elections were held, in which the Council of Europe was deeply involved in helping – as a matter of fact, the Presidential Committee and the resolution drafted in this place were very helpful. The opposition is now in parliament. Last October, we reached an agreement, and it is almost entirely honoured by both sides. We are finalising electoral reform in a very consensual spirit. I am happy to inform you that this reform started in December, and until now the committee concerned has discussed only those amendments proposed by the opposition, because the opposition asked for this initiative and we agreed to it. Indeed, we will never tire of offering the opposition this consensual spirit.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Petrenco, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova) – Prime Minister, thank you for your address. On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, but also as the co-rapporteur on Albania, I would like to ask you a question. Your speech was quite optimistic. Indeed, many things have been done in Albania to secure EU candidate status. At the same time, there are a lot of problems that need to be solved, such as the high level of corruption, and electoral reform. However, we would like to remind you of our colleague Dick Marty’s report on the trafficking of human organs from Kosovo during the conflict. What is your position on this issue nowadays and how will you co-operate with the investigation into those events?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Thank you for your question. First, corruption is definitely the “mater and matrix” of all wrongs in a free country. That is why we are committed to fighting against it. We have achieved some very important results in fighting against corruption, and although we have not eradicated it, my government has improved procurement and collected more taxes – around $8 billion – even though we have decreased taxes by a half.

With regard to Dick Marty’s report, officially, I am very interested in investigating every single accusation involving crimes against humanity or war crimes. No national difference should exist. Saying that, however, I regretted what were some genuinely racist nuances in that report – and when I learnt that it was largely written by Vukčević, I regretted it even more. However, this has not blocked at all what I have said to the investigation, and our parliament has put in place a special law from your colleagues that gives all authority to the EULEX investigating team in my country. They drafted the law and we voted for it as it was. This matter must be thoroughly investigated. That is my stand on this issue.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Toshev.

Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria) – Mr Prime Minister, welcome back to our Assembly. If you remember, when you came to address us in 1993 in your capacity as President of Albania, I raised with you the issue of Bulgarians traditionally living in your country. Now when you come here as Prime Minister of Albania, I would like to raise the same issue with you. What progress has Albania made in respect of protecting the human and minority rights of Bulgarians traditionally living in Albania?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Dear friend, I assure you that I remain – we remain – very committed to fully respecting the Council of Europe Convention on Minorities. In my country, we do our very best to support them and to strengthen their identity and their ties and relations with their own nations. We are very happy to have a number of small but shining minorities in different areas of the country.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next question is from Mr Fournier.

Mr FOURNIER (France) said that he had chaired the group on friendship with Europe, but he had concerns about Albania in the context of European integration. Reforms were expected in the judiciary and the media and he asked for details of the timetable for expected reforms.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA said that he wished to reassure Mr Fournier. He was proud of his friendship. There were arguments about the electoral code, but the current code was the result of a consensus. He hoped that electoral reforms would be finished soon. Since last October, there had been constructive co-operation between the majority party and the opposition. Several laws had been passed. The opposition had submitted some amendments.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next question is from Mr Díaz Tejera.

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) said that he wished Albania good luck in its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. He wanted to ask about combating corruption: what could be done about this canker on democracy?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Considering that corruption is the biggest problem and, I think, the greatest enemy of a free people, we started with the principle of fighting corruption and driving it from our offices. First, we introduced standards that allowed the administration to diminish operating expenses from 3.2% to 1.8% of GDP. Secondly, we privatised all major corporations. Thirdly, we decreased by 33% the entire administration. We are one of the 10 smallest administrations in the world in proportion to our population. Fourthly, we have become the first country in the world with 100% e-procurement. Many countries have a much higher index of ICT penetration, but by 2009, we became the first country with 100% e-procurement – a practice that allowed us to gain around 29% more money. We are now an e-concession country, and we will soon be an e-small-buying country. We are very much using digital practices to increase transparency.

At the same time, hundreds and hundreds of officials are paralysed by corruption. Corruption remains a problem to be fought, but there is a strong fight against it. We work very closely with the GRECO unit here, which is, in my view, the best unit in Europe. As a country, we have met almost all but two recommendations, and I think that one of them is very important: the removal of immunity, which is something that must soon happen in Albania. We continue this struggle – it is a crucial interest – but I stress that, even through the current climate, we have managed to have around $8 billion more in our budget than the previous government did in the same period of time.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr de Bruyn.

Mr DE BRUYN (Belgium) – I would like to mention an incident that took place last month, when the Albanian vice-minister of defence commented on the first ever Albanian gay parade by stating that people taking part in the parade “should be beaten with truncheons”. The prime minister rejected this statement as unacceptable and excessive, but I would like to learn from Mr Berisha what exactly his government plans to do in order to avoid homophobic remarks or even actions by members of his government and administration. Could Mr Berisha please tell us what will be done so that high-ranking officials respect LGBT rights?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Thank you for your question. I believe that every citizen has the right to have his or her sexual orientation respected. We have introduced a very good law in this respect. We have also a commissioner’s office to deal especially with this law. For the first time in history, these people asked to have their parade, which was their right. Definitely, my government stood in full support of them and called for full tolerance. It is true that an official made a very unhelpful statement, but there were no consequences because the parade went very well. A very important conference against homophobia was held two weeks ago to support anti-discrimination measures, and it went very well. In my view, it is also very important that if this was a taboo several years ago, it is no longer one at all. In the media and everywhere else, these people are present, claiming their rights and making their presence felt. So there is a positive change, and I was really happy that the parade was peaceful, quiet and took place without incident.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next question is from Ms Zohrabyan.

Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia) said that Serbia had not recognised Kosovo’s independence and asked what Mr Berisha’s stance was on the measures taken in relation to Azerbaijan, in connection with Nagorno-Karabakh.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Our stance towards this region is the same as the Committee of Ministers’ stance. We are looking at what kind of contribution we can make, and the Council of Europe has offered its assistance to build democratic institutions there and engage more in fulfilling the commitments there.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Gaudi Nagy.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – Your excellency, since 2008, 93 states have recognised Kosovo as an independent state, and my country is among them. We are firm advocates of Albania being in the EU as well. According to the principles of the UN and the Council of Europe, the humanitarian rights of all traditional, national communities should be ensured. Do you agree with the view that territorial autonomy should be ensured for the Serb community living in Kosovo, although twice as many Hungarians live in the northern part of Serbia and Vojvodina?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – The Council of Europe has very much helped Kosovo in building its own institutions and consolidating human and minority rights. I fully support the Secretary General’s initiative and agree that getting closer to the Kosovan authority is crucial and vital. As you know, they are frequently talking to and working with the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the Secretary General of the United Nations, and they have many reasons to work more closely with the Council of Europe. It is fundamental that all countries accept the irreversibility of the realities of the situation. This is crucial. Once we accept the irreversibility of the situation, we definitely have no choice but to talk, to hold a dialogue and to accept better standards because of what is happening in northern Mitrovica, where three Serbian communities – there are no Albanians there – do not have peace and stability. Serbs form the majority south of the Ibar, and live in full peace and harmony with Albania. I believe that their rights should be fully observed. I believe that the integrity and sovereignty of Kosovo should not be put in question. I am optimistic, after the important agreement that was signed between Pristina and Belgrade, that another agreement about the whole situation will be reached. I fully agree that it is not in the interests of Serbia or any other country in the region to ask more than is provided by the European Convention on Minorities, which should be the basis for the minorities in our countries.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Renato Farina.

Mr R. FARINA (Italy) said that he was very happy that young and dynamic Albanians were at the forefront of developments. He was interested in the strengthening of relations between Albania and Turkey, and wanted to know what implications this had. The Turkish Foreign Minister had said that there might be the possibility of a bloc against the Greek and Bulgarian bloc.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA said that Albania was traditionally friendly with Turkey, but this was also true for Greece and Bulgaria. The contribution of all of those countries to co-operation was appreciated. The best project to pursue from Albania’s point of view was integration with the European Union and he hoped that this would happen and that Turkey would also become a member.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Michel.

Mr MICHEL (France) said that Albania played a very important role in the western Balkans and he asked whether Albania’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers would be used to promote appeasement both with respect to Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA said that inter-ethnic problems in Macedonia were the result of other causes. Nevertheless, peace and stability were of vital importance to the region. It was therefore necessary to promote co-operation and mutual respect, and for the relevant accords to be underscored.

As regards Kosovo, huge progress had been made with respect to minorities. In the north, there was a homogeneous Serbian community, which made the instability difficult to understand – it was clear that nationalism was not the only factor. The Ahtisaari plan laid out a legal framework for progress and should be applied to the three municipalities in northern Mitrovica, so long as manipulation by Serbian nationalist forces could be avoided. Above all, the Kosovan Government had a serious vision, which it was looking to implement with the help of the European Union, the United States and the P5.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Agramunt.

Mr AGRAMUNT (Spain) said that he remembered meeting Mr Berisha at an EU meeting in Valencia. Though the viability of Kosovo was the primary question, he asked what was Mr Berisha’s view of the self-proclaimed independence formula that Kosovo had used.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – Thank you for your question. In 1993, the former President of the former Yugoslavia, Dobrica Ćosić, who was also the founder of modern Serbian nationalism, wrote a book in which he stated that the only way for Serbia to get its place among the civilised and developed nations was to get rid of Kosovo. That is very true, because if we look at the history, we see that Kosovo was never part of Serbia. The historic reality is different from the myth. It was given as a punishment to the Ottoman Empire – a process that started with San Stefano and the Berlin Congress and ended with the London Conference.

The late Robin Cook said in 1999, in the House of Commons, that when European nations sent their air forces to free Kosovo, that they were doing nothing other than undoing what they had done wrong. I have been in power twice, and I can assure you that in 1997 the authorities in Belgrade had not a single project other than the partition of Kosovo.

Rambouillet was a great effort to find a solution, but Belgrade rejected it. As a matter of fact, Belgrade wanted partition, so the independence of Kosovo is genuine. When Montenegro proclaimed independence, many European friends asked me how that small country could survive, but I said that it had survived centuries as an autonomous nation. Now it is making a great contribution to peace and stability in the region.

If we look at the history of the Balkans, we see 100 years of efforts, uprisings, fighting and demonstrations for freedom in Kosovo. Since it became independent, the region has got quieter and quieter. All but a few free nations have recognised its independence, and the court in The Hague ruled in favour of its independence.

If we look back at the former Yugoslavia, we see that the province of Kosovo had cultural accord and veto rights. It twice chaired the rotating presidency of the former Yugoslavia. It had no reason not to be independent, and I hope that, as a great friendly country, Spain will send missions. You are making a great contribution there, but more missions are necessary to look at the new reality that is growing there.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. I see that Mr Beneyto is not here, so the next question is from Mr Nagy.

Mr NAGY (Hungary) – Dear Prime Minister, I congratulate you on the enormous progress that Albania has achieved, both politically and economically, in the last two decades. It is remarkable that the Albanian economy has not ceased to grow even during recent years, thus presenting an interesting example for many European countries. Could you give us a brief summary of the sources of Albania’s impressive economic performance? How does your government handle the impact of the international financial crisis?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. Would you like to answer that question, Mr Berisha?

Mr BERISHA – I am a low-tax man. When I started politics, I knew nothing about the economy, but I was a staunch believer in and follower of Ronald Reagan. He inspired me. He wrote that the money in the accounts of private people is worth as much as the money in the accounts of the government. Therefore, I gave a low fiscal burden to my citizens, and it worked. My country soon became a two-digit growth country. Later, once back in power, I went back to low taxes. We implemented 10% profits tax, 10% corporate tax, 15% social security contributions and so on. That great relief doubled and tripled business activity in my country. I also worked hard to free business from bureaucratic burdens. First, we are one of the 10 smallest administrations in the world per capita. Secondly, we are one of the 10 most short-handed governments with regard to businesses. We try. When I look at this crisis, I believe that the private sector will drive countries out of it, and it is vital to find a way to help it because the public sector is very modest.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you. We must now conclude the questions to Mr Berisha. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank you most warmly for your address and for the answers you have given to questions.

12. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting

THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.)


1. Opening of the third part of the 2012 part-session

2. Statement by the President

3. Voting cards, register of attendance and written declarations

4. Examination of credentials

5. Election of a Vice-President of the Assembly

6. Changes in the membership of committees

7. Requests for urgent procedure and current affairs debates

8. Adoption of the agenda

9. Time limits on speeches

10. Adoption of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee

11. Address by Mr Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania


Mr Volontč (Italy)

Mr Schennach (Austria)

Earl of Dundee (United Kingdom)

Mr Xuclŕ (Spain)

Mr Petrenco (Moldova)

Mr Toshev (Bulgaria)

Mr Fournier (France)

Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain)

Mr De Bruyn (Belgium)

Ms Zohrabyan (Armenia)

Mr Gaudi Nagy (Hungary)

Mr R. Farina (Italy)

Mr Michel (France)

Mr Agramunt (Spain)

Mr Nagy (Hungary)

12. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting


Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk.

Francis AGIUS



Alexey Ivanovich ALEKSANDROV/Sergey Kalashnikov


José Antonio ALONSO


Lord Donald ANDERSON

Florin Serghei ANGHEL*

Khadija ARIB*


Francisco ASSIS*


Daniel BACQUELAINE/ Dirk Van Der Maelen

Viorel Riceard BADEA*


Pelin Gündeş BAKIR

Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Sílvia Eloďsa Bonet Perot


José Manuel BARREIRO/Carmen Quintanilla


Marieluise BECK*

Alexander van der BELLEN*

José María BENEYTO*







Ľuboš BLAHA*

Roland BLUM/Marie-Jo Zimmermann

Jean-Marie BOCKEL/Bernard Fournier

Eric BOCQUET/Maryvonne Blondin



Mladen BOSIĆ/Mladen Ivanić

António BRAGA


Márton BRAUN

Federico BRICOLO*



Patrizia BUGNANO/Giuliana Carlino



Sylvia CANEL*




Vannino CHITI

Christopher CHOPE

Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN/Anette Trettebergstuen

Desislav CHUKOLOV/Irena Sokolova

Lolita ČIGĀNE/Andris Bērzinš



Deirdre CLUNE/John Paul Phelan


Agustín CONDE*





Cristian DAVID*


Giovanna DEBONO*

Armand De DECKER*


Peter van DIJK*




Daphné DUMERY*

Alexander (The Earl of) DUNDEE



Baroness Diana ECCLES*

József ÉKES*


Gianni FARINA*

Nikolay FEDOROV/Svetlana Zhurova


Vyacheslav FETISOV

Doris FIALA/Luc Recordon

Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Pavel Lebeda



Gvozden Srećko FLEGO



Jean-Claude FRÉCON

Erich Georg FRITZ




Sir Roger GALE*

Jean-Charles GARDETTO



Sophia GIANNAKA/Dimitrios Papadimoulis


Michael GLOS*

Pavol GOGA*

Obrad GOJKOVIĆ/Snežana Jonica

Jarosław GÓRCZYŃSKI/Mirosława Nykiel


Martin GRAF*


Andreas GROSS





Ana GUŢU/Corina Fusu

Carina HÄGG








Oliver HEALD

Alfred HEER








Andrej HUNKO




Stanisław HUSKOWSKI*

Shpëtim IDRIZI/Kastriot Islami

Željko IVANJI*






Michael Aastrup JENSEN*


Mats JOHANSSON/Mikael Oscarsson

Birkir Jón JÓNSSON*

Armand JUNG*

Antti KAIKKONEN/Sirkka-Liisa Anttila

Ferenc KALMÁR/Gábor Tamás Nagy

Božidar KALMETA/Melita Mulić


Michail KATRINIS/Georges Charalambopoulos


Bogdan KLICH/Jadwiga Rotnicka

Haluk KOÇ


Tiny KOX


Borjana KRIŠTO*


Jean-Pierre KUCHEIDA/Jean-Pierre Michel


Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ*


Igor LEBEDEV/ Nadezda Gerasimova

Jean-Paul LECOQ/Bernadette Bourzai





François LONCLE*

Jean-Louis LORRAIN


Younal LOUTFI*



Philippe MAHOUX





Muriel MARLAND-MILITELLO/Jacques Legendre

Meritxell MATEU PI/Josep Anton Bardina Pau




Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE*



Ivan MELNIKOV/Leonid Kalashnikov




Jean-Claude MIGNON/Christine Marin




Andrey MOLCHANOV/Vladimir Zhidkikh


Patrick MORIAU





Philippe NACHBAR



Gebhard NEGELE

Aleksandar NENKOV*

Pasquale NESSA


Baroness Emma NICHOLSON


Tomislav NIKOLIĆ*

Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI*






Vassiliki PAPANDREOU/Elsa Papadimitriou




Johannes PFLUG*

Alexander POCHINOK


Lisbeth Bech POULSEN/ Nikolaj Villumsen


Cezar Florin PREDA*




Gabino PUCHE





Mailis REPS/Indrek Saar

Andrea RIGONI*


Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*





Branko RUŽIĆ*

Volodymyr RYBAK/Oleksiy Plotnikov

Rovshan RZAYEV

Džavid ŠABOVIĆ/Ervin Spahić


Giuseppe SARO

Kimmo SASI



Urs SCHWALLER/Maximilian Reimann





Adalbi SHKHAGOVEV/Alexey Knyshov

Robert SHLEGEL/Anvar Makhmutov

Ladislav SKOPAL/Dana Váhalová



Roberto SORAVILLA/Luz Elena Sanín




Fiorenzo STOLFI*

Christoph STRÄSSER


Giacomo STUCCHI*


Björn von SYDOW

Petro SYMONENKO/Yevhen Marmazov

Vilmos SZABÓ*

Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey



Dragan TODOROVIĆ/Elvira Kovács

Romana TOMC/Iva Dimic


Latchezar TOSHEV



Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ*

Tuğrul TÜRKEŞ*

Konstantinos TZAVARAS*

Tomáš ÚLEHLA/Lenka Andrýsová

Ilyas UMAKHANOV/Akhmed Bilalov

Giuseppe VALENTINO/ Renato Farina






Vladimir VORONIN/Grigore Petrenco

Tanja VRBAT/Ivan Račan

Konstantinos VRETTOS

Klaas de VRIES*


Piotr WACH





Karin S. WOLDSETH/Řyvind Vaksdal

Gisela WURM

Karl ZELLER/Paolo Corsini

Kostiantyn ZHEVAHO*

Emanuelis ZINGERIS/Birutė Vėsaitė

Guennady ZIUGANOV*


Vacant Seat, Cyprus*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote:


Polonca KOMAR




Corneliu CHISU


Hervé Pierre GUILLOT



Partners for democracy:


Mohamed YATIM

Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community

Ahmet ETI, (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)