AS (2013) CR 15
2013 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday 24 April 2013 at 3.30 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
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 3.35 p.m.)
THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. Address by Mr Victor Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania
THE PRESIDENT* – We now have the honour of hearing an address from Mr Victor Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania, whom we welcome to the Council of Europe. We also welcome his Foreign Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the ambassador and all those in the accompanying delegation.
It is an honour to welcome you – all the more so as you have come in the year when your country celebrates its 20th anniversary of accession to the Council of Europe. I became a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the year when your country joined it, so I have been able to follow closely Romania’s progress on democratisation and European integration. I welcome the fact that Romania’s political situation has now stabilised and that the majority and opposition have agreed to live together and accept democratic rules. I also welcome the fact that the Romanian authorities will use the expertise of the Council of Europe in the reforms being undertaken.
Relations between your government, Prime Minister, and our Venice Commission are excellent. When we visited Bucharest last July with the Presidential Committee in the midst of a crisis, we discussed things with you and your authorities and were grateful to have played our part in alleviating the problems facing Romania at that time. There was a referendum followed by general elections. Observers were appointed to monitor the conduct of the elections, which were recognised to be fair. The people’s wishes – in this case, the Romanian people’s – have to be respected, particularly in this institution, which is the cradle of democracy. We embody a number of values, including those you share with us, and you have given us ample proof of that in the past 20 years. I thank you, Prime Minister, for welcoming me. I was grateful and glad to be able to speak to your Parliament. Thank you also for your assistance to us at the Council of Europe in moving towards a solution for a number of frozen conflicts, such as the issue of Moldova and the separatist region of Transnistria.
I do not wish to produce a list on your behalf and I am sure that you have a lot to say to us, sir. We are keen to hear from you and identify concrete measures that we can embrace together. Your country is also a member of the European Union. You have a key role to play in your region. I give you the floor, Prime Minister.
Mr PONTA (Prime Minister of Romania)* – Thank you very much, Mr President, Secretary General and members of the Parliamentary Assembly. It is a great honour and privilege for me to be here today to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – the oldest and most prestigious political institution in Europe, created by visionary politicians with the aim of putting an end to war and ensuring lasting peace on the continent.
It is 20 years now since Romania became a member of the Council of Europe. Today, when we look at the past we see that major democratic changes have been carried out with your help. At the beginning of the 1990s, Romania, like other eastern European countries, had only recently come out of an authoritarian regime. Today, we are a fully-fledged member of this Organisation, of the European Union, and of the transatlantic community. I am here to thank you for your contribution to the democratisation and modernisation of my country.
With your permission, Mr President, I will make my presentation in English.
(The speaker continued in English.)
Let me say once again how important this is for me and for the people who are joining me today – the President of the Romanian Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, my special advisers, and, especially, a former distinguished member of this Assembly, Mr Frunda. I am here today to present a very clear message about the commitment of the Romanian Government and the country to all the values of the Council of Europe and our commitment to learn from the mistakes of the past and to think towards our common future – a future that implies for my country democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
I stress the important role that President Mignon, Secretary General Jagland and all your representatives who have visited Romania last year and this year played in assisting and helping Romanian politicians to find the best solution for the country to the political crisis and all the challenges that we have been confronted with in past years. Indeed, 2012 was a very difficult year for the country, coming after a long economic, social and political crisis. Your involvement in settling on the best institutional solutions for the country has been very important. It is proof that through dialogue, co-operation and assistance, all kinds of crises can be solved and the best solution for the countries involved can be found. I am very grateful for your personal involvement, Mr Mignon, and that of all your colleagues, in helping us to find the right way and the right solutions.
As you mentioned, Mr President, in December the Romanian people went through a very democratic election in which they stated their democratic will. After the election, we – the Romanian politicians – tried to find the best solutions, having in mind the future of the country, not the past. As some of you know, there is clear agreement on co-operation – “cohabitation” in French – between the president and the government. The new parliament has a legitimate structure and a clear majority. All the decisions of the constitutional court are respected and implemented. The judicial system is independent and is providing important solutions in criminal, civil and commercial cases. I will say right here, right now that we are all learning from our lessons and that we are all committed to working together for the benefit of the country.
I have a special thought for all the members of the Romanian delegation to this Parliamentary Assembly. They make me feel today much solidarity and very proud to be a Romanian. It is not very often in our political history that all the representatives of the political parties – government and opposition together – could have signed the letter for all the members of this Assembly saying that Romania has been able, and is able, to solve all the political and institutional problems and that we can, as I said, work together for the benefit of the country.
I will refer to the four issues on which Romania as a country, and myself as the head of the government, will seek your assistance, your partnership and your help in improving and consolidating the institutions of the country. First, taking into account all the deadlocks and political crises that we have been confronted with, there is general agreement that during the mandate of the new parliament we should make some improvements to the constitutional provisions. I do not mean a fundamental change in the constitution – only fine-tuning and fine changes in order to avoid future political crises and to demonsrate that we have learned from the lessons of the past and are showing our commitment to trying to create democratic and constitutional instruments to pre-empt a crisis and to be able to solve it without jeopardising the stability and productivity of the country.
I am also here to seek the support of the Venice Commission in this process. I have made a formal request to the Venice Commission, and I am very grateful for the very fast reply stating that we will have all its assistance and expertise. We will go forward with all the changes only after consultation and taking fully into account the suggestions of the Venice Commission, because it is our will to have a democratic, effective and very good constitution according to all the Council of Europe standards.
The second issue on which we will need to co-operate better is the Romanian cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Until now, almost 3 500 cases have been pending at the Court regarding the restitution of properties confiscated by the communist regime. With your assistance and help, for which I am very grateful, we have succeeded in adopting a new law that I am confident will solve most of the problems, provide a very fair restitution, and provide a clear juridical solution to this issue, which has been pending in Romanian society for almost 70 years.
Thirdly, Romania has applied the highest standards regarding the protection of the rights of minorities, but there is always something to improve, and I very much count on your co-operation and partnership in always keeping Romania updated with the latest developments in order to guarantee the most advanced juridical regime on the rights of minorities. I shall take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the legitimate political representatives of the Hungarian minority in Romania. We have been working together on the most important decisions, those relating to the restitution of property and to minority rights. I am absolutely committed to keeping working with those representatives, and I am sure that together we can always find the best solution that allows us to live together and work together for our country.
The problem that presents the most important challenge for my government – and for the governments to come – is how to ensure the better integration of the Roma community. We have adopted a new strategy, working with the European Commission and some member States – I am very grateful to the French, German and Dutch Governments – but to get results we need patience and commitment, and we need to get to the roots of this issue. I am very grateful for the fact that when you, Mr Secretary General, came to Bucharest you visited an important project – a school in which the children from the Roma minority can learn and prepare themselves for the future. We have all the legislation providing positive discrimination in all the schools and universities, and even in some areas relating to the hiring of people from the Roma community, but I say, right here today, that this is going to be a big challenge for all the Romanian authorities. I strongly believe that all of our Roma minority, who represent Romania and have Romanian citizenship, are our responsibility. We therefore have to be very committed to obtaining more effective solutions, in order to have better integration, to educate the kids better, to find better jobs for these representatives and to make them feel the same in Romania as they do in all other parts of the region: at home and safe.
I would very much appreciate your partnership and your assistance in these four topics, which are very important for my government. I am also here to say that Romania, which last year was considered as a country jeopardised by a lack of stability, is now a very stable and predictable country in the region. It is our duty to co-operate with the Council of Europe and the European Commission to find the best solution on strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the entire region. As you mentioned, Mr President, Romania is strategically placed on the map of Europe. Our assistance could be very helpful to the Republic of Moldova, and I am here to say that we strongly support the European path of not only Moldova, but of all the countries in the Black Sea area. I am also confident that together we may find the best solution for the countries in the western Balkans; having more integration, more democracy, more human rights and a strengthened rule of law would be a great advantage for not only those countries, but for Romania, as a member of that region. I would like to convince you to have confidence in our country and our potential, and in our good will in fighting for these important principles and goals in the region.
In conclusion, I wish to express my appreciation for, and my trust in the future of, your important institution, Mr President. Of course we are very proud to be a full member of the European Union and NATO, but I strongly believe that on human rights, the rule of law and democracy, the Council of Europe has not only a great past, but a very important future. I am very proud to be a Romanian – to be from a country that for the past 20 years has been a full member of the Council of Europe. I am also very confident in our common future. Thank you very much for your attention, and I look forward to your questions.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Mr Ponta, for your most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you.I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches. Mr Santini will ask the first question, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Prime Minister, before Romania acceded to the European Union – I imagine that you understand Italian, as you have not put your headphones on – it was considered a sort of paradise for Italian, French and German industries that moved into the areas around Timișoara and other cities. What is the situation today, some five years after your accession? Are foreign countries’ industries still coming to Romania? What is the situation of those industries that were set up some time ago?
Mr PONTA* – I would be delighted to respond in Italian, because we Romanians find it wonderful to speak Italian and are very proud to be able to speak it.
(The speaker continued in English)
However, I will answer the question in English, because the question relates to European companies investing in Romania – putting trust and money into my country, and offering thousands and thousands of jobs. I appreciate that effort very much. Since 9 December – after the election – we have done everything we can to create a very friendly environment for investors. While here, I have just received very good news about an important investment in Romania made by a German – not an Italian – company. The most important thing for not only Romania, but for all Council of Europe countries is our ability to be competitive in a very competitive world, while never forgetting the social effects of this competitiveness. I am very grateful to all companies that create at least one job, because that provides one wage. All the confidence of the business community in Romania will benefit not only investors – in terms of making profit – but Romanian and European citizens.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you for that answer. The next question is from Mr Gross, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – I thank you, Prime Minister, for your encouraging speech. Last time, when we came to you in the Presidential Committee, you promised us that you would not follow the bad habit of using your Parliament’s urgent procedure when making decisions – when making law – because that hampers debate and democracy. How did you make that change? Did you fulfil your promise? How many times did you go back to this old habit, and how many times did you not use the procedure?
Mr PONTA – Thank you very much for your question. According to the Romanian constitution, there are two situations in which the government can use a faster procedure, the first of which is when assuming responsibility. That constitutional provision had been used 16 times in two years by the previous government, and, as you correctly said, I criticised it very much. In one year, I have used it only once, doing so only for a special law – the one dealing with the restitution of property taken by the communists. I thought this was the responsibility not of my government – I do not believe my parents were born at the time this took place – but of the Romanian Government and the Romanian State. I expressed, for the first time, the apologies to all the people who suffered from the communist regime. That is why I used this very special provision. I do not intend to use it again, as we have a very large majority in our parliament and I believe that good laws are made by the parliament, not by the government.
The second constitutional provision gives the government the right to issue emergency ordinances. On average, over the last 10 years, about 200 such ordinances have been issued each year by governments of all parties – Social Democratic, Liberal and Christian Democrat. It is now April, and so far this year we have issued 24, so we hope that the figure for our first year will be half of that average. Of course, I should aim to have even fewer.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Schuster, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms SCHUSTER (Germany)* – I thank you for your address. Yesterday evening we had a debate on the situation of Roma children. What tangible measures are you implementing to help the Roma community, particularly Roma children, and other minorities?
Mr PONTA – Thank you very much for that question. I was honest in saying that the integration of the Roma community is, in my view, not only our top priority but one of our biggest challenges. I mentioned the school that was visited by your Secretary General, where the Roma kids learn in their own language. Our legal provisions and projects, which we have already included in the new European Union financial framework, are tools for improving the education of Roma kids. You referred to other minorities, and I should say that all Hungarian minorities learn in their native language, not only in primary and high school but even in university. That is an effective system that meets all the standards. We will always work with minority representatives to keep our legislation updated so that it meets their needs.
With the Roma community, the issue is not only one of educating the children; it is one of convincing the parents to send their children to school. We have, as I told you, a good strategy, but in Romania, as elsewhere, implementing good strategies can be most challenging. I put myself forward as the first one not only to have a good strategy but to achieve results. As I said, we will not have results in six months or a year, but I believe that, in the medium and long term, better education and positive discrimination could have the beneficial effects that everyone hopes for.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Gillan, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – I thank you for your charming address. As a valued member of the European Union, you are aware of the controversies over freedom of movement and how that is open to abuse, hence transitional controls. Will you confirm whether your government is automatically to grant potentially 1 million or more Moldovan citizens Romanian citizenship, which would allow them entry and free movement within the European Union? Are you aware of the concerns that if that policy goes ahead, it could undermine confidence in the freedom of movement?
Mr PONTA – I consulted the Minister of Foreign Affairs because the law that gives citizenship to all foreigners was adopted long ago – in 1991. There is a special provision that is only for Moldovan citizens who used to have Romanian citizenship because they are of Romanian origin, so it is not for all Moldovans. The citizenship is not automatically granted, but the procedure is faster, and up to now it has not affected migration into the European Union. As you know, we are working hard to join the Schengen area, so we have been in close communication with the European Commission and with member States. Of course, to achieve our goal of joining Schengen, we are ready to improve our legislation if necessary. I just want to be clear that it is not a special law; it is the law, and it was adopted long ago. Neither is citizenship automatically granted; it is just a faster procedure. It does not apply to all Moldovans; it applies only to those who used to have Romanian citizenship.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kox, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – According to Secretary General Jagland, combating corruption should be the priority of all member States in order to protect democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Romania’s score with regard to the level of corruption is a matter of great concern to your government, to us and especially to Romanian citizens. What makes it so difficult to combat corruption in Romania, and what may we see happening with this important struggle in the future?
Mr PONTA – You know, I am a former prosecutor but I am still unable to tell you exactly why it is so difficult to fight corruption. I can assure you that significant progress has been made, and all the co-operation and verification reports issued by the European Commission have praised the results of the anti-corruption bodies and the convictions in this area. The Transparency International chart shows Romania improving its statutes in the last few years. I will not – I will never – say that everything is perfect, but I will say that based on my personal background and the commitment to strengthen the anti-corruption bodies, to maintain their independence and to allow justice to be absolutely independent, the first good results will be confirmed in the years to come.
Mr POPESCU (Ukraine)* – The resolution on the minor trafficking of people between Ukraine and Romania has been postponed, and the final resolution will contribute to better relations between the two countries, especially for people who live close to the border. How should we continue discussing this matter and make progress on it?
Mr PONTA – As I mentioned, we have invested a lot and we want to prove that our borders are very safe, but that should not be contrary to the interests of daily trans-frontier exchanges of a commercial and cultural nature. I mentioned the role that Romania wants to play in the region. Our bilateral relationship with Ukraine is very positive and should be placed on a more pragmatic basis. All I can tell you is that, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs, I will undertake a pragmatic analysis and talk to the Ukrainian Government to improve the situation. The safety of the border is important, but so are cultural, commercial and personal exchanges. The answer is not to choose one over the other but rather to put both together and to find the best solution.
Mr MICHEL (France)* – The European Court of Human Rights often finds against your country, and its rulings have to be implemented by countries. You have talked about the issue in your speech, but will you tell us in greater detail about how your country intends to remedy the situation that has existed for around 20 years?
Mr PONTA* – I spoke about the restitution of property. More than 3 500 cases are being examined by the courts. Thanks to the new legislation that we have been discussing with representatives from the Court, I am sure that we will settle those cases. We are also working successfully with the European Commission and have adopted new civil and criminal codes, which we are implementing.
I am particularly concerned about prison conditions, a problem that exists not only in Romania. While we are not the worst in that regard, we certainly need to invest more to improve prison conditions to bring them closer to European standards.
If we can resolve the bulk of cases regarding the restitution of property, we will have taken a major step forward.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Prime Minister, your country attaches great importance to overall co-operation with Azerbaijan, particularly in energy security. What topics will you focus on in your visit to Baku in May?
Mr PONTA – One of the main goals in my term of office is to develop the energy potential of the Black Sea region. The Nabucco project is the first priority. Better co-operation among all the countries in the area will provide huge benefits in the medium and long terms, delivering the energy and economic improvement that all our countries need. I will be visiting your country with great pleasure.
Energy is a key issue, which is why the European Council on 25 May will focus on that topic; I hope that that is not a secret. We are in close contact with the authorities in Azerbaijan to ensure that Nabucco is a successful project.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – My question is about the many poor Romanians begging in the streets of many European cities, including in my country. Many, but not all, of them are Roma people. What can and will Romanian authorities do to fight poverty in your own country? To what extent do you depend on co-operation with other European countries to solve the problem of people dependent on begging to survive?
Mr PONTA – Poverty is a huge challenge for many, not just us. After several years of recession and a deep economic crisis, I was satisfied – though not happy – that we had economic growth last year. Importantly, the European Commission has forecast that Romania will have economic growth this year. That will not be seen or felt directly by poor people in the short term, but we have taken some social measures, such as improving our social legislation. However, it will take years to fight poverty and to provide a solution to all those affected.
Your question was about Romanian citizens. For me, there is no difference whether they are from the Roma minority or not – they are all Romanian citizens. If you are talking about criminality, we have worked closely with law enforcement agencies, and we have had significant results. If you are talking about social problems, we should and will of course accept the adoption of legislation in your and other countries that limit access to benefits, but such limits should be non-discriminatory. Each country has the legitimate right to pass its own legislation, but it is important not to discriminate. Fighting poverty takes commitment and time – surely more time than my term of office as prime minister.
THE PRESIDENT* – Mr Ghiletchi is not here, so I call Mr Kalemár.
Mr KALMÁR (Hungary) – The Romanian Government has announced that it will start the reorganisation of the country’s territory. The published drafts of the plan show that the region inhabited by secular Hungarians will be divided. If so, the Hungarian community will be assimilated within a short time. That is contrary to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and other resolutions and agreements that Romania has signed. How will the Romanian Government fulfil its obligations during the process of territorial reorganisation?
Mr PONTA – I will answer briefly: we will fully respect our obligations. I am grateful that you have given me the opportunity to clarify certain issues. The current system of administration in Romania was set up by a law in 1968, which created 41 counties. All those counties are still in place and will remain so; no one will change the borders of the countries. Two of them, which are inhabited by the Hungarian minority, have the full range of local authorities – county president, county council and city councils – and they are led by representatives of the Hungarian minority. We will not change the borders.
Each county has on average 500 000 inhabitants, which is too small to access European funds in the next financial framework. We have a regional development plan based on eight development regions. It was adopted in 1998, when a Hungarian minority party was in government, so the decision was taken not by my party, but by other parties. All eight regions will be based on economic and social cohesion. I am not sure whether the final result will be eight – it might be 10, 12 or 16 – but I assure you that we will take a decision only after consulting all the parties in parliament; the Hungarian minorities are strongly and proudly represented in the Romanian Parliament. The decision will not be against any minority community, but will be based on economic and social issues. Nothing will be adopted without consultation, and the counties, which you mentioned, will not be changed.
Mr JAPARIDZE (Georgia) – Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister, for your very important speech. You mentioned briefly the wider Black Sea area, which has an important strategic dimension for energy security, but we all know that the region is plagued with all kinds of illicit trafficking – small arms, nuclear and radioactive materials and human trafficking – so what is Romania’s approach towards this?
Mr PONTA – Of course I mentioned the positive part, which is the area’s energy and economic potential. All opportunities come with dangers, so that is why the Romanian authorities, not only under my government but since the 1990s, have had close and effective co-operation with the other authorities around the Black Sea. We have been very effective in combating human trafficking, drug trafficking and all kinds of crimes. If the Secretary General will allow me, I will say that we will work together in the area to combat cybercrime with the Council of Europe’s assistance. Cybercrime is another challenge, but I am sure that our previous experience of success will continue.
Mr M. JENSEN (Denmark) – As you know, Mr Prime Minister, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Council of Europe recommendation on combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2010. In a Council of Europe survey, your government has admitted that you have not even taken the first step to translate that recommendation into action. I would like a statement from you on what plans the Romanian Government has to address homophobic and trans-phobic discrimination. In particular, how will you implement the Council of Europe recommendation?
Mr PONTA – I have just consulted my colleagues, and as far as I know, we have implemented all the legislation and European standards. We have set up a council for combating discrimination, which has been effective in penalising all those who manifest discriminatory behaviour. After the election, we discussed increasing the rights of all minorities. A member of my political group has already begun to do that in the Romanian Parliament, and the first discriminatory reactions have been punished by all the political forces. We will make progress not only in implementing the legislation but in changing the mentality of the people and some politicians. Although that might not happen very quickly, that future is nearer than we might think.
Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – You must recognise the symbol that I am holding up, because your administration insists on banning it. It is the regional symbol of 700 000 ethnic Hungarian Seklers who live in Transylvania and claim territorial autonomy in conformity with the relevant Council of Europe documents and European models. This March, 40 000 Seklers demonstrated to be granted a statute of autonomy, which was refused twice by the Romanian Parliament. On the 20th anniversary of Romania’s accession to the Council of Europe, do you not think that your country should ensure the Seklers’ territorial autonomy and start immediate negotiations with the leadership of the Sekler National Council, to avoid tensions and conflicts?
Mr PONTA – I praise your appeal to avoid confrontations and extremism, and I join you in fighting against extremists. On 9 December, the Hungarian minority sent legitimate representatives from the Union of Hungarians in Romania to the Romanian Parliament. I can assure you that we will work closely with them to try to find the best solutions for the better representation of the Hungarian community and to respect all the rights of the Hungarian minority, according to all the European standards. But once again, dialogue and co-operation are the solution. Extremism will not help you or us.
Mr V. SZABÓ (Hungary) – Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask you about an education issue concerning the Hungarian minority. What is your view on creating a University of Medicine and Pharmacy in the Hungarian language in Târgu Mureş?
Mr PONTA – I am very proud of this government achievement. After I spent three long nights with the Romanian and Hungarian professors at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Târgu Mureş, they reached an agreement without us – the university has autonomy – and Romanian and Hungarian teachers are now represented on the board of the university. Hungarian and Romanian students can learn in their own language. This is the best example that not through confrontation, but rather through dialogue and commitment, we can solve issues that might be seen as unsolvable initially. I suggest that you join me in visiting the university at Târgu Mureş to see an example of the good results of dialogue and of issues that have been solved when no one thought it possible.
THE PRESIDENT* – Ms Gutu and Mr Petrenco are not here, so I call Mr Türkeş.
Mr A. TÜRKEŞ (Turkey) – Mr Prime Minister, it is good to see that the elections in December 2012 put an end to the political instability in Romania and that the government under your leadership is determined to solve the pending issues. What measures are your government planning to take to prevent the younger generation from emigrating abroad for economic reasons?
Mr PONTA – You come from a country that I appreciate very much for its economic development. We have begun to implement concrete programmes to provide incentives to young people to open new businesses and small businesses. We have a scheme of State aid for all the young people who want to open new businesses. We will also implement legislation to provide taxation advantages to companies that hire young people. We have succeeded in developing, and will keep doing so, new technology industries. I can give many examples of big international companies that are now hiring thousands of young people in Romania. They are paid wages similar to those in the United States or western Europe, but they live in Romania and have a future there. When we have succeeded in doing this in all areas of the economy, we will consider the problem solved.
Mr BENEYTO (Spain)* – As you know, Prime Minister, the Romanian community is the biggest immigrant community in Spain. We have had excellent co-existence without a single problem over many years. What can we do fully to develop all the cultural co-existence that that offers us, either through the Council of Europe or through bilateral relations?
Mr PONTA – I express the gratitude of my country to Spain and Italy, where more than 1 million Romanians now live. They are hard-working and honest, they are raising their children there and they have been welcomed like brothers. I am grateful for that. I am aware that Spain and Italy are confronted with economic problems, but working together not to discriminate and not to blame anyone for the difficult times will strengthen the relationship between the two peoples and make us feel like working together to drag our countries in the right direction. On behalf of many Romanians who have found their destiny and life in your country, I thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT* – Mr Hancock is not here, so I call Mr Iordache.
Mr IORDACHE (Romania)* – Co-operation between Romania and the Council of Europe has been a key factor in ensuring respect for the political criteria for accession to the European Union. What is the relevance of the Council of Europe today for Romania as a member of the European Union and what value is added by it? For what reasons should countries be candidates for membership of the European Union?
Mr PONTA* – Clearly, we are of the same political family. We are proud to be members of the European Union, but I believe that the Council of Europe will retain its importance not just because of its 47-strong membership but because it will always remain the prime authority in respect of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. That benefits us. Even as members of the European Union, it is invaluable to be able to draw on the experience and principles that we find only here in the Council of Europe.
Mr KORODI (Romania) – Prime Minister, what sort of political decision do you support, in the spirit of the charters and conventions of the Council of Europe, to ensure that the Hungarian community in Romania can freely use its symbols? Forbidding the use of the Székler flag as the symbol of the community is discrimination, especially when we take into consideration the fact that other local communities can use their representative flags and symbols. What legal approaches are being considered by the government to tackle the issue in the European manner? Secondly, how do you propose to ensure the implementation of subsidiarity for minorities after the adoption of the new constitution?
Mr PONTA – Thank you very much for the question. Let me take this opportunity to say once again how proud I am to see all the Romanian members of the Assembly, regardless of the political party they represent, being very constructive and accepting a dialogue with the government. I will reply in the same spirit. On the question of the minority symbols, or local symbols, I am ready to initiate a dialogue with all the political parties and representatives of civil society so that we can have clear legislation. The central administrative institutions will have, of course, the national and European Union symbols, but all the local institutions should have the right to adopt their own symbols as long as they are not against European standards.
On your second point, subsidiarity will be strengthened by the changes to the Constitution, based on local authorities’ powers. I am a Prime Minister who honestly believes that the closer the authorities are to the citizen, the more effective and legitimate they are in taking decisions. The central government should retain the basic powers of the State, but I am convinced that local authorities, using the principle of subsidiarity, will be more effective in representing citizens and serving the public interest.
THE PRESIDENT* – That brings to an end the questions to Mr Ponta. Once again, Mr Ponta, I congratulate you on your excellent address to the Parliamentary Assembly and your replies to the questions. We are grateful. Romania has been with us for some 20 years and, as I said earlier, I was one of those who voted in favour of its incorporation into the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe. I am happy to see that Romania is still a member 20 years later.
(Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Mignon.)
2. Organisation of the agenda proposed by the President
THE PRESIDENT* – On Monday morning, the credentials of Mr Andriy Shevchenko of the Ukrainian Delegation were challenged under Rule 7.2. Under the rules the challenge was referred to the Rules Committee. The committee agreed its report this afternoon and, as agreed on Monday, the text will be debated by the Assembly. I propose that the report be debated by the Assembly as the first item on the agenda tomorrow morning, at 10 a.m.
Is that agreed?
It is agreed. The agenda is therefore changed to reflect that.
The report will be available by 5.30 p.m. The deadline for tabling amendments to the report will be 7 p.m. this evening and the deadline for the speakers list will be 8 p.m.
I understand that Ms Erkal Kara wishes to make a personal statement. I remind the Assembly that no debate may arise on a personal statement.
Ms Erkal Kara, you have the floor. You have two minutes.
Ms ERKAL KARA (Turkey)* – Thank you, Mr President. Yesterday, during the vote on the amendments to Document 13160, I voted against proposed Amendment 27. However, the result of the vote shows me voting for the amendment. Similarly, Mr Çavuşoğlu was recorded as abstaining. However, he wanted to vote against the amendment. I would like to correct that mistake. The PKK is a terrorist organisation and is recognised as such by the European Union and the United States. PKK members are not activists; they are terrorists with some 40 000 victims, many of whom are Kurdish citizens, including women and babies. They commit massacres and then claim that the conflict between Turkey, the PKK and the Kurds is an issue of human rights.
Thank you for this opportunity to make a personal statement.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Erkal Kara. We will now return to the agenda.
3. Culture and education through national parliaments: European policies
THE PRESIDENT* – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled “Culture and education through national parliaments: European policies”, Document 13142, presented by Ms Brasseur on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. We will have to finish consideration of this text, including the vote, by 5.40 p.m. I will therefore interrupt the list of speakers in this debate at about 5.25 p.m. for replies by the committee and for voting.
I remind members that they have three minutes in which to speak.
I call Ms Brasseur. You have 13 minutes in total which you may divide as you see fit between presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – Thank you very much, Mr President.
Talking about culture in times of crisis is seen by many as something of a luxury, and to talk about education in times of crisis often boils down to a discussion of the cost of education or the employability of young people, and yet we all know that that cannot be the case. I would like to take us back to the statement made by Jean-Claude Mignon some 10 days ago when speaking before the Conference of Ministers of Culture; he spoke out on the importance of culture and of ensuring that we give access to culture to all. In attempting to define culture, I think the first thing that comes to mind is what Édouard Herriot said: “Culture is what remains when you have forgotten everything else”. On the subject of education, definitions abound; but perhaps I may pick out Kant’s definition – that the aim of education is to enable each individual to evolve to the degree of perfection that is possible for that individual.
Education enables individuals to define what they want to achieve in their lives, and to that extent education and culture are very much at the heart of what we would refer to as the dignity and the full blossoming of the individual. It is through education and culture that we have the knowledge that we require to live together in society and to consciously hold high and defend fundamental values. Education and culture also underpin societal structures and democratic stability. We therefore cannot conceive of education and culture as tools whose sole function should be to endow individuals with the skills and the competences that they need for the purposes of employment, however important that may be and even if those can be productive elements of the labour market.
We as parliamentarians have a role to play as well as major responsibilities to shoulder. We need to develop a strategic vision in national education and culture policies and flag up the importance of those policies in fighting inequality and marginalisation so that we can address the dividing lines that lead to intolerance and extremism and in order to promote sustainable economic and social growth.
I believe that there are four challenges ahead. First, we need to shore up our competitiveness in the global market by drawing on creativity and innovation. Secondly, we need to empower individuals and particularly young people. Thirdly, we have to reconcile identity and diversity and promote dialogue between cultures. That is a crucial issue not only in terms of social cohesion but in terms of lasting peace between peoples. Fourthly, we need to develop a culture of active participation within society so that we have living, lively democracies. I do not think that we can take up any of those challenges effectively or hold out the prospect of a better future without the assistance of coherent and dynamic education and culture policies. We already know that, but we are not actually acting on the basis of that knowledge.
As parliamentarians we have to be honest – too often we concentrate on and react to the short term and perhaps overlook the need to define longer-term strategies. Too often we react rather than being proactive. For that reason, the report that I am putting forward this afternoon encourages the national parliaments to act with a view to engaging in a constructive dialogue on education and culture policies; to lay down the markers for such policies clearly; to ensure that the necessary financial resources are earmarked and put aside; and to identify systemic failings and ensure that any processes initiated are based on participation.
The draft resolution before you therefore stresses how important it is for national parliaments to concentrate on the longer term, to take measures with a view to implementing guidelines agreed upon at the level of the Council of Europe and to regularly evaluate the impact of government action in the area of education and culture. The draft resolution invites us to move in the direction of a European framework of competences for democratic citizenship, human rights and intercultural understanding. The resolution suggests that that should be part of the Organisation’s programme of activities for the next biennium. The draft resolution also invites us to adopt concrete measures with a view to promoting intercultural dialogue and cultural and educational cross-border exchanges and overcoming any administrative obstacles standing in the way of such exchanges.
I should like to underscore the importance of a European dimension to education and culture policies. The report outlines a number of measures that we need to act on at European level if we wish to enable national parliamentarians to better prepare for measures to be floated at national level. Perhaps I may restrict myself to two initiatives that I think our Assembly could take in that respect. First, I think that we should be doing more to raise the awareness of the national parliaments of initiatives being taken in the Council of Europe in the field of education and culture. There is such a wealth of activity going on, but it is often not well known. I refer you to the appendix to my report, where we list the texts that have been adopted with a view to tangible initiatives. We need to make our national parliaments aware of those texts and to ensure that they take them on board when devising national strategies. We should be promoting the exchange of experience between the education and culture committees in our national parliaments, so we need to reflect on the possibility of providing some targeted advice via parliamentary documentation and research services.
I will conclude by inviting colleagues to vote in favour of the draft resolution. I want to thank the secretariat, under Roberto Fasino, as well as Angela Garabagiu for her valuable assistance in the drafting of the report. I hope that national parliaments will take the time to have genuine debates on education and culture, because nothing less than the future of our democracies is at stake.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. You have five minutes remaining.
In the debate I call first Mr Beneyto, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr BENEYTO (Spain)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on her excellent report. At first sight, the two topics mentioned in the report – culture and education and national parliaments – may not appear to be linked, but the report skilfully discusses the activity of parliaments while giving centre stage to the importance of education and culture and how we need to improve access to them.
There are two fundamental points in the report. The first is that humanities are the basis of democracy. The second is that Europe will be united only if we have culture. Humanities are precisely what allow us to have empathy and to understand the views of others, which is the premise of any kind of inter-cultural relationship. In practice, we are talking about a learning curve. We are in the middle of an economic crisis, and what has happened? We have forgotten about culture and about the arts and humanities. We are forgetting something absolutely essential: the human being. The human being must always take centre stage. We must return to culture and education and value them. That is the only way for us to overcome the crisis. Ms Brasseur says that Europe is culture. In other words, we need to ensure that we remember the history and cultural aspects of Europe and bring them all together.
Ms Brasseur also mentions national parliaments and their important role. Culture and education are what will enable national parliaments to carry out their legislative work and to adopt a more strategic and understanding vision. They should be proactive, rather than just reacting to events. National parliaments should have an ombudsman or commissioner responsible for culture. That sort of position is precisely what is necessary for us to overcome the disenchantment of our citizens, who unfortunately do not currently have much respect for parliaments or politics in general.
Culture connects us all together, which is why I welcome the report. The Council of Europe can help us to improve things. For example, the library of the Council of Europe has gone and, although we have access to digital documents, we should return to the idea of paper books. That would be important for our democracies. It is of fundamental importance that we come back to culture and education as the basis of our future and of our values.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Connarty, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I have had the pleasure of joining Ms Brasseur on the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media over the past few years and this report is just another example of her persistence, vision and determination to keep the debate on as wide a track as possible. The Socialist Group warmly supports the report and her draft resolution.
There should never be a return to the view of past societies that one class or gender requires a work-related set of competencies while another class has a developed philosophical and cultural – what they used to call “cultured” – appreciation and competence. Sadly, some places in the Council of Europe – both at its edge and at its heart – have minorities that still regard the female gender to be in that class of people who do not need to know about wider culture or to learn the language of the country into which they have moved, even after two generations, which means they cannot appreciate the culture in which they live and only have work-based competencies. The report challenges that. There should be a campaign to challenge those residual examples of breaches of the basic human right to a full and fulfilling life.
Paragraph 4.2 of the draft resolution mentions “a broad debate on policies for culture and education, encouraging citizen participation”. In this time of recession and austerity, it is clear that, although access to culture is free, the door is shut in the faces of many people because the invitations are no longer so broad. The previous speaker mentioned the library here, and library closures are a problem in my country. Community access to wider culture is also being closed because it is no longer affordable. What kind of society can we expect in the next decade or two if wider culture is being closed off to people in our society?
Paragraphs 4.5 and 4.6 refer to inter-cultural dialogue and understanding. Cultural education gives people a chance to understand that our cultures are changing. They are being influenced by other people coming into our communities, by our travel into other communities and by our dialogue across communities. All of that requires an understanding of not only our own culture, but wider cultures. The future depends on understanding the cultures of both the past and the present and this paper contributes to that debate.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Bardina Pau, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr BARDINA PAU (Andorra)* – I thank the rapporteur for her report on behalf of myself and the ALDE group.
Culture and education are necessary to promulgate the values embodied by the Council of Europe. They are vital for us to be able to live together in harmony and in ever more culturally diverse democratic and cohesive societies. In recent years, various countries have developed policies to tackle exclusion and discrimination when it comes to access to culture and education. I congratulate them on their work, but there is still a long way to go.
The Council of Europe has produced several relevant documents, such as the White Paper, “Living together as equals in dignity”, and Recommendation 1975 (2011), “Living together in 21st-century Europe: follow-up to the report of the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe”. We need to remind our parliaments of the importance of culture and education. The Council of Europe is predicated on human rights, democracy and the rule of law and that means that everyone must have access to culture and education in order to unlock their own creative potential. Cultural and education policies need to be framed in such a way as to produce active citizens with the necessary knowledge and skills to adapt to the changing reality of today’s world. We need to focus on education and youth, on which we will I hope continue to work. To that extent, we certainly support the Secretary General’s proposed European framework for human rights in pluralist democracies. We also hope that the work of the Ministers of Education conference in Helsinki on the quality of life offered in democracies will a have a future. Such work should be reflected in the period 2014-2015.
As members of our respective Parliaments, we must encourage our governments to show great interest in the work done at the ministerial conference level, to ensure that culture and education remain firmly on the agenda.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Dame Angela Watkinson, on behalf of the European Democratic Group.
Dame Angela WATKINSON (United Kingdom) – I rise to speak on behalf of the EDG in broad support of this report and its aim of intercultural dialogue through education. I caution against seeking a one-size-fits-all approach, while favouring the sharing of good practice between national governments.
The report emphasises the long-term perspective, and this cannot start too early for children. The journey from birth to young adulthood has many hurdles and challenges. The role of parents in the early, pre-school years is pivotal in preparing children for education – this cuts across all socio-economic groups: from the single mother living on benefits to the busy professional couple – in giving them a sense of security and confidence, and in enabling them to know they are loved and their parents are interested in them.
Social experiences are of course determined by financial circumstances, but during their pre-school years all children should learn social and interpersonal skills to enable them to mix comfortably with other people and start building a good vocabulary. The ability to communicate is an essential life skill that cannot be overestimated.
One of the most rewarding and valuable experiences for parent and child is reading together. There is no excuse in developed countries for any child to be deprived of books. Our public libraries are free, and children can learn to enjoy reading, learn spelling and grammar without realising, develop their ideas and imagination, and have the gift of lifelong pleasure from literature.
To prepare their children for education, parents also have a duty to teach them basic independence skills: to visit the lavatory unaided, to put on their coat and shoes, to use a knife and fork, to understand discipline, to give and take and share, to consider other people and behave in an acceptable way. With these skills, a child arrives at school ready to learn. Without them, their long-term life opportunities are already diminished – avoidably.
Children must not be held back by inadequate or feckless parenting. Children cannot choose their parents, but parents have a duty to be responsible. Schools do their best to fill the gap left by neglect or disinterest, but we must all share good practice to ensure that no child in their early years is blighted unnecessarily, so that they are best prepared to put their foot on the first rung of the education ladder.
As they progress through their education, young people become employable, learn how to interview well and give a good impression to a prospective employer, and demonstrate reliability and good attitudes. Those young people who had the advantage of a good start are most likely to succeed, and most likely to repeat that experience with their own children, for the benefit of us all.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you.
Ms Brasseur, if you wish to reply now to the groups’ spokespersons, you may. If not, you will have seven minutes to reply at the end of the debate.
I call Ms Schou, the first individual speaker.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – I congratulate Ms Brasseur on a very good report.
Please allow me to begin by quoting from the core curriculum of the primary and secondary schools of Norway. It includes a chapter on "The integrated human being", and describes how education must balance dual aims: “to teach and tend our national heritage and local traditions in order to preserve variety and uniqueness, and to meet other cultures openly in order to find pleasure in the diversity of expression and to learn from contrast.” To me, this dual aim explains how learning about one’s own and others’ cultures is important for students in developing the tools they need to become active citizens. Its inclusion in the core curriculum is a necessary signal to educators, so that intercultural learning is included in classroom activities.
Many colleagues present might not know of the Council of Europe’s European Wergeland Centre, in Oslo, which was opened in 2009. It is a resource centre for education in intercultural understanding, human rights and democratic citizenship, and is open to all Council of Europe members. It offers capacity-building activities, disseminates resources and organises seminars and conferences for practitioners, trainers, researchers, policy makers and the public at large. Through its activities, the centre has already reached more than 5 000 students throughout Europe. The trainers it trains act as multipliers when they bring their newly gained skills in intercultural understanding and democratic citizenship to their local communities. I encourage everyone in our Assembly to make information about the Wergeland Centre available to educators in their home countries.
The Norwegian Parliament confirmed its commitment to culture, education and intercultural dialogue when we approved the co-operation agreement between Norway and the Council of Europe establishing the Wergeland Centre. The resolution we will adopt today will be an important encouragement to all Parliaments in Council of Europe States to put the interconnection between culture and education on the agenda. To quote the rapporteur, “Culture is the essence of what we are as individuals and as societies.”
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Marjanovic.
Ms MARJANOVIC (Serbia) – I, too, would like to express my great appreciation for the report presented today by Ms Brasseur.
Today, we live in a society where appearance is distinguished from, or, rather, valued much more than, substance. It is as if we have lost the time and capacity to have a deeper understanding of values and ideas. I am grateful that here in the Council of Europe, we are acknowledging the crucial role of culture and education as pillars of democracy and democratic and sustainable development; and that culture and education are vital in promoting responsible, educated and democratic citizenship. However, I hope we are all aware that in daily political decision making, too frequently this is not the case. Education and especially culture are not regarded as strategic resources of a democratic society. The situation has become even more critical following the economic crisis and cuts in public spending. Culture has more often than not become a victim of a new wave of populism in which entertainment and superficiality are taking the place of substantive strategies and policies.
As the report rightly points out, political debate has become subject to electoral rationale and has lost a long-term vision. The situation is even more serious when we take into account that, as surveys carried out in Serbia show, almost 80% of high-school students never go to the theatre or museums. On the other hand, we also know that learning to appreciate culture and the arts as part of school curricula clearly helps in developing the ability for critical, abstract and creative thinking as well as tolerance. When we add that in many countries we face problems of violence, substance abuse and unemployment among our young generations, it is right to ask ourselves whether anything is more important than investing in culture and education.
I believe that the issue has become clearer today than it has been for a long time. If our citizens are deprived economically, we must not allow them also to be educationally and culturally deprived. Therefore I support the principles and initiatives proposed in the report. We need to continue even more strongly to promote diversity, free access to culture, participation in cultural life and freedom of artistic expression and creation. As members of parliaments, we have a crucial role in that mission.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Marjanović. I call Ms Orobets.
Ms OROBETS (Ukraine) – Some 15 years ago, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was almost impossible to become a student at a legal, journalistic or economic faculty in Ukraine without paying a bribe to those who owned the universities or headed them. Five years ago, my country managed to reform the system; it established that independent testing would be the only way of getting to university and the grants that go with it. However, there is always action and then reaction, progress and then regress – for three years those brilliant reforms, still supported by 80% of Ukrainians, have been the subject of a huge battle over what the Ukrainian system of higher education should look like. No one doubts that access to higher education is one of the most significant rights for young people, not only for them to get educated and cultured, but for them to get a proper job. There have been three years of battle between the Soviet and European ideas of education.
In Ukraine, higher education reform is the most crucial question, as there is no equal access to education. Nor is there any stimulus to innovation, creativity or the development of competences or any guarantee of employment for those who studied at State expense. For example, each year, 90 000 graduates whose education was paid for by the State swelled the ranks of the unemployed. It should be recognised that the price of higher education in Ukraine has almost reached the level of Oxford’s, although its quality is much lower, no matter what ministerial declarations are about getting into top university rankings.
The problems are excessive centralisation of management, corruption and the absence of efficient university autonomy and student self-government. There is also little control over the quality of graduates’ professional preparation. There have been three years of attempts to address the issue and now there are three alternative drafts of laws for higher education. One is a ministerial, Soviet-type one that would deepen the current problem. There are two alternatives, registered on behalf of key stakeholders in higher education; one of the authors is here today.
Our drafts are focused on a radical change of management in higher education. There should be a functional decentralisation of management, management capacity-building, an extension of the authority of universities and student self-governance. We the opposition focus on the claim in the report that parliament should be responsible for educational reform, and I ask other members to wish us luck.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Orobets. I call Mr Nicolaides.
Mr NICOLAIDES (Cyprus) – Let me congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Brasseur, on the accuracy of her report. Culture and education are, of course, closely interlinked. By definition, it appears that culture cannot possibly thrive and be transmitted if education is not in a position to absorb its main components and spread it to the wider public, through various educational and technological means. Therefore, people’s access to culture, and their appreciation thereof, depends on the quality of the education system in place.
Through the work of our national parliaments and the scrutiny we exercise on our respective governments, we must ensure on all levels that executive power remains committed to achieving long-term goals and targets in these two very important areas. Moreover, we must consolidate international co-operation in these fields and intensify our partnerships with the academic world, NGOs, the media, and civil society at large. Promoting and protecting cultural and linguistic diversity, conserving the unique cultural heritage of our communities and watching over our monuments, promoting cultural exchanges and artistic creation, should be at the top of our priorities. Similarly, in the field of education, lifelong learning and the educational aspects of new technologies and the information society should be fine-tuned and improved, so that they better correspond not only to the present-day requirements of the labour market, but to the aspirations of the younger generation for a better life.
As the rapporteur underlines in her report, we must continue to adhere to our Organisation’s core values and priorities – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – by keenly supporting the dissemination of the essential components of our pluralistic societies: diversity, tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and non-discrimination, but also creativity, innovation and research. In these difficult times of budgetary austerity, it is important to remind ourselves that investing in cultural and educational capital will also lead to economic growth and new jobs, thus paving the way for further innovation and sustainable development. New skills must be mastered to meet the new challenges ahead. Defending media pluralism and investing in young people are also policy areas that we must reassess and prioritise.
A lot has been accomplished in the fields of cultural education already. Programmes and initiatives have been running in this Assembly and Organisation for many years now. A huge amount of knowledge, best practices, resolutions and recommendations are available to each and every one of us. The time has come to take stock effectively of all that material and accommodate it to our own special circumstances in our respective countries. Our action now will mean that our cultural diversity remains the most important element in the development of our European identity and continues substantially to enrich our societies.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Nicolaides. Ms Guţu is not here, so I call Ms Mehmeti Devaja.
Ms MEHMETI DEVAJA (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – Let me begin by commending the rapporteur for preparing and presenting a very good report.
Building a culture of inclusion, non-discrimination and social cohesion is the key to ensuring the functionality of diverse societies and multicultural States. It is also a major challenge for modern Europe today. People are not born knowing about the values of tolerance, social cohesion, democracy and human rights; that is why national parliaments should build their policies for culture and education on the texts adopted by the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly, as the draft resolution suggests. Those are the core values of the Council of Europe, which has recognised that its vision of a Europe based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law can be achieved only if those values are effectively promoted in schools through the training of young people and adults.
Diverse societies face serious challenges in the process of consolidating democracy. My country, for example, has in recent years experienced and witnessed a series of violent incidents involving youths of different ethnic backgrounds. The incidents took place in high schools with mixed students, in public places and on football or other sports fields during matches. I strongly believe that national parliaments must identify major challenges and find ways to deal wth them. As the top political bodies that make legislation and determine the vision for the future of their countries, parliaments must engage in a committed process of shaping such legislation and strategies aimed at bridging differences, building confidence among youth, and educating them about democracy and its values.
In the end, it is our duty as parliamentarians to work with our national parliaments to ensure that policies on culture and education promote social cohesion and a culture of inclusion, and support sustainable socio-economic development within a globalised market economy, as the report suggests. It is also our duty to encourage our societies to introduce inter-cultural learning and practices in teacher training programmes in our schools or, if those have already been introduced, make efforts to advance or strengthen them.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Dişli from Turkey.
Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – I should like to express my thanks to the rapporteur for her excellent work, at this very important time, on the vital role of national parliaments in establishing a framework of education that fosters inter-cultural dialogue based on Council of Europe values. Taking into account the rapidly changing fabric of European societies, these issues carry more importance than ever. I heartily support the rapporteur’s call for parliaments to create an institutional and legal framework that offers all necessary conditions for cultural democracy and inter-cultural dialogue. However, the current situation in Europe regarding inter-cultural dialogue in education policies does not bode well for the effectiveness of education and culture policy.
As various colleagues mentioned, increasing xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe is proof of the problems of education policies in addressing the challenges facing inter-cultural dialogue. Coupled with the negative effects of economic turmoil, these menaces raise serious concerns about Europe’s promise to be a land of equality for all cultures. In this vein, the Council of Europe should step up its efforts to disperse the gloom in European societies caused by xenophobia and/or Islamophobia. I do not want to be repetitive, but I found this important.
The report, “OECD Thematic Review on Migrant Education”, lays emphasis on the fact that learning the mother tongue is an important element of cultural identity. The development of a strong personality is important, among other things, to accommodate a healthy integration of migrants. For this, migrants should be able to keep their own identity. Since learning the mother tongue is the most important element of cultural identity and people must become proficient in a second language, host countries should guarantee that it is being taught.
In the light of the aforesaid, it is evident that the report examines a very crucial issue lying at the heart of European society, which is currently undergoing a historical transformation. I applaud the rapporteur for her accurate analyses and invite members of this body to take a more active role in addressing these challenges.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Dişli. Mr Kennedy is not here, so I call Mr Marias from Greece.
Mr MARIAS (Greece)* – I would like to raise subjects of some importance about activities of our national parliaments that could mean that young unemployed people are brought back into the labour market. I believe that national parliaments should spend more on culture and on education. In fact, I have made some proposals to that effect to the Greek Parliament, but unfortunately they were not adopted because the government and the parliamentary majority are currently implementing a budgetary austerity programme, or memorandum on austerity, imposed by our creditors, the famous Troika – the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. This policy has been applied in our country since May last year, and that is why our country is now faced with mass unemployment and poverty. Statistics from Eurostat for this year show that youth unemployment is 58.4% and adult unemployment is about 20%. There are 1.3 million unemployed people in Greece altogether, and that is because of the memorandum. We have cut spending on education in our country. Several hundred high schools have been closed down or forced to merge, while 5 000 contract or supply teachers have been dismissed, and I am afraid that many more could be dismissed in the near future. Spending on education is now only 2.7% of our GDP, bearing in mind that our GDP itself was brought down by 25% over the course of the past year.
These austerity measures – these cuts – are a threat to our country and a threat to democracy itself in Greece. It is very important for all the countries that are implementing the memorandum – Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland – to resist and to stand up against these threats being issued by the IMF, among others. I urge all representatives of democratic parliaments who are opposed to this memorandum with regard to southern Europe and Ireland to join forces, to come together here at the Council of Europe and, indeed, in this Parliamentary Assembly, to rid ourselves of the Troika, to protect democracy, and to ensure that the European Convention on Human Rights is implemented properly in Europe. We want to pave the way for a more hopeful future for our young people.
THE PRESIDENT* – I understand that Mr Xuclŕ is not in the Chamber.
That concludes the list of speakers.
I call Ms Brasseur to reply.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – I thank all those who spoke in the debate. Here in the Chamber there is solid support for the report and the resolution that I put before you on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Diversity and Heritage. I do not think there were any questions as such, although there were certain differences of emphasis according to people’s nationality, which is understandable because that is the diversity that constitutes the wealth of this institution. We can inspire ourselves with the Norwegian education model; in fact, that reference pleased me greatly.
I should like to remind you of a Council of Europe publication in which we read about the soul of democracy. For your national parliaments we have this little brochure here, which was part of a recommendation. Since we all support the report, we simply need to take a copy home with us and try to persuade our colleagues in national parliaments of its importance. We really should do that. When I say that culture is the soul of democracy, it is only too true, and it behoves us in our national parliaments to breathe life into that soul.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Brasseur.
Does the chairperson of the committee, Mr Wach, wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Mr WACH (Poland) – I thank everyone who took part in this discussion, both those who did so as individuals and those who spoke on behalf of the political groups. The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media deals with a number of reports addressing the problems of young people and their future, culture, education and employment. We do so because those are vital subjects. This report is especially important because it is a framework report; it deals with the role of national parliaments in creating educational and cultural policies in the contemporary world. We will refer to this special report in other reports, as it provides us with a basis. It also stresses the role and achievements of the Council of Europe in this field and promotes them, because what the Council of Europe is doing is not promoted enough in many of our countries. The report also promotes the exchange of information and international co-operation in the field of culture and education between parliaments. We should give the report strong support because it is very valuable, giving us a long-term basis for future action. Thank you very much, Ms Brasseur, for your excellent report. I am sure that we will support it.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Wach.
The debate is closed. The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has presented a draft resolution to which two amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 2 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so Mr Wach?
Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.
The following amendment has been adopted:
Amendment 2, tabled by Mr Robert Shlegel, Mr Anvar Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Alexander Sidyakin and Mr Otari Arshba, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 4.6, to insert the following paragraph:
"take into consideration the Final Statement of the Conference – The Moscow Agenda – of the 10th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture (Moscow, 15-16 April 2013) in defining national cultural policies."
We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Robert Shlegel, Mr Anvar Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Alexander Sidyakin and Mr Otari Arshba, which is, in the draft resolution, in paragraph 3, before the words "by the European Union", to insert the following words:
", if appropriate,".
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 1.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – This amendment just proposes a technical change in the drafting to reflect the country composition of the European Union.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13142, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13142, as amended, is adopted unanimously.
Many congratulations to you, Ms Brasseur, and to you, Mr Wach.
4. Joint debate on Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge and young people’s access to fundamental rights
THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. The first is “Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge”, Document 13155, presented by Ms Komar; the second is “Young people’s access to fundamental rights”, Document 13156, presented by Mr Connarty and with an opinion presented by Mr Volontč on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.
We must finish this debate at 8 p.m. I will therefore interrupt the list of speakers in the debate at about 7.30 p.m. for replies and voting.
I remind members that they have three minutes in which to speak.
I call Ms Komar to present the first report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Ms KOMAR (Slovenia) – I am very grateful for this opportunity to address you on a topic of such importance – Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge.
The members of this Assembly and of our parliaments back home need to give urgent attention to the education of our young people. The high rates of youth unemployment, which reached a historic average of 22.4% in the European Union countries, prove that there is something wrong with the way things are at the moment. Employability, however, is not the only challenge that policy makers must meet. Education is not only about teaching students to become part of a highly skilled work force – it has a value in itself. Education is fundamental to youth empowerment and personal fulfilment. We tell our young women and men that they can become anything they want to become, that they should believe in their future and that they should pursue their dreams, but are we not being cynical? The new generations of young people might not have the same opportunities we had when we went to school and university. They might not be lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family and they might not have a disability that would allow them to get access to the educational institution of their choice.
We, as elected representatives, have a duty to bear in mind the needs of each and every one of our citizens. We must make sure that young people get all the support they need to live in dignity. We should start by reflecting on what is not right in the way our education systems work, in order to try to make things better. We have to ask ourselves: is the current educational provision adequate and sufficient, or should we review and improve the current systems?
Education – from formal to non-formal and informal learning – is a major factor that can influence the capacity of young people to take charge of their lives and to find the best solutions to the challenges our societies are faced with.
In this report we propose a series of measures that member States could take to ensure that education provision is adequate and as complete as possible to provide young people with the competences they need. The report asks member States to adopt a comprehensive approach to education and take action to set the right policy frameworks, create new learning opportunities and enhance the existing ones, ensuring inclusion and getting more young people engaged in their own learning and development.
First and foremost, we call on member States to secure the provision of adequate resources for education. Education is not a tool for budgetary adjustments. Young people have the right to benefit from high-quality education. It is not for them to repair the mistakes made by previous generations, such as the uncontrollable financial transactions and speculations that brought about the economic and financial crisis. Young people deserve better opportunities than the ones that they have now. What can we do better? To enhance formal education, member States should invest in effective guidance and counselling for all students; develop policies in youth mobility; ensure that schools promote mutual respect and develop anti-violence and anti-discrimination policies; and establish attractive conditions for teachers.
I want for a moment to speak about the importance of youth mobility, and in particular, student mobility, which enables young people to have an education in a country other than their own. It is by knowing each other and by speaking to each other – and not only through social networks – that young people will develop respect for and understanding of different cultures in Europe. Student mobility, however, is jeopardised by harsh bureaucracy and visa regimes that stand as barriers that young people cannot overcome without our political support. How can a student get a visa if the visa requirements include demands to justify the availability of a certain income, which by definition they cannot have since they are not yet employed? I think that we, as parliamentarians, can do something to enable young Europeans to benefit from the richness of European cultures through student mobility.
To improve recognition of and support for new learning settings, member States should intensify efforts aimed at recognising youth work and non-formal and informal learning, taking into account the proposals put forward by the “Strasbourg Process” on the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning. Moreover, member States should also encourage the development of youth workers’ leadership competencies by promoting the use of the European portfolio for youth leaders and youth workers. We should also promote entrepreneurship education and value the role that youth organisations can play in supporting the development of self-employment prospects for young people.
In designing programmes to support civil society initiatives, member States and those in charge of international support programmes need to be vigilant to make sure that resources are not wasted on programmes that do not benefit young people. That is why young people should always be involved in the management of programmes addressed to them, from the inception stage right through to the programme implementation and evaluation stages.
Finally, the full participation of young people in society, which we all strive for, needs our attention as well. Young people’s participation depends on how attached they feel to the democratic processes in society. Young people do not vote. Apathy and lack of commitment regarding traditional democratic processes such as elections, particularly local elections, have reached striking levels with young people. Education for democratic citizenship and human rights should give them the right competences. However, the application of what they learned depends on how much trust young people have in their politicians and government officials.
Young people’s participation in society – in all aspects of life from employment to political life and culture – also depends on how inclusive our societies are. Member States should facilitate access to education for children and young people from disadvantaged groups. They should provide teacher training to equip teachers with intercultural competences, and the capability to deal with ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
We, as parliamentarians, should enable our member States to keep track of the progress in advancing towards a better life, guaranteeing the right to education and meeting the concerns of millions of young people. The draft resolution and recommendation refer to the specific steps that need to be taken towards reaching those aims. I therefore invite you all to support both these texts today and in future by promoting their implementation in your national parliaments and in your constituencies. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. You have five minutes remaining.
I call Mr Connarty to present the second report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – The first thing that I must do is thank many people who have helped along the way to developing this policy document and recommendation – and it is a recommendation because it will, I hope, go directly to the Council of Ministers, which has left us in a quandary with its reaction to the original plan put forward for a framework directive.
I thank Angela Garabagiu, the secretariat direct member responsible for assisting me in this project, and Roberto Fasino, who oversees that process. I also thank Ms Samardžić-Marković, the Director of Democracy, who has been very helpful in liaising with the Youth Centre, and Ms Maria Paschou, the chair of the Advisory Council on Youth, who now, at our invitation, joins us at meetings of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. Hopefully, other people will join other committees in a direct dialogue with youth. I thank the staff and volunteers of the European Youth Centre or, as I call them, “those on the hill”. I do not know whether any members have taken the trouble to visit the youth centre on the hill and to debate with them. I believe that the more we bring them down to participate in our debates, the more we will strengthen the relevance of our conclusions.
I always feel that I hold this remit in trust for others – for those who have worked in the European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest and in the Advisory Council on Youth for over 40 years. I looked at a resolution from 1985, which refers to “The first Ministerial Conference held in Strasbourg in 1985 on youth participation”. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we have come far enough in allowing youth participation in our activities.
I call people’s attention to the document itself – to the explanatory memorandum as well as the resolution – and to another document that I hope is in the office, which is the full Youth Assembly production of the considerations, issues and conclusions it reached. There will be a similar document for St Petersburg, and I hope that people will read those with the report.
The report talks about developing youth policies, establishing youth centres in all the Council of Europe member States, developing national action plans and increasing the participation of young people in decision making at national level. Those have been the aims over the last 40 years, and I am sure we can consider how far we have reached those in each of our jurisdictions.
I hold the remit in trust also for my colleague sitting beside me, Luca Volontč, and those who supported his paper “The Young Generation Sacrificed – Social, Economic and Political Implications”, along with Resolution 1885 and Recommendation 2002 (2012). That underpins all our work in responding to the attack – it may be a passive attack, but it is an attack – on youth at present.
I hold the remit in trust for those in this Assembly who supported Recommendation 1978 (2011), “Towards a European Framework Convention on Youth Rights”. The response of the Committee of Ministers showed that, as we say in the United Kingdom, they just didn’t get it. Their response was that it was a just a matter of improving access to the general rights that already exist – an argument that we often hear from people when we talk about youth rights. At least they agreed that young people should be involved in the formulation and implementation of youth policies. One government responded entirely by references to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It just didn’t get it. Let us consider why the Greek Government thinks that it is all right to decide that everyone under the age of 25 will have their pay cut by 50% – not all of the population but just those under 25. Let us consider why, in my country, you have to be 23 or 24 before you get the full minimum wage. That shows that there is a problem between childhood and full participation and, indeed, power as an adult.
The key to the new reality and a new approach in “The young generation sacrificed”, which this Assembly approved, includes “measures for ensuring the smoother integration of young people into society through active citizenship, social dialogue, improved access to rights and sustainable employment.” It mentions vital job creation initiatives, such as youth guarantee schemes and youth entrepreneurship, and reiterates the proposal to draft a European framework convention on the rights of young people.
My final duty of trust – the most important and personal to me, though I do not diminish the importance of the other duties – is to the youth members of the Youth Assembly, sessions of which were held in St Petersburg from 24 to 25 September 2012, which was linked to the meeting of the ministers responsible for youth, and here in Strasbourg from 5 to 7 October 2012.
I was charged by the President of this Assembly, Mr Mignon, with representing him in organising and facilitating the Youth Assembly in Strasbourg, which was linked to the World Forum for Democracy. I want to salute the organisers and participants of the nine thematic working groups, and I hope that people will read the full report. The nine groups were: democracy and religion; democracy and globalisation; democracy and new social media; democracy and access to social rights; democracy and youth participation; democracy and the role of youth work and youth organisations; democracy and migration; democracy and the inclusion of minorities; and democracy and citizenship education.
I will always remember the quality of the debate and the understanding, empathy and optimism generated. I met people such as Ramon Martinez – I do not even know where he comes from, but his e-mail address is from a non-governmental organisation called “hot-sinzig”. There was the young Palestinian from Gaza for whom we applied for a visa. There were also people from Israel; Martine Lodding from Norway; and Osiris Hoepel – what a wonderful name, Osiris. I do not even know what country he is from, but his contributions were scintillating. There was also Kyle Thornton from my own country of Scotland, and a female delegate who came from the most far eastern part of Russia – she took four flights to come, and she was amazing. Devout Muslim young women from Bosnia and Herzegovina discussed religion and cultural respect with Serbian youths for the first time.
What young people are saying to us is that their rights must give them better access to existing rights, and that employment and training with proper certification is important. They want social rights in health and housing, not the lowest quality provision; strengthened capacities to build their own identity; the ability to become influential actors in social and economic development; the ability to overcome vulnerabilities by removing barriers for people with disadvantaged, minority or immigrant backgrounds or who are culturally isolated; gender barriers, or barriers caused by social attitudes to sexual orientation, by enhancing democratic youth participation in schools, colleges and communities; the creation of an all-inclusive, cross-community, inter-cultural and inter-generational dialogue through political parties and societal organisations; and better access and better defined rights aimed at smoothing, or at least helping them to negotiate, the bumpy road for many from childhood – when rights are protected – to adulthood, when rights are available, but you are expected to be equipped to demand them.
Specific action that was asked for includes the removal of barriers to mobility, such as travel visas for youth NGO participants in international youth organisations; funding or financial support for travel costs and other fees; the provision of legal and administrative support without taking over or trying to dictate the outcomes to participating youths; consideration for doing more in the same way for international study; the raising of awareness and the addressing of the violation of rights of particular relevance to young people; the creation of opportunities for youth participation in organisations; the creation of opportunities for youth offices in schools, colleges and communities to act as hubs for youth education at work, at home and in the community to come together; and youth organisations designed to be controlled by young people, with transparency in finance and independence of outcome.
They also want to use the Council of Europe to develop, define and enhance youth policies; to gather good practice and specific marshalling of key rights of most relevance to young people, both existing or those that require enhancement; and to work with the Youth Centre and the Advisory Council on Youth to bring back a developed framework convention on youth rights.
I want to end by talking about the issue that will not speak its name, or whose name some wish to silence. That issue caused the failure of the conference of ministers for youth in St Petersburg from 24 to 25 September 2012. The St Petersburg Youth Assembly specifically called for an approach in the development and implementation of youth policy that is sensitive to issues of gender and sexual orientation. When we convened to discuss our work progress, our joint committees heard from Mr Hĺkon Haugli, general rapporteur of this Assembly on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, who should be listened to by more people in more countries.
I recall the intervention of the Belgian minister for youth, who said: “For young people coming to terms with their developing sexuality, being gay is not a life choice.” To my Russian colleagues, with respect – I do respect the work that they are trying to do – it is important not to try to ban the discussion of sexuality and sexual rights. We in the United Kingdom went through a terrible period with section 28. It did not just mar people’s view of the government, but damaged our country. People with aspiration felt that they could not speak out or participate, and they left their country because they were not treated with respect, because their sexuality was different from that of the majority.
I will end with a quote from my good friend, Andreas Gross, who reminded me that when we are talking about giving rights to education, work and having homes, it is important to remember that “It is good to be happy in your home, but it is also good to be at home inside yourself.” We must face up to the challenge and move forward. I hope that our discussion today will allow us to do so.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Connarty. Your report moves us in a direction that I think we can all support. It is very much of the hour. You have approximately three minutes left to reply to the debate.
I call Mr Volontč to present the opinion of the Social Affairs Committee. You have three minutes.
Mr VOLONTČ (Italy) – On behalf of the Social Affairs Committee, I congratulate both rapporteurs on how effectively they have worked together. Particularly with regard to Mr Connarty’s report, we have been able to work with young people on a number of occasions, as he mentioned. There were many young people at, for example, the conference on democracy. Across the board they were keen to participate.
The Council of Europe is trying to respond to the crisis of participation that we have seen in recent years. Both rapporteurs have pointed out how much work has been done by this Parliamentary Assembly and how frequently we have addressed recommendations and resolutions to the Committee of Ministers. We hope that that committee will make best use of them creatively and intelligently. The problems that we are discussing affect a whole generation of young Europeans. Mr Kovács has made a proposal regarding the rights of young people, and we now have the two reports today. Also, the Social Affairs Committee looked at the subject of the lost generation not long ago.
We hope that there will be an opening in the Committee of Ministers. We do not want to point the finger at anyone, but we hope that it will be open to our points. It is certainly the firm wish of this Assembly that young people have genuine and effective access to their fundamental rights.
We have expressed our opinion on the basis of very few amendments, which are intended to add to the work of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, not to replace it in any way. We emphasise the crucial role of these fundamental rights by reference to the Social Charter, for example. We call for the genuine implementation of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life. We want young people’s associations and NGOs to enjoy a role here as well. We want these two very sound reports to be not just approved but implemented by the Committee of Ministers at last.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. In the general debate, I call Mr Gunnarsson, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden)* – I compliment the rapporteurs and the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media on two good reports.
It is often said that it takes a village to raise child. If Europe is that village and if that saying is true, we are not doing a very good job. Our youth is in many ways in a time of transition, from being a child into being an adult. During our youth, we are formed and shaped into how we will turn out as adults.
Sadly, Europe is failing in its responsibilities to our young citizens. Youth unemployment has in some parts of our continent passed 50%. Owing to bullying, prejudice and a lack of possibilities to define themselves, young people still decide to end their own lives.
Young people all over Europe try to make their voices heard, but are we listening? At the 9th conference of ministers responsible for youth in St Petersburg last year, it became clear that as long as the youth are saying what we want to hear, we listen, but if they say something considered inconvenient or wrong, we go deaf.
The youth representatives present at the conference asked for youth policies that are sensitive to sexual orientation and gender. This was sadly blocked by the hosting country, Russia – the same country that is trying to restrict LGBT people’s right to speak about and show their orientation or identity in public.
These are just a few examples of how the European village treats its youth today. However, the two reports that we are discussing today lay out a path forward, or perhaps a path back to the good European village.
Education is a crucial tool if our wish is to foster our youth to become talented, creative and able adults, with sound democratic and open-minded views on the world. I am very glad that the rapporteur so clearly points out non-formal education as an important and valued part of a young person’s education. Non-formal education is often something that the participants organise themselves. It is therefore a great tool for educating people in democratic processes.
Our education system has a dual responsibility: it should educate our youth to become skilled professionals, as well as foster them to become citizens with a democratic and open mindset who can access their fundamental rights.
I am also very happy that Michael Connarty reaffirms in his report what has been said so many times before about the need to let young people into decision making bodies. The best way for a group to protect and demand their rights is to be present in the decision-making system. Sadly, young people are denied that right to a large extent.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Stroe, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr STROE (Romania) – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their very important reports on these topics.
For young people, the most important thing is to have a successful start in their careers. Many factors determine the status of young people: their financial state, health and professional development. Some young people are at greater risk than others of becoming NEET – not in education, employment or training – especially those with few or no qualifications and those with low aspirations or, unfortunately, health problems or disabilities.
The deployment of resources to recover from the harsh economic crisis and the commitment to boost economic growth still remain promises. Young people are one of the resources that we are wasting because we do not use them in the appropriate manner. Therefore, more emphasis should be put on advising young Europeans to choose the academic curriculum that suits them best, according to their abilities, to avoid their completing courses just for the sake of graduating. Too often, young people have no opportunity to enter the labour market, to gain experience in their field of interest.
The rapporteurs outline a number of ways out of this situation. I welcome the report’s recommendations, especially those proposing further development and appropriate funding to strengthen efforts for social inclusion and a continuous dialogue with stakeholders, to provide protection against discrimination in all areas of life.
Age discrimination and the relationship between age and other forms of discrimination have negative consequences on the lives of young people. Protection against all forms of discrimination, including multiple discrimination, should be provided at both European and national levels in all areas of life, including education, social security, social advantages, health and access to goods and services.
We parliamentarians need to oversee the implementation of policies by setting up a binding legal framework that should focus on creating opportunities for young peoples to access fundamental rights, and concrete policies at the local, national and European levels are needed to tackle the critical and immediate character of the challenges faced by young people.
Human rights are the core values of the Council of Europe, and that is why we deal with them almost every time we are here. It is essential that our member States rethink youth policies, to render them more comprehensive and allow young people to access their fundamental rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Shlegel, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – I welcome the fact that the Assembly is focusing on education and young people’s access to fundamental rights. I thank the rapporteurs for the reports, which mention a number of important issues that we must deal with together.
These topics are extremely important today and for the future. It is important to examine them holistically and to consider nurturing young people as citizens of democratic society, as well as the fact that the European economy will develop as they acquire skills. It is therefore important to focus on youth unemployment.
As has been mentioned, youth unemployment is very high. In some countries, it is critically high – above 50%. We should acknowledge that unemployment among young people is one of the most serious problems for contemporary Europe. Unfortunately, youth unemployment fosters the growth of left-wing and right-wing radicalism, extremism and xenophobia, including among young immigrants.
A separate issue is that the education community should contribute to the social integration of immigrant youths who legally reside in host countries. We need to solve the problem of young non-citizens from Baltic States who do not have access to fundamental rights or even political rights, as that is clear proof of a crying injustice in certain member States of the Council of Europe.
In September 2012, the 9th conference of ministers on Youth issues of the member States of the Council of Europe was held in St Petersburg. One of the main messages from that conference was the common position that the Council of Europe needs to pay more attention to youth economic participation. Given today’s situation, the young people of Europe clearly expect national governments, parliaments and the Council of Europe to analyse the issues and develop proposals. More specifically, they want concrete steps to be taken to combat youth unemployment, to integrate young people into the modern economy and to take account of globalisation and the impact of the economic crisis.
Such practical steps would do considerably more to deal with youth access to fundamental rights than simply recognising youth rights and enshrining them in a separate convention. Our human rights convention includes the rights of all people, young and old, and there is no need to highlight the rights of specific groups.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Loukaides, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr LOUKAIDES (Cyprus) – This debate on young people’s access to fundamental rights and the need to improve the quality of the education they receive is taking place in the midst of the ongoing economic crisis. The young generation is already bearing the negative consequences of increased poverty, unemployment and hindered access to equal opportunities and other fundamental rights, especially in southern Europe.
Europe cannot afford to sacrifice the next generation. As this is not a rhetorical example but the tragic situation we face, we would welcome the rapporteurs’ reaction to that pressing reality. We believe that immediate action must be taken if we truly want to protect and equip our children with the necessary tools effectively to face up to the emerging challenges, which are likely to last for a long time.
Protecting and safeguarding human rights and equality – two basic principles of this Organisation – must be put ahead of economic interests or budgetary restrictions in our committed efforts to transform the architecture of the European Union and Europe more widely and to deliver growth, job creation and solidarity. Disillusionment with politics, democracy and social issues is growing among the younger generation, increasing the risk of social instability. Addressing those issues, particularly in these testing times when the dominant message in Europe is one of austerity, will combat any rise in extreme right-wing political views. It will also allow the education system to foster effectively a culture of tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity. In that context, we agree with Ms Komar that we must ensure that young people from different social and economic backgrounds have equal access to education and opportunities and that we must combat the attitudes and prejudices that have resulted in segregated and closed education systems in Europe.
On the question of young people’s access to fundamental rights, we fully endorse the recommendations contained in the draft text for a more coherent formulation of the legal framework, although we think that existing instruments and initiatives should be fully implemented in parallel. Furthermore, it is important to support young people standing for election within local authority institutions, political parties and even national parliamentary elections as that will have a positive impact on lessening the democratic deficit and involving young people directly in the public discourse. At the same time, measures must be taken to ensure the removal of whatever other barriers stand in the way of their access to social, cultural, economic and political rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Orobets, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms OROBETS (Ukraine) – On behalf of my group, I thank Ms Komar and Mr Connarty for their fruitful and deep research and their suggestions for coping with the problem of European education. We also want to stress that the group will provide step-by-step support to those ideas.
We are united with the idea of sharing European values, but such sharing depends on the level of culture and education in the nations we unite. Although the quality of education in Europe is generally high, European countries face some common problems that are unfortunately not regulated. Such problematic issues include unfavourable atmospheres in schools, mutual disrespect between students and teachers, peer conflicts, the provision in schools of theoretical ideas rather than practical skills and ignorance about the individual needs and peculiarities of each child or youngster, which can later transform into deep psychological problems and conflicts. Higher education in some countries also faces hard times, with no equal access to education for the poor, little development of the skills and competences demanded by the market and no guarantee of employment.
There is another problem that has not yet been described. There are no official statistics, but from my experience I would say that nine out of 10 young people who are educated abroad never go back to their own country. There is a problem not only of economic divergence but of diploma recognition, too, as they are not welcomed back to their own country. It is vital that the system of education meets two criteria: it should suit the needs and abilities of each individual; and it should satisfy the demands of the economy. At the same time, formal education should be combined with non-formal and out-of-school education. Peers should be welcomed to study informally in clubs and circles and even in movements such as Scouting, which give youngsters good preparation for life and allow them to develop their skills and competences. It is important to understand that if all citizens have access to quality education, we are investing in our future generations, prosperity and sustainable development in our countries and the European Union in general.
Education is a sphere in which speculation can have a high price, so political demagoguism should be left behind and the representatives of different parties should be united behind a common goal.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Orobets. Do the rapporteurs want to respond immediately to the spokespersons of the political groups? That is not the case. Ms Komar has five minutes left and Mr Connarty has three minutes left. I now call Mr Taliadouros.
Mr TALIADOUROS (Greece)* – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their well-documented stance. Their suggestions are important in guaranteeing the fundamental rights of young people and ensuring the conditions that they need fully to develop their potential. That is particularly important today as there is rising youth unemployment as well as difficulties with access to education. Perhaps an ombudsman at a European level who could co-operate with national and regional ombudsmen would be a positive step. There should also be guidance counsellors in schools and universities to ensure that pupils and students know what is available to them. That would ensure better co-operation among parents, pupils, students and teachers.
Steps must be taken to facilitate access to the labour market for young people. Tax incentives and economic incentives should be made available to employers so that they recruit young people to work and training programmes that will give them the qualifications required to ensure a smooth transition from education to work. It is not just a question of educating young people so that they get employment, however. Education must be perceived as something that gives young people access to culture and socio-economic life in general. That aspect of education is underestimated. If we see education in those terms, we must put a lot of stress on life-long education. It is very important that people should be able to develop themselves. The link between education, democracy and social cohesion must be re-evaluated and given its proper recognition.
As for the resources provided for education, I think that 6% of the GDP is an appropriate target. We should look at public expenditure, especially in the countries of the south that are currently slashing their education expenditure; and, of course, the resources made available to the education sector should be taken advantage of as efficiently as possible.
As for equality of access to education, this must be guaranteed in all member States. If it is not, that constitutes a violation of the right to education. Priority must also be given to the substantive participation by parents in the education system as that is very important.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I call Ms Myller.
Ms MYLLER (Finland) – I too thank both rapporteurs for the important work they have done. In times of economic hardship, it is often those least capable of standing up and fighting for their rights who bear the heaviest burden. That is especially true of our children and young people. They have nothing to do with the problems of our times and should not have to pay for them. The future of our young people is a common matter which affects us all and we must tackle the issue as a whole. Childhood is the most important phase in one's development for living a good life and a healthy and balanced adulthood. Choices made during this period are crucial, and that is why we must pay extra attention to supporting our children and young people.
In order to ensure a happy childhood we must support families in need, not only financially but by offering them health care services, education and a sense of security. Many studies have shown that pre-school education makes a big difference to a child's learning capabilities at a later age, as does proper health care in schools. It is important to recognise not only different socio-economic conditions, but also different cognitive conditions, as these also affect children's ability to take part in education and their opportunities to fully utilise the potential that schools offer them. Families need support if we are to ensure that all children receive decent tools for learning. This is especially important now that education not only means formal schooling but constitutes a lifelong journey.
However, we must not stop there. Young people entering the labour market for the first time also need support and guidance, especially now that unemployment rates are soaring. In Finland we have launched a youth guarantee which means that we offer a job, a place of study or an apprenticeship to anyone under 25 years of age within three months of their becoming unemployed. By doing this, we are trying to ensure that no young person is left behind or becomes marginalised. Success in this endeavour also obliges us to find a working connection between the State, private businesses and municipalities, so that each of these can work for the benefit of our youngsters. We must understand the importance of pre-emptive measures. Intervening before things get worse is not only cheaper for our societies, but more humane for the individuals.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now give the floor to Ms Graham.
Ms GRAHAM (Norway) – Thank you, Mr President. I also thank our colleagues, the rapporteurs, for these excellent reports.
Yet again we are discussing youth's access to fundamental rights, as well as the educational challenges which are facing young Europeans. I am afraid that this will not be the last time that we discuss these subjects. Indeed, less than two years ago we addressed the need for a European framework convention on youth rights. Unfortunately, the Committee of Ministers rejected our proposal. I can only commend Mr Connarty for revisiting this issue and proposing a recommendation that reiterates our call for a binding legal framework.
In the debate in June 2011, I stressed the importance of not compromising on the needs and rights of youth when financial resources are allocated. The three reports which we are debating this afternoon are all related to that and point to policy measures that can be taken to rectify the difficult situation facing European youth. In his report on the young generation who have been sacrificed, Mr Volontč focuses on employability and skills. I am glad that Ms Komar has followed up on that and put an emphasis on lifelong learning.
“Learning to learn” is a key to ensuring lifelong learning and giving our young people the skills they need to succeed. As our rapporteur states, learning to learn is a prerequisite for both employment and social inclusion. Learning languages, maths, science and history will always remain at the core of our children’s school days. However, in our modern society children need to build skills on top of that. They must learn how to obtain, analyse and use information. They must develop a sense of critical thinking. They must learn to self-evaluate and to participate in a group working towards a common goal bigger than each individual. To that end, we must recognise the importance of the ways in which they learn languages, maths, science and history.
Teachers are key individuals in giving our youth the knowledge and skills that they need to become active citizens. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to make sure that teachers, through their education and continuous training, are given the tools that they need. We have a responsibility to value the work that they do by giving them proper salaries. We must have high expectations of our teachers, but we must also provide the education and training opportunities that they need to fulfil them. It is important, because within the fate of our youth lies the fate of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I now give the floor to Mr Triantafyllos.
Mr TRIANTAFYLLOS (Greece) – The issue that we are discussing is gradually becoming more urgent in the countries plagued by the financial crisis, as young people are the most vulnerable victims of that crisis. Is the problem facing today’s younger generation caused by the characteristics or weaknesses of that generation? The answer, of course, is no. No one could disagree that today’s younger generation is the most educated, most qualified and most networked younger generation which has ever existed in Europe. Why, then, are we facing the highest ever numbers of unemployment among our young? Why do they have little, if any, access to fundamental rights? The answer is not simple, nor is it easy to address. It is related to the social, political and economic decision-making structures within most of the European countries. The reports address this in a positive way.
In view of the international nature of much of what happens today, would it be more effective to address these issues at the national level? I believe that we should activate certain international and European institutions which could decisively address young people's issues in a more holistic, systematic and productive way. Additionally, it is necessary to address the issue of young people who are not in employment, education or training. We have to agree that education is not only about preparing students to become part of a highly skilled workforce but has a value in itself, too. Education should nurture human talent and creativity and contribute to personal development, including involvement in cultural, socio-economic and political life. The role of non-formal and human rights education is also important.
Every child living in Europe should be entitled to education regardless of their parents’ legal status in a given country. Furthermore, the member States of the Council of Europe should strengthen the participation of young people in the decision-making process. Local youth councils, the European Youth Forum, the Advisory Council on Youth, and the European Youth Centre of the Council of Europe constitute remarkable examples.
To sum up, I want to fully support the proposal for the appointment of a special ombudsperson of the Council of Europe with a duty to monitor the implementation of policies and to promote and protect young people’s rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Schennach.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – The rapporteurs have really hit the nail on the head in identifying youth unemployment as a painful problem in Europe. We have already debated this subject, but we need to examine the current situation. Until the crisis erupted in 2008, we had young people on apprenticeships and therefore not in full-time employment. We need to realise that they are now paying the price for that, which is why all European institutions, including the European Union and the Council of Europe, should start their sittings by discussing what they have done to tackle youth unemployment, because we are condemning young people to an extreme fate and separating them from the European mainstream, which is a true catastrophy. It is not about banks, the euro or the economy: if young Europeans are not positive, the whole of Europe will run into trouble.
We must pull together with uniform efforts. We must look at why countries such as Germany have lower youth unemployment. In Austria, we offer young people three to four years of jobs and training. We ensure that people who have served apprenticeships can go on to study. If they have learnt a trade, they go into that trade. Our youth unemployment level is running at just 6% because the State ensures that anybody who has done an apprenticeship can go on to use their trade. If no jobs are available, the State ensures that they can continue training. We ensure schooling and education and then a progressive system that offers year-on-year work for those who have served apprenticeships. Students have Erasmus, where they can swan around Europe, which is all well and good, but what about those who are learning trades? They are trapped in their local areas. That is why we need harmonisation across Europe. We can learn from one another and put an end to the agony and to this scandalous state of affairs.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Zourabian is not here, so I call Mr Mihalovics.
Mr MIHALOVICS (Hungary)* – One of the main social and economic challenges for the Council of Europe is to provide adequate answers to the young people facing the helplessness and despair caused by unemployment. For many, the failure goes far beyond individual tragedies, so governments must ensure that national education systems, including artistic and cultural education, are run efficiently, can respond satisfactorily to today’s challenges, and can manage the issues concerning young jobseekers.
The Hungarian Government has responded to those challenges by introducing reforms that usher in fundamental and modern solutions. The new legislation is not only responding to current employment problems but changing teaching with a view to supporting equal opportunities at school and the possibility of long-term development in Hungarian society. The new education law, which is in keeping with the principles of the European Union regarding education and training, puts the Hungarian education system on a solid foundation. It has provided a detailed definition of the rights of students, in particular their right to training and education that nurture their talents, skills and interests in a secure environment.
Teaching establishments should respect students’ rights, in particular the rights to the free development of one’s personality, to self-determination, to freedom of action, to family life and to privacy. That said, using those rights should not undermine the application of the same rights by other people or the implementation of the conditions necessary for exercising the right to education; nor should the rights of other employees of education establishments be violated. The rules are there to protect the entire community, and if they are universally respected, an environment conducive to the exercise of such rights will be created. The efforts of Hungarian legislators, teachers and other education workers will help to improve the situation and will shape a more promising destiny for future generations.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr O’Reilly.
Mr O’REILLY (Ireland) – I congratulate the rapporteurs, Ms Komar and Mr Connarty, on a job well done.
The greatest challenge and disincentive to young people participating properly in democracy and society is obviously youth unemployment, which is running at 22% across Europe and is as high as 50% in some places. With 40% of young people on contracts, the statistics are scary. The European Union youth guarantee scheme, whereby an 18 to 25-year-old must be offered employment or training after four months of unemployment, is excellent and should be encouraged in all member States and spread beyond the European Union. We should be encouraging it at the Council of Europe. We should implement every initiative that will contribute to getting young people into work.
It is important to recognise, as the reports do, the lack of IT, maths and science skills. So many more young people could be employed if that dearth was dealt with, and it should be a priority for the Council of Europe. There is obviously a case for developing entrepreneurship in young people in education, and linked to that is the worthwhile suggestion about the recognition of non-formal schooling competencies.
Access to education is the key to the empowerment of young people and ultimately to employment. Every step should be taken on this issue, and we should monitor carefully within the Council of Europe how our member States are performing on access to education, and encourage them in that regard. The question of bullying also arises. If good anti-bullying policies do not exist, such access is not available.
We need to tackle the youth unemployment and access to education questions. The two are interlinked, and they are the two great challenges facing this generation. Sad to say, the current generation of young people will be the first ever to be poorer and in a more adverse position than their parents. That is a shocking challenge for us and it behoves us to act on it.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Toshev.
Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria) – Today’s joint debate today touches on the education challenge for present and future generations. I am reminded of my first visit to the Council of Europe, in January 1991, when I was invited here by the European Youth Centre. Unfortunately, I no longer meet the age criteria, but I can contribute to the debate by sharing my experience.
The reports of Ms Komar and Mr Connarty, and of Mr Volontč, present different views on the same issue. Educating and forming young Europeans to prepare them for the future is a process that seems invisible to society and is treated as theoretical. People see such matters as boring and alien, but in fact education is the entire basis of our society. Here, I would like to pay tribute to the 1992 initiative of Dr Svetlozar Raev, a political emigrant to Germany during the time of the Communist regime. After the changes in 1989, he became the first Ambassador of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe. He initiated the adoption of the Declaration and Programme on education for democratic citizenship based on the rights and responsibility of citizens. The Declaration was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 May 1999, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe. Today’s debate is a continuation of the same idea under new terms.
As I have pointed out several times before, education’s primary objective used to be cognition: the collection and accumulation of knowledge. However, because social evolution has made it no longer possible to mould people with encyclopaedic knowledge, given the vast quantity of information that exists, the purpose of education has been reformulated to include the element of creation and the development of habits and competencies. Globalisation has tasked education with training and promoting the know-how to live together in the 21st century. This involves a capacity to know and better comprehend others, in order to rule out conflicts and provide a better opportunity for all individuals to live and work in a multicultural society: in other words, the know-how to be a citizen. This without fail requires that we develop a capacity to understand and exercise our rights, while being consciously aware of our responsibilities towards others and society as a whole.
I stress the need for citizens to play an active part in public life, thus shaping their own and their societies’ destiny. Unfortunately, not much was achieved in this respect during the last year. Now is the time to start again and once again raise the issue in this Chamber.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Memecan.
Ms MEMECAN (Turkey) – I thank the rapporteurs for these timely reports, which bring to our attention serious issues that we have to confront if we want to ensure that young people in Europe have economic opportunities, prosperous lives and a positive future.
Although the economic crisis is a significant reason why young Europeans feel isolated and hopeless today, the bigger picture requires a more sophisticated analysis. Part of the explanation is that today’s young people live in a very different world from the one we grew up in. The age of the industrial revolution is closing and we are now living in the information and technology age. The types of jobs and the skills required are very different from what was needed during the industrial age. However, we have been educating children to acquire the skills to take part in that professional environment of the past. A university diploma no longer guarantees anyone a job. Increasingly, there is no such thing as the high-wage, semi-skilled job that sustained the middle class of the last generation. That is why many education specialists argue that we need to reform our entire education system and not train children for the technical jobs of the past. We need to think critically, communicate well, create solutions and innovate for a future professional environment that is difficult for us to predict.
In today’s world, it is difficult to find a job involving traditional skills, and easier and cheaper to invent, imagine or engineer a job by taking the opportunities that technology and the Internet provide. For that reason, schools need to focus on teaching children entrepreneurship and act as laboratories where they can practise such skills. As politicians, our highest priority should be to reinvent schools and the whole education system for the 21st century, in order to prepare our children for the new era. I congratulate our Finnish colleagues on creating an education system described as the only one through which students leave high-school innovation-ready. Children are taught creativity and have many choices for electives, shorter school days, little homework and almost no testing. Without using traditional methods, Finnish students still outperform other children and are better prepared for the new professional environment. This good example should provide the inspiration to come up with our own models in our own countries.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Fataliyeva.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – The modern world requires that we address all aspects of life relating to economics, education and society. We live in a world in which everything – values, notions, attitudes – is changing rapidly. Attitudes toward education are also changing. Nowadays, it is sometimes regarded as an industry – a commercial enterprise the functioning of which should bring certain benefits. This makes it difficult for poor families to access education.
Education is an important stage in the formation of personality and its harmonic development. However, education does not always contribute to developing and strengthening the positive social experience of youth. Sometimes, it is not resistant enough to anarchistic actions and indifference to certain social processes. The growth of national consciousness gives rise to the question of forming the correct attitude toward interethnic dialogue. The lack of active resistance to all forms of nationalism and chauvinism, and the underestimation of education, makes some youth groups a target of nationalistic propaganda.
One of the primary goals of education must be to impart to young people the strength to resist a lack of spirituality and historical and cultural ignorance. Young people should be strongly attached to their national and spiritual values. Nevertheless, we should never forget that we are part of the world, and in preserving our national identity and national values we must respect all people of various religions and ethnicity.
In Azerbaijan, we have developed a youth policy which has successfully implemented a number of State programmes for young people. We have an international State education programme, and thus all the necessary conditions for focusing young people’s attention on education – be it inside or outside the country – are provided.
Young professionals are the pride and hope of any developed State. If this “hope” is not backed up by adequate security within society, the problems of youth become one of the main threats to economic security and social stability. Youth unemployment may lead to deepening poverty and a reduction in the budgets of young families, which in turn can increase divorce rates and the number of orphaned children. Crime, alcoholism and drug addiction can also increase.
The future of the world depends on education. The development of any society depends primarily on its intellectual capacity. Youth is a temporary period, and the policy of each State should be to ensure that young people are literate, educated and feel part of their country, so that they contribute to its development. I deeply appreciate the fruitful and valuable work of all the rapporteurs and believe that the report will make a strong contribution to solving the problems.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Fataliyeva. Ms Clune is not here, so I call Ms El Ouafi from Morocco, Partner for Democracy.
Ms EL OUAFI (Morocco)* – First, I congratulate the rapporteurs on their interesting reports. There are strategic choices for a new multicultural and productive Europe. Europe has taken interesting steps to combat discrimination against young people from migrant backgrounds, although there is still much to be done.
It is difficult for those born to migrant families to get a foothold in the labour market, and the challenge must be to reduce the inequality that they experience. They are in their own societies – we are talking about young people who are European, albeit from migrant backgrounds. They have real difficulty in finding a new identity, so we are duty bound to work together to make sure that all participate democratically and civically. We need to assert the democratic values of Europe. My comments apply particularly to young women from migrant backgrounds. Work has an important role to play in increasing their independence.
We need to take tangible steps to help young migrants. We should make companies aware of the need to do away with inequality. Let us rise to the challenge and try to eliminate the difficulties that such young people experience in taking their place in European society – their own society. We need to work actively at local, regional and European level. The whole issue is predicated on jobs, as European public opinion has realised. The European public know full well that migrants play an important role in their economies, so it is vital that there be integration policies.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms El Ouafi. I call Mr Gaudi Nagy.
Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their work on these important topics, but we have to be realistic about the background of the crisis affecting young Europeans. I come from a country that was formerly part of the communist bloc, and we faced the consequences of the so-called transformation to the market system. In the past few years, about 500 000 young Hungarians have had to leave their homeland to find work because of the economic crisis and Hungary’s State debt. The debt means that there is not enough financial support for the younger generation to be an equal and valued part of society. The privatisation in the former communist States was carried out unjustly. It was organised by multinational companies, which did not care about the consequences of what they had done. The future for young people in those countries could be very uncertain.
We should take care of traditional values among the younger generation. I have read a lot of important paragraphs about the fight against racism, xenophobia and so on, but traditional European values can help to find a solution – the right to live in one’s homeland, to home-made food and to be employed in a small or medium-sized company rather than a big factory. The future of Europe is in the hands of young Europeans, but young Europeans can be active players only when they follow European traditions rooted in Christianity and traditional respect for minorities.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Gaudi Nagy. I call Ms Virolainen.
Ms VIROLAINEN (Finland) – We are again discussing an important issue. How we treat our young people is fundamental for the future, and I thank the rapporteurs for a job well done. Young people today rely on us to take responsibility for building our societies according to standards of equality. That includes taking their rights into account. In future, the situation will be reversed when young people take care of us. That is why we must build our society together, which means including young people in decisions affecting them. I mean real influence – establishing children’s and young people’s parliaments and councils is important. Such institutions give young people a real sense of what decision making is like. Most of those councils, however, are mere discussion forums. If we want our youngsters to take a more active part in decision making, we must ensure that they have a real impact and can change their society through participation.
Furthermore, we have the responsibility to become more active and better at talking to our youth – we need to learn to speak their language. Young people’s rights have been on the agenda for some time, but they have become more urgent as the economic crisis has deepened. Currently, about 14 million young people in the European Union are not in employment, education or training. Our youngsters have been severely affected by the downturn and youth unemployment figures are alarming.
At the same time, our societies have undergone major structural changes. Traditional jobs have been lost as the entire international structure has changed. New ideas and sustainable solutions are needed to ensure a prosperous future for our children. One of the most important aims of education is to give students the skills and tools to become independent citizens. It is our task to ensure that those skills correspond to employers’ needs. I strongly support the call for a spirit of entrepreneurship in the draft recommendation. If society cannot provide a job for young people, they should be encouraged to create jobs themselves.
We need to put our words into action now. The fact is that we simply cannot afford to lose an entire generation. The world is changing and we need to change with it. Resisting change will only prolong the problem.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Virolainen. Mr Kennedy is not here, so I call Mr Ariev.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – I was born in a country where the ruling Communist Party promised in propaganda songs to open all paths to the young generation. Of course, the reality was different. As a person who grew up in a time of change, I grew accustomed to the fight for my right for a chance to get a good education and a job, as did people of the same age in Europe. However, I was always different because I originated from a post-Soviet eastern European country. There is a permanent and strong fight for rights there by myself, many of my friends, later my colleagues in journalism, and now people in my constituency. It is not about loud words but sometimes it is a fight for the right to live. I am talking about my country, but with the same words I could be describing other post-Soviet States.
During all that time, the police in Ukraine have become compromised through lack of reform. As a result, guilt in various criminal cases has not been determined by the facts – the outcome was simply fixed after torture. It is easier to catch somebody and torture them until they sign a frank confession in a Kennedy elimination. Young people do not know their rights well enough, so they have often become victims of our police. Since the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has renewed political repression against youngsters. The regime has tortured not only the main person it is afraid of – Yulia Tymoshenko.
Young people are imprisoned for their political views. The Ukrainian authorities have used the criminal code to accuse and detain about 30 young people. Political activists were repeatedly detained for one week if they wanted to protest near the residence of President Yanukovych. I will mention two names – Volodymyr Nikonenko, aged 23, and Igor Gannenko, aged 19, from Sumy in the north of Ukraine. They were given one and a half years and one year and eight months in prison for painting political graffiti opposed to President Yanukovych. In all other countries this violation is punished with the payment of a fine, so I can call these two young men political prisoners as directly determined by a court.
Such tendencies in Ukraine cause concern in the European Union. Sometimes the Ukrainian authorities step back to reduce tension, but there are still no systematic moves to improve the situation. We can find this unwillingness to make real reforms in all post-Soviet States. European institutions should be more persistent in communicating with the post-Soviet leaders. Special attention to the protection of the rights of youth would be very helpful to the young ladies and gentlemen who are still not disappointed in their States and still believe in Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Ariev. I call Mr Sobolev.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – I want to take forward the speech made by my colleague from Ukraine and concentrate on the main issues. First, there is the right to have a proper education. This is a real problem now in Ukraine and all the countries of Europe. Another problem is how young people are to get a first working place. Even if they have a good education, that is probably impossible in Ukraine, especially in villages, where there is 50% to 60% unemployment, and most of those unemployed people are from the young generation. It is really a problem for us and we have to make efforts to change it. Now we have a tax code that makes it even more likely that people will not find that first working place. Taxes have been raised for small businesses and lowered for big businesses, and it is mostly the young generation who are employed in small businesses.
Secondly, and more importantly, when these people began to protest against such a life and against the government and the president, they became political prisoners. My colleague gave the good example of so-called graffiti political prisoners. We have scores and scores of young people who are anti-Stalin activists because we have in the 21st century the proclaiming of Stalinist ideas, when Stalin was the person mainly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people in Ukraine and other countries. For us, a political prisoner is not only a prisoner for political reasons but a prisoner who wanted to protest about the main things that must be guaranteed in a democratic State.
For us it is very important to have the answer to the third question: how can we guarantee the first working place? For private businesses, there must be some tax privileges, but how can we guarantee it in the civil service? We must have a process of real competition whereby the young generation can find their first working place as well as all the other persons who have more life experience. This economic and financial crisis is the main problem for the young generation. Without solving these problems, we cannot move forward.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kaikonnen.
Mr KAIKONNEN (Finland) – I thank the rapporteurs, Ms Polonca Komar and Mr Michael Connarty, for raising awareness of one of the most alarming issues of our time. As stated in the report, average youth unemployment across Europe is 22.4%, and in some countries the rate has risen to over 50%.
We politicians often tend to worry about lost tax revenues and income support payments. However, the consequences can be a lot more dramatic than just problems with the State’s budget, even though the money aspect is of course important. A whole generation of young people may lose their trust in the importance of education and in the belief that hard work will pay in the end. Some might ask what is the use of education if it is almost impossible to find employment after graduation. There is also a great risk that the negative attitudes and feelings of frustration will be passed on to their children. As shown in Ms Komar’s report, parents can have a strong influence on how their children see the importance of education. The situation is serious and something needs to be done.
As a Finn, I have to mention the achievements on a national level in Finland to combat youth unemployment and overall exclusion from society. The youth guarantee, a law that was enforced on 1 January this year, guarantees that each person under 25 and recent graduates under 30 will be offered work, a work trial, or a study, workshop or labour market rehabilitation place within three months of registering as an unemployed job seeker. It is important to note that the youth guarantee also includes an education guarantee that guarantees a study place for each young person finishing basic education. The youth guarantee is only a couple of months old and we do not yet have data on how it is working, but the principle is excellent. No one is left empty-handed after finishing school and assistance is easily available. I understand that the European Union is preparing a proposal for a youth guarantee to be implemented in every member State. I strongly support this idea, and I hope that we can discuss it here in the Council of Europe.
I thank Mr Connarty for proposing ways to improve youth involvement in society and to facilitate their access to fundamental rights. This issue is also very relevant in analysing the solutions to youth unemployment and access to education.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Marias.
Mr MARIAS (Greece)* – I congratulate the rapporteurs on dealing with these subjects, which are of essential importance because they concern the high level of unemployment and that directly affects young people in Europe. As has been said, it is important to increase spending on education, which is at 6% of the GDP, and to increase young people’s democratic participation. I have the February 2013 EUROSTAT data with me. They show that there are: 26.338 million unemployed people in the European Union; 19 million unemployed in the Eurozone; more than 5 million young people unemployed in the 27 European Union countries; and 3.5 million young jobseekers in the Eurozone. Let me give you the percentages. Greece has the highest youth unemployment rate, at almost 60%. The figure for Spain is 57%, Portugal is not far behind and Italy’s figure is some 38%.
We have to ask ourselves: what policies should be pursued? What options can be taken to reduce youth unemployment? I fully subscribe to the view that only by investing in technologies and education will we be able to build up a knowledge-based economy, one that will be predicated on competition and the production of technical, added-value products. It is important to do more than just continue in that direction. Budgetary adjustment programmes and austerity measures are being imposed on us in the different countries in Europe, and these things entail cutbacks in education budgets. These savings should not be applied. This is all based on the Troika programme, which calls for a reduction in wages; the thought is that only in that way will our economies get back on to a sound footing. Europe will never be competitive enough, when compared with India and China; we will never be able to become as strong as the Chinese economy. That is why it is very important for us to invest in education, so that we have a knowledge-based economy. Unfortunately, Greece’s education spending is less than 2.5% of the GDP. We call for ring-fenced education spending to be increased to combat youth unemployment.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Marias. I call Mr Labaziuk.
Mr LABAZIUK (Ukraine)* – European integration processes are moving into more and more different walks of life, including education. The 2000 Lisbon European summit was a turning point in determining the policies and practices of the European Union. As a result, Europe has already entered the knowledge age. The provision of quality education in the European educational area is a major challenge and a priority for Ukraine, as a European country. Ukraine defined its measures to enter the educational and research area of Europe in 2005 when it joined the Bologna process and thereby committed itself to introduce appropriate changes to its national educational system and work on the definition of priorities through the creation of a common European higher education area by 2010. The Bologna process has gone beyond the European Union, and Europe has become a part of the globalisation process of higher education and of the labour market.
Ukraine’s accession to the Bologna process represents confirmation of the principle of autonomy for university education in our State and a weakening – or even a disappearance in the near future – of rigorous financial control by public authorities over the functioning of universities. They are to attract and use their own resources in the educational process and are to be more independent when it comes to organising training and exchanges for students and teachers.
The introduction of the Bologna process in practice in Ukraine means that Ukrainian diplomas are recognised in Europe, and that our students and teachers are mobile. That improves the quality of our educational process. Implementing this system has resulted in a lot of problems, which primarily relate to the adaptation of the system to the national specificities of our country. Consequently, the practical implementation of the process is requiring substantial time. I am firmly convinced that the successful integration of Ukraine’s educational system into the world education domain is impossible without the development of democratic processes in education. That should not only contribute to the implementation of integration, but lead to the application of the principle of freedom of choice in education and the development of the tolerant attitudes that are so inherent in the educational systems of Europe and elsewhere in the world. Not only is the development of democratic processes in education a necessity for integration into the world’s education domain, but it must be related to the general trend of the democratisation of public life in Ukraine. It is an important factor that ensures integration. There is no doubt that a balanced fulfilment of all the tasks associated with the integration of Ukraine’s education system into the world’s education, with the democratisation of its internal and external activities, will raise the level of education in Ukraine to the level of modern international requirements. It will provide conditions for the development of individuals and of the productive forces of a competitive Ukraine, thus ensuring the promotion of progressive forces and a confident Ukraine joining the ranks of the developed countries in Europe and the world.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Labaziuk.
That concludes the list of speakers. I will give the floor to members of the committees. Mr Connarty, you have three minutes left to reply.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – Mr President, I have only a few remarks to make. First, I wish to thank everyone who participated in the debate. The quality of the contributions was gratifying, to say the least. People seem to have taken the trouble to read our two reports and they made some very sensible comments.
Although she is not here at the moment, our colleague Ms El Ouafi from Morocco mentioned the problem of the progress of immigrants in Europe, which is addressed in the document. We point out that the youth dimension of the North-South Centre has a great deal to offer. As has been said, we had participants from Morocco at the Assembly and people will benefit from looking at their contributions in some depth. I draw the attention of our colleagues from Ukraine to our amendment pointing out that you cannot develop youth rights if you do not allow people to protest non-violently against what they believe to be a government error or a government imposition.
Finally, my colleagues from Russia stressed the very practical things about education, employment and so on; these things are all fundamental. I say to them that there is no contradiction in having those rights and also having rights relating to people’s individual development, particularly in the field of human relations and sexual and gender relations. A country can be at peace with itself on these matters and not involve itself in a person’s ability to find someone with whom to live their life – their life partner. I was lucky enough to find that person 43 years ago, in a heterosexual relationship, and my PA found that person 35 years ago, in a gay relationship. We have grown old together in our partnerships. Society can be at peace with itself and develop all these practical avenues for its citizens at the same time as seeing its citizens at peace with themselves. So I hope that these things will become less important on the agenda, as people realise that it is not a contradiction to offer people freedom in these personal relations when you offer them employment and education.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Ms Komar, you have five minutes to reply.
Ms KOMAR (Slovenia) – I totally agree with Mr Connarty’s comments and I would like to add some crucial final points. I am sure that we have to enhance the traditional formal education setting because governments should develop their policies on youth mobility, out-of-school education and learning, voluntary service and youth information and participation. We have to improve recognition of and support for new learning settings. The efforts to recognise non-formal and informal learning have to be intensified, which requires a more holistic approach to education and learning outcomes.
We have to ensure inclusion and prevent early school leaving. Inequality in access to education and educational opportunities should be considered a violation of the right to education. Policy measures have to be introduced to facilitate access to education for all children and young people, especially those living in disadvantaged circumstances.
I stress that Europe needs a renewed commitment to education, recognising it as a prerequisite for personal fulfilment, social inclusion, active citizenship and employment, and its crucial role equipping young people with the competences that they need for lives spent in autonomy and dignity. I thank you for the interesting discussion that we have had and of course for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Komar, and thank you to Mr Connarty and Mr Volontč. Does the chairperson of the committee wish to speak? You have a few minutes.
Mr WACH (Poland) – We spent this afternoon and early evening discussing the problems of young people, and we did so under the auspices of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. I personally have a contradictory view. On the one hand, we can envy young people because the world is, in various aspects, better. It is more democratic and better equipped, and access to education is easier than it was before. Young people now – and old people – have access to various means of easy communication. So the world seems very attractive. On the other hand, there is a much darker picture, because it is more difficult to enter mature life, especially employment. That was the main problem stressed by the speakers in the debate. Nearly all of you spoke about employment problems and market difficulties. Mr Schennach from Austria made important points about apprenticeships and vocational and practical training as a means of overcoming some of those problems.
It is fitting for the Council of Europe to deal with these problems and to try to turn the attention of our parliaments and governments to the need to tackle them seriously and propose some means – some common experiences – to improve the situation. We all know that it is not easy.
We are very grateful to all the speakers in the debate, to the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, and to Mr Volontč, who presented its opinion. The committee’s amendments have been approved by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, the main committee for these reports, and we also agree with some individual amendments.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you.
The debate is closed.
The Culture Committee report “Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge” (Document 13155) proposes a draft resolution, to which no amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation, to which one amendment has been tabled.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13155.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13155 is adopted, with 54 votes for, 1 against and 0 abstentions.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – Mr President, please can you register my vote as being in favour? I pressed the wrong button.
THE PRESIDENT* – Well, next time, please press the right button. I take note of the fact that you voted in favour, which means that there was unanimous support for Mr Connarty’s report. He may get another round of applause.
I understand that the chairperson of the Culture Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the amendment to the draft recommendation, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed to by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so Mr Wach?
Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Are there any objections? That is not the case.
The following amendment has been adopted:
Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 2, to insert the following paragraph:
“The Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers to allocate sufficient resources to education, culture and youth in the Budget and the Programme of Activities for 2014-2015, taking into account that these dimensions of work are among the main priorities of the Council of Europe and are of vital importance for 800 million Europeans.”
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13155, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13155, as amended, is unanimously adopted.
The Culture Committee’s other report, “Young people’s access to fundamental rights” (Document 13156), proposes a draft recommendation, to which 13 amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Culture Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12 and 1, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed to by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so Mr Wach?
Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Are there any objections? That is not the case.
The following amendments have been adopted:
Amendment 2, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 2, after the words “fundamental rights”, to insert the following words: “, including socio-economic rights”.
Amendment 3, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 3, to insert the following paragraph:
“The Assembly welcomes the launch, in February 2013, of a Council of Europe campaign “Nurturing human rights” with a view to promoting rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No.5), with an emphasis on young people. It believes that the campaign should be further widened to encompass also the rights enshrined in the European Social Charter (revised)(ETS No.163).”
Amendment 4, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 4.4, to insert the following paragraph:
“instruct relevant bodies of the Council of Europe to intensify the promotion and implementation of the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life;”
Amendment 5, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.5, after the words “educational institutions”, to insert the following words: “, youth organisations”.
Amendment 6, tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.6, after the words “aimed at”, to insert the following words: “fostering intergenerational dialogue and”.
Amendment 12, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.6, after the words “in Istanbul”, to insert the following words: “and to invite the European Union to participate in such a project”.
Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Ariev, Mr Sobolev, Ms Orobets, Mr Vareikis and Mr Wach, which is, in the draft recommendation, after paragraph 4.7, to insert the following paragraph:
“recommend to the governments of the member States of the Council of Europe to closely monitor the compliance with the basic rights of young people to freely express their political differences, including non-violent protest, and to prevent subsequent detention for political reasons.”
We will proceed to consider the remaining amendments in the order set out in the organisation of debates. I remind members that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment 7, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, to replace paragraph 3 with the following paragraph:
“The Assembly calls on the Committee of Ministers to prepare a recommendation on “improving young people’s access to fundamental rights”, instructing the European Steering Committee for Youth, the Advisory Council on Youth and the Steering Committee for Education Policy and Practice, in co-operation with the European Committee for Social Cohesion, to draft this recommendation. This should bring together and complete the acquis of previous Committee of Ministers’ recommendations, also building on the following texts: key proposals put forward by Youth sector representatives at the Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth held in St Petersburg from 24 to 25 September 2012; the text adopted by the Youth Assembly held in Strasbourg from 5 to 7 October 2012; and relevant resolutions and recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly”.
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 7.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – The idea is to reduce the length of paragraph 3 and to concentrate on the preparation of a recommendation without reference to an instrument.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 7 is rejected.
Amendment 3 was unanimously agreed and adopted, so we come to Amendment 8, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4, to replace the word “their” with the following word: “these”.
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 8.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – This is a technical amendment, to change the phrase “their rights” in paragraph 4 to “these rights”, for consistency.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – We discussed this amendment with the youth advisers and within the committee. We think it very important that the rights in question are “their” rights, as in belonging to the youth, rather than “these” rights, which are more general and not specific to youth. This is a division that arises again and again between ourselves and certain of our Russian colleagues, who see rights as being general rather than specific to youth. We are hoping to move away from that point, so we are opposed to the amendment.
THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 8 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 9, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.1, after the words “young people’s”, to insert the following words: “access to”.
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 9.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – I assume that there are universal rights for all human beings, whatever their age, when it comes to sexual orientation and political views. The question should not be one of “young people’s rights”, but one of young people’s “access to rights” that everyone has.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – Once again, that is the kernel of the debate. The clear call from the Youth Assembly from both St Petersburg and Strasbourg was to look at whether there are rights that should be assigned specifically to youths, rather than general rights. We wish to stick with the original text.
THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The amendment was rejected.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 9 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 10, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.4, to replace the words “youth rights” with the following words: “young people’s access to rights”.
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 10.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – I am a young person myself. As I see it, young people have the same rights as every other human being on the planet. That is why I believe that the right wording should be “young people’s access to rights”. That is also what you find in the title of the report.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I oppose this amendment for the same reason as the previous one.
THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The amendment was rejected.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 10 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 11, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.6, after the words “by young people”, to insert the following words: “, with a particular focus on youth unemployment and entrepreneurial education,”.
I call Mr Shlegel to support Amendment 11.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – We had two more votes the previous time, so perhaps we will have more success with our further amendments.
We want to add some words to paragraph 4.6. We believe that combating youth unemployment and ensuring entrepreneurial education are particularly important.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – In our discussion with the youth advisers and the youth group, we thought that to specify those issues would be to see everything about youth rights through the prism of unemployment. You can have all those things when talking about access, but there must be a broader look at what rights are available to young people – not to deny those rights, but to put them in a wider context.
THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The amendment was rejected.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 11 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 13, tabled by Mr Shlegel, Mr Makhmutov, Mr Leonid Kalashnikov, Mr Sidyakin and Mr Arshba, which is, in the draft recommendation, to delete paragraph 4.7.
I call Mr Shlegel to support the amendment.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – We had 11 votes the previous time. If things continue like that, perhaps at least one of my amendments will be adopted.
We want to delete paragraph 4.7 because we consider that the appointment of a special ombudsperson would overlap with the work already being done by the Commissioner for Human Rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I hope that fewer people will support this amendment, as a fundamental demand that we heard again and again was to have an independent person standing outside it all, looking at the countries and providing a specific focus on pursuing youth rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WACH (Poland) – The amendment was rejected.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 13 is rejected.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13156, as amended. I remind you that a two-thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13156, as amended, is adopted, with 63 votes for, 2 against and 1 abstention.
Before adjourning the sitting, I will give the floor to Ms Maury Pasquier, who is the head of the Swiss delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. She has an important announcement to make, so please be patient and listen.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – I certainly did not expect to be able to take the floor, Mr President. I want to remind you that the Swiss delegation has invited everyone to a reception that we are organising in the Restaurant Bleu to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Switzerland joining the Council of Europe. You are all more than welcome to come. Please come along, even if only for a few minutes, to sample some Swiss specialities.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much indeed, Liliane. As you can see, it was worth giving the floor to the head of the Swiss delegation. I hope to see you all very shortly at the Swiss reception.
5. Next public business
THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., starting with the consideration of the Rules Committee’s report on the challenged credentials of Mr Shevchenko of the Ukrainian delegation, as we confirmed earlier this afternoon.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 7.35 p.m.)
1. Address by Mr Victor Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania
Questions: Mr Santini, Mr Gross, Ms Schuster, Ms Gillan, Mr Kox, Mr Popescu, Mr Michel,Ms Pashayeva, Ms Christoffersen, Mr Kalmár, Mr Japaridze, Mr M. Jensen, Mr Gaudi Nagy, Mr V. Szabó, Mr A.Türkeş, Mr Beneyto, Mr Iordache, Mr Korodi
2. Organisation of the agenda proposed by the President
3. Culture and Education through national parliaments: European policies
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media by Ms Brasseur, Document 13142
Speakers: Mr Beneyto, Mr Connarty, Mr Bardina Pau, Dame Angela Watkinson, Ms Schou, Ms Marjanović, Ms Orobets, Mr Nicolaides, Ms Mehmeti Devaja, Mr Dişli, Mr Marias.
Replies: Ms Brasseur, Mr Wach
Amendments 2 and 1 adopted
Draft resolution in Document 13142, as amended, adopted
4. Joint debate
a. Young Europeans: an urgent educational challenge
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media by Ms Komar, Document 13155
b. Presentation of the report of Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media by Mr Connarty, Document 13156
Presentation of the opinion of Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development by Mr Volontč
Speakers: Mr Gunnarsson, Mr Stroe, Mr Shlegel, Mr Loukaides, Ms Orobets, Mr Taliadouros, Ms Myller, Ms Graham, Mr Triantafyllos, Mr Schennach, Mr Mihalovics, Mr O’Reilly, Mr Toshev, Ms Memecan, Ms Fataliyeva, Ms El Ouafi, Mr Gaudi Nagy, Ms Virolainen, Mr Ariev, Mr Sobolev, Mr Kaikkonen, Mr Marias, Mr Labaziuk
Draft resolution in Document 13155 adopted
Amendment 1 adopted
Draft recommendation in Document 13155, as amended, adopted
Amendments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12 and 1 adopted
Draft recommendation in Document 13156, as amended, adopted
5. Next public business
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.
Karin ANDERSEN/Ingjerd Schou
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Daniel BACQUELAINE/Kristien Van Vaerenbergh
Gérard BAPT/Jean-Pierre Michel
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Sílvia Eloďsa Bonet Perot
José Manuel BARREIRO*
José María BENEYTO
Brian BINLEY/Robert Neill
Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová
Gerold BÜCHEL/Rainer Gopp
Vannino CHITI/Paolo Corsini
Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU/Corneliu Mugurel Cozmanciuc
Carlos COSTA NEVES
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Armand De DECKER/Ludo Sannen
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA*
Peter van DIJK
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE/Cheryl Gillan
Baroness Diana ECCLES*
Tülin ERKAL KARA
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Vyacheslav FETISOV/Alexander Sidyakin
Doris FIALA/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter
Axel E. FISCHER
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO*
Erich Georg FRITZ
Sir Roger GALE*
Tamás GAUDI NAGY
Jarosław GÓRCZYŃSKI/ Zbigniew Girzyński
Alina Ştefania GORGHIU
Attila GRUBER/Péter Mihalovics
Pelin GÜNDEŞ BAKIR
Alfred HEER/Maximilian Reimann
Susanna HUOVINEN/ Riitta Myller
Vladimir ILIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Birkir Jón JÓNSSON*
Čedomir JOVANOVIĆ/Svetislava Bulajić
Božidar KALMETA/Ivan Račan
Bogdan KLICH/Iwona Guzowska
Athina KYRIAKIDOU/Nicos Nicolaides
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT/Christian Bataille
Jean-Louis LORRAIN/Bernard Fournier
Gennaro MALGIERI/Renato Farina
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE/Michael Connarty
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
José MENDES BOTA
Jean-Claude MIGNON/André Schneider
Djordje MILIĆEVIĆ/Stefana Miladinović
Federica MOGHERINI REBESANI*
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES
Joăo Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Lev MYRYMSKYI/Serhiy Labaziuk
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Elena NIKOLAEVA/Robert Shlegel
Danny PIETERS/Sabine Vermeulen
Lisbeth Bech POULSEN*
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN
Cezar Florin PREDA
John PRESCOTT/Joe Benton
Mailis REPS/Ester Tuiksoo
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
Rovshan RZAYEV/Sevinj Fataliyeva
Damir ŠEHOVIĆ/Draginja Vuksanović
Björn von SYDOW/Jonas Gunnarsson
Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Theodora TZAKRI/Konstantinos Triantafyllos
Tomáš ÚLEHLA/Pavel Lebeda
Ilyas UMAKHANOV/Alexander Burkov
Miltiadis VARVITSIOTIS/Spyridon Taliadouros
Volodymyr VECHERKO/Larysa Melnychuk
Tanja VRBAT/Melita Mulić
Klaas de VRIES*
Dame Angela WATKINSON
Karin S. WOLDSETH
Karl ZELLER/Paolo Grimoldi
Barbara ŽGAJNER TAVŠ/Polonca Komar
Emanuelis ZINGERIS/Egidijus Vareikis
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Montenegro*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Josep Anton BARDINA PAU
Juan BUENO TORIO
Eloy CANTU SEGOVIA
Ernesto GÁNDARA CAMOU
Miguel ROMO MEDINA
Partners for Democracy
Mme Nezha EL OUAFI