AS (2013) CR 17
2013 ORDINARY SESSION
Thursday 25 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. Annual activity report 2012 by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
THE PRESIDENT* – We now have the honour of hearing an address by Mr Nils Muižnieks on his annual activity report (CommDH(2013)5). I extend a very warm welcome to you once again. I know how important and detailed the report is bearing in mind the number of activities of the Human Rights Commissioner, which those of us who are interested in those activities have been following very closely. Of course, all the activities can be found on the Council of Europe website.
Commissioner, you have the floor.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights) – Mr President, excellencies, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure and honour to be here to present to you my first annual report. A specific feature of this report should be kept in mind: it also covers the last three months of the work of my predecessor. I will let that speak for itself – it is in an annex – and try to keep my remarks to the work that I have done myself.
What have we done over the past year, and particularly in 2012? I defined and began to act on my priorities, and I would like to mention a number of them. First and foremost, we are doing everything possible to assist the European Court of Human Rights by addressing systemic problems in member States, especially high-case-count States, in pushing for the implementation of judgments during country visits, in media work, and in meetings with parliamentarians. Most of the work has to do with the administration of justice. The vast number of cases from the high-case-count States results partly from the length of proceedings, the lack of domestic remedies, and the non-implementation of domestic judgments. It is my duty, and the duty of all of us, to do everything we can to help the Court, because it is the centrepiece of our human rights architecture.
The second priority that I have been compelled to act on concerns the consequences of the economic crisis and austerity for human rights. We have seen in stark relief the interdependence between social and economic rights and civil and political rights in the context of the crisis. The post-war acquis of social and economic rights has been eroded for many in Europe, but particularly for the most vulnerable in society, including children, the elderly with small pensions, persons with disabilities and minorities. But the crisis has also had a very strong impact on civil and political rights. We have seen access to justice limited in very many places. We have seen the negative impact on very many national human rights structures and ombudsmen as their budgets have been disproportionately cut in some States. We have also seen how in some States, but not all, the crisis has fed into racism and xenophobia.
Another common priority area that has been the subject of much of the work we do, both in countries and thematically, is the human rights of the Roma, who remain Europe’s most vulnerable and excluded population. I have identified several areas that I would like to focus on during the years of my mandate, the first and foremost of which is access to mainstream education and combatting segregation in education. That is essential if we are to overcome the cycle of poverty and exclusion and to ensure access to employment and other rights. Another issue that I have been active in addressing is statelessness. In many countries, Roma lack personal identification documents. That limits their access to citizenship, which has a knock-on effect on their ability to access other rights.
Of course, combating anti-Gypsyism is an important task, as we have seen the rise of anti-Gypsyism in political and media rhetoric. Roma are often the target, not only of hate speech, but also of hate crimes. I have also identified issues pertaining to migration and Roma – how they are treated, not only when they arrive in countries to which they move, but at home. We need to consider what happens before they leave and restrictions on their movement.
That takes me on to another priority area, that of migration and human rights more broadly – those of not only Roma, but people from outside Europe coming into it. The focus has been on: promoting alternatives to the detention of migrants; alternatives to the criminalisation of irregular migration writ large; the need for human rights-compliant integration strategies for immigrants; and preventing reform on preserving the right to asylum.
My last priority area that I wish to mention is one that we have begun work on, but which I anticipate developing very much in the coming years: the Internet, social media and human rights. That is a new field for many of us. We are just seeing the first cases and judgments by the European Court of Human Rights pertaining to the blocking of access to the Internet and so on. We have to engage strongly in this area if we want to be relevant in the coming years, because this is where our children and young people live, where the media world is developing rapidly and where not only freedom of expression, but freedom of association and freedom of assembly are developing most actively. The focus is on: the safety of those expressing themselves in the public interest – not only journalists, but bloggers and citizens who are reporting; preventing undue restrictions on access to the Internet; preserving the right to privacy in the context of control and surveillance activities by the authorities. We are also actively learning by doing in this area. As you might have noticed, I have a Twitter account and I try to be active on Twitter and Facebook. I have been pleasantly surprised by the impact of these new media on reaching a broader audience and fulfilling that part of my mandate that has to do with raising human rights awareness.
I have tried to address these priorities in country work and country visits. In the nine months of my mandate in 2012, I visited 11 countries, and I have already visited four in 2013. Mine is a very active travelling job, but that is the only way to keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on in countries. That is the core of the mandate – its added value. We also do a lot of thematic work: participation work and conferences; publishing human rights comments; organising thematic round table meetings with human rights defenders; and media work. We have produced several issue papers – slightly longer papers providing guidance on various human rights issues – which should be out by the end of the year. One is on a human rights-compliant response to austerity and the crisis, a second is on the right to free movement and the third relates to the Internet and human rights.
What have I learned in the year since I took office? First, I learned about the complementarity and added value of the Commissioner’s office in the broader context of the Council of Europe. We can be very useful and work well together with the European Court of Human Rights. We have discovered the great value of CEPEJ data and the Venice Commission’s opinions. I have tried to reinforce the message coming from those bodies to the member States. There is good complementarity between our monitoring mechanisms. My background is in one of the monitoring mechanisms, so I am very aware of the need not only to avoid duplication, but to reinforce the good work being done by those mechanisms. I have therefore been urging: the ratification of instruments by States that have not yet done so; the publication of reports by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the implementation of recommendations from the monitoring mechanisms.
I have also experienced good co-operation with political bodies, such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the various sub-committees, with which I have had a number of exchanges, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. The thing that I have concluded is that everybody wants me and my office to succeed in our work. It is a good feeling to know that we have many friends who want to see our work bear fruit.
I have also learned about the added value of the Council of Europe in the broader European human rights architecture and its complementarity with the work of many of our external partners. I have become convinced of the importance of the legal standards that we have in the Council of Europe. They set us apart from the European Union and the OSCE in many realms, where they do not have the legal standards to stand on when they talk to member States. We have good co-operation with the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency; it collects a lot of good data that we use in our country reports. We have very good co-operation with the United Nations, particularly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on country visits and with OSCE missions on the ground. We also have good co-operation with the OSCE and United Nations special mandates dealing with freedom of expression.
I can report that, thus far, all member States have been very good at co-operating with our office. I have excellent access to ministers and to any facilities that I would like to visit. Of course we would like to see more rapid and full implementation of our recommendations, but I have no complaints about access and co-operation. I have learned that we have many good partners in the member States, not only among human rights defenders, ombudsmen and national human rights structures, but among parliamentarians. I have met you in a number of country visits. I have met you in your parliaments and your sub-committees, and that is important because you play a special role in pushing governments to do better in meeting their human rights obligations. You also play a key role in a number of broader human rights policies, for example, national human rights action plans, which have been implemented in a number of countries – a number of others are considering them. Parliamentary ownership of such plans is essential, and you can do great work in that regard. So I look forward to keeping in touch with you on country visits and when you come here to follow up on our reports, because you can help us to push the debate forward and better understand the situations in your countries. I will stop there, because I understand that about 30 people want to ask me questions, which gives me about one minute for each reply.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Commissioner, for your most interesting address. Quite a number of members of the Assembly want to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches. The first question is from Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms de POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – Since the election in Georgia, people connected to the former majority have been arrested and prosecuted, and power has been taken without elections in many municipalities. What is your opinion on that, and when will you go to Georgia? In Russia, the law on NGOs registering as foreign agencies has resulted in NGOs’ offices being searched by the police and human rights defenders being harassed. What is your opinion on that?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – I intend to go to Georgia at the beginning of next year and follow up on the country work done on the administration of justice by my predecessor, both when he was Commissioner and now that he is working on judicial matters for the European Union. Whatever happens in the political struggle in Georgia in the future, if we have independent, impartial justice, Georgia will have a bright future. Depending on the situation at the end of this year, we may address other matters as well, but the administration of justice will be the core issue.
I went on a 10-day visit to Russia not too long ago, in which we focused on the administration of justice, but our visit coincided with the mass inspections of NGOs. I expressed my grave concern about the chilling effect that those inspections have on the work of the NGOs, who are not only our partners but, in many ways, partners of the Russian authorities. We will continue to engage in dialogue with the Russian authorities. Today we had one of the first court judgments imposing a substantial fine on an NGO, so I am concerned about the process and hope that it does not go further. We must pay close attention. The problem is not only the law, which has some very vague provisions, but its implementation, and we have to look at both.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Marcenaro, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr MARCENARO (Italy)* – My question has to do with human rights relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union. At times it appears that there is bureaucratic or corporatist in-fighting going on, with each organisation jealously trying to preserve its own advantage. When human rights issues are discussed in the European Union we react as if it was taking away our work. Do you not think that there is room for a courageous effort of co-operation between the two organisations when it comes to the defence of human rights?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – I think that there is a lot of room for co-operation. It exists and we are trying to develop it even further. It is important to keep in mind the differences between the organisations. The European Union has 27 member States; we have 47 member States. The European Union lacks legislative competence within European Union countries on many human rights issues. Where does it have the strongest competence? It has it on preventing racial and ethnic discrimination, on promoting gender equality and on data protection. The European Union ratified the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which imposes certain obligations on how European Union money is spent with regard to persons with disabilities. It also has certain competences regarding asylum and refugees. There are many areas in which the European Union has no competence within European Union countries, and there are some areas where it could do much more, such as demanding member States fulfil their obligations in areas where the European Union does have competence. I would like to see it more vigorously enforce those standards within the European Union.
With regard to policy outside the European Union, we have good communication with the European External Action Service and with DG Enlargement. For some countries, the European Union accession agenda is incredibly important, and we are very cognisant of that broader context and try not to do anything that would contradict that logic. In other words, if the European Union is interested in legal reform, we will see how we can contribute to that debate and push things forward because that matter is important within a particular country.
More systematic co-operation is definitely needed, and the only way to do that is through ratification of the Convention by the European Union and meetings between various parts of the Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency, and between the European Parliament, which is playing a growing role, and yourselves. There is plenty of work for us all to do, and I am not too concerned about duplication.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Acketoft, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – This morning, the first case arising from the new, confused Russian law on foreign agencies was presented in a Russian court. The case concerns the independent election observation organisation, Golos. The law will effectively limit the majority of contacts that we, as parliamentarians, can have with many NGOs in Russia, and it is a serious threat to the pillars of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It is not only in Russia that human rights defenders are under heavy artillery. What are your plans to ensure that we can strengthen and highlight their work?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – Human rights defenders are important partners for us, and if they are under pressure in any country and their working conditions are difficult, it concerns us because it directly affects our ability to work. As I said, I am concerned about this law not only because several of its formulations are vague, which allows for arbitrary interpretation, but because of its implementation. There have been several hundred inspections, and I find that I have to seek information to convince me that that was a proportionate response to the concerns that lay behind the law.
What do we do with regard to human rights defenders? I meet them regularly, and we receive information from them in Strasbourg, on country visits and between visits. In certain contexts I might visit a defender who has been detained or imprisoned to draw attention to that case. Although my mandate does not permit me to take up individual cases, if I see a pattern, I might want to highlight it. I might want to raise cases or patterns of cases with the authorities and push them to investigate pressure or attacks on human rights defenders. We also organise regular round tables with human rights defenders. The first, in Sarajevo, I held with my predecessor in the last month of his mandate; the second was in Paris on issues pertaining to migration and human rights. We will be organising another such round table at the end of May in Kiev. Human rights defenders are very important partners for us, and wherever they are under pressure, wherever their working conditions are difficult, it is a matter of concern to us all and we should voice that very loudly.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Pushkov, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation) – In Estonia and Latvia, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who are deprived of citizenship of those countries. At the same time, the practice of removing the Russian language from the education system has not been abandoned, contrary to the Council of Europe convention on national minorities. Do you think that those two practices, which are a massive violation of human rights, are normal?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – For more than 15 years, I have raised the issue of stateless children in Latvia, and, as part of my mandate, I have begun to do so in Estonia as well. To me, this is a clear-cut human rights issue that needs to be addressed with all seriousness by the authorities. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is very clear that States should act in the best interests of children, and I have never heard a single argument that this is in the best interests of the children concerned. They have a right to a nationality from birth. I published a human rights comment on statelessness among children, analysing both the cases that you mentioned as well as some others. In a recent country visit to Estonia, we looked at the policy surrounding stateless children in particular. I have engaged in a number of media interventions and participated in conferences on this issue, and it will remain on my agenda until there are no more stateless children – I can assure you of that.
Education reform in both Estonia and Latvia is dealt with in detail by the framework convention and by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. The commission has stressed – I fully subscribe to its view – the need to ensure a high-quality education for minority children, that any haste or fall in the quality of education should be taken with the utmost seriousness, and that there should be adequate resources for teachers and schools.
The issue primarily concerns the framework convention and ECRI, and we have not raised it during our visit to Estonia this time. However, it is a human rights issue on which we should keep our eye, to ensure that there is participation by people concerned, that the quality of education is maintained, and that framework convention standards regarding the permissible limits on the use of minority languages are adhered to.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Papadimoulis, who will speak on behalf of the Unified European Left.
Mr PAPADIMOULIS (Greece)* – Commissioner, I congratulate you on your work and on the report that you presented to us. This Assembly stands by you as an ally in your efforts.
I know that you visited Greece not long ago and that you produced a significant report in which you pointed out, among other things, the worrying upturn in racist crimes and hate speech and the fact that perpetrators go unpunished, suggesting a real problem with the administration of justice. Crimes are being perpetrated by the Nazi Golden Dawn. Are you satisfied by the replies you have received from the Greek Government? Will you return to those matters? How will you take them up?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – The Greek report was published only recently, so it has not been included in our annual report.
I was gratified by the media interest in the report; I do not think any of our reports has received as much media coverage as this one. Racist crimes, hate speech, the rise of a Nazi party and impunity for those perpetrating hate crimes are serious issues that should be taken with the utmost seriousness.
The Greek authorities co-operated well during our visit and sent us a good response. They did not answer all our questions, but I am following up on questions for which we did not receive answers but on which we hope to receive further information. I intend to maintain dialogue with the Greek authorities, Greek human rights defenders, the Greek ombudsman and the national commission for human rights.
I hope that our report will serve as a good platform for both debate and action. Here I see an important role for the Council of Europe. The sole prosecutor in the Attica region responsible for prosecuting racist crimes and judges stressed to me the interest in co-operation and in learning from the best practice of other European countries in combating such phenomena. The Council of Europe can play a useful role in providing assistance and training programmes. I do not think there is, or should be, any stigma attached to such programmes. The Council of Europe should do all that it can to help member States that need help and that want to learn from their colleagues. There is an important role for the entire Organisation.
I will definitely continue to push for the implementation of the report, because I was quite concerned by a lot of the information that you will find in it.
Mr AGUZAROV (Russian Federation)* – Commissioner, the Latvians are not proud of their region; those were your words during your hearing. Yet on 16 March, there was a march in Riga of former participants of the Waffen SS. Do you intend to use your high authority and influence so that Latvia becomes a country that shares European values and does not associate itself with events that led to the outrage of anti-fascist organisations around the world? Perhaps it would make sense to put some mortar on the house of human rights, starting with Latvia.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – I am concerned by Nazi and neo-Nazi activities in Europe, which I think have been given a spur by the economic crisis. Any propagation of Nazi or racist ideology should be punished with the full force of the law, because words often lead to actions. Any mention of Nazi or racist ideology more generally should be punished.
I stand by what we said when we published the ECRI report on Latvia in 2012: no action should be taken to legitimise what the Nazis did. No one should do anything to glorify or to legitimise the Nazis or participation in the Nazi army. I will continue to advocate that position.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis who became refugees and internally displaced persons due to the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory have not been able to return to their homes for more than 20 years. Every year, hundreds of people die longing for their homes. Can you imagine a more tragic and graver violation of human rights? Those people expect much from you in your capacity as Commissioner for Human Rights. What is your message to them? What steps are you planning to take to address those violations?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – Internally displaced persons in the so-called frozen conflicts are among the most vulnerable people in the Council of Europe, not only in the Southern Caucasus but in the western Balkans. I devoted a human rights comment to that forgotten generation. The issue is important – some people have been living in collective centres and makeshift accommodation for almost 20 years. A full generation that has not had a normal life or access to education or dignity has passed. We cannot forget such people. We must pay a lot of attention to them and spend a lot of resources to address their problems.
There are some hopeful signs in some of the processes in the western Balkans. I am going to the Southern Caucasus soon; I am going to Azerbaijan at the end of May. During the upcoming chairmanship of Armenia of the Council of Europe, I will also be going to Armenia. I hope to engage on those issues during my meetings with authorities and human rights defenders, and I will meet some IDPs there, because I think they need all the moral, political and human rights support that we can provide.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Common to all Council of Europe member States is a commitment to human rights. However, many individuals who fall victim to human rights violations often do not know how to proceed. Do you have any recommendations to member States on how they should make it easier for individuals to address violations? They should not have to navigate through a jungle of different entitlements and authorities.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – We have recommendations. I say “we” because I do not work alone; I have an excellent team working with me.
The first thing that we advocate for is the creation of an effective, independent and accessible national human rights structure – a body with expertise in human rights that can review complaints, that is independent from the authorities and that can help people realise their rights. Too many countries in Europe still do not have such structures, or they have been weakened by the crisis. That is a critical step in providing access, because such structures also do outreach work to the most vulnerable populations who do not have access to a lawyer or know how to access the Court here. Establishing and strengthening human rights structures at the national level is a first step.
Parliaments can do a lot, too. I mentioned national human rights action plans as a useful step forward. Why? Because to create a national human rights action plan, you ideally have a good picture and an analysis of the gaps in your country – gaps in various programmes and gaps in legislation – and of training and education needs and aware-raising needs. You can then systematically consider in the action plan how to address those needs.
Today, I met the head of the Andorran Government, and we learned that the Andorran chairmanship of the Council of Europe was the first ever to have human rights education as one of its priorities. That is quite striking actually. A lot of work needs to be done here, and there are many opportunities, especially in the digital age with social media and the Internet, to promote human rights education. Those are in a nutshell my two core recommendations on how to move forward on that.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. Mr Zourabian is not here, so I call Mr Gaudi Nagy.
Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – Your first year as Commissioner for Human Rights was a really active one in the field of protecting human rights, especially those of the Roma, LGBT people and migrants. Can the millions of Europeans who belong to national minorities, such as the millions of Hungarians who live in Hungary’s neighbouring countries, and whose principal rights guaranteed by the Council of Europe are often restricted, count on your attention and protection? Will you visit Szeklerland, where 700 000 Szekler ethnic Hungarians demand territorial autonomy, to help them to find a peaceful solution with Romania? Thank you for your help.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – We try to engage on issues pertaining to national minorities other than the Roma, although I suggest that the Roma are the most vulnerable and voiceless people and have the fewest resources to defend their rights, and they have no other country looking out for their interests. As I mentioned in my introduction, we push for ratification of the language charter if it has not been ratified. We try to bring those recommendations to the authorities and push for their implementation.
I have a good working relationship and communication with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. We have touched base on a number of occasions. I do not know precisely yet when I will go to the countries that you mentioned. When I go to a country, we usually identify two or three priority issues to consider in depth. Minority issues are definitely on the agenda of possible issues to look at, but I do not want to prejudge things before we plan a country visit.
Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom) – Does the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna view you and your office as the primary actor in human rights in Europe?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – You would have to ask it that, but we have an excellent working relationship. The agency is very pleased that we can take its findings and confront European Union member States with its findings on issues pertaining to the Roma, access to justice, perceptions of discrimination, disability rights and those areas in which the European Union has legislative competence. The Fundamental Rights Agency cannot work where the European Union does not have legislative competence, but we can come in and fill the gap. We try to incorporate the agency’s work into our country reports. I participated in its fundamental rights platform in Brussels, which was devoted to access to justice in times of austerity. We are co-operating on organising a joint event in the fall, together with national human rights structures and ombudsmen, who are very important partners for us. Of course, the Fundamental Rights Agency has 27 member States; it is important for us to have all 47 involved and to cover the full range of human rights issues, not just those in which the European Union has legislative competence in human rights.
Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – You have already shared your concerns about the situation of civil society in the Russian Federation, where you addressed arbitrary laws, searches and ongoing court cases and so on. During your visit to the Russian Federation, you met civil society activists. How do they feel? Do they have the strength to persevere and to continue their fight? What can this Assembly do to support them?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – I had excellent meetings in Kazan in Tatarstan , in Moscow and in St Petersburg, with a whole series of human rights defenders and NGOs working various realms of human rights. When I was in a room in St Petersburg with representatives of about 30 or 40 NGOs, I asked, “How many of you have been inspected by the general prosecutor?” About half of them raised their hands. In Tatarstan, about half the organisations that I met had been inspected. When I asked them to explain how that affects their work, they said, “It paralyses our work. Instead of doing what is in our statutes, we are required to make copies of financial documents, activity documents and so on that we have already submitted to the ministry of justice. This is not what we should be spending all our time on.” I met organisations that had just finished being inspected by the ministry of justice only to have someone from the prosecutor’s office show up and ask for the same documents. I occasionally had the impression that the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing.
Are they disheartened? I think that some of them are afraid, but many of them are taking their battle to the domestic courts. There has been an application to the European Court of Human Rights. To me, that is a sign of hope; it means that they trust the Court system enough and feel that it is accessible enough to try to realise their rights within the court system. Of course, that does not ease my concern about the nature of the law and its implementation, but it was an interesting feature of the situation. Human rights defenders inside and outside Russia in many of our member States need support. We need to look very closely at their working conditions to ensure that they can do their job well, because if they cannot do so, you and I are not able to do our jobs well. Those people have a special role in human rights protection not only in Russia, but more broadly in Europe as a whole.
Mr BIEDROŃ (Poland) – According to Article 36 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Commissioner can take part in the proceedings of the European Court of Human Rights either at the invitation of the President of the Court or on his own initiative since the entry into force of Protocol No.14 to the Convention in June 2010. The Commissioner can submit written contributions and participate in hearings. So far, the Commissioner has used the opportunity to submit written observations only four times. What criteria do you use to decide whether or not to submit written remarks? Do you plan to increase your involvement in the proceedings of the ECHR?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – What are the criteria? First, we can add value through our experience of in country work to elucidate the human rights at stake. It would have to involve an issue that I know very well from my country work or on a country situation that I know very well. That is a core reason. I do not want to intervene on an abstract issue that I have read about in books. It must come from my experience on the ground or in thematic work.
Before I was elected, I promised to be prudent in the exercise of this right, and that will remain my policy. I am actively looking for cases that meet the criteria and that have added value in various realms, including the priorities that I mentioned such as migration, the Roma or austerity.
We recently had a discussion in my office. My predecessor had intervened in a case before the Court and it has now gone to the Grand Chamber. On whether or not I want to intervene in this case in the Grand Chamber, I have not yet made a country visit to the country in question, I have dealt with the issue in other contexts. I feel strongly about it and that my experience and insights and the work of my office can help the Court in making a good decision in that case. So you will see my first intervention before the Grand Chamber in the fall.
Ms ERKEL KARA (Turkey)* – The work of the Commissioner has always contributed to the credibility and visibility of the Council of Europe in the promotion and defence of human rights. What concrete steps could member States, and particularly their parliaments, take to support the efficiency and visibility of the Commissioner’s work?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS* – Thank you for that excellent question. On our visit to Finland, we saw good practice that we liked a lot. The government organised a round table dedicated to the recommendations of our country report to see what it could do to implement all our recommendations. I would be delighted to see the country report discussed in parliamentary committees or, if the matter was of broader importance for the whole country, in Parliament. In Greece, I was gratified to see that two Greek newspapers published in full the report on Greece. That is excellent and the next step would be to have debates in Parliament with members of Parliament. If you were to invite me, even if I was unable to come – if I was travelling elsewhere, for example – I could send one of my advisers to discuss the report with you thematically. We would be delighted to do that at any time.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – I think that you would share the view that it is unacceptable for our member States to have political prisoners, but they still do. How do you view the problem? Do you undertake any special scrutiny of high-ranking prisoners such as Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev? Finally, what is the scope of the problem in different member States?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – My office does not use the term “political prisoners”. Our mandate refers to the term “human rights defenders”. Some of the cases you mention appear to be linked to the lack of an independent and impartial judiciary or to the politicised use of justice. We address those issues in country reports in which we focus on the administration of justice and what can be done to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciaries in question. I have already elaborated on the various ways in which we work with human rights defenders.
I want to bring one issue to your attention, however, which we need to reflect on in the Council of Europe with the Parliamentary Assembly and with the Secretary General. We need to think collectively what to do if a person gets in trouble back at home through threats, intimidation, pressure or, in a worst case scenario, arrest, because of his or her co-operation with the Council of Europe, including providing information to the Organisation about the human rights situation in that country. We have no procedure for dealing with that. The United Nations has a procedure for dealing with it – the Secretary-General of the United Nations makes a very loud noise – but we do not. It is high time that we had such a procedure and I am willing to play my part in providing information in such cases and in raising my voice. We need to think about that because we have received information that appears to suggest that there are such cases in a number of countries. We must think about how to respond because it is in the interest of us all to defend people who help us to do human rights work and to help them do human rights work in their countries.
Mr DRĂGHICI (Romania) – I want to update you on the case mentioned in your report of Roma people living in the town of Baia Mare. It was not a forced eviction of Roma people from the area but a resettlement meant to ensure better living conditions for those vulnerable citizens. Local authorities took the decision with members of the community and a pilot project has been submitted by the local representatives of the national agency for Roma to encompass an entire range of measures in education, employment, public health and segregation. With a view to solving that thorny problem, the local authority is taking steps to purchase land on which new housing facilities can be built for Roma communities.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – The case caught our attention when some of the people involved became very ill because the facility to which they were transferred – or evicted, or moved – was chemically polluted. That seemed to warrant our special attention. I am heartened to hear that there has been some progress. Roma evictions and Roma housing are an issue in many countries of the Council of Europe – that is the case in every country that I have visited that has a significant Roma population – and a key point is that housing alternatives should be found in consultation with the people concerned. Of course, sometimes it will be difficult to find consensus among all the people who are involved, but the process of consultation is essential. Various alternatives should always be considered. They might involve legalising a settlement and upgrading it or giving Roma access to social housing, as they are sometimes denied the opportunity to access such housing alternatives. They might involve helping to fix up illegal housing so that it meets all appropriate standards. A key point that must be taken into consideration is that any housing solutions for Roma should not lead to segregation. That, along with school segregation, is part of the recipe that has led to a vicious cycle of the social exclusion of Roma. It has also fed into racism in many countries. Once people live separately and do not have contact, you are on fertile ground for prejudice and racism. It is a recipe for disaster in the long term. Those are the key elements I would want to see in any solution and not just in the case that you mentioned. I am heartened to hear that there have been new developments and that things seem to be going in a positive direction.
Mr NIKOLOSKI (''The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia'') – You said that you had produced a report on Greece. You will know that Greece recognises not national minorities but only religious minorities. That is a 19th century approach, not a 21st century approach. Greece has not allowed the Macedonian, Vlach, Albanian or Turkish minorities to organise themselves into political parties or non-governmental organisations, to speak their own language, to have their own schools, or to speak their language in schools. What will you do to challenge that? What is your opinion of a country that is a member of this Organisation taking such an approach and not ratifying or signing many of the documents it is obliged to ratify and sign?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – On a recent visit to Greece, we touched on a number of those issues. We talked about the non-ratification of the conventions on minorities with the authorities and we pushed them on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in a number of cases pertaining to minorities. Our focus was on racist violence, the rise of Golden Dawn and the role of the police. It was clear that not only migrants of recent origin have been the target of racist attacks but Roma who have been living in the country for many years, Muslims in Western Thrace and other groups, too. I met representatives of those groups and we tried to reflect their concerns, and the focus of the report was those issues rather than the broader issue of minority rights. If judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are implemented and the issue of racist violence is addressed effectively then not only migrants but long-standing minority populations will benefit.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Mr Commissioner, my question is about the real results of your activities. Twelve years ago I posed to your predecessor a question about a group of people who became refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of Armenian aggression towards Azerbaijan. Recalling the position of children born to Roman slaves in ancient Rome who had no rights from birth, these people have asked whether their children will face a similar tragedy by being refugees. Nearly 1 million people are still refugees in Azerbaijan without any change in their situation. What is the result of your activities in this case?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – This is an interesting question about the impact of our work in general, not only in the case that you mentioned but more broadly. We have to consider it in the short term, the medium term and the long term. What kind of impact can we have in the short term? We can raise awareness and draw attention to a problem. We can also help point the way forward for a country in addressing a human rights problem. In the long term, we can help them to arrive at a sustainable solution to human rights issues and to have strong national human rights structures in place. As for our work, there have been occasions when I have seen the immediate impact of our work in terms of attention being given to problems that can be resolved relatively quickly. I have been interested, in other contexts, to go to a country and to learn that certain human rights issues are only now being addressed and to be told that that is only because my predecessor started raising the issue seven years ago and kept it on the agenda. I think that we are in this for the long term. We have to keep pushing and keep trying to keep human rights issues on the agendas of governments and parliaments and in the public eye. That is the only way in which we can achieve sustainable change in the long term.
Ms WOLDSETH (Norway) – I thank the Commissioner for the most important work he is doing. It is one of the pillars on which the Council of Europe is built, which is why it is very important that it is visible. One year after taking office, do you have a strategy to be even more visible to Europe and the people who live there?
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – In the past year I have learnt that the timing of our reports is very important. In Greece, for example, we hit on a topic at the right time, when people were really yearning for a human rights perspective on the issue that we addressed. When I went to Finland our timing was excellent because the Finnish authorities had just, as a consequence of their universal periodic review, reformed their national human rights structures, adopted their national human rights action plan and wanted a friendly, constructive, critical voice from the outside to come in and analyse their work. They were therefore very welcoming and very attentive to our message. Timing is essential. The different media that we use are also essential. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised by the impact of social media. Before becoming Commissioner I had not paid much attention to Twitter; I did not take it that seriously. However, I have found that my tweets are re-tweeted and sometimes become the basis for news stories in the mainstream media. This is an area that we are trying to develop but it requires a lot of extra work because it is being done in addition to work with mainstream journalists and the traditional media. So that is important. However, the key is to address human rights issues that affect many people. When I went to Italy and said, “We are going to work on the administration of justice”, a number of Italians said to me: “Thank you so much. This affects us all. This affects me and how I can resolve my conflict with my neighbour about where our driveway is going. We have had a civil case pending for many years. This affects everyone I know”. We have to find a balance between paying special attention to vulnerable groups who might have a hard time defending their own rights and do not have a voice and ensuring that the issues that we address are the ones that affect many people in the country. If we can have a small impact there then we will have done a great service for the country and the majority of the population while at the same time always being aware that there are vulnerable groups whose rights are being trampled upon and who might not be in the public eye to whom we have to pay special attention.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – One of the prominent leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, Mr Lutsenko, has now been freed. However, he has been freed with a serious illness and has no political rights. We are waiting now for the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, on 30 April, on Yulia Tymoshenko’s case. The Lutsenko case was a matter of politically motivated imprisonment. Do you think that such decisions are the administrative, criminal and political responsibility of the judges, prosecutors and high officials involved? Do you think that they need to be regulated by the Assembly’s acts as well? Thank you – and we are waiting for you in Ukraine.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – My predecessor began some excellent work in Ukraine with his report on the judiciary there and on the occasionally politicised use of the judiciary there. Many of the recommendations that he made remain very topical today. Of course we were happy to see that Ukraine co-operated with the Council of Europe in changing its criminal code and that most of the recommendations were brought on board. I look forward to going to Ukraine, and I am going there. We are organising a human rights defenders round table at the end of May and I will touch base with the authorities. I always do that when I go to a country even if it is for a conference and not for a full country visit, to try to meet with the relevant authorities. I look forward to having meetings with the minister of justice and other officials, such as the ombudsman, to learn more about the situation. I will also do a full country visit there in the future and will follow up on this work. Those are among the issues. Within my mandate I cannot look at these individual cases, but the broader issue of the fairness and impartiality of justice and who is to be held accountable for miscarriages of justice are issues that are very much within my mandate.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – Mr Commissioner, do you plan to give special consideration to the topic of the violence and torture that is inflicted in prisons and police stations in former Soviet countries? There has been a new wave of such violence and torture in the past few years.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – This is where my office works in a complementary way with the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. It has a specialised knowledge –the forensic medical specialists, medical doctors, former prison wardens and former police officers who have the specialised knowledge to do the real monitoring work. I have on my staff some members who used to work in the CPT, but this is a very specialised area of knowledge. So where do I see our role? In so far as such cases of violence, torture or ill treatment are reflective of broader problems in the administration of justice I see our role, first, as to address those cases. This is one of the categories of cases before the European Court of Human Rights from Russia, for example, where we spent a lot of time looking at how the authorities are addressing complaints of ill treatment, impunity and so forth. One issue that we have looked at is how the judiciary as a whole investigates these cases, including whether they do it effectively and whether there is a remedy. As for the conditions themselves, I will occasionally visit a prison or police station. I visited a prison and a police station in Tatarstan but it was not the type of visit that the CPT does. I will have individual meetings in camera with people in detention to find out about their conditions and whether they have any complaints. I might do that, but it is very much something for the CPT. Our role is to look at the administration of justice and how torture cases are investigated and to urge publication of CPT reports and the creation of effective national preventive mechanisms, involving civil society, to monitor conditions. That is the best way to move forward. The CPT can do good work, but it is much better to have a regional or national commission undertaking good preventive work with closed institutions.
Another key issue is whether people should actually be in detention. We are looking at alternatives, such as the home arrest and release on bail initiatives recently introduced in Russia, and we encourage their wider use. What happens when people are released is also key. Are prisoners just released without any assistance or possibility of reintegration? Do probation services exist? Are people being helped to reintegrate into society? All that is on my agenda, but I try to complement and not duplicate the work of the CPT.
THE PRESIDENT* – We must now conclude the questions to Mr Muižnieks.
On behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers given to questions. I wish him good luck, and I am certainly going to tune into his Twitter account.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS – Thank you. I look forward to regular exchanges both in this Chamber and in the committees. If anyone has a special concern or has information about a country or a thematic issue, my door is open and I am always ready to co-operate.
3. Joint debate on “Frontex: human rights responsibilities” and “Management of mixed migration and asylum challenges beyond the European Union’s eastern border”
THE PRESIDENT* – We come now to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. The first is “Frontex: human rights responsibilities” (Document 13161), presented by Mr Cedarbratt, with an opinion presented by Mr Chope, in place of Mr Clappison, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Document 13187); the second is entitled “Management of mixed migration and asylum challenges beyond the European Union’s eastern border” (Document 13163), presented by Mr Rigoni.
I call Mr Cederbratt 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.
Mr CEDERBRATT (Sweden) – It is no secret that the management of migration flows is a hot topic within the European Union and beyond. Both the southern and eastern borders are affected, which is well illustrated in the report presented by Mr Rigoni, and to deal better with pressure on its border the European Union created Frontex. This young agency’s mission is to co-ordinate European Union and member State action relating to the control of external borders. Whether from the European Union or one of its neighbouring States, we are all concerned about migration. The task is clearly not easy, but it is tremendously crucial given Europe’s appeal to irregular migrants. However, reducing Frontex’s role to the management of irregular migrants at Europe’s external borders does not give the full picture of its job. Refugees and asylum seekers also knock on Europe’s door, often having no choice other than to enter in an irregular way. Frontex must ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is fully respected.
Until recently, the activities of Frontex were relatively unknown, but it has been in the spotlight lately. It is not only this Assembly that examines Frontex’s human rights record as several NGOs have also expressed strong criticisms and the European ombudsman has launched a separate inquiry and has formulated recommendations. The criticism is mainly directed at a lack of transparency, unclear responsibility and accountability, and a lack of democratic scrutiny. It is obvious that Frontex is not at ease with this amount of public attention. Do not forget that Frontex, because of its mission, is mainly staffed by police officers. When it comes to transparency, both the methods and mentality must change. Having been a police officer for 25 years, I am well placed to appreciate the risk of a sub-culture of secrecy developing in law enforcement institutions.
As I say in the report, human rights are not optional. Frontex has a dual responsibility: to respect and to protect. Better still, Frontex should be used to enhance the respect and protection of human rights at Europe’s border. Indeed, when I visited the border with a delegation from the Swedish Parliament a couple of years ago, it became clear that the Frontex officer had some notion of international human rights laws, but many national border guards are not that familiar with them despite facing human rights issues on a daily basis. They need to know that unaccompanied children, pregnant women, women with children, the disabled and others from vulnerable groups should not be detained and should receive specific assistance. They also need to know that asylum seekers cannot simply be pushed back. Frontex officers also have knowledge to share with national counterparts and that sharing should be reinforced.
Frontex actually provides an opportunity for the European Union to improve its human rights record at its border. There is, however, still a long way to go before Frontex is being best used. In its defence, it seems that Frontex was ill-prepared to face some of the challenges inherent in its mission, but Frontex and the European Union have reacted to that criticism. Regulations have been made, the right strategy has been endorsed, a consultative forum of fundamental rights has been set up, and a fundamental rights officer has been appointed. All that is going in the right direction and the improvements are welcome, but we need to see how it will work in practice. The implementation of those human rights safeguards remains a challenge and there are already concerns at this stage. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons proposed in the draft resolution a series of measures to ensure the effectiveness of the safeguards, in particular by asking Frontex and the European Union to ensure the independence of the fundamental rights officer and to give her the means to carry out her mission. It is fine to say that a fundamental rights officer can join an operation and be a success, but, to be honest, how on earth can one person alone monitor all Frontex’s activities and their potential impact on fundamental rights? Common sense tells us that that is impossible.
That is but one example of the still necessary improvements to ensure that the reforms, which look good on paper, are fully implemented in practice. It is also necessary for Frontex to recognise its responsibility as owner and co-owner of the projects that it co-ordinates and implements. It is too easy to put the ball into another court when it comes to responsibility. Frontex cannot always hide behind European Union member States. Co-ordination activities, including instruction and financing, can be far-reaching and as such are not without a certain amount of responsibility.
The report I present today is not an accusation but an attempt to give a realistic picture of Frontex’s work. I stress a number of shortcomings, including serious ones, that impact on the respect of human rights at Europe’s borders. The draft resolution provides Frontex, the European Union and member States with a road map for what has to be done to ensure that the agency’s work complies with human rights standards, and above all serves as a promoter of human rights at the European Union’s borders and beyond.
The draft recommendation of the Committee of Ministers asks us to ensure that the Council of Europe’s standards are duly taken into account in Frontex’s activities, and that its relevant bodies co-operate with Frontex to that end.
Thank you for your attention. I ask you to support the resolution and the recommendation.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Cederbratt. You will have eight minutes at the end of the debate to address the various comments. I call Mr Chope, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – On behalf of the rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, James Clappison, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons on this excellent report. It deals with a range of issues concerning the remit and functioning of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. I have met Frontex officers on a number of visits and seen the organisation, which is relatively new, in action. It has grown and has a massively increased budget. That is why this report is timely, because so far, not enough attention has been paid to the impact of its operational activities on human rights.
Mr Cederbratt’s report rightly emphasises the human rights aspect and welcomes recent developments such as endorsing a fundamental rights strategy and a code of conduct. It also points out some deficiencies at the structural level, such as insufficient transparency, unclear responsibility and lack of democratic scrutiny. It proposes concrete measures to respond to these concerns.
In order to strengthen the draft resolution and recommendation, our committee has tabled a number of amendments, and I am pleased to say that the rapporteur and the committee have accepted many of them. We will come later to the one or two that have not been accepted.
May I apologise on James Clappison’s behalf for his being unable to attend today to speak to this report for opinion? He had to leave Strasbourg this morning. I am sure that many members present will understand the pressures on parliamentarians; James Clappison is no different in that respect.
We support the report enthusiastically.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Rigoni, who also has 13 minutes.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – For our committee this is a very important report. We need a clear examination of it, and I hope colleagues will feel able to support it on reading it.
The mixed flow of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees is increasingly taking place in the countries beyond the European Union’s eastern borders. When routes of irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking are closed down, new ones are opened up, testing borders and the capacity of States to deal with these flows.
The main challenges I have identified facing countries on the European Union’s eastern border are difficult ones, and we have to examine whether the European Union is able and ready to deal with them. The main countries in focus at the moment are Turkey, which is under particular pressure, Croatia, Serbia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. My report concentrates on four issues linked to mixed migration flows, the first of which is the challenge of dealing with people who may have international protection needs, including asylum seekers and refugees. The second issue is detention, which is a significant one. In the countries concerned, detention is often used as a form of migration management and as an automatic measure of migration. The question therefore arises whether these countries have the appropriate laws and practices in place to ensure that detention complies with international legal standards, whether they have appropriate facilities for holding detainees, or whether they propose alternatives to detention.
The third issue is returns from the European Union to those countries, and the use of European Union readmission agreements. The main question is the fairness of such agreements, particularly when pressure is put on non-European Union countries to take back third country nationals for which European Union member States would otherwise be responsible.
The fourth issue, the key one, is the support given by the European Union to deal with this phenomenon, and its impact and effectiveness. In collecting information for this report, I had the opportunity to visit Ukraine and Turkey, which is why they are used as special case studies. I take this opportunity to express my special thanks to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in the Council of Europe for its assistance in organising my missions and preparing for this report. It has assisted both me and my staff.
The number of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees flowing into the countries under examination is constantly on the increase. It is not just Turkey and Syria – we are also looking at those fleeing conflict zones such as Afghanistan. Today, Turkey is hosting some 34 500 asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia, and almost 300 000 Syrian refugees. In fact, Turkey was one of the first countries to grant temporary protection status to refugees from Syria.
There has been a steady increase in these flows, and countries are under pressure to adapt their national legislation to international standards. I am particularly impressed by Turkey’s recent efforts in adopting the Turkish law on foreigners and international protection, which reflects its strong commitment to humanitarian values and principles. That law will prove to be a turning-point in the creation in Turkey of an advanced asylum system. I am sure the Council of Europe has an important role to play in helping Turkey to implement that law.
The asylum systems in such countries are for the most part new. Furthermore, many of those responsible for operating the systems are relatively inexperienced. The UNHCR has provided substantial support to help these countries build up their asylum systems and train the people involved in managing them. However, it was clear that the systems were not ready and able to cope with the future challenge of increased numbers of asylum seekers and refugees. Whereas much has been done to bring legislation into line with international refugee and human rights standards, practices do not yet necessarily follow. That is the real problem facing refugees. Such countries are increasingly becoming countries of destination, not merely countries of transit. However, without fully functioning and fair asylum procedures, people will not stay and will choose, or be forced by circumstance, to move on into the European Union, looking for protection.
To stop these movements, the countries on the European Union’s eastern border have increasingly had recourse to the use of detention. This has led to a number of problems and issues, such as the legal basis for detention, general safeguards, the rights of detainees, and general conditions in detention. A lot of migrants are detained for quite long without there being any consideration of alternatives. That tendency, which we emphasise in the report, needs to be reversed. Such policies are expensive and have significant human consequences, which are further exacerbated when detention conditions are below standard. I strongly believe that detention should be the last option, and its length should be kept to a minimum.
I have visited facilities in Turkey, and not all were up to standard. We find that the countries beyond the European Union’s borders are insufficiently prepared to act as the European Union’s eastern watchdog against irregular migration. They do not adequately guarantee that those in need of asylum receive it. There must be acceptable human rights standards in their reception and detention policies. I will be happy to answer any questions that colleagues put.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Mr Rigoni. We will now have the general debate. A few of the speakers have to catch planes or trains; I call Ms Korun first.
Ms KORUN (Austria)* – I thank the rapporteurs for the reports and our debates in committee. I shall concentrate on the first report, which is about the important subject of Frontex. For many, it is literally a matter of life and death.
It is estimated that every year more than 1 000 people die while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and get to the European Union. That is intolerable and we cannot accept it. We must ensure that Frontex, the European Union and the individual member States assume responsibility.
In recent years, human rights organisations have voiced much criticism, as have those who have managed to arrive in the European Union and raise their voices. Member States often pass the buck, saying that it is Frontex’s fault. However, the European Union and Frontex have made efforts to react to the criticism, and steps have been taken, which are mentioned in the report. As has already been stressed, there is a considerable way to go. We need to ensure that the measures announced in respect of Frontex are introduced and that transparency prevails. We need an effective monitoring mechanism under Frontex, and that must be implemented.
Member States of the European Union and the Council of Europe are ultimately responsible. If we have signed up to the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees, we are responsible for ensuring that borders are not closed or cordoned off – they must be open for people who are fleeing and require protection.
(Ms Pourbaix-Lundin, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Mignon.)
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Korun. I call Mr Franken, who speaks for the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr FRANKEN (Netherlands) – I thank the rapporteurs and congratulate them on the quality of their analysis and conclusions, which confirm the necessity of stressing the importance of human rights for people in really uncomfortable or even bad situations. Unfortunately, such people make up a big group in our part of the world – migrants and refugees who live not only in bad circumstances but with great disappointment. They have fled their home countries and, having succeeded in arriving alive in a host country, may have been detained for quite a long time. We all agree that nobody wants that.
However, it is very difficult to arrange good circumstances in which to receive the large stream of people from Africa, the Middle East and other countries where there is war or violence against groups. Therefore the European Union tries to regulate entry at borders. Frontex is a project of co-operation between European Union member States that recognises that not only the countries at the south and eastern borders should carry the burden of offering relief to the refugees; that is now a task of the European Union as a whole.
But there is another point. The responsibility for the well-being of refugees is not only a task for the European Union, to which these reports are addressed. All governments of countries where refugees enter must respect fundamental rights, even if those refugees want to continue their journey to other countries. Those governments must also help their neighbour countries to organise good relief.
Mr Cederbratt’s report describes precisely the structural and operational weak spots of the European Union agency. I cannot add anything to the warnings of the rapporteur about being aware of the human rights consequences of every step in the chain of decisions taken from the moment a refugee enters until his arrival at a new residence. The report provides a kind of checklist for all the officials who have a monitoring task.
All the countries in the Council of Europe should expect to help to regulate the unexpected large-scale displacement of people as a consequence of the Libyan crisis and the Syrian war. We respect what Turkey has done in providing refuge for more than 260 000 Syrians, but we all have to work together. The members of the Council of Europe have to strengthen each other in common respect for the rights of the refugees, who unfortunately are forced to leave their home countries.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Franken. The next speaker is Ms Groth, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Ms GROTH (Germany) – I, in turn, express sincere thanks to the rapporteurs for their excellent reports, and particularly for the many practical measures to ensure that Frontex is committed to human rights standards in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers. Frontex is an instrument to protect borders; it is not a suitable instrument to stop migration and the flight of individuals.
The Evros region between Greece and Turkey has been sealed off by a fence; indeed, committee members have visited it. That means that people have to track down to the coast while they are still in Turkey, get on to small boats, and move by sea to islands such as Lesbos. When I was in Lesbos, I saw the distress of the refugees. People were sleeping out in the open, including children. I saw in those circumstances a little two-year-old as well as pregnant ladies and sick people. There is just one Frontex officer in the region and there has been a Frontex officer posted on a vessel. People’s nationalities are, in effect, changed by these officers. Afghans were turned into Iranians because Afghans are allowed in and Iranians are not – they are subject to refoulement – and so there had to be a change back to their correct nationalities.
We reject the Dublin II system and call for a fair distribution of refugees. We are all aware of what is happening in Syria, and we heard about it again today. European Union countries have to provide assistance for such refugees according to their size and facilities. It is unfair to dump the problem on the countries that are closest to the external border. I hope that the measures called for in the report to ensure that human rights are protected are correct and will get broad support.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Chikovani of Georgia, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – I join my colleagues in congratulating Mr Cederbratt on a very good report, which is refreshingly direct and straightforward and sets out the very problems that we face. We clearly understand that Frontex is a new agency that provides a tool to protect our European Union borders, but there is an absolute necessity for better co-operation and better protection of human rights.
Mr Rigoni’s report is also very informative and clearly underscores the problems that the eastern partners of the European Union have had and are having. I have been part of the negotiations on readmission issues between European Union and non-European Union countries. It is a big, heavy burden for a non-European Union country to receive citizens of other countries. The four pillars that Mr Rigoni specified – identification, detention, readmission, and effective use of support – are very instrumental. On identification, we clearly need more training, interaction and experience-sharing between European Union and non-European Union countries. We must be very certain that detention in any country, whether an European Union or a non-European Union country, should be the last resort, and ensure that if such things happen the human rights watchdogs are allowed into the detention facilities.
I have talked about readmission under the European Union agreements, but I also want to seek your support on creating an effective tool that will help us to deal with this problem while it is still at the grass roots and make sure that we are able to respond to it in an effective manner. A number of organisations are trying to deal with these issues, but we need to develop a more results-oriented approach and provide more support, and we must share the burden between European Union and non-European Union countries.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Woldseth, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Ms WOLDSETH (Norway) – I thank the rapporteurs for their reports, which deal with two very important and difficult issues. I could not agree more that Frontex must maintain a high standard on human rights. Frontex States cannot allow migrants to be met at their borders with sub-standard conditions. Migrants are human beings and have human rights just like European citizens.
Some Council of Europe member States are also members of the European Union and some are not, but European Union decisions on migration control affect us all. This concerns not only European Union countries but the whole Schengen area. In the case of Schengen member States, some of the migration flows are stopped at their borders. Some non-member States located in the east and south have to handle a large flow of migrants hoping for a new future in European Union rope. Because of the European Union and Schengen policies, many migrants end up in countries that are Council of Europe members but not European Union members. The report describes how migration routes have changed. Countries that have not previously had to deal with migration flows in transit now have to handle large numbers of refugees and migrants. These countries are not always prepared for such tasks. Turkey is doing is a tremendous job right now in not only receiving a large number of Syrians fleeing from the war but receiving many people from Asia and Africa who are looking for a better life in Europe.
The most important thing is to help migrants in their countries of origin. Some migrants originate in Council of Europe member States. Our first step should be to look at how we can help these States improve the conditions at home. Yesterday the Romanian Prime Minister, Mr Victor Ponta, pointed to measures taken in his country to improve the situation for Roma people. We must support such efforts.
It is important to support fellow Council of Europe members that are suddenly experiencing large migration flows. We cannot abandon our fellow member States in the south-eastern area to deal with issues alone.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The rapporteurs will be able to reply at the end of the debate, but does either wish to comment at this stage? No. Then we will continue with the debate. Everybody has three minutes. Ms Miladinović is not here, so I call Ms Kyriakidou from Cyprus.
Ms KYRIAKIDOU (Cyprus) – Mixed migration flows towards the European Union have been at the forefront of our discussions in the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons for a couple of years. This complex subject involves a multitude of economic, social and political parameters, in addition to those set by international standards and instruments. Mr Rigoni has done a good job, and I congratulate him and the committee secretariat on this comprehensive report.
The economic crisis has made the situation for the countries of destination and transit even more challenging, and the plight of migrants and asylum seekers even more desperate. The lack of resources and the vague intent to co-operate internationally could trigger an explosive situation on the European Union’s eastern border. Moreover, the precarious situation of Syrian nationals requires European Union member States to find more durable and pertinent solutions to the problem.
No doubt, there is a delicate balance to strike between needing fully to implement human rights standards for people and ensuring that host countries can successfully handle the influx of people with different socio-economic backgrounds, and social and religious affinities. The need to integrate those people in the social and economic fabric of our societies must be added to this equation. Should we fail to integrate them, the consequences will be disastrous, both for the European Union and the values and principles it champions, and for the migrants themselves, who will experience shattered lives and dreams.
The time has come to fix this broken system. Let us not forget what this Organisation stands for and let us not forget that stateless persons cannot be the answer. Citizenship is the essential foundation of a person’s legal entity. Stateless persons are denied access to health care, education, housing and employment. Citizenship is necessary in order to live a dignified life and to have political rights, too. That will make these people more responsible members of their societies. I urge all of you to keep that in mind when considering the best way to handle increased migration flows from neighbouring countries and third countries in general.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Kyriakidou. I call Ms Gündeş Bakir.
Ms GÜNDEŞ BAKIR (Turkey) – As the rapporteur rightly stated, the countries beyond the European Union’s eastern borders are increasingly under pressure from illegal migration by people who want to enter the European Union but cannot do so. Human trafficking is usually committed by terrorist organisations, such as the PKK, and it is one of their primary sources of income. My country imposes a geographical limitation and gives the status of asylum only to people who migrate from Europe to Turkey. That limitation is not a reservation by Turkey; quite the contrary, it is a right recognised by article 1B of the Geneva Convention. The call on Turkey in paragraph 21 of the report to “remove the geographical reservation to the 1951 Refugee Convention” relating to the status of refugees has no legal basis. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A.G. and Others v. Turkey makes it clear that geographical limitation and reservation cannot be considered as discrimination in respect of the rights defined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Based on that Court’s decision, Turkey does not have to remove the geographical limitation, guaranteed as a right in the 1951 United Nations Convention, as it is completely legal. Forcing the opposite would contradict Turkey’s sovereignty rights and go against the decisions of the Court.
It is also important to remind member States that our geographical limitation is what protects the European Union member States from having more regular and irregular migrants. Its abolition would encourage a dramatically higher number of economic migrants to Turkey and, consequently, to the European Union. A crucial way of protecting the European Union from illegal migration is by protecting Turkey’s borders. We should also bear in mind that the Council of Europe’s border does not start at the Greek-Turkish border, but at Turkey’s east and south-eastern borders.
Paragraph 53 of the report alleges that the situation seen in another country regarding the medical care of asylum seekers and refugees was also “witnessed in Turkey”. That claim has no legitimate basis and I wish to clarify things. Applicants and asylum seekers are hosted in certain Turkish cities in accordance with the relevant Turkish legislation, and the 60th article of the social insurance and general health insurance law stipulates that asylum seekers are covered by general health insurance in Turkey. Our insurance scheme provides them with a broad array of health benefits, ranging from emergency aid to medical operations. Furthermore, applicants have access to medical services through the general directorate of social assistance and solidarity. Therefore, the Danish Refugee Council, financed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has no role in the provision of medical care to concerned persons in Turkey.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Gündeş Bakir. I call Mr Pintado.
Mr PINTADO (Spain)* – I, too, congratulate the rapporteurs on the report on Frontex. First, I wish to discuss the reason for establishing Frontex and the agency’s specific goals. As the report clearly states, in the few years Frontex has been in place certain deficiencies have been identified on human rights issues. One key issue for Frontex is how to make the protection of our borders compatible with the protection of an inalienable principle of human rights and the protection of those individuals who wish to cross those borders.
There is a dual pressure at work. Pressure comes from migratory flows, for reasons such as the economic crisis and political crises in certain countries, for example, those in north Africa. Pressure also comes from the declarations that European Union member State governments make at certain times, which have led to concerns about the fulfilment of Frontex’s role. What is not reflected in the report is that some members of Frontex have stated that the resources available would have to be trebled if they are to be able to work properly and fulfil their duty. Frontex will have to continue working along these lines and the report’s proposal for more transparency and a more independent Frontex could help us, as we discuss how to improve it.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Pintado. I call Ms Virolainen.
Ms VIROLAINEN (Finland) – I thank my Swedish colleague for an excellent and pragmatic report on the human rights responsibilities of Frontex. This guardian of the European Union’s external borders has a difficult task in carrying out strict operational aims set by member States while taking human rights obligations into account. I welcome the adoption of a human rights strategy for Frontex and agree with the rapporteur that it should be properly implemented. I hope that later this year we will be discussing my report on effective and fair returns of failed asylum seekers, in which Frontex plays an important role.
As the report says, Frontex carries out so-called joint returns, where returnees from several European Union countries are deported using joint flights. These "flights of shame", as some call them, have several human rights implications that need to be taken into consideration. One of the main problems is the lack of clearly defined joint standards and guidelines, and I hope to be able to address that in my report.
In my talks with several experts, I have reached the same conclusion as my Swedish colleague. Increased and targeted training for operational staff, including better skills to conduct risk-analysis, is crucial if standards are to be met. We need staff who are familiar with human rights laws and capable of identifying the needs of the people they are dealing with. We must ensure equal treatment of returnees regardless of the member State involved. Effective border control and respect for human rights can take place at the same time.
Having said that, we must remember that no system is perfect from the start. Joint returns are still being formulated. This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for us to develop the practice of human rights-based returns. To be successful we must develop the practice of independent monitors or national prevention mechanisms to observe the return process from start to finish.
Let me remind you that returning failed asylum seekers, with or without the help of Frontex, is an important part of national migration policies. However, the return process is difficult both for the person being deported and for the persons carrying it out. I therefore strongly support the rapporteur’s call for effective co-operation, proper monitoring and regular follow-up in order to ensure more humane and dignified procedures for efficient border control. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Voruz.
Mr VORUZ (Switzerland)* – I, too, thank the rapporteurs for having thrown light on the work of Frontex in one report and, in the other, on the management of mixed migration and asylum challenges beyond the European Union’s frontiers. The reports have described the reality, which is a problem really because I think we need more time to comment on the reality.
There is no doubt that the work of Frontex is important, but there are a number of issues that we need to address, such as interventions beyond Schengen’s borders and on the high seas. There is an unequal sharing of responsibilities among the member States of Frontex when it comes to interception on the high seas. Once refugees have been intercepted, who is then responsible for them? Moreover, no Frontex report mentions the presence of asylum seekers or vulnerable persons such as unaccompanied minors during operations at sea. We need to define responsibilities. Above all, we need a collaborative effort between member States so that we can help one another when confronted with such situations.
Frontex’s activities have to be made accountable, just as the security forces of our member states are accountable to national parliaments and governments. We should also draw attention to the budget of Frontex, which is €85 million – a budget set aside with a view to policing the Schengen borders, which is one of the main priorities not only of European Union member States but of countries that have associate status within the Schengen area.
So that all those operations are conducted under optimal conditions, Frontex’s activities have to be governed by the principle of equality of treatment, with a view to implementing the fundamental rights strategy that was adopted on 31 March 2011. Human rights protection has to be incorporated within the legal context provided for by the Frontex regulation of 25 October 2011. We have to sort out the rather uncomfortable position that Frontex finds itself in, having to serve two masters, both the European Union and the member States.
On the second report, I appeal to the European Union not to be tempted to externalise problems that have to do with irregular migration and the right to asylum. Compared with what we heard this morning on the subject of Syrian refugees and the burden being placed on the countries surrounding Syria, ultimately what we are being asked is fairly straightforward and does not really require much of us. We should give our support to the reports and the amendments.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms El Ouafi from Morocco, Partner for Democracy, but she is not here, so I call Mr Schennach.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I thank the rapporteurs. This is a subject that runs on almost seamlessly from this morning’s debate, and the question is how we can try to keep the issue of migration and asylum seekers separate. I know that there are mixed flows, but we are creating a legal system in which asylum seekers ought to be able to avail themselves of their right to apply for asylum. Where can you lodge an application for asylum at the external border? If you manage to do that, then, certainly in my country, you are kept waiting for 10 years, and most of the answers are in the negative. In the meantime, children are sent to school, and then the police come along and snatch six-year-olds on school runs and from classrooms, and they are then subject to return.
We have to consider how to enable people to claim their rights, which is hugely difficult. The Zapatero Government in Spain was one of the few to say, “We are going to stop saying that there are regular and irregular, or legal or illegal, people here. We will have everyone on the same footing.” I have very great respect for that approach.
The problem in Turkey and Greece is dire, as it is in Lampedusa and elsewhere. However, Turkey has it particularly hard. Most of the illegal and irregular inflows to our country come from Italy and Germany. We are on the eastern border, but it is not always accurate to say that everyone comes from the east. That does not necessarily apply to us.
When it comes to returns, we have to question the Dublin Agreement very seriously indeed. People are arrested and held in detention centres prior to being returned, although they are not accused of having broken the criminal law. That is a major issue, and the Council of Europe should undertake a meticulous review of these issues.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Díaz Tejera.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – Do you know that African farmers cannot buy most of the crops that they grow? They cannot eat them. It is easier for them to export them to the rich north. When they do buy their own crops – Senegalese tomatoes, for example – they are in cans that are produced thanks to northern funds. Can anyone deny a person from the north or the east the right to live where they wish in order to earn a living?
Some countries of the European Union did not want to create Frontex. The discussion was not about more authority for Frontex or less, or more funding or less. Some officials want to multiply its funding by three, increasing it from €85 million to €255 million, because increasingly this body, which was established for very specific, narrow functions, is overwhelmed by millions of people who want to have a better life.
I remember a time when hundreds of thousands of Africans came to the Canary Islands. I do not remember how many requests were made by the rich, northern countries to say, “Give us a few thousand of these immigrants. We will take them in and care for them in our countries.” We did our best to take them in and to care for them.
I do not feel that I can tell my Turkish friends what they should do, because they are the ones on the front line. My experience, when people from Africa came to the Canaries, was that we were never told that we needed to take in millions of people. People have a right to survive, no matter how. We need to be a bit more modest and humble before we lecture people on issues that we do not know or have never experienced.
The issue of substance can be dealt with only when we change the relationship between rich and poor countries – just remember the example of Senegal. In the mean time, we need to show solidarity with each other. We should not use the idea of human rights to deliver lectures. I always try to learn from everyone, particularly from people who are experienced. We should put things into practice, not simply make statements.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Christoffersen.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – Frontex was established to meet the challenges of illegal immigration and growing numbers of asylum seekers by greater co-operation on border control, harmonisation of rules, and co-ordination of policies and measures. Common minimum standards were established to safeguard human rights in migration and asylum. However, the two reports raise some alarming questions.
One important issue is fair burden sharing among receiving countries, but what does fair burden sharing mean? There are more than 40 million refugees in the world. Every year, 300 000 asylum seekers reach the Schengen border. The heaviest burden is obviously not shouldered by European Union countries. The report on the migration challenges beyond the European Union’s eastern border clearly shows how a more efficient border control by Frontex increases the burden on others. Frontex’s risk analysis 2013 shows a decline in revealed illegal immigrants by 50% only last year due to better control. Migrants seeking to enter the Schengen area are stuck in countries that are not prepared to act as receiving countries.
There is also burden sharing within the Schengen area, which is dealt with by the Dublin Agreements. Countries such as Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg have the highest number of asylum applicants relative to population, but we all know that countries in southern Europe face much larger problems in handling the situation.
Seen together, the two reports are of utmost importance. They ask questions on how we can improve our systems to comply with our human rights obligations when it comes to international migration. A prerequisite is a common feeling of fair burden sharing among all member States. One starting point could be to renegotiate the Dublin Agreements. Norway’s Parliament has authorised the government to take part in such negotiations, but no progress has been made, because some countries, such as Germany and France, have so far refused to take part in renegotiations.
Let us hope for a more proper reply from the Committee of Ministers to the recommendation in the Frontex report. Meanwhile, we can all contribute by asking questions in our own parliaments. The issue is about people. We cannot allow the need for controlled migration to overrule basic human rights at any stage of the asylum-seeking process.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Triantafyllos.
Mr TRIANTAFYLLOS (Greece) – The role of Frontex in managing increased irregular immigration flows to many European countries and in protecting the European Union’s external borders is undoubtedly extremely important, but is its role effective in the long run? Is it possible to end immigration flows simply by guarding the European Union’s borders and by funding the creation of detention centres in first reception countries?
I come from Chios, an island in the north-eastern part of the Aegean Sea. The island is located on the maritime border of the European Union, and from there Frontex has deployed several maritime operations. When men, women and children who have never seen the sea in their lives and obviously cannot swim embark on to small and broken boats during cold winter nights, forced by traffickers or just by their despair, they are surely travelling towards their deaths. What are the possible outcomes of such voyages for passengers? They may be stopped by a Frontex ship; they may arrive at the European coast; or they may drown. I believe that no one in this Assembly wishes for the third possibility. However, under European immigration policy, can that possibility be prevented? What is more important: saving a child’s life, or preventing someone’s arrival at the European coast? It is necessary to prevent such voyages of death before people set sail from the Asian or African coasts.
The European Union definitely needs to co-operate more closely with its neighbouring countries to ensure that those countries respect the rights of those who need international protection. To that end, Frontex must deploy operations in neighbouring countries. In any case, its actions must be transparent, and it must guarantee the rights of immigrants, refugees and all inhabitants in general.
What we have is not enough; people will continue to come. Border countries are unable to bear the responsibility on their own. The European Union must share the responsibility for the displaced populations it receives. It must activate the mechanism that shares such flows among European countries according to their capability, economy and population. It is time for action, not words.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The final speaker is Ms Dumery.
Ms DUMERY (Belgium) – I, too, congratulate both rapporteurs on their excellent reports on this important topic. It is crucial that we, as national parliamentarians, have the opportunity to debate the functioning and structure of Frontex from the point of view of human rights.
As stated in the report, the projected budget for Frontex in 2012 was almost €85 million. Almost two thirds of the budget spent on joint operations in 2011 concerned maritime operations. Every year, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers attempt to reach the European Union by sea in terrible conditions. It is obvious that the greatest risk of serious human rights violations arises during maritime operations. We need to ensure that during any interception in maritime operations co-ordinated by Frontex, people who are intercepted have access to international protection in line with the principle of non-refoulement.
The report also points out that many NGOs have underlined the lack of transparency regarding the nature of the operations and their impact on human rights as a real threat for the respect of fundamental rights. Such lack of transparency leads to a lack of democratic and public accountability.
I return to the issue of Frontex’s budget and financial resources. During this period of severe economic crisis, when almost all European countries, from the north to the south, have adopted austerity measures, it is important that human rights protection does not fall victim to austerity measures. As the German President, Joachim Gauck, rightly pointed out during his speech on Monday, even in spite of pressure to make savings in a time of austerity across Europe, “we should never seek to economise on human rights.” Therefore, we must ensure that the financial resources of Frontex are properly used and well spent. Frontex has to take into account the recommendations made in the resolution. In particular, it has to comply with human rights norms. I therefore thank the rapporteur for his recommendations.
(Mr Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin.)
THE PRESIDENT* – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Mr Rigoni. You have five minutes left to respond on behalf of the committee.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – As we have heard in the debate, this is a big problem that cannot be resolved just by Frontex, which has only a limited approach. Alexander the Great conquered the whole world, but he had to stop when he got to the sea. You can build all the walls you want, but you cannot build them on the sea. Frontex is indeed an important element for us, but it is not the only one possible.
In the draft resolution, I suggest concrete measures to assist countries outside our eastern boundaries and to take into consideration human rights and asylum concerns. It is important to reaffirm that European Union countries represent the principal attraction to such mixed migratory flows and theirs is the prime responsibility to aid such countries. If we do not do that, we cannot make any progress. European Union countries must help countries that are unable to resolve their problems by themselves.
I propose concrete recommendations for European Union countries on how to provide structures to keep or detain such asylum seekers and refugees because the countries that host them are not in a position to guarantee their fundamental rights.
The European Union and its member States should be aware of the pressures on their eastern neighbours. They should provide support to help them to control this mixed flow of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. These countries are not in a position to be able to pick up the challenges. The overcrowded detain centres and the terrible living conditions provided to these people show that Turkey, despite the important progress achieved, still requires a lot of help from us and the European Union. The European Union and its member States should help these countries more, and these countries should do more and not rely on such assistance because they have responsibilities, too.
I thank you, Mr President, for your attention and Chairman Santini of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons and its whole secretariat for the support that I have received. In particular, I thank Olga Kostenko, whose help made it possible to produce this important report.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Rigoni. I call Mr Cederbratt to reply. You have eight minutes left.
Mr CEDERBRATT (Sweden) – The idea of the report is to use Frontex as a tool to strengthen fundamental rights. Frontex has changed its regulations. It has a fundamental rights strategy and a code of conduct. It has appointed a fundamental rights officer and a consultative board. All that is very good, but it is still just words on paper. The report might provide a road map to make it all operate effectively. Those are my thoughts on the future.
I thank the secretariat for holding my hand during this journey.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I call Mr Santini.
Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – I wish to take a couple of minutes to synthesise the reports, which started from different points but converged in the end on one objective: shining a ray of light on this risk category and the world of refugees and asylum seekers.
On Mr Cederbratt’s report, Frontex was a police organisation with regard to the European Union’s extreme boundaries. However, it was not realised that the mixed patrols would face not only boundaries – the open sea or barbed wire – but human beings. The report is a reminder of the responsibility to respect human rights and an opportunity to establish new duties, which were rather confused hitherto. Frontex must bring succour to people who are intercepted at sea.
Mr Rigoni’s report provides us with the opportunity to extend our view beyond the European Union’s eastern frontiers, where there are greater suspicions with regard to human rights and ongoing violations have been pointed out. The report helps us to cast a light on to all that. As the rapporteur said, when faced with the desperation of refugees, we respond with prisons.
We must be in sympathy with the European Convention on Human Rights, which is the Assembly’s fundamental charter. We support the two appeals that have emerged here: Mr Cederbratt’s appeal to Frontex to bring together human values and police rules, and Mr Rigoni’s appeal to the countries that first host these refugees to open the doors of solidarity before opening the doors of prisons.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much.
The debate is closed.
The report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons report “Frontex: human rights responsibilities” – Document 13161 – proposes a draft resolution, to which five amendments and an oral amendment have been tabled, and a draft recommendation, to which four amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 1, 3, 4 and 5 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Amendment No. 2, which was also agreed unanimously by the committee, must be taken separately as it is impacted on by the oral amendment.
Is that so Mr SANTINI?
Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Yes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.
The following amendments have been adopted:
Amendment 1, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 7, after the words “calls on Frontex”, insert the following words: “, the European Union”.
Amendment 3, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, at the beginning of paragraph 9.3, insert the following words: “clearly defining the scope of Frontex's accountability and”.
Amendment 4, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, move paragraph 9.4.3 to become a new paragraph before paragraph 9.5.
Amendment 5, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 10.2, replace the words “complying with the Hirsi judgment” with the following words: “complying with the requirements stemming from the Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy judgment”.
I have received an oral amendment from Mr Cederbratt, on behalf of the Migration Committee, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 7.1, first sentence, replace the words “other international protection” by the following words: “other forms of protection”.
If this amendment is agreed to, Amendment 2 falls.
In my opinion, the oral amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral amendment being considered? That is not the case.
The committee is obviously in favour.
The oral amendment is adopted.
Amendments 3 to 5 have already been unanimously adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13161, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13161, as amended, is adopted, with 56 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention.
We will now consider the amendments to the draft recommendation.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Migration Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 8 and 9 to the draft recommendation, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so Mr Santini?
That is the case.
As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments 8 and 9 to the draft recommendation have been agreed.
The following amendments have been adopted:
Amendment 8, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.2, to replace the words “ensure that” with the following word: “promote”, and to replace the words “are duly taken into account” with the following words: “and recommend that they are duly taken into account”.
Amendment 9, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 4.3, after the words “through enhanced co-operation with the CPT, GRETA”, to delete the following words: “, the European Court of Human Rights”.
We will now proceed to consider the remaining amendments.
We come to Amendment 6, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, to delete paragraphs 1 to 3.
I call Mr Chope to support Amendment 6 on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – It seems almost churlish to rise to support the amendment when the committee has been so agreeable in accepting all the other amendments unanimously. Our intention is to make the language more succinct and to avoid repeating facts that are already set out in paragraph 4 of the draft resolution. It does not deal with the substance, just with the Legal Affairs Committee’s view of a better form of drafting.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr SANTINI (Italy) * – The committee is against it. It was already rejected at committee level.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 6 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 7, tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the beginning of paragraph 4, replace the words “It is in this context that” with the following words:
“Referring to its Resolution ..... (2013) on Frontex: human rights responsibilities,”.
I understand that Mr Chope does not wish to press Amendment 7. Does anyone else wish to move it?
That is not the case. Amendment 7 is not moved.
Amendments 8 and 9 have already been unanimously adopted.
We will now to proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13161, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13161, as amended, is adopted, with 57 votes for, 1 against and 0 abstentions.
The Migration Committee report “Management of mixed migration and asylum challenges beyond the European Union’s eastern border”, Document 13163, proposes a draft resolution, to which one amendment has been tabled.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Migration Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the amendment 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 Santini? That is so.
Does anyone object?
As there is no objection, I declare that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution has been agreed.
The following amendment is adopted:
Amendment 1, tabled by Ms Gündeş Bakir, Ms Erkal Kara, Mr Dişli, Mr Ahmet Kutalmiş Türkeş, Mr Seyidov, Ms Fataliyeva and Ms Gafarova, which is, in the draft resolution, before paragraph 9.1.1, to insert the following paragraph:
“provide countries beyond the European Union’s eastern borders with concrete assistance programmes for burden-sharing, including financial and cost-sharing schemes;”
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13163, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13163, as amended, is adopted, with 52 votes for, 0 against and 2 abstentions.
3. Free debate
THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the free debate.
I remind members that the debate is for topics not already on the agenda agreed on Monday morning. Speaking time will be limited to three minutes.
Mr Renato Farina is not here to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party, so I call Ms Acketoft to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – On this late evening, we have a free debate. Yesterday we debated a report that should have been about the right to religious freedom but turned out to be about the Church’s right to decide overriding the freedom of all human beings and allowing the Church to stand above national law, international conventions and agreements. Time after time, the rapporteur tried to assert the right to conscientious objection, but together we managed to make 24 amendments that safeguard the pillars of the Assembly. I am very proud of us all for that.
As you know, the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees absolute freedom of thought, conscience and religion. However, it does not allow the manifestation of religion in public services or health care if it goes against the law of the country. That is clearly and unequivocally stated. Let me give some examples of why it was so important to amend the document yesterday and why it is important that we should keep debating the question.
In some of our member countries today, despite legislation, medical professionals refuse to provide lawful services on the basis of their beliefs and the right to conscientious objection is not regulated, presenting an obstacle to citizens who try to access lawful services. Let me state, as a liberal representing ALDE, that I think the Church should never stand above the right to freedom of choice.
In Poland, where abortion is allowed when there is a risk to life or health, serious fetal abnormality, rape or incest, it is actually close to impossible to access the procedure. That is clearly demonstrated by a recent case against Poland, where a 14-year-old girl who got pregnant as a result of rape has faced unimaginable difficulties in accessing the service. On 30 October 2012, the European Court of Human Rights issued a powerful decision. Poland is now obliged “to organise the health services system in such a way as to ensure that an effective exercise of the freedom of conscience of health professionals in the professional context does not prevent patients from obtaining access to services to which they are entitled under the applicable legislation.”
In Romania, the practice of conscientious objection is widespread, particularly around main Orthodox religious holidays, and is sometimes extended for two to three weeks. Entire hospitals “object” to performing any abortion. Conscientious objection becomes an institutional policy and not an individual right when the whole hospital becomes the objector. As a liberal and a parliamentarian, I believe that we should stand firm in supporting our central pillars of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. The Church is a good thing when it serves its people; it is not a good thing when it takes power away from them.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Ms Acketoft. I call Mr Shlegel to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr SHLEGEL (Russian Federation)* – The European Democrat Group has authorised me to speak on the measures being taken by the Russian Federation to combat corruption. Very recently we adopted a law relating to the sovereignty and national security of the Russian Federation which prohibits our officials, their wives and under-age children from opening accounts and keeping their money in foreign bank accounts outside the Russian Federation’s territory. It also addresses the issue of foreign countries’ securities and bonds as well as shares.
We feel that if a person has chosen to work in the civil service, he should be prepared for limitations, controls and special requirements. An official cannot be tied through economic obligations with other States as he will become dependent on the best interests not of Russian citizens but on those of other countries. Officials are also compelled to provide information on their expenditure and that of their spouses and under-age children, especially on transport, property and securities. This information has to be provided on all transactions. If the sum exceeds the overall family income for the previous three years and does not correspond to their income, the prosecutor will require confiscation of the illegally acquired property. A co-ordinating body has been set up to carry out the State policy on combating corruption. The prosecutor’s office also has to be provided with all the information and facts that might relate to bribes and other corrupt acts. If he keeps quiet, he might be deprived of his job.
A number of other laws have been introduced covering, for example, the militia, the prosecutor’s office of the Russian Federation, the Federal Security Service, the customs authority, and those in military service as well as many other bodies. The Russian anti-corruption legislation has been brought into line with international legal instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 31 December 2003 and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of January 1999. At the same time, Russia has brought to book thousands of State officials. I wanted to bring this information to your attention.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kürkçü, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – It is 98 years since the beginning of Medz Yeghern. On 24 April 1915, 240 Armenian opinion leaders, including parliamentary deputies, were arrested in Istanbul by agents acting incognito and under orders from the then İttihat ve Terakki party government. The number of those arrested soon reached 2 345, 765 of whom lost their lives in central Anatolia, where they were deported without legal prosecution or court decision. This was the prelude to the forcible deportation of Armenian subjects of the empire to the deserts of Syria under the pretext of counter-insurgency measures and the need to prosecute the First World War. The defenceless columns of women, children and the elderly ended up nowhere. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were annihilated, depriving eastern Anatolia of one of its autonomous peoples and leading to the devastation of dozens of cities and towns which lost their essential human resources and productive powers.
On behalf of our group, I should like to express our condolences to the grandsons and granddaughters of the Medz Yeghern, the Armenian term for this heinous crime against humanity. Despite official obstacles, we are determined that the historical realities pertaining to the Medz Yeghern will be investigated and become public knowledge, provided that freedom of expression and freedom of conscience take root in Turkey. This is essential for relieving the new generations of the destructive narratives of the past and to establish mutual understanding and construct new ways of communication to achieve reconciliation and fraternisation between the Kurds, Turks and Armenians, all of whom have suffered atrocities, massacres, deportations and exiles which were caused essentially by the partitioning and repartitioning of the world into regional spheres of influence among the great powers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Yesterday, across Turkey, in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Diyarbakır, thousands of demonstrators – Turks, Kurds, Armenians; grandsons and granddaughters of both the aggressors and the victims of past centuries – together commemorated the victims of Medz Yeghern, and they did so without significant official impediment and with relatively extensive media coverage. We welcome this development as a sign of the establishment of a broader understanding in Turkey and of the possibility of a discussion of the past that is free of prejudices and hatred. We also express our expectation that the ongoing talks between the PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and Turkish Government officials will lead to a conclusion of the armed conflict in Turkey, which we hope will bring it to the verge of being a full democracy where differences are welcomed as a source of richness and not of conflict.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Connarty, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I call on the Assembly to reflect on the terrible loss of life of the 200 or more workers – mostly women and possibly some children, because the building had a crčche – in the collapse of the New Wave Style clothing factory building in the Rana Plaza, 12 miles north of Dhaka in Bangladesh, on Wednesday 23 April 2013. I also ask delegates to recall that only five months ago a fire at the Tazreen garment factory in Dhaka killed 112 workers as the workers had been locked inside the factory and could not escape.
Delegates may ask what that has to do with our European remit, but the fact is that the New Wave Style company had supplied garments to retailers in Europe such as Benetton, Monsoon, Bonmarché and Matalan, and the Primark company has at least admitted that one of its current clothing suppliers is based in the Rana Plaza factory. On 11 September 2012 the Ali Enterprises garment factory, in Karachi, which supplied clothing to KiK, a German clothing supplier, caught fire, with the result that 289 people died because the exit doors had been locked and the windows barred. The burnt-out Tazreen garment factory produced clothing for the Walmart chain, which owns the Asda supermarket chain in the United Kingdom.
The charity War on Want has said: “International clothing brands and retailers were ultimately to blame for failing to insist that Bangladeshi suppliers used safe factories”. There are also questions for Council of Europe countries, such as whether their retailers are sourcing their garments and other products from suppliers who abuse workers in conditions that Anti-Slavery International regards as modern-day slavery. Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights says: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour”. Some workers in the New Wave Style factory said they were forced to return, on threat of dismissal, after major cracks had appeared in the building the day before. As I said, the doors to the Tazreen factory were chained shut from the outside, against International Labour Organization conventions.
These cases are the most public face of the modern-day slavery that is driven by the supply chains of European countries. One woman, Sumi Abedin, is currently in the US to sue the Walmart company on behalf of the families. What we must ask here is that our conventions should allow the victims of companies which feed the European supply chains to use the European courts in the countries that demand these supplies so that they can bring these companies before the court. I have before the United Kingdom Parliament a Bill called the Transparency in United Kingdom Company Supply Chains (Eradication of Slavery) Bill. If such a bill were passed, companies would have to audit their supply chains. They are guilty when workers die in other parts of the world so that they can have cheap clothing and other cheap products.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Erkal Kara.
Ms ERKAL KARA (Turkey)* – I want to draw the Assembly’s attention to a rather serious problem for migrant families in Europe. Unfortunately, the number of children withdrawn from their parents’ custody by social services is increasing daily. Member States’ domestic legislation sees such actions as a measure of last resort for the protection of children. In practice, however, social services frequently withdraw children without appropriate justification and on the basis of unchecked information, and it often happens to the children of migrant families. It can lead to the destruction of families and children losing contact with their parents. Families have expressed fears about no longer being allowed to see their children in case social services object, and there have unfortunately been several such cases involving Turkish families in Council of Europe member States. In Germany, for example, Azad and Arda Güney, two brothers of Turkish origin living in Düsseldorf, were withdrawn and entrusted to a foster family because their mother was a drug addict. Their grandmother, Ms Güney, asked for their custody and to care for them with the aid of two daughters – one a teacher and one a nurse – but her request was rejected and she was prohibited from seeing her grandchildren. Since the brothers were the subject of ill-treatment by the host family, Ms Güney filed a complaint with the local authorities, but it was not taken into consideration and the host family still exercises custody over the children. Judicial proceedings are under way. I think that the case will be studied in detail by Ms Borzova for the report that she is drafting. It is clear that this issue can affect anyone, but the majority are immigrants, who also encounter problems of language and integration. I also thank Mr Pushkov for having broached the important matter of the successful integration of migrants in Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Postanjyan.
Ms POSTANJYAN (Armenia) – We cannot have double standards or a two-tier system of human rights in Europe. There cannot be different treatment in different member States. The Council of Europe examines issues around human rights, democracy and the rule of law and applies the same standards across both East and West, but it does not always take into account the complexities of each situation and has upheld double standards in Armenia. The best example of that is in the report “Observation of the Presidential Election in Armenia, 18 February 2013”. The results were systematically falsified as the incumbent Republican candidate, Serzh Sargsyan, tried to steal victory through serial ballot-stuffing, ballot-stealing and multiple voting. It is a miracle that, despite the incumbent’s vast abuse of State resources throughout the campaign, Raffi Hovannisian earned the majority of actual votes not only in every major city, but also in most areas throughout the republic.
Armenia has been a member of the Council of Europe for 10 years, but the Council of Europe has not changed its attitude towards respecting human rights in Armenia during that time. Each time election results are announced, they are deemed an improvement over the previous and a step forward. That is shameful for the Council of Europe.
Opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has refused to recognise the legitimacy of President Serzh Sargsyan, who took an oath for another five-year term at his inauguration on 9 April. Hovannisian and hundreds of thousands of Armenians held an alternative inauguration called “New Armenia” in Yerevan’s Liberty square at the same time and on the same day as Sargsyan’s. On 19 April, the citizens of Armenia adopted the declaration of the “New Armenia” movement. It states that they renounce the current regime, which conspired on 18 February 2013 to falsify the national will and usurp the presidency of our republic. It does not recognise the authority of the new administration and was convened to set down principles for a process that will result in Sargsyan’s resignation and national revival. To develop and realise a programme of returning power to the people, the citizens of Armenia are fully empowered by Article 2 of the constitution of the Republic of Armenia, which is the sacred source of our inalienable liberty.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Pylypenko and Ms Schuster are not here, so I call Ms Pashayeva.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – I want to share my views as a representative of Azerbaijan, a country where one in nine citizens has been a refugee or IDP for 20 years. That figure has no equivalent in Europe. I am speaking on behalf of the nearly 1 million Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs who were expelled from their homes by the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories and are unable to return. I want to give you their thoughts.
In May, it will be 21 years since Armenia occupied the Azerbaijani cities of Shusha and Lachin. During those 21 years, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs have been unable to return to their homes – the gravest on-going human rights violation in Europe. Unfortunately, no progress has been observed in the implementation of the adopted resolutions. Resolution 1416, adopted by this Assembly, notes that Armenia should withdraw from the occupied Azerbaijani territories and enable Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs to return to their homes. Despite 10 years passing since the adoption of the resolution, Armenia is still refusing to implement it.
Is it not high time to take stronger steps towards the implementation of Resolution 1416 and thus to stop ignoring the destiny of hundreds of thousands of people? Let us for one moment think about their point of view. We should better realise the potential of all the mechanisms of the Parliamentary Assembly. These people expect a lot from us. We cannot complete the mission by conducting debates and adopting documents. These people expect us to apply more effective mechanisms for the implementation of the resolutions and documents as well as more seriously controlling the process and intensifying the related debates. I highlight the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs. They urge the Assembly to strengthen its activities and to increase pressure on the implementation of Resolution 1416. Today, the overwhelming majority of refugees and IDPs inhabiting the Council of Europe area reside in the South Caucasus in Azerbaijan and Georgia, and I call on our Assembly to arrange without delay debates on the state of refugees and IDPs in that area.
Having ignored the appeals of international organisations, President Sargsyan started and completed the construction of the airport in the occupied Azerbaijani city of Khojaly and has started settling Armenians abandoning Syria due to well-known developments not in Armenia but in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. That strains the situation and damages the negotiation process for the peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In a view all of this, we request that the Parliamentary Assembly demand that Armenia cease activities that are damaging a negotiation process aimed at a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We should remember that increasing tension in the South Caucasus region is very dangerous for the whole of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Toshev.
Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria) – “I have fought the good fight! I have finished my course! I have kept the Faith!" Thus wrote St Paul the Apostle, nearly 2 000 years ago.
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is probably the last time I will take the floor in the Assembly, certainly in this capacity, because I am not standing in the forthcoming elections in Bulgaria.
Since first coming to this Assembly on 3 February 1992, I have fought together with you actively and sincerely to promote our European values, to enlarge the zone of freedom and democracy in Europe and beyond, and to build a Europe without dividing lines. I am deeply grateful for your co-operation, dialogue and friendship over the years. I am convinced that I will remain bound to the Council of Europe, despite – or perhaps due to – my new future work.
I want to speak about the events in Bulgaria known as the “Bulgarian winter" – rather than the “Bulgarian spring” – that occurred after the January part-session of the Assembly, and that led to early parliamentary elections. I am grateful to the Assembly for responding positively to the Speaker of our Parliament’s request that it send a large election observation ad-hoc committee to Bulgaria, because the issue before Bulgarian society today is not who is going to win the election, but restoring confidence in representative democracy as such.
The frustration of the protesters on the streets in Bulgaria was initially expressed against the high electricity and heating bills during January, which led to fully justified demands to end the energy monopolies. However, other forces and social groups then tried to ride on the wave of protests, making strong statements against the political system as a whole and against parliament as an institution. There were calls to dismiss all the members of parliament. The groups in question included anarchists, representatives of the Che Guevara movement, the youth branch of the Russophile Association, anti-western groups, masked youths, and young members of socialist and neo-communist parties. Some protesters burned copies of the constitution, but perhaps they were not aware of its provisions. Others insisted that the constitution be amended, but it was not clear what amendments they wanted to introduce. The protesters also called for limited mandates and the opportunity to abrogate them, and said that their requirements were non-negotiable.
Given their diverse composition, the protesters were unable to form a joint political platform or organisation. They were badly split. The polls show that despite the resignation of the government, the governing party, GERB, is in the lead. That is easy to understand, because the alternative seems much worse than the status quo.
I dare to believe that the Council of Europe will help Bulgaria not only to overcome the crisis but to restore confidence in representative democracy.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Toshev. I hope that we will none the less see you in June. Your elections are in the middle of May, so there is every reason for us to be able to pay a more an even bigger tribute to you during our June part-session, when the Chamber will, I am sure, be much fuller. Notwithstanding that there are few people present today to hail your work, you have reminded us that you joined the Assembly in 1992 and have attended ever since. Your commitment, including producing reports for various committees, has been exemplary and outstanding. I therefore wish to say a very big thank you. Even if you are no longer a member of parliament, I hope you will continue to promote our values. I think your work warrants well-deserved applause.
The next speaker is Ms Haag.
Ms HAAG (Sweden) – This week, we debated a resolution on violence against religious communities that touched on issues of conscience, religious belief and our collective responsibility to the State. We have witnessed some extreme cases of people failing to provide assistance to real victims of rape, based on their so-called “beliefs”. One particular case deserves our attention. On 15 December 2012, two Catholic clinics in Cologne refused to assist a suspected rape victim by providing a gynaecological check-up. The 25-year-old young woman in question had woken up on a bench in a public park after attending a party the night before in Cologne and, having been drugged, she had no memory of what had happened.
The young woman went with her mother to the police, and then to hospital. In fact, two hospitals became involved in the case, but both refused to perform a check-up on a suspected rape victim. They were concerned that if they provided such examinations, they would be required to offer advice on dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Their decision was based on the ethics rules and procedures that govern hospitals that fall under the authority of the Catholic hierarchy in Germany. Such check-ups are not permitted because they are connected with a possible unwanted pregnancy and providing the victim with emergency contraception.
It is high time that the Assembly examined this issue and protected such citizens. Should bishops be authorised to make medical decisions about services that publicly funded hospitals are providing? Do we know how many hospitals and health centres are allowed to bypass national laws, based on so-called ethics? Are the general public informed in advance about hospitals in Council of Europe member States that are allowed to bypass national laws on protecting and assisting victims of sexual assault?
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Mota Amaral.
Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal)* – Exactly 39 years ago today, on 25 April – a date which has become glorious in the annals of modern Portugal – a military coup organised by the Armed Forces Movement put an end to the dictatorship that had asphyxiated my country for almost half the 20th century, opening the doors of freedom and democracy for Portuguese men and women. The Carnation Revolution surprised Europe and the world. Its peaceful and democratic discourse became a flourishing reality.
The colonial wars which had weighed heavily on the youth of Portugal – as well as of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau – came to an end and the independence of five new States, including Cape Verde and Săo Tomé and Príncipe, enriched the international community.
Domestically, the first days of the revolution allowed us to experience the euphoria of liberty and a feeling of joy. Media censorship was abolished; the prisons were emptied of anti-fascist resistance activists; the police and courts responsible for political repression were eradicated and those in charge brought to book. The abolition of laws restricting the fundamental rights of citizens enabled them to demonstrate peacefully in the streets and squares of Portugal, to celebrate the victory of the revolution on 1 May, and subsequently to present their problems and grievances and demand fair solutions immediately. Previously clandestine political parties – the Communist and Socialist Parties – came out into the open and several other political parties were established – including mine, the Social Democrat Party, which was established on 7 May 1974. A new fully democratic constitution was drafted by the constituent assembly, elected through direct, universal and secret suffrage. On 25 April 1975, the new electoral law, approved by the provisional revolutionary institutions, guaranteed all Portuguese over 18 the right to vote, expanding the electoral college to an unprecedented extent. It is a great honour for me to have been a member of that Constituent Assembly and signatory of the Portuguese constitution of 1976.
The constitution also set up true local democracy. To meet the needs and specific interests of the peoples of Madeira and the Azores, the constitution made them autonomous regions with democratic bodies, with legislative powers and regional government. Portuguese democracy chose the European model and led Portugal to join the Council of Europe and the European Union.
I have had pleasure in sharing my recollections of the 25 April revolution at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the august forum of democracy and human rights.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Mr Mota Amaral. The next speaker is Mr Abbasov.
Mr ABBASOV (Azerbaijan) – In the light of the current debate on the recent presidential election in Armenia, I want once again to touch on the issue of the regulation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The issue is very important for my country. The assessment with respect to the Armenian authorities about so-called organised pre-election campaigns would have been more objective if recommendations of Assembly members on benefiting from the international trust for ensuring the terms of the speediest peaceful solution of the conflict had been made as well.
The Armenian president’s support for the initiative on the continuation of dialogue between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities over Nagorno-Karabakh would have been the primary measure towards the achievement of common peace. In spite of the international efforts to bring the parties in conflict together through the facilitation of that dialogue, the Armenian side has been demonstrably ignoring the maintenance of any contacts with the competent representatives of Azerbaijan. The delay in conflict resolution and reluctance of officials in Yerevan to follow the course of adopting the constructive decisions has facilitated the emergence of dangerous inclinations regarding possible new military confrontation.
Instead of stirring up efforts to achieve peaceful means of conflict resolution, officials in Yerevan continue their expansionist policy in the region, thus keeping Azerbaijani territories under occupation. Against that background, one can observe the recent enforcement of military arrangements in occupied Azerbaijani territories. Unlawful military forces from the self-proclaimed and unrecognised “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” are getting more and more modern military ammunition through external channels. In the past three months, several large-scale military training programmes were held in the occupied territories.
The current situation is strained by the fact that the occupied Azerbaijani territories are being forcibly settled with ethnic Armenians, and the international policy of changing the ethnographic shape of the region is being implemented.
The process continued during the well-known developments in Syria when Armenian families from that country were settled by the Armenian authorities into territories that had belonged to Azerbaijan from time immemorial – not into the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, but into the Azerbaijani district around Nagorno-Karabakh. That generated a highly explosive situation not only for the resident Armenian citizens but for Syrian Armenians who became the potential hostages of the ongoing territorial dispute. In that respect, dear colleagues, I ask you to energise your thoughts in favour of preventing the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and implementing effective mediation for a peaceful solution of the conflict.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you Mr Abbasov. The next speaker is Ms Orobets.
Ms OROBETS (Ukraine) – Most of you are aware of Ukraine’s declared wish to integrate into the European Union. The first benchmark towards that aim could be the signing of a deep and comprehensive trade agreement, which we are now getting prepared to do. However, no matter what is officially declared, the recent actions of the ruling party’s members raise serious doubts about whether European Union integration is still on the agenda of the Ukrainian Government. On the one hand, the prospect of visiting Europe without visas looks really attractive to them, but on the other integration would lead to fundamental changes and reforms, which would mean getting rid of their instruments of country management: politically motivated persecutions, intimidation, corruption and money laundering.
We can all agree that people power, the rule of law and transparency of cash flow create an uncomfortable situation for those used to getting easy money. That is why most of the steps towards joining the European Union taken nowadays are more ceremonial than oriented towards real reforms. The president is more interested in keeping a good face on a bad game rather than playing a good game. European officials should keep in mind that the prospects for further evolution of the Ukrainian State are obvious – joining either the European Union or the customs union created by Russia. No third way is available.
At the same time, citizens of Ukraine have already made their choice. It is the European Union, and they need the help and support of Europeans to reach that aim. Many historical examples speak in favour of this method. Slovakia is a case in point; its European integration started with an agreement in 1993 and was artificially slowed down by the socialist government. As a result, economic reforms did not move beyond declarations, the access of foreign investors was limited and isolationist measures, such as import quotas and licences, were in place. Nevertheless, in all those five years, work on the agreement with Slovakia was not stopped.
However, when in 1998 the European Commission started negotiations with potential new members of the European Union, Slovakia was left out of the list of contenders. That sad news mobilised the nation and activated the community and media, who demanded active steps from the government. The world community talked about the risks of losing such an historic chance. As a result, Mečiar’s government was replaced by the democratic government of Mikuláš Dzurinda, who returned Slovakia to the list of candidates for entering the European Union.
The example is telling. I hope that Ukraine will be able to repeat that great experience of our western neighbour. With the help of the European community, our intention to join the European Union will change from being a dream into an achievable goal.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Ms Orobets. The next speaker is Mr Huseynov.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – I absolutely agree with Ms Postanjyan of Armenia. I would like to continue the theme of her speech and underline some of her points.
The Council of Europe is trying to take a step that could be described as cynical, and I feel obliged to share my views and concerns to rescue this Organisation, which I respect for its positive traditions, from being disgraced. The Council of Europe, founded in the mid-20th century, has survived until now and gained worldwide authority because it has been ruled for decades not by the will and interests of various persons or groups, but by such principles as truth, justice and correctness. Respect and authority have been gained through a long period of positive activity, but one serious misdeed would be enough for it to lose them. The Council of Europe is now facing such a danger.
In 2005, the assembly adopted Resolution 1416 relating to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories. The first paragraph of the resolution describes Armenia as an occupant State – among 47 Council of Europe member States, Armenia is the only one acknowledged by this Organisation as an aggressor in an official document. On the principle of rotation, Armenia will now be chairing the Committee of Ministers and it is clear that the Council of Europe is not going to prevent that – on the contrary, it is trying to facilitate it. Let us focus on the panorama that is going to emerge: the Organisation guided by the principles of respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, will be headed by the State which has been insulting those values during its membership.
Through the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, the Armenian State turned 1 million people into refugees and internally displaced persons and within its own country sentenced three times as many people to a life in poverty. Having long ago liquidated the notion of choosing as the main philosophy of elections, Armenia turned it into a predefined assignment.
Nevertheless, the Council of Europe has no intention of listening to the voice of hundreds of thousands of humans, taking care of their grievances and rising up in their support. Okay, you turn a blind eye to the crimes perpetrated by the Armenian regime against Azerbaijan, but why are you demonstrating in favour of the regime in Armenia, with its indifference towards the sufferings of the Armenian nation that we have always witnessed in your native attitude towards these people? And now such a regime with its representatives is to come and rule the Committee of Minsters and speak on behalf of the Council of Europe. In my opinion, the Council of Europe should avoid damaging and discrediting itself and prevent the realisation of this tragicomedy. The chairmanship of the agressor Armenia – the ugly pattern of disrespect towards human rights, democracy and rule of law – in the Council of Europe’s Committee of Minsters should be prevented by all means. This expected political and historical disgrace should be eradicated before its birth.
THE PRESIDENT* – This is a bit discouraging, is it not, Mr Huseynov? We seek to multiply actions and initiatives so that things run smoothly. After Armenia has chaired the Committee of Ministers in a few weeks’ time, there will be Austria and then there will be Azerbaijan. We are trying to see to it that all this is done with dignity and that everything should run smoothly. You have the responsibility, for the first time in your respective histories, to chair the Committee of Ministers of an Organisation set up in 1949 in the aftermath of the Second World War so that there would no longer be any conflict but there would be peace, and so that together we can advance our values. Despite all the efforts we are making to bring you together into privileged dialogue, every time you have the opportunity in this Chamber you are just trying to settle accounts. We are 47-plus partners for democracy. Think of the audience, even if there is no one here this afternoon. Please try to display conduct worthy of this Chamber, to which you have always come quite freely and voluntarily. We are tired of these kinds of words.
I now have the Floor and I can respond, because this is a disavowal of the facts. You know full well that I personally am taking action so that things run smoothly, so please help us and let us help each other. I am asking this service of you, not for myself but for the Organisation that we represent. If only you knew how tired we are of these settlings of accounts on one side or other of the Chamber. An Azeri takes the Floor, then an Armenian responds, and vice versa. We are in 2013. Fifty years ago the Elysée Treaty was signed, and it sealed reconciliation between Germany and France. Let that serve as an example to you.
I call Mr Popescu.
Mr POPESCU (Ukraine)* – I should like to draw your attention to a problem that is very worrying for the aspirations of millions of citizens of Council of Europe member States. At present, the visa regime is being used as one of the main elements in guaranteeing security. That could be justified if we were talking about the security of the external borders of the Council of Europe. However, the visa regime is becoming an element of discrimination between States within the same Organisation because visas must be applied for by citizens of certain member States but not others. Our aim is a united Europe predicated on common values in which citizens enjoy European freedoms, including freedom of movement, but the idea of building an undivided Europe will remain unattained if freedom of movement is not guaranteed. The eastward expansion of the Council of Europe was instrumental in the fall of the iron curtain, which released countries and peoples of Europe who had been in chains for several decades. The time has come to put an end to the last obstacle to free movement in Europe – visas.
Ukraine has set a constructive example to other States by cancelling the visa regime for citizens of the European Union, and it has done so unilaterally. This has allowed Europeans to visit Ukraine freely, be it for tourism or for business. At the recent inter-parliamentary conference on the role of parliamentary institutions in building a Europe without dividing lines, the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Mr Rybak, proposed a discussion, with the participation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, on the possibility of drawing up a charter for a visa-free Europe. I request that you support this idea, Mr President, and take forward that discussion within the various structures of the Council of Europe so that we can work towards providing clear mechanisms for establishing a Europe without visas.
THE PRESIDENT* – The next speaker is Mr Kayatürk. I do not see him, so I call Ms Groth. She is not here either. I therefore call Mr Sabella from Palestine, Partner for Democracy. I have the pleasure of giving you the Floor. Representatives of Partners for Democracy are very present here; they participate very positively and constructively in this Assembly’s debates, and we are grateful to you for that.
Mr SABELLA (Palestine) – I have to say something on a personal note before I start, which is that my whole family are watching me as I speak to you. I hope that this will encourage everybody else to let their families watch them while they are speaking in this excellent Chamber. I am not going to say hi to my family because that will reduce my time, so I will move on to my topic.
I would like to bring to your attention the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This is an issue of paramount importance to our people, and it is important for restarting the political peace process with Israel. Recently there were negotiations between Samer Issawi and the Israeli prison authorities and other authorities, and he got a promise that he would be released in eight months to go back to his home. That was viewed very positively. I would like to thank you personally, Mr President, for showing concern about the fate of Mr Issawi. I have shared your concern and care with his family, and they asked me to thank you for it personally. In addition, the Sub-Committee on the Middle East has come up with a statement and a letter to the Israeli Government asking it about Issawi. I can therefore say that the Council of Europe has contributed to the deal that was struck between Issawi and the Israeli authorities.
I have here a list of numbers of prisoners. I am not going to read them out, but it is important to note that there are 4,900 prisoners, among them children and women, and that our people see the prospects for a solution in securing the freedom of these prisoners.Tomorrow and the day after there will be an international conference on prisoners in Ramallah that will also commemorate the 11th anniversary of the imprisonment of Marwan Barghouti. We hope that he will be released.
I thank the Council of Europe and you personally, Mr President, because you have been very constructive in bringing about the possibility of restarting the peace process.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Sabella. I hope that your family watched and listened to you. On behalf of our Assembly, I express our best wishes to them. Thank you for the congratulations that you addressed to me, but I would like to share them with all my colleagues because I can assure you that in this Assembly we do not take personal initiatives but collective ones. That is why we obtain results on many matters. Thank you very much for your participation.
I call Mr Marias.
Mr MARIAS (Greece) – I wish to draw the attention of members of the Assembly to Germany’s wartime debt to the Hellenic Republic, which results mainly from: first, the Federal Republic of Germany’s obligation to pay back to the Hellenic Republic the forced occupation loan, which amounts, for the time being, to €54 billion, plus interest; secondly, the war reparations acknowledged by the Paris conference in 1946 to be paid by Germany for damage caused to the Greek economy, which amounts to €108 billion, plus interest; and the FRG’s obligation to pay compensation to the victims of the atrocities perpetuated by the German occupation army – for example, those at Distomo and Víanos in Crete.
The forced occupation loan was imposed by the occupying German and Italian forces on Greece under the terms of a unilateral decision that they took in Rome on 14 March 1942 and which was subsequently notified to the collaborationist government in Athens. Accordingly, the Bank of Greece was obliged to open an interest-free loan account in drachmas for each of the occupying powers. Germany stated it would repay the loan later and used it to fund Rommel’s war operations in north Africa. The original forced occupation loan agreement was amended later and was also signed by the collaborationist Greek regime. It is worth noting that the German side paid, during the occupation, 19 repayment instalments. The subsequent refusal to pay the loan instalments has converted the loan into an interest-bearing one, due to arrears. The German side has actively acknowledged since the occupation its occupation loan debt to Greece by virtue of its having paid 19 loan repayment instalments to the Greek side. Furthermore, it should be noted that after the war Italy acknowledged its debt to Greece resulting from the occupation loan.
The occupation loan issue was raised for the first time with the FRG by the Greek side as long ago as 1955. The issue of the occupation loan, as well as the war reparations, were raised in the most formal way on 14 November 1995 when the Greek ambassador to the FRG presented its Foreign Secretary with a note verbale requesting the start of negotiations between the two countries on the issue of the war reparations and, in particular, the occupation loan. Unfortunately, since 1995 the FRG has illegally, and in breach of international law, refused to pay its debt to the Hellenic Republic of Greece resulting from the above-described causes and amounting to a total of €162 billion, plus interest. Thus, I urge all the Assembly members to support these war compensation claims of the Hellenic Republic against the Federal Republic of Germany.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Marias. I call Mr Nikoloski.
Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I wish to discuss a similar subject to the previous speaker, in that I wish to talk about the functioning of democracy, and respect for human rights, minority rights and civil rights in Greece. Today, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Muižnieks, clearly stated that hate speech is on the rise in Greece. He has also said that Greece must take tougher measures to combat the racism and violence linked to the rise in popularity of the ultra-right Golden Dawn, which has been described as a neo-Nazi party. Golden Dawn emerged as a party in last June’s general elections, winning a stunning 18 States in the 300-seat parliament in Greece. Given Greece’s political and electoral system, that is a big result. The party is linked to hate crime activities.
The Commissioner for Human Rights has said that Greece would be fully within its rights under international human rights law to ban the party from public office. He has said ““Democracy in Greece is seriously threatened by the upsurge of hate crime and a weak State response. Sustained and concerted action, notably by the police and the courts, is necessary to protect the rule of law and human rights in the country.”
The European Jewish Congress has welcomed a report by the Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Greece and, in particular, on the Golden Dawn’s racism and hate. EJC president, Moshe Kantor, said “This report is a strong milestone against growing racism, hate and intolerance in Greece and we welcome the report and call for its full implementation by the Greek authorities”. He continued by saying “Most importantly, it called for the possible prohibition of the neo-Nazi party because of activities associated with it. This is a necessary first for an official European institution and we hope the situation will be monitored very carefully.”
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is at the core of this Assembly, which is why I must inform you that Nikodim Tsarknias, the religious leader of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in Greece, has no right of religious declaration and, thus, he has a problem. Can you imagine an Orthodox priest in an Orthodox country not having all his freedoms simply because he is not Greek and instead is Macedonian, and speaks Macedonian? So I ask you all to take what the Commissioner for Human Rights says seriously and I ask that serious steps be taken to fulfil what he has set out.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Nikoloski. I call Mr Díaz Tejera.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I have a concern and a suggestion. The concern is that the current management of the financial crisis is resuscitating many of the wounds bequeathed from history. I appeal to colleagues who are present – some speakers have left – to remember that history is history, and it is studied by historians and researchers. We know that various phenomena require reasons, causes, factors; there is no single cause or motive for what happens in history. When we tackle issues related to history, we should do so with a rigour that is the mark of the historians and researchers of 2013. However, the reinvigoration of old wounds and old issues leads to a concern that we are not able to deal with the new realities.
One such reality, which is very apposite in the current financial crisis, worries me and I have raised this issue whenever I can this week. I refer to the enormous squandering of financial resources through tax havens. Shockingly, Europe has the largest number of tax havens. If parliamentarians are to be useful to our citizens, who pay for our jobs, we must ensure the best possible use of resources. Someone said that in fighting organised crime the best approach is to track the money. That money is going to the tax havens, and the resources being deposited in them is increasing. That makes a mockery of our States, of our parliamentarians, of law, and of fiscal regimes. Spain has more than 6 million unemployed people – the rate in the Canary Islands is 10.7% ahead of the Spanish average – and mothers, fathers and children are suffering. These tax havens are in Europe, and double the GDP of Japan and the United States put together is being deposited in them. The organised crime people are doing it to mock our democracies, our parliaments and our parliamentarians. We all need to have a stronger commitment to pooling efforts in the fight against tax evasion, bank secrecy and tax havens. Therefore my concern is that we should not go on digging up matters from history that are not going to help us in the future, but redouble our efforts among politicians and in parliament to battle tax evasion and tax havens.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Xuclŕ has withdrawn and Mr Ahmet Kutalmiş Türkeş is not here, so I call Mr Pintado.
Mr PINTADO (Spain)* – I want to point out to the Assembly an important anniversary promoted by the United Nations General Assembly. Next year, 2014, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of international family day. That was related through the General Assembly and in a resolution in ECOSOC on the achievement of objectives. All efforts should be made in this Assembly and at government level to work to enhance the role of the family.
The problem of poverty, which was evoked by my colleague, Mr Díaz Tejera, is one aspect of the United Nations report. Policies in favour of the family have made it possible to correct, to a certain degree, poverty and social exclusion. Another of the General Assembly’s objectives is that different member States share practices and show inter-regional solidarity with regard to the family, generational relationships and equality between women and men in fundamental rights. All members of the Assembly could, during the months leading up to 2014 and then in the year itself, present initiatives that contribute to the role to be played by the different governments in this context.
I hope that at the next part-session I will be able to collect enough signatures to obtain support for the United Nations resolution on the family.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Biedroń.
Mr BIEDROŃ (Poland) – Since the adoption by the Russian authorities of a series of restrictive laws aimed at civil society, inspections of NGOs in Russia are being carried out on a massive scale. The “foreign agent” law targets different kinds of NGOs and institutions and puts them at risk of serious sanctions, including criminal prosecution and the suspension of their activity. Since March this year around 80 NGOs, especially human rights ones, have received unexpected inspections, and it seems to be the next step in limiting the role of the NGO sector in Russia. Today we learned that Golos, an independent election monitor, will probably have to close, after the organisation was fined 300 000 roubles for failing to register as a “foreign agent.”
In this way the Russian authorities indirectly restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals. They also strengthen growing suspicion towards foreigners, another very worrying trend. After a few years, we can now see that the situation is not getting better, but is becoming worse and worse, and further steps have to be taken immediately.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should request that the Russian authorities stop the harassment of NGOs, and it should urge Russia to repeal laws that restrict the rights and freedoms enjoyed under the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, having regard to the importance and urgency of the issues, the Assembly should support the request submitted to the European Court of Human Rights for prompt examination of the case brought by the Russian NGO, Memorial, and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre on 6 February 2013. The application is lodged on behalf of 11 leading Russian human rights NGOs – Golos, Ecodefence, Citizens Watch, the Civic Assistance Committee, the Committee against Torture, Mashr, International Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group, Public Verdict, Memorial, the Human Rights Group and the Movement for Human Rights – to contest the “foreign agent” law.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Timchenko and Mr Sidyakin are not here, so I call Mr Yatim from Morocco, Partner for Democracy.
Mr YATIM (Morocco)* – The work that we are all doing together in this worthy Assembly – the hundreds of reports and resolutions that we have adopted – shows that it remains the conscience of Europe and the world. During this very session, we have had very moving hearings, as when we called on victims of trafficking and prostitution in one of the committees. This morning, our debate showed how alarming the situation of Syrian refugees is, and we have also discussed the problem of sexual violence against children and wondered how to face the scourge of paedophilia. We also spoke of violence against religious communities throughout the world.
It should also be admitted, however, that throughout the world the principles defended by the Council of Europe face tremendous challenges. We sometimes prefer to focus on our own internal problems. We are becoming accustomed to the atrocities that are relayed by television or through social networks, and we risk falling into a state of normalisation. Our sensitivities are sometimes selective. Some violence against religious minorities in the Middle East, perpetrated by isolated extremists or people who are manipulated by those who sympathise with the former totalitarian regimes, attract greater attention than more serious crimes that we let pass in silence. The massacres perpetrated against the Muslim minority in western Myanmar by Buddhist extremists under the indifferent gaze of the authorities are evidence of that.
It is important in this context therefore to pursue our fight; it is important that the conscience of our Assembly should be active. So let us all act in favour of the oppressed and the marginalised – the victims of sex violence and of violence against religious minorities – without any distinction. Let us applaud those acting against genocides perpetrated by dictatorships in Syria and Myanmar.
I thank you for what you said, President, about our Partners for Democracy.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I do not see Mr El Ghambou, so I call Ms El Ouafi from Morocco, Partner for Democracy.
Ms EL OUAFI (Morocco)* – I am honoured to be able to contribute to the high-level debates that have taken place in this eminent Assembly. My speech will be about the synergy between immigration and human rights.
For a long time there have been debates on migration in the Council of Europe and at the international level. I have the honour of participating in the work of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons as a member. We constantly publish reports and resolutions, which is an honourable thing to do.
By 2015, international migration numbers will have reached 56 million. Immigrants contribute to cultural, demographic and social environments. Debates on migration have intensified in recent years, but what international instruments are available to improve the governance of migration to deal with this important and sensitive problem, with an emphasis on protection? I think that the views of all who are present and of all the people working on the question are converging on the need to produce rights-focused migration policies, especially at a time of economic crisis, which we do not want to translate into discrimination against immigrants, particularly women, children and young girls who emigrate with their parents to Europe or other countries.
A report was published on 9 April 2010, called, “The impact of the global economic crisis on migration in Europe”. I do not have time to quote from it, but the international community and the Council of Europe should look urgently into the issue of governance in order to protect migrants, within the context of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The appeal was launched by an immigrant. Fate has made her a parliamentarian and a European citizen, but I have family members – women and children – and co-nationals who face a difficult destiny and have emigrated to a country that is dear to my heart, Italy.
THE PRESIDENT* – That concludes the list of speakers. The debate is closed.
4. Next public business
THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday morning.
The sitting is closed.
The sitting was closed at 7.25 p.m.
1. Annual activity report 2012 by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Statement by Mr Nils Muižnieks , Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Questions: Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin, Mr Marcenaro, Ms Acketoft, Mr Pushkov, Mr Papadimoulis, Mr Aguzarov, Ms Pashayeva, Ms Schou, Mr Gaudi Nagy, Lord Anderson, Ms Čigāne, Mr Biedroń, Ms Erkel Kara, Mr Herkel, Mr Drăghici, Mr Nikoloski, Mr Huseynov, Ms Woldseth, Mr Sobolev, Mr Ariev
2. Joint debate
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons by Mr Cederbratt, Document 13161
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights by Mr Chope, Document 13187
Speakers: Mr Rigoni, Ms Korun, Mr Franken, Ms Groth, Mr Chikovani, Ms Woldseth, Ms Kyriakidou, Ms Gündeş Bakir, Mr Pintado, Ms Virolainen, Mr Voruz, Mr Schennach, Mr Díaz Tejera, Ms Christoffersen, Mr Triantafyllos, Ms Dumery
b. Management of mixed migration and asylum challenges beyond the European Union’s eastern border
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Person by Mr Rigoni, Document 13163
Amendments 1, 3, 4, 5 and oral amendment adopted
Draft resolution, as amended, in Document 13161 adopted
Amendments 8 and 9 adopted
Draft recommendation, as amended, in Document 13161 adopted
Amendment 1 adopted
Draft resolution in Document 13163 adopted
3. Free debate
Speakers: Ms Acketoft, Mr Shlegel, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Connarty, Ms Erkel Kara, Ms Postanjyan, Ms Pashayeva, Mr Toshev, Ms Haag, Mr Mota Amaral, Mr Abbasov, Ms Orobets, Mr Huseynov, Mr Popescu, Mr Sabella, Mr Marias, Mr Nikoloski, Mr Díaz Tejera, Mr Pintado, Mr Biedroń, Mr Yatim, Ms El Ouafi.
4. 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
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Sílvia Eloďsa Bonet Perot
Doris BARNETT/ Annette Groth
José Manuel BARREIRO/Ángel Pintado
José María BENEYTO
Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová
Gerold BÜCHEL/Rainer Gopp
Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU/Corneliu Mugurel Cozmanciuc
Carlos COSTA NEVES*
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Armand De DECKER*
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA
Peter van DIJK
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Baroness Diana ECCLES*
Tülin ERKAL KARA
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Doris FIALA/Eric Voruz
Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Miroslav Krejča
Axel E. FISCHER
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO*
Erich Georg FRITZ
Sir Roger GALE
Tamás GAUDI NAGY
Alina Ştefania GORGHIU
Pelin GÜNDEŞ BAKIR
Vladimir ILIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Igor IVANOVSKI/Imer Aliu
Tadeusz IWIŃSKI/Łukasz Zbonikowski
Denis JACQUAT/André Schneider
Ramón JÁUREGUI/Carmen Quintanilla
Michael Aastrup JENSEN
Birkir Jón JÓNSSON*
Čedomir JOVANOVIĆ/Svetislava Bulajić
Božidar KALMETA/Ivan Račan
Dmitry KRYVITSKY/Tamerlan Aguzarov
Václav KUBATA/Dana Váhalová
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Igor LEBEDEV/Olga Kazakova
Meritxell MATEU PI
Pirkko MATTILA/Riitta Myller
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE/Michael Connarty
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
José MENDES BOTA
Federica MOGHERINI REBESANI*
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES
Joăo Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Elena NIKOLAEVA/Robert Shlegel
Eva PARERA/Jordi Xuclŕ
Lisbeth Bech POULSEN*
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN
Cezar Florin PREDA*
François ROCHEBLOINE/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
René ROUQUET/Philippe Bies
Rovshan RZAYEV/Aydin Abbasov
Kimmo SASI/Jaana Pelkonen
Boris SHPIGEL/Anvar Makhmutov
Björn von SYDOW/Lennart Axelsson
Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey
Lord John E. TOMLINSON*
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Theodora TZAKRI/Konstantinos Triantafyllos
Tomáš ÚLEHLA/Pavel Lebeda
Ilyas UMAKHANOV/Alexander Burkov
Mark VERHEIJEN/Marjolein Faber-Van De Klashorst
Tanja VRBAT/Melita Mulić
Klaas de VRIES*
Dame Angela WATKINSON*
Karin S. WOLDSETH
Barbara ŽGAJNER TAVŠ*
Emanuelis ZINGERIS/Egidijus Vareikis
Guennady ZIUGANOV/Vassiliy Likhachev
Naira ZOHRABYAN/Zaruhi Postanjyan
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Montenegro*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Partners for Democracy
Nezha EL OUAFI