AS (2013) CR 18
2013 ORDINARY SESSION
Friday 26 April 2013 at 10.00 a.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.
(Ms Maury Pasquier, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)
THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. Changes in the membership of committees
THE PRESIDENT* – Our first item of business is to consider changes proposed in the membership of committees, which are set out in the Document Commissions(2013)04 Addendum 3.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
2. Draft Protocol No.15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
THE PRESIDENT* – The first item of business on the agenda this morning is the debate on the report entitled “Draft Protocol No.15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, Document 13154, presented by Mr Chope on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
I remind members that they have four minutes in which to speak.
I call Mr Chope. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – It is my pleasure to introduce this report, which was adopted unanimously in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. I pay a very warm tribute to Andrew Drzemczewski, the secretary of the committee, who has put a lot of work not only into this report but into the whole subject matter arising from the various conferences, culminating in the Brighton conference. As many distinguished parliamentarians have put their names down to speak, I shall keep my opening remarks brief and respond later to any concerns that are expressed.
I shall set out some of the key points in the protocol, which is soon to be followed by another, Protocol No.16, which I think we will discuss at the next part-session. First, Protocol No.15 provides for the insertion, in the Convention’s preamble, of reference to the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation, as decided at the Brighton conference in April 2012. It was also decided there that the issues should be brought forward and implemented within one year. If we approve the opinion today and the matter then goes to the Committee of Ministers, I hope it will be able to provide the opportunity for members to sign the protocol to the Convention.
The protocol amends the Convention by providing that judges may serve on the European Court of Human Rights until the age of 74. The present age limit is 70. The text of the protocol also streamlines the procedure of relinquishment of jurisdiction by a Chamber in favour of the Grand Chamber, by removing the procedural “barrier” of seeking the views of the parties to the case, who can at present object to this being done. It also shortens, from six to four months, the time limit within which an application can be brought before the Court after all domestic remedies have been exhausted.
Last but not least, the protocol removes one of the limits on the Court’s powers to reject a case as trivial. At present, the Court cannot dismiss a case on that basis if the complaint has not been duly considered by a domestic court. In other words, this proposed change gives greater effect to the Latin maxim, de minimis non curat praetor.
Members will have seen that there are two amendments, dealing with one issue, that reflect concerns expressed by a number of NGOs and human rights campaigners and organisations. However, I have to say that the amendments, which were rejected in the committee, are based on a misunderstanding and a misapprehension. As I make clear in page 6 of the report, in the explanatory memorandum, the Court has the final say on the interpretation in all cases brought before it, and no margin of appreciation exists with respect to the Convention’s non-derogable rights in matters of life and death, torture or slavery. That is why it is important to bear in mind, as indicated in paragraph 7 of the explanatory memorandum, and recognised by the Court in its own opinion, the clear intention of those who drafted the text to make express reference to the doctrine of the margin of appreciation as developed by the Court in its case law.
Members will see that in an appendix to the report the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights is set out. It confirms that it is happy with the contents of the preamble and does not believe that it will in any way inhibit its ability to take these important decisions. That is why I think that the amendments are ill-conceived, and that indeed was the view of the Committee.
I look forward to hearing the contributions of other members and hope to be able to respond to them in due course.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Chope. You will have eight and a half minutes to respond to the speakers.
I call Mr Gross, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – The five propositions in the report are especially technical and more or less uncontroversial. We pay particular attention to issues of freedom and liberty of the citizen to access justice, and the protocol will strengthen the position of citizens seeking justice. However, looking at the names of those who have signed the amendments, I am not so sure that they understood, or perhaps they disagree. However, I leave it to them, particularly Mr Cilevičs, to defend the amendments and say whether there has been a misunderstanding.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. In the debate I call Ms Fiala, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. You have four minutes.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – I express my heartfelt thanks to the rapporteur for his work. On behalf of ALDE, I will speak in support of the amendments to the European Convention on Human Rights. The amendments are listed in the draft opinion – in paragraph 2.1, regarding the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation; in paragraph 2.2, regarding the new age limits; in paragraph 2.3, deleting the words, “unless one of the parties to the case objects” from Article 30; in paragraph 2.4, shortening the time limit under Article 35(1) from six to four months; and in paragraph 2.5, deleting the present admissibility requirement under Article 35(3)(b). The Liberals support those amendments. Thank you for your efforts.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. In the debate I call next Mr Kox, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left. You have four minutes.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Draft Protocol No. 15 would amend the European Convention on Human Rights to improve the Court’s functioning. My group will accept the protocol and Mr Chope’s statement to the Assembly.
The protocol is meant to streamline procedures, giving our citizens better access to the European Court of Human Rights and allowing the Court to make decisions more quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied; we are all aware of the Court’s long waiting lists, and we should do something about them. The protocol would at least be an improvement. Therefore we will support both the draft protocol and the opinion.
I have two further remarks. First, many proposals have been made in the long process from Interlaken to Izmir and Brighton. It is good that not all of them have been adopted. For example, there was initially a proposal to oblige appellants to the Court to have professional legal assistance, which would have been a negative step for people who want to appeal to the Court, even though it seemed reasonable at the outset. It is good that the process has got rid of proposals that looked in the first instance to be quite good but would in fact not be helpful to Council of Europe citizens. That is a positive outcome of this long process, for which we should compliment everyone involved.
Secondly, both my group and the vast majority of the Dutch Senate, of which I am a member, are unhappy that the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation have been included in the protocol. We in the Dutch Senate had a long debate with our government, which promised to try to ensure that those principles were not codified in the protocol. We in the Netherlands are aware that if our government promises something, it does not mean that the other 46 member States will agree; sometimes we are reminded that our place is not at the top. I think that we are all aware that the Government of the United Kingdom is very much in favour of including the principles in the protocol.
I have a question for the rapporteur. In the Netherlands, our minister said to us, “Do not be afraid. Yes, I could not win the battle on codifying the principles, but we will put them in the preamble. As you know, the preamble is of no value, because only the text is relevant.” There are two possible interpretations of that: either we are so clever in the Netherlands that we got something we wanted even though no one supported us, or our minister is a bit naïve and thinks that something that is mentioned in the preamble does not matter. If the rapporteur clarified that issue, it would be useful to me, because I will have another debate in the Netherlands with my minister.
Overall, the draft protocol would improve the Convention, so my group will endorse it.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. In the debate I call next Mr Volontè, who will speak on behalf of the European People’s Party. You have four minutes.
Mr VOLONTÉ (Italy)* – Unfortunately, this important debate is taking place on a Friday and not on a day when more colleagues are able to be present. The matter is a fundamental one, because the European Convention on Human Rights is the basis on which the Council of Europe is founded.
We are absolutely in favour of the draft protocol and the opinion on the issue, which was entrusted to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. We support fully the work done by the committee and our colleague Mr Chope.
Members mentioned certain fundamental aspects, such as providing citizens with a greater ability to appeal to the Court. Following Interlaken and Brighton, subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation have been recognised in the draft protocol. In my opinion subsidiarity is a fundamental principle that places countries in a position to respond to the needs of their citizens. The margin of appreciation not only allows the Court to decide cases in a manner that does not conform to domestic jurisdictions, but allows domestic courts and the Court to assess the cultural, legal and institutional context of individual countries. For those reasons, we support the committee’s opinion as it stands.
We have doubts regarding the amendments. As Mr Chope said, they may be the result of Mr Cilevičs’s misunderstandings.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. In the debate I call next Mr Michel. You have four minutes.
Mr MICHEL (France)* – I will of course vote in favour of Mr Chope’s clear opinion, but I have a few criticisms. The conference in Brighton was not exactly the great reform that had been announced. Draft Protocol No. 15 reflects a lack of ambition compared with the conclusions of the conference.
Let us not be under any illusion: this is a half-baked text that refers only obliquely to the two principles without giving them any substance. It does not implement solutions that will allow the Court to function more effectively in the long term – far from it. Instead of giving way to the British argument and legitimising the vituperative attacks voiced by David Cameron about the Court, it would have been better to go further than the dry text that has been presented to us today. I am not contesting the fact that it is legally useful, but I am rather sceptical about its political effects.
The first reform to be undertaken should relate not to Protocol No.15, but to the selection of judges. I emphasise that I am referring to their selection, not their appointment. The instruments that we in the Assembly have endowed ourselves with over the past few years have run into a problem: the lists are often just the choices of governments and their motivation is not necessarily to choose the best person but to make political decisions that do not relate to the Court’s needs.
I regret that we have been unable to find a solution to the problems raised by the principle of individual right of application – after all, 800 million people are covered by the Court now – and by the disparity between Council of Europe member States in relation to respect and upholding human rights. Let us consider the real scope of individual application. In 90% of cases where that is dealt with by a single judge, the application just leads to a pro forma letter from the registry that states it is inadmissible. That is not justice. If a ruling is given several years after the application is made, that is way too slow.
We should question the credibility of any reform of the Court that does not include real enforcement when judgments are not executed. I am thinking particularly about the possibility of levying fines. Implementing such fines would no doubt stimulate States parties that are slow to implement at national level the mechanisms that ensure the rights and freedoms recognised by the Convention. There is a precedent – the European Union’s European Court of Justice has such weaponry – and there is nothing to stop us following it, but will we have the courage and political will to do so?
Draft Protocol No.16 should be added to this text in the next few months, but it is a bit timid. It should slightly improve the functioning of the Court, but it will not modernise it, which is what it really needs. When we have made these technical reforms, I hope that we will take a long, clear political look at what the Court needs and go for more ambitious solutions worthy of the noble institution that is the European Court of Human Rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Franken is not here, so I call Mr Xuclà.
Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – I thank Mr Chope for his work on this report. The legal system of the Council of Europe has its own nervous system and structure in the form of the European Court of Human Rights, which functions very well and provides protection and legal guarantees to the citizens of our 47 member States. However, the Court needed reform and updating. After various reforms, we find ourselves with Protocol No.15, and with the adoption of Protocol No.16 we reach the conclusion of the Brighton conference, which was not an easy one. The Parliamentary Assembly is discussing an intergovernmental decision, and we should take a critical look at it if necessary and clarify our position during this debate on Mr Chope’s report.
It was difficult to reach a consensus at the Brighton conference, but I will not dwell on the four main points that were made there. The principle of subsidiarity, which was advocated by some but not by others, is contained in the preamble to the protocol. It is a good principle if applied properly. In the European Union context, we apply the principle of subsidiarity to draft regulations and directives. That presupposes an improvement in the functioning of the legal mechanisms.
This is an opportunity to extend the retirement age of the Court’s judges and to relinquish jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber, where cases often end up. It is important to reduce the time limit on the possibility of appealing from four to six months and to allow the dismissal of trivial cases. Many courts in our member States face the possibility of collapsing because they cannot provide justice on time and the procedures are unworkable. Of course the right of individual petition is important if we want the Court to operate properly, but judgments in certain cases over the years have shown us what protection can be provided to citizens.
This reform is the result of an important British presence at Brighton, and I hope that the reforms under Protocol No.16 will update this important convention.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Biedroń.
Mr BIEDROŃ (Poland) – I thank Mr Chope for his work on the report. The most controversial issue for me and the civil society organisations that have sent the open letter mentioned by the rapporteur to all Council of Europe member States is the wording of Article 1 of the new Protocol, which adds a new recital to the preamble. The biggest NGOs engaged in our work, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Interights, Open Society Justice Initiative and many others, are concerned about the suggestion that member States "enjoy a margin of appreciation". They fear that that reference fails to reflect the practice of the Court and that member States might be allowed too much discretion.
The reason for these shortcomings is that the protocol is the result of long negotiations and constitutes a compromise, but such fears are justified because the current text does not clearly distinguish between cases where the Court applies the doctrine of the margin of appreciation and where it does not. Changing the preamble as proposed may give rise to misunderstandings. Therefore, it is important that the Parliamentary Assembly supports all efforts to clarify the provision.
Although the explanatory report clarifies the intention of the drafters, to alleviate the potential for misunderstandings, the text should be amended to reflect the fact that the doctrine of the margin of appreciation does not apply at all to some aspects of Convention rights, such as the prohibition of torture and slavery. The reference to the margin of appreciation should be further developed to include a direct reference to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Christoffersen.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I commend Mr Chope for producing his report. I fully agree that draft Protocol No.15 must be adopted and opened for signature and ratification without delay. I also commend the working group and steering group for preparing the draft protocol in an efficient manner since the Brighton Declaration last year. It is not necessary to reiterate the need for reform. We all know that the Court daily receives many new claims from European citizens and we know that it will take years to get through the cases pending. There are two ways to remedy the situation. The first is to reform the Court, enabling it to handle the large amount of cases. The second is to deal with the structural problems in Council of Europe member States that are causing many repetitive cases.
In our Assembly, the importance of following up Court decisions has been on our agenda. On numerous occasions, we have encouraged members struggling with systemic issues to face up to the challenge and implement reforms. That encouragement stands, but today we are focusing on the reform of the Court itself. When Protocol No.14 entered into force, we took an important step forward. Protocol No.15 will be yet another. Protocol No.16 is under way and will be the next step, although probably not the last, on the road to a reformed Strasbourg Court.
The assessment of our rapporteur that the additional protocol is principally technical and uncontroversial is shared by Norway. On the Norwegian side we see the protocol as a direct follow up of the intentions set forth in the Brighton Declaration. The protocol will not solve all the problems the Court is facing, but it is a step in the right direction. As the protocol is of a technical character I hope that the process towards its entering into force will be smooth. I fully support the draft opinion presented by Mr Chope and I encourage everyone in the Assembly to vote in favour. I also encourage you to do what you can so that the additional protocol is signed by your governments, followed by a speedy ratification process.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Pintado.
Mr PINTADO (Spain)* – I congratulate Mr Chope on his excellent work on the draft protocol to amend the European Convention on Human Rights. Various statements have been made about the process of reforming the Court and I want to refer to one issue mentioned by colleagues, the principle of subsidiarity. That principle was referred to by Mr Xuclà, and the Lisbon Treaty was also mentioned. The protocol will be an important step in ensuring that national parliaments enjoy subsidiarity.
The fact that subsidiarity is enshrined in the preamble does not add or take away from anything, as it is an essential principle. I would have preferred it to be mentioned in one of the articles and not only in the preamble. Over time, we will have to specify the obligations under the principle of subsidiarity so that we avoid its becoming a purely ideological principle. We are transferring responsibility not only to individual countries but to non-governmental organisations and civil society. It is an important issue for the future operation of the Court. We must have the right interpretation and the protocol, although it has a certain ideological component, is an important technical innovation.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Henriksen.
Mr HENRIKSEN (Denmark) – The protocol is a small step towards more respect for national court systems and more political room for democratically elected politicians in our member States to debate the law. The document is fair and balanced and there is no doubt that the draft will ensure human rights. It is a compromise between States and different opinions. I hope that the Assembly will vote for the draft opinion, I support those who have spoken against the amendments and I thank Mr Chope for his work.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Díaz Tejera.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* –. When a thirsty man is offered a drop of water, he gives thanks. Of course, I give thanks for the drop of water represented by Protocol No.15. Our Court is thirsty for serious reforms to deal with issues with the European Convention on Human Rights, which was adopted in 1950, and many others that can be added after three legal decisions at a national level. The principle of subsidiarity means that more issues can be resolved at a national level, and that is what should be done.
Many years after the introduction of the Convention in 1950, in this Assembly we remember that alongside the political, civil and religious rights enshrined by it one right was lost as a result of the Court’s committee. We need to expand the catalogue of rights in the Convention and incorporate the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental right. The Assembly approved the political, civil and religious rights but has not worked on that additional right.
My greatest concern about the Court is not only the backlog and the fact that it is dying of thirst, but the fact that its committees deliberate in secret, and that bothers many colleagues. That is important as we are talking about tax havens. We must fight for transparency in the operation of the Court. When legal questions and answers are deliberated in its committees, no one knows about it. High-level legal experts are worried that people might find out what kind of questions are asked and replies given there. As there is so much delay in finding out about that, the proceedings are secret to everyone. I do not know how to explain to the Assembly or to 800 million Europeans how it is that no one can find out about legal questions to the Court’s committee and their replies. No one knows why.
I shall continue to fight. The battle has probably been lost but fighting for transparency is important as we try to find out what questions are asked and what replies are provided. We need to gather that information in real time so that every single European can find it out. I do not know why legal questions and replies are confidential. I hope that one day we will be able to deal with that. I want to ask Mr Chope whether he got to the heart of the secret questions and answers in the committee. This is an important topic.
Since I am finishing before time, Madam President, you do not have to turn the music on to cut me off.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call on the rapporteur, Mr Chope, to reply. You have eight and a half minutes.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – This debate, although short, has been high quality and I am grateful to everybody who has participated. It has highlighted the fact that the protocol is largely technical, which is why Ms Christoffersen from Norway was so enthusiastic in saying that we should get on with it and implement it as quickly as possible. I am grateful for her support. We heard from others who said that it is rather tentative and does not go far enough, while others have said that it goes too far. I think that the latter was the view of Tiny Kox and Mr Biedroń. The fact is that if we are to change anything, we will need to get the support of 47 countries. That is why this text is a compromise and why I hope the Assembly will support it unanimously today.
The NGOs that have suggested their modest modification to the text have argued the same point for the past year. As we can see from the opinion from the Court itself, which is in an appendix to my report, the Court does not buy into the concerns being expressed by the NGOs. I hope that the Assembly will not buy into the proposed modification either as it would just create an additional complication.
I say to Mr Kox that it is still open to his government not to ratify the protocol. The Dutch Government could then find itself in a similar position to the one that the Russian Government held for many years in relation to Protocol No.14 and be facing motions in the Assembly saying, “Please will the Netherlands ratify this? You are holding up progress”. I hope that the Dutch Government will not do that. However, it is fair to say that there are different opinions about the impact of introducing references to subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation into the preamble. As Mr Pintado said, some countries would prefer this to be in the main text. It is an open secret that the British Government also would have preferred to see it in the main text. It is in the preamble as a compromise and I do not think that anyone can complain about that. The interpretation that is put on it will be very much under the control of the judges. That is the important point – who is in charge? The judges will be in charge. The Court itself makes that point clearly in its own opinion, and we have made it clear in the opinion that we have drafted for today’s report.
On any legal issue there are always at least two opinions – I declare that I am a formerly practising lawyer – and there are many opinions about this. However, I put significant store by the fact that the Court itself, which was sceptical about some of the original proposals made in Brighton, is supporting this protocol without qualification, and I hope that the Assembly will do likewise. I also thank all those who have participated in this debate.
One member asked why single judges were refusing applications without sufficient transparency. If every application before the Court – and we know how many there are – that had to be refused then resulted in a whole lot of reasons being set out, that would just add to the time tht it takes to separate the “good” cases, the ones that need to be dealt with, from those that are manifestly ill founded. Ill-founded cases include those in which the applicant complains about a right that is not guaranteed by the Convention or in which he or she has not exhausted all domestic remedies or brings his or her application outside the time limit. The Court is under tremendous pressure and the contents of the protocol will help ease matters to some extent. I join Ms Christoffersen and others in saying that we hope that all countries will endorse this protocol as quickly as possible so that it can take effect before too long.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Chope, for this exhaustive report. Mr Cilevičs can respond on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights if he so wishes. He has two minutes.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – Thank you, Madam President. The work that we are doing is intended to improve the efficiency and streamline the mechanisms of the European Convention on Human Rights, which are central to the work of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. We are now considering the next protocol in that process. This work was done quickly but very well and I congratulate Mr Chope on it. However, we must be careful. This protocol is mostly but not entirely technical in nature and every change, no matter how technical, could have a serious impact on people’s lives. The Assembly’s main task is to ensure that there is a right to petition, as that is at the heart of the Convention. However, as not all governments support that right, we must be particularly careful in addressing the issue of the margin of appreciation and subsidiarity. The protocol addresses the issue properly and strikes the right balance. I reiterate Mr Chope’s comment that this is a compromise and I invite everyone to support it. I also join Ms Christoffersen in saying that our task is to facilitate ratification as soon as possible.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Cilevičs.
The general debate is closed.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft opinion to which two amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in numerical order. Speeches are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Cilevičs, Mr de Vries, Ms Backman, Mr Sakovskis and Lord Tomlinson, which is, in the draft opinion, paragraph 1, replace the word “can” by the following word: “should”, and replace the word “without” with the following words: “with one”.
I call Mr Cilevičs to support Amendment 1. You have 30 seconds.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – I shall now put on my other hat and move this amendment. There is no misunderstanding about this, and I fully agree with Mr Chope’s argument about the preamble. However, the issue is addressed in the explanatory memorandum and not in the text of the Convention itself. I believe that the Court’s positive position on the protocol is precisely the result of the compromise that Mr Chope mentioned. It would be much better if the text included a completely unequivocal statement that the States parties do not always exercise a margin of appreciation but that they may enjoy a margin of appreciation. That would prevent misinterpretation of the provision.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Chope.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – I speak against the amendment now as I did in committee. The committee rejected the amendment because, ultimately, it is already clear from the text of the protocol that the Court will have the final say over interpreting the margin of appreciation. It has already made it clear that the margin of appreciation has no application whatever in areas relating to torture, slavery and the death penalty. The matter will remain with the Court, which is why the Court supports the text as it stands.
THE PRESIDENT* – The committee is against the amendment. I remind the Assembly that if Amendment 1 is rejected, Amendment 2 falls.
The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
THE PRESIDENT* – We will now proceed to vote on the draft opinion contained in Document 13154. The required majority is two-thirds of the votes expressed.
The vote is open.
The draft opinion contained in Document 13154 is adopted, with 44 votes for, 0 against and 5 abstentions.
3. Joint debate on nanotechnology and ethics in science and technology
THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the joint debate on two reports. The first, by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, is entitled “Nanotechnology: balancing benefits and risks to public health and the environment”, Document 13117, and is presented by Mr Sudarenkov; the second, by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, is entitled “Ethics in Science and Technology”, Document 13141, and is presented by Mr Kaźmierczak.
I remind members that they have four minutes in which to speak.
Rapporteurs, you have 13 minutes each in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
I call Mr Sudarenkov to present the first report.
Mr SUDARENKOV (Russian Federation)* – The nano-era has begun. It was inevitable. As we decide on our common approach, however, we must note that the speed of nanotechnology’s introduction exceeds research into its safety. We often do not have a clear picture of what is going on, and preliminary findings suggest that nanoparticles may weaken the immune systems of animals and human beings. I will go on to discuss nanotubes, the introduction of nano-silver in clothes and other issues.
The rapporteur deems it important to be cautious, and we need to develop a common European approach on nanotechnology to prevent the possibility of nano-phobia and other problems. We should not be reassured by information stating that over 85% of products and 75% of technologies are considered to have a low level of potential risk. Once nano-programmes are set up in more than 50 countries, we should create a European forum on the security of nanoproducts. We should foster self-regulation on a step-by-step basis, on which most nano-security campaigns are based.
According to the explanatory memorandum by Ms Feitshans of the University of Lausanne, nanomaterials are measured by the billionth of a metre. In October 2011, the European Commission defined nanomaterials as ranging from 1 to 100 nanometres. The sheet of paper I am holding measures approximately 100,000 nanometres, so you can imagine how tiny the structures are.
Some 50 countries around the world are in the nano-race, and the first areas to open up a lead in the development of nanotechnologies were the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and countries in the European Union. The world nano-market is developing, and I have the feeling that most jurisdictions, while trying to foster the development of such technologies to gain economic benefits, are not cautious enough. It is true that the public are more informed and that people expect to find nanotechnology in electronics, medicine, aviation and space flight. Only 3% to 5% of people are against such technology. According to surveys, 30% to 50% of people are ready to buy nano-products, and availability will increase considerably by 2015. However, three quarters of the public are not sufficiently informed about the development of nanotechnology. Even though discovery to commercialisation has taken some 10 to 15 years, nano-products are increasingly appearing in consumer markets.
I have not yet found a theory to disprove the importance of ensuring that the development of nano-industries has government participation, particularly because each country focuses on its own priorities. The global market for nanotechnologies is separated. The focus in the United States is mainly on new materials. Japan has semiconductors, Europe concentrates on information storage devices, Asia has biotechnologies, and so on. According to estimates, the global market for nanotechnologies will reach $3 trillion – a big figure – by 2015. The average increase in use of nanotechnology in consumer goods in the next few years will be 70% for sporting goods, 17% for personal hygiene, 12% in electronics, 6% for fabrics and clothes, and 6% in food products. The number of consumer goods that include nanomaterials has grown from 212 in 2006 to 1,317 in 2011 and that figure is now even higher.
The balance between their usefulness and the potential risk is what interests us in particular. Nanoproducts require considerable scientific input, similar to the development of new medication, and considerable research is required into potential threats. Scientists around the world recognise certain risks, so there is a regulatory dilemma as to how to get the benefits while minimising the risk of harm – where is the balance? At the same time, experts believe there is a gap between opportunity and risk. The impact of nanoparticles on DNA – their powerful impact on human tissues – has not been sufficiently studied. We agree with those who think that the commercialisation of nanotechnologies should not prove an obstacle to their examination. I agree that fundamental scientific research is essential to a gaining a better understanding of the security issues, and I think I agree with those who believe that 5% to 10% of science budget expenditure needs to be spent on examining the safety of nanotechnologies
In the report and draft recommendation we suggest certain ways of regulating nanotechnologies. For example, the Committee of Ministers could issue a mandate to set up an intergovernmental committee to assess legal, economic and other aspects of nanotechnologies. Legislation would only be appropriate if based on data arising from fundamental research into the biological impact of nanoparticles. I suggest that we support paragraph 5.7 of the draft recommendation, which calls for the establishment of an international interdisciplinary centre to provide information on nano-security issues. Finland, through its work within the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, is the leading country on nano-security. We need to pool the efforts of all nations in examining nano-security issues.
The speed with which nanotechnologies are being introduced is far outstripping the extent to which their impact on health and security is being examined. It seems that nanoparticles do weaken the immune system. It is important to make anticipatory recommendations to the various authorities and to support nanotechnologies that could help us to deal with environmental problems, including waste.
In conclusion, the committee and the various experts involved consider the report to be balanced.
(Mr Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Maury Pasquier.)
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Sudarenkov. You have a little more than three minutes left to respond to the debate.
We move on to the second report, entitled, “Ethics in science and technology”. I call Mr Kaźmierczak. You, too, have 13 minutes in all, which you can distribute as you wish.
Mr KAŹMIERCZAK (Poland) – It is an honour and gives me great satisfaction to present the report on ethics in science and technology. This is the last item on this part-session’s agenda, but I hope that the problems mentioned in the report will none the less prove of interest. This is something of a minority subject. Documents adopted by our Assembly are usually concerned with human rights, but the document before us today deals with human responsibilities. In my view, there are two basic and complementary aspects of human freedom: rights and responsibilities.
Before I deal with the content of the report, let me say something about its origin and history. On 30 April 2009, Ms de Melo and 27 colleagues tabled a motion on ethics in science, so this report is backed by four years of history. I replaced Ms de Melo as rapporteur on 4 October 2010 and submitted to the committee a revised outline report, which was discussed on 13 April 2011. Following this discussion, a questionnaire was sent to the agency of the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation, and we received interesting answers from 33 member countries. Here, I should also mention Professor Armin Grunwald, director of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, who was commissioned to prepare a background report. I thank him warmly for the significant part he played in preparing the final document.
On 5 March 2012 in Paris, the committee held a joint hearing on the issue of ethics in science in co-operation with UNESCO and discussed the background report with Ms Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO and many experts. I warmly thank Ms Bokova for her support. As a result of this hearing, a second questionnaire was issued, this time to non-governmental organisations and bodies involved in wider scientific activities. The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media decided to expand the title of the report to "Ethics in science and technology".
Last but not least, I extend my warm thanks to the Secretariat of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. Without the support and hard work of Roberto Fasino and Dana Karanjac, the report would not be ready.
I turn to the content of the report. Because of the nature of the subject and its many different aspects, the report is not a narrow, thematic report. The committee accepted my proposal to treat the report as a meta-document that should address the various categories of problems, rather than providing final solutions. Through this approach, the report is intended to open the way to a chain of documents focusing on more detailed problems and presenting more precise ways of solving them. The issues on which the report focuses are synthesised in the summary to Document 13141.
Scientists’ responsibility to consider the ethical dimension of their work emerged as a public issue only in recent decades. A milestone in this process was the development and use of the first atomic bomb during the Second World War. Since then, growing globalisation and commercial pressures have driven technological change faster than ever, making the forecast and assessment of its long-term consequences increasingly difficult, and generating an increasing number of pressing ethical dilemmas for scientists and policy makers alike.
Many people ask how far we should go in changing the human body. The various issues include: genetic technology and cloning, biomedical engineering and human enhancement, neuroscience and modifying the brain, and the moral status of the embryo. Some people raise concerns about the long-term effects of new technologies on human health. Examples include the proliferation of electro-magnetic fields and new chemicals in the environment; nanotechnology, as dealt with by Mr Sudarenkov; and genetically modified organisms. Some people look at the wider consequences of technological advancement. Should there be limits on the development of new weapons, the private exploration of space, or climate change geo-engineering? Ultimately, a deeper philosophical question emerges: what exactly is mankind’s relationship to nature, and how far should scientists be permitted to go in altering it?
The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media reviews the various initiatives at national, European and global level to bring ethical thinking to bear on the aims and methods of scientific endeavour, as well as its consequences and side-effects. It proposes new forums for such thinking and suggests that parliaments and the public should become more involved in the debate. Finally, the European Union and UNESCO are invited to join forces with the Council of Europe to draft and periodically review a basic set of ethical principles to be applied to all fields of science and technology.
The draft resolution is based on the explanatory memorandum, which presents in successive chapters: the general objectives; the classification of ethical issues in science and technology; the European as well as national landscape of institutions and activities relating to ethics in science and technology; risk factors and obstacles; and the prospect of establishing a universal framework in science and technology ethics.
In conclusion, the report shows a picture of the current situation – a lot of cases already addressed and a similar number of problems not yet solved. There is no doubt that work needs to be done; for me, the basic question is who ought to do it. I am convinced that there is no magic recipe to solve the problems mentioned in the report or, probably, other problems that are currently not recognised or have yet to appear. I am also quite sure that the people who create science and technology for society hold the key to monitoring effectively the side effects of their activities. They must be obliged to investigate the effects that exist in or only appear in science and technology, to name the undesired phenomena and to find and execute proper solutions. Obviously, those self-focused activities can and ought to be effectively supported by politicians, mainly through suitable legislation.
As both a member of “the scientific society” and a realistic optimist, I have really high hopes for the future of science and technology as the main source of our common better future. My final remark is that perhaps the report will open the door to a series of other documents prepared by our Parliamentary Assembly about ethical issues in all areas of human activity. It is my dream that one of them will be entitled “Ethics in Politics”.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Mr Kaźmierczak. You have about five minutes to reply in the general debate. I call Ms Fiala, who speaks for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – Nanotechnology and ethics is an important subject. On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I thank the rapporteurs for their work.
There is a question about whether this is the right forum for analysing and seeking to regulate the issues under discussion. At the moment, there is general controversy about science and specific scepticism about new technologies. On the one hand, we are all happy to use science in our daily lives – we like smaller and smaller mobile phones that do more and more and we like more effective medicines and treatments. On the other hand, however, there is an increasingly critical attitude to research itself. For example, people talk irrationally about black holes created by CERN, demonise gene technologies and look askance at nanotechnology.
Such gloom and doom is dangerous. New technologies contain certain risks, but they also promise new opportunities. Norman Borlaug did biotechnological research on wheat and saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. He was a major scientist but was just one of the thousands who help stimulate the economy and society through their work on new technologies. An entire continent might say no to research on cutting-edge technologies such as nanotechnology because of its ill thought through fears and because certain risks are involved. That would not be right. Before we regulate, we should ask what the opportunities are. The next Norman Borlaug could be someone doing research into nanotechnology, which involves changing mass at an atomic or molecular level and so has virtually unlimited application. Nanomaterials can be found in the construction industry, cosmetics, medicine, the motor industry and textiles.
Successful research finds its way into the economy and leads to new products and highly skilled jobs throughout the production chain. There is now global competition; if we turn our backs on new technologies, we will not put an end to the risks because countries on other continents will continue the research. The risks – and the success – would be handed to other people. Europe needs the jobs and the research. We should look to the future with greater optimism and let ourselves be ruled less by fear. Technology has changed and improved our lives incomparably in the past 100 years.
We should let researchers do their research so that they can disprove Malthusian theories about the intractable problem of population growth. There are already regulations ensuring that dangerous substances cannot be marketed, and they apply to nanotechnology. The Council of Europe would be well advised to focus on its core competences.
It is not a question of the end justifying the means, even in research. Like everyone here, I want ethical values to be upheld – transparency, corporate governance and active co-operation between European countries are a good thing. Bodies such as the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment, or EPTA, and corporate social responsibility are also good. It would be inappropriate for the Council of Europe to give advice to existing national or international ethics committees such as the Forum of National Ethics Councils or EPTA. As liberals, we are in favour of freedom, which, of course, must always go hand in hand with responsibility.
THE PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Ms Fiala. You spoke longer than your allotted time, but we have some time in hand so I have not switched on the chronometer with its strident ring that so disturbs our debates. That ring is automatic; I do not want members to have the impression that I am trying to cut their speeches. We will have to find a solution to that dreadful bell, which puts people off.
I call Mr Moreno Palanques, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain)* – Thank you, Mr President. Despite your generosity, I do not want to take up too much time.
I have worked on the human genome and in other scientific fields, including cloning. Our group was the first to to clone. For me, the ethical dimension of science is very important. The report is a sound basis for future work. I want to focus on nanotechnology. The word “nano” refers to things based on extremely small particles such as toxic mercury and carbon atoms. Because of my professional field, I have been involved in nanomedicine, in which I am particularly interested. It includes molecular diagnosis to diagnose certain pathologies and nano-coagulators, systems to release pharmaceutical substances or deliver nano-drugs to particular parts of the body, the improvement of diagnostic methods, monitoring invasive elements, work in cellular genetics and physics to better understand the basic cell process, and the development of new molecules. It also involves – perhaps this is the greatest concern – the development, design and application of new implants and devices that make it possible to regenerate tissues and nano-particles for various applications to do with the release of controlled pharmaceuticals, cellular death by hypothermia, and much more. The previous speaker said that there are problems in discussing this technology in a human rights institution. I do not feel comfortable that the report is based on the work of one specialist. Given all the legal aspects, I would have liked more experts and specialists in nanotechnology, nanomedicine and other applications to be involved.
The report talks about the establishment of an international inter-disciplinary centre for nano-security better to understand the topic and to try to centralise in one physical area all the research and development on DNA and all the other aspects. That is impossible. It is a very complex discipline; in fact, many disciplines are involved. Yesterday this Organisation marked the anniversary of the establishment of the US Library of Congress in 1800, and we were told that part of it has been done away with. Therefore, creating a new centre would not be appropriate. Given that this kind of very complex and multi-disciplinary research is already being funded by various project centres, it might be not only costly but counter-productive. Applying the Oviedo convention is also a bit excessive.
The rapporteur said that research should be a step ahead of legisation and that it is important to focus on the precautionary principle and to harmonise legislation. I thank the two rapporteurs, Mr Sudarenkov and Mr Kaźmierczak, for this work. Multi-disciplinary input will be required to achieve the goals that they have set out.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Moreno Palanques. I do not see Mr Connarty, so I call Mr Reiss. on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr REISS (France)* – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their very detailed and highly documented reports and their draft resolutions and recommendations.
Developing ethical committees in universities and hospitals is fundamental, because researchers, students and doctors must daily bear in mind ethical questions that science and its application gives rise to. Too often lobbies place intolerable pressure on researchers so that they go beyond acceptable limits. Certain subjects cannot be exclusively broached from the scientific point of view but should be seen from a perspective of societal upheavals that might result from them. For example, the debate on research on embryo stem cells divides different countries, including France, because it affects the origins of life and because economic stakes are muddling the debate. However, the awarding of the 2012 Nobel prize for medicine to researchers working on stem cells has shown that other paths are possible. Nanotechnology, because of the industrial stakes it represents, raises the question of the increasingly blurred limits between science and economics but also between scientific progress and sustainable development, and even the preservation of life.
Mr Sudarenkov evoked the dangers that nano-products may have. In my view, nano-robotics may give rise to the question of respect for private life. On all these matters, we should, as in the Oviedo convention and its protocols, strike a balance between freedom of research, which is a fundamental right included in the freedom to think, and the necessity to define the ethical principles. You rightly evoked the need to apply the principle of precaution. This requires risk analysis and the search for a mode of risk management in order to make it acceptable socially, environmentally and economically. The principle of precaution was discussed during the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, together with awareness of the ethical dimension of the researcher’s work and his social responsibility. On many topics, culture or religion may influence the acceptability of risks. European countries share the same values, particularly with regard to research involving human beings.
This is an ongoing debate in many European countries. Indeed, the French National Assembly looked into the question of the end of life yesterday morning. Here again, political and scientific decision making should be accompanied by a broader reflection on the societal model that we wish to have without the financial cost of palliative health care being the principal parameter. Human dignity should prevail, and on that condition alone we will not come to dehumanise society in the way that is imagined in the worst science fiction scenarios.
However, I do not want to end on that worrisome note. In the member countries of the Council of Europe and elsewhere in the world, respect for human dignity should guide the choices and decisions of scientists and of politicians, as has always been stated in the Council of Europe conventions.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Reiss. I call Mr Schneider.
Mr SCHNEIDER (France)* – Ethical reflection has become an essential component of the development of science and technology. It also poses the question of the values that are most supported by technological development. The progress of life sciences has given rise to a great number of questions. Knowledge about the human genome allows us to track a number of diseases, hereditary or not, and even to consider genetic therapy. Nevertheless, should one propose the systematic screening of all identified diseases? Could that not lead to discrimination linked to disease? People affected by or carrying a genetic disease already experience difficulties, for example, with regard to insurance. Should access to the genome sequence be unlimited? Do we not risk the establishment of a temptation towards idealism in certain cases?
We should also examine the risks that the uncontrolled use of nanotechnology may have on our democratic values – the disparities between rich and poor are flagrant with regard to access to knowledge in these highly specific technological fields, and that constitutes a problem. Furthermore, certain technical uses of these nanosciences constitute a potential danger to people’s private life and security, as well as to the environment. Are we not, once again, playing with fire? Federico Mayor, the former director of UNESCO used to say that it is incumbent upon ethics to draw the borderline between what is possible and what is acceptable. That cannot be done by science or by technology, so this role has to be played by us, as legislators. The rapporteurs’ proposals on the need to extend the debate and strengthen the role of parliaments and citizens are fundamental. As they propose, the role that the parliamentary assessment bodies may play in the definition of the ethical conditions for the development of science has to be squarely reaffirmed.
Beyond that, each parliamentarian should look into the implications of his decisions on the model of technological and scientific innovation authorised by law. Article 46 of France’s 2004 law on bioethics States, “Any reform project on ethical matters should be preceded by a general debate”. That is a fundamental way of responding to the legitimate fears of our citizens, and obtaining just information on new technologies and the most recent scientific discoveries. This is a sine qua non for decision making and the construction of an ethical conception of science. Without denying the freedom of researchers, it is time to reaffirm that mankind must be treated as an end not a means. Of course, I entirely support the co-rapporteurs, who have provided us with a report that is totally in sync with what we aspire to have.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Schneider. You will have noticed that all speeches are calibrated between three and a half minutes and four minutes, but how glad I am not to have to hear the ghastly bell, which stresses us so. Mr Connarty has just turned up, so I will give him the floor. He will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – Thank you, Mr President. I had not anticipated that this debate would be so curtailed. I talked with the rapporteur yesterday about the interest in such an important topic. It appears not to be controversial in the report, but that is not to say that it is not a controversial issue in the real world. For example, we have recently been told that Nestlé has attempted to register a patent for fennel. That naturally growing plant has been used for 1 000 years to treat many ailments, but now we suddenly have a company that thinks it can seize this natural product in the environment and claim it for economic benefit. We had the same problem with Monsanto, which had put a gene into seed in such a way that the seed would die after one year. Of course, farmers normally keep some seeds back so that they can plant the next generation and the next year’s crop. These things represent a deep challenge to the ethics of science, because they are about turning what the previous speaker said should be scientific advances to be given to the world’s population into commodities to be harvested and sold for one user.
We have also seen the embarrassing situation that occurred when the triple helix of DNA was first created by scientists in the USA and in the United Kingdom. When I was first elected in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of hearing those scientists when they came to parliament to explain how they had unravelled the triple helix. Within a few years, companies were trying to claim that they had a patent for parts of that DNA structure. That would mean that they could create important medical products but they would then own those products and that modified DNA, and it would be theirs only. The great thing was that the then President of the United States said firmly that this was a worldwide-owned public domain item, that DNA belongs to the world and everyone in it, and that there would never be the registration of patents based on DNA. That is the ethics problem that we really face with science.
Yesterday, the rapporteur and I discussed what happened when the motor car – the internal combustion engine – was first introduced. The United Kingdom passed a law that a man had to walk in front of the vehicle with a red flag, because people did not know what effect that scientific advance would have on the world. In the United Kingdom parliament, the first law of which we have a full copy is a law regulating and restricting the use of the crossbow, because it was said that the crossbow would be a mechanical weapon that would wipe out the population of England. Of course that never happened, but that law shows that people then were afraid of science and of the advance of knowledge and technology.
So, as we said in the draft resolution, it is important that we should hold “that more concerted ethical consideration should be given – at national, supraregional and global level – to the goals and purposes pursued by science and technology.” We have to realise that there may be cases where the advance of science and, in particular, science linked to commerce, will be a damaging thing for the human race, rather than always being a beneficial thing. If it is not regulated, we do not know where it will stop. We have had very controversial debates about test tube babies and the idea of modifying crops. All these things have to be debated in terms of how they affect the people we are responsible for and what they do to the individual’s human rights.
I commend the rapporteur. I hope that debates on this issue will not always be held late on a Friday, but instead will become central to our debates. Science will advance, and without proper control and the proper, positive generation of the spread of these ideas, that will not necessarily be a good thing for society. I hope, however, that with our supervision, and that of others who are responsible in the scientific world for such supervision, science will always be able to advance in a positive way.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Connarty. I call Mr Kayatürk.
Mr KAYATÜRK (Turkey) – I wish to express my sincere appreciation of the rapporteurs’ informative and high-quality work. Nanotechnology is generally presented as the revolution of this century, so it needs to be given due consideration. It offers enormous potential for innovation and encompasses many disciplines, which means that it has the potential to transform the tools we use, medical treatments, our environment and how humans themselves further develop. As we are reminded, there are both possible benefits and risks involved. However, perceptions of risk and benefit are far better predictors of how we will respond to the new technologies than empirical data on harm. We are still at the early stages of understanding this issue. Of course we cannot let this technology emerge unregulated and uncontrolled at the cost of our health and environment. But a total resistance to nanotechnology is not constructive. There are many ideas about how to regulate the field, ranging from doing nothing to imposing strong restrictions. Here, we have to act in awareness of the need to allow freedom of research and encourage innovation. To lay down a common standard we need to harmonise regulatory frameworks and reporting and registration requirements, and to determine appropriate matters for risk assessment.
The importance of nanotechnology can be neither underestimated nor exaggerated. The issues should be negotiated in an open and transparent process involving multiple stakeholders. I hope that we will be able to leave our descendants an improved world and future.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Faber-Van de Klashorst.
Ms FABER-VAN de KLASHORST (Netherlands) – I thank the rapporteurs for their reports on such an interesting and complicated subject. I am a new member and I am only sorry that I was not involved earlier in preparing the reports.
I understand that people have worries about certain developments, but nanotechnology can boost economic and scientific progress. In history, we see that an economic revival was always preceded by a jump in scientific progress – always after something revolutionary happened. Nanotechnology opens the door to new possibilities, and we must not limit that progress, but learn to control the immense responsibilities. There will always be people who want to abuse scientific possibilities, but that may not be good reason to frustrate the development of nanotechnology.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. That concludes the list of speakers, unless one of you wishes to take the floor. I do not see any requests, so I call Mr Kaźmierczak, rapporteur. You have a few minutes to respond to the debate.
Mr KAŹMIERCZAK (Poland) – A few minutes would not be enough to refer to all the problems mentioned in the debate because, as we have seen, the subject matter is wide and complicated. I shall therefore refer to only a few remarks.
Mr Moreno Palanques said that research is one step ahead of legislation. I am afraid that the problem is more complicated: the research is one or even more steps ahead of our expectations and imaginations. The new technologies are treated as something good, and we are happy to have innovations, but usually we have no idea what they will mean in practice. Let me use the example of mobile phones, which were mentioned. They are, of course, an important technical medium that give people freedom, but could we previously have imagined the extent to which privacy would be limited by such new technologies, not only in mobile phone apparatus but on the Internet? My idea of continuing the debate about the problems of new technologies, new research and ethical issues seems, therefore, to be a reasonable one.
Finally, let me refer to the problem mentioned by Mr Connarty. It was a very good idea to use the man with the red flag, and that could be very useful now. For one thing, it could solve the problem of unemployment in many places, especially when you consider the range of new technologies that are put into practice. For another, it could give us a good sense of where the danger lies. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Sudarenkov, you have the floor.
Mr SUDARENKOV (Russian Federation)* – I am looking at the monitor, and I am pleased that we have not had to squeeze everything into a restricted time, but have had an open-ended discussion. I think that if we had more such discussions, our work might be more effective.
We have had some professionals speaking today. There has been such a combination of elevated knowledge about new technologies and consideration of political implications that I do not know whether some of them are politicians or scientific researchers. I thank everybody for the wonderful calibre of their remarks.
We drew up the report at the initiative of Mr Marquet, and the idea behind it was to ensure the safeguarding of lives and of the possibility of undertaking research. I think that everyone can understand that. Ms Fiala asked whether we should be taking up such issues. She answered the question herself by saying that, yes, we should – a point also emphasised by the last speaker. Mr Reiss said that we should follow these developments very closely. Mr Schneider, too, backed the examination of these issues. All of that very much tallies with the findings of the report.
I would like to thank most sincerely all the people in the secretariat who have helped us along the road. A report is never written by a single person, but the references to cutting-edge research and the assessments of advances in nanotechnology have largely been provided by one expert. We have had quantity and quality, and the process has been quite successful. I hope that colleagues will support the report, and I am sure that the work will continue.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. Does the Chairperson of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media wish to take the floor?
Mr WACH (Poland) – Today we have a special situation because we have two professors as rapporteurs. Mr Sudarenkov is from the University of St Petersburg and is a professor of philosophy and ethics, and Mr Kaźmierczak is from Gliwice University of Technology and is also general rapporteur of our Assembly for science and technology. We can therefore trust them as competent people on these subjects.
Both reports deal with the ethical problems resulting from contemporary and scientific research. The first is more specific, as it considers problems resulting from the fast development of nanotechnology. The second is more general, and considers the complex ethical aspects of the practical results of science and technology. It explores the impact not only on human rights, but on the behaviour of scientists in their pursuit of success and money.
As I have said, the second report is a framework report and covers more general problems, but the first report refers to ethics too. We should study this topic because it impacts greatly on human rights and people’s futures. Several subjects were mentioned, such as human health, human behaviour, environmental protection and the economy and progress. It is necessary to find a balance between fast progress and a drive for innovation, and having caution about the impact on human rights.
Finally, I congratulate both rapporteurs and express my gratitude to everyone who has stayed to vote – positively, I am sure – on both reports.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does the Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee, Ms Maury Pasquier, wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – I echo the words of gratitude and congratulations to the rapporteurs and those who participated in the debate, which was interesting and significant.
When we talk about science and research, we always find ourselves living in both fear and hope. We must take into account three different aspects. The first is our curiosity and creativity, which push researchers to explore new areas and to make new discoveries, without which many things that have improved our daily lives would not exist. The second aspect is the precautionary principle. We need to implement new discoveries only once we have assessed their opportunities, risks and potential added value, particularly to human beings. The third aspect is of course the financial issues at stake, which may be quite considerable, whether we are talking about businesses that seek to promote discoveries that they have funded or about public authorities, which may be funding all or part of the related costs.
Our main political responsibilities are not simply to allow financial and economic interests to dictate decisions in this sensitive area; we need to support the other two pillars that I have mentioned: transparent, independent and responsible research, and the protection of human rights, health and the environment. Turning to Mr Moreno Palanques, all those issues clearly demonstrate that the debate is worth having, especially as the report on nanotechnology was associated with the report on ethics in science. Examining technological progress in the light of the values that we defend here is at the heart of our work. New technologies contribute greatly to progress.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The debate is closed.
The Social Affairs Committee report, “Nanotechnology: balancing benefits and risks to public health and the environment”, Document 13117, proposes a draft recommendation to which three amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in numerical order.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 3 to the draft recommendation, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Amendment 2, which was also agreed unanimously by the committee, must be taken separately, as it is affected by Amendment 1.
Is that so, Ms Maury Pasquier?
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Yes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? As there is no objection, I declare that Amendment 3 to the draft recommendation has been agreed.
The following amendment has been agreed:
Amendment 3, tabled by Mr Moreno Palanques, Mr Beneyto, Mr Muñoz-Alonso, Ms Blanco and Mr Díaz Tejera, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 6, to add the following words:
“This study should include, in any case, ongoing scientific research at international level to learn the risks of nanotechnological material. Thus, the scientific community will be actively involved in the drafting of any proposal of standardisation and/or legislation.”
THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Moreno Palanques, Mr Beneyto, Mr Muñoz-Alonso, Ms Blanco and Mr Díaz Tejera, which is, in the draft recommendation, to delete paragraph 5.7.
If this amendment is adopted, Amendment 2 falls.
I call Mr Moreno Palanques to support Amendment 1. You have 30 seconds.
Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain)* – I think that I have already explained my amendment in my speech. A centre would not only be costly, but it might be useless and counter-productive. I agree with Mr Connarty. I was one of the three researchers seeking a patent on genomes.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The committee is against.
THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 2, tabled by Mr Moreno Palanques, Mr Beneyto, Mr Muñoz-Alonso, Ms Blanco and Mr Díaz Tejera, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 5.7, to add the following words: “without prejudice to the continued support, even in financial terms, to ongoing research projects aimed at determining potential risks of nanomaterials.”
I call Mr Moreno Palanques to support Amendment 2. You have 30 seconds.
Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain)* – Amendment 2 is an alternative to Amendment 1. At the least, resources devoted in the European Union should not be limited to just a single centre. We discussed the matter in the committee and it was approved.
THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
The committee is obviously in favour.
The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 13117, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13117, as amended, is adopted, with 35 votes for, 0 against and 2 abstentions.
The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media report, “Ethics in Science and Technology”, Document 13141, proposes a draft resolution to which three amendments have been tabled.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Culture Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 1, 2 and 3 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11.
Is that so, Mr Wach?
Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments 1, 2 and 3 to the draft resolution have been agreed.
The following amendments have been agreed:
Amendment 1, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 4, to replace the words “the United Nations to set up a global committee” with the following words: “Unesco in setting up the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST)”.
Amendment 2, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 4, second sentence, to delete the words “could and”.
Amendment 3, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, in the draft resolution, paragraph 10.1, after the words “using the experience”, to replace the words “of the Forum of National Ethics Committees (NEC Forum)” with the following words: “acquired in the framework of the European Conference of National Ethics Committee (COMETH) initiated by the Council of Europe, and more recently the Forum of National Ethics Committee (NEC Forum) funded by the European Commission,”
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13141, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution is Document 13141, as amended, is adopted, with 32 votes for, 0 against and 3 abstentions.
I congratulate the two rapporteurs and the secretariats of the two committees on doing a fantastic job.
4. References to committees
THE PRESIDENT* – The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly. They are set out in Docoument AS/Inf (2013) 05.
Are there any objections to the proposed references to committees?
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
5. Voting champions
THE PRESIDENT* – I am pleased to announce the names of our voting champions – those members who have taken part in the most votes during this part-session. Five members have tied in first place.
Mr Moreno Palanques
I congratulate them all. Of course, we have presents for you, so please come here to collect them at the end of the sitting.
6. End of the part-session
THE PRESIDENT* – We have now come to the end of our business.
I would like to thank all members of the Assembly, particularly the rapporteurs and all those who have taken part in our debates during this part-session with its quite heavy agenda. I would also like to thank the permanent and temporary staff and interpreters, who have done an excellent job. I ask our Secretary General, Mr Sawicki, to convey our thanks to them on behalf of the Assembly.
The third part of the 2013 session will be held here from 24 to 28 June 2013.
I declare the second part of the 2013 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 12 noon.)
1. Changes in the membership of committees
2. Draft protocol No.15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Speakers: Mr Gross, Ms Fiala, Mr Kox, Mr Volonté, Mr Michel, Mr Xuclà, Mr Biedroń, Ms Christofferson, Mr Pintado, Mr Henriksen, Mr Diaz Tejera.
Reply: Mr Chope, Mr Cilevičs
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights by Mr Chope, Document 13154
Draft opinion in Document 13154 adopted
3. Joint debate
a. Nanotechnology: balancing benefits and risks to public health and the environment
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development by Mr Sudarenkov, Document 13117
b. Ethics in science and technology
Presentation of the report of the Committee on Science, Education and Media by Mr Kazmiercźak, Document 13141
Speakers: Ms Fiala, Mr Moreno Palanques, Mr Reiss, Mr Schneider, Mr Connarty, Mr Kayatürk, Ms Faber-Van de Klashorst
Replies: Mr Kazmiercźak , Mr Sudarenkov, Mr Wach, Ms Maury Pasquier
Amendments 3 and 2 to the draft recommendation in Document 13117 adopted.
Draft recommendation in Document 13117, as amended, adopted
Amendments 1, 2 and 3 to the draft resolution in Document 13141 adopted.
Draft resolution in Document 13141, as amended, adopted
4. References to committees
5. Voting champions
6. Closure of the part-session
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.
Lord Donald ANDERSON*
Gérard BAPT/Jean-Pierre Michel
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA*
José Manuel BARREIRO/Ángel Pintado
José María BENEYTO*
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
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*
Norbert HAUPERT/Félix Braz
Alfred HEER/Eric Voruz
Vladimir ILIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Denis JACQUAT/André Schneider
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Birkir Jón JÓNSSON*
Borjana KRIŠTO/Nermina Kapetanović
Václav KUBATA/Dana Váhalová
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Saša MAGAZINOVIĆ/Ismeta Dervoz
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE/Michael Connarty
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
José MENDES BOTA*
Jean-Claude MIGNON/ Frédéric Reiss
Federica MOGHERINI REBESANI*
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES
João Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Elena NIKOLAEVA/Robert Shlegel
Eva PARERA/Jordi Xuclà
Lisbeth Bech POULSEN*
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN*
Cezar Florin PREDA
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
Kimmo SASI/Jaana Pelkonen
Björn von SYDOW/Jonas Gunnarsson
Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI*
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Theodora TZAKRI/Konstantinos Triantafyllos
Mark VERHEIJEN/Marjolein Faber-Van De Klashorst
Klaas de VRIES*
Dame Angela WATKINSON*
Karin S. WOLDSETH/Ingjerd Schou
Karl ZELLER/Paolo Grimoldi
Barbara ŽGAJNER TAVŠ*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Montenegro*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Juan BUENO TORIO
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