AS (2014) CR 10
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 7 April 2014 at 11.30 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 Brasseur, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.)
1. Opening of the second part of the 2014 ordinary session
The PRESIDENT* – I declare open the second part of the 2014 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
2. Statement by the President
The PRESIDENT * – Europe as a whole and our Organisation in particular are facing a very serious crisis that represents an enormous challenge to the values and principles that we defend and to peace and international co-operation, which according to our Statute are the very aims of this Organisation. The annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian territory, by the Russian Federation, is unacceptable and constitutes a grave violation of international law. [Interruption.] I remind visitors that it is not permitted to express your agreement with or disapproval of anything that is expressed in the Chamber. We certainly welcome you and we are pleased that you are with us, but please keep silent.
As President of the Assembly, on 18 March I issued a strong condemnation of Russia’s action. The Committee of Ministers and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe have reacted in the same terms. It now behoves the Assembly to adopt a position. It is our duty to react to actions by one of our member States: the Russian Federation. Respect for territorial integrity is one of our most fundamental rules and one of the commitments that all member States – I emphasise, all member States – are required to make.
We must, therefore, discuss during this part-session the consequences of the annexation of Crimea. As you are no doubt aware, two motions have been tabled with respect to challenging the Russian delegation’s credentials and it is up to the Assembly to decide how it wishes to act. Dear colleagues, I inform you that for my part I have taken the initiative of contacting by telephone both the President of the Russian Duma and the President of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada. Last week I had long conversations with the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors to our Organisation because dialogue is after all one of this Organisation’s preferred means of action. For that reason, I also discussed the issue with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with a view to seeing what contribution we could make as representatives of international organisations to finding a solution to this serious crisis.
I keep in my memory a powerful image, a symbol of my visit to the Maidan, or Independence square, during our official journey to Ukraine, which we made with members of the Presidential Committee. When I looked at the tents and barricades, which for me were both a symbol and a memorial, and all the people gathered around them, I heard an appeal for all of us to ensure that the loss of over 100 human lives was not in vain.
During the Presidential Committee’s visit to Kiev, Donetsk and Lviv from 21 to 24 March, we were able to gauge the full scale and complexity of the challenges that lie ahead. The priorities are clear: reform in the constitutional sphere; electoral reform; devolution or decentralisation; reform of the judicial system; and the fight against corruption, to name but a few examples. The co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee will review all these initiatives during the debate that is planned on “Recent developments in Ukraine: threats to the functioning of democratic institutions.” We can also welcome what has been done by our Secretary General, who is very much involved in looking for solutions to the crisis. Our debate must give political impetus to the action of our Organisation vis-ŕ-vis Ukraine, particularly in the context of the immediate support and action proposed by the Secretary General to the Committee of Ministers just last week. At present, in order that our discussions are held in a dignified and respectful manner, I appeal to everyone to be responsible and to take a responsible approach, bearing in mind that our values and standards must prevail in our words, thoughts and actions.
(The speaker continued in English.)
Despite the difficulties our Organisation has to face, the Council of Europe today remains a beacon for all those in Europe and the world who strive to protect human rights, build democracy and uphold the rule of law. Our values and standards are a powerful force of attraction. I am very glad that in recent years we have managed to take decisive steps to promote the values we share in our neighbourhood. Tomorrow we will examine the request for Partnership for Democracy status submitted by the Kyrgyz Parliament, the first Parliament from our eastern neighbourhood to apply. I welcome the determination of our colleagues there to build strong democratic institutions. As pioneers in the region, they have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. They are not allowed to fail. Therefore, the ongoing reforms should steadily continue in accordance with the recommendations of our rapporteurs. On our side, we should live up to our responsibilities too, providing the necessary political support and expertise. I hope that granting Partnership for Democracy status will open a new era of co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Kyrgyz Republic, both at the level of the Assembly and in the many Council of Europe expert bodies and institutions.
Dear colleagues, what has made the Council of Europe what it is today is the result of the work of ambitious women and men who believe in the value of human rights and act every day whenever individuals’ rights and freedoms are under threat. Our colleague José Mendes Bota is certainly one such person and his commitment deserves our full appreciation. I recently participated in the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, together with the Deputy Secretary General, and saw how our legal instruments – namely the Istanbul Convention and the convention on action against trafficking in human beings – could be used to spread the Council of Europe’s acquis worldwide. In this context, I look forward to the debate on Mr Mendes Bota’s report on prostitution, trafficking and modern slavery in Europe.
I also look forward to the report of our Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muižnieks. His commitment to defending and promoting human rights, his availability and readiness to react promptly when human rights are under threat – as he did when he went to Ukraine recently – and his open and direct style are much appreciated by Assembly members and will allow for an interesting debate.
That said, to make the Council of Europe’s work genuinely effective, we need the support of all our member States and their leaders, their Heads of States. Some 10 days ago, I had the honour and privilege of receiving in Strasbourg His Royal Highness the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess. The Grand Duke’s address to the Human Rights Court was a powerful message in support of the Council of Europe and our values. This week we look forward to hearing the address of the Federal President of Austria, Mr Heinz Fischer, which takes place during the Austrian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. I am sure that our exchange of views on the most topical issues of European politics will be both interesting and beneficial for the Assembly.
Allow me to conclude on yet another human rights note. In less than a month, we will reach the deadline for nominations for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. This prize sends a strong message in support of our values across the world. I call on you all to submit, in time, the candidatures of all those who deserve to receive this prize for their outstanding action for human rights.
There is another event taking place this week. Tomorrow we will have our traditional museum prize – a prize that is highly symbolic for the Council of Europe, an Organisation that pursues the objective of strengthening European unity on the basis of shared values and a common historical and cultural heritage. This time our award goes to the Baksi Museum in Turkey. I congratulate our Turkish colleagues, as well as the museum, on winning this prestigious award.
(The speaker continued in French.)
Dear colleagues, before I bring this address to an end, I would like us to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the genocide in Rwanda on this day, the 20th anniversary of that event and an appropriate time to give some thought to those atrocious events.
We are about to undertake a part-session during which some challenging issues will be discussed, so I call on all of us to contribute to an atmosphere of mutual respect and serenity.
3. Examination of credentials
The PRESIDENT* – We now come to the first substantive item on our order of business. Two motions for a resolution to re-examine the credentials, previously ratified, of the Russian delegation have been tabled under Rule 9.1.a of our Rules of Procedure. The first was tabled on 21 March. It is signed by Mr Robert Walter and 73 other members of the Assembly and is to be found in Document 13457. The second was signed by Mr Jensen and 52 other members of the Assembly. It was tabled on 24 March and is to be found in Document 13459.
The Rules of Procedure provide for such challenges to be referred to the appropriate committee for a report and to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities for an opinion. Both motions question the honouring by the Russian Federation of its obligations and commitments arising from its membership of the Council of Europe – obligations and commitments that it undertook when it became a member of the Council of Europe. The Monitoring Committee is the only committee that is competent to verify the fulfilment of obligations in accordance with Resolution 1115. Therefore, these matters should be referred to the Monitoring Committee for a report – that is the proposal of the Bureau, because it believes that under Rule 9.2 it is the most appropriate committee – and also to the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities for an opinion. In accordance with Rule 9.5 of our Rules of Procedure, members of the Russian Federation delegation may not vote in any proceedings relating to the reconsideration of their credentials. The Bureau is proposing that the report on this matter by the Monitoring Committee be taken up at 10 a.m. on Thursday 10 April, but we will return to that when we discuss the order of business.
I call Mr Ariev on a point of order.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – On a point of order, Madam President. On the credentials question, Rule 8.3 says, “The Committee shall report within 24 hours if possible and the Assembly shall consider it as soon as possible.” I and some of my colleagues therefore propose that we consider the functioning of Ukraine’s democratic institutions and the question of Russia’s credentials at the same time on Wednesday.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I suggest that we take that matter up when we come to approve the agenda.
We will now turn to the examination of credentials of new members.
The names of the members and substitutes are in Document 13472. If no credentials are challenged, the credentials will be ratified.
Are any credentials challenged?
The credentials are ratified. I welcome our new colleagues.
4. Election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly with respect to Italy and Montenegro
The PRESIDENT* – The next item on the agenda is the election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.
Two nominations have been received. They are: Mr Michele Nicoletti, in respect of the delegation from Italy; and Mr Predrag Sekulić, in respect of the delegation from Montenegro.
If there is no request for a vote in respect of any of these nominations, these members shall be declared elected as Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, in accordance with Rule 15.4.
There is no request for a vote, so I congratulate them on their election.
5. Changes in the membership of committees
The PRESIDENT* – Our next item of business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in document Commissions (2014) 04.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
6. Request for debate under urgent procedure
The PRESIDENT* – Before we examine the draft agenda, the Assembly needs to consider the request submitted by the Monitoring Committee for a debate under the urgent procedure on “Recent developments in Ukraine: threats to the functioning of democratic institutions”.
At its meeting this morning the Bureau approved this request, and therefore recommends to the Assembly that the matter be debated on Wednesday afternoon, as set out on the draft agenda.
Does the Assembly agree to this recommendation?
The Bureau’s recommendation is accepted, and the request for urgent procedure is therefore approved.
The PRESIDENT* – Under Rule 25, the Bureau proposes that the topic of the debate we have just agreed to be referred to the Monitoring Committee.
Is this agreed?
The referral is agreed to.
7. Adoption of the agenda
The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the adoption of the agenda for the second part of the 2014 ordinary session.
The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly’s approval was drawn up by the Bureau on 6 March and updated this morning. In view of the decisions we have just taken, the Bureau proposes that: the urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine will take place as the first item of business on Wednesday afternoon, and the deadline for tabling amendments will be 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday; the debate on the report from the Monitoring Committee on the challenge to credentials of the Russian delegation will take place on Thursday morning. The deadline for tabling amendments will be 6 p.m. on Wednesday and the deadline for tabling sub-amendments will be 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
As a consequence of these changes, the debate on the report from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on “the urgent need to deal with new failures to co-operate with the European Court of Human Rights” will take place on Thursday afternoon as the first item of business.
Details of debates, speakers’ lists, tabling of amendments and the timing of speeches will be set out in each sitting’s Organisation of Debates document.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – The Ukrainian delegation thinks that the debates on the functioning of the Ukrainian institutions and on the credentials of the Russian delegation must take place on the same day. That is based on Rule 8.3, which I referred to earlier.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Ariev. Does anyone wish to speak against that proposal?
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – We discussed this very carefully in the Presidential Committee and in the Bureau. The main argument against fusing the debates is that it would mean less time for colleagues who wish to speak. For both debates there are already 50 members interested in speaking. If we put the two debates together on Thursday morning, only half the number of members would be able to speak. It is fair to us all to keep the debates separate, on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, so that everyone can speak and we can make a wise decision.
The PRESIDENT* – I can allow only one speaker in favour and one against. The rules allow for the Chair of the Monitoring Committee to give his opinion. Mr Schennach, what is your opinion of Mr Ariev’s proposal to change the agenda?
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – I am in favour of holding the two debates separately. Of course they are linked, but I think that it is important to discuss the situation in Ukraine before talking about potential sanctions.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Schennach. We will now vote on Mr Ariev’s proposal to change the agenda. Those in favour are asked to vote yes and those opposed are asked to vote no.
The vote is open.
The proposed alteration in the draft agenda is rejected.
The draft agenda, as amended, is agreed to.
8. Time limits on speeches
The PRESIDENT* – To enable as many members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that speaking time be limited to three minutes for all sittings except Friday. Is this agreed?
It is agreed.
I may make further proposals on these matters as required.
9. Approval of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee (7 March 2014)
The PRESIDENT* – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee, in Paris on 7 March 2014, have been distributed, Docment AS/PER 2014 PV01.
I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.
10. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
The PRESIDENT* – We now come to the Progress Report of the Bureau and Standing Committee, which is in Document 13470 with an addendum in Document 13473. This report will be presented by Ms Nataša Vučković. I remind members that the Assembly has just decided to limit the speaking time to three minutes. We must complete our examination of this report by 1 p.m., so we will have to interrupt the list of speakers at about 12.55 p.m.
Ms Vučković, I am pleased to give you the floor. As a rapporteur you are no doubt aware of the fact that you have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide as you see fit between the presentation of your report and the reply to the debate.
Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – I begin by saying that I am proud to be the fifth female member of the Bureau, alongside the 36 gentlemen who have had the honour to present the Bureau’s Progress Report in the past 10 years – so in gender parity, we still have a long way to go.
You can see from the draft report that the Bureau’s agenda within the reference period has been busy, covering meetings from the end of the last part-session through the Standing Committee in Paris up to the Bureau meeting this morning. The draft report contains many relevant decisions that have been adopted at the Standing Committee or that the Assembly is expected to ratify at the end of this debate. I shall not comment on every item but rather draw your attention to the few that I consider most important.
The political focus of the Assembly has certainly been on the situation in Ukraine, which the Assembly debated in January under an urgent procedure. The Standing Committee of 7 March held a current affairs debate and adopted a statement on that occasion. Prior to that, the Bureau exchanged views with the Secretary General on 6 March.
The Presidential Committee visited Kiev, Lviv and Donetsk between 22 and 24 March. We also took note of the communication of the President of the Assembly, who informed us that she raised this issue with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Today we have just agreed to another urgent debate on Wednesday on the recent developments in Ukraine that threaten the functioning of democratic institutions.
We have also included on our agenda for Thursday the issue of challenging the already ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantive grounds, based on two motions that together collected 125 signatures. In the many meetings that we had on the situation in Ukraine, what was stressed was that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly have a very important role to play, and that we should make an effort to preserve and improve the space for dialogue.
Another issue that is the focus of the Parliamentary Assembly is the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. In a few months, the Assembly will elect a new Secretary General. The delicate political situation in Europe today will require, more than ever, vision and strong leadership from the post-holder in order to guide the Organisation through this challenging time, upholding European ideals and Council of Europe standards.
At its meeting of 6 March the Bureau took note of the Committee of Ministers’ decision to recommend two candidates: Mr Jagland, the incumbent Secretary General, and Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, our former member and a former Minister of Justice of Germany. The candidates will be interviewed at the Bureau meeting of 22 May in Baku.
Election observation is one of the regular activities of the Parliamentary Assembly. This issue, too, is very vivid. In my country, Serbia, there were early parliamentary elections on 16 March. The report of the ad hoc committee will be presented to the Standing Committee in Baku.
In “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, presidential elections and early parliamentary elections will take place this April. A pre-electoral mission took place on 11 and 12 March, led by our colleague Mr Schennach. A 22-member delegation will observe, first, the presidential election next Sunday and then the combined second round of the presidential election and the early parliamentary elections on 27 April. The Bureau this morning approved the final list of the ad hoc committee, which I hope the Assembly will ratify at the end of this debate.
Regarding Ukraine and the early elections that will take place on 25 May, the Bureau decided this morning to send a big delegation of 50 members plus the two co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee. It is very important that the members of our ad hoc committee be deployed in as many regions of the country as possible.
At its March meeting in Paris the Bureau approved the terms of reference of a general rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance, and agreed that general rapporteurs can stay in post after the expiry of their mandate until a new person is appointed by the committee concerned.
Last but not least on our regular work agenda is the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. I remind members that the new deadline for submitting candidates is 30 April. Last year, the new Václav Havel prize won a lot of attention, and the selection panel took extremely seriously the job of shortlisting the best candidates. I call on all members to come to the fore with new names in order to give this prize even more weight in future.
Finally, I draw your attention to the guidelines for the observation of elections by the Parliamentary Assembly. Bearing in mind the objectives and the political nature of the Parliamentary Assembly’s observation missions, as well as the problems deriving from past co-operation arrangements with other international institutions, the following guidelines were adopted by the Bureau on 6 March. It is important to mention that this decision of the Bureau requires ratification by the Assembly, and I call on the Assembly to ratify it. Thank you for your attention.
The PRESIDENT – I thank the rapporteur very much. Now we come to the list of speakers from the political groups.
(The speaker continued in French.)
I call Mr Mahoux to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr MAHOUX (Belgium)* – I would like to commend this excellent report submitted by our colleague, Ms Vučković, and highlight two points. The first is the updating of the rules concerning observation missions. I remind you that observation missions are compulsory in candidate countries and countries that are subject to monitoring by the Monitoring Committee. This applies to post-election monitoring as well. Secondly, monitoring applies before, during and after elections.
The third point is that participation in the deliberations of ad hoc committees is reserved for members, with conditions applying to neighbouring countries. Of course, the whole notion of conflict of interest applies to members in the immediate neighbourhood.
The next point is the work carried out by the Standing Committee. On the situation in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, we should remind ourselves that the Standing Committee – perhaps it could have done things differently – called for both international law and internal rules to be respected. At the same time, it spoke out against what happened with the invasion of Crimea and called on Russia to respect the integrity of Ukrainian territory.
Last but not least, I would like to flag up the significance of today, 7 April, which marks the beginning of the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. I remind you that human rights are universal and that the responsibility of the international community in the development of genocide is real. I had the opportunity, with the Prime Minister of my country, to be a co-rapporteur in the inquiry carried out by the Belgian Senate into what happened in Rwanda. This committee offered my country’s apologies through the Prime Minister. In order to make the words “never again” a reality, we need to be very clear about what the truth is, where the responsibilities lie and what are the commitments of the international community to ensure that this never happens again. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Mahoux. I call Mr Preda, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr PREDA (Romania)* – I congratulate Ms Vučković on the report on the activities of the Bureau and the Standing Committee between the two part-sessions. Among the items on the agenda was the political crisis in Ukraine. The latest events in that country have caused great concern among the international community, and it is our duty to react to uphold the principles of international law, such as territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Many elections have occurred recently – for example, in Serbia. We should congratulate Belgrade on the progress made to uphold fundamental freedoms during the election campaign. We should stress the need to continue to reform electoral law and to ensure that the media can flourish.
We welcome the report on the improvement of guidelines for electoral observation by the Parliamentary Assembly, which involves closer co-operation with other international bodies that play a key role in electoral observation.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much indeed. I call Mr Marias, who will speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr MARIAS (Greece)* – I should like to take this opportunity to commend Ms Vučković for her report. We have experienced an interesting period for our Assembly between the end of January and today. Some very important issues have arisen, such as that in Ukraine, and we have been dealing with the process for the election of the Secretary General. We have been considering Kyrgyzstan’s partnership request. All that is of fundamental importance to our Organisation and the Assembly, and we must move forward on all those issues. The report refers to the free debate organised every time that our Assembly meets, and it provides us with an important opportunity to express our opinions on issues that are not on the agenda.
I should like to refer to observing the elections in Serbia and to the guidelines for the observation of elections. Those guidelines are very important. We are talking about three different phases, which are well known to us all. We need to have a proper procedure in place before the elections. We must ensure that no constraints are placed on our ability to make sure that no restrictions are placed on candidates and parties. In addition, it is important that electoral laws are not changed overnight in such countries.
On the procedures, the report mentions the compulsory monitoring of presidential elections, as well as referendums. We should also monitor national elections for countries currently under the monitoring process. All those points should be addressed at all levels. We need to ensure that conditions are met, so that elections take place properly. Such measures and conditions are important and allow our Organisation to play its role. Later on, of course, we will have an opportunity to give our opinions on other matters, but we must ensure that we send observers to elections and monitor them thoroughly.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Khidasheli, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms KHIDASHELI (Georgia) – First, I thank the rapporteur for this comprehensive report. It is always important to understand such activities. We will have an opportunity this week to speak at length about Ukraine and Russia. I hope that the Assembly will be clear about why the Council of Europe was created, that we will send a clear and concise message and that there will be no fundamental review of the Assembly’s principles and democracy and sovereignty will be respected.
In the circumstances, it is crucial that we raise an issue that relates to the Bureau’s activities. On 21 November 2013, Georgia was sanctioned by the Bureau. It is the only country in the Assembly under sanction. After five years of occupation, we are debating the use of sanctions against Russia, but that is another issue. We believe that the sanctions were absolutely unjustified. There were no grounds on which to impose them and the facts were not evaluated properly.
I will list some of the facts. First, my country has been occupied for more than 20 years, but it has been recognised as occupied under PACE resolutions for five years. No one has ever doubted or questioned that position. Secondly, because of the occupation, we have laws that have prevented a worsening of the situation. The Venice Commission has evaluated them several times, but they have not been found to be bad laws or inconsistent with democracy. Thirdly, two Russian MPs planned to be members of the monitoring mission for the presidential elections in Georgia last October. They were not prevented from entering the country. Georgian officials did not refuse them entry. We only explained the law, and they abandoned their participation. Even technically speaking, we have never restricted anyone’s freedom of movement in this context, although that was the reason for imposing the sanctions.
In the current circumstances, we hope that the Assembly will vote to sanction the same people who have voted in their respective parliaments in favour of the annexation of Crimea and, over the years, of the occupation of Georgia and Moldova. I believe that the Bureau should return to this question, re-evaluate its decision and lift the sanctions against Georgia. I should like to know what you think about the decisions taken by the Bureau at its session in Vienna in November last year.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Kox, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – First, to react to the last speaker, the best news would be that Georgia had said that all members of the Assembly were welcome and free to do their work in Georgia, as a member State. That would solve all the problems, so I invite the Georgian delegation to take that decision and to make it known to us all. Everything would then be settled, and that would make a nice start to the spring.
I wish the President, Ms Vučković and everyone a very healthy future. Today is World Health day, when we remember that the World Health Organisation was founded in 1948 and its importance to everyone’s health. Our Organisation should remain healthy, and I hope that at the end of this week’s debates, we will remain the unique platform of parliamentary dialogue for the whole of Europe.
With regard to what Ms Vučković said about observing elections, we will deal with the contents in Baku, but I wish to make a general remark. The Assembly nominates election observation missions to do such work, but we face increasing problems because not all members nominated by the political groups are allowed to do their work.
In recent elections in Serbia, a member of my group, Mr Petrenco, was allowed to participate in a pre-electoral mission, but when suddenly he had to participate in the electoral mission his parliament said, “Sorry, we are running out of money, you are not allowed to go.” I remind us all that parliaments of member States have obligations. If people are nominated to represent this Assembly in the very important work of election observation, parliaments are obliged to give their members the opportunity to participate. I urge all parliaments or Speakers of parliaments to agree to that condition because otherwise it threatens the rights of members and political groups, as well as the instrument of election observation. If national parliaments can interfere with those who are, or are not, allowed to participate in election observation, it would send a very bad signal. I can already say that in the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, my group will nominate Mr Petrenco to represent our election observation. I hope that the Government and Parliament of Moldova will stick to its obligations and allow him, and other members, to do that important work for the Assembly.
Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation)* – Dear colleagues, I thank Nataša Vučković for her excellent report. Over the past few years, she has made a lot of progress in our Assembly and become an outstanding politician. I also welcome the decision to take up the issue of Partnership for Democracy for the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan. I have worked with it for many years, and over the past few years it has taken serious steps towards the lofty standards of the Council of Europe.
As I have only three minutes, let me use the rest of the time to talk about discrimination because we must speak out against that. On the inclusion of parliamentarians in the list of people who are subject to sanctions by the European Union, it should not just echo what the United States is doing. At this time, when the fate of entire nations hangs in the balance, we cannot repeat those actions that limit the freedom of movement of parliamentarians in Europe. We need to think carefully about that, and I think we should vigorously protest against such decisions.
I also find it very difficult to understand the decision taken by the Standing Committee that met on 7 March, exactly one month ago. It took a decision about Ukraine that says absolutely nothing about the agreement that was initialled by the ministers for foreign affairs of France and Great Britain. Mr Steinmeier and Mr Sikorski were also there, and they go back to that document as a basis for ensuring constitutionality in Ukraine. Let us not apply double standards. We should look once again very carefully at that document, which was the last legal constitutional document signed in Kiev. It requires that there be disarmament and the creation of a legitimate regime, and those are the best ways for Ukraine to become constitutional once again and get out of its crisis. We cannot put the blame for what has happened on the Russian Federation; that makes no sense. We are the most all-encompassing organisation in Europe, and the way we react to this crisis will really determine the role and position of the Council of Europe in the 21st-century European architecture of international organisations. We need to address this very difficult issue with delicacy and wisdom.
Mr BENEYTO (Spain)* – I, too, start by thanking Ms Vučković for the report she has presented to the Assembly, and I congratulate her. What she has done is a major step towards greater equality including, for instance, when she mentions the selection of rapporteurs and the Standing Committee, and activities within that.
If I may, I will focus on four aspects in the report. First, I will refer to our relationship with other bodies of the Council of Europe, institutional activities, and the presence of our members in other bodies and entities of the Council of Europe, such as the Venice Commission, the North-South Centre, GRECO, Moneyval, Europa Nostra, and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. It seems to me that we need to move forward towards greater monitoring of the activities of those bodies, following them more closely on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly. With a view to that, would it be advisable for us to have a debate every six months, or on an annual basis, or at least a more detailed report that would give us an update on what those different bodies are doing? I think that would be of fundamental importance.
I also think members of the Parliamentary Assembly should be more involved in other bodies of the Council of Europe such as the development bank, which are so important. There are also other examples, and for the time being no members of the Assembly are represented. Still on monitoring, I make the same argument about the OECD or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and our relationship with those outside entities. Once again, I would like a clearer idea about the strategy of the Council of Europe. What do we want to do? Do we want some kind of parliamentary scrutiny over those organisations, or do we just want information from time to time?
Secondly, an application for Partnership for Democracy status has been submitted by two countries: Kyrgyzstan and Jordan. We have received those requests, and in addition I have a question that I put to the rapporteur, and to the Assembly as a whole. We have Observers on the one hand, and Partners for Democracy on the other, and there is a division between the two. Does that make much sense? We have Observers such as Mexico, or perhaps Canada and other countries. Perhaps they would like to become Partners for Democracy and we should explore that avenue. Perhaps we should do something for Latin American countries. What are the limitations on Partnership for Democracy status in geographical terms or in terms of interest? For the time being there is not much clarity on that issue, or at least I cannot see the clear delimitations.
Finally, on sanctions it is important for us to give some thought to the whole range of sanctions that we as a Parliamentary Assembly could use. What is the range of instruments? For the medium-term future, would it be advisable for us to have a broader inventory or list of sanctions that we may have recourse to, for instance so as to respond to events such as those we are witnessing this week?
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much for all those questions and suggestions. I now call Mr Seyidov.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Thank you, rapporteur, for this excellent progress report. It is very important for understanding where we are, in which direction we are going, and what we should do. Under your auspices, Madam President, today we see that the Bureau of the Assembly is working very hard. At the same time, we should do our best regarding some very special issues, and during the forthcoming week we will be able to discuss different questions on the agenda. I think we should focus attention on two very important points, the first of which is our values. As members of the Bureau and members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe we should always stick to the values that are declared by the Assembly. The Bureau has a special mission from that point of view.
My second point, which is closely connected, is on the role of the observation missions, which enable us to understand what is going on within countries. From that point of view, I have already suggested in the Bureau meeting today that we should do our best to bring in the idea of rotation in the appointment of members or leaders of the observation missions. That is important. We should invite different members from different political parties to see what is really going on.
My final point about the progress report is that Baku is the next capital where we are going to raise the flag of the Council of Europe, as at the end of May the Standing Committee will be in Baku. That is a very special responsibility for Azerbaijan. Today, on this important stage, it is my great pleasure to invite all our friends and colleagues from the Council of Europe to take part in that Standing Committee. Working with Azerbaijan, we should all do our best for the Council of Europe and for our values, to keep international law strong and influential, and free from any of the damage we can see today in the rest of the world. Dear colleagues and friends, you are welcome to come to Azerbaijan, welcome at the Standing Committee and welcome in my capital.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – I fully support the progress report that has been presented. I want to highlight some important problems.
The basic aspect that characterises all the activities of the Council of Europe – within recent months, in the previous session, and during its 65 year existence – has been a sense of concern. The idea of an obligation to build a better Europe and better world provides strength for the Council of Europe. The urgent debates during each part-session have shown that that sense of obligation and accountability is understood.
In each part-session, the Council of Europe focuses on the hottest problem in Europe and the world. It was the same in the previous part-session, it is the same now and it will be the same next time. The world is smaller than it was half a century ago and when we think about making a safer Europe we should not ignore the developments taking place in seemingly remote countries, as any indifference on our part could alter the implications of those developments for us.
In the present day, our main aim is to be able to protect ourselves jointly and to fight evil together. Following the world wars, the political map of the world was reshaped, and after the end of the cold war the political panorama of the world shifted considerably. Historical justice was restored and a number of states regained the independence they had lost decades before. However, most of those young independent States have faced threats even up to the present day, and unfortunately, those threats are intensifying, as both open and secret efforts towards reshaping the map of Europe and of the world are increasing. Figuratively speaking, the assumption is gaining ground that there will be a restart of the cold war and a polarisation of the world and in Europe.
The wave is already coming. We should therefore review our ranks and should take attentive notice of the member States that take a stance beside those States that act contrary to our principles. For example, for 14 years the Council of Europe has tolerated in its ranks a country that occupied the territory of another member State, thereby violating the international principle of territorial integrity. We should have considered that such an undesirable precedent would generate similar misfortunes sooner or later.
If in a forthcoming meeting the Bureau were to dedicate an urgent debate not to the consequences of a situation that has already emerged in a certain member State or States but to ways of preventing the possible dangers that threaten most member States, that would be more appropriate and more useful with respect to our common interests.
Mr WADEPHUL (Germany)* – Over the past few years one concern that has been expressed is that this Assembly and the Council of Europe could become less important in terms of the work that they carry out, as the European Union has taken up a number of positions in the field of human rights. What has occurred over the past few weeks – thanks to the rapporteur’s work and the work carried out by the Presidential Committee – is, I would say, a revitalisation of the Council of Europe.
Along with other representatives of the Secretary General, you went to Ukraine, Madam President, and showed the face of this Organisation, an organisation that champions human rights, democracy and the rule of law. That visit ensured that dialogue was maintained and that every possible step could be taken to avoid violence.
A great deal of concern has been expressed about what has occurred in Crimea. If we look at what has happened over the past century, since the start of the First World War, we want to avoid slipping back into the kind of situations that have occurred in the past. We need to ensure that the same rules apply to all member states. We do not want to act in one way here and agree on something in this Assembly only for that to be ignored in national parliaments. We do not want the will of the stronger party to prevail or to trump the rule of law. Those are the rights that we are here to defend.
It is important that we do not make the mistakes that were made 100 years ago, when lines of communication were cut and there was no opportunity for diplomacy, and a dreadful war was started. We want to avoid that. We do not want another Cold War. We need to maintain dialogue and make it clear that our values should continue to be applied. As far as Kyrgyzstan is concerned, I am optimistic and confident that those values are being defended and respected.
I want to express my special thanks for the work of the Standing Committee over the past month. The renaissance of the Council of Europe is a very good thing indeed. We are on the right track and I hope we can continue to support such efforts in this way.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Wadephul. The next speaker on the list is Mr Pushkov, but before I call him, as we still have some time left, I want to ask whether anybody is interested in taking the floor. If so, you can ask the Table Office to put down your name. I now call Mr Pushkov.
Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation)*– The Council of Europe today is standing at an important crossroads. At the heart of that position is a complex situation. There is a temptation to engage only in a geopolitical exercise, looking at one side of the picture but not the other. For evident reasons, all attention today is concentrated on the actions of Russia and what has happened in Crimea. But I have to stress that the fate of Crimea and the developments with regard to that area have a history – they did not happen overnight. If we look at the history, we see that a number of things happened in Ukraine that definitely do not correspond to the ideal of the rule of law. The Venice Commission was asked to give an assessment of the referendum in Crimea, but for some reason, it has not yet been asked to report on what it thinks about what happened in Ukraine on 22 February. We all concentrated on 16 March, the Crimean referendum; for some reason, what happened on 21 and 22 February was forgotten. On 21 February, an agreement that should have allowed for the rule of law in Ukraine was signed by the Foreign Ministers of three leading European countries, but unfortunately that agreement, which was never rejected by the European Union, was not observed and has still not been fulfilled.
It is important that the Venice Commission looks at the extent to which political developments in Ukraine correspond with the principles of the Council of Europe, and at the history of this deep international crisis. It is important that the Council of Europe be impartial, and looks not for political gains for certain countries as opposed to others, but gives the full picture, so that people in Europe can judge for themselves. That is the value of the Council of Europe and this Assembly. Thank you.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – It is good that we are hearing not just one position in this parliamentary session, and can hear the view of the Ukrainians represented here. It is important to understand our situation and the values of the Council of Europe. It is important to understand the events of last night, for example, and not just the events in Crimea. There is a new item: in three main regions in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk – Russian separatists who are mostly citizens of the Russian Federation, and mostly members of pro-Nazi, pro-fascist organisations, have attempted to conquer our State administrations. Last night, we first saw, in eastern Ukraine, Russian separatists occupying the police and secret services’ armed rooms. In three regions, gangs of Russian extremists control not only administrative buildings, but police offices. Also last evening, an officer in our army, which is withdrawing from the territory of occupied Crimea, was killed. The reaction of the Russian authorities was interesting: “He was drunk.” Even if that is true, imagine if our troops had been killing everyone who was drunk in Crimea. For us, the situation is serious, because after events in Crimea, Russian troops and Russian secret services have begun to realise their plans in eastern Ukraine.
The danger is not only for Ukraine; we have the same situation in Transnistria, where a group of separatists provoked our troops on the border with Moldova, Romania and other western countries. We had to stop all that. The events of this session are important in preventing a third war in Europe. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Sobolev. I have received requests to speak from Mr Chope and Sir Roger Gale; after they have spoken, I will conclude the list of speakers.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – I had not intended to participate in the debate, but it is worth putting on record that one of the Parliamentary Assembly’s members, Yuliya L’Ovochkina from the European Democrat Group, who is a Ukrainian parliamentarian, has had her constituency in the Crimea annexed and invaded by troops from another country of the Council of Europe. That is intolerable, and it would be a mistake for the Assembly to respond with diffidence to that affront to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We need to speak up on behalf of Yuliya, and to say that she and her constituents have the right to decide their future in their own country. The Russians seem to have torn up the rule book; a number of us are very concerned, and think that that cannot be done with impunity.
The former President of Ukraine, Yanukovych, apparently invited the Russians to go into Crimea, but even he says that it was a mistake, and that he would like the Russians to leave. We have not yet heard from the Russians on why they are not listening to his pleas for them to leave. Their justification for entering Crimea was that they had been invited in by the man who is, in their eyes, the legitimate President of Ukraine. Now that he is asking them to leave Crimea, we do not hear anything from them at all.
This is a very serious issue; we cannot discuss anything much more serious in this Parliamentary Assembly. I hear all those who say that talking is very important, and that we do not want to engage in any activity that cuts off lines of communication, and I support that view. On the other hand, members of the Parliamentary Assembly voted in support of entering another country and breaching its territorial integrity, and we must not allow them to get away with it. Nor can we allow those same members of the Russian Parliament who endorsed and cheered at the prospect of the Crimea being annexed by Russia to get away with it. Sometimes we parliamentarians find ourselves at odds with our government – I often do, in the United Kingdom – and that can be some mitigation, but members of the parliamentary delegation from the Russian Federation have been actively engaged in doing what we are very much against in Ukraine. We need to take the issue very seriously, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to what Mr Pushkov said.
Sir Roger GALE (United Kingdom) – Like Chris Chope, I had not intended to take part in the debate – I was leaving that for later in the week – but I, too, regard what Mr Pushkov said as a travesty of the truth; I am sorry to have to say that.
What we witnessed in Ukraine was an internal matter – action taken by people dissatisfied with their Government in a sovereign State. No member State of the Council of Europe has the right to interfere in those circumstances. For a member State of the Council of Europe to annexe the territory of another sovereign State is quite intolerable. We have to put that clearly on the record and understand where we are all coming from. If we do not stand by what we believe in this Parliamentary Assembly, we might as well not be here.
This week, the whole credibility of the Council of Europe is at stake. If we are seen to vacillate, or to allow one sovereign State to invade another with impunity, without taking action, we fall. I urge all colleagues present to remember that for the rest of the week, and particularly when we vote on Thursday. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers, so I ask the rapporteur to respond to the debate.
Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – I thank all colleagues who took part in the debate on the progress report. I will not enter into the discussion about the situation in Ukraine, because we will have many opportunities to do so, but it is important that the Council of Europe sticks to its values, respects international standards and laws and preserves its legalistic approach. No matter how different the opinions about the situation in Ukraine, it is important that dialogue occurs during this part-session.
I now want to comment on some remarks made during the debate. Mr Marias made reference to the free debate, the nature of which has been considered by the Bureau. It was deemed necessary to ask the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly to write to all delegations to remind members that contributions in a free debate should not touch upon any subject on the agenda for the part-session. As Chair of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, I think it necessary to take that important advice into account.
I also thank Mr Marias for analysing the guidelines for election monitoring. It is an important document, to which I draw colleagues’ attention. Elections should be monitored in phases, all of which are important in assessing electoral freedom and compliance with international standards for free elections.
Sanctions on Georgia were mentioned in the debate, but it is a special case that was not in the Bureau’s focus during the creation of the report. However, it is certainly an issue that we should consider in future.
Mr Kox asked about members who are not approved by their national parliaments to participate in electoral missions, which is an important problem that needs to be considered by the Committee on Rules of Procedure or another appropriate committee. The matter is particularly important during the current economic crisis as national parliaments are facing budgetary cuts.
Mr Beneyto made a few interesting comments and proposals that should be considered by the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly and other Assembly bodies. Perhaps a report on the different bodies that form part of our organisational architecture, such as the Venice Commission, could be presented to the Assembly a few times a year.
On the difference between Partner for Democracy and Observer status, Resolution 1680 from 2009 states that countries in neighbouring regions – the southern Mediterranean, the Middle East and central Asia – have the right to enter into a partner relationship with the Council of Europe if they respect universal human rights. Observer status, however, has existed for a long time in the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe.
On the inventory of sanctions, the Council of Europe and the Assembly may find it interesting to tackle that issue in future.
Mr Seyidov referred to a proposal regarding the nomination of members of observation missions and the need to include more new members. The Assembly should certainly support that, but let us not forget that the lists greatly depend on personal expressions of interest. We could encourage, in our political groups, more new members to participate in electoral missions, so that they accurately represent the structure of the Assembly.
On the revitalisation of the Council of Europe and of the Assembly, we all share the desire to continue to play an important role. Situations such as that in Ukraine give us the opportunity – I will say unfortunately, because we would like such situations not to occur – to play an important role, in particular when exerting the power of diplomacy and using our skill for maintaining dialogue between different sides.
The PRESIDENT – I thank the rapporteur not only for her excellent report, but also for the way in which she answered the points made. That concludes the debate.
(The speaker continued in French.)
The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, set out in Document 13470 addendum.
Is there any objection to the proposed references to committees?
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
I invite the Assembly to approve the decisions of the Bureau requiring ratification by the Assembly, as set out in the progress report, Document 13470.
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is approved.
11. Next public business
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.)
1. Opening of the 2014 part-session
2. Statement by the President
3. Examination of credentials
4. Election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly with respect to Italy and Montenegro
5. Changes in the membership of committees
6. Request for debate under urgent procedure
7. Adoption of the agenda
8. Time limits on speeches
9. Approval of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee (7 March 2014)
10. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
Presentation by Ms Vučković of report, Document 13470 and addendum
Speakers: Mr Mahoux, Mr Preda, Mr Marias,Ms Khidasheli, Mr Kox, Mr Slutsky, Mr. Beneyto,
Mr Seyidov, Mr Huseynov, Mr Wadephul, Mr Pushkov, Mr Sobolev, Mr Chope, Sir Roger Gale
Progress report adopted
11. Next public sitting
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Alexey Ivanovich ALEKSANDROV
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Danielle AUROI/Jean-Pierre Michel
Egemen BAĞIŞ/Suat Önal
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Silvia Eloďsa Bonet Perot
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Ondřej BENEŠIK/ Gabriela Pecková
José María BENEYTO
Levan BERDZENISHVILI/Tinatin Khidasheli
Anna Maria BERNINI*
Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová
Eric BOCQUET/Maryvonne Blondin
Mladen BOSIĆ/Ismeta Dervoz
Anne BRASSEUR/Claude Adam
Alessandro BRATTI/Khalid Chaouki
Gerold BÜCHEL/Rainer Gopp
Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU/Viorel Riceard Badea
Henryk CIOCH/Grzegorz Czelej
Deirdre CLUNE/Olivia Mitchell
Carlos COSTA NEVES*
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Armand De DECKER*
Manlio DI STEFANO
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA
Peter van DIJK*
Ioannis DRAGASAKIS/Spyridon Taliadouros
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Mikuláš DZURINDA/József Nagy
Lady Diana ECCLES
Tülin ERKAL KARA
Franz Leonhard EßL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*
Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Pavel Lebeda
Axel E. FISCHER*
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO
Sir Roger GALE
Tamás GAUDI NAGY*
Nadezda GERASIMOVA/Olga Kazakova
Francesco Maria GIRO*
Alina Ştefania GORGHIU
Fred de GRAAF*
Patrick De GROOTE*
Arlette GROSSKOST/Frédéric Reiss
Mehmet Kasim GÜLPINAR*
Carina HÄGG/Lennart Axelsson
Alfred HEER/Maximilian Reimann
Adam HOFMAN/Zbigniew Girzyński
Anette HÜBINGER/Johann Wadephul
Ali HUSEYNLI/Sahiba Gafarova
Michael Aastrup JENSEN
Frank J. JENSSEN
Jadranka JOKSIMOVIĆ/Katarina Rakić
Čedomir JOVANOVIĆ/Svetislava Bulajić
Marietta KARAMANLI/Jacques Legendre
Ulrika KARLSSON/Kerstin Lundgren
Jan KAŹMIERCZAK/Tomasz Lenz
Bogdan KLICH/Marek Borowski
Serhiy KLYUEV/Volodymyr Pylypenko
Unnur Brá KONRÁĐSDÓTTIR*
Dmitry KRYVITSKY/Igor Chernyshenko
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT/Philippe Bies
Christophe LÉONARD/Pierre-Yves Le Borgn'
Lone LOKLINDT/Nikolaj Villumsen
François LONCLE/Bernadette Bourzai
Trine Pertou MACH*
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
Ivan MELNIKOV/Robert Shlegel
José MENDES BOTA
Djordje MILIĆEVIĆ/Stefana Miladinović
Philipp MIßFELDER/Thomas Feist
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES
Joăo Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Mirosława NYKIEL/Iwona Guzowska
Sandra OSBORNE/Geraint Davies
José Ignacio PALACIOS
Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS/Olga-Nantia Valavani
Eva PARERA/Jordi Xuclŕ
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN
Cezar Florin PREDA
François ROCHEBLOINE/André Schneider
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
Pavlo RYABIKIN/Iryna Gerashchenko
Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Urs SCHWALLER/Gerhard Pfister
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Algis Kašėta
Björn von SYDOW/Jonas Gunnarsson
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Snorre Serigstad VALEN
Vladimir VORONIN/Grigore Petrenco
Klaas de VRIES
Dame Angela WATKINSON*
Morten WOLD/Ingebjřrg Godskesen
Barbara ŽGAJNER TAVŠ*
Guennady ZIUGANOV/Vassiliy Likhachev
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised
Ernesto GÁNDARA CAMOU
Partners for democracy
Mohammed Mehdi BENSAID
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)