AS (2014) CR 11
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 7 April 2014 at 3.00 p.m.
The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – We are all on the eve of a remarkable event. In a month, the Council of Europe, one of the most important organisations in both Europe and the world, will celebrate its 65th birthday. All such anniversaries provide an opportunity to analyse the past as well as to think of the future.
On the eve of the creation of the Council of Europe, the world had already undergone two global wars and a more prolonged third Cold War was approaching. The fact that the Council of Europe unprecedently contributed to the end of that cold war and to the establishment of a more democratic world is to the major credit of this Organisation in the eyes of the continent and all humanity. The result is the flags waving in front of this European house in Strasbourg today.
On the eve of the formation of the Council of Europe, the state of independence for most of these countries was unattainable. Most of those countries that today comprise the Council of Europe family have been on opposite sides of the Cold War trench in recent history. Today we struggle together to shelter our continent and the world from any kind of warm or cold war, as well as from very warm and cold relationships.
Next month is also a very important occasion for the political and social life of my country, Azerbaijan. It is already 13 years since Azerbaijan became a member of the Council of Europe and in May we will accept the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of this respected Organisation. Actually, these 13 years of the 21st century represent a very short period, a fragment of history.
In 1918, Azerbaijan founded the first democratic republic in the Muslim East. Unfortunately, two years later we lost that independence due to external aggression. We regained our independence 23 years ago, and we are more aware of and appreciate this independence and sovereignity far more than countries with a longer history of independence. The Council of Europe has had an irreplaceable role in the advance of our country through hard times, dominating our democratic institutions and ensuring more extensive human rights and legal State building.
In turn, we assess the Council of Europe as one of the basic protectors of the sovereignty of young independent States. I think this belief also places the biggest responsibility on the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe has no right to shatter that belief and hope, so it should by all means express its position vis-à-vis any situation that threatens the independence of States. Azerbaijan, which will be chairing the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers next month, is not the country it was 13 years ago. It is already a State which has made considerable political, economic and cultural progress, thus gaining positive international experience and confidently advancing towards the future. The Council of Europe has played a significant role in this progress and we will always be thankful for that.
However, Azerbaijan has not only learned from the Council of Europe; it has also contributed to the enrichment of this Organisation. The Azerbaijani delegation has been very active in the Assembly from day one and has always demonstrated a certain sensitivity towards common European problems. The numerous documents and significant reports prepared by Azerbaijani MPs and the useful ideas proposed by them within that timeframe are obvious proof of that.
I consider it historical justice that such a remarkable date as the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Council of Europe should coincide with the Baku meeting of the Bureau and Standing Committee as well as with the start of the Azerbaijani chairmanship of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. This demonstrates the positive outcome of the implemented activities and also indicates the success of both the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan; it bears witness to effective co-operation, mutual trust and confidence. If such a model is used as a blueprint for future Council of Europe activities, the Organisation will enjoy a far greater influence in world affairs than is currently the case.
Mr WOLD (Norway) –In less than six weeks we will, in Norway, celebrate the bicentenary of our constitution. When adopted, on May 17, 1814, it was the most modern of its time. This important document is still valid and guarantees the people of our kingdom their civil rights.
Leading up to the bicentenary we have worked on renewing and modernising our constitution. Even if Norwegians do not relate to our constitution as actively as the Americans, it serves as the very foundation of our society. Constitutions regulate individual rights and duties; they guarantee important principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Constitutions are important. This must be kept in mind at this point in time when we see some States challenge freedom of speech and use force against their own people. Such actions are not worthy of the 21st century.
The Norwegian constitution is the foundation on which the rule of the people in Norway was developed. It has outlived most of its contemporaries, and as the oldest constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world, ours is a uniting symbol of freedom, independence and democracy. The constitution is vibrant, current and has been a defining factor for the Norwegian identity and the development of our country as a liberal democracy. If the constitution is to maintain this role it needs to be renewed for each new generation of Norwegians. Those growing up in Norway today must make it their own. I truly hope that the Norwegian constitution and our liberal democracy can serve as a model for other Council of Europe member States, as well as States beyond our pan-European Organisation.
Even if everyday life in Norway might seem carefree, we must never be careless when it comes to the fundamental human rights upon which our country has been founded. We see that States such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine are struggling through necessary constitutional reform. Every day we must fight for constitutions continuing to regulate citizens’ rights and duties in modern civilized societies. This is a continuous fight, especially when we see human rights being challenged or violated.
The Norwegian constitution clearly states the separation of powers. It was through hard work that the men gathered at Eidsvoll in 1814 and agreed on the principles on which the rule of law in Norway is based today. It took 70 years after adopting the constitution for parliamentarianism to be introduced in Norway. Norway was not even independent when the constitution was established. Norway was in a union with Denmark, and then later with Sweden; we only gained independence in 1905. In that sense the circumstances prevailing during the writing and adopting of the Norwegian constitution were unique.
It is important for me to underline that we, as members of this Assembly, must defend freedom and democracy and the obvious right to freedom of speech. We cannot sit back and take fundamental rights for granted, or not get involved when they are threatened. In so doing, we would be paving the way to instability and insecurity, which none of us would want.
Mr KAIKKONEN (Finland) – It has been stated over and over again that sport and politics should not be mixed together. However, this view does not represent the reality of the situation: sport and politics simply cannot be separated. Although athletes may not see themselves as opinion leaders and people of influence, that does not mean that they are not being used as such by others. We have witnessed it many times before, and this spring it is clearer than ever, with Belarus being granted the right to host the ice hockey world championship tournament in Minsk.
Since 2009, when the decision about the location was made, the international community has been too optimistic in thinking that the human rights situation in Belarus would improve and that the country would open up more for international observation and review. However, the dictator-like President Alexander Lukashenko has done nothing to increase democracy or to improve the lives of the Belarussian people. On the contrary, it has been reported that the human rights situation has worsened over the past couple of years.
Belarus is generally being characterised as the last dictatorship in Europe. Its elections are not democratic, the media and judiciary system are being strictly controlled by Lukashenko, and the voices of opposition are often suppressed. In fact, at this very moment there are 10 political prisoners being held captive in Belarussian prisons, and according to reports, many more have been captured and even killed.
Due to the human rights violations, a lot of criticism from the international community has been directed towards the tournament in Minsk. Many politicians in different countries, as well as the European Parliament, have stated that the tournament should be either transferred to another location or cancelled. Concerns were raised once again in December 2013 when Lukashenko announced, contrary to what had previously been stated, that during the tournament foreign reporters could not cover any topics other than the matches without a separate visa. Even though this decision was later withdrawn, it is yet another example of President Lukashenko attempting to use the tournament to achieve personal gain and to enhance the public image of the country.
The international community cannot be foolish enough to believe that sport could be completely separated from the surrounding world. Nowadays everything is connected, and every decision we make sends a message to others. It is time to make it clear that the Council of Europe member States do not only preach, but also practise what they preach. Therefore each member State, and especially the ones planning on participating in the tournament, should strongly demand that President Lukashenko set all political prisoners free as a gesture of goodwill. If he will not commit himself to doing so before the tournament, then the tournament at Minsk should be cancelled and moved to another location to be held in autumn 2014.
Mr DISLI (Turkey) – Recent developments in Ukraine had the United States and the European Union focusing all their attention on Ukraine and we all closed our eyes and ears to what is happening in Syria.
I would like to draw your attention to the humanitarian situation and the aid provided by Turkey to the Syrians. Turkey strictly complies with the principle of non-refoulement at the border and, in accordance with international procedures, offers "temporary protection" without any discrimination, which has been appreciated by the international community.
I am deeply dismayed by the Armenian parliamentarians’ statement which distorts the facts. Therefore, I would like to inform the Assembly that, contrary to allegations, Turkey is not providing support to the opposition forces by letting them use its territory or by any other means during the conflict which has intensified recently in the Latakia/Kesab region. These unfounded allegations try to draw an analogy between the developments in the Kesab region and the painful incidents of the past in an attempt to spread confrontational political propaganda.
I would like to bring to your kind attention the fact that, in accordance with its humanitarian and conscientious responsibility, United Nations bodies were informed that Syrian Armenians residing in the Kesab region could be permitted entry to Turkey. Furthermore, the representatives of the Armenian community were informed of the matter through official channels. Therefore, necessary steps are being taken to meet the needs of Syrian Armenians, as is the case for all other Syrians. Following such consultations, 18 Armenian families were accepted in Turkey. I reiterate that Turkey provides assistance to every Syrian regardless of their gender, ethnicity and religion.
Mr TILSON (Observer from Canada) –My comments today focus on Canada’s objections to the European Union’s regulation prohibiting the trade in seal products, which was introduced in response to public moral concerns regarding the welfare of seals.
Canada objects to the European Union's ethical concerns regarding the seal hunt, because they rest on misinformation about the nature of the seal hunt in Canada – specifically the false assumption that the seal hunt is inhumane. I am sure you have all seen posters or pamphlets decrying the Canadian seal hunt which picture baby white-coat seals. Let me be clear: white-coat seals are not hunted in Canada; the practice has been banned since 1987. It is this kind of misinformation that forms the basis of the European Union ban.
In Canada, sealers must follow a strictly enforced three-step process, which ensures that animals are killed quickly and humanely. This process is considered more humane than most other methods around the globe of slaughtering animals. Let me point out that there are a number of European Union member states which also carry out hunts, culls, and nuisance killings of their own seal populations, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom, as well as others. None of these States has standards as stringent as those in Canada.
Furthermore, although the European Union’s ban on seal products contains an exemption for seal products from traditional hunts conducted by Inuit, the Inuit themselves have stated that this exemption is ineffective, as the mere existence of the ban reduces the demand for all seal products. Indeed, once the implementation of the European Union ban began, revenues from the sale of seal pelts in Nunavut dropped by 75%.
Finally, we also believe that the European Union measure makes a discriminatory distinction between the Inuit seal hunt conducted for subsistence purposes and the commercial seal hunt conducted by our rural coastal communities in eastern Canada.
For these reasons, Canada and Norway have challenged the ban at the World Trade Organization. In November 2013, a World Trade Organization panel agreed with Canada and Norway that the exceptions in the European Union's seal product ban are discriminatory against non-European Union seal products. However, the panel supported the European Union’s view that the ban itself could be justified on public moral concerns.
As Canada moves together with Norway to appeal against this decision, I ask that this Assembly remain cognisant of the very dire impact that this measure continues to have on northern and coastal communities in Canada.