AS (2014) CR 25
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Thursday 26 June at 10 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 10.05 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. Current affairs debate: political and humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Ukraine
The PRESIDENT* – As we agreed yesterday evening, owing to the large number of people on the speakers list for the debate this morning and to allow a maximum number of them to speak, the speaking time will be limited to three minutes.
The first speaker in the current affairs debate, Mr Jordi Xuclà, has been chosen by the Bureau to open the debate. He will be allotted 10 minutes. After him, Mr Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, will speak. We will then hear those speaking on behalf of the political groups, followed by the Secretary General, Mr Jagland.
The debate will end at 12 noon, because we will then welcome Mr Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, who will address the Chamber. Without further ado, I call Mr Xuclà.
Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – First and foremost, I thank the Bureau of the Assembly, which asked me to open the debate. It has been useful for me to be able to rely on the knowledge of the committee of experts appointed by the Secretary General, as well as the information provided by the Secretariat.
We are dealing with Ukraine for the third time in a row, in our third plenary part-session of the year. Events are moving forward quickly in Ukraine and things are changing all the time. In January, at our first debate and given what was happening at the time, we adopted a resolution that mentioned the potential for sanctions, vis-à-vis our colleagues from Ukraine. Other events followed, however, notably those of 21 and 22 February, which are extremely relevant and need to be borne in mind, so that we understand them and therefore understand what has happened overall.
In the April part-session, our angle was rather different. The Assembly debated and adopted a number of decisions concerning the Russian delegation, and that was all to do with a violation of international law, the annexation of Crimea by Russia. It is important to remember that still: the annexation should not be a fait accompli or acknowledged as such – it was a violation of international law, so we must make it absolutely clear that it was unlawful.
We are now having a debate for the third time, in the third part-session. Once again, we are talking about Ukraine. Furthermore, from 12 noon, we will listen to the newly elected President of Ukraine, following the election of 25 May. In every single one of the Ukraine debates, we have talked about democracy and the unity of the country.
What are the latest events? What news do we need to bear in mind today? First, it is important to take note of the election of President Poroshenko. He was elected with a broad majority. The delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly presented a report, which was adopted as part of the progress report on Monday. I was honoured to be able to present that report. The head of the delegation, Mr Andreas Gross, said clearly that the elections were democratic and free. They were not marked by obstacles, which is why even in the oblasts and regions of Donetsk and Luhansk it was possible to hold a poll. That gives great legitimacy to the new president. His role will be to tackle the necessary reforms, and to have a dialogue with the various stakeholders and actors in the east. We are talking not just about a dialogue with one set of co-ordinated stakeholders in the east of Ukraine – those who are talking about secession – but about a dialogue with all.
This is also the right moment for us to look at constitutional reforms – the time has come. Colleagues may be aware of the fact that, in the past, various constitutional reforms have failed in Ukraine. Reforms have meant alternation in power, and not just in the context of democratic standards such as changes in majorities and minorities. Who is in power and who is in opposition has also meant a change in the perception of the country’s national identity. Obviously, the constitution needs to be the outcome of consensus. We need a dialogue and agreement between majorities and minorities. We cannot have toing and froing and a substitution of one by the other time and again. Indeed, we cannot have changes to the national identity depending on who is in power. In April, we talked about solutions and the fact that there was a window of opportunity for constitutional reforms. We should be concerned about the way in which constitutional reforms are panning out in practice. We must ensure that the window of opportunity we mentioned in April does not close.
In his statement, President Poroshenko will talk about his plan for peace. I understand that his plan comprises a number of measures to stabilise the eastern part of the country, but also measures to launch the legal reforms that are necessary in the short term. There is a host of measures, including constitutional reform. The important role of the president in leading the country needs to be maintained, but in addition, we need to increase the political weight, and the checks and balances, that the country’s parliament exercises. Another sine qua non in the reforms in Ukraine is ensuring, by constitutional and legislative means, that the judiciary has the right power and autonomy. There must not be political interference in the activities of the judiciary. We know that that has been a problem in the past.
At this point in time and in such circumstances, the reform of the electoral system in Ukraine is very important. There is no consensus yet and we need to learn from the mistakes of the past. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission have previously made suggestions for electoral systems in Ukraine. We thought that a mixed system a bit like the German one would be appropriate for a country that is rebuilding its democracy and that needs to reach maturity. That is not yet the case, which I suppose explains some recent events.
My final point is an important one on the plan for peace. We need to consider the decentralisation of Ukraine and the involvement of local areas and regions. Lots of Council of Europe documents make recommendations on those levels. Powers can be exercised both locally and regionally in order to guarantee a better form of governance. The decentralisation of the country would be a democratic step in the right direction and allow us to resolve conflicts.
After the presidential elections, there will be new elections to the parliament. That is included in Poroshenko’s peace plan. There will be elections to a new parliament probably towards the end of this year. I agree that there should be parliamentary elections, but I would also argue that they can be held only if Ukraine is in a position to guarantee that the whole country can turn out to vote. We need to be able to guarantee that – it might be provocative of me to say so, but it is important. We need to ensure that the new parliament represents all the different parts of the country. Otherwise, we will end up with a parliament that is not a solution, but a part of the problem. For instance, it will be a problem if there is no representation from the eastern part of the country. What about the lack of representation in Crimea? I would like us to discuss that.
Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated quite a lot in terms of the armed conflict. A couple of months ago, we spoke of the use of Kalashnikovs and missiles. We also talked about internally displaced persons. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published a document on 23 June – it is very recent – that said that the conflict had displaced 46 000 people. However, the whole world recognises that a lot more are displaced. Great numbers of people have sought shelter with family and friends and do not want to be registered as IDPs or refugees officially. In addition, we understand that 11 500 people from Crimea, most of them Tatars, have decided to move outside the peninsula. I will be interested to hear from their representative. Senators from Crimea cannot return to their part of the country. We have heard of attacks, abuses and detentions. We have problems in treating illnesses. The situation is grave. We have had cases of assassinations and murders. Our friend the Commissioner for Human Rights will no doubt say a few words about that later in the debate.
Finally, I would like to mention the situation at the Ukraine-Russia border. Official data from Russia say that 5 000 people have been displaced from Ukraine to Russia, but other official data say that 140 000 have been displaced. It is said that they are 100% pro-Russia. Some are, but some have completely lost confidence in the government. We need to debate that. We need to rebuild confidence, trust and unity in Ukraine. That must be based on international law and respect thereof, but we must also ensure that the eastern regions can enjoy trust once again. That is a role for the new president, and he has taken positive steps in the right direction. We need to look closely at the President Poroshenko’s peace plan, many elements of which will interest our Assembly. I look forward to the debate, and hope it is fruitful and interesting.
The PRESIDENT* – I call the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who was in Ukraine last week. He can therefore give us an update on the situation there. I thank him for coming to the Assembly to give us that information.
Mr MUIŽNIEKS (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights) – It is a great pleasure to be with you in the Assembly again to discuss such an important and topical issue. As the President has said, I was in Ukraine last week – in Kiev and Odessa – and met a number of representatives of the authorities, and a number of displaced persons from Crimea and eastern Ukraine. As Mr Xuclà noted, the number of IDPs is large and increasing daily. It is impossible to know the precise number as there is currently no centralised registration system, and many IDPs do not register with the local authorities.
I met with Crimean Tatar leader, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, who is in Strasbourg this week but is banned from returning to his country. I met other Crimean Tatars who fled Crimea around the time of the so-called referendum because they were threatened due to their pro-Ukrainian stance. I met journalists and human rights defenders from Crimea who can no longer work there because of threats and intimidation, and because of their unwillingness to adapt to restrictive Russian media and NGO legislation.
Everybody I met expects the outflow from Crimea to increase in the coming months. Many parents wanted their children to finish the school year, after which they plan to take their families and leave. Many others are trying to sell or otherwise dispose of their property, which is a very complex process. One of the biggest problems most Crimean IDPs face is that they cannot access their bank accounts. The accounts have been frozen and they do not have access to their savings. They do not want to leave destitute so they are trying to arrange a solution.
Most IDPs in Ukraine are fleeing the conflict and the breakdown of law and order in the east. Many are traumatised and need psychological support. I met a pregnant woman from Sloviansk who had made her way through a battlefield holding a white flag. I met a mother with two children who had left everything, including her mother, behind in Sloviansk, where there is no running water or electricity. The number of IDPs is large and growing. The deputy governor of Odessa told me last week that 50 to 60 people are arriving spontaneously in the train station every day, which is an indication of that.
It is essential to address the root causes that are making people flee Crimea and the east, otherwise the humanitarian situation will continue to worsen and the influx is likely to increase. To that end, full support should be given to all those involved in efforts to find a peaceful solution. I look forward very much to hearing the president’s intentions in that regard. The needs of the vulnerable who have been displaced should be addressed urgently. They need to be addressed now and in a co-ordinated manner. They cannot wait for political solutions.
So far, the Ukrainian public have been incredibly generous. Many have opened their homes and I met many volunteers who are providing legal aid, food, clothing and medicine for IDPs. At the central government level, an inter-ministerial co-ordinating group has begun work to meet the challenge of forging a response in co-operation with regional and local authorities. However, there is still no centralised register of IDPs. The government does not know the exact number of IDPs or their health, education and employment needs. For the time being, many IDPs are living in temporary shelter. I met some who are living in the servants’ quarters in Mezhyhirya, the estate of former President Yanukovych. I think 72 people were living in the servants’ quarters, which was a surreal sight. Others are living in various sanatoriums or summer holiday facilities. That is great as a short-term solution, but in October the heating season begins and this will no longer be a durable solution, as many of these facilities do not have central heating.
IDPs reported difficulties in accessing a number of social rights, as many benefits and services are linked to residency registration – the propiska system – or a work booklet that many people have had to leave behind. I welcome the commitment of the Ukrainian authorities to adopt rapidly new legislation on IDPs. A law adopted on 19 June, which has not yet been signed by the president, does not incorporate international standards for the protection of IDPs. For example, it does not protect people against discrimination on the grounds of their displacement. There are concerns about the lack of guarantees to protect property rights, and the lack of simplified procedures for residence registration, access to social services and so on.
I believe the international community should provide all manner of support to the Ukrainian authorities in their efforts to address the needs of IDPs. I urge the authorities to work closely with UNHCR, which has a lot of expertise. The wheel does not need to be reinvented – UNHCR has been in similar situations in many different areas of the world. A needs assessment needs to be conducted and a medium-term plan for helping IDPs needs to be developed and presented to the international community, and then I think assistance will be forthcoming.
As to external displacement, UNHCR has noted that some 12 900 people from Ukraine arrived in Rostov-on-Don in the Russian Federation. Approximately 5 300 people requested asylum in the Russian Federation as of mid-June. Some 700 such requests have been in other countries in Europe.
I will continue to follow up with the authorities and the international community on the situation of displaced persons. It is very important that the human rights and humanitarian situation of IDPs should not be forgotten in the broader political discussion.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much Commissioner. We shall now begin the debate. I call Mr Gross on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – I thank the Commissioner for that information. He is totally right that we should not forget the refugees and the IDPs. One can be very much impressed by the capacity of those in civil society to take care of their compatriots, but he is right that they need our support. We need to remember everybody, especially children and their educational needs. I appeal to member countries to help and to support the UNHCR in its work, and to support the Ukrainian Government in increasing the capacity of those in civil society to help their compatriots.
We need to think about root causes and why people have had to flee their homes. This has to stop. I would like to make the appeal I made at the press conference after the elections, which is addressed to the authorities, the government and the president: do not think about a military solution in the east. Think about Gandhi, who always said that you cannot win when the other person is stronger; you can only win when you find a more intelligent way. The more intelligent way is to meet the people in the east – those who were afraid, during and after the revolution, that they would be forgotten, and who live in a region of the country that contains 10% of the population but accounts for 20% of the economy – and show them that they will be taken care of. They should be shown the serious will to decentralise the country. Jordi Xuclà also focused on that point.
We can call it decentralisation, regionalisation – whatever you want – but Ukraine is a diverse country with many different identities. To keep the country together, all people have to be respected. You cannot go west and forget the east, and you cannot go east and forget the west. These are the lessons of the last months. It is not enough to say, “You can make your own religious holidays and monuments.” There needs to be self-government and autonomy, like Spain has in some regions and like the federal systems that exist in other countries. You do not need to call it federal, but you have to do it. The election system has to correspond to the principle of regional government. The government, the president and parliament have to accept a decentralised structure. Everybody has to feel at home, even though everybody is different. Unity through diversity is the perspective the president has to take in order to prevent and overcome this military violation.
The PRESIDENT – I now call Mr Dzhemiliev to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr DZHEMILIEV (Ukraine)* – I speak not just as a deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament and a member of the Ukrainian delegation, but as a representative of the people of Crimea, which was occupied in March this year by Russian troops on the pretext of needing to protect the Russian-speaking population of Crimea. This part of sovereign Ukraine was made a part of Russia.
Since the second half of April – two months ago – the occupation forces have refused to allow me to visit the place I come from or to see my family. I am kept informed about what is happening in Crimea. The Crimean Tatar nation has its own representation, which continues to function. Of course, there is so much I could mention that is dramatic about the situation for the people living under occupation, but I will mention just a few things.
All the people of Crimea were automatically made citizens of the Russian Federation unless they wrote an application before 18 April not to become Russian. If they had done that, however they would have automatically become foreigners, which would have lost them the right to work, to own land and so on; they would be strangers in their own country. Almost all freedoms that the people of Crimea enjoyed as Ukrainians are lost. Meetings and demonstrations are allowed only if in tune with the goals and wishes of the occupying forces. All the bodies of the so-called Crimean Parliament are just window dressing; in fact, Crimea is being run by the Russian President and anyone in the civil service who goes against Russian orders is repressed.
The so-called stabilisation process is also aimed at breaking up Ukraine. Anyone who expresses their displeasure at being occupied is repressed. The latest three, Leonid Korzh, Timur Shaymardanov and Seyran Zinedinov, have disappeared over the past 10 days. Some say that they have been killed, while others say that they are merely being tortured, but the FSB building in Simferopol is certainly where they disappeared. Their relatives are told, “We know nothing.” Despite the Tatar Mejlis’s requests, the number of refugees continues to increase. International organisations such as the Council of Europe that are taking up this cause could help lessen such lawlessness in Ukraine.
The threat, however, is still there, and it is necessary to lessen that threat and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The suffering of Ukraine should be put before an international tribunal that could decide what compensation is appropriate.
The PRESIDENT – I call Mr Denemeç, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr DENEMEÇ (Turkey) – The continuing crisis in Ukraine undermines the stability of the entire Black Sea basin and the region beyond. Turkey maintains its principled position of supporting a political solution to the ongoing crisis based on international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Despite the difficulties in eastern Ukraine, the successful presidential elections, conducted in a free and fair manner and with a relatively high turnout, leave no questions about the legitimacy of the new leadership. We support them in their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. We are encouraged by Putin’s initial positive reaction to Poroshenko’s peace plan. The unilateral cease-fire, which has been put into effect within the plan’s framework, offers an important opportunity for the groups acting illegally to lay down their arms and participate in the anticipated political process for elections and constitutional reform.
We actively support the recent establishment of direct dialogue between the Ukrainian and Russian leaderships, which will be key to finding a solution to the crisis. The OSCE’s special monitoring mission is the only mechanism by which to establish the facts on the ground in Ukraine. We therefore strongly support the OSCE in its efforts to reduce tension and foster peace as we assume the presidency of the mission. We expect all relevant parties to support its work. The security of the OSCE observers is crucial in that respect.
The security and well-being of Crimean Tatar Turks is a high priority for Turkey. Our policy of non-recognition of Crimea’s illegal annexation will continue. A significant proportion of Turkey’s population has Crimean Tatar roots, so our public follow the situation in Crimea with great concern.
The Crimean Tatar Turks, who suffered from massive persecution in 1944, face numerous problems, from nationality to property rights and religious and cultural rights. Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirımoğlu, the leader of Crimean Tatar Turks, was denied access to his Crimean homeland. We should all keep Crimea high up on our agendas.
The PRESIDENT – I call Ms Fiala, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – On behalf of ALDE, I emphasise that we have not turned the page on the violations of sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea by Russia. That is especially because the news reaching us from Crimea is completely unacceptable. Patients with cancer and HIV cannot get their medicines, there is a lack of transparency about the land registry and property transactions, and tourism has collapsed. Russia had reckoned on investing about €1 billion a year in Crimea. It now realises that it will need to spend more than €4 billion, yet the fund for the crisis amounts only to €450 million.
The latest news from Ukraine is dire. NGOs report that more than a hundred thousand so-called internally displaced persons have had to leave their homes owing to the occupation of Crimea and the military operations in eastern Ukraine. These people have no status and no protection, given the current situation. Their security is in jeopardy, so it is vital that international organisations set up a humanitarian corridor. The disasters in Ukraine mean that many people have died or have been driven out and made homeless. There are parlous epidemiological conditions in conflict areas, but no health care.
On behalf of ALDE, I call upon our member states to campaign for humanitarian and medical assistance for Crimea and Ukraine. For months, the people of Ukraine have been waiting for the crimes on the Maidan to be condemned and those responsible to be brought to justice under the new regime. The efforts of the OSCE to de-escalate the situation and settle the conflict are important. We should endorse the Ukrainian President’s efforts to calm matters down through his peace plan.
As Andreas Gross said, measures such as constitutional reform to strengthen human rights, electoral law and civil society as well as sustainable energy schemes and localised governance will all be difficult to organise in a Ukraine beset by violence. We have seen on our televisions pictures of tanks coming into Ukraine, so we need to take a clear, categorical stance against Russia. Without further sanctions against Russia, it will probably not be possible to bring this tragedy to a conclusion.
The PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Hunko, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – I am grateful that we are having this debate today in which we are looking in particular at the humanitarian consequences of the current crisis. I thank the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, for having addressed the issue of refugees so clearly. I have sought to get a clear picture of their situation, but it is not easy to get reliable figures because of the propaganda war. On the Russian side, the situation is perhaps exaggerated, and on the Ukrainian side it would tend to be downplayed. So I thank Mr Muižnieks for making it clear that the majority of displaced persons at the moment come from the eastern Ukraine. In Rostov alone, there are 12 900 refugees in a tented encampment on United Nations’ figures. The UN has visited the camp and it appears that the provisions made for the people there are acceptable.
From the beginning of the conflict, we are told that 400 000 people from Ukraine have sought long-term refuge in Russia, and many people are internally displaced within Ukraine. Others are externally displaced to Belarus or other neighbouring countries to the south. Many questions have been asked about the cause of the problem. Obviously, the immediate cause is the military clashes that took place. One day after the so-called anti-terror operation was announced in Donetsk, I visited the area with a delegation from the Bundestag, and at the time everything was peaceful, but the situation has certainly changed for the worse. I am very sad about that development.
There are now three possible scenarios for Ukraine. First, there could be a thorough-going military success, which would probably drive up the number of refugees and increase the number of fatalities. We should not forget that there have been hundreds of deaths in the east of Ukraine on both sides – the separatists and the Ukrainian military. Secondly, it could become a frozen conflict that remains unresolved. The third scenario, which I plead for, is to hold negotiations. People might find that politically difficult, but we should encourage the Ukrainian Government to take the path of negotiations to avoid further escalation.
The PRESIDENT* – I invite the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to address the Assembly.
Mr JAGLAND (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) – I have listened to all the speeches this morning, and all the important points have been made. We have to keep in mind that Ukraine is a sovereign state. We said this when we condemned the occupation of Crimea, and we reiterated it when we spoke about external interference in eastern Ukraine, but we must also keep it in mind when we talk about assisting Ukraine with all the important processes necessary to reconcile the country. We are not there to impose anything on Ukraine, because it is an independent state.
All the necessary changes – new legislation and a new constitution – have to be made by the Ukrainians themselves in Ukraine’s state bodies and in its parliament. That is incredibly important. We do not want anything to come from outside, but we can assist them in going through all these important processes with our means and our standards. That is what we have been doing, and that is why we have such a prominent position in the work in Ukraine. For instance, I had an agreement with then acting President Turchynov to put in place my own special representative in the Verkhovna Rada to work with the parliament on new legislation so that the new laws are in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights. Amendments to the constitution will be handed over to the Venice Commission, hopefully in the very near future, so that it can go through them. After that, the Parliament will adopt the new constitution.
We will also work with Ukraine on the new electoral law, and what Andreas Gross said about that was very important, so that Ukraine gets a representative parliament based on the situation there. At the moment, of course, it is very divided, but the way to unite a divided country is to get a parliament that is representative and a constitution that everybody can embrace. We will of course continue to observe and monitor the situation for the minorities in the country under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The advisory panel from the convention has been present in Ukraine and will continue that presence.
It is important that there are proper investigations into what happened in the Maidan during the protests before the revolution happened, and also into what happened in Odessa later. That can be a way of reconciling the country, and it is why we have already taken the initiative, at the beginning of December last year, to set up the International Advisory Panel, led by the Council of Europe and chaired by the former President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza. The panel has started its work, and the international community has requested that it look into what happened in Odessa. When I spoke with President Poroshenko the day after the election, the first thing he said was that he was in favour of letting the panel look into events in Odessa. I think that he will repeat that message here today.
We have deployed all the instruments we have in our hands in a way that is acceptable to the Ukrainians. We do not want to impose anything on them, only to assist them to reconcile the country. That is the most important thing that we can do to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and to help the country to overcome the many humanitarian problems. We will continue that work. Many others have offered help, but often they want to impose themselves instead. The Dayton constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina was necessary at the time, but it was made in Dayton, not in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is extremely important that we do not repeat that mistake, because a constitution has to come from the people and their representatives in parliament, and we must keep that in mind.
The PRESIDENT* – We will now resume the list of speakers. The next speaker is Mr Pylypenko.
Mr PYLYPENKO (Ukraine) – Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have left hundreds of people dead and thousands wounded, all the horrible consequences of the military aggression of the Russian Federation. Every day, people die. Ukrainian refugees have been forced to move to safer regions of Ukraine. All this will have disastrous political, economic and humanitarian consequences for my country. That is happening now, but we expect the effects to deepen.
The humanitarian problems in Donetsk and Luhansk were caused by the actions of pro-Russian illegal groups that took control in those cities and regions. The illegal activity of pro-Russian fighters includes the torture, seizure, kidnapping and illegal detention of citizens, including journalists and OSCE observers. In addition, the terrorists deliberately act against civilians, restricting their freedom of movement and entering dwellings.
Even in the face of such problems, the Ukrainian people demonstrate in their words and deeds a readiness to work peacefully. The President of Ukraine has proposed a plan with a view to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Along with a cease-fire, it provides for the free use of the Russian language in those regions, off-year elections, and an amnesty for the protesters, except those who are responsible for the deaths of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
The Ukrainian President is initiating constitutional reform, decentralisation and economic reforms. The draft amendments to the constitution will be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada today. They will lay down systemic reforms of the Ukrainian state legal system in three important ways: decentralisation of power; the division of powers between the president, parliament and the government; and the reform of the judiciary. The European experience tells us that many powers should be delegated from the centre to local governments. Thus, the increased power of the regional authorities is also part of the president’s plan for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Ukraine calls on the European community to support our determined efforts to restore peace. Ukraine also asks Europe to support the president in his efforts to secure a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. I thank all the member states of the Council of Europe for supporting my state. We seek peace in our land. Ukrainians aspire to be a truly European nation. For us, the rule of law is stronger than weapons. I hope that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will continue to support Ukraine in its effort to maintain its territory, culture and nation in the face of an external threat.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Just yesterday, Madam President, you made a brilliant statement as we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The 20th century passed with ethnic tensions and divisions, racism, and two world wars. For the 50 years after 1945, remembering the experience of survivors of the Holocaust, such as my mother, our nations tried to establish peaceful borders and order. We tried not to return to the sad past of ethnic hatred.
During its presidency of the Council of the European Union, my country chose to take a clear line and invited neighbouring eastern European countries – Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine – to go the peaceful way of integration with European Union nations. We must remember the tension between the directions of two parts of the European Union: until last year, the southern and eastern neighbourhoods were not in balance. We are strongly in favour of the direction of the southern part of the European Union, but the eastern part was forgotten. Ten countries – former captive nations under the communist system – tried to integrate and open their doors, and Russia was not an enemy in that process.
Like the European Union, over the past five years Russia has tried to open its doors to trade and its borders with visa waiver programmes. It was therefore a huge challenge when last August Russia started to oppose Ukraine’s peaceful integration into the European Union, which was never Russia’s enemy. That was a huge surprise for all European Union nations. We now see old-fashioned 19th-century politics in its attitude to Ukraine, and we cannot agree with that. We cannot agree that Mr Dzhemiliev’s son is in jail in Crimea for one reason: he is the son of Mr Dzhemiliev. We must ask the Russian authorities to use their influence in Crimea to secure the release of the Dzhemiliev family.
We should be absolutely clear that we will not allow the sad memories of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Europe. The last elections in Ukraine show no radical trends – only 2% of the vote was secured by radicals, which is much less than in Western European countries. We congratulate and support our Ukrainian friends on how they are building democracy, and we will help them to continue.
Mr POPESCU (Ukraine)* – I thank all those who have spoken before me for their very objective statements and their support. Unfortunately, the conflict in Ukraine has been growing over the past six months. In previous sessions, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy was talking about how to avoid violence, about the possibility of changing various laws and about people who had lost their lives in Kiev. However, we now see that the conflict is international. Crimea has been forced into the Russian Federation and some 13 000 people have been forced to flee their homes and ended up in other parts of Ukraine.
The situation in the south-east is also lamentable. What about the people who were killed in Odessa? The separatist movement and the illegal militarised formations in Donetsk and in the east have led to local military engagements and escalating fighting. In the Donbass area, there have been guerrilla fighters and even heavy artillery. Hundreds of people have lost their lives. Tens of thousands of people in those parts of the country have been forced to leave their homes and are now in different parts of Ukraine. Those people face many problems in trying to register and re-establish their lost documents in order to access social welfare systems and their bank accounts, to continue their education, and to find housing, clothes and food.
For those who have remained where the fighting is, there are even greater problems. They do not have enough water or food, and they have no electricity. They hide from the bombing in their basements. The environmental catastrophe is a real threat to life. The Ukrainian authorities are trying to respond to all the calls for help and to adopt the necessary laws. The executive is offering help, but it will never be enough, given the rising numbers of those in need.
The most important thing is to stop the fighting, de-escalate the situation and find a peaceful settlement to the conflict. We must provide for and safeguard the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but the greatest threat to all citizens of all ethnic origins is the threat to President Poroshenko and his plan for a peaceful settlement. We welcome the fact that the Parliamentary Assembly has invited him to speak to us today. Remember what Drakulić said: a conflict turns into war when instead of the names of the people who have been killed they start using just numbers. Unfortunately, in Ukraine it is now a matter of numbers. We must ensure that it does not turn into a full-scale war and support the implementation of the Poroshenko peace plan.
Mr NÉMETH (Hungary) – We can all see that an urgent debate on this subject is extremely legitimate. The Secretary General’s speech on the Ukrainian situation was accurate and promising. No Parliamentary Assembly should take place in the near future without Ukraine being on the agenda. I congratulate Ukraine on the successful elections, which created strong legitimacy for the new president. We look forward to his speech.
I would like to clarify that the Hungarian position is that of the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian Parliament – no one else. We are deeply committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as we have been for the past 23 years as a neighbour and a friend to the Ukrainian people. Ukraine is a key part of transatlantic security, and we have to make it clear that it has the right to national existence, over and above anyone’s geopolitical considerations. For that reason, Hungary deplores the Russian aggression against Ukraine and salutes the Ukrainian Government’s reserved attitude in the past half a year. We express condolence to the victims and solidarity with the occupied populations, the internally displaced people and, especially, the Crimean Tatars.
Hungary welcomes the Poroshenko peace plan. At the beginning of this week, the European Union Foreign Affairs Council decided on a new EU police training mission, in which Hungary will participate. The Council of Europe has to find a role in the Poroshenko peace plan and the stabilisation process. As I said, the Secretary General’s proposals in that regard are welcome. We are a key organisation in constitutional reform, and as Mr Gross said, decentralisation is the key word. However, we also need to assist Ukraine in a broad variety of activities, including language reform, educational reform and electoral reform.
Finally, I underline the fact that our friendship with Ukraine is closely related to the 150 000 Hungarians in south-west Ukraine. In that regard, we welcome the Poroshenko-Brenzovics agreement and look forward to its implementation.
Mr KIVALOV (Ukraine)* – We very much support President Poroshenko’s peace initiative for the settlement of the conflict that is now happening in Ukraine. It is no secret to anyone that there have been serious humanitarian problems in Ukraine. Many speakers this morning have mentioned the dire problems now being experienced there, which need to be resolved. I do not think I need to dwell on the nature of the situation in the south-east.
Unfortunately, there is also the situation in Odessa, which the Secretary General mentioned. Odessa is my town – I was elected to parliament for the Primorsky district on several occasions. What happened there in May was a terrible tragedy. People were shot, burned and even poisoned with chemicals – 49 Ukrainians shared that fate, including seven women. It was an inhuman action, but it has not been investigated in any way. Who organised it? Who carried it out? Who instigated it? Did it just happen by chance, or was it deliberate? Was there forethought? It is not clear yet, and we need to sort that out and get to grips with it. I ask members of the Assembly to condemn publicly what happened on 2 May in Odessa and the acts of violence against Ukrainian citizens that followed.
I also ask members to call upon Ukraine to recognise the jurisdiction of the ad hoc International Criminal Court tribunal and ask for it to investigate the Odessa tragedy and other crimes against human beings in Ukraine. Ukrainian society can only really be happy with a judgment from The Hague. We also need to stop the media fomenting discord and racist clashes in Ukraine. We need to stop the information war against the citizens of Ukraine, which spreads intolerance and persecution and has led to civil war. All Ukrainian citizens will be grateful to the Council of Europe if, with the help of the International Criminal Court, we can investigate the Odessa tragedy and punish those who are guilty of it.
Ms BECK (Germany) – Mr Zingeris reminded us of yesterday’s debate and the need to be aware that there are radical tendencies in Europe again. When we talk about the people who suffer in Ukraine, we are therefore also talking about Europe. That means that we are talking about us, and about the European peace order, which is definitely at stake.
Peace in Europe is at risk not only because of Russian aggression and the annexation of Crimea but also from the new strength of right-wing nationalist parties that have now entered the European Parliament in large numbers. It must be a warning to us when right-wing politicians such as Marine Le Pen are welcome guests of the Duma’s Speaker Sergey Naryshkin in Moscow, and it must worry us that members of nationalist and extreme right-wing parties were deployed as observers of the so-called referendum in Crimea, to which the Council of Europe and the OSCE refused to go.
We must be aware that Europe is under threat from far-right and nationalist movements that are joining forces in the West and the East. They all have the same idea – they want to destroy the multicultural, multi-ethnic Europe. All of us democrats must stand together against that threat, because, as has been said, it did so much harm in the 20th century. The nationalist propaganda in Russia is alarming, and it is greatly influencing the minds of people there. Many people in Russia really believe that fascism rules in Ukraine. The campaign is bringing the Russian people into a dangerous anti-Western mood, whereas we hope to build a common and democratic home for all European people, including in Russia.
We are witnesses of a so-called hybrid war in the east of Ukraine, after the annexation of Crimea. Which city will be next – Odessa? Kharkiv? Russia claims not to be involved, but many pictures show the opposite. The problem in Ukraine is that the Kremlin is keeping the visibility of its intervention just below the threshold at which sanctions would have to be imposed. We do not impose sanctions, and the Kremlin just continues.
We should be aware that a forced shift of borders would be the end of a peaceful Europe, so let us not accept the rule of the strongest. We have to stand by international and European law – only that will keep the peace and end the violence that we are seeing now.
(Mr Giovagnoli, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Brasseur.)
Mr O. SHEVCHENKO (Ukraine)* – I stress that in Ukraine there are no conflicts and there is no crisis. The crisis is in the heads of the Russian politicians who are trying to destroy Ukraine through their aggression towards the country. That is the essence of everything that is happening in Ukraine.
We have heard that the Russian delegation is unfortunately not at the Parliamentary Assembly during this part-session. In the Chairman of the Duma’s letter to the President of this Assembly, he stresses that the Parliamentary Assembly is to blame for the Russian delegation not being here. He even made a little joke, quoting Gogol and saying that the Parliamentary Assembly had slit its own throat. There is no need to make jokes at the expense of the Parliamentary Assembly and Gogol was not talking about such things. Gogol, the great 19th-century writer, depicted local authorities bowing and scraping in front of what they thought was a government inspector, claiming that others were bringing their difficulties on to themselves. In other words, Gogol was talking about how the Russian civil service was characterised by its stupidity and cowardice. Modern Russians clearly do not understand Gogol, as they think that it is our Assembly that can be characterised by his words about 19th-century Russian civil servants. They are still stuck in 19th-century thinking, whereas we talk about the hope that dialogue with Russia might be possible in the future.
What dialogue could we be talking about? What can we talk about? Should we talk about recognising Russia as the gendarme of Europe for the 21st century? Should we talk about 19th-century Russia being right, with its serfdom and so on?
Let me quote the great German statesman, Konrad Adenauer, who said that our maker created humanity with limited powers but, unfortunately, did not limit human stupidity. My question is this: when will we escape the 19th century and start a dialogue?
The PRESIDENT – As Ms Beselia is not here, I call Mr Sobolev.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – I want to describe the real situation in Ukraine. We must answer the main question: why do we have a political and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine? Without answering this question, it is impossible to analyse the situation of the Russian Federation's territorial occupation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine, and the support for terrorists in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Although that is the main question, we must also solve another. Five days ago, the President of Ukraine announced a peace plan and stopped all military fire in the territory of the eastern part of Ukraine. What has been the result of the peace plan? Eighteen have been killed, one of whom was a 10-month-old child, and 67 wounded. It has only been five days, and they were all killed and wounded by the terrorists. Russian tanks have paraded in Luhansk. We heard from Mr Putin that he supported the peace plan, but those were only words and there was no action. When our parliament needed to pass a new draft constitution and new electoral laws, most of our time was spent having to pass other laws. First, we needed a legislative base to protect displaced persons and those living in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. We needed to protect people through new criminal provisions, because it is impossible to protect people in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, as all the courts there are not working.
This is a reality check for us, and this humanitarian catastrophe – it is not a crisis, but a catastrophe – requires all the efforts of the Council of Europe to provide protection. The figures we have given will not be the final total. Two days ago, a bridge that went from the central part of Ukraine to eastern Ukraine was blown up two hours before a train containing hundreds of people was due to go from Dnipropetrovsk to Berdyansk in the southern part of Ukraine. Hundreds of people were saved only because what was happening had been seen. It is important that in future we should have a real resolution that will help to solve the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Mr ROUQUET (France)* – Since our last debate on Ukraine, some glimmers of hope have become apparent, although the situation remains worrying. The most positive aspect is, of course, the election of President Poroshenko in circumstances that fully guarantee his legitimacy in office. The election I observed took place under conditions that were deemed satisfactory overall, with a high turnout. The fact that there is a legitimate president at the head of the country is a necessary precondition, although it is not sufficient in itself, for moving towards a resolution of the conflict.
The rapid presentation by the Ukrainian President of a credible peace plan is positive proof of that fact. The principal points are the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border zone, the closure of the border and a cease-fire. That is all extremely ambitious but it is not sufficient to restore peace in the region on a lasting basis. One needs, of course, to be able to bring together respect for the unity of Ukraine and autonomy for the east of the country, particularly in linguistic and cultural terms. We must also combat the disastrous scourge of corruption that contributes to undermining the fabric of society. In more general terms, it is necessary to set up a genuine rule of law in the country with an independent judiciary and a state that acts in the interests of all rather than being used as a vehicle for rapid self-enrichment by some to the detriment of the people, as has been the case since independence.
That is perhaps where we have a role to play. Our Assembly and the Council of Europe in general have played rather a back-stage role in the Ukrainian crisis. Some useful actions have taken place, albeit somewhat in the wings, such as sending an adviser to the Verkhovna Rada. Let us be frank: the OSCE has taken centre stage. That gives us cause to ponder the role we should be playing ourselves.
The sanctions against the Russian delegation, which are entirely legitimate given the scale of the violation of the basic principles of international law in Crimea, have, quite predictably, led to the withdrawal of the Russian delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly and have meant that any attempt at mediation deployed by us is more difficult. I am convinced that, here in the Parliamentary Assembly and in the Council of Europe, we ought to be in a position to assist the creation of a constitutional state governed by the rule of law. It is one of our principal missions. We must work without hesitation with other pan-European organisations, such as the European Union and the OSCE, to that end.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – Our Assembly is discussing the situation in Ukraine just at the moment when intense diplomatic activity gives hope of effective de-escalation in the country. Last Monday, the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and their leaders accepted the principle of a temporary cease-fire proposed by President Poroshenko. We should welcome that, especially since combat in Ukraine has killed 375 people and left 45 000 people refugees. This is indeed a crucial week for Ukraine.
The situation must be linked to the election of the new Ukrainian President, following an election that was as satisfactory as possible given the context. As we see, the electoral legitimacy of Petro Poroshenko means that he can engage in real and, we hope, sustainable dialogue with all his fellow Ukrainians, particularly those of the east, so that they can do some collective thinking about the institutional future of Ukraine. The challenge is sizeable because it is about both preserving the territorial integrity of the country and respecting the diversity of Ukrainian society.
The 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the ceremonies on 6 June allowed Presidents Poroshenko and Putin to meet for the first time, thanks to the facilitating role played by French diplomacy, and to re-establish dialogue between Ukraine and Russia. A trilateral contact group, comprising Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, for a peace plan for the east of Ukraine was established, linked to the decision to set up Russian-Ukrainian negotiations taken at Ouistreham.
The next day, the new Ukrainian President took the opportunity of his investiture and the speech that he gave in the presence of the Russian Ambassador, who was back in Kiev after several months’ absence, to propose a peace plan for the Donbass. The speech made three points, calling for an amnesty for those combatants who are willing to put down their arms provided they do not have blood on their hands; the establishment of corridors to evacuate those Russian mercenaries who wish to go home; and dialogue with the peaceful citizens of Ukraine. President Poroshenko also presented, in Russian, his commitment to the people of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to decentralise power, bring forward local elections, allow the free use of the Russian language, respect regional specificity and draw up a plan for economic reconstruction hammered out with the European Union.
It has also become clear that those who hold real power in the east should be part of the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations, and President Poroshenko recognised this. We have been hoping for this de-escalation, which has been heralded for a long time. Clearly, President Poroshenko has received support in principle for his plan from the Kremlin. We look forward to early parliamentary elections, since the current composition of the Rada no longer reflects the political landscape in Ukraine. We also look forward to an anti-corruption agreement being decided on in Ukraine.
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – Today’s debate confirms that the resolutions adopted by our Assembly in the urgent debates that we had in January and April should be implemented immediately. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which is becoming a frozen conflict, has led to a profound crisis and, in the east of Ukraine, a humanitarian crisis. An impressive number of people have been internally displaced. There have been kidnappings and people, including journalists, have gone missing. It is as though we are watching a horror movie.
The political consequence of this crisis is that the Ukrainian authorities, as well as international institutions, have not really politically defined the conflict. Is it an anti-terrorist operation? If so, the police should be dealing with it. Why is it, then, that we have Russian tanks on the streets? Why are Russian arms and Russian war planes being used? Conversely, if it is a war, why do we not dare to say so out loud? What about our international stance? Why does our Assembly not take a stance on this matter? Why do we not have an attitude that conforms to the definition of such a conflict? There is uncertainty in the definition of the conflict, which in turn leads to confusion in the proper functioning of human rights NGOs. These NGOs need the concerted efforts of the Council of Europe and the help of the Assembly. Ukrainian citizens need to know exactly what their rights and freedoms are, the limits of those rights under the present circumstances of crisis, and how to deal with their helplessness in the face of the relentless approach of separatist terrorists who apparently do not want to hear the voice of reason.
The humanitarian consequences are disastrous. Several colleagues have referred to that already. Who would have thought that such a conflict could erupt in eastern Europe? First there was the euphoria of the pro-Russian separatists but now there is despair in Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine. There are problems with foodstuffs, medical care and schools, not to mention the safety of the citizens who live in the secessionist areas. These citizens understand how dangerous it is to violate territorial integrity in the 21st century.
I also welcome the adoption by the Ukrainian Rada of a law on the prevention of separatism. This is a new challenge for the post-totalitarian, post-Soviet states. At any point they could be faced with the same scenario as that in Ukraine. President Poroshenko was elected in the first round, which is a good sign but it is not enough. We welcome his call for a cease-fire; the immediate cessation of military operations is an absolute must. We must now concentrate all our efforts on bringing back peace. We need to establish a dialogue between the parties in conflict although, according to some NGOs and the Ukrainian authorities, such a dialogue is not viable at the moment.
Our Assembly should set up a platform for dialogue between the parties in conflict. How about a group of parliamentarians who could be negotiators on behalf of the Assembly with the help of the Monitoring Committee? We have also just elected the new Secretary General of the Council of Europe. He, too, should take a keener interest in the consequences of the crisis in Ukraine. The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly should be at the very heart of mediation. It is up to us; it is our primary role to help Ukraine to return to normality. We need to enable it to guarantee the rule of law, respect for human rights and the proper functioning of democratic institutions.
The PRESIDENT* – As Lord Anderson is not here, I call Ms Valavani.
Ms VALAVANI (Greece)* – One hundred years on from the outbreak of the First World War, we must recognise the need to act together, excluding no one, to restore a prevailing climate of peace rather than the mood music of the Cold War.
It is extremely important to confront social issues, such as unemployment, which has reached very high levels in Europe. We have seen the reaction of the peoples of Europe in the recent European elections. The result of all this is the radicalisation of parties of the extreme right, which have swollen in numbers recently.
As to Ukraine, President Poroshenko has indeed been legitimised by the election. He has called for peace and for a cease-fire, which is extremely important to deal with the crisis, although we saw a flare-up last Monday. Whenever the Ukrainian President mentioned peace, there was a fresh outbreak of hostilities, including shelling and shooting. There are also problems with the refugee camps on the Russian side of the border, which the UN has visited.
In dealing with the problems in eastern Ukraine, there should be a view to restoring peace to the area. However, we cannot close our eyes to the presence of armed formations in the east of the country, where there are many paramilitaries. We must also recognise the radicalisation of the extreme right. There are also people who stood in the elections and did not get many votes, and who are therefore not represented in the new government. Unless we bring everyone into the picture, we will not see the continuation of Ukraine as we know it.
Some $7 million has been earmarked for the humanitarian disaster in Ukraine. I come from Greece – a country that is beset by an ongoing crisis. I understand the major problems that occur when the prices of water, gas and electricity shoot up. We must take account of all that.
I note that the Russian delegation is absent from the Parliamentary Assembly today. All Europeans, hand-in-hand, must do their very best to stop the rise of extremism. The peoples of Europe should join hands for peace.
Ms GERASHCHENKO (Ukraine)* – This is the first time in Ukraine’s 23 years of independence that we have faced such humanitarian challenges. An undeclared war is being waged against us by a neighbouring state. Anybody who tries to convince us that it is an internal Ukrainian war is wrong – it is not like that at all.
The mercenaries and separatists are being financed. There has been massive resettlement. About 30 000 people have had to flee Crimea and Donbass, and have moved to central and western Ukraine. Independent experts say that the figure might be twice that. We are seeing mass, parlous violations of human rights on the part of the mercenaries. There are orphaned children who are not being allowed to move out of the area. There is violence and aggression against the Ukrainian speaking population in Donbass and Crimea, as well as the looting of civilian housing.
The Ukrainian population is paying a very high price for its independence and its right to accede to the European Union. More than 200 hostages have not been released by the guerrillas. There are many fatalities among the Ukrainian military. It is difficult to say how many civilian fatalities there have been, because we do not always have access to the territories that are controlled by the separatists. We have about 300 wounded military personnel.
What Ukraine expects from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a fierce condemnation of the activity of the separatists and of any country that supports them. The President of Ukraine has called his peace plan his No. 1 priority. He broadened the plan after he met the legitimate local powers in Donbass. He has made concessions on the reintegration of refugees once peace occurs, but there must first be peace in Donbass. It is very important that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other international organisations facilitate the implementation of the peace plan by President Poroshenko.
Today, the President of Ukraine appointed a special envoy to regulate the situation in the east of the country. That speaks volumes. It shows that the president is giving his utmost attention to the situation. There is also a bilateral dialogue group, in which ex-President Kuchma represents Ukraine, alongside the representatives of Russia and the OSCE. Ukraine has every interest in ensuring that all the international organisations, including the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine and support the Poroshenko peace plan.
Mr GYÖNGYÖSI (Hungary) – It is my great pleasure to take part in this extremely important debate about the most serious geopolitical crisis of recent times, which is having an enormous impact on our region economically, financially and politically.
There seems to be a consensus that peace and stability are needed in Ukraine. However, when it comes to answering the question of how we got into this situation, the Western diagnosis takes a somewhat simplified approach. It says that Ukraine is the victim, Russia is the aggressor, and the European Union and the United States – the West – are the saviours who offer the prospect of EU integration, as well as financial and economic assistance in this time of deep crisis. That is a biased position, not an objective and fair analysis.
The resolution that was adopted by this Assembly in the last part-session and the many speeches that refer to the violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity seek to reapportion the blame to Russia alone and to say that the Crimea referendum sparked the spiral into violence in Ukraine. My interpretation is that the Crimea referendum was not the cause of the Ukrainian crisis, but one of its sad consequences.
Before Russia interfered, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine had long been violated by western countries. As members are probably aware, in the post-Cold War era, geopolitical wars are not necessarily fought with armies and heavy artillery. Non-transparent non-governmental organisations and foundations; media and propaganda; economic, financial and political pressure; secret services – all are synonyms for soft power in today’s world. The coloured revolutions showed the influence of soft power from Georgia to Kyrgyzstan, including the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. That culminated in the increasing pressure on the Yanukovych government, which refused to sign the association agreement with the European Union.
The West has been hypocritical and irresponsible in approving the change of regime in Ukraine. Rule No. 1 of western liberal democracies is that legitimately elected governments, no matter how incompetent or corrupt, are removed by elections and not by coups. Politicians from European Union member states, officials from the US State Department, the Western intelligence and secret services, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Soros Foundation did everything they could to remove the legitimately elected President of Ukraine when the administration faced a legitimacy deficit and a loss of trust in the eyes of the population.
The West is hypocritical and irresponsible in the way that it exercises double standards in interpreting the application of international law to the right of peoples to self-determination. Why do we say yes to Kosovo but no to the expressed will of the people in Crimea? The West is hypocritical and irresponsible in the way it exercised double standards in its defence of minority rights and its fight against extremism. In Ukraine, the West supported a political opposition that was dominated by extremists and outright chauvinists. The first step that was taken after the ousting of President Yanukovych was the withdrawal by the Ukrainian Parliament of the language law, which guaranteed basic human and collective rights to the minorities who live on the territory of the Ukrainian. Ever since, there has been extreme hostility against not only the Russian minority, but the Hungarian, Ruthenian, Polish and Romanian minorities in western Ukraine. There is now the danger of ethnic cleansing in eastern Ukraine.
The credibility of the West, of Western values and of Western institutions, including this Assembly, is at stake. We must stick to the basic principles upon which this Organisation was founded, and we must do so in an unbiased manner. We must obtain a peaceful resolution to the crisis. We have to be objective. We must first realise that the Cold War ended 25 years ago. We live not in a unipolar world, but a multipolar world and we must respect that.
Ms PAKOSTA (Estonia) – Do we really care about Ukraine? I am a new member of this Assembly, but I am stunned that we are not having an urgent debate with a proper resolution today. One may argue that we have held three debates already and that we have imposed minimal restrictions on our Russian colleagues’ rights in the Assembly, in the hope of maintaining open and constructive dialogue. But does this Chamber really want to admit Russia’s true motivations and goals, and their consequences, or to fully comprehend the complications and repercussions of what we choose to call, euphemistically, the “Ukraine crisis”, rather than Russian aggression?
We are dealing with war in the heart of Europe, provoked and supported by one of our own member states, and yet all our political group leaders are co-signatories of Mr Pushkov’s motion questioning even mild sanctions, which are limited to a few individuals directly involved in inciting the violation of a neighbouring country’s sovereign territory. Colleagues, where are we heading? Yesterday’s commemoration of the First World War was a sinister reminder that we should learn from our past mistakes, or be doomed to the fate of the League of Nations. Military solutions do not belong in the 21st century.
I therefore welcome President Poroshenko’s truce plan, as I welcome the revocation by the Russian Federation Council of the outrageous law that gave the Russian military the right to intervene in neighbouring territory. The first step is to help Ukraine restore control over its eastern border and to create a proper humanitarian corridor to enable civilians to have safe passage from the combat zones. Yet we need to remain vigilant and not be naïve in mistaking the Russian move as regret by President Putin. Rather, having achieved his primary objectives of stopping the integration of Ukraine into Western structures, annexing Crimea and provoking disorder and armed conflict in the rest of the country, Mr Putin is now playing the de-escalation card only in order to normalise relations with other countries.
In spite of all the breaches of international norms, I can see – perhaps cynically – Russia returning in only a few months’ time to the circle of elite states as a fully fledged member. If we allow that and if Europe closes its eyes to Ukraine as it closed them to Georgia in 2008, we would be recognising Russia’s right to make strategic decisions forcefully for the countries in the region. Failure to stop aggression, however, would bring about the enormous consequence of an end to the whole system of international security in Europe.
Finally, the Ukrainian Government also has the herculean task of achieving reconciliation in the country. It should not shy away from difficult reforms, which Ukraine has failed to undertake since it became a member of the Council of Europe. Most importantly, I have an appeal for President Poroshenko: please do not repeat the mistakes made after the Orange Revolution. Those who have committed crimes since the political crisis began last year, no matter which side they are on, need to be brought to justice. That is the only way to lead the country out of its internal political crisis and to restore the trust of the people.
Mr VILLUMSEN (Denmark) – This is an important debate. Without doubt, there are great challenges in Ukraine. I was there as an election observer in the parliamentary elections of 2012 and I had the honour to participate in both the pre-election and the election observation of the recent presidential election.
The country is not only polarised, but suffering from corruption and from great problems due to the political influence of rich oligarchs. Media freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech are rights that have been under threat a number of times. Today, we need to condemn the violence – all violence – in Ukraine, whether in the east or the west. We need to condemn the initiative of the former acting President, Mr Turchynov, to ban the Communist Party. We also need to condemn the fact that several TV channels have been shut down.
I must stress urgently that the conflict in Ukraine does not have a military solution. Violence should stop and negotiations should start. I very much agree with Mr Xuclà that trust needs to be restored. Trust is not achieved by military action; indeed, military activity in the east is creating a growing humanitarian crisis. I fear that the civilians in the east and in Crimea will not be the only victims of the conflict; the desire of the Ukrainian people for freedom, social justice and an end of corruption and oligarchy might also be under threat. We should stress the need for decentralisation, for democratic and social reform and for a new constitution. This is not a new Cold War; this is a struggle for peace, human rights and democracy. Our Assembly can play an important role by remembering that and by helping Ukraine to live up to its obligations – to this very Assembly and to its people.
Mr A. SHEVCHENKO (Ukraine) – I warmly welcome the two thoughtful contributions that kicked off the debate.
We should remember what is happening in Ukraine at the moment. Today, several funerals are taking place across the country, because we are burying some of the nine soldiers who died in the helicopter that was shot down by terrorists on Tuesday. In the past several days, bridges have been blown up and more and more mercenaries, weapons and ammunition have flowed across the border from Russia. That has all happened since President Poroshenko announced his peace plan. Furthermore, huge pieces of Ukrainian territory are being turned into tribal lands with no rule of law, with no rules, no laws and no chance for citizens to exercise their basic rights. Every drop of blood spilled should remind us that even today in Europe some nations and individuals fight and die for their freedom, their civil liberties and their nation’s right to decide its future for itself.
I was shocked by some of the comments from one of our colleagues from the Western country of Hungary: he blamed the West for what is happening in Ukraine. We see another reality in our country, which is that Russia is waging a new type of war, including heavy propaganda, cyber-attacks and mercenaries, with direct aggression masquerading as civil unrest. This war is being waged against not only Ukraine, but European values.
Internally, I see three major challenges for the country, the first being peace and reconciliation. There is national consensus on the redistribution of powers towards stronger local government. The Russian language will also remain protected by the Ukrainian Constitution. The second challenge is nation building, which has not been done for several generations in government of the corrupt and of kleptocrats – a strong judiciary, a police service rather than a force, and strong local self-government, all of which have been long suggested to Ukraine by the Council of Europe. This is a good time to do that. Thirdly, we need economic reforms and a fight against corruption, which should finally bring prosperity back to our country. All that will be in the interests of the Ukrainian people, of the Europeans and of the Russian Federation.
Finally, we need to understand that Ukraine is not running away from Russia; it is, however, running away from its Soviet past – the Soviet Union, the Russian Empire and the world of the Cold War, with no respect for human rights or national rights. We are running, or at least walking, in the direction of European values – civil liberties and respect between nations. I hope strongly that we will be able to travel the journey together with our European friends in a safe and peaceful manner. Thank you for your support and your solidarity.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova)* – One hopes that we will be heard today by Ukrainians and Russians, so I have decided to speak Russian. As we have heard, this conflict is the most serious crisis that has arisen since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The roots of the crisis go very deep. Some colleagues have tried to define the essence of the crisis in the debate, but it is very complex and hard to define. It is political, geopolitical, economic and humanitarian. As I see it, the roots of the crisis go back to the conflict between two different world views. Mr Andriy Shevchenko spoke of the Soviet past, which is responsible for a lot, and of the conflict between mentalities and views of today’s world.
Russia, headed by Mr Putin, has announced that the West is on a crusade. Russians believe it is up to them to defend Christian values. The irony of the crusade is that, today, the war is not between East and West, but between two brotherly nations. Another irony is that, if someone wants to defend Christian values, he should remember what they are. Thou shalt not steal is one of the Ten Commandments. Crimea needs to be returned to Ukraine – one cannot just steal other people’s territory. If people want to defend moral values, they must remember the moral values of peace and forgiveness.
Yesterday, we heard excellent words in the Chamber about the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Mr Chope talked about that Christmas when the soldiers came out from behind their lines to play football, about the relationship between brothers, and about the great values we must protect and love. That gives hope to our Ukrainian colleagues. They should not lose hope, because there is hope for the future of Ukraine. They should not lose faith, because Ukraine has a future. On the other hand, I call upon our Russian colleagues and friends not to forget that they must do everything possible to establish peace in Ukraine and in Europe as a whole. Peace, hope, faith, love and charity are part of the same thing. If we do not turn our backs on them, we can solve this situation, and Ukraine and other countries of eastern Europe will be part of a united Europe.
Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – Colleagues have referred to the resolution adopted by our Assembly in the spring part-session, Article 16 of which states: “The Assembly reserves the right to annul the credentials of the Russian delegation, if the Russian Federation does not de-escalate the situation and reverse the annexation of Crimea.” We have just heard of the grave humanitarian and political consequences that the annexation of Crimea has caused Ukraine. Do we continue to adhere to the resolution? Do we still believe that a reversal is possible, or have we started to dwindle in our resolve that we demonstrated in this Assembly in April? Are we going to discuss the annulment of the credentials of the Russian delegation if there is no de-escalation and no reversal of the Crimean annexation?
I have a question for those who hope that a dialogue between the Assembly and the Russian Federation is possible: has any dialogue happened? I ask those who hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict whether that is possible. Our colleague Mr Sobolev truthfully said that, right after the peace plan was introduced by Mr Poroshenko, there were several violent incidents. We know very well that the 1 March decision of the Russian Parliament to authorise the use of military force in the whole territory of Ukraine and the later decision to authorise the annexation of Crimea have unleashed forces that are beyond control. The so-called separatists have difficulty in agreeing on their goals between themselves and there is in-fighting. They get armaments from Russia and a lot of mercenaries are fighting among them. In that situation, is a peaceful solution possible? That is my question to the Assembly.
I second the thoughts expressed by our Secretary General. Any discussion on any possible decentralisation of Ukraine should not happen anywhere outside the legitimate bodies of Ukraine. On top of that, we must remember that any calls for further decentralisation, be that in the form of a federal state or in any other form or shape, could escalate the situation when armed groups and warlords are often fighting each other. Finally, will the decision of the President of the Russian Federation to revoke the previous decision of the Russian Parliament to use military force really help to de-escalate the situation?
(Ms Brasseur, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Giovagnoli.)
The PRESIDENT* – The last speaker on the list is Mr Sasi.
Mr SASI (Finland) – The idea of the Council of Europe and the European Union is to have low borders. That is why what happened in Georgia and what is happening in the Ukraine is so shocking. The only solution is a full cease-fire in Ukraine and using the tool of democracy. We must appeal to the separatists to give their weapons away. We need Russia’s help in that sense. Putin has made a promise and he must fulfil his promises. Russia might not send tanks to the separatists, but Russia must help to ensure that they do not use the weapons they have. Of course, the separatists must then be treated fairly. We need parliamentary elections as soon as possible once the situation in eastern Ukraine is stable. In addition, I would like local elections so that local people can decide what kind of leadership they want in their areas.
The Council of Europe has a role. We must ensure that the rule of law is maintained and improved in Ukraine. The Lutsenko and Tymoshenko cases show that the rule of law is not very strong in Ukraine. The rights of minorities must be guaranteed, and we must strengthen local rule in the country. That is what the Assembly knows about. We must stand up for Ukraine. They must fulfil the criteria. I see the commitment of the president and the current parliament, and I have high hopes for the future parliament, but when they have done the work that they need to do, we will see whether the Council of Europe, the international community and even the Russians can put their trust in them.
My final point is on the situation in Crimea, which we must follow closely, and the situation of the Tatars. We must try to find the right thing to do to improve the situation in Crimea and help those who have been displaced from their homes.
The PRESIDENT* – That concludes the debate. It was a current affairs debate and no texts were tabled for it, but all the comments will be reviewed. If needs be, they will be submitted to the Bureau in order to follow up any questions. In addition, we will refer them to a relevant committee if a report needs to be tabled on any of the points that have been made.
2. Address by Mr Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine
The PRESIDENT – We will now hear an address by Mr Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine. After his address, we will take questions from the floor.
Welcome to the Assembly Chamber, Mr President. It is also your Chamber, as you were a member of our Assembly. Let me congratulate you once again on your election. This is your first official visit abroad since your inauguration. It is highly symbolic that for your first visit you have come to Strasbourg and to the Council of Europe. Ukraine is part of the Council of Europe family and it is our duty to support the members of our family when they need us. Indeed, Mr President, our eyes are focused on Ukraine, which is facing an unprecedented crisis internally, as well as at its borders. Once more, I have to stress that respect for territorial integrity is one of our fundamental principles.
This morning, we discussed the humanitarian consequences of the crisis. The situation is appalling and I can assure you that we stand ready to support you at this very difficult moment. I am confident that you will share with us in your address your views on the situation, as well as on possible solutions we can find. The peace plan you have proposed and the cease-fire provide genuine grounds for hope.
We are ready to provide expertise on the implementation of the political and institutional reforms you are carrying out. Constitutional reform, decentralisation of power, electoral reform, the fight against corruption and reform of the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office, to give but a few examples, are areas where we must work together. We also have the right tools to help your authorities to address human rights issues. There is, however, one essential precondition for all these initiatives to bring about the positive results we all look forward to: the violence must stop and the cease-fire must be respected. I would therefore like to appeal today, on behalf of us all, for all those involved to face their responsibilities and to stop provocation.
Mr POROSHENKO (President of Ukraine)* – Madam President, Secretary General, dear participants, I thank you sincerely for this invitation to speak to the Assembly. I am thankful to you for this opportunity to bring to this important forum the voice of the Ukrainian people from all corners of the country – from the west, the east, the south and the north, from the free territories and from, regrettably, the occupied territories.
It is only three weeks since the presidential inauguration and the presidential campaign during which I had the opportunity to travel across Ukraine. I want to assure you that I have never seen Ukraine or Ukrainians so pro-European and so pro-Ukrainian at the same time. I saw the country peaceful and hospitable, not only geographically but by choice. Ukraine has always been a hospitable home for everyone who comes in peace, but now, unfortunately, this home is in danger. A force has come into Ukraine without peace.
I could not imagine that in the 21st century in my country of Ukraine, the words “aggression”, “occupation”, “mercenaries” and “internally displaced persons” would appear again. What can we do to stop the violence and prevent it from spiralling into a full-blown war? This question is addressed not only to Ukraine, but to the whole of Europe.
Everything started in December when the previous government in power deprived Ukrainians of our dream: it rejected European integration without asking the Ukrainians and without giving anything back but corruption, violence and disrespect for human dignity. Ukraine rose up and a revolution of dignity began. The people have prevailed, but it has required a lot of blood and sacrifice. Twenty years ago, in exchange for the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, Russia promised to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia has violated the Budapest memorandum agreement between Ukraine and Russia. It has become the aggressor. It has ruined the stability of the region. The system of checks and balances in the world has been shaken.
From this rostrum, I thank the Council of Europe, on behalf of all Ukrainians, for your immediate response to the military aggression. That is essential for Ukraine. The decision of the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly constitutes a legal basis for the restoration of justice and for ensuring the rights of all people living in the occupied territories. Unfortunately, it is absolutely necessary to stop the financing of terrorist groups in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which is taking place on behalf of the Russian Federation.
This is the second stage of Russian aggression. In 2008, we witnessed it in Georgia. In 2014, it is happening at the expense of the sovereignty of Ukraine. The question of who will be next is open. That is why Europe today must demonstrate unity and solidarity. The biggest problem for Europe today is the absence of any real mechanism to maintain peace and to protect territorial integrity and democracy. The post-war model is ruined. Today, we bear on our shoulders the responsibility to set up a new model. For those who do not face the reality of aggression, it is, unfortunately, easy to create the conditions for it. Aggression today is overwhelming and it engulfs Russian society. It constitutes the basis for both its policy and social attitude towards Ukraine, but Ukraine has found confidence and moral strength. It is obvious that without the return of Crimea, normalisation of relations with Russia will not be possible. We are, however, a peaceful people. The Ukrainian authorities and I – personally, as the Ukrainian President – have come up with a peace plan, because there must be dialogue and a readiness to reach an agreement for the sake of human life.
It is the laymen who are being damaged today in Ukraine. In occupied Crimea, we see how political, linguistic and cultural rights and liberties are being violated. As always, it is the national minorities who suffer the most. Most of all, Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians are being subjected to discrimination and harassment. On a daily basis, we receive new reports of violations of freedom of expression in the media, violations of the right to education, religion, citizenship and residence, of labour rights and property and land rights, and of access to health and education. In the problematic regions in the east of Ukraine, the situation is even more flagrant. The illegal armed groups are trying to establish a bloody reign of violence: abductions, unlawful detentions, killings, torture, disappearances and harassment are part of daily life in the cities.
With the assistance of international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the OSCE, we are documenting these violations, which must prompt a proper response from the international community. We need thorough analysis, especially with a view to the future court cases in which Ukraine will be ready to defend itself.
The presidential election was an important step on the route to restoring peace and order. We were ready to receive the record number of international observers. I presented the President’s plan: unity, the restoration of peace and security. Peace and security is what Ukrainians in Donbass want. They dream of getting back their normal lives, where people are not being killed, taken hostage, tortured or violated. Today, there are 174 hostages, almost 150 dead and more than 300 wounded. We have had the cease-fire for less than a week, but 18 soldiers have been killed and 27 have been injured. The day before yesterday a 10-month-old child died from an explosion caused by a grenade launched from a mortar.
We are striving for peace. That is the non-political aspiration and essence of the peace plan. It proposes to end the violence, to be as magnanimous as possible to those who have not committed serious crimes, to stabilise the situation and then to address the concerns of the local populations in the troubled parts of Ukraine. We need our internal processes to return to a civilised framework. If we can achieve that, we will restore not only peace, but trust and confidence.
We will first deal with the economy and infrastructure. On a daily basis we receive new information about the scale of the task we face, as infrastructure and facilities are being ruined. No one wants this war, so we are talking about the restoration of peace on the basis of de-escalation. The plan’s implementation is being debated in trilateral talks that include representatives from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and the Swiss OSCE chairmanship as well as European Union representation. The necessary precondition is to stop the use of force.
Before my plan was made public, it was debated with representatives of all legitimate bodies of power in Donbass. The business elite, who represent the biggest enterprises in the Donetsk region, unanimously support it. The unilateral cease-fire became effective as of 10 p.m. on 20 June and will last until 10 p.m. tomorrow. Our task has been to switch from military defence of the border to control by peaceful means. Once that is sustainable, we will look to the OSCE to step up its efforts in establishing strict, unbiased monitoring on the ground and at every check point to stop the in-flow of insurgents, tanks and armoured vehicles.
We are ready to call officially on the Russian representatives to get involved in monitoring the Ukraine border to ensure that the obligations that we have undertaken are strictly observed. The peace plan was supported by all major countries of the world and Ukraine is extremely grateful to them for that. At the same time, it is clear that the peace plan will work only if Russia plays along. Sadly, so far Moscow’s support has been insufficient. It is good news that the Russian Federation Council is not going to declare war on Ukraine, but, while Russia has not declared war, war is being waged at this very minute because it has not pulled back its mercenaries, so well-equipped and highly motivated militants are coming in.
During our phone conversation with Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, President Putin pledged his support for the peace plan. We now hope that real progress will be made.
From this podium, I urge Russia once again to contribute to resolving the situation. Please support the peace plan with deeds and not just words. With deeds, we can stop the deaths of military and civilian people who uphold and defend the territorial integrity and unity of the country, so we await those actions. Strengthen the border control. Stop the illegal infiltration of military vehicles into Ukraine. Stop recruiting mercenaries and, finally, pull back military forces from the border. The people of Ukraine do not want war or anarchy. We will not permit the ideas of separatism, which have been planted in Ukraine unofficially from outside. Ukraine is solid and unified.
It is vital to stop the lies and hatred being spread by Russian media, which do not contribute to the restoration of peace. The regions and local communities strive for more authority at the local level and more autonomy in decision making. They also want the right to speak and sing songs in the languages they choose and to lay wreaths of flowers on monuments as they see fit. All of that will be provided to them by the decentralisation of power programme in my proposed constitutional amendment. The European Parliament today registered those draft amendments to the constitution.
Never before in Ukraine has a president who won the election and therefore had the authority to nominate the heads of local districts and regions called to devolve power to the regions. I believe that that idea will be supported by the Ukrainian Parliament now. The early local elections are to be held in Ukraine in connection with the amendments to the constitution so that the elected leaders of the territorial councils will receive new powers and responsibilities. The elected representatives will establish local councils, which in turn will form executive committees.
A separate problem is the restoration of the economy in the Donetsk region. I am pleased that, with our partners from the European Union and the United States of America, we have drawn up a job creation programme that will attract investment and a draft programme on economic reconstruction for the region that will settle the distribution of funds between the centre and the regions. Decentralisation reform will be implemented fully in line with the principles of the European charter of local self-government through my amendments to the constitution.
I support the Council of Europe investigation panel’s view that we should have a discussion with the Secretary General to investigate the use of force at the Maidan on 18, 19 and 20 February as well as the tragic events in Odessa on 2 May. We are ready to co-operate so that the world can see that those guilty of those tragedies will be prosecuted.
Ukraine is going through a time of challenge, but also a time of hope. Our choice is to build a strong democracy that will have a respected place in the family of European nations. Our way is towards the European Union. That is why tomorrow, 27 June, I, as President of Ukraine, will sign the association agreement with the European Union.
The European Union is a success story for us – a state model and time-tested sequence of reforms. When I was asked about the reforms I would make as president, it was very easy for me to answer. Everything is included in the association agreement and we will start implementing it immediately after signing it. The last aspect is especially important as Ukraine embarks on the path of economic integration and political association with the European Union. We will surely seize this historic chance.
The reforms are long overdue and Ukraine needs a new social contract. It must give Ukraine a viable system of governance that will protect the citizens from external threats and create the necessary basis for social, economic and cultural development. At the same time, I want to make it clear that we do not need change at any cost. Some elements are not subject to discussion – the parliamentary-presidential model, the unitary system, European integration, and the existing language system, with one official language plus multiple regional languages, with a comprehensive guarantee of the development and use of every minority language. Everything else can be subject to wide public debate, and I can assure you that such debates are already under way.
I am confident about the parliamentary elections. The lack of a relevant level of representation is felt especially in Donbass and Donetsk in the east, but I am confident that the new parliament will be elected on a new proportional basis with open lists. Voters need to know each candidate personally. The government will be formed primarily by the prime minister and approved by parliament. The president should maintain the function of control.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has reiterated many times the need for reform of the judicial and legal systems. The last couple of months have shown how critical such reforms are. We need more public control over the appointment and work of the judges. We need practical guarantees of the independence of the judiciary from other branches of power. We have to change the role and functions of the prosecutor general’s office to transform it from an instrument of persecution to the means of upholding the law and the protection of human rights. The new basis of the judicial system needs to be duly reflected in the amendments to the constitution. The fight against corruption, the nomination of judges and the overall modernisation of public service will complete the picture of a new judiciary in Ukraine.
The last couple of months have had a formative effect on our common future. The events in Ukraine are shaping the new Europe, and whether it will be united or split, stable or fragile. The future and spirit of Europe depend on how the situation in Ukraine is settled, and if it develops based on international law or on the law of power. It is a choice that each and every one of us must make on our own. The turmoil in Ukraine started because the people of our country did not want to say no to democracy and the European approach. It continued because someone decided to punish Ukraine for that choice. It will stop when common sense and European values prevail over aggression. Help us in that struggle, and tomorrow’s Europe will be united, stable and morally strong. Thank you very much for the solidarity with Ukraine that you have demonstrated, because we badly need it. Glory to Ukraine!
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mr President. You will have gathered from the applause the strength of our support, not only in the Assembly but in the whole Council of Europe.
We will now have questions, with the first from Mr Gross on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – My question is basic. You have already had two revolutions. After the first one, the authorities disappointed millions of people, and especially the young. What did you learn from the first experience and how will you prevent the same mistakes being made again?
Mr POROSHENKO – The whole of Ukraine – the people and the authorities – have learned from the mistakes. That is why the second revolution is completely different. The reason for the second revolution is very simple. The people on the streets were not demanding increased salaries or pensions, the lowering of taxes or any other demands that are normal in a democratic society. They were demanding a European future. That is very clear. They were demanding the signing of the association agreement because it was the only chance to reform the country.
The people were also demanding immediate action on democracy. We have already passed the first test with the presidential election. Ukraine has never before had such a free, fair and transparent presidential election. It demonstrated that the people of Ukraine are united, because every region of the country supported one candidate. We have demonstrated that we are ready for reform, ready for Europe and ready for peace. We will fulfil the expectations of the Ukrainian people.
The PRESIDENT – The next question is from Ms Čigāne on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – It appears that the key to a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian situation is an ability to control the Russian-Ukrainian border. What concrete steps are you taking towards that goal?
Mr POROSHENKO – Thank you for that question. From the first day that I became president, my top priority was renewed control of the Russian-Ukrainian border. On 7 June, 287 kilometres of the border were uncontrolled. Through a military operation, we have renewed control over the whole border. Ukrainian border control officers are in place at the crucial border posts. Immediately after the cease-fire, when we could not use force, one of the border posts was captured again by the bandits. However, I can assure you that our military forces at the border posts have removed the possibility of sending tanks, armoured personnel carriers and troops into Ukraine.
We need a strong form of co-operation with Russia, because we cannot have the uncontrolled flow of heavy artillery, tanks and troops to shift the balance in the region. That was one of the major points in yesterday’s negotiation with President Putin. We are interested in inviting inspectors from the OSCE and other international organisations to monitor the situation on the border. I am sure that it is possible to keep control on the border, because that is a key factor in the peace plan. Without that, we cannot talk about peace.
The PRESIDENT – The next question is from Ms Godskesen on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Ms GODSKESEN (Norway) – What is the president’s current plan of action to fight corruption and inspire confidence in the Government?
Mr POROSHENKO – That is the top priority for the reforms. Like a cancer, corruption paralysed the Ukrainian Government and authority system. Without a transparent fight against corruption, we have no chance of success. That is why my first proposal would be not only to appoint a general prosecutor who would be responsible for corruption, but to implement the package of anti-corruption reforms that is an integral part of the association agreement with the European Union. Significant parts of the changes to legislation have already been done. Now, as we begin to implement them, we must make the process transparent, well understood and effective, and take quick steps. We are ready for that, and I am absolutely sure that, with a new president and government, the political will in Ukraine will bring very quick results.
The PRESIDENT – I call Mr Garðarsson to ask a question on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr GARÐARSSON (Iceland) – Thank you very much for your excellent speech, Mr President. In the past six days you have introduced a unilateral cease-fire in the eastern regions of Ukraine and an ambitious new peace plan. The cease-fire will end tomorrow. Based on the reactions to your efforts towards peace, especially from President Putin, are you optimistic that your plan will make a lasting difference?
Mr POROSHENKO – It is a very important and key challenge that Ukraine demonstrates, by not only its words but by its actions, its will to peace. I repeat that we have paid a very high price for demonstrating that, but it was a unilateral cease-fire. It was a well-co-ordinated international action, and the whole world now has evidence that Ukraine is ready to go the peaceful way to resolve the conflict.
I will give a simple example. Yesterday, we agreed that today we would hold a meeting with the trilateral commission – a representative of the Russian Ambassador, the ex-President of Ukraine and the ambassador from the OSCE. They are collected together, but unfortunately we do not have a representative from the separatists because they are not interested. That is very symbolic for the prospect of peaceful regulation of the current situation. Tomorrow will be the end point. I have had it confirmed that only half an hour ago the separatists demonstrated their interest in participating, less than 12 hours before the end of the ceasefire. A lot depends on tomorrow’s negotiations. If a key element of the peace plan is accepted by the separatists, that will give us strong hopes. If it is rejected, we will have to make a very important decision tomorrow. I cannot comment on what type of decision we will make.
The PRESIDENT – I call the last speaker to ask a question on behalf of the political groups, Mr Hunko from the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – Thank you very much for your statement, Mr Poroshenko. This morning, we debated the humanitarian consequences extensively, particularly those in the eastern part of Ukraine where there are many refugees. There is a lot of hope attached to the cease-fire: on the basis of the current information about whether the separatists are prepared to engage in talks with you, would you be prepared to extend the cease-fire tomorrow? Would that be a good way to pave the way for further negotiations?
Mr POROSHENKO – Thank you for your question. The fact that you had that debate this morning is a good demonstration of the kind of attention the Parliamentary Assembly pays to the Ukrainian question. That is very important to us.
To answer your question, my first point is that the separatists have not ceased fire. Over all six days that the Ukrainian army has been keeping the cease-fire and opening fire only in return, it has been attacked by separatists. They have made a public statement that they do not recognise the peace plan or the cease-fire. Today, after yesterday’s phone conversation with the Russian President, their position changed. We will see tomorrow.
On the humanitarian question, as I have said, we risked the lives of our workers in yesterday in order to restore the energy, water and electricity supply to Donetsk, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, where for 10, 12 or 14 days people have been without electricity and water. We used the cease-fire to restore the supply, although the workers were under the fire of the separatists. We arranged special conditions for those people who should leave Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Donbass. We created for them the conditions in which they can wait for the situation to improve.
As I told you, my top priority is peace. That is why I developed the peace plan, why we provided changes to the constitutional legislation, why we proposed an amnesty law, and why we are engaged in very important international negotiations. Unfortunately, if we offer our hands in peace but they are left hanging in the air, it would be very difficult for us to remain in that position for a long period of time. That is why this is an important moment not only for Ukraine or Donbass, or for bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine, but for the whole of Europe. These things can happen in any country if we do not demonstrate solidarity and create mechanisms to maintain stability and security in Europe.
The PRESIDENT – I propose to group questions together in threes to allow more members to ask questions.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – The Ukrainian people have expressed their exasperation with the corruption that plagues Ukraine, especially during the protests on Maidan Square. You have just said that you would like to establish a national anti-corruption plan that would cover all public representatives. What is the timetable for that and which measures should be tackled first?
Ms BECK (Germany)* – Thank you for the conviction expressed in your statement. You have done a very good service to your country and to its sovereign recognition. It seems that the Russian President has agreed to the peace plan, but he has said that he has no influence over the separatists. What is your view on that?
Mr BADEA (Romania)* – I congratulate you on your bravery and on your decision to bring Ukraine into our European family, where it belongs. In the context of the ruling by the constitutional court of the Republic of Moldova that the official language of Moldova is Romanian, will Ukraine continue to consider the so-called Moldovan language as a regional or minority language?
Mr POROSHENKO – First, corruption is a key challenge for us. If we do not demonstrate quick results in the fight against corruption, we will lose every battle. We need not only changes to legislation – we have had a lot of laws before – but practical, critical results that the Ukrainian authorities can demonstrate now. That was the main message that I gave to the prosecutor general last week – I want immediate results. No person should be outside the law in Ukraine, and I am very optimistic, because corruption can exist in a country only when it has the umbrella of the absence of political will to fight against it. Now, we are ruining that umbrella and demonstrating that there is political will in the country and that we are fighting. The people should trust us, and without that we cannot gain the trust of the people. The whole of Ukraine and all the authorities now understand that, I promise you.
Thank you very much, Ms Beck, for your words of support for the sovereignty of Ukraine. You are absolutely right that at the election, there was a very important challenge. The election had to be absolutely transparent and as good as we could make it in order to be recognised. The number of observers that we had during the election simply leaves nobody with a chance not to recognise the new authorities, the new president and the new Ukraine. That is the first small, but very important, victory. You are absolutely right about that.
Mr Badea, your question was on the key issue of decentralisation. In our parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, we have Mr Popescu, who represents the Romanian minority in the parliament. The key issue of decentralisation is that never, ever again will the question of language and culture break my country’s unity. Defending the rights of minorities is my top priority, and I refer to the Romanian, Slovakian and Russian minorities, and to the Crimean Tatars. I am very proud that today, a representative of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, is with us. He is a great leader of the Crimean Tatars and a great Ukrainian patriot and Ukrainian hero. When we demonstrate that relationship with the national minorities, it will keep the nation together. That is very important.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I congratulate you on your personal victory and on the event that will take place tomorrow in Brussels. I am very glad that Ukraine and Moldova are together on the European path. Ukraine is facing many challenges, and one of them is separatism. As you know, Ukraine plays a key role in solving the Transnistrian separatist conflict. What is your view on that? Can we be more hopeful of solving that conflict with you leading Ukraine?
Mr NÉMETH (Hungary) – Warm regards and congratulations on your election. I also congratulate you on your agreement with the cultural alliance of the Hungarians in Subcarpathia.
After the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, the next step in your relationship relates to Ukraine’s visa-free regime for the European Union. Do you see that as a priority, and do you believe that it could be installed this year? Are you prepared for that, and what are your expectations?
Mr JENSSEN (Norway) – Congratulations, Mr President. Your challenges seem formidable – achieving peace in the east and continuing to make ties with Europe and the European Union, and, at the same time, several domestic issues such as fighting corruption, making democratic reforms and ensuring the rights of minorities. Can you assure the Assembly that even in times of international turmoil, border turmoil and violence you will keep democratic reforms and human rights issues high on your agenda?
Mr POROSHENKO – On the first question, I have great experience of solving the question of Transnistria. We should not give any separatist movement any chance, because at the beginning of the 1990s Moldova had a similar process to the one that we now have in the Donetsk and Luhansk region, and it tried to freeze the conflict using Russian peacekeepers. In Transnistria, for almost 30 years hundreds of thousands of people have lived in very poor conditions, without democracy or economic development and with corruption. That is a very good lesson that we should learn in working out how to avoid the Transnistria scenario in the Donetsk and Luhansk region. Moldova paid a very high price for that, and we are a great supporter of Moldovan unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty. The fact that we will be together tomorrow signing an association agreement will improve our chance of solving the question of the frozen conflict that has existed for years and years, through the joint efforts of Ukraine, Moldova and the European Union, and with the possible participation of Russia.
On the visa-free regime, tomorrow I will sign the second part of the DCFTA, which is very important for my country. We have already made decisions during the first phase of the visa-free regime, and I am absolutely sure that in the second half of the year, Ukraine will implement the laws that we passed during that first phase. We have a great chance to have a visa-free regime for all Ukrainians on 1 January 2015. During the revolution, Ukrainians have passed important exams in democracy and in being European. That is important for me.
But this is not the end. We not only want to have a full association agreement, the DCFTA and a visa-free regime; my main purpose is to provide reform so effectively that within a short period Ukraine can be granted a European Union membership perspective. We count on your support, colleagues, on that very important question.
On your question, Mr Jenssen, about maintaining democratic standards and providing democratic reform, it is impossible to obtain a European Union membership perspective without democracy, without effective economic reform, without meeting the economic, democratic and social criteria and so on. That is my top priority, because I am positive that we will solve the questions of war and peace and of security this year. The truth is with us, God is with us, and Europe and the whole world are with us, and our opponent is in complete isolation. There will be peaceful victory together.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I always like to thank those who work for regional stability, so I commend you on your work and wish you the best of success.
I have a question about the future, as I think it is important for us to take a rest from the present. Your most important task will be to set up a new judiciary. Drawing up legislation is easy, but it is difficult to train judges, who should only consider the application of the law. They might receive instructions from whatever powers that be, but they should disregard them and should only abide by and apply the law. That is important for their professional lives and for their independence in their personal lives. How will you help the country to build up a new judiciary along those lines?
Mr VILLUMSEN (Denmark) – When I visited Ukraine, I spoke to the chairman of Svoboda, who said that he wanted to ban the Communist Party. Others have also proposed that. Do you agree that banning parties, whether they are the Communist Party or the Party of Regions, is not a democratic step? Are you not worried that the participation of Svoboda and the Right Sector party in government is creating some of the mistrust in the eastern part of the country?
Ms MATTILA (Finland) – You have just given a practical example of the need for relief work as people have been without electricity or water for several days. How do you view the situation for NGOs in Ukraine today? Are humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent able to help without any threat?
Mr POROSHENKO – On court reform, I will be absolutely open and frank with you. For me, the most difficult and complicated question is that of peace and security but the second is court reform. You are absolutely right that we can all write laws, but we cannot easily create new judges and a new independent court system. That is an important challenge for us, working in effective co-operation with the European Union and the Council of Europe. We want a court system that is absolutely independent and transparent. We will build on this relationship and I think we have a great chance of establishing that. It is difficult to start court reform when the level of trust in the courts is less than 4%. Can you imagine the starting conditions necessary for doing that? Without an independent court system, we cannot fight corruption, and that is connected to reform. Court reform is one of the top priorities and Mr Díaz Tejera is absolutely right.
On the question of the parties, my personal opinion is that it is right to ban a party in that if people do not support a party it should be banned by an election. If you provide an election, certain parties, including the Communist Party, would not be supported by the voters. That is the most democratic way to remove the party from political life, allocating responsibility for the old blood and the victims of the Maidan, as Communist Party representatives in particular voted in organising all those type of things. What is the most democratic way to remove the party? Early parliamentary elections, which I have tried to declare. I positively hope that they will take place in October.
As for the Right Sector and other parties, again, the propaganda said that support for the nationalists is high in our society but altogether all the candidates from the nationalist parties received less than 2% of the vote. That is good evidence that Ukrainian society is quite healthy and Ukrainian voters are responsible. Those messages were simply not true and in a democratic society, we can treat ourselves through elections.
The humanitarian situation is difficult, it is true. We provide effective co-operation with the United Nations and the OSCE and we try to do our best to help people, but it is very dangerous to go in to the conflict zone. Every day, hostages are captured, including representatives of the humanitarian mission. We should take into account that this is not just a problem of war and peace but a problem with the humanitarian regime. We cannot wait a long time for people to come to the negotiation table because on every day that we wait people would be killed and the humanitarian problems would increase. We need to act quickly and effectively.
The PRESIDENT – We will now have the last three questions. The first is from Mr Chisu, Observer from Canada.
Mr CHISU (Canada) – I congratulate you on your election. Canada has condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s military intervention in Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine. Those actions are a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Canada does not recognise the legitimacy of the outcomes of the independence referendums in eastern and southern Ukraine or Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. How will you put an end to the further destabilisation of Ukraine and restore its national territorial integrity?
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Thank you for defending the values of this Council of Europe over the six months between the Vilnius Summit and tomorrow, when you will sign the agreement. Our key values were defended in Kiev and the Maidan and you changed history. What can you do about the speed of economic reforms to ensure the future success of your economy? Also, you just talked about hostages. One hostage, or political prisoner, is Mr Dzhemiliev’s son. What can be done to liberate him from prison?
Mr KENNEDY (United Kingdom) – I welcome you and wish you well. Given your forthcoming discussions in Brussels, in which your Foreign Minister has already been engaged – you will understand that I ask this from a British perspective, given what has happened this week – are you concerned about the undue attention of the leaders there on their own internal European Union presidential candidacies? To what extent is that in danger of detracting or distracting from the profound issues you have to put before them?
Mr POROSHENKO – First, let me thank all the countries who participated in the last group of questions. Canada was one of the first to support us in our independence, as it was the first country to recognise Ukrainian independence. All this time, Canada has been one of the strongest advocates of Ukrainian independence and has supported Ukrainian sovereignty. We have a responsibility and we are absolutely sure that, together, we can win the fight for peace and provide reform. We have already had very effective bilateral consultation with the Canadian Government. The Canadian Prime Minister attended my inauguration and I am very satisfied with his perspective on Canadian assistance with reform.
In answer to the question from Lithuania, the Euromaidan started at the time of the summit in Vilnius. You will remember how great our disappointment was when former President Yanukovych refused to sign the well-prepared association agreement. That gave us an additional argument for fighting for our country and our European future. The support of Lithuania and President Grybauskaitė was continuous. I remember her speech at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Again, the key issue for us is solidarity, and that people consider Ukrainian pain and problems their own. Ukraine will do the same by understanding the level of European problems. We are one European family. We should keep together and we are together. This is very important to us.
It is the same with the question from the United Kingdom. That country is our strongest advocate in Europe. When I meet Prime Minister Cameron and opposition leader Miliband, Ukraine is one of the few questions on which they are strongly together. There is a very high level of responsibility on us, and on me personally, now that so many have views on Ukraine. I understand how important it is to be adequate to this expectation. I understand that it is probably the last chance for a democratic, European Ukraine. We need to win this battle together – it is that simple.
Thanks to all of you for your support and for this session. It is very important to us to have such support at present, as it was in the past when you took decisions on the Crimean occupation and aggression. I hope to have your support in the future.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, President Poroshenko. You really can count on the support of all of us.
3. Next public sitting
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda that was approved on Monday morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting closed at 1.05 p.m.)
1. Current affairs debate: political and humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Ukraine
Debate opened by Mr Xuclà (Spain)
Address by Mr Muižnieks (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights)
Speakers: Mr Gross (Switzerland), Mr Dzhemiliev (Ukraine), Mr Denemeç (Turkey), Ms Fiala (Switzerland), Mr Hunko (Germany),
Address by Mr Jagland (Secretary General of the Council of Europe)
Speakers: Mr Pylypenko (Ukraine), Mr Zingeris (Lithuania), Mr Popescu (Ukraine), Mr Németh (Hungary), Mr Kivalov (Ukraine), Ms Beck (Germany), Mr O. Shevchenko (Ukraine), Mr Sobolev (Ukraine), Mr Rouquet (France), Mr Fournier (France), Ms Guţu (Republic of Moldova), Ms Valavani (Greece), Ms Gerashchenko (Ukraine), Mr Gyöngyösi (Hungary), Ms Pakosta (Estonia), Mr Villumsen (Denmark), A. Shevchenko (Ukraine), Mr Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova), Ms Čigāne (Latvia) and Mr Sasi (Finland),
2. Address by Mr Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine
Questions: Mr Gross (Switzerland), Ms Čigāne (Latvia), Ms Godskesen (Norway), Mr Garðarsson (Iceland), Mr Hunko (Germany), Mr Fournier (France), Ms Beck (Germany), Mr Badea (Romania) Mr Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova), Mr Németh (Hungary), Mr Jenssen (Norway), Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain), Mr Villumsen (Denmark), Ms Mattila (Finland), Mr Chisu (Canada), Mr Zingeris (Lithuania) and Mr Kennedy (United Kingdom)
3. 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*
Theodora BAKOYANNIS/Spyridon Taliadouros
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA/Sílvia Eloïsa Bonet Perot
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Ondřej BENEŠIK/ Gabriela Pecková
José María BENEYTO*
Sali BERISHA/Oerd Bylykbashi
Anna Maria BERNINI*
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*
Mladen BOSIĆ/Ismeta Dervoz
Anne BRASSEUR/Marcel Oberweis
Nunzia CATALFO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Irakli CHIKOVANI/Eka Beselia
Vannino CHITI/Luis Alberto Orellana
Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU/Viorel Riceard Badea
Deirdre CLUNE/Olivia Mitchell
Carlos COSTA NEVES*
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Armand De DECKER*
Manlio DI STEFANO*
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA
Peter van DIJK
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Tülin ERKAL KARA
Franz Leonhard EßL*
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Axel E. FISCHER*
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO
Sir Roger GALE*
Francesco Maria GIRO*
Alina Ştefania GORGHIU*
Fred de GRAAF/Tineke Strik
Patrick De GROOTE*
Mehmet Kasim GÜLPINAR
Gergely GULYÁS/Bence Tuzson
Hamid HAMID/Mustafa Karadayi
Mike HANCOCK/Charles Kennedy
Martin HENRIKSEN/Sophie Løhde
Jim HOOD/Geraint Davies
Ali HUSEYNLI/Sahiba Gafarova
Denis JACQUAT/Damien Abad
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Antti KAIKKONEN/Sirkka-Liisa Anttila
Serhiy KLYUEV/Volodymyr Pylypenko
Kateřina KONEČNÁ/Miroslav Krejča
Unnur Brá KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR/Brynjar Níelsson
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Christophe LÉONARD/Pierre-Yves Le Borgn'
Trine Pertou MACH/Nikolaj Villumsen
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA*
José MENDES BOTA
Jean-Claude MIGNON/André Schneider
Rubén MORENO PALANQUES*
João Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Melita MULIĆ/Ivan Račan
Lev MYRYMSKYIAndriy Shevchenko
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Lesia OROBETS/ Mustafa Dzhemiliev
José Ignacio PALACIOS
Eva PARERA/Jordi Xuclà
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN*
Cezar Florin PREDA*
Mailis REPS/Liisa-Ly Pakosta
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*
Pavlo RYABIKIN/Iryna Gerashchenko
Jim SHERIDAN/Michael Connarty
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Algis Kašėta
Lorella STEFANELLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli
Björn von SYDOW
Romana TOMC/Andreja Črnak Meglič
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ*
Snorre Serigstad VALEN
Petrit VASILI/Silva Caka
Mark VERHEIJEN/Marjolein Faber-Van De Klashorst
Klaas de VRIES
Piotr WACH/Grzegorz Czelej
Dame Angela WATKINSON*
Morten WOLD/Ingebjørg Godskesen
Kristýna ZELIENKOVÁ/ Ivana Dobešová
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Frédéric Reiss
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Hans Fredrik GRØVAN
Eloy CANTU SEGOVIA
Partners for democracy
Mohammed Mehdi BENSAID
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)