AS (2015) CR 08



(First part)


Eighth sitting

Thursday 29 January 2015 at 3.30 p.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.

3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.

4.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

5.       Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.

The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.

      (Mr Walter, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.35 p.m.)

      THE PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.

1. Changes in the membership of committees

      THE PRESIDENT – Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in the document Commissions (2015 01 Addendum 3).

      Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development agreed to?

      The changes are agreed to.

2. Organisation of debates

      The PRESIDENT – We begin with the replies to the debate on the report entitled “Protection of media freedom in Europe” presented by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and the Media, followed by the votes on the draft resolution and draft recommendation.

      We will then move to the debate on the report entitled “Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians” presented by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, before debating the report from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs on “Post-electoral shifting in members’ political affiliation and its repercussions on the composition of national delegations”.

3. Protection of media freedom in Europe – resumed debate

      THE PRESIDENT – The list of speakers was interrupted at the end of this morning’s sitting. We will now hear from the rapporteur and the chairperson of the committee before proceeding to vote on amendments to the draft resolution. I call the rapporteur, Mr Flego, to reply to the debate. You have three and a half minutes.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – I will try to be brief and answer just a few questions and express a few remarks. I thank colleagues for their contributions to the report and for their ideas that might be useful in future. I am happy that many of you were satisfied with the report, and I stress that we tried to be as factual as possible. In some cases that today look problematic, we had sources from international organisations that deal with the media, media freedom and journalists. It is important to understand, particularly in a democracy, that the external viewpoint and the arguments of other people are also important for us. We must listen to other people’s opinions in order to improve, as it were, or to be better in the future.

      Two elements in the report must be mentioned. First, the Internet-based platform for the security of journalists will finally start its work this spring, almost certainly during our spring session. That will probably contribute to the security of journalists and, as I keep repeating, we will try to make it as preventive as possible – we want to prevent bad consequences and bad events. Secondly, paragraph 14.1 of the report asks “national parliaments to hold annual public debates”, together with journalists, “on the State of media freedom”.

      You may have perceived that in some cases, I say “I” and in some cases “we”. That is because I worked very closely with members of the secretariat, particularly Mr Rüdiger Dossow, and I thank them cordially for all their co-operation and everything they did for this report, especially since the Assembly finds it useful.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does the vice-chair of the committee, Mr Wach, wish to speak? You have two minutes.

      Mr WACH (Poland) – Intensive preparatory work went into this report. Since the appointment of Mr Flego as rapporteur, our committee has held relevant hearings with experts here in Strasbourg, but also in the House of Commons in London, the National Assembly in Belgrade, in Istanbul, and last December in the Senate in Paris. Professional organisations of journalists and media representatives were heard, as well as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. At all those events, Assembly members were able to discuss matters and to take home information, especially information concerning their own countries. That preparatory process may also have had a positive impact since we have seen legislative changes and the ending of detentions of journalists. However, the overall situation is still alarming and we need to continue to look at the serious violations of media freedom in our member States, as well as in Belarus and neighbouring countries. Problems do not disappear if we ignore them. On the contrary, where media freedom is violated, a society will become unstable, because in our global world, information cannot effectively be bent.

      The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack and its tragic outcome have influenced not only our speeches today but the text of the report, through amendments introduced by the committee. I draw your attention to Amendment 17, which was unanimously adopted by the committee. It is quite radical, as it describes the scope of media freedom. It suggests that the media should show not only information or ideas that are “favourably received” but information or ideas that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”. I will not develop that, but it suggests the scope of media freedom that we are ready to approve.

      THE PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.

      The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has presented a draft resolution, to which 19 amendments and six sub-amendments have been tabled. The committee has also presented a draft recommendation, to which one amendment has been tabled. First, we will consider the draft resolution. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium.

      I understand that the Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 15, 16, 6, 17, 20 and 18 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as adopted by the Assembly. Is that so, Mr Wach?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes, it is so.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone object to that procedure? That is not the case.

      Amendments 15, 16, 6, 17, 20 and 18 are adopted.

      We now come to Amendment 7, to which two sub-amendments have been tabled. I call Mr Ariev to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – According to international law, Ukraine has the executive right to conduct investigations and judicial proceedings on its territory. The Russian side has to use its influence over the Russian separatists to admit Ukrainian investigators to areas that are not under the control of the Ukrainian Government. Please support the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Flego to support Sub-Amendment 1 on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. Mr Flego, you have 30 seconds.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – Sub-Amendment 1 proposes to insert the words “the killings and” after the word “condemns” in the fourth line, before the words “the alleged targeted attacks on journalists”.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Flego. I think that that is clear. The sub-amendment is printed in the compendium.

Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the mover of the main amendment?

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – Mr Ariev is in favour. We assume that the committee is in favour, so I shall now put Sub-Amendment 1 to the vote. The vote is open.

      Sub-amendment 1 is adopted.

      I call Mr Flego to support Sub-amendment 2 on behalf of the committee.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – Sub-amendment 2 follows the direction of the main amendment in asking that Ukraine should proceed in investigating the crimes committed on its territory. That is why we propose to delete, at the end of the sentence, the words “and calls on the Russian Federation to use their influence on the pro-Russian separatist forces to contribute to these investigations”.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment?

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – Distinguished colleagues, if we call for the pro-Russian separatists and Russia to investigate the tragic crash of MH17, logically we should call for the Russian Federation to use its influence to support us in the investigation of the tragedy involving the journalists. I ask members to support the amendment, as it is logical.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – I shall now put Sub-amendment 2 to the vote. The vote is open.

      Sub-Amendment 2 is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 7, as amended? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – I shall now put Amendment 7, as amended, to the vote. The vote is open.

      Amendment 7, as amended, is adopted.

      We now come to Amendment 3. I would call Mr Shlegel to support the amendment, but he is not here.

Does anyone else wish to support the amendment? That is not the case.

Amendment 3 is not moved.

      We now come to Amendment 4, also in the name of Mr Shlegel.

Does anyone else wish to support the amendment? That is not the case.

Amendment 4 is not moved.

      We come to Amendment 8, to which there is a sub-amendment. If Amendment 8 is agreed to, Amendment 5 falls. I call Mr Ariev to support Amendment 8.

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – This amendment makes a change to reflect the current situation, because the journalists mentioned in the amendment have been released – Roman Cheremsky on 27 December 2014, and Serhiy Sakadynskiy on 5 January 2015.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Flego to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – The sub-amendment reflects the actual situation, but keeps the reference to what happened in the record. It says, “The Assembly welcomes the release of the Ukrainian journalists”, and so on. The reference to what happened remains in the document, but the sub-amendment sets out that the situation is not ongoing.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – If possible, I would like to make an oral sub-amendment to the sub-amendment, because we have to clarify that the journalists were detained on territories not controlled by the Ukrainian Government.

      THE PRESIDENT – You have to propose a specific text for the oral sub-amendment, and then we will decide whether it is in order. What is your proposed change to the text of the sub-amendment?

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – The oral sub-amendment is: “In the sub-amendment, after ‘who had been detained for months in the conflict area in eastern Ukraine’, add the words ‘on the territories not controlled by the Ukrainian Government.’”.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour of the original sub-amendment, but of course it has not discussed it in its changed form.

      THE PRESIDENT – The oral sub-amendment is out of order.

      Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      I take it that the committee is in favour.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 8, as amended? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 8, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 9, to which there is a sub-amendment. I call Mr Ariev to support the amendment.

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – An issue raised in the report should be reflected in the resolution. Oleg Sentsov was illegally captured by the de facto authorities in annexed Crimea and was illegally trafficked into Russia. This is one of the most brutal violations of Russia’s commitments and obligations. By the way, with Nadiia Savchenko, there is another criminal case in Russia.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Flego to support the sub-amendment on behalf of the committee.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – We propose replacing the first sentence in the amendment with the text in the sub-amendment. The first sentence in our sub-amendment repeats what is stated in the amendment, but the last part of the sub-amendment is much clearer about what happened, and why it should not have happened.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The committee is obviously in favour of the sub-amendment.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 9, as amended? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 9, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 10. I call Mr Ariev to support the amendment.

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – There is some information in the report that should also be in the resolution. In the report, the violations of the freedom of the media in Russia are described at length; if the report contains that, the resolution has to, too.

       THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Flego.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – In the explanatory memorandum, the situation of the media in Russia is described in detail; there is no need to repeat that in the text of the resolution.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 10 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 11. I call Mr Ariev to support the amendment.

      Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – The amendment is about information warfare and how the media were used to justify the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine. The resolution would be more honest if it contained that information.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Flego.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – The amendment would be an unnecessary duplication of paragraph 6, which addresses the information war.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 11 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 12, which has a sub-amendment. I call Mr Franken to support the amendment.

      Mr FRANKEN (Netherlands) – I agree with the text of the sub-amendment, which will replace the original amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Flego to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – I agree with Mr Franken that the wording is more appropriate.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? I call Ms Fataliyeva.

      Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – We are against the sub-amendment. Emin Huseynov has not been arrested. Those who have been detained are accused of other legal violations unrelated to their professional activities. In Azerbaijan, discussions about defamation are on the agenda and the sub-amendment may negatively affect co-operation between our country and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We call on colleagues to vote against it.

      THE PRESIDENT – I know the opinion of the mover of the amendment. What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – Unanimously in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 12, as amended? I call Ms Fataliyeva.

      Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – We are against.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 12, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 2. I call Ms Hoffmann to support the amendment.

      Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – Paragraph 9 should be deleted because the Council of Europe has declared on a number of occasions that it is no longer necessary to amend our legislation. The cases discussed by the Assembly are very serious, whereas journalists in Hungary can work peacefully without fear.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Flego.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – I was close to accepting the amendment after hearing Ms Hoffman’s explanation, but in his report the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe States that he is concerned that media in Hungary suffer from an inadequate legal framework and political pressures: “The mere existence of some provisions, such as severe sanctions, chills media freedom and pushed a number of media outlets towards self-censorship. The extensive administrative regulatory powers of the Media Council coupled with its vulnerability to political influence and control also remain problematic.” That is why I do not accept the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 2 is rejected.

      I call Mr Franken to support Amendment 13.

      Mr FRANKEN (Netherlands) – The amendment refers to an opinion of the Commissioner for Human Rights and a proposal formulated by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Fataliyeva.

      Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – We are against the amendment. We have co-operated successfully with the Venice Commission and it is a fact that the majority of member States have a similar stance to Azerbaijan on defamation. Over the past four years, no one in Azerbaijan has been charged for defamation.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 13 is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 19, which has a sub-amendment. I call Ms Taktakishvili to support the amendment.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment makes specific mention of the TV station Rustavi2, which is one of the government’s biggest critics. The station’s founder was found dead in suspicious circumstances and the investigation is not ongoing. Surveillance cameras belonging to the State ministry of interior were found at the station and the prime minister has constantly accused the channel of being too critical of the government, so it is important that the case be mentioned.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Flego to support the sub-amendment, on behalf of the committee.

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – If the amendment is to be adopted, we propose that part of it be deleted because it is not possible to verify the threats mentioned.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? I call Ms Taktakishvili.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I regret that I have to speak against the sub-amendment, but if that part is deleted there will be no mention of Rustavi2, which is now under threat in Georgia.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 19, as amended? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 19, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 1. I call Ms Hoffmann to support the amendment.

      Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – I repeat what I said earlier in response to Mr Flego. I know that the commissioner said that Hungary has made a number of modifications of a minor nature. However, the Council of Europe has said on a number of occasions that Hungary is no longer being called on to amend its legislation.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

      Mr FLEGO (Croatia) – First, I could continue to read the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights, which continues in the same direction. Secondly, I see no reason why any country would be afraid of receiving free-of-charge expertise from bodies such as the Venice Commission.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – The committee is against.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 1 is rejected.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13664, as amended.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13664, as amended, is adopted, with 77 votes for, 19 against and 3 abstentions.

      The committee has also presented a draft recommendation, to which one amendment, Amendment 14, has been tabled.

      I understand that the Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media wishes to propose to the Assembly that this amendment, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so, Mr Wach?

      Mr WACH (Poland) – Yes, that is true.

      THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

      Amendment 14 is adopted.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13644, as amended. This requires a two-thirds majority.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 13644, as amended, is adopted with 90 votes for, 9 against and 1 abstention.

      I congratulate the rapporteur and the committee.

      I have had a request from Mr Andreas Gross, who made an error in his voting. Mr Gross has asked to explain himself very briefly. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – I made a mistake on Amendment 19. I voted against, instead of in favour, and I ask you to correct it.

      THE PRESIDENT – I will pass on the mistake in your voting. I do not think it would have made any difference to the result.

4. Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians

      THE PRESIDENT – The next item of business this morning is the debate on the report entitled “Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians”, Document 13660, presented by Mr Valeriu Ghiletchi on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

      I call Mr Ghiletchi, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – When, together with a number of fellow members of the Assembly, I tabled a motion focusing on the need to tackle intolerance and discrimination in Europe, with a special focus on Christians, I was aware that we were drawing the Assembly’s attention to a timely and relevant matter. Although religion is sometimes neglected in modern times, it is part of Europe’s culture and traditions, and it is the pillar of many European citizens’ lives. Europe is a multicultural continent that contains a variety of religious communities. The different Christian confessions, Judaism and Islam in various proportions have had a place in our countries for centuries.

      The relationship between religion and fundamental freedoms should be an important part of the work of our Parliamentary Assembly, which is Europe’s parliament of human rights. In the wake of the terrorist attack that shook France and the entire continent, that matter has become even more relevant and timely. Those tragic acts were not only about religion. Terrorists act out of fanaticism and folly, rather than faith, but the criminals who committed the Paris attacks invoked religion as their motive.

      The main questions that the report aimed to investigate are these. How can we guarantee freedom of religion in Europe today? In particular, how can we guarantee religious freedom to Christians? How can we ensure the peaceful co-existence of the different religious communities and non-religious communities in our countries? Those questions are more than ever at the heart of the political debate in Europe.

      Today, Christians face discrimination and hostility in Europe. That phenomenon is often underestimated because in most European countries Christians represent either the majority of the population or the largest religious group. Some, therefore, find it difficult to view Christians as victims. In fact, Christians face many challenges, which should not be ignored. Sometimes they are tangible, such as the vandalism and desecration of churches and cemeteries, but more often they are subtle and consist of undue limitations of fundamental freedoms.

      In my report, I refer to violations of freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. I mention cases of preachers who were arrested for publicly preaching in the streets, of Catholic bishops charged or investigated for alleged hate speech violations and of employees who lost their jobs for exercising their right to conscientious objection.

      On a positive note, awareness of those forms of discrimination is increasing. Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights until June 2014, stated that indisputably hate crimes against individuals for being or being perceived to be Christians occurred in the OSCE region. The former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, referring to the increasing acts of vandalism and desecration of religious sites, described them as hate crimes and “urgent human right issues”. I find it encouraging that such respected, unbiased personalities share our concerns on the situation.

      My report provides a number of examples of hostility and discrimination faced by Christians in Europe today. However, the main focus of the text that we are discussing is not on a description of the problem, but on the search for solutions. As the situation is complex, concerning a variety of groups with potentially conflicting fundamental rights, solutions are not necessarily simple, nor can they be implemented overnight. Nevertheless, I feel that a number of useful indications come from the good practices in European countries. I endeavoured to collect the best practices and to reflect them in the draft resolution.

      How should we respond to these forms of discrimination? We should certainly not respond with religious zeal. Everyone’s fundamental rights are at stake – fundamentalism does not help. Nor should we respond with a radical approach. Since the ultimate goal is to avoid conflicts between the rights and interests of people with diverse religious and moral beliefs, the best response is based on a pragmatic approach and on common sense.

      The Global Charter of Conscience is a significant source of inspiration and an important contribution to this debate. The charter was drafted by an international group of academics and activists, people of many faiths or no religious affiliation at all, based on the consideration that growing tensions involving religion, world views and ideology had become a massive global problem. That text reaffirms and supports Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all and aims to do away with polarisation and bitterness surrounding religion. That, in my opinion, is the right attitude. There should be a collective effort, led by people of different faiths and people of no faith who simply desire to live together in peace. That effort is to ensure that everyone is granted respect and can practise his or her religion freely.

      What does the draft resolution advocate? In line with the approach based on mutual respect and common sense, I found that the best answer to our questions came from the concept of reasonable accommodation. That concept first emerged in North America – in the United States and Canada – precisely as a means of dealing with religious diversity, particularly in the workplace.

      In simple terms, reasonable accommodation means that the employer should take concrete measures to accommodate the religious practice of the employees. Those measures are adopted pragmatically, on a case by case basis and without causing excessive burdens to the employer. In Europe, reasonable accommodation has been successfully applied for a long time to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities. The possibility of using it in relation to religious diversity has not yet been accepted in our continent. I suggest in the report extending the duty of reasonable accommodation to the needs of people belonging to religious groups. That would be in the interest of Christians, but also of people of other religions.

      This is nothing new for us. Not long ago, in Resolution 1928 in 2013 on safeguarding human rights in relation to religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence, our Assembly almost unanimously called on member States to accommodate religious beliefs in the public sphere. It supported the right to well-defined conscientious objection in relation to morally sensitive matters and the right of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their religious convictions.

      In these troubled times, we need more freedom of religion, not less. Guaranteeing the right of Christians, as well as people belonging to other religions, to practise their religion freely is key to achieving the peaceful co-existence of everyone in Europe. I call on you to support the draft resolution wholeheartedly and to ensure that it is approved with a large majority.

      THE PRESIDENT – Mr Ghiletchi, you have about three and a quarter minutes remaining.

      We now move to the list of speakers, starting with the political groups. I remind colleagues of the decision announced this morning that the speaking limit in this debate and the following debate will be four minutes. I call Mr Kox, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – One of the finest elements of this Assembly is that we are free to meet and discuss with people whom we personally like and with whom we politically totally disagree. Valeriu Ghiletchi and I fall into that category. It is good that that is possible. It is a pity that we deprive some people who want to be here of that right.

      I agree with a lot of things that Mr Ghiletchi said in his report – you cannot disagree with the Council of Europe’s caseload – but I have a problem with the resolution and the report. He speaks about the growing intolerance and discrimination in Europe, with a special focus on Christians. I am not convinced. He informs us of a number of incidents, some of which are very serious. I do not joke about that. However, those incidents together do not build a trustworthy basis to accept his conclusion that there is growing and particular intolerance of and discrimination against Christians in Europe. That is too much. That is my belief.

      I also have a problem with the way you try to convince us. You cite, for example, the Pope – my Pope, your Pope – and the former Pope. You give a quote but I do not think that the Pope said that on Europe. He said it about the world. Not all the problems that exist in the world exist in Europe.

You present proof for your conclusion, referring to what has happened, for example, in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands with civil servants who refuse to participate in same-sex marriage, and you refer to what happened in Germany, but I think you should have told us in a louder voice that that is in accordance with the law of these countries, and as such it is not intolerance and not discrimination, although it is often seen as such.

You call what happened in my country, the Netherlands, with regard to civil servants who are not allowed to refuse participating in same-sex marriage – because that would hinder the human rights of our citizens – “a step backwards compared to the tradition of pragmatic tolerance which previously prevailed in the Netherlands.” It is great that you pay attention to my small country, but this is saying far too much. It is not seen as a form of discrimination and intolerance in the Netherlands; it is seen as respecting human rights. You refer to Mr Lenarčič, who speaks about the OSCE region. You and I know that the OSCE region is a bit bigger than Europe.

My problem with your report is that, although it is good if you inform us about these incidents – it is important and each serious incident should be looked into – if you use those to draw a conclusion which is not founded on solid ground, you do not help the people who are victims of these incidents. I have a lot of problems with your report, but with all due respect, as you know, Valeriu.

THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Gunnarsson, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – On behalf of the Socialist Group, I congratulate the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination on a balanced report. I also extend special thanks to the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi.

In many ways, the report deals with issues that are at the core of this Organisation’s main responsibilities – namely, how to find ways for us to live together in this part of the world, without letting our differences make that impossible for some. It is not easy to find ways to form a society where we respect each other and where no one’s rights and freedoms infringe on the rights and freedoms of others, but it is always possible.

Mr Ghiletchi and I have not always been on the same track in respect of many issues, and in the beginning of the committee’s work on the report now in our hands, I had my doubts that we would end up where we are today. However, the committee has proved that we can, through a sensitive and respectful approach to each other, find common ground despite differences. The main thing that we have explored is whether and how reasonable accommodation can be used as a tool in respect of religious freedom. Reasonable accommodation is, as the rapporteur mentioned, often used as a tool to accommodate the needs of people with other physical abilities than most of us have. We found that, yes, it is possible in some respects, but not all. This is very important and should be considered further.

Religion is a sensitive issue, and rightly so, since it is something that partly constitutes who we are, but our convictions can never be justification for denying others their rights – especially not the rights of children. I am happy that the committee overwhelmingly supported that. I encourage my colleagues to support the report presented by the committee.

THE PRESIDENT – I call Ms Quintanilla, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Ms QUINTANILLA (Spain)* – On behalf of the EPP, I congratulate Mr Ghiletchi and the whole team in the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination on doing an outstanding job. It is true that we need to talk about discrimination and intolerance, and it is also true that, on some occasions recently, we have experienced a clash between different religious communities close to our countries, where hatred and intolerance continue to be displayed simply because people are of a different religion to others.

In this report, you State that tolerance, living together and respect are based on the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights. You have spoken about discrimination and intolerance against Christians in Europe. I, too, would like to talk about intolerance, discrimination and hatred against Christians in the world: 480 million Christians are suffering from persecution across the globe. In the Islamic State, Christians are being persecuted. Children abducted by Boko Haram were abducted not just to be turned into sex slaves, but also because they are Christians, and that is too easily forgotten. In Egypt, too, we have heard through the media how Christians are being persecuted.

This is not just a report and a mandate to member States to establish legislation and commitments in favour of tolerance, living together and mutual respect, because any religion is predicated on love, respect and living together. Whoever uses religion to attack another is undoubtedly breaching the way of living together in peace, and we should all hold that way dear. For that reason, the EPP welcomes the report, because we understand that the Council of Europe has a vital role to play in combating hatred and intolerance, to put an end to any acts that lead us to war and hatred.

A few days ago we marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. What was that? Hatred of a people, and hatred of a religion. We still have to raise our voices to ensure that these situations do not recur in the world. I congratulate you, Mr Ghiletchi, and the Council of Europe, which has constituted its Parliamentary Assembly against hatred in all its forms. I think that this instrument will be fundamental in fighting for peaceful co-existence and peace among us all. We have had enough of discrimination and intolerance in respect of any religion, but especially vis-à-vis Christians.

THE PRESIDENT – I call Ms Fiala, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, I thank the rapporteur warmly for his commitment. It is a topical subject, but one that is often overlooked: we are more familiar with intolerance against religious minorities than against religious majorities. Hostile and violent acts and vandalism targeting Christians and their places of worship worldwide affect 100 million Christians and the trend is on the increase. In some 50 countries, Christians are prevented from freely exercising their faith: they have no right to religious freedom. We cannot pass over in silence this massive violation.

      The world persecution index for 2011 shows where Christians are suffering the worst forms of persecution. The top 10 countries on that blacklist are North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Laos. No member State of the Council of Europe is in the top 10, which I think shows that abiding by democratic rules and respecting human rights and the principles of the rule of law are of the utmost importance. That strengthens our common conviction to uphold human rights.

      The terrorist attacks against Egyptian Copts bring to mind the worldwide persecution of Christians, with hundreds of thousands living in camps and many others fearing for their lives. In the spirit of tolerance, we must make it our business to promote respect, acceptance of religious diversity and peaceful co-existence between religions within our 47 member States and beyond. It is here that intercultural dialogue comes into its own, for intolerance and fear of what we do not know or do not comprehend enables populism and violence to come to the fore.

      Freedom of thought, conscience and religion are anchored in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which must continue to serve as the foundation of any democratic and pluralist society. All people who abide by the rule of law must ensure that their right to freedom of religion is upheld, that they can live in security and peace, bring up their children in the Christian faith and freely participate in public life, free from violence and incitement to violence. We must also ensure that the propagation of stereotypes or prejudices against Christians stops. Thank you all for assisting in the protection of Christian minorities in your own countries and ensuring that they are respected. Let us hope that these efforts will also bear fruit beyond the borders of our 47 member States.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Szczerski, who speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

      Mr SZCZERSKI (Poland) – I congratulate Mr Ghiletchi and his committee on their excellent work. That is not just an obligatory politeness; we really do highly value the work, which highlights the important and topical problem of growing intolerance towards and discrimination against religious people in Europe, especially Christians. It clearly proves that intolerance, hate speech and discrimination can be rooted in all forms of extremism, including anti-religious extremism, such as the Christianophobia that we are now witnessing in Europe.

      Christians are the victims of many different forms of intolerance and discrimination in several countries on our continent, but it is especially appalling in the spheres of family legislation, health services, education and culture, as the report describes well. Even in Poland, where the Catholic Church is still well established, public institutions have tried to block the only Catholic television station, Telewizja Trwam, from access to a nationwide public broadcasting platform, and thousands of people had to take to the streets to protest and lobby the authorities to change that attitude. At the same time, in most of the mainstream private media every day we see anti-Christian propaganda based on prejudice and intolerance.

      What is even worse is that most of these Christianophobic acts are presented and justified as so-called “modernisation” or “Europeanisation”, which results in a popular association between intolerance and discrimination and the so-called “Europe” or “European standard”. That harms public perceptions of European values among Christians.

      Denis de Rougemont, a great European philosopher – his bust can be found in this very building – famously defined European identity as being based on three pillars: Greek philosophy, Roman civil law and the Christian concept of human dignity, which grounds the concept of human rights. Every act of Christianophobia, therefore, is an act against European identity and the roots of Europe. If we cut ourselves off from those roots, our green tree of Europe will soon shrivel. That is why we must do our utmost to ensure the right of Christians and religious communities to express their belief and why we must guarantee freedom of conscience in the workplace, with special regard to health care units, social and educational institutions and the media. We should combat all forms of violence and discrimination based on Christianophobia. We all have equal rights to accommodate in our societies, so we support the best practices described in the report.

      Christians around the world are now the most persecuted religious community. The martyrdom of today’s Christians is much more horrible than that of Roman times. According to the Open Doors report, more than 100 million Christians in 50 countries are being persecuted. It is not enough for us, as Europeans, to try to end discrimination against Christians on our continent; we must also make a strong commitment to help those being killed for their faith all around the world. That is our moral obligation, whether or not we are believers. We owe that to them.

      THE PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of delegates who speak for the political groups. The next speaker is Lord Anderson.

      Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom) – I enjoyed reading Mr Ghiletchi’s report. He draws on many sources and appears to have searched all the relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. He shows clearly the problem in practice of drawing the line between competing values and relying on that nice legal phrase “reasonable accommodation”. I far prefer the old English expressions of “common sense” and “living together”. Surely common sense should inform all our responses.

      We can see that in two judgments of the European Court. The first concerned a Christian woman who worked for British Airways and wished to wear a cross to show her faith. It offended no one, and others were wearing turbans or Muslim headdresses. The judgment was that she should be able to wear the cross. However, a Christian woman wearing a cross in a hospital could offend against health and safety rules, so that would be ruled not admissible.

      In the British courts, there was the case of a couple who ran a bed and breakfast and refused to accept a gay couple staying with them. In my judgment, they should have recognised that if they choose to run a business, they have to conform to the law. No reasonable accommodation or common sense appeared to be possible in that case. I note that Mr Ghiletchi draws most of his examples from the United Kingdom, and in a sense I am proud of that, because we have so many non-governmental organisations that draw attention to these cases, and indeed so many excellent lawyers who are prepared to take up the cases in our courts.

      The problems of religion, religious freedom and a pluralist society are mentioned. It is highlighted in the cases in Birmingham, where extremists are alleged to have taken over a number of schools. I also mention, with regard to reasonable accommodation, the refusal of our government to allow registrars of marriages to have a conscientious objection to marrying homosexual couples. Had the government so wished – I made this case regularly in the House of Lords – in a cluster of other registrars it could easily have found someone who was prepared to do it. It was a failure of common sense that potentially amounted to discrimination against a Christian wanting to exercise his conscience.

I accept that, compared with the wider world, we in Europe are towards the bottom of that awful spectrum that has Saudi Arabia and North Korea at the top. In the Middle East, there is a danger that in a few decades Christianity will be extinct. What about us in Europe? We have received the January report from Open Doors that has already been mentioned, which shows that persecution worldwide has increased. It is good that it draws attention to only two Council of Europe countries, and at the lower end of the spectrum. The first is Turkey, where, the report states, the regime is either unwilling to or incapable of adequately protecting Christians in exercising their religion, and Open Doors recommends that the Turkish Government should actively protect religious freedom. The second is Azerbaijan, where there is an onerous requirement to re-register churches that means that many churches cannot register.

The presumption should be in favour of religious freedom and we should all be ready to turn the searchlight on ourselves. If we wish plausibly to criticise others, we should be prepared to consider our own records in every one of the Council of Europe countries.

Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – “Combating intolerance in Europe”: never have the words introducing Mr Ghiletchi's report being more topical than they are today, following the inhuman attack in Paris. All citizens of Hungary, as well as the peoples and governments of Europe, robustly condemn any form of intolerance, discrimination or violence, not to mention aggressive acts and murder. That is unacceptable in our culture. It is therefore unacceptable for there to be any form of intolerance of human convictions – and religion is the conviction we are discussing today.

It is a value to protect, given that it embodies great strength in keeping together communities, which are the natural context for human life and alone can defend individuals against negative temptation. Of course, in Europe special attention should be paid to the Christian religion. Europe was built on three mounts: the philosophy of the Greek Acropolis; the seven hills of Rome; and the sacrifice on Golgotha in Jerusalem. The latter emphasised and strengthened the validity of the previous two. The three mounts created the fundamental basis for Europe's values today and for ever: equality, social solidarity, individual and common morality, the rights of the individual and of communities, democracy and freedom.

I should point out that His Holiness Pope Francis, in this same Chamber, used similar words on 25 November 2014. He said, among other things, that religion made up the wealth of Europe, that we should combat all conflicts between religions and that religion served peace, democracy and so on. Those words should not be forgotten.

Let us now take a glance at the situation regarding intolerance and discrimination against Christians mentioned in the report. It is not right to prohibit the use of Christian symbols, such as the cross, Christmas trees or nativity scenes. Those symbols offend nobody. They have a meaning and a message for Christians and are not directed against others. The prohibition of their use constricts the right to freedom, which is one of the fundamental values of Europe. That is why it is unacceptable to us, Christians and non-Christians alike, and to all democrats. It is not right to compel Christian doctors and nurses to perform abortions against their religious conviction or to threaten them with dismissal if they refuse. It is not right to take to court or to fire Christian registrars who do not wish to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples because of their religious convictions. It is not right to threaten or mock children of faith, and so on.

I strongly commend the report's conclusions and recommendations and endorse all its main points. We would be a lot happier if we lived in a Europe in which each country accepted the recommendations in paragraph 6 and ensured the enjoyment of those rights in daily life and in the media. I wish to see that for all of us.

Mr RUSTAMYAN (Armenia) – Exactly four years ago, our Assembly held a debate under urgent procedure on violence against Christians in the Middle East. It clearly was a matter of urgency, as the violence had increased considerably. We were already talking about religious and cultural cleansing and it was vital to find a way of preventing such scourges. We have wasted time, however, because now the situation is deteriorating.

From day to day, intolerance and discrimination based on belief are on the march here in Europe and have come to affect majority faith groups – Christians. It is becoming increasingly clear that the target of that unbridled violence is not just believers but Christianity and our values. The Armenian people follow the Armenian Apostolic Church, which was founded by two apostles and has survived all kinds of discrimination and persecution throughout its history. Armenia declared Christianity to be the State religion in the year 301 and has been the target of attacks inspired by fundamentalism and intolerance ever since. That was behind the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of the Armenian people: Armenians were stigmatised as giaours, or unbelievers, and murdered. That genocide cannot be consigned to the past. History is repeating itself today because of the denial that persists in that same country and the victims and descendants of those who escaped the genocide are still, a century later, waiting for recognition, compensation and justice.

Such a crime against humanity must be unreservedly and roundly condemned. Let us not be hypocritical. We cannot say "Je suis Charlie" while also saying that Charlie Hebdo was wrong and infuriated Muslims. For a genuine believer, anger is a deadly sin. We can talk about limits and about freedom, of course, but the arbiter who decides what is right and wrong must decide the appropriate punishment. You have to decide whether you are Charlie or not. That is the real link with our values and that is what we are called on to protect. Ladies and gentlemen, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Mr Badea and Mr Romanovich are not here, so I call Mr Selvi.

      Mr SELVİ (Turkey) – Mr Ghiletchi’s report touches on a crucial issue of discrimination. However, intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion remain challenges for European countries and not only for Christians but for Muslims as well. Taking the recent tragic events into consideration, it is unfortunate that the scope of the report is limited solely to Christians.

      Racism and the extreme right have recently been on the rise in Europe. Rallies are staged under the banner of "Stop Islamisation of Europe” and the number of people joining them is increasing every day. In Sweden and other countries, acts of vandalism and arson have been carried out against mosques and worshippers.

      The recent rise of anti-Islamic groups and demonstrations across Europe are an increasingly common pattern. The extreme right and other extremist groups are engaged in a systematic campaign to denounce minority Muslim communities using a selective and distorted image of Islam. Anti-Muslim movements identify Muslims as anti-Christian, anti-modern and anti-humanist.

      Far-right religious and secular groups in Europe, while disagreeing on almost all major issues, unite against what they perceive to be the threat of Islam and demonise Muslim minority communities. We all need to be vigilant against these campaigns of hatred and racism. People of conscience from different faith traditions and cultural backgrounds should be able to unite against the xenophobic and Islamophobic groups, which are in the minority. That is how one should cherish the religious and humanistic values to which we can all aspire.

      In October, I signed a motion, tabled by Ms Erkal Kara, on rising Islamophobia in Europe. Given these circumstances, it is unfortunate that the Bureau has decided not to refer this motion for a report.

      Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – I thank the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi, for this report on an important subject, and I ask all delegates to support the resolution.

      I would like to draw attention to another aspect of the problem: discrimination against Christian minorities by majority groups. I am 35 years old and I spent the first 13 years of my life in the atheist empire of evil: the Soviet Union. For our family in Ukraine – for my parents and grandparents – it was a time of constant persecution and discrimination. What was the reason you will ask? My family belonged to a small religious group of the Protestant Evangelical Baptist Church, which was the reason for the persecution.

      Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and until recently, it seemed impossible to me that we would see persecution and discrimination on religious grounds again. Unfortunately, recently, we have received numerous alarming reports from occupied Crimea and the war-torn Donbass about the brutality of religious persecution and complex issues of survival for believers from different religious groups. In parts of Donetsk and Luhansk controlled by pro-Russian separatists, religious persecution is aimed at the destruction of Christian minority groups, such as members of the Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate, Catholics and Protestants.

      On 16 May, the representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic adopted the text of their constitution, which identified religious intolerance as the basis of the separatists’ policy. Article 9 of the document reads: “The dominant faith is the Orthodox faith professed by the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate.” Kidnappings of pastors and priests, and their brutal interrogation, with beatings and torture, and the mass capture of temples and churches, have become common practice in the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine.

      An example of religious intolerance took place in the city of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region, where four members of the Christian Protestant Church were taken hostage on 8 June last year. The next day, all four believers were executed by shooting. To hide the evidence of the crime, the terrorists burned some of their victims in one of their cars and buried others in a collective grave.

      Finally, such hostility towards Christian minority groups by the armed separatists has resulted in the capture of more than 25 churches and properties of Catholics and Protestants. These facts indicate that the intentional religious persecution of Christian minority groups and Muslim groups, such as Tatars in Crimea, is carried out by separatists in the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. I ask all delegations and delegates to support the resolution.

      THE PRESIDENT – Mr Nikoloski is not here, so I call Ms Schneider-Schneiter.

      Ms SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER (Switzerland)* – Never has it been more dangerous to be Christian than it is today. Never before have so many Christians been discriminated against, threatened and persecuted. Up to 100 million Christians are affected worldwide, and the trend is on the rise. Christians of different denominations are not the only religious group affected – I grant you that – but they are disadvantaged because of their faith.

      Freedom of religion has been recognised as a basic human right for decades, but that right is not respected in many countries. In about 50 States, people are prevented from practising their faith, and there are serious violations of freedom of religion in many of those countries. This widespread injustice cannot be hushed up, and we must do everything we can to prevent it.

      Some religions have custodians who criticise and tackle violations of religious freedom, but other religions – particularly Christians – are defenceless in the face of attacks on religious freedom. In many countries, Christian prayer in one’s home is forbidden. States prohibit the possession of Christian symbols and writings and tolerate or even approve of attacks on Christians.

      In Switzerland, discrimination on religious grounds is prohibited, but elsewhere holy texts actively promote discrimination against those of a different faith, with bans on entering certain professions, on marrying, on keeping domestic animals and on owning property, to name but a few.

      The European Convention on Human Rights exists to prevent discrimination, and I fully subscribe to the values that it enshrines. All minorities, including those of different faiths, should be protected. Freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world must remain one of our main focuses here in the Council of Europe, not least because Christians are persecuted throughout the world. I support the report.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Miller, Observer from Canada.

      Mr MILLER (Canada) – I thank the President for allowing me to speak on tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe, with a special focus on Christians. I also thank the rapporteur for his great report on this issue. As explained in the report, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental right that is protected in different national, European, and international instruments. In particular, it is guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

      I agree with the rapporteur that "the right to hold religious beliefs, to change them or abandon them freely, to promote and express them openly, and to expect the State to protect individuals as they exercise their rights is among the most fundamental civil rights." However, some of the report's findings are concerning, especially when it states that intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief affect both minority and majority religious groups in Europe.

      The report mentions numerous acts of hostility, violence and vandalism that have been recorded in recent years against Christians and their places of worship, but that have often been overlooked by the national authorities. Jews are still being persecuted in places around the globe. Indeed, one religion believes that Jews should not have the right to practise their faith, and some of that religion also believe that Jews should not even be allowed to live in this world. Plainly put, that is unacceptable in the 21st century.

      In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects freedom of conscience and religion in the constitution, as well as the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The Canadian Government has made the protection of religious communities and the promotion of pluralism a foreign policy priority. For example, in February 2013 our prime minister announced the establishment of the office of religious freedom within the department of foreign affairs, trade and development. Dr Andrew Bennett was appointed as Canada's first ambassador of religious freedom and head of the office.

      The office of religious freedom promotes the freedom of religion as a core human right, encourages the protection of religious communities, and highlights Canadian values of pluralism and diversity around the world. The office focuses on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming related to promoting Canadian values of pluralism and respect for diversity abroad; protecting religious communities under threat and advocating on their behalf; and opposing religious hatred and intolerance.

      I agree with the report’s conclusion that "the accommodation of religious beliefs should be considered by the member States of the Council of Europe in a spirit of tolerance, within the borders defined by law and according to a case-by-case approach." I consider that that is compatible with the Canadian approach and the work of the office of religious freedom. We share the same objective, which is for all religious groups to live in harmony and in respect and acceptance of their diversity. We look forward to working with the Council of Europe and other international partners to promote and protect freedom of religion around the world.

      Mr POZZO DI BORGO (France)* – The report has given rise to a certain scepticism on my part. It has the undeniable merit of raising some important issues in terms of living together in troubled times, but it also includes a number of issues that I find surprising to say the least. I am a Christian Democrat and preside over the Institut Jean Lecanuet, and we are considering a number of issues to do with Christianity around the world. The intention of our colleague, the rapporteur, is the peaceful co-existence of religious communities. That is laudable, and it is legitimate to invoke major principles such as freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression. However, certain aspects in the report pose a problem as far as I am concerned, starting with the title.

      I think that intolerance and discrimination have to be fought, but not only in Europe and not only when they target Christians. Is discrimination tolerable if it is directed at Jews, Muslims or other faiths and denominations? When discussing what happened in Paris, we were talking about Muslims who killed Jews and journalists, although the prime target was Jews. The report also establishes differences or distinctions between Christians and practising Christians. What is meant by that? The report also goes on at some length about the notion of “reasonable accommodation”, which would permit the introduction of “indirect discrimination”. Apart from the excessively vague contours of that concept, I do not like to think about what it could lead to.

      The report talks about accommodation in the work place or education in the name of certain religious or philosophical convictions. Shall we therefore accept that female patients are not examined in a hospital by male doctors or staff, or vice versa? Shall we accept that men and women are separated in swimming pools, or that a public official does not respect a minute’s silence in tribute to innocent people who have been killed in terrorist attacks? Should we accept that parents can refuse a blood transfusion or vaccine for their children?

      The report advocates enabling Christians to participate fully in public life, but is public life the fiefdom of the faithful or those of a given religious conviction, rather than of citizens? Why should conscientious objection be based only on religious conviction? Some people do not want to pay income tax because of their pacifist convictions, as they feel that their taxes could be used to finance defence budgets. The comparison with disabled people is spurious to say the least. A disability is an objective condition and not the same as a religious conviction.

      There are measures and forms of accommodation in a certain number of European countries, which is a good thing, but they are generally established on a case-by-case basis – indeed, examples from the European Court of Human Rights bear that out. The fact that the report refers to those cases seems to me to weaken the rapporteur’s position, because he often regrets the lack of audacity on the part of the judges in Strasbourg.

      The report concludes with an appeal for the strengthening of tolerance and mutual respect but, on the contrary, I think that implementing certain proposals in the report would only exacerbate those divisions. Indeed, to reach the objective advocated by the rapporteur, a well-known, tried and tested concept and notion is secularism. I am very much against the report, but the resolution is much more balanced and I will vote in favour of it.

      Ms KRONLID (Sweden) – It is a pleasure for me to address this distinguished Assembly again in my capacity as a new member of the Swedish delegation. I do so on a subject that is vital for our future – how to overcome intolerance and discrimination in Europe, especially as regards people of the Christian faith. The report and draft resolution before us are well argued, and I commend them for the widest possible reading. I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi, on an excellent job.

      Christians are today the world's most persecuted religious group and in many regions they are in the minority and suffer terrible violations. In Iraq and Syria, mass killings, the destruction of churches, and the expulsion of populations are legion, and the same is true for Nigeria at the hands of the murderous, barbaric Boko Haram militia. I wish I could say that Europe had been spared discrimination and intolerance against Christians, but I cannot. We pride ourselves on protecting minorities of faith, ethnicity and sexual orientation – and rightly so – but we overlook the growing mistreatment of Christians on our continent.

      Reading the report, I was truly shocked by the many examples it gives of attacks against Christians in various European countries, just as I have been shocked by recent attacks against mosques in my home country, Sweden. The draft resolution rightly condemns any and all use of violence, or incitement thereto, on the ground of religion. Similarly, freedom of religion must in no circumstances be misused to justify, on the ground of any religion, the violation of rights in our European Convention on Human Rights. Those rights include freedom of expression and the right to democracy, and it is right and proper for the report also to take up that aspect.      

      Finally, I am happy that the resolution raises the right to freedom of conscience. I have, on numerous occasions in my home country of Sweden, tried to move my government to enshrine in law the right to freedom of conscience – in line with Resolution 1763 adopted by the Assembly – so that, for instance, a midwife who is not willing to carry out an abortion is not refused employment as a result, as has happened in Sweden. In matters as serious as those having to do with life and death, we must show understanding to those for whom it goes against their conscience to take a human life, even if it is important at the same time to recognise any legal right of abortion that may apply.

      To sum up, in view of the overriding importance of banishing any form of intolerance and discrimination in Europe, very much also including against Christians, and of condemning in the strongest terms any use of or incitement to violence, I ask all my colleagues to support the draft resolution before us and the amendments recommended by the committee.

      Mr PINTADO (Spain)* – Thank you, Mr Ghiletchi, for the report, which allows us to have an intense debate, looking closely at case studies and trying to identify the roots of the problem. We live on a continent on which the majority of the population is Christian, so the whole debate might come as a surprise to some.

      I do not think that one can draw any comparisons between religious persecution here and religious persecution elsewhere; there are huge differences between the Council of Europe countries and elsewhere when it comes to degrees of violence. However, the report also asks us to think about perhaps more subtle forms of persecution in the member States of the Council of Europe. People are prevented from doing certain things or are criticised on the grounds of their faith. The rule of law is to do with laws, of course, as well as the position of different groups – people who belong to faith groups and people who belong to none. Everybody is entitled to state his or her position – for example, we can come to the Parliamentary Assembly to defend that position – but they should do it in such a way as to be able to co-exist alongside others.

      His Holiness the Pope hit the nail on the head when he talked about Christianity being the root of this continent. Europe sometimes seems to be like a tree without roots. I believe that human beings, in their economic and social facets, become directionless in denying their roots. That is precisely what is happening in Europe. We have renounced our Christian roots and are moving towards a sometimes misconstrued modernisation. We forget about the role of human rights in defending values, particularly in this case those of Christianity. We have to remember the transverse nature of rights.

      As many colleagues have pointed out, that is not a problem solely for Christians; rather, it is one for faith in general. Generally speaking, religions are in favour of peace and co-existence. There are some striking exceptions to that rule, but generally all religions wish to live in peace with one another and ensure that anyone who wishes to practise a faith can do so. There are various abuses, as has been pointed out, to do with freedom of expression and education – for example, when parents cannot freely choose the education that they want for their children. We have failings, not so much at the level of the Council of Europe, but in the legislation of our countries. It is important that we continue to explore this field and make sure that we do not clash on the subject of religion.

      I have often said to my colleagues in the Council of Europe that we are seeing something that is almost becoming a new religion – what I call “areligion”, or lack of religion. Often, those who reject religion do not use physical violence but use intellectual violence to negate or deny the views of those who have religious faith. Whenever we talk about tolerance vis-à-vis religion, the least that we can do is ensure that governments guarantee full respect for religion, regardless of any moral or political positions that people may hold.

      Mr WACH (Poland) – I am glad that Mr Ghiletchi took up this important subject and that the committee supported the preparation of the report. We have heard here today many examples of strong and violent discrimination against believers, including Christians, and their situation in various countries, including European countries. I draw your attention to another, related subject, which I would call soft discrimination, which also undermines not only freedom of expression but the position of believers.

      I mention first the role of the secular or so-called neutral State. Of course, it is in our constitutions that the State should be the same for all – believers, non-believers and people of various denominations. However, the State should not be unfriendly towards people who believe in or practise various religions. Believers should not be cornered. They should be regarded as any other organised social group that is beneficial to the country. That is very important.

      Yesterday, we discussed the terrorist attacks in Paris, which we unanimously condemned. The rapporteur, Mr Legendre, referred in his excellent speech to respect for all and called for respect for all religions. We all very much agree with that, but it seems to me that respect for all religions is turning into respect for no religion. The unfriendly approach, mockery, hate speech and other forms of soft discrimination take people, particularly young people, out of religious communities. That is not good for society. I am not speaking on behalf of the church, but I do not think that that is a good step if we want a just State and society.

      We discussed another important point today – the conflict between the freedom of the media and their expressions about religion. That is a sensitive point. We all agreed to a wide understanding of media freedom, as expressed in particular in Amendment 17, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. I do not have time to read it all, but it says: "The Assembly recalls that political criticism and satire must be protected as an essential part of media freedom.” It also says that it is acceptable to “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population, subject only to the conditions and restrictions foreseen in the European Convention on Human Rights.” That is right – we voted for that – but application is the key; that should be applied in a wise and just way. Also, the media should present various points of view in a balanced way.

      I support the draft resolution, especially paragraph 6; sub-paragraph 7 comes very close to making the points that I have raised in my speech.

      Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom) – I welcome the report, and support what the previous two speakers said in their excellent speeches; they spoke so well that I am not sure that I have much to add, but I will emphasise the points that they made. In this debate, I think we have come to agree that for Christianity, the problem in Europe is very different from that in the Middle East. In the Middle East, there is outright persecution, as there is in Iraq, Somalia and North Korea. There are also areas of severe persecution, such as Syria. As we have heard from the previous speakers, in Europe we have a more subtle, longer-term and potentially more dangerous – partly because more subtle – form of persecution.

      The Church will always overcome and bounce back from severe persecution; as has often been said, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. In Europe, however, as we have heard, there is almost persecution through indifference, and through the triumph of a liberal, secularist view of society. Where Christians seek to proclaim their faith – whether we are talking about a registrar who opposes carrying out same-sex marriages, a school teacher in a faith school, or an employee of British Airways who wants to wear a cross – there is a sense that somehow they are causing offence to others.

      There is a role for the Council of Europe, the Court and this report in standing up for the rights of Christianity, which is, after all, the foundation of our freedoms. We are free, I would contend, precisely because of our Christian history. We are one of the freest parts of the world, and many of our institutions are based on Christian ideals. Christians should be entitled to proclaim their views in the workplace, in schools, and in the marketplace, even if it goes against the current orthodoxy of liberal secularism. The concept of reasonable accommodation in the report is surely the right way to proceed. If I am a registrar and, because of my profound Christian beliefs, I do not want to carry out a same-sex marriage, I should be allowed to abide by those strong beliefs. Nobody is suggesting that the same-sex couple could not find another registrar to do the job. If I am a Catholic midwife working in a hospital, and I do not want to carry out an abortion, I should not be forced to take any part in the process. Nobody, however, is going to be stopped from having an abortion.

      The report is timely. There is a role here for the Council of Europe, and we should agree the report and make a positive contribution to religious freedom.

      THE PRESIDENT – I do not see Ms El Ouafi, so I call Ms Pashayeva.

      Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – The increase of racism, hatred and intolerance should seriously trouble us. Member States should not ignore this problem and must strengthen their efforts to prevent it. We condemn attacks on Christians, just as we do those on Muslims and Jews. Europe is our common home, and we have to strengthen our efforts in this respect, regardless of our religious belief and ethnicity, to prevent our children from experiencing the pain that we and our forebears felt. The younger generation should be educated in a spirit of tolerance and respect for human beings, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, gender and social status.

      I am a citizen of a country that suffers from cases of intolerance. For a better understanding of the implications of intolerance and racism, I would like to draw your attention to the recent history of my country. Due to the intolerance and hatred generated by the Armenian education system, the mass media and the speeches of a number of politicians, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis were forcibly deported from Armenia. Having occupied 20% of Azerbaijani territory, Armenian armed forces murdered over 20 000 Azerbaijanis, and perpetrated genocide in Khojaly. Consequently, 1 million Azerbaijanis have been living as refugees and internally displaced persons. By ignoring Assembly Resolution 1416, Armenia prevents these people from returning home.

      Colleagues, if you visit Azerbaijan, take the opportunity to see the thousands of Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian ethnicity, and to talk to them. They will tell you the genuine truth. What about the obverse situation in Armenia? At the moment, no Azerbaijani resides in that country, because all Azerbaijanis have been expelled from Armenia. Armenian churches in Azerbaijan have not been touched, but all religious and cultural monuments, and even cemeteries, belonging to Azerbaijanis in Armenia have been destroyed. Armenia even destroyed many religious, cultural and historical monuments in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan; we have a great deal of photographic and video proof of this.

      Azerbaijan, a country peacefully inhabited by people of different nations and religions, is undertaking a broad range of activities to strengthen tolerance through education and the mass media. Societies dominated by racism and intolerance will face serious problems and tragedies, so we should reinforce our efforts to prevent that negative situation. The Assembly should constantly keep things similarly under control in other member States, thus stopping the current negative tendency. I hope that the important issues in the report will be given due attention in member States and I express my gratitude to the rapporteur.

      Mr DONALDSON (United Kingdom) – It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. I congratulate Mr Ghiletchi on his excellent and timely report. For a very long time, I have taken the view that Christians are being silenced in the debate on intolerance.

The report refers to the media. In the United Kingdom, we have a national broadcaster, the BBC; one of its former director-generals, Mark Thompson, admitted in an interview that the BBC has a policy of not being afraid to target Christian views. It is not for one moment reticent about broadcasting programmes that even blaspheme against the Christian faith, because, he said, Christians have broad shoulders. He also said that the broadcaster would never dream of doing the same thing against other religions. There we have the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom openly admitting that it targets Christian beliefs and is not afraid to ridicule Christian viewpoints, but that it would never dream of doing the same thing to other religions. That is simply unacceptable. We need to challenge such liberal viewpoints held by elements of the media that believe that Christianity is fair game for ridicule.

      I listened to some of the journalists quite rightly condemning what happened in France, but the same journalists work for broadcasting outlets that do not practise an even-handed approach when dealing with religion. There are double standards at times.

      There is also ample evidence in the United Kingdom of Christians being deliberately targeted by certain groups because of their faith. In Northern Ireland, for example, a Christian bakery was recently targeted because of its views against gay marriage. One customer ordered a cake and asked for “Support Gay Marriage” to be inscribed on it, knowing that it was against the beliefs of that Christian bakery. When the bakery refused, it was reported to the Equality Commission and it is now being taken to court because of its views on gay marriage. Mr Ghiletchi is right about reasonable accommodation. It is not that the bakery do not want to serve people who are homosexual, but that, as Christians, they have certain beliefs that they believe should be respected.

      The Catholic adoption agency in Northern Ireland has had to close down, as it refuses to make children available for adoption by same-sex couples because that is contrary to its faith. The result is that an adoption agency that has for years done a great job in providing and helping children to be adopted can no longer operate. Reasonable accommodation would take care of that and enable the Catholic adoption agency to continue the work it does to help children. Sometimes we lose sight of the beneficiaries.

      Christianity does a lot of work in our society to help the poor, the needy, children and young people, and that is often overlooked. Christians are being targeted in an insidious and intolerant way. Mr Ghiletchi’s proposal will go some way towards affording protection and freedom of conscience for Christians, so his report is very welcome.

      Mr SELLIN (Poland) – I thank Mr Ghiletchi for his very important report, especially its focus on the second part of its title. For years, we in Europe were focused on the problem of intolerance and discrimination against other religions and minority religions – which was a good thing, of course – but not on the problems faced by Christianity. However, many organisations from all over the world say that the 20th century was the most horrible time for Christians at any time during their long history. More believers in Jesus Christ were killed for their faith during that century than during all the other 19 centuries combined. Even in Europe – despite the policies of Soviet communism and Nazi Germany – it was a century of martyrs.

      Unfortunately, that situation still exists in the 21st century, but on other continents. Almost every day we are shocked by news that, in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Christians are being killed because of their beliefs, convictions and culture. Statistically, every four minutes a Christian is killed somewhere in the world. Undoubtedly, Christians are now the most persecuted believers in the world and we as Europeans do too little about it.

      The report is valuable because it anticipates the problem of a year-on-year increase in the phenomenon of intolerance of and discrimination against Christians in our old continent, which was, after all, built on the foundations of Christianity. Mr Ghiletchi has told of Christians being dismissed from their jobs because they wear religious symbols or pray publicly. I also know of Christians who are persecuted because they cite the Bible in public. The report mentions many breaches of freedom of conscience, expression and assembly, acts of vandalism and desecration, and breaches of freedom of choice in education.

      The best known Pole in history, Karol Wojtyła – Pope John Paul II – often reminded us that freedom of religion is the fundamental freedom. A lack of that freedom means that all other kinds of freedom are in danger. He knew about that not only because of his deeply philosophical outlook, but because of his fight for freedom against communist rule in Poland. Let us watch over freedom of religion on our continent, if we want to save every other kind of freedom. I assure Mr Ghiletchi that many non-governmental organisations in Poland are interested in and strongly support this very important report.

      THE PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers who had subscribed to this debate, but we are running a little ahead of schedule, so I open the floor to anyone else present who wishes to make a contribution. I call Mr Sedó.

      Mr SEDÓ (Spain)* – I am a member of the Group of the European People’s Party. I thank the committee and the rapporteur for this very important report. A debate is taking place worldwide, and especially in Europe, on freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. Sometimes, on the basis of freedom of expression, we allow the drawing of religious symbols, but this ill-defined freedom can affect those with different beliefs and religions. Our mission as a Parliamentary Assembly is to respect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as inscribed in the Charter of the United Nations and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We cannot renounce that.

      In many countries in Europe and beyond, people are being persecuted on religious grounds, especially Christians. Some countries ask us and our governments to respect all religions, and we do so because there is cohabitation among different religions in our countries that does not occur in other countries. We are asked to show respect, but we cannot exercise our religion when we go to other countries. We have to combat and denounce that.

      Freedom of religion is sometimes threatened in certain countries on the continent of Europe. Some countries whose governments adopt Islamic principles, for example, do not respect freedom of expression. In those countries, the freedom of Christian belief is not only prohibited but attacked in the press and schools.

      I thank the rapporteur for his analysis in the report. Freedom of religious expression is being attacked daily. We cannot allow Christians to be prevented from expressing their beliefs because they are not respected by other religious communities. I am in favour of respect. Everybody should be able to express his or her beliefs. I, as a Christian, ask other religions to respect the freedoms of expression and of conscience. We must all feel respected and able to practise our beliefs in our countries of origin and elsewhere.

      Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – Mr Ghiletchi and I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but we always respect each other. I thought that what Tiny Kox said was reasonable, and not an organised campaign against a monotheistic religion in specific terms.

      In the media, I see that some people in their delirium, folly or madness seek to compensate for the economic and moral misery in which they live by attacking one monotheistic god or another. I ask my friend, Jonas Gunnarsson, who represents the Socialist Group, what his criteria are.

      I am convinced by what Ángel Pintado said. This week, he invited me to attend a Catholic mass, although I am an agnostic – my religion is human rights. I could not go in the end because I was physically unwell, as I told him; I need not explain that before you all now. However, I intended to go as proof of my affection for him. I wanted to be with friends and Catholics with whom I share values. If there is a debate between us, it is because one day I will ask him and our friend Mr Pozzo di Borgo, who said some interesting things about the secular French model, to reflect on these matters. However, I agree with Ángel.

      Many non-religious people have an aggressive attitude towards religion, but I hail from the times of General Franco’s dictatorship, when the aggression was the other way round: it was the aggression of Catholics against those who did not go to mass every Sunday. Where is the space between the individual, the society and the State? The State must govern equally all religions that accept the diversity of human beings. There is diversity here – there are fat people, bald people, hairy people and whatever else, but we are all the same. Nobody is better than anybody else, as Antonio Machado said. We must be logical in what we say and do. To Mr Pozzo di Borgo, I say that we must think about individuals, society and our relationships. We represent 800 million people. We can all worship any god we wish, but we must respect other opinions.

      Thank you, Mr President, for giving us the opportunity to speak in the time available. I suggest that, in future, speakers should be able to participate in debates without the rigidness of having to submit their name to the speakers’ list a long time in advance. I am grateful to you for the work you have done.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I take note of your suggestion. I call Mr Maltais, Observer from Canada.

      Mr MALTAIS (Canada)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on his report, and I thank all the speakers, to whom I have listened religiously.

      We should learn lessons from history. We are in the digital era, but what have we learned? Massacres and wars, including ethnic and religious wars, are continuing. As I am sure you all know, there is a secular movement in Europe and America, which is the result of a period that has ended. We are now in the 21st century. Individuals, citizens, politicians, parliamentarians and prime ministers should follow what they feel in the depth of their hearts.

      I agree with the rapporteur. However, what will the outcome be if we simply leave the report to gather dust in a drawer once it has been adopted by the Assembly? We should instil the values of the report in each and every parliamentarian, regardless of their religion, race and language. If we really want to give full credence to the report and put our trust in it, it must have a real impact in all our countries. We must do important work in the next few months and years if it is not to have only symbolic value.

      Somebody said that a Christian is killed every four minutes in the world. That is completely unacceptable, although it was common more than 1,800 years ago. What have we learned from history? We must use the report to change things. We must make a real difference. If we do not publish the report and ensure that it is communicated outside this Assembly, what is the point of all the work that has been done on it, and what is the point of adopting it? It would simply be another report gathering dust in a drawer. It would not have any results and would not have an effect on people’s hearts.

      Mr SHAHGELDYAN (Armenia)* – I thank Mr Ghiletchi for his interesting, important piece of work. I will be brief.

      The Armenian community lives in many countries, and we have all sorts of religious affiliations. We are very flexible. We can be Buddhist, Christian or whatever. We have understood that, in every country, Armenians should be exemplary citizens. Because of that approach to citizenship, Armenians can live alongside Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths. That is important. We have understood that intolerance, on whatever side, is a big problem for society. It is a problem when it comes to people defending their identity. Any religion should be able to defend itself. Every man and woman should be able to practise the religion they believe in, which is important, especially when it comes to minorities.

      Take a European country where the Christians are in the majority but in certain districts they are in a minority. That can lead to a problem of equality between religious groups, which can be significant. In Armenia and other regions, that problem has occurred and become rather acute in certain areas. Our Azeri colleague mentioned the situation as they see it, but I would say that that is not true – when it comes to the churches and the tombs, it is not true at all. We said that we are flexible. In Azerbaijan, the former Soviet Union and other countries, that does apply.

      We Armenians have understood that living together is an art. It is something that has to be worked on. That was true in Azerbaijan as well, but churches and tombs there are now being demolished in Nakhichevan. You can see pictures of that on the Internet.

      We talk about the possibility of all religions being freely practised, yet in conflict zones you have to be careful. You have to tell the truth and ensure that there is justice for all. If we want a world that gives equal opportunities for all, we have to take action and work at that. After the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe takes decisions, we need to do something to apply those resolutions through legislation in our countries. It is important that there be a connection between the resolutions and the policies in our countries and that enforcement and the wider situation are monitored.

      I thank Mr Ghiletchi for his work and I thank colleagues for their amendments. Again, you have to keep a close eye on the situation on the ground.

      Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I did not put my name down to speak on this. I spoke to people who have been involved in the report, who told me much work had been done to moderate the areas of contention, so I was certainly prepared to give it a fair breeze – until I heard the speeches today.

      Frankly, as a humanist who grew up in a Christian family but decided a long time ago that I did not wish to believe the mythology in which I had been indoctrinated in my schools, I still believe that the best friend of a religious person is a moderate humanist. I will fight to my last breath for anyone to have the right to their religion. However, I listened to the comments and I did not hear a lot about massive discrimination against Christians in Europe. I heard the repetition of valid assertions of discrimination against religions in other parts of the world.

      As a humanist, it is interesting that the one organisation that is not allowed to have any time on the BBC’s “Thought for the Day”, on which people can make philosophical and moral contributions, are the humanists. A decision has been taken that humanists are not allowed to be on “Thought for the Day” to share their views with the people of the United Kingdom through the BBC. If there is discrimination, therefore, it is perhaps because a slight paranoia exists among people who hold strong religious beliefs.

      Cases have been cited, including that concerning the wearing of a cross if you worked for British Airways. The ruling was that it would be sensible not to wear symbols that may be a health and safety hazard. The British Medical Association has censured doctors who told people with psychiatric illness, including a young man, that they should go to a prayer meeting and join them in prayer and that would cure their illness. When his mother found out, she reported it. I pointed out that if I had been told by a Pakistani doctor to come to the mosque, there would have been a huge outcry in the United Kingdom.

      Therefore, we have to be sensible about these things. The text and the amendments particularly remind me of the debate that I joined when I first came here four years ago. In Northern Ireland, for example – we have a colleague here from Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom – one order has wanted to demonstrate by marching past a church of another order and the Catholic community has risen up in protest. Are we saying in paragraph 6.3 that the State should intervene and allow those marches to go ahead? My colleague from Northern Ireland knows that this is one the great problems: the marching season and sensibly allowing people to demonstrate their own beliefs in a situation where there is tension. There was violence against people because of their religion by other people who are also Christians.

      On the right to freedom of expression, everyone should have the right to have their private religion and to practise it in private, but a teacher must not proselytise or indoctrinate a child into their religious beliefs. We have non-denominational schools in the United Kingdom. We have funded religious schools in the United Kingdom. In non-denominational schools in Scotland, there is an assumption that the teacher can still indoctrinate children in a Christian religion, as long as it is not Catholic. That is the reality. My daughter was slapped in a primary school for laughing at a teacher who said they prayed for a cure for a disease and it was cured.

      Therefore, we have to be balanced. If this is a stalking horse for the debate we had two years ago about State payment for private religious education, it should stop right here.

      THE PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Mr Ghiletchi, the rapporteur, to reply to the debate. You have three and a half minutes.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I thank everyone who has participated in the debate. I thank those who supported the report and those who criticised it. Mr Kox is right: sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we always agree to disagree. This is probably a case where Mr Kox and I agree to disagree.

      I share Mr Díaz Tejera’s point. Sometimes there are fewer of us in one category than there are people in another category in the Assembly. Sometimes we are on opposite sides. However, I want to stress something – this is important for me and should be important for every one of us. This morning, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Jagland, mentioned one problem in our countries. Sometimes we are caught in this trap. Somebody claims that he is 100% right and the other claims that he is 100% wrong. The goal of my report and the resolution is not to prove who is right and who is wrong. It is to raise awareness and encourage and promote the culture of living together and mutual respect. That is important, whether someone believes or not, whether he is a Christian or has a different religion.

      I disagree with some speakers who said that the report is not balanced. I thank Mr Gunnarsson for his remarks in this regard. When I started the report I received a lot of criticism. I paid attention to those arguments and tried to go forward. I am very grateful to members and the secretariat of the committee for reaching unanimity at the end. Every paragraph in this resolution was discussed and amendments were made in Paris, when we had the committee meeting, and we tried to keep it very balanced. When we said that we should uphold freedom of religion, we said at the same time that this should not be used as grounds to discriminate against anybody. Again, this point is very important.

It is true – I agree – that we do not have the persecution of Christians in member States that we see in other countries in the world. However, as Mr Wach pointed out correctly, we have a kind of soft, subtle discrimination and intolerance, and I do not think that it is right to ignore it. We Europeans should be a model for other nations in the world, and we should lead and show them what it means to respect religious freedom and to respect each other. For this reason, I ask you not only to support this resolution, but – as our Canadian observer and other people have said – to go home and promote it. Doing so is in the spirit of this Assembly, in the spirit of the European Parliament and in the spirit of human rights. Thank you once again for your support.

(Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Walter.)

THE PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Bilgehan to speak on behalf of the Committee.

Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – Mr Ghiletchi presented a report which required a lot of preparatory work and gave rise to some very lively debate in our committee. This is in the logic of things, because the report concerns some delicate points, such as conscientious objection and religious freedom in education, and potential conflicts between the fundamental rights of different groups of people.

When we talk of religion and fundamental rights, we cannot refrain from thinking about the tragic occurrences in Paris a few weeks ago. Since then, we are constantly questioning ourselves about, among other things, the limit between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We find this topic in Mr Ghiletchi’s report, prompting us to ask other questions. What is the place of religion in today’s Europe? How can we guarantee that there will be no discrimination based on religion? All Europeans should be able to practise their religion and fully participate in public life. We have also to ask ourselves how to define the principle of secularism today.

To find the right answers is not an easy matter, but we are convinced that it is very important that we are able to discuss these topics in an open, constructive manner within this Assembly, as we do already. The Parliamentary Assembly confirms its nature as a discussion forum for democratic exchanges between representatives of European peoples.

I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ghiletchi, on adopting an exemplary attitude of reasonable accommodation during discussions in the committee. I ask you to adopt this report.

THE PRESIDENT* – The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled. The amendments will be considered in the order set out in the compendium. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

Would someone like to support Amendment 1? That is not the case.

Amendment 1 is not moved.

Would someone like to support Amendment 2? That is not the case.

Amendment 2 is not moved.

I call Mr Connarty on a point of order.

Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – When Amendment 1 was mentioned, I was trying to indicate that I was against it, but you just did not look this way.

THE PRESIDENT* – Did you want to move Amendment 1?

Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – No.

THE PRESIDENT* – If an amendment is not moved, it does not need to be spoken against.

We come to Amendment 4. I call Mr Unguryan to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – This amendment is very important, because we call for all members of the Council of Europe to “respect the right of parents to provide their children with an education in conformity with their religious or philosophical convictions”, using the European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Kox to speak against the amendment.

Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I do not understand this amendment, because it indicates that there is something wrong in the rapporteur’s proposal and that case law of the European Court of Human Rights has to be taken into account. That is a bit weird, because we are all obliged to take this case law into account and, of course, we all have to take care that things are accord with the European Convention on Human Rights. If I do not understand an amendment, it is better to stick to the rapporteur’s text, because it is a safe text. That is why it is difficult for me to vote for this amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the committee’s opinion?

Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – The committee rejected the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT*– The vote is open.

Amendment 4 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 6. I call Mr Unguryan to support the amendment.

Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – The main problem for Christian minorities in some countries is not just about their being established, but about their being able to register as a religious organisation. This amendment calls for countries to have freedom to allow for a registration procedure for religious organisations.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Lord Anderson.

Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom) – I am very cautious in respect of the practice of registering religions. It gives a power to the State that can be used against the practice of religion. I mentioned earlier what Open Doors has said about the problem in Azerbaijan, for example, where Christian organisations are made illegal because of delays and problems in re-registering their religion.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the committee’s opinion?

Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 6 is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 3. I call Mr Unguryan to support the amendment.

      Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – I listened to what Lord Anderson said. This is one example among many of how governments can make problems for religious organisations. The registration procedure cannot be started because the religious minority does not have a big enough number – 100 or 200 – of believers in that area. For Christian minorities that is a very important question.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I have been informed that an oral sub-amendment has been proposed on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, which is, in Amendment 3, at the end of the sentence, to add the words “and without any undue administrative burden”.

      In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to it? That is not the case.

      I call Mr Ghiletchi to support the oral sub-amendment.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – The oral sub-amendment actually belongs to Mr Gunnarsson, but I support it. Christian minorities face other bureaucratic obstacles, so the proposal is to eliminate the obstacles.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 3 on the oral sub-amendment?

      Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – I agree with it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 3, as amended? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 3, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 5. I call Mr Unguryan to support the amendment.

      Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – The amendment calls on countries to give Christian minority communities the right to publish and use spiritual literature, because in some countries that is a problem.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I have been informed that Mr Ghiletchi wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, which is, in Amendment 5, to delete the words “provide Christian minority communities with the right to publish and use spiritual literature” and replace with the following: “guarantee the enjoyment by Christian minority communities of the right to publish and use religious literature.”

      In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to it? That is not the case.

      I call Mr Ghiletchi to support the oral sub-amendment.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I propose having a separate paragraph – paragraph 6.9 – on religious literature. I have also rephrased the provision to make it clearer so that it can be applied more easily.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 5 on the oral sub-amendment?

      Mr UNGURYAN (Ukraine) – I agree with it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The committee is obviously in favour.

      The vote is open.

      The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 5, as amended?

      That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

       Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey) – The committee is in favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 5, as amended, is adopted.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13660, as amended.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13660, as amended, is adopted, with 67 votes for, 2 against and 15 abstentions.

      I congratulate the rapporteur.

5. Post-electoral shifting in members' political affiliation and its repercussions on the composition of national delegations

THE PRESIDENT* – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled "Post-electoral shifting in members' political affiliation and its repercussions on the composition of national delegations", Document 13666, presented by Mr Xuclà on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. I call Mr Xuclà, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and your reply to the debate. – [Interruption.] Will members finish their conversations and take their seats, please?

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – This report is not on the subject of discipline and norms, so we will not have to have a report on the habitual capacity of members to have dialogue in the corridors and in the Chamber. I thank those colleagues who were kind enough to stay for the final debate on the final evening of this part-session.

I want to talk about a phenomenon that is as old as parliamentarianism. It is a problem, but there are possible solutions. I refer to floor-crossing in political groups, factions or parties after elections. The phenomenon has been called political nomadism, but there are distinct expressions of it.

First, let me make one thing that concerns us all as parliamentarians clear. Our political mandate is a personal mandate and cannot be breached. We are immovable as parliamentarians by the political parties for which we have been elected as members, and the report gives many examples of changes in affiliation in different States in the Parliamentary Assembly.

There are three reasons for a change in affiliation. The first is ideology. An individual’s ideology might change and that is the most reasonable grounds for such a change in affiliation. The second is expulsion from a group or political party. That sometimes happens because of incompatibility but sometimes it occurs because of political struggles or revenge, which means that the parliamentarian cannot exercise their functions properly. The third is the personal political strategy of the parliamentarian, working in their own interests. Such a wide range of criteria mean that it is difficult to produce a report with recommendations that go along just one line, but we must bear in mind that, at times, changes in political affiliation in the legislatures of some member States presuppose a degradation in the rights of parliamentarians.

That is all mentioned in the report and I do not have time to talk about specific cases of domestic legislation or parliamentary rules in specific countries, but at times such rules would mean that a change in political affiliation on ideological grounds might lead to the abolition of the political rights of the parliamentarian, including a reduction in the right to intervene during sittings, the prohibition of the right to intervene and the deprivation of the right to table amendments, to be a member of a committee or to chair a committee. That is fine when the aim is to combat floor-crossing for other reasons, but not when the change is for legitimate reasons, meaning that the parliamentarian should be protected. We are between two extremes. Sometimes the change in political affiliation is legitimate and we must prevent parliamentarians from losing their rights, but on the other hand we must take into consideration the situation when the change is based on a strategy for personal aims and gain.

Such changes in the parliaments of member States have consequences for the composition and representation in both parliaments and member State delegations in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Pursuant to our rules, there are only two grounds on which credentials, once they have been confirmed at the beginning of the year during the first part-session, can be changed, apart from the norms that operate in case of death or renunciation.

      I mention this to underscore the meaning of the annual renewal of Assembly delegations’ credentials. Political parties often remove or change credentials during the year, but the confirmation of credentials at the beginning of each year presupposes their validity throughout the year. The Ukrainian delegation radically changed in the last months of the legislature, when almost all its members ceased to be representatives and the new composition of the Ukrainian Parliament was not well represented.

      Some recommendations in the report are addressed to the parliamentarians of member States for their consideration. When a report is adopted – I hope this one will be – the rapporteur has a year’s mandate to pursue the recommendations. I will not explain the recommendations in detail, but, dear colleagues, if you place your trust in me, I would very much like to exercise that prerogative and follow developments over a year to work on the modification of the legislation and parliamentary rules in certain member States that are mentioned in the report and that limit the rights of parliamentarians.

      Finally, the Council of Europe is a good example because we renew credentials annually. We also confirm and ratify the chairs and vice-chairs of committees every year, but such posts remain unchanged in some parliaments until the parliamentary composition changes. We can consider such things in the debate, which will be short because not many members want to participate – but the participants will be high quality, I must add.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much indeed, Mr Xuclà. You have four minutes to reply to the speakers later. I call Mr Díaz Tejera, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I thank Mr Xuclà for his report. Although it does not deal with a topic that has the impact of other subjects that we have considered this week – for example, the position of the Russian delegation – it is a key issue for any democratic parliamentary system. Let us not forget that there can be no parliamentary democracy without political parties or political groups. There is a classic debate about whether the functions of parliamentarians belong to the individual or to the political group.

      Although different jurisprudence and rules can apply, parliamentarians should take the people who elect them seriously and respect their decisions because they voted for both the political party and the individual. However, we parliamentarians sometimes have to tell them that we are free to change such criteria: change is inherent to the human condition. We should follow our conscience freely, but we have a big problem when we face politicians who have no conscience and change their ideology. As you change your shirt after your daily shower, they change their mind every day as well, depending on which interests they then want to defend.

      For professors, magistrates, judges, State officials or parliamentarians in general, this issue counts. Irrespective of whether the parliamentary position is determined by the party or the individual, whether or not he or she has a conscience, it is important to establish what criteria should apply when recruiting people to political parties. I propose that the rapporteur consider that issue. In other words, political parties are fragile in a dictatorship, where power is centralised and individuals play no role, but the party plays a less important role than the individual in a democracy.

      For example, compare the role played by constituency political parties in the British model, with the German model, where parliamentarians are elected proportionally by district, or the Spanish model, which uses closed lists for the Congress of Deputies, although some people say that open lists should be used, so that the citizen takes the decision when he or she ticks the box by the candidate’s name. I am a senator, but I have also stood in parliamentary elections, where people can vote for me if they want me to represent the people of Gran Canaria.

      The Socialist Group supports the report because such considerations apply to several countries, including Spain – the country that is common to both the rapporteur and me.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much. I call Mr Preda, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Mr PREDA (Romania) – I congratulate the rapporteur on this report, which focuses on an issue that has taken off in many parliaments. In some circumstances, the nomadic political habit that dominates in some parliaments could jeopardise political balance and even contribute to changing the balance of power, thus negating the elections. That would influence representation in the Parliamentary Assembly’s national delegations.

      Of course switching political affiliation will affect a national delegation and might lead to its credentials being challenged. Every member of a delegation who becomes a member of a political party must belong to the same group to which his party is affiliated at European level. It should not be possible for a member of the Assembly to choose a different political school that does not correspond to the party that he normally belongs to.

      Sometimes, political parties merge to form coalitions at national level, but that would not be interpreted as a switching of affiliation because the political party itself is creating the merger. The Assembly’s rules on party membership can sometimes be more strict than those that govern national behaviour. The report and draft resolution are welcome because many countries want to change their rules and even their constitutions. As the rapporteur said, constitutions often state that members cannot switch in that way. I welcome that approach to fair representation in national assemblies and the Parliamentary Assembly.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Taktakishvili, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia)* – I support the report, but I regret that not many chairs of national groups are here, because I think the report is specifically addressed to them. This debate is not entirely technical, as one might think on a cursory reading, but a substantive debate that concerns the representatives and composition of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Does the Assembly reflect the position of European citizens in a proportional, balanced and legitimate way? This debate is not just about procedural or technical questions as it might first appear.

      Unfortunately, in recent years, we have witnessed the migration of members from one political party to another in quite large measure. As has been said, a distinction should be made between countries that are older democracies, and those whose experience of elections and political pluralistic life is more recent. I will not refrain from mentioning certain cases in the report. Greece and Italy are democratic countries, and for other countries – notably Ukraine and the Czech Republic – the important figures cited in the report were a surprise to me. Between 1996 and 2000, one parliamentarian out of four changed party at least once in Greece and Italy. In Ukraine, the phenomenon has reached such proportions that 60% of MPs changed political party at least once between 1998 and 2006. Those figures require reflection, which is why I support the rapporteur’s proposal.

      The rapporteur provides no guidelines for national parliaments and does not say that one should prohibit MPs from crossing the floor. Such things can happen, including in democratic countries, and the rapporteur does not say that one should limit the right to switch party, but rather that there should be transparent rules and clear procedures for us to examine the situation and see whether the composition of the national parliament reflects the position of citizens. Recommendations are addressed to the chairs of the political groups, and we must determine whether the statutes of our political groups are sufficiently adaptable to such a changing situation – one that has also changed in recent years.

      In a personal capacity, I will mention Georgia where, after the elections in 2012, about 12 MPs changed their affiliation. Unfortunately, pressures were exercised by the current government, but decisions were also taken without pressure. I therefore ask the Assembly to support the report, and I would like to see its recommendations implemented.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Neill, who speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

      Mr NEILL (United Kingdom) – This is an interesting report and I thank the rapporteur for his work. As parliamentarians it is right that we, as well as national parliaments, are aware of the issues that it raises. However, as Mr Preda said, there is a big difference between the situation in a national parliament, where the constitution may mean that a shift of members affects the government and the country’s executive power, and the situation in the Assembly, which is a representative body. With respect to some of those who spoke earlier, I doubt that it is ever practical or feasible to find a pure measure of representativeness of people across the family of the Council of Europe. We must be practical and proportionate about this matter.

      As has been said, sometimes people cross the floor for bad reasons, and there are perhaps two things we could do about that. The best way to deal with people who cross the floor for a venal, improper or personal motive, or for personal gain, is through the power of the elector, and that is best exercised through a free press holding up the person’s action to scrutiny by a free electorate. Therefore, one thing that the Assembly could do is support the work of organisations such as the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in its monitoring and evaluation work, particularly as its current and future rounds deal with the issue of conflicts of interest for members of parliament, and the transparency of their interests. That may be a better way of dealing with this matter than introducing lots of rules and regulations.

      Sometimes, however, members cross the floor for legitimate reasons. To give one example, we revere Sir Winston Churchill as one of the founding fathers of this Assembly and one of our great inspirations, but Winston Churchill crossed the floor twice. He left my party and joined the Liberals. He then realised that he had made an error and he came back, but I do not think that in any way we would call him a political nomad. He was a very great man. Mr Xuclà has in his group a distinguished lady from my country who started as a Conservative and later joined his group. That is not political nomadism.

      What I am saying, and the reason why I unfortunately cannot support this report, despite the charming and elegant way in which it was presented by Mr Xuclà, is that we are in danger of becoming too prescriptive. We do not need a set of rules and regulations – that is not the answer either at national or Assembly level. It is right to draw attention, as the report will no doubt do, to such issues in our member States, but how each country solves those issues will rightly be a matter for them. Each country will have its own circumstances.

      Mr Díaz Tejera made a fair point about the difference between the electoral systems in his country and in mine. I could be worried because the explanatory memorandum notes the concern that we could go along a route that enhances the power of party group leaderships – whether nationally or in the Assembly – against that of the individual member. That is not the route to transparency, and for that reason, I and my colleagues will not be able to support the report. We can continue to discuss this issue, but in my judgment, the idea that we use next year, off the back of this report, to think about significant rule changes is, with respect, not the way to do it. If we are to look at rules, that should be done on a more holistic basis, and I am not sure that the route suggested in the right one. I do not disagree with many of the sentiments expressed by the rapporteur, or with his sincerity, but for those reasons, and for the implications that he has honestly set out, I cannot support the report.

      THE PRESIDENT – I now give the floor to Mr Kox who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Some subjects are sexier than others. This is not the sexiest subject for a rapporteur to deal with, but it is relevant nevertheless. We talk in the Assembly about many issues of which we do not know that much, but we are all aware of this issue – it happens to our neighbours in other parliaments and we smile and say, “Oh that’s a pity”, but then it happens to us and we are very angry and want to change the rules.

      It is therefore good that the issue has been investigated, and that you, Mr Rapporteur, have been gentle in your commands. You do not order us to do anything; you do not demand or forbid anything. Instead, you invite us to consider the ways we do things. As you have stated well, there is a problem of parliamentarians switching from one party to another, or creating a new party, but there is no solution. Such things have always happened in parliamentary democracies, and the situation will probably continue. Why? We can all see that it is not fair to voters if someone is elected to one party and then switches or starts their own party. On the other hand, if someone cannot do that – here I think Mr Neill has a point – then party leaders and parties become totally dominant. We also have the idea that in a parliamentary democracy there is a relationship between a voter and their MP. That is also good. It is why I think that most parliaments have only a few regulations on the matter.

      The rapporteur proposes that we need as much transparency as possible, so that we know how things are organised and what should happen if someone decides to move from one political party to another. That is wise. It also means that we can learn something from one another. I think that the rapporteur will agree that dealing with the switching of political affiliations is the prerogative of the national parliament. We cannot say, “Do it this way”, because our political systems are too different.

      I do not think that the effects on this Assembly are that big. Each year, credentials have to be ratified and national delegations have to present their new delegates. If someone shifted from one party to another or, as in some cases that have been referred to, far more people switched, the national delegation would change its composition. That is its right. If it does not change its composition, that is again the decision of the national parliament. At the most, the problem would only be for a year. I do not think that we should set up too much bureaucracy to deal with it.

      The best thing is to do as I do: be part of a small political group, which makes it easy to check what is happening. This week, I lost two members when the new Greek Government was formed, taking away my best people, and two days later the Assembly decided to exclude the Russians, which meant that I lost four members of the Russian delegation. The obligation is on the groups to check whether something is happening that is not in accordance with their values, which I think is what the rapporteur proposes. I promise the rapporteur that we will look to our statutes and regulations and I hope that colleagues will do the same. I will adopt the resolution, but only in the sense that national parliaments have the prerogative to decide how they deal with the matter.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The rapporteur will respond at the end. There are two more speakers on the list, but I do not think that Mr Pintado is here and I cannot see Mr Palacios either. That concludes the list of speakers. We have a little time. Is anyone itching to say anything in the debate? That is not the case. I think that everything has been said. We move back to the rapporteur. You have four minutes to wrap up – or indeed more, if you wish.

      Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – That is very kind of you. Mr Kox said that the theme is not very sexy after this week, but it is an important topic and I shall use the remaining time to try to convince people of that. I say to Mr Neill that the purpose of the report was in no way to impose norms on member States. As Ms Taktakishvili said, this is not a technical debate – it is not sexy either, perhaps – but a political debate with varied and distinct solutions. I appreciate the fact that the speakers have expressed a very liberal and flexible approach to dealing with someone who has changed ideology. As they said, he has the right to change and evolve and to change his political affiliation in so doing.

      I think that Mr Neill can fully agree on the central element of the report, which is that in some member State parliaments, a change of political affiliation presupposes an absolute loss or degradation of political rights for the parliamentarian. I do not want to talk about a specific country but, as is reflected in the report, in one country a parliamentarian, if he changes political party, for a period of six months, loses many of his rights, including the right to make a fresh affiliation, the right to intervene in the plenary and the right to submit amendments. In a four-year legislature, imagine what it means not to be able to exercise one’s political rights for six months. The purpose of my report is precisely to protect those parliamentarians and their political rights.

      I agree with Mr Díaz Tejera that responses are variable and depend on electoral systems. To a considerable degree, electoral systems precondition the capacities and possibilities for parliamentarians. He was elected on an open electoral list. When I was a senator of the Kingdom of Spain, I was elected in such a system, too. I am now elected on a party list system. On 19 March, the Venice Commission will publish a report – Ms Durrieu and I have been involved in it – on democratic systems for the election of candidates within political parties. That is a sexy subject, is it not, Mr Kox? It is a substantial debate for those parties where there are closed list systems. That is the heart of the question. Before election by citizens, there is election by political parties. Much progress has been made on that. There are now primary elections, society is more open, citizens are consulted and there is more permeability. Basically, the electoral system modulates and conditions the individual rights and freedoms that parliamentarians enjoy.

      I hope that we have been able to produce a good report, which I think will be improved thanks to the contribution of the Venice Commission. We are working on mechanisms with a view to consolidating electoral systems within political parties. All of us who have been elected through political parties believe that the mechanism can be improved. That is basically what I wanted to say; it is the substance of the report. I say to Mr Neill that I think that the report would obtain a large majority vote of those who were kind enough to be present at this final late afternoon sitting of a very intensive week. Parliamentarians need norms that improve the quality and functioning of democratic institutions and parliaments. That is less sexy than some of the other themes that we have dealt with this week, but it is relevant to the democratic quality of our countries. That is what the report deals with.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Xuclà. That was excellent. I think you may have talked some people round to your cause. I call Mr Koç, the Chair of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

      Mr KOÇ (Turkey)* – I thank Mr Xuclà for his excellent report. He has done a wonderful job. The report deals with a very sensitive issue that we often come across in national parliaments of Council of Europe member States. When a member switches affiliation during their term, it of course gives rise to lots of questions on the ethical side of things. The committee and the rapporteur have looked at this issue in parliaments in Europe. Mr Xuclà has tried to categorise various proposals, and asked members to focus on this phenomenon because it sometimes leads the electorate to lose trust in MPs. Mr Neill put his finger on it when he said that GRECO needs to look into this; that would apply to quite a few cases that I have witnessed in Turkey. I congratulate Mr Xuclà once again, and thank the secretariat of the committee, especially Ms Clamer and Ms Gayevska, for their co-operation and extra effort.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The debate is closed. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has presented a draft resolution, to which no amendments have been tabled. We will therefore proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 13666.

      The vote is open.

       The draft resolution in Document 13666 is adopted, with 30 votes for, 12 against and 3 abstentions.

      Congratulations to the rapporteur and the Chair of the Committee.

6. Next public business

      THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., with the agenda that was approved on Monday morning. I remind colleagues to take their voting cards out of the voting slots, and to take them with them when leaving the Chamber, so that they have them tomorrow morning.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 7.10 p.m.)


1. Changes in the membership of committees

2. Organisation of debates

3. Protection of media freedom in Europe – resumed debate

Replies: Mr Flego (Croatia) and Mr Wach (Poland)

Amendments 15, 16, 6, 17, 20, 18, 7 as amended, 8 as amended, 9 as amended, 12 as amended, 13, and 19 as amended, adopted

Draft resolution in Doc. 13664, as amended, adopted

Amendment 14 adopted

Draft recommendation in Doc. 13664, as amended, adopted

4. Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians

Presentation by Mr Ghiletchi of report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination in Doc. 13660

Speakers: Mr Kox (Netherlands), Mr Gunnarsson (Sweden), Ms Quintanilla (Spain), Ms Fiala (Switzerland), Mr Szczerski (Poland), Lord Anderson (United Kingdom), Ms Hoffmann (Hungary), Mr Rustamyan (Armenia), Mr Selvi (Turkey), Mr Unguryan (Ukraine), Ms Schneider-Schneiter (Switzerland), Mr Miller (Canada), Mr Pozzo di Borgo (France), Ms Kronlid (Sweden), Mr Pintado (Spain), Mr Wach (Poland), Sir E. Leigh (United Kingdom), Ms Pashayeva (Azerbaijan), Mr Donaldson (United Kingdom), Mr Sellin (Poland), Mr Sedó (Spain), Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain), Mr Maltais (Canada), Mr Shahgeldyan (Armenia), Mr Connarty (United Kingdom),

Replies: Mr Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova) and Ms Bilgehan (Turkey)

Amendments 6, 3 as amended and 5 as amended, adopted

Draft resolution in Doc. 13660, as amended, adopted

5. Post-electoral shifting in members’ political affiliation and its repercussions on the composition of national delegations

Presentation by Mr Xuclà of report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs in Doc. 13666

Speakers: Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain), Mr Preda (Romania),

Ms Taktakishvili (Georgia), Mr Neill (United Kingdom) and Mr Kox (Netherlands)

Replies: Mr Xuclà (Spain) and Mr Koç (Turkey)

Draft resolution in Doc. 13666 adopted

6. Next public business

Appendix I

Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 12.2 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*

Brigitte ALLAIN*

Jean-Charles ALLAVENA

Werner AMON*



Lord Donald ANDERSON

Paride ANDREOLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli

Khadija ARIB*

Volodymyr ARIEV

Egemen BAĞIŞ


David BAKRADZE/Chiora Taktakishvili

Taulant BALLA*

Gérard BAPT*



José Manuel BARREIRO/Ángel Pintado


Marieluise BECK*


José María BENEYTO/Carmen Quintanilla


Sali BERISHA/Oerd Bylykbashi

Anna Maria BERNINI*

Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*



Brian BINLEY/Lord Richard Balfe

Ľuboš BLAHA*


Jean-Marie BOCKEL


Mladen BOSIĆ*

António BRAGA

Anne BRASSEUR/Claude Adam

Alessandro BRATTI*

Piet De BRUYN*

Beata BUBLEWICZ/Ryszard Terlecki

Gerold BÜCHEL*






Vannino CHITI*

Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU*

Christopher CHOPE


Henryk CIOCH

James CLAPPISON/Sir Edward Leigh

Agustín CONDE*








Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos






Peter van DIJK*


Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ



Daphné DUMERY*

Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*


Josette DURRIEU/Jean-Claude Frécon

Mustafa DZHEMILIEV/Andrii Lopushanskyi


Lady Diana ECCLES*


Franz Leonhard EßL*



Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*

Vyacheslav FETISOV*





Gvozden Srećko FLEGO*




Martin FRONC*

Sir Roger GALE




Tina GHASEMI/Boriana Åberg


Francesco Maria GIRO*

Pavol GOGA*

Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES

Alina Ştefania GORGHIU*


Sandro GOZI*

Fred de GRAAF*


Andreas GROSS


Mehmet Kasim GÜLPINAR/Ahmet Berat Çonkar

Gergely GULYÁS/Attila Tilki


Nazmi GÜR*

Antonio GUTIÉRREZ/Jordi Xuclà




Margus HANSON*

Alfred HEER/Luc Recordon




Oleksii HONCHARENKO/Svitlana Zalishchuk

Jim HOOD/David Crausby



Johannes HÜBNER*

Andrej HUNKO*

Ali HUSEYNLI/Sahiba Gafarova




Tadeusz IWIŃSKI/Jan Rzymełka

Denis JACQUAT/Frédéric Reiss

Gediminas JAKAVONIS*



Michael Aastrup JENSEN*


Florina-Ruxandra JIPA*

Ögmundur JÓNASSON*

Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ





Niklas KARLSSON/Monica Haider

Andreja KATIČ*

Charles KENNEDY*

Tinatin KHIDASHELI/Eka Beselia


Bogdan KLICH/Jarosław Sellin

Haluk KOÇ






Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková



Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO*


Marek KRZĄKAŁA/Michał Stuligrosz






Pierre-Yves LE BORGN'*

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*


Valentina LESKAJ*




François LONCLE

George LOUKAIDES/Stella Kyriakides


Jacob LUND

Trine Pertou MACH/Nikolaj Villumsen


Philippe MAHOUX*

Thierry MARIANI*



Meritxell MATEU PI*


Pirkko MATTILA/Mika Raatikainen



Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE



Ana Catarina MENDONÇA*


Jean-Claude MIGNON

Philipp MIßFELDER*





Melita MULIĆ*


Hermine NAGHDALYAN/Mher Shahgeldyan

Piotr NAIMSKI/Andrzej Jaworski


Marian NEACŞU*


Miroslav NENUTIL

Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*


Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI



Judith OEHRI


Joseph O'REILLY*

Maciej ORZECHOWSKI/Helena Hatka

Sandra OSBORNE/Michael Connarty

José Ignacio PALACIOS



Waldemar PAWLAK/Marek Borowski

Foteini PIPILI*

Vladimir PLIGIN*

Cezar Florin PREDA


Gabino PUCHE*


Mailis REPS/Rait Maruste

Andrea RIGONI*

François ROCHEBLOINE/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo



Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*


Rovshan RZAYEV

Indrek SAAR*




Kimmo SASI

Nadiia SAVCHENKO/Boryslav Bereza



Ingjerd SCHOU


Urs SCHWALLER/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter

Salvador SEDÓ

Predrag SEKULIĆ*


Aleksandar SENIĆ

Senad ŠEPIĆ*

Samad SEYIDOV/Sevinj Fataliyeva

Jim SHERIDAN/Jeffrey Donaldson











Ionuţ-Marian STROE







Mihai TUDOSE/Corneliu Mugurel Cozmanciuc


Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ


Konstantinos TZAVARAS*



Olga-Nantia VALAVANI*

Snorre Serigstad VALEN

Petrit VASILI*

Imre VEJKEY/Rózsa Hoffmann





Vladimir VORONIN/Maria Postoico

Viktor VOVK

Klaas de VRIES*



Piotr WACH


Dame Angela WATKINSON*

Tom WATSON/Robert Neill

Karl-Georg WELLMANN*

Katrin WERNER*

Morten WOLD/Ingebjørg Godskesen

Gisela WURM*


Leonid YEMETS/Pavlo Unguryan

Tobias ZECH*

Kristýna ZELIENKOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová


Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Marie-Christine Dalloz

Emanuelis ZINGERIS*

Guennady ZIUGANOV*

Naira ZOHRABYAN/Naira Karapetyan

Levon ZOURABIAN/Armen Rustamyan

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, France*

Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova*

Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova*

Vacant Seat, ‘‘The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’’*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote






Corneliu CHISU

Ghislain MALTAIS


Partners for democracy




Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)