AS (2015) CR 09



(First part)


Ninth sitting

Friday 30 January 2015 at 10 a.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

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

3. 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 Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)

      THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.

1. Changes in the membership of committees

      THE PRESIDENT* – Our first business is to consider the changes to the membership of committees set out in Document Commissions (2015) 01 Addendum 4.

      Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?

      They are agreed to.

2. Witness protection as an indispensable tool in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe

      THE PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the debate on the report titled “Witness protection as an indispensable tool in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe”, Document 13647, presented by Mr Arcadio Díaz Tejera on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

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

      Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – Good morning everyone. I appreciate your presence in the Chamber. My friend and compatriot Jordi Xuclà said yesterday that the subject matter he was dealing with was not very sexy and that that might have been why the Chamber was not jam-packed.

      The subject of my report is very difficult and tragic. Recent wounds have not been healed. We had hoped that the subject would not be topical and that we could discuss it in the context of organised crime. We never thought that it would be linked to combating terrorism, but we were wrong. We now have to evaluate the madness of assassinations according to whatever pretext or justification they may be given. Human beings are capable of anything – we are capable of the loftiest deeds. I recall the small, thin man in Tiananmen Square. His was a noble action, but human beings are also capable of committing the most abject deeds.

      The subject under discussion is very unpleasant, especially for security service professionals, so we must express our admiration and gratitude to all those, both uniformed and non-uniformed, who work in the field of security. I also thank the secretariat of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for their work.

      We democrats have to be obsessive in always seeking excellence. Parliamentary democracy is not static. It is like the horizon: the closer you get to it, the more distant it becomes. Parliamentary democracy is perfectible and so is combating terrorism.

      The subject under discussion is a very important aspect of combating terrorism. On defence, modern war theory states that 21st-century armies need a good intelligence service; the logistical capacity to be able to move people and equipment anywhere in the world in a short space of time; and a good central command. Those elements are generally required in times of conflict, but given that we live in a polymorphic reality – it is ever changing – we have to establish a range of other options.

      It is important that we have the means to be able to take those involved in organised crime and terrorism networks away from crazy religious or nationalist ideas and put them at the service of the human race. That is a very difficult thing to do, but it has been achieved in some places. The State must provide those people with new identities in appreciation of their services. People in witness protection undergo a complete change in where they live, their financial situation, their names and their identities to prevent criminal networks – whether networks that traffic human beings, organs or drugs, or terrorist networks – from getting hold of them. We must be very grateful to them.

      It is often very difficult for intelligence services to share information, because they still think in terms of national sovereignty. Information is power, and gathering intelligence about suspected members of organised crime or terrorist networks is vital, so it is important that data are exchanged. The committee underscores the need to ensure that the exchanged data are secure, because intelligence services must have credibility. Friends and allies must be confident in one another. Of course, there are sometimes fights between brothers, but they remain part of the same family. Although our countries may have different points of view, we remain allied in our desire to promote parliamentary democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our intelligence services must be generous in the information that they share, but it is important that we guarantee that it can be accessed only by trustworthy people.

      The committee is calling for more co-ordination. There is no need for new laws because, as the report shows, we have enough already. The report says that the 2005 recommendation should be developed. Intelligence services should be more tightly interconnected and able to work with people in the defence field who are combating organised crime. We must perfect our legal instruments and we must establish greater confidence between intelligence services so that the values of the Council of Europe – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – predominate over the values of those who promote ethnic or religious folly.

      The report is topical, but we must always stress the importance of this issue. Law and justice are like elephants, and terrorism is like a fast car. We must ensure that our methods of combating organised crime and terrorism are tighter and more effective.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I thank the rapporteur for his excellent presentation, which was very convincing. You have four minutes and four seconds left. We now move to our debate on the report. I call Mr Palacios from Spain, on behalf of the European People’s Party.

      Mr PALACIOS (Spain)* – I congratulate Mr Díaz Tejera on his apposite report.

      International terrorism is a threat to Europe. We experienced it in Paris this month, in London in July 2005, in Madrid in March 2004 and in the United States in September 2001. When my country was targeted by terrorists, many people were killed. In addition, organised crime is prospering. There are no borders or frontiers in the modern, globalised world. It is therefore important that we have legal mechanisms to combat organised crime and terrorism, which are major preoccupations for international security. All countries – in particular, the members of the Council of Europe – must improve their legislation and put in place domestic and international mechanisms to combat the scourge of terrorism and organised crime.

      Terrorism and organised crime oblige us to do many things. Often, the prosecution of such crimes depends on the testimony of a witness such as an expert or a police officer. If we do not provide those people with sufficient guarantees, they can “disappear” at the key point of the trial, which enables the criminals to get off scot-free. All European countries should put in place norms, eliminate legal lacunae and ensure the security of all protected witnesses. In combating terrorism and organised crime, which are often transnational, protecting witnesses is vital. We should not require witnesses to be heroic; we should guarantee their safety so they can make free testimonies.

      We must find the balance between the interests of the witnesses and the rights of the accused. We must analyse the risks on a case-by-case basis and assess the conflicting interests to ensure that the judicial decisions are properly motivated. That balance should ensure that witnesses can make declarations and prevent victims from remaining silent. People should be able to retract incriminating testimonies that they previously gave.

      All witnesses must be certain that they will be supported and protected against intimidation. Criminal groups sometimes threaten witnesses to dissuade them from testifying. International principles on human rights indicate that testimonies lose their value when they are given under threat or coercion. Witnesses must be protected from the accused. We must guarantee that the protected witness and their family will never be identified, so they must be given new identities, with new homes, salaries and jobs. This is a challenge for all member countries of the Council of Europe. Once again, I thank Mr Díaz Tejera for his apposite report.

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

      Ms FIALA (Switzerland)* – I thank the rapporteur warmly for his important report. He has competently explained the shadowy, little-known challenges that exist and I am grateful to him for that. It is clear that witness protection is central to solving crimes. It is particularly important where there is a lack of other proof and the whole case hinges on witnesses’ testimony. Witnesses will not testify if they feel their lives are at stake and they feel threatened. According to the experts, witness protection programmes should protect only witnesses who can make a difference in a case through their testimony and who will be particularly in jeopardy. If you take too many witnesses into the programme, it will be overloaded and it will fail.

      The witness protection programme is an enormous imposition on the life of the person in jeopardy. The person may be completely removed from their normal environment, relocated to an unknown place and have to leave behind everything and every person they love and are used to and everything that was important to them.

      Organised crime works across borders and has increased in Europe because of globalisation. No man is an island, all the more so today, and it is only through co-operation between countries that organised crime, human trafficking and crime tourism can be foiled. Without the co-operation of collaborators of justice and without insider knowledge, it is impossible to demolish criminal structures. That is why elaborate witness protection measures are particularly important. A change of identity is no small step for the person concerned. According to the rapporteur, there are still enormous differences in the experience and best practice of member States. The Assembly therefore is rightly calling on member States to set up mechanisms for witness protection or to revisit their existing mechanisms, and to work closely with other law enforcement authorities.

      Presumably to avoid corruption, the report advises that financial and personnel resources should be adequate. It makes sense to produce statistics about the events and, in cases of organised crime and terrorism, to record the number of convictions that depended on the testimony of witnesses. It is important to exchange information regularly. To protect the rule of law, the report rightly points out that the right to a fair trial and to defend oneself must be upheld.

      I call on the Assembly to support the recommendations to the Committee of Ministers. Taking stock of the implementation of recommendations about witness protection is one of the most important measures we can take to study the organisation and running of witness protection programmes. We need to look at the results. I commend the report.

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

      Mr NEILL (United Kingdom) This is an excellent report, which our group welcomes and supports. I am grateful to the rapporteur for his work on it. Like me, he has a background in the legal system. In my 25 years as an advocate, I was conscious of the importance of protecting witnesses. What is particularly helpful is the way the report stresses the need to look at the international and intergovernmental dimension. Increasingly, serious crime knows no borders, so I hope we will be able to take on board and stress to member States of the Council of Europe the need to ensure that their legal authorities co-operate as well on witness protection as they already do generally in the tracking down of suspects.

      I know the rapporteur comes from Gran Canaria. A long time ago, I was one of the senior counsel in a case involving a major fraud in the United Kingdom. Eventually, the suspect escaped to Tenerife. He obviously did not go to Gran Canaria because he knew that Mr Díaz Tejera would have been after him. It took a great deal of time to track the suspect down. He was able to intimidate witnesses in the trial of his collaborators, even with the limited technology that then existed, from what was at that time a safe haven; it was almost the time of the Franco regime. We must be alert to the fact that witness intimidation is done across borders. We are seeing that more and more now.

      In many parts of what we might regard as the successful, western part of Europe, we see organised crime, particularly in drugs cases, putting in people who often are vulnerable and who can then, if they are persuaded to support the justice authorities, be subjected to serious threats to themselves and their families back home. It is important that we collaborate more effectively and strongly on that.

      In some of our systems, we have juries or lay judges, who either act as assessors or work with professional judges. To protect a professional judge is not always easy, as we know, but it is important. The protection of the jurors and the lay element of the justice system is critical, too. It is the involvement of the people that gives our justice systems the consent that enables us to administer penalties sometimes on their behalf. That is why this issue is hugely important. That is not in the report but it may be something we can take forward. This is a fine report and I warmly welcome it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Valen, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr VALEN (Norway) – I thank the rapporteur for his excellent report. We welcome it warmly, too. We are discussing this topic in dire times, when the fear of international terrorism threatens to take root in Europe and there is a wave of organised crime globally. Earlier in the part-session, I made a speech about the need for warm hearts and cold heads. I said we should not make compromises in our defence of the rule of law. The issue of witness protection is at the heart of that matter. It is crucial in upholding the real and genuine rule of law.

      Witnesses who are not victims of crime or bystanders but criminals or terrorists are also needed. They are instrumental in bringing down serious organised crime and the threat of terrorism. Relocating them, often across borders, and guaranteeing their safety, which is a challenge in many countries, constitutes a firm protection of witnesses. Therefore, we think that a study of different practices in Council of Europe member States is needed and we thank the rapporteur for making that point. It could help to improve the safety and efficiency of member States’ witness protection programmes.

      We agree on this issue, so I will be brief, but let me add on a personal note that future discussions in the Assembly on witness protection should also consider the role of whistle blowers. It is a slightly different topic but very much related. At the other end of the issue are those who are part of law enforcement, intelligence or even public authorities and who feel morally obliged to stop illegal practices or corruption that is done in the name of law enforcement, security or the public good. Whistle blowers are also witnesses in need of protection. They are more exposed naturally, because they come from inside the system. They are critical to combating corruption, for example. Therefore they provide new dilemmas for the member States of the Council of Europe at a time when all agree on the need for joint action – action that is as strong as possible – against organised crime and terrorism.

      My group also commends the report, which is a good and important step.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Schennach, of Austria, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I thank Arcadio most warmly for this report on an important development in our legal systems in respect of how we pursue criminals and the work of prosecutors. International terrorism or organised crime is always ahead of the game in technological terms, so any legal system that works on the basis of the rule of law will always be playing catch-up.

Our member States have only woken up to the need for the witness protection programme in the last few years. Some States introduced it earlier, but my country, Austria, has only had this kind of thing for four years, and it is gradually being adapted for better protection. We need to take different issues into account. Flight into a witness protection programme, or avoiding conviction through that route, is one thing, but by going into a witness protection programme you cannot necessarily cast off responsibility for the crimes you have committed. Therefore we need mitigation measures. Obviously, granting someone immunity on the basis of their testimony is the biggest measure, but there are halfway houses, including mitigation of the sentence. If I enter into a witness protection programme, I must know that I have to accept responsibility for any crime I have committed, but I might receive a lesser sentence, or I might be spared custody altogether and not have to do time in prison. There are various levels to consider. Witness protection programmes have to bear in mind the rule of law and the responsibility of the collaborator in justice. That is an important point.

      In respect of organised crime, which is often an international phenomenon, we need member States to co-operate together, as Ms Fiala emphasised. Sometimes, you need to give someone a new identity, and these are long-term programmes. This is a major challenge for the legal system in any State. With regard to corruption, that tends to be more an internal matter within a State.

      In the Austrian witness protection programme, a witness from a major State company highlighted corruption and made it possible for convictions to be achieved by whistle blowing. Of course, that is important as well. The person involved in the corruption still had to face his responsibility, but he served a lesser sentence as a result.

      On terrorism, the witness protection programme is the only chance of achieving major success.

      My group is delighted to vote in favour of this excellent report.

THE PRESIDENT* – Rapporteur, do you wish to respond now to the spokespersons for the political groups?

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I will do so at the end.

THE PRESIDENT* – Very well. Let us move to the general debate.

I do not see Mr Pintado, so I give the floor to Mr Downe, Observer from Canada.

Mr DOWNE (Canada) – I support the report, which emphasises various areas of witness protection, and I particularly thank the rapporteur for his excellent presentation. I was most impressed by his emphasis on the need for co-operation – not only inter-agency co-operation within our countries, but co-operation between countries – because, as we know, borders no longer exist in respect of organised crime and terrorism. Money can be transferred at a keystroke to anywhere in the world, into tax havens, shell companies and hidden accounts. The emphasis in fighting organised crime and terrorism has to be on following the money, to find the source of that money, and to capture back that money, which in the case of organised crime has been stolen and in that of terrorism has been raised through horrendous methods with which we are all familiar. It is important that to protect the people who provide information to us. Those people, who need protection for themselves and for their families, are the ones put into the witness protection programme.

In Canada, we have a legislative framework for a programme, with transparency on reporting back – obviously not anything that would disclose who is in the programme or where they are – and accountability to the Canadian Parliament on how the programme functions and what has to be done to improve it.

A growing concern in Canada is where the money goes – I mentioned earlier that it can go to overseas tax havens, for example. Are some Canadians just not willing to participate in funding the requirements of the State for health care, defence and so on? Or are they using the money for more devious purposes such as supporting terrorism or, in many cases, laundering money raised through organised crime? Because our agencies do not have the resources, the key to fighting this situation is witnesses coming forward – people who are on the inside, understand what is going on and can explain it to officials. That is why it is important to have the protection that this report highlights.

I join colleagues from other countries in thanking those who worked on the report, and I urge us all to work together collectively, not only within our own countries, but with countries all around the world, to fight these horrendous criminals and terrorists.

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

Mr MILLER (Canada) – Thank you for allowing me to speak on witness protection, which is an indispensable tool in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe. I thank the rapporteur very much for a great report. Although there is not a great quantity of speakers this morning, let us hope that the quality is there – I trust that it is.

I agree with the rapporteur's statement that “witnesses who stand up for truth and justice must be guaranteed reliable and durable protection, including legal and psychological support and robust physical protection before, during and after the trial” in which they testify. I also agree that witnesses can be particularly vulnerable to perceived or actual threats and intimidation from perpetrators of crimes against themselves or people close to them, especially in cases of organised crime and terrorism. It is important to protect these witnesses properly if we want to achieve results in prosecuting criminals and terrorists.

I would like to say a few words on the Canadian experience of witness protection. By doing so, I hope to contribute to the Assembly’s objective of strengthening international co-operation by exchanging information and sharing best practices, should the Assembly decide to follow the report’s recommendation in that regard.

In Canada, witness protection has been recognised as one of the most important tools law enforcement has at its disposal to combat criminal activity. The federal Parliament enacted the Witness Protection Program Act in 1996, which established the current witness protection programme administered by the federal law enforcement agency.

      At the provincial level, five provinces administer their own witness protection programmes, which are generally overseen by provincial attorneys-general, or the equivalent, and co-administered by provincial law enforcement agencies.

      Only the federal programme has the legal mandate to provide protection services to all Canadian law enforcement agencies and federal agencies that have a mandate related to national security, defence or public safety. The programme’s mandate also promotes the protection of persons involved in providing assistance to international criminal courts or tribunals.

      The federal witness protection programme’s primary purpose is to promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who, as a result of providing assistance to law enforcement agencies or testimony in criminal matters, are deemed to be at risk. The Witness Protection Program Act identifies certain factors to consider in determining whether a witness should be protected by the programme, including: the risk to the witness; the danger to the community; the nature of the inquiry and the importance of the witness; the likelihood that the witness can adjust to the programme; the cost of protection; and alternative methods of protection.

      Recently, a series of amendments to the Act came into force with the objectives of making the federal witness protection programme more effective and secure, improving its interaction with provincial, territorial and municipal programmes and protecting the information involved in a better way. My government’s view is that the modernised Act improves the federal programme and provides better service to municipal, provincial and territorial witness protection programmes. Time will tell whether more improvements are needed.

      I encourage Council of Europe member States to follow the report’s recommendation to eliminate discrepancies in their witness protection schemes, and I look forward to enhanced international co-operation in that field.

      Mr MARUSTE (Estonia) – When I studied the report, I noticed that it is missing the link between whistle blowing and witness protection. This excellent report could be even better if that link was made, because those two phenomena are closely related. As Mr Neill rightly mentioned, justice can succeed only with the involvement of people. Mr Valen also noticed that whistle blowing is an important part of the fight against crime. Therefore, please link whistle blowing and witness protection, because both topics are the Council of Europe’s concern. Indeed, the Council of Europe has some instruments in respect of whistle blowing.

      THE PRESIDENT* – That brings our list of speakers to an end, so I call Mr Díaz Tejera to reply to the debate. You have four minutes.

      Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I thank Mr Palacios, Ms Fiala, Mr Neill, Mr Valen, Mr Schennach, Mr Downe, Mr Miller and Mr Maruste for contributing. I will begin with a few technical comments. With regard to Mr Valen’s suggestion, there is a Council of Europe recommendation that deals with that, and Mr Omtzigt, our colleague from the Netherlands, is also preparing a report on the subject.

      As for the suggestion about many people who denounce ending up as witnesses, at other times that is not the case, so we must look into the configuration that was mentioned. We have not tackled that in detail, because we are dealing with the subject of witnesses. Many people who denounce are witnesses, but some never become witnesses. They inform the police or judicial authorities and then other people, perhaps who have not seen the facts, become witnesses instead.

      For jurors that is another reality. We are talking about witnesses, not those who denounce. We are also talking about people who had been terrorists but subsequently informed State officers. We are trying to establish a link between people who collaborate with the State and their condition as witnesses. Some of them end up being witnesses and others do not, as has been said.

      On guarantees, we are seeking a balance between guarantees offered by the rule of law and the rights of all the accused. That is the great thing about the rule of law: everybody has the right to defence counsel, even the most abject individual. Even terrible people have the right to be defended. That is the grand aspect of the rule of law, and it must be respected. I have seen cases in Gran Canaria where the counsel for the accused saw the person making declarations – it was a case involving human trafficking – but the accused could not see the witness’s face or hear their voice, because there was a mechanism to alter its sound, making it unrecognisable. That has all been worked on already.

      On combating terrorism and organised crime, we should not give them the first victory, which presupposes giving them the right to freedom. We must improve legal instruments, updating and adapting them to deal with the new polymorphic realities of organised crime and terrorism, but without forgetting rights and freedoms, because that would be the conquest of civilisation. Stefan is right that the project has to be modulated according to circumstances. Somebody who denounces a fact is not the same person who sees it and participates in the offence, so we must look at the different figures.

      I thank the Canadian observers, who add greatly to the dynamic of this Assembly, as do the Moroccans and others. The interventions from our Canadian colleagues are always full of concrete content. They are very useful. They co-operate with us and contribute a great deal. I thank them very much for that.

      Remember what happened to Al Capone. The organisational realities of jihadist terrorism require money, and there are people who give millions of euros, and we know what countries. I will not describe them now, to be loyal towards the people represented by these governments, but those organisations are being financed. It is a very difficult topic of allies and friends in the area who are funding these organisations – I will not go down that path now, Mr President, because you will say that I am departing from the subject matter. The funding of organised crime and of terrorism are key questions, together with the protection of witnesses in order to combat this scourge effectively.

      My last point is for Mr Neill. In Gran Canaria, if the Socialist party does not want me to become a senator, I shall go back to Tenerife and we can work together on prosecuting these evils. I say that light-heartedly, of course, to liven things up a bit, because the subject matter is not a very happy one. I thank you for your kindness in allowing me to continue to speak, but after all it is a Friday and we are all a bit more relaxed on Fridays.

This is a serious piece of work, in which I have been very much helped by the secretariat. Of course, we will constantly have to review it as new realities appear. Mr Neill, you mentioned jurors and the fact that those who denounce are sometimes not witnesses, so we must review it to help all those who help the representatives of the common interest in the fight for parliamentary democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Finally, let me say that it has been a great joy to speak to you.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Díaz Tejera. It is not just that it is a Friday, but rather that it is a pleasure to hear you out.

Does the chairperson of the committee wish to speak? I call Mr Dişli.

Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – Everything has already been said. The report was very timely, because all week we have talked about terrorist attacks, organised crime and so on, and it binds technicality and legality together. After all the hearings, sending out questionnaires and putting all the evidence together, the rapporteur has done a great job. I ask colleagues to support the report and individual member states to put its recommendations immediately into effect.

THE PRESIDENT* – That brings us to the end of our debate. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution, to which no amendments have been tabled. It has also presented a draft recommendation, to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13647.

The vote is open.

The draft resolution in Document 13647 is adopted, with 55 votes for, 0 against and 1 abstention.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13647. A two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is open.

The draft recommendation in Document 13647 is adopted, with 54 votes for, 0 against and 0 abstentions.

3. Equality and inclusion for people with disabilities

THE PRESIDENT* – The next item of business this morning is the debate on the report entitled "Equality and inclusion for people with disabilities", Document 13650, presented by Ms Carmen Quintanilla on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. You have 13 minutes, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.

Ms QUINTANILLA (Spain)* – This report might be less important than the other reports we have debated this week, but it is important for the 120 million individuals who suffer from some form of disability in the member countries of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, between 10% and 15% of the population of those 47 member countries suffer from some form of disability. We cannot forget that some of us, at some point in our lives, might also suffer from disability. We must be extremely aware of these people who, in many countries of the Council of Europe, are invisible legislatively, socially and culturally.

My report is based on three fundamental notions: access to employment for people with disabilities; the legal capacity of disabled people; and violence against people with disabilities, particularly women and children. I wanted to produce this report because of the issues of social inclusion and equality for people with disabilities.

The Council of Europe, the United Nations and the European Union have worked with a view to establishing legislation that makes people with disabilities more visible.

We cannot forget the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society 2006-2015, or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but how many countries have signed and ratified them to ensure the social and legislative protection of persons with disabilities? My report shows that not all member States of the Council of Europe have signed and ratified the European Social Charter or the United Nations convention. Therefore, one of the main purposes of the report and this debate is to encourage all parliamentarians of the Council of Europe to press their governments to implement the necessary measures to sign and ratify the various international legal instruments to increase the visibility of people with any form of disability.

      The most important way to improve accessibility for people with disabilities is to break down all the architectural barriers that still exist in many parts of the world in order to facilitate access for people with disabilities. We must consider not only the architectural barriers, but the social, legal and legislative barriers that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying equality of opportunity and stop them having the same access as people without disabilities to the cultural, social and political activities that allow us to live a full life. We must therefore break down any form of barrier faced by people with disabilities.

      Access to employment is one of the fundamental pillars that we are considering. Only 45% of people with disabilities in Council of Europe member States have jobs. The comparable figure is 75% for people without disabilities. Why do not we not help people with disabilities and give them the right to get jobs? The report shows how the Fundación ONCE has created 80 000 jobs for people with disabilities in Spain over the past 25 years. The United Kingdom has also adopted good practice and helps entrepreneurs who want to employ people with disabilities. We should implement such good practice in our countries to create jobs for people with disabilities because work brings equality and freedom. That is why the report emphasises the importance of employment and why we should help people with disabilities to get jobs.

      The report also deals with the legal capacity of people with disabilities. Legal capacity is unsatisfactory in some of our countries. Many people with disabilities do not have legal capacity, and they are like the living dead: they cannot live their lives as other people do. They are disabled legally speaking and their rights, even including the right to vote, are withdrawn, so they disappear from the legal system. Regulations on the legal capacity of people with disabilities have become obsolete and antiquated. We need innovative systems that allow people with disabilities to exercise their rights. As the report states, countries such as Canada and Sweden have systems of assistance, protection and capacity for people who might otherwise be legally incapacitated.

      Women and children with disabilities suffer from violence. Women with disabilities suffer from more violence than women without disabilities. Such women and children are raped and sexually abused. Our countries must ratify the Istanbul Convention and the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly. Those two major conventions promote the rights of women and children with disabilities. The report shows that, unfortunately, children with disabilities suffer four times more violence in schools and other educational establishments in Council of Europe member States. We sometimes prevent the social integration of these girls and boys by sending them to separate schools.

      We must encourage our member States to ratify and sign these Council of Europe conventions and legislate to break down any barriers faced by people with disabilities. The purpose of my report is to promote visibility, social justice and equality for people with disabilities and to build a more egalitarian and just society in Council of Europe member States.

      THE PRESIDENT* – You have two minutes left to reply to the debate. I call Ms Oehri, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Ms OEHRI (Liechtenstein)* – I thank Ms Quintanilla for this excellent report. She sensitively explained the disabilities that affect people and said how much disability can be a problem in society. Disabled people are subject to so many barriers, and even violence, and they therefore have to combat not just their disability but all sorts of other difficulties as well. The way that our member States cope with such issues varies from country to country, and there is no ideal panacea. Nevertheless, the issue must remain on the agenda, despite the pressure for cuts.

      Ms Quintanilla said that the cuts have particularly affected women with disabilities, and even in my country, the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls for greater comprehensiveness. We must do more for those groups, although in some small countries it can be a question of personnel and resources, rather than a lack of political will. Liechtenstein has a progressive equality law for the disabled, but unfortunately we still have not ratified the convention.

      On access to employment, for example, we need to consider two groups: people who were born with disabilities, and those who become disabled during the course of their life. It is essential that those who were born with disabilities have access to training – in Liechtenstein, they are entitled to take part in training courses, be that in the private sector or a more protective environment, and anyone who cannot cope with training is still catered for. For people who become disabled at some stage in their lives, we have a system that we run with the Swiss. Employers are obliged to notify the authorities if somebody becomes disabled due to an occupational incident, particularly if the problem lasts for more than six weeks. Social workers can step in and find ways of accommodating people in their workplace, and if that is not possible they can be found a workplace elsewhere. Through that process, the social services offer a lot of support and adaptation of the working environment. There can also be tax relief for the employer, or retraining so that people can take up a different occupation. It is important to ensure that those who are mentally ill also receive training, especially if their condition gets worse, and different countries must offer different solutions that can be adapted to people’s needs. Disabilities can be so different, so the solutions need to be adapted, depending on a country’s possibilities.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Ms Gafarova, who will speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

      Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – I congratulate my colleague, Ms Quintanilla, on her excellent report. The issue we are discussing is important in all member States. As mentioned in the report, there are more than 80 million people with disabilities in Europe, and with an ageing population that number is likely to increase in the years ahead. Indeed, people with disabilities are confronted by a multitude of challenges in their daily lives, as well as multiple forms of discrimination that affect their access to basic rights and services, and their full enjoyment of life in society.

      Among persons with disabilities, some particularly vulnerable groups face additional discrimination: women, children, elderly people, torture victims, refugees and displaced persons, and migrant workers. For instance, disabled women are discriminated against because of their gender and also because of their disability. The economic crisis and the austerity measures currently being implemented in Europe have a particular impact on people with disabilities and place a heavy economic burden on their families. Indeed, just two days ago, the Assembly discussed a report on equality and the crisis, and the issue of disabled people was mentioned.

      Disabled people must be included in all activities, initiatives and policies – education, employment, transport, public procurement, and so on – of Council of Europe member States and the various international organisations. Indeed, the situation of people with disabilities must be perceived as a priority by the governments of Council of Europe member States. That is essential if we are to move towards equal rights and the full inclusion of people with disabilities. National parliaments should ensure that austerity measures and budget cuts are designed in a way that protects equality policies for people with disabilities as far as possible.

      THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Valen, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr VALEN (Norway) – On behalf of my group, I congratulate the rapporteur on a good and important report. I share her sentiments. In times of economic crisis and social instability, some people are more vulnerable than others. People with disabilities face obstacles in most societies – if not all – that other people do not face, such as access to basic public services, or to voting, work and education. We must confess that in many cases the formal rights and legal framework exist, but the will to implement and properly fund those rights, or to ensure that the legal capacity exists to protect the rights of people with disabilities, is not present to the same degree.

      As there is wide agreement about the conclusions of the report, I will make a few political reflections. The financial crisis has brought about a policy of austerity in Europe that threatens basic human dignity for many groups. When all public welfare is referred to solely as a “cost”, we are on a dangerous road. Public services, health services, education and proper pensions for people with disabilities or a chronic illness is a question of basic solidarity and dignity, not an indulgence that we should consider whether we can afford at any given time. As the rapporteur pointed out, however, the ongoing political discussion in many European countries about the future of welfare with an ageing population might push us in such a direction. We all have responsibility to protect the instruments that make the equality of all people – including those with disabilities – a reality in everyday life and not just formally.

      In recent years, Norway has introduced standards to ensure that new homes are accessible for people with disabilities. Some people have referred to that as “unnecessary bureaucracy” or a driver of costs in the housing market that makes housing more expensive for everyone. However, such things are not a cost; they are a standard that we must live up to if the rights of all people are to be real. As parliamentarians, we have a special responsibility to protect those rights and standards. Many people with disabilities do not have strong non-governmental organisations or lobbies to speak for them, and they are often a group that it is easy to cut back on in budgets. Ordinary people, especially those with disabilities who might already have extra expenses as a result of their condition, do not have access to the expensive legal counsel that big companies, corporations and interest groups can use. In many countries, disabled people are willingly excluded from society by the majority, with few people to speak for them. I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the draft recommendation, and especially the need for a renewed and updated road map, with extra attention paid to the actual legal capacity of people with disabilities.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Recordon on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr RECORDON (Switzerland)* – I thank the rapporteur for having pinpointed the problems faced by disabled people in her report, which the Socialist Group certainly supports. People with disabilities should not be seen just as people who need to be helped, but as people who can provide added value and resources. Despite their disabilities, disabled people are often able to engage in certain professions and contribute to society intellectually as well as physically, and they are also able to provide significant experience. Having once suffered severely from a disability, I know that such engagement can be a very enriching experience.

      What about public policies? There is the issue of funding and there is the issue of employment, which often represent the greatest obstacles to putting in place measures to promote the inclusion and equality of persons with disability. We have to take that into account and perhaps make some compromises that are more favourable to persons with disabilities. As has been pointed out, it might be more difficult to find resources in an ageing society, so we need to bring persons with disabilities into the labour market in the common interest and not just to provide a service to them. In that respect, I underscore the relevance of paragraphs 4.4 and 4.6 in the resolution, as well as paragraphs 4.2 and 4.4 in the recommendation. The other articles are important, too, but those are particularly significant.

      Another factor is orphan diseases, whose aetiology is not known and whose incidence is underestimated, such as diseases involving psychomotor difficulties. They are often not sufficiently well treated and they are not seen as a reason for special disability allowances to be paid. That needs to be rethought in our member States. I stress that point because it involves a number of human dramas and some idiotic policies.

      Let us put ourselves in the shoes of other people. A special effort needs to be made by people with disabilities to accept their disabilities and by people generally to accept the disabilities of others and, in the most unacceptable cases, to reject violence. That is particularly necessary in institutions. There is a lot of suspicion and distrust of integrated institutions. I believe that children with disabilities should be integrated as soon as possible into ordinary schools with children who do not have disabilities. However, let us not turn that into a mantra. In my experience, it can be appropriate to have a mix; it might be best for the child to be for part of the day with children who do not have disabilities and for part of the day with children who have disabilities.

THE PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Fresko-Rolfo of Monaco to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Ms FRESKO-ROLFO (Monaco)* – I thank Ms Quintanilla for her excellent report, which gives a human dimension to the integration of persons with disabilities in our modern societies. Disabilities concern us all. As parliamentary decision makers, we should work to make sure that persons with disabilities can take advantage of a physical, social and cultural environment that is appropriately adapted to enable them to live with dignity and to fulfil their lives.

      “Adaptation” is probably the key word – adaptation to facilitate access to education and access to knowledge, with no discrimination and with the right to sign language, Braille or any other form of alternative communication. Education is an important aspect of integration in society. Decision-making bodies should work to make sure that children with disabilities can be socialised in institutions, but not only in institutions for people with disabilities. I agree with the rapporteur that we should promote the earliest possible integration of children with disabilities into an ordinary school environment.Ad

      Adaptation to facilitate employment is also key, not only through accessibility to buildings but also through economic policies that facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into companies. I do not like the term “quota”, but I fear that we will have to apply quotas if we want to bring to an end the unjustified discrimination that people with disabilities experience in the labour market.

      Adaptation in our political life is also necessary. Elections should be accessible to people with disabilities not only as voters but as candidates. They should be able to become fully involved in the political lives of their countries, especially as they have a value added to contribute.

      We need to adapt legislative systems, too. In some countries, people with disabilities still do not have legal personality or capacity. We need to put pressure on those countries to recognise those rights. We should consolidate the law governing people with disabilities so that they can participate in all walks of life on an equal footing and be protected against violence – Ms Quintanilla makes that point well. In my country, children are already integrated as far as possible into schools, but that situation can still be improved.

      Tolerance is key. We must combat exclusion on grounds of religion, race and disability. That should be based on the teaching of the concept of respect and acceptance of others. Our multicultural, multiracial societies must combat intolerance from a young age – as early as possible – to ensure that future generations are more just and stronger. We must be able to live together despite our differences, so that ultimately those differences disappear and are replaced with human solidarity and respect for human life.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The rapporteur will respond at the end, so I call Mr Palacios.

      Mr PALACIOS (Spain)* – I congratulate Ms Quintanilla on the report, which describes the flagrant breaches of the rights of disabled persons and the lack of interest on the part of the authorities in some countries – indeed, in quite a number of European countries – with a view to diminishing the inequalities from which those people suffer.

      I do not believe that this subject is less important than the other subjects that we have dealt with this week, because in Europe 10% to 15% of the population is disabled. There are 80 million people with physical, sensory or psychological disabilities. This is a problem that can affect any one of us at any point in our life. We can be temporarily disabled or permanently disabled.

      The issue is a concern for legislators. We have to make available the means to reduce and resolve the problem. We all have to eliminate or at least reduce the barriers that prevent disabled persons from living as normal a life as possible, allowing them to integrate themselves as far as possible into every aspect of life. We all have to fight to guarantee their equality and their rights to participate in the labour market and social life. All member States of the Council of Europe have to include among our priorities facilitating people with disabilities to perform all the activities that their capacities allow them.

      In some countries, such as my country of Spain, over the past decades many efforts have been made to eliminate the architectural barriers that existed in housing, public buildings and cities. Disabled persons have ceased being closed up in their houses as they were before and are now visible in our cities and villages. They have a freedom of movement that a few decades ago was difficult to achieve. As the report states, however, in some countries in developed Europe, including some very close to my country, only 15% of public buildings have eliminated architectural trammels.

      According to OECD data, the employment rate for disabled persons is only 40%, compared with 75% for people without disabilities. The rate is as low as 13%, 18% or 20% in some countries, and in many cases, the jobs disabled people do are precarious, and their wages are lower. We have to think about that. Member States of the Council of Europe have to implement positive measures, such as giving companies financial incentives and tax exemptions to help get disabled people access to the normal labour market, so they can achieve full autonomy and social integration.

      We are concerned that in Europe, disabled people are not being recognised as persons before the law, and have legal incapacitation. In the 21st century, 2% to 10% of disabled women are more vulnerable than women without disabilities, and children with disabilities are four times as likely as others to face violence. Council of Europe member States have to think about all those things; we must exhort member States to sign all relevant international conventions, and make available the means to put an end to these inequalities. Once again, I congratulate Ms Quintanilla on this splendid report. I repeat that this issue is not of lesser interest than the others we have dealt with this week, and it should cause us all as much concern as those others.

      Mr Ž. OBRADOVIĆ (Serbia) – I support the adoption by the Parliamentary Assembly of the resolution on “Equality and inclusion for people with disabilities”, which aims to improve the position for persons with disabilities. These persons are our fellow citizens; they are one of us, but owing to their particular needs, they require additional protection in order to have the same ability as other citizens to exercise rights guaranteed by the law. Measures taken by a State with the aim of improving the position of persons with disabilities reflect the character of the society we live in, and tell us a lot about ourselves – our solidarity, understanding and tolerance – our value system, and the democratic capacities of our society.

      The Republic of Serbia has for several years been tackling the issue of the position of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in social life. In 2005, the government established a special council – a technical and advisory body – for persons with disabilities. In accordance with international treaties, in 2007 Serbia adopted a strategy to improve the position of persons with disabilities, and two-year action plans for its implementation. In the same year, a national organisation for persons with disabilities was founded. Then the Law on Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities was adopted, with the aim of stimulating employment of these persons by imposing an obligation on employers to employ at least one person with disabilities for every 50 workers. The State financially supports 46 companies that employ over 1 500 persons to provide professional rehabilitation and employ persons with disabilities.

      Another important area is the education of persons with disabilities. To ensure inclusion, Serbia has adopted laws that give disabled people easier access to the regular educational system and to university education, and enable them to exercise all their rights as students, including those rights relating to scholarships and housing.

      Let me point out just a few legislative and other activities undertaken by the Republic of Serbia last year to protect persons with disabilities. The government has drafted a law on access for those assisted by guide dogs, stipulating the access rights of persons with disabilities who have guide dogs. The law has been submitted to the national assembly for adoption. A draft law on usage of sign language will set out the rights of deaf persons to use sign language in proceedings in all institutions; it will cover employers, so that deaf persons can exercise their rights.

      The Republic of Serbia finances programmes for 22 national and 11 provincial associations of persons with disabilities, which include 526 local organisations. These organisations compete every year for funding to implement programmes. Priority is given to programmes to develop innovative services, programmes to develop and implement stimulating and inclusive projects, and above all, programmes aimed at raising awareness of the disabled community, and disabled people’s position, rights and needs.

      Serbia has done quite a lot, but it intends to invest even more effort in improving the position of persons with disabilities. The goal is that the State, through its legislative framework and concrete measures, ensures that persons with disabilities have a better position, equality, and full inclusion in the social life of the community.

      (Ms Brasseur, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Rouquet.)

      THE PRESIDENT – Mr Shahgeldyan is not here, so I call Ms Kovács.

      Ms KOVÁCS (Serbia) – I congratulate the rapporteur on this excellent report. She managed to emphasise the position of people with disabilities and suggested great solutions. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of prejudice against people with disabilities in our societies. It is obvious that these people are among the most marginalised. They experience stigma and prejudice, and suffer many different forms of exclusion from society. It is therefore obvious that all member States of the Council of Europe must work together to contribute to changing the perception of persons with physical or mental disabilities.

      In practice, unfortunately, disabled people’s access to rights is still inadequate. The exclusion, discrimination and negative attitudes that they face are often a greater barrier to their participation in everyday life than their disability. We politicians must therefore help to ensure that their position is developed and that there is integration. We must increase understanding and acceptance of them in the community. It is necessary to find practical solutions to their most serious and most common problems, and to foster equal opportunities. There are still not enough job offers for people with disabilities; despite existing programmes and willingness, that is the sad fact. We all agree that they must have access to sustainable employment in the labour market. Of course, their specific needs should be taken into account in health and safety legislation, too.

      It is necessary to guarantee the right of people with disabilities to education. They should have the same right to high-quality, appropriate education as others, to maximise their potential. Day-care centres, schools, places of worship and leisure services should accept children with disabilities without any trouble. In this way, children with disabilities and other children can mix, play together and integrate in society. In the long run, improved status for, and understanding of, people with disabilities will improve their access to mainstream services and activities, and encourage the development of much-needed specialised services. We therefore need to improve learning environments and provide opportunities for all. The best way to achieve this is to promote positive attitudes towards inclusion at all levels of education, and to take action to change perceptions, as well as expectations, with regard to the right to education for people with disabilities. We should raise public awareness of this problem in different segments of society.

      We must all include disability issues in every area of policy making, fight against discrimination and violence, and speed up the integration of people with disabilities in society. In conclusion, every person is unique and different, and has a fundamental right to education. Inclusion as a philosophy that urges schools, neighbourhoods and communities to welcome and value everyone, regardless of differences, and participation are essential to human dignity and the exercise of human rights. Individuals with disabilities have the right to be independent and socially integrated, and to participate in the communities they live in.

      THE PRESIDENT – Ms Pashayeva is not here, so I call Ms Morin, Observer from Canada.

      Ms MORIN (Canada)* – I thank Ms Quintanilla for her excellent report, which notes: “There are more than 80 million people with disabilities in Europe and with the ageing population, this number is likely to increase in the years ahead.” However, the equality and inclusion of persons with disabilities are rarely perceived as high priorities.

      It is important to note that a number of international legal instruments and action programmes have been developed to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities to equality and full participation in social life. It is also important to note, as the rapporteur has said, that there is still a big gap between international standards and the daily reality experienced by people with disabilities. They are often invisible to the rest of society and confronted by various forms of discrimination. It is particularly disquieting that violence is perpetrated against persons with disabilities, especially women and children.

      Like the report, I exhort member States of the Council of Europe that have not already done so to ratify and implement, without further delay, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2006.

      In Canada, 3.8 million persons aged over 15 have some impairment, and more than half of them have a disability that is considered severe or very severe. Through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Constitution guarantees the equality of all before the law by prohibiting any form of discrimination, particularly discrimination based on mental and physical disabilities. In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, after having engaged in consultations with its provinces and territories, the autonomous first people’s governments and Canadians in general, particularly those representing persons with disabilities. Our office for disability issues has been designated as the focal point for issues relating to the implementation of the convention at the federal level. It also behoves the office to increase the social and economic integration of the persons in question by co-operating with various government partners, both in Canada and abroad. The provinces and territories are responsible for ensuring the implementation of those parts of the convention that fall within their sphere of competence.

      I fully agree with the report’s assertion that the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has achieved a major turning point with the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is important both for international organisations such as the Council of Europe and for non-governmental organisations. Its implementation, however, continues to be a challenge for all States that are party to it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Al-Astal from Palestine, Partner for Democracy.

      Ms AL-ASTAL (Palestine) – I thank Ms Quintanilla for her report on the very important issue of people with disabilities. Any one of us may suffer from either a permanent or a temporary disability at some point in our lives, so the subject applies to us all.

The statistics show that this is a big problem all over the world. About 10% of the population in Palestine suffer some kind of disability. Many efforts have been made to open rehabilitation centres and to implement policies relating to education, health, jobs and social affairs, but those efforts have not been sufficient because many people with disabilities still suffer violence, discrimination and marginalisation. People with disabilities are four times more likely to suffer violence and harassment than others. Moreover, because children with disabilities are more likely to suffer harassment in school than other children, many parents send them to special schools and centres so that they can be in a more peaceful environment. Services need to be improved and we need to raise awareness in order to integrate people with disabilities into wider society.

I fully agree with the report’s conclusion that the human rights of people with disabilities need to be protected – they have a right to live a normal and peaceful life with dignity – and that we need to develop and support decision-making mechanisms. We also need to address failed education polices and improve access in all institutions. For instance, on employment, in Palestine at least 5% of official jobs must go to people with disabilities. We must also combat violence, including domestic and sexual violence, against women and children with disabilities. The rights of people with disabilities are human rights and we must continue to address them.

THE PRESIDENT* – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Ms Quintanilla to reply to the debate. You have two minutes.

Ms QUINTANILLA (Spain)* – First, I express my gratitude to all who have spoken. You have been very kind to me, but, more importantly, you have spoken of how we must continue to work to change laws in our countries in order to help people with disabilities. Our countries must ratify and sign the conventions approved by this Parliamentary Assembly.

Thirty-two countries have still not ratified the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women, including women with disabilities, and domestic violence. I urge colleagues to go back to their countries and tell them to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention. Those who have not done so should also sign the Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, especially children with disabilities.

The report addresses what we should do to ensure that people with disabilities can be visible in society. I call on colleagues to speak to non-governmental organisations and to address civil society. The report notes that Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Spain have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Spain has passed an Act to reshape all its pre-existing laws relating to the rights of people with disabilities. We must do that. We are talking about 80 million people, and demographers state that, given the ageing population of Europe, the figure will be even bigger by 2050. We are talking about people with disabilities now and in the future, so now is the time to get to work and to help people with disabilities be more visible.

      I conclude by thanking you all for your words and support. I thank the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, its chair and the secretariat – Ms Cornu and her team – for making people with disabilities visible. I thank them for all their help and assistance in producing the report.

      I ask colleagues to support the report. We are talking about equality, visibility and social justice for people with disabilities in the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe. Those 80 million people are placing all their hopes in us.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does the chair of the committee wish to speak? You have two minutes.

      Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – Ms Quintanilla has said everything already. Any one of us may be affected by a disability in the future. I have a nephew who became disabled after an operation that went wrong, and, as we know, there are more than 80 million disabled people in Europe.

      The report constitutes an important and novel phase in the work of our Assembly. For the first time, the topic of disability is being dealt with exclusively as a human rights issue, rather than a purely medical or social matter. Like other international organisations that have looked into this matter in recent years, we are convinced that our priority should be to consistently apply the principle of equality for people with disabilities. We can include those people in our society by acknowledging that their rights are equal to those enjoyed by all others in their jobs and in every other sphere.

      Our committee dealt with the issue of disability several times last year, which enabled us to understand that the inclusion of people with disabilities is possible, provided that resources are earmarked, adequate efforts are made and political will is shown. During a meeting of our committee in Vienna last March, we spoke to a deaf parliamentarian who actively participates in the work of the Austrian Parliament, thanks to sign language interpretation, which is guaranteed by the Austrian Constitution. I recall that there was a blind colleague in the Turkish delegation some years ago. Therefore, it is possible for people with disabilities to actively participate in political life.

      The report and its recommendations come at the right time. The Council of Europe’s plan for disabilities is coming to an end, so the Parliamentary Assembly has the opportunity to point out to the Committee of Ministers that we need a new plan and set out our priorities. I congratulate Ms Quintanilla, and I invite colleagues to express their support for the report.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I, too, thank the rapporteur, the chair of the committee and all those who have spoken.

      The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft resolution, to which no amendments have been tabled. It has also presented a draft recommendation, to which no amendments have been tabled, which shows our unanimous support. It is great to be able to conclude this week on such a note. We have had difficult debates, but we have conducted ourselves in a spirit of serenity and shown that we defend a society of inclusion. This week’s work will be concluded on that note.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13650.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13650 is adopted, with 45 votes for, 1 against and 0 abstentions.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13650.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 13650 is adopted, with 47 votes for, 0 against and 0 abstentions.

      It is good to have unanimity on such an important subject. I again congratulate the rapporteur and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

4. Progress Report

      THE PRESIDENT* – The Bureau has proposed several references to committees for ratification. They are set out in the Progress Report (Document 13668, Addendum III). That is pursuant to Rule 26.3.

      Are there any objections to these references?

      There are no objections, so the references are approved.

5. Constitution of the Standing Committee

      THE PRESIDENT* – The next business today is to constitute the Standing Committee under Rule 17.2.

      The membership of the Standing Committee is fixed by Rule 17.3, as follows: the President of the Assembly, the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, the leaders of the political groups, the chairpersons of national delegations, and the chairpersons of the general committees.

      A full list of members is set out in Document Commissions (2015) 2.

      The Standing Committee is accordingly constituted.

6. Voting champions

      THE PRESIDENT* – I am pleased to be able to announce the names of our voting champions. The three winners are Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Schennach and Lord Tomlinson. Congratulations. I ask them to come over afterwards to pick up their prize.

7. End of the part session

      THE PRESIDENT* – We have now come to the end of our business. I thank all members of the Assembly who have contributed to our work, the rapporteurs, the committees and all those who have worked so hard, especially during the difficult week we have been through.

I also thank all the Vice-Presidents who have assisted me by presiding over sittings of the Assembly this week: Mr Rouquet, Mr Walter, Mr Wach, Mr Flego, Mr Giovagnoli and Ms Korenjak Kramar. As always, I thank the staff for their work during this week, which has been a difficult week with regard to the texts we voted on and the amendments. Mr Secretary General, I thank you, but please on our behalf thank all the staff. They deserve applause and so do the interpreters.

      The second part of the 2015 session will be held from 20 to 24 April 2015.

      I declare the first part of the 2015 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.

      The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 12 p.m.)


1. Changes in membership of committees

2. Witness protection as an indispensable tool in the fight against organised crime and terrorism in Europe

Presentation by Mr Díaz Tejera of report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Doc. 13647

Speakers: Mr Palacios (Spain) Ms Fiala (Switzerland), Mr Neill (United Kingdom), Mr Valen (Norway), Mr Schennach (Austria), Mr Downe (Canada), Mr Miller (Canada) and Mr Maruste (Estonia)

Replies: Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain) and Mr Dişli (Turkey)

Draft resolution in Doc. 13647 adopted

Draft recommendation in Doc. 13647 adopted

3. Equality and inclusion for people with disabilities

Presentation by Ms Quintanilla of report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination in Doc. 13650

Speakers: Ms Oehri (Liechtenstein), Ms Gafarova (Azerbaijan), Mr Valen (Norway), Mr Recordon (Switzerland), Ms Fresko-Rolfo (Monaco), Mr Palacios (Spain), Mr Ž. Obradović (Serbia), Ms Kovács (Serbia), Ms Morin (Canada), Ms Al-Astal (Palestine),

Replies: Ms Quintanilla (Spain) and Ms Bilgehan (Turkey)

Draft resolution in Doc. 13650 adopted

Draft recommendation in Doc. 13650 adopted

4. Progress report

5. Constitution of the Standing Committee

6. Voting champions

7. End of the part-session

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*



Taulant BALLA*

Gérard BAPT*



José Manuel BARREIRO*


Marieluise BECK*

Ondřej BENEŠIK/Gabriela Pecková

José María BENEYTO/Carmen Quintanilla



Anna Maria BERNINI*

Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*

Andris BĒRZINŠ/Nellija Kleinberga



Ľuboš BLAHA*


Jean-Marie BOCKEL


Mladen BOSIĆ*

António BRAGA*


Alessandro BRATTI*

Piet De BRUYN*


Gerold BÜCHEL*






Vannino CHITI*

Tudor-Alexandru CHIUARIU*

Christopher CHOPE*


Henryk CIOCH


Agustín CONDE








Katalin CSÖBÖR*






Peter van DIJK*


Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ*



Daphné DUMERY*

Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*


Josette DURRIEU*



Lady Diana ECCLES*


Franz Leonhard EßL*



Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*

Vyacheslav FETISOV*


Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Miroslav Antl



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*


Nazmi GÜR*

Antonio GUTIÉRREZ/Jordi Xuclà




Margus HANSON*

Alfred HEER/Luc Recordon








Johannes HÜBNER*

Andrej HUNKO*

Ali HUSEYNLI/Sahiba Gafarova




Tadeusz IWIŃSKI*


Gediminas JAKAVONIS*



Michael Aastrup JENSEN*


Florina-Ruxandra JIPA*


Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ*






Andreja KATIČ*

Charles KENNEDY*



Bogdan KLICH/Jarosław Sellin

Haluk KOÇ




Attila KORODI*





Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO*


Marek KRZĄKAŁA/Ryszard Terlecki






Pierre-Yves LE BORGN'*

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*


Valentina LESKAJ*


Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE/Boriss Cilevičs


François LONCLE*



Jacob LUND*

Trine Pertou MACH*


Philippe MAHOUX*

Thierry MARIANI*



Meritxell MATEU PI*





Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE*



Ana Catarina MENDONÇA*


Jean-Claude MIGNON*

Philipp MIßFELDER*





Melita MULIĆ*





Marian NEACŞU*


Miroslav NENUTIL

Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*


Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI*



Judith OEHRI


Joseph O'REILLY*

Maciej ORZECHOWSKI/Helena Hatka


José Ignacio PALACIOS



Waldemar PAWLAK/Marek Borowski

Foteini PIPILI*

Vladimir PLIGIN*

Cezar Florin PREDA*


Gabino PUCHE*


Mailis REPS/Rait Maruste

Andrea RIGONI*




Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*


Rovshan RZAYEV*

Indrek SAAR*




Kimmo SASI*




Ingjerd SCHOU


Urs SCHWALLER/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter

Salvador SEDÓ*



Aleksandar SENIĆ

Senad ŠEPIĆ*













Ionuţ-Marian STROE*









Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ

Tuğrul TÜRKEŞ*

Konstantinos TZAVARAS*



Olga-Nantia VALAVANI*

Snorre Serigstad VALEN

Petrit VASILI*






Vladimir VORONIN*

Viktor VOVK

Klaas de VRIES*



Piotr WACH

Robert WALTER*

Dame Angela WATKINSON*

Tom WATSON/Robert Neill

Karl-Georg WELLMANN*

Katrin WERNER*

Morten WOLD*

Gisela WURM*


Leonid YEMETS*

Tobias ZECH*




Emanuelis ZINGERIS*

Guennady ZIUGANOV*


Levon ZOURABIAN/Mher Shahgeldyan

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



Marie-Claude MORIN

Partners for democracy