AS (2016) CR 19
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 20 June 2016 at 11.30 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
4. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.)
1. Opening of the third part of the 2016 ordinary session
The PRESIDENT – I declare open the third part of the 2016 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
2. Statement by the President
Dear colleagues, once again I am obliged to open our part-session on a sad note. Terrorism continues to hit our citizens and institutions. All of us were shocked and outraged by the recent deadly attacks in Istanbul, Turkey, and Orlando in the United States, as well as the most recent attack on police officers in France. As Europeans, we have to condemn those attacks in the strongest possible terms and stand united with our fellow citizens who have been and continue to be affected by those terrorist atrocities. I would also like to stress our solidarity with the family of Jo Cox, the United Kingdom member of parliament who passed away last Thursday after a brutal attack. She was the victim of a terrible crime fuelled by hate. We must strongly condemn that attack and stand up against hate. I ask you all to observe a minute’s silence.
(The Assembly observed a minute’s silence.)
The recent attacks are deplorable acts of terror, intolerance and hatred. Our response must be to uphold our democratic values and freedoms. Terrorism seeks to destroy our way of life by instilling fear and propagating hate. We must not fall into the terrorists’ trap, or allow barbarism to triumph over democratic values and liberties.
On my election as President of the Assembly I proposed launching an initiative to mobilise politicians, important actors in society and ordinary citizens against terrorism and the hate and fear that terrorists seek to create. Today, shortly before 1 p.m., we are going to launch officially the hashtag initiative #NoHateNoFear. I invite you all to join me at 12.50 p.m. in the Assembly Chamber for the taking of a symbolic photo with the #NoHateNoFear banner that will be found at your seats. A #NoHateNoFear stand is in place outside the Chamber, and I encourage you all to visit it to have your picture taken and express your solidarity with the victims of terrorism. We must set an example and send the clear message to our voters that we shall not give in to fear and hate.
We may be living in difficult times, but not all news and developments are bleak. I welcome to our Chamber Ms Nadiia Savchenko, our colleague and member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. A month ago she was released from detention and returned to Kiev. Last week two more Ukrainian citizens sentenced in Russia were pardoned and returned to Ukraine. We should welcome that positive step, too.
Ms Savchenko, this house of democracy is now also your house, and we look forward to your contribution to the work of the Assembly. Your release, as well as the releases of Mr Afanasiev and Mr Soloshenko, demonstrates that diplomacy can help to resolve even the most complex problems. I encourage Ukraine and Russia to use this opportunity to intensify diplomatic efforts in search of peaceful solution to a major conflict and crisis, which is having repercussions throughout Europe and beyond. It is particularly important that both sides fulfil their commitments to implement a credible ceasefire in the east of Ukraine; organise free, fair and democratic elections, according to international standards, in areas outside the control of the Ukrainian authorities; and, finally, return to Ukraine full control of its international borders.
In addition to the release of Ms Savchenko, there have been other important releases of political prisoners. I welcome the release of the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The release earlier this year by the Azerbaijani authorities of a large number of so-called political prisoners was a very positive step. With this new release, we are seeing the continuation of that positive trend, which we must support. We should continue to engage in a constructive political dialogue with the Azerbaijani authorities to help them fulfil their international commitments in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Three weeks ago, an Assembly delegation travelled to Greece to visit reception centres for refugees in and around Athens, as well as on the island of Lesbos. I am grateful to the Greek authorities and the Greek delegation to the Assembly for efficiently organising the visit within a short timeframe. The visit was a moving experience for me and, I am sure, for all those who participated in it. Today, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Malta and Italy, as well as other front-line states and countries of transit and destination, must cope with a disproportionate share of Europe’s responsibility to care for refugees and asylum seekers. During our visit, we saw for ourselves that Greece is doing what it can to provide sufficient reception places, but Greece and other countries need more of our support, because providing for refugees and asylum seekers is a European responsibility and needs a European response. This responsibility must be shared more fairly between European States, which must meet the obligation on resettlement and relocation.
Tomorrow, we will hold a debate on the situation of refugees at risk, and we will hear the report of the Assembly delegation that travelled to Greece. The address to the Assembly of the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday will be another opportunity to discuss how Europe can better support Greece, as well as other front-line states and countries of transit and destination.
Today is World Refugee Day, and it is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to international refugee obligations and standards. Providing for refugees and asylum seekers is our legal duty. As parliamentarians of the Council of Europe, we must ensure that every person arriving on European soil benefits from the same protection regardless of the country in which they arrive. Our task as parliamentarians is to take this message back home and remind our governments of their responsibilities and obligations.
To mark World Refugee Day symbolically, I invite you to leave an electronic message at the stand of our Ad hoc committee on the situation of refugees in Greece, which is located outside the Assembly Chamber. I visited the stand this morning, before the start of our part-session, and left an electronic message, and I encourage you to visit the stand to do the same.
On World Refugee Day, we have to be realistic: the refugee flow is not going to dry up while instability on Europe’s southern borders is increasing. There are no easy solutions. More co-ordination is needed among European States and between Europe and the United States to address the root causes of the current refugee crisis. We need to strengthen our efforts to build a functioning government in Libya and to stop the fighting in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. We must provide a lot more assistance to boost the security and development of sub-Saharan countries, such as Gambia, Nigeria, Eritrea and Ghana. These are costly and politically challenging problems, especially at a time when xenophobic nationalists and populists are fanning public resistance to taking immigrants and refugees, but if we want to tackle the root causes of refugee flows, we cannot be like the African ostrich that buries its head in the sand.
(The speaker continued in Spanish.)
As I have previously stated, populism constitutes a threat to our democracies. In fact, populism seeks to undermine the dynamic of an open, non-confrontational political debate. Frequently, populism is the consequence of an inflexible and stale democratic system, which leads to public disenchantment when times are hard, especially in times of economic crisis. Standing against populism is a major challenge that calls for a realistic and genuinely European response. This must be a priority for our Assembly and is one of my main aims as President.
Dear colleagues, I wish to share with you some impressions following my visits to a number of our member States. Since January, I have visited Azerbaijan, Hungary, Ukraine, Brussels, the seat of the European Union, Russia, Turkey and Estonia, and I have observed the importance of the role of the Council of Europe and of the Parliamentary Assembly in the democratic performance of each country. Our role here in the Parliamentary Assembly is to contribute to the implementation of the values, principles and standards of the Council of Europe in all member States. Our role is to provide assistance and advice to governments and parliaments so that they may reinforce their country’s democratic institutions, defend the rule of law, protect human rights and seek peaceful solutions to any conflict between them.
Our role is to provide assistance, not to force anything upon them. No member State is perfect; there is always room for improvement, as can be seen from the reports that we produce here or in the work of the Secretary General on the state of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Europe. We need to recognise that there are many ways of building resilient and vibrant democracies, effective systems of protecting human rights, a strong and independent judiciary and the robust rule of law. Yet each society must work in its own way, since each society has its own culture, its own history and its own experience.
Alexis de Tocqueville, some two centuries ago, expressed scepticism at the idea of transplanting one country’s institutional models to another, arguing that it was not possible to, as it were, copy and paste habits and customs; and hence that seeking to change individuals’ attitudes by compulsion might lead people to think that their mindset was wrong, which would ultimately be viewed as an attack on them. It is up to political leaders, authorities and citizens themselves to identify the most appropriate models for each circumstance and situation. Ongoing dialogue is the right instrument to achieve that.
We need to work together with our member States. We must listen and talk, share ideas and thinking, make recommendations and propose solutions. The Assembly is the pan-European forum for political dialogue between the democratically elected members of parliament in the 37 member States of our organisation. We must keep up an ongoing dialogue with our interlocutors and explore all the possibilities for negotiation offered by parliamentary democracy.
I am a convinced advocate of the existence of our common interest in protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, both at national and international level. Our common interests are greater than any issues that divide us. We must shoulder the responsibility of tackling in a frank, open and committed fashion any misunderstandings or disagreements between us. In this context, we cannot forget that we are called upon to be an Assembly of 47, not 46, member States.
In conclusion, we need to work together to resolve our differences, with the aim of continuing to build a Europe without dividing lines and to bring to fruition the dream of our founding fathers. Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, this is a most important week for Europe. We have elections in my country, Spain, next Sunday; and on Thursday there is the British referendum, the Brexit vote. The people will decide. Thank you very much for your attention.
I would like to recall that, according to Rule 23.3 of our Rules of Procedure, “persons admitted to the galleries shall not disturb proceedings. The President may order the expulsion of any person breaching this rule.” Following earlier incidents, I have decided that it is necessary to clarify this rule by the following indications. As a general rule, the public in the galleries shall remain silent, and in particular there shall be no clapping or other manifestations of approval or disapproval, and no display of any banners, posters, leaflets. Notices to this effect have been put up in the galleries. The ushers are under strict instructions to enforce this ruling by removing any person breaching these rules.
3. Examination of credentials
THE PRESIDENT – The first item on the agenda is the examination of credentials of new members. The names of the representatives and substitutes are in Document 14087. If no credentials are challenged, the credentials will be ratified. Are any credentials challenged? The credentials are ratified. I welcome our new colleagues.
4. Changes in the membership of committees
THE PRESIDENT – Our next item of business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in document Commission (2016) 06 and Addendum 1.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to? They are agreed to.
5. Request for current affairs debate
THE PRESIDENT – Before we examine the draft Agenda, the Assembly needs to consider a request for a current affairs debate. At its meeting this morning, the Bureau decided to approve the request from the five political groups for a debate on “Reaffirming the role of the Assembly as a pan-European forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue and co-operation.”
Does the Assembly agree the recommendation of the Bureau that there should be a current affairs debate on this topic as set out in the draft agenda?
The proposal is agreed to. The current affairs debate will be opened by Mr Axel Fischer.
6. Adoption of the agenda
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business is the adoption of the agenda for the third part of the 2016 ordinary session (Document 14074 prov 2). The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly’s approval was drawn up by the Bureau on 26 May and updated this morning.
The current affairs debate on “Reaffirming the role of the Assembly as a pan-European forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue and co-operation” will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. as set out on the draft agenda.
Is the draft agenda agreed to?
It is agreed to.
Details of the debates are set out in each sitting’s organisation of debates document.
7. Time limits on speeches
The PRESIDENT – To enable as many Members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that the speaking time be limited to three minutes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Is that agreed? It is agreed.
I may make further proposals on these matters as required.
8. Approval of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee
The PRESIDENT – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee held in Tallinn on 27 May 2016 have been distributed (AS/Per (2016) PV 02). I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.
9. Personal statement
The PRESIDENT – I understand that Ms Nadiia Savchenko wishes to make a personal statement. I remind the Assembly that under rule 35.6 no debate may arise on a personal statement.
Ms Savchenko, once again welcome to the Assembly. You have the floor. You have two minutes.
Ms SAVCHENKO (Ukraine)* – Colleagues, I thank you for all your support over the past two years. I am delighted to see you here.
I want to see peace in Ukraine as it exists throughout Europe, but we need to work constructively to that end. Ukraine can be useful to Europe, but it is important to understand that, as all Ukrainians know, Putin has not freed everyone; Ukrainians are still being held in prison in Russia. The country that guaranteed our country’s security following the Budapest Memorandum and the nuclear agreement has shot us in the back. A delegation that does not respect the rights of others should not be allowed to return to this Chamber.
I want reconciliation, and I will work to that end, but it is possible to win only if individuals protecting the country are supported. We want peace in Ukraine – that is what we are fighting for – so I call on you to make clear your support, because it is only together that we can win. I would not like anyone to find themselves in Ukraine’s situation, and the solution is not simple, as people in the same situation will understand.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Savchenko, for your personal statement.
10. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
The PRESIDENT – The next item on the agenda is the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee (Document 14086, Addenda I, II and III, and Document 14088), presented by Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger.
I remind all members that the speaking time in this debate will be limited to three minutes.
This business must conclude at 12.50 p.m., so I propose to interrupt the list of speakers at about 12.45 p.m. Is this agreed? It is agreed.
I call Mr Liddell-Grainger to present the progress report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, you have the floor.
Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER (United Kingdom) – Thank you, Mr President, for allowing me to lead on behalf of the Presidential Committee and the Bureau. The basis of the report is five separate documents. I do not intend to go through all five – they are available, and members can also talk to their group leaders and Bureau members to discuss the contents – but I wish to highlight some issues raised in the documents.
The report covers the period since the last Bureau meeting during the second part-session –Friday 22 April to Monday 20 June. Document 14086 states: “The following chapters include the decisions taken at the Bureau meetings of 22 April in Strasbourg and 26 May in Tallinn. Chapter 2 presents a list of decisions, which have either already been ratified by the Standing Committee on 27 May or which do not require ratification.” That last point is important.
I wish to deal with the document in parts, and if there are questions I will try to answer them. Chapter 2.5, on references and transmissions to committees, states: “On 22 April, in addition to the references and transmissions that were ratified by the Assembly on the same day within the addendum to the progress report, the Bureau considered and approved” the extension of references on the political transition in Egypt and the effective combating of the adverse consequences of dirty money – both important matters to this august Organisation.
On 26 May, we also considered and referred resolutions on the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, which we referred to the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe; on resolving the ongoing conflict in Turkey; on promoting diversity and equality in politics; and on the value of cultural heritage in a democratic society.
As set out on page 4 of the document, the Bureau also approved references relating to good football governance – Document 14027; counter-narratives to terrorism; and the potential threat to European countries posed by the nuclear power plant in Belarus. We also approved two references relating to the Panama Papers, the first on the opportunity to expose corruption and organised crime and the second on concerns about fiscal and social justice and public trust in our democratic system – something close to all our hearts. Confusingly, we approved a third reference relating to the Panama Papers, on which I will quote from the document: “Panama Papers: what lessons for the state of democracy in Council of Europe member States?: reference of the three motions to the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development for report and to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for opinion” – another important debate.
We also modified three references, as is set out in chapter 2.5.3, relating to motions for a recommendation on closing the protection gap of unaccompanied children in Europe – something close to all our hearts; to jurisdictional immunity of international organisations and rights of their staff; and to the compatibility of Sharia Law with the European Convention on Human Rights and the question of whether states parties to the convention be signatories of the Cairo Declaration. These are incredibly important matters that run through the thinking of the Presidential Committee and the Bureau.
I also draw your attention to chapter 2.13, on the Ad hoc committee of the Bureau on the situation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. On 26 May, the Bureau took note of the draft agenda of the meeting held on 30 and 31 May. It approved the list of members of the ad hoc committee, which has been carrying out its work under the President, Mr Pedro Agramunt. I also draw your attention to chapter 2.14, on the World Forum for Democracy, to be held in Strasbourg between 7 November and 9 November 2016 – again, a very important part of what we do.
On budgetary matters, we took note of the submission from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. With all these things, we have tried to keep as balanced a view as possible on your behalf, colleagues.
On other business, the Bureau took note of an exchange of letters between the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly and Mr Axel Fischer, a German member of the Group of the European People’s Party, on the procedures for the adoption of reports in committees and plenary sessions. It agreed to request that the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs give its opinion on the interpretation of the Rules of Procedure in that respect. The Bureau invited the Secretary General to inform it about the procedures concerning staff appointments, on which we had a good debate – thank you for that, Mr Secretary General. That will be discussed at one of its next meetings.
At the meeting in Tallinn, the Standing Committee ratified the credentials of new members of the Assembly submitted by the delegations of Romania and San Marino, and approved the changes to the composition of the Assembly’s committees. The Standing Committee took note of the draft agenda of the third plenary session of the Assembly, which is where we are at this precise moment. It held an exchange of views with the President of the Group of States against Corruption.
I draw the attention of colleagues to one other point, which is the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights recommends, by a narrow margin, Mr Tim Eicke as the candidate.
I will sit down because a lot of colleagues wish to speak. Of course, if anybody wishes to ask questions, I am at their disposal. I thank colleagues for their patience and understanding.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mr Liddell-Grainger. You have six and a half minutes remaining. I call Mr Németh.
Mr NÉMETH (Hungary, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I congratulate Ian Liddell-Grainger; we needed a British person to cover so many matters in such a short period of time.
I will touch on three questions. The first is obviously the European football championship. We are all obsessed with it at the moment. We should be aware that the Council of Europe has its own role to play. I draw the Assembly’s attention to the convention on spectator violence, which is open to signatories from 3 July. I congratulate all the national teams who have qualified for the finals.
The second matter is the eastern front. I welcome Nadiia Savchenko to the Chamber. Her release is a great victory for the Council of Europe. The Minsk Agreement must be respected by all sides, especially Russia. An important component of that is the release of all hostages. I remind colleagues that she advised us just a few minutes ago that many hostages are still being held in Russia.
Still on the eastern front, I draw the Assembly’s attention to the worrying signs of organised violence being used to prevent free and fair elections in Georgia. We should monitor that closely. Russia is also preparing for elections. We are all aware of the debate about sanctions, which the European Union has extended, and of the upcoming NATO summit. That situation will be debated in the Council of Europe this week, but one thing must be sure: if there is no chance for the Council of Europe to monitor the elections in Russia, it will not be easy to discuss any co-operation between the Council of Europe and Russia.
On migration, I draw the attention of colleagues to the institutional balance between the European institutions, including within the European Union. Sometimes the European Commission overstretches its competences in this regard. The good news is that there is a growing understanding of the protection of external borders, the hot spots outside Europe and the development of co-operation, dependent on countries receiving back migrants. I welcome the Greece visit, which demonstrated the attention the Council of Europe is paying to minors and unaccompanied children. That should remain a priority for us.
Mr NICOLETTI (Italy, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I thank Mr Liddell-Grainger for setting out the report so comprehensively. It comes at a time when our Assembly is thinking long and hard about recent events, as well as about what lies ahead.
I join those who have welcomed and saluted Ms Savchenko. For all of us in this Chamber, it is a source of great joy and hope to see that prisoners are released. Her release was, of course, important, but it is also important that political prisoners in Azerbaijan are released. Her presence provides hope and encourages us to continue to call for the release of all political prisoners who are still being detained. It also encourages us to call for greater dialogue with the countries in question.
I appreciate Ms Savchenko’s call to work for peace and reconciliation. Obviously, that cannot wipe away the suffering and injustice that we are duty-bound to denounce whenever it occurs, but we must call resolutely for peace and reconciliation, because they are essential components of the world that we hope to leave to our children.
Last week, we heard of the sad murder of the British parliamentarian, Jo Cox, who had been influential in the fight for the weakest members of society. Her death provides further proof of how important it is that we fight hate with love. All of us should make a formal commitment to honour the causes and beliefs to which she was committed. We should also remember the sad fact that her two children have been deprived of a loving mother by that act of violence. We have a duty to those children and other children to build a world in which there is no room for hate.
We have to fight not just for freedom on our continent, but for greater social justice. In the reports on the Panama Papers, we have seen many examples of social injustice. The recent migration crisis also underlines the need for greater solidarity. We have a solemn duty to increase freedom and solidarity to Europe. That must be a key strand of our work.
Mr XUCLÀ (Spain, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – I congratulate Mr Liddell-Grainger on his comprehensive presentation of the report on the activities of the Bureau and the Standing Committee in recent months.
I would like to express my feelings on the return to this Chamber of our colleague, Nadiia Savchenko, and on her remarks. It is the result of effective parliamentary democracy that she is here once more. We have dared to seek to achieve our objectives, and we also have information concerning the release of prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan.
Ms Savchenko talked about reconciliation. She is somebody who has suffered much, and we are indeed ready for reconciliation. We must honour her words and stand by her testimony here. There is indeed a purpose behind the Parliamentary Assembly. Parliaments bring together men and women freely elected to their positions. We cannot assume that everyone will think about everything in the same way that we do; nevertheless, we must be open to resolving conflicts. Often we find conflicts among the 47, and sometimes they have even become armed conflicts. It is the duty of this Parliamentary Assembly, like others, to pick up what Ms Savchenko has said. She is here to talk about reconciliation – on the basis, of course, of compliance with commitments entered into and proper compensation for breaches of international law. There have been clear breaches in the Ukraine conflict, as there were in Georgia in August 2008. This Assembly must be an effective forum, as it has been in achieving the release of Ms Savchenko.
I conclude by congratulating the Greek authorities on our excellent visit to Greece. We are aware of the gravity of the refugee crisis, caused ultimately by the war in Syria that has been waged over the last five years, and we must address the upshot of that.
Sir Roger GALE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – As the leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, may I first extend my thanks to all parliamentary colleagues from every member State for the condolences they have expressed in respect of our fallen colleague? The British tend to understate these things, but that does not mean that we do not appreciate the sentiments you have expressed. We do so very greatly indeed.
Secondly, as one of the many who campaigned for Ms Savchenko’s release, may I say how pleased I am to see her back in her rightful place in this Chamber? At the same time, we need to remember that there are significant numbers of others from Ukraine and other countries still held unlawfully in prison in Russia. One swallow does not, sadly, make a summer. We hope and expect that the time will come when each and every one of those wrongly incarcerated in the Russian Federation is released. When that time comes, and when the Russians have vacated eastern Ukraine and Crimea, it will be time to consider their future in this Parliamentary Assembly and, I would suggest, not one moment before.
I would like to thank my colleague Ian Liddell-Grainger for his work as rapporteur for the Presidential Committee and the Bureau and to raise with him a slightly sensitive issue that directly relates to the work of those two bodies. The Council of Europe is served by a significant number of very, very dedicated civil servants, at pretty well every level in this Assembly. We could not do the work we do without the help of the directors and the senior secretaries – those who help us to prepare reports. In the interests of the Assembly, it is vital, particularly at a time of austerity, when the Assembly will inevitably face further cuts, that the integrity of those positions is maintained. The appointment of directors and senior secretaries has always been a matter of free and fair competition, and it must remain so, but there has been a concern that it is possible that some of those positions might be influenced from, shall we say, on top. I hope that the Bureau and the Presidential Committee will make absolutely certain that the integrity of the appointment service, for those who serve us so very well, is maintained. I would welcome my colleague’s comments about that when he replies.
Mr KOX (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I thank the rapporteur for his progress report. We were all shocked by the brutal murder of Ian’s Westminster colleague Ms Jo Cox last week. We offer our condolences to her family, her party and her parliament.
There was also good news, and I congratulate our colleague Ms Savchenko on her release from prison in Russia after being pardoned by the President of the Russian Federation. We all demanded her release from prison. As elected parliamentarians, we all have to serve our citizens and voters, at home and here in Strasbourg; therefore we belong in parliaments and not in prison.
We also welcome the release last week of our Palestinian colleague Ms Khalida Jarrar, after many months of illegal imprisonment by Israel. She, too, should now be with us, but unfortunately the Israeli authorities have again denied her the right to travel from Palestine to France. I would ask all colleagues to show the same solidarity with Ms Jarrar as we have shown with Ms Savchenko, so that she can be here with us in October.
In that respect, may I also call for solidarity with our colleagues from Turkey who are now seriously threatened with the loss of their parliamentary immunity and maybe even their freedom, due to new laws recently adopted by the Turkish Parliament? My group will prepare a written statement; I hope you will all sign it in solidarity with those threatened Turkish colleagues.
Our former colleague Grigory Petrenko was also released after serving months in prison in Moldova because of his political activities. We are very happy for him and his family, but we urge the Moldovan authorities to lift the travel ban, so that he can, if he wishes, come to Strasbourg as an honorary member of this Assembly.
While we celebrate the release of Ms Savchenko – something we all called for – I call on the Ukrainian delegation to now support the call to release Mr Ruslan Kotsaba, a political activist and journalist detained because of his opposition to the Ukrainian Government. It is not only parliamentarians; journalists and activists should not be put in prison either, but should enjoy the full freedom to do their work. However big the divide between us, let us stand firm on behalf of all our colleagues who are prevented from doing their work as elected parliamentarians, because what happens to them might happen to all of us. While we are pleased that several of our colleagues have been released, let us stand firm on behalf of all those threatened with the loss of their freedom and their right to act as parliamentarians. If we can show that solidarity this week, I will be very grateful.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – Dear colleagues, let me express my gratitude for your work in the release of our colleague Nadiia Savchenko. I thank all of you involved in this case, especially President Agramunt and other members of the Assembly. However, I completely agree with Sir Roger Gale that the release of Nadiia Savchenko is not the first swallow of the summer; indeed, it is not even the first swallow of the spring. As we know from the statement by the Russian President’s head of administration, her release had nothing to do with the implementation of the Minsk agreement, so we should continue to press the Russian Federation. Dialogue is necessary, and we had a big discussion in the Bureau, but Savchenko was released without dialogue. Our sanctions against the delegation of the Russian Federation, including the suspension of their voting rights and their right to be part of our election missions, are effective, and we welcome that effectiveness.
I emphasise that we should not forget about others. Afanasiev and Soloshenko were released because of the extremely bad state of their health. They were nearly dying, and they went to hospital immediately from the plane. I shall present the voice of Gennady Afanasiev on his so-called “adventures” in prison. He said of his torture: “They put a gas mask over my head, unscrewed the lower valve and poured water into it. I began choking on my vomit…As soon as they heard me coughing and choking, they’d take the mask off, revive me with some smelling salts, and repeat the whole process again and again and again.” He has spoken about being tortured with electricity. They did not let him sleep for 10 days.
Dear colleagues, if we are following the main principles on which the Council of Europe was created – human rights and respect for the rule of law – we should always remember that members should sit with us only if they follow those criteria, otherwise we will break our common democracy, fairness and justice. Please do not forget about that.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – As the first Labour member from the United Kingdom to speak today, I echo what Sir Roger Gale said, and thank you, Mr President, and everyone who has expressed sympathy for the tragic and brutal death of my colleague, Jo Cox, which grieves us all. There is a memorial service in London today.
I also thank Ian Liddell-Grainger, whom I know well, for his introduction. This is the third time that I have been a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly; I was a delegate in the early 1980s and at the beginning of this century, and here I am again. Little has changed in the procedures and environment, but one thing that I am glad to see has changed – this is in Document 14086, section 2.4 – is the amount of monitoring of parliamentary elections, which is a positive step forward. I had the great privilege of helping to monitor elections in Serbia earlier this year, and I found it very interesting and revealing.
I want to ask Ian about the criteria for deciding which countries should be visited by our election monitors. If the issue is media bias against one particular party, overspending by candidates from one particular party against the rules, or problems with voter registration, it is not just eastern European countries and countries of the former Soviet Union that need monitoring; there are other countries, too. Ian, will you ask the Standing Committee to consider the criteria and to consider requiring or requesting invitations from other countries where Council of Europe monitoring might give reassurance, particularly to opposition parties?
Mr NEGUTA (Republic of Moldova)* – On 19 May I participated in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly at the Commonwealth of Independent States in St Petersburg. Among the various international and European delegations, we also had the presence of our President, Mr Agramunt. He talked about the attitude adopted by our Parliamentary Assembly to deal with the challenges of the world. There was a meeting with the Speakers of the two Houses of the Russian Parliament, Madame Matviyenko and Mr Naryshkin. I hope Mr Agramunt will do effective work.
On 18 September 2016 there will be elections to the lower House of the Russian Parliament. I understand from my discussions with Russian parliamentarians that, by taking the decision in 2014 to limit the rights of the Russian delegation, our Assembly has made it impossible for us to send observers to Russian Duma elections. If that is so, the new Duma delegation to be constituted after the elections will not soon come back to our Hemicycle. It is absolutely necessary that all the political groups of the Parliamentary Assembly do what is required to ensure that our Assembly can work in its full composition. President Agramunt, you need to co-ordinate that action. If necessary, we could set up a delegation, with representatives of all the political groups, to go to Moscow to find a way out.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Progress reports on the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Bureau and the Standing Committee are logical. Achieving certain goals against the background of continuing activities should be expected and natural. However, different work has different weight and scope. We expect certain things from the Council of Europe in each progress report, and serious steps towards achieving them should be assessed as great progress. Such achievements would be remarkable not only in the life of this Organisation but in the political life of the world. Regrettably, one session follows another, with millions of people expecting a certain outcome, and not a single line on considerable progress can be seen in these reports.
Azerbaijan is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its membership of the Council of Europe this year, but it is also facing a sorrowful anniversary in 2016. Twenty-five years ago, at the very end of 1991, Armenian armed forces completed the occupation launched in 1989 by seizing the last Azerbaijani village in Khankandi. Nearly 40 civilians were brutally slaughtered in the village of Karkicahan, about 50 old women and children were heavily wounded, and hundreds of families became internally displaced in their homeland. The indifferent attitudes manifested by the international community, including international organisations, towards Armenian atrocities over the years led to the occupation of another seven Azerbaijani districts.
Several months ago the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on the ongoing so-called “water aggression” of Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia has not taken a single step towards implementing the requirements of that resolution, and it has no intention of doing so. The Council of Europe has traditionally tolerated such arbitrary actions by Armenia, despite all our solemn speeches about progress in our activities. It is unpleasant if a crime is not followed by proper punishment. If unlawful acts are not properly and quickly assessed, the negative precedent facilitates the emergence of more negative acts.
The occupation of the territory of one member State by another in 2001 is just one example of that. The absence of strong will from the Council of Europe in its activity and in the positions it has taken for years has led to the number of its member States undergoing occupation of their territory by other member States rising, along with related separatism. I hope that in the near future we will be fortunate enough to see the Council of Europe disclose such crucial points in the progress report.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – First, I express my gratitude to the rapporteur for this very important progress report, which shows what the Council of Europe has done and is going to do.
I want to congratulate the Council of Europe on a very special achievement. We have seen once again that the philosophy of dialogue and co-operation is coming back to the Council of Europe. Within a very short period, the mutual understanding of problems has meant that we – the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan – have achieved special results. In his opening remarks, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly mentioned the progress that has been made on human rights in Azerbaijan, and I want to draw attention to the latest development in my country.
Just a couple of weeks ago, an amnesty law was adopted in Azerbaijan’s Parliament. Approximately 10,000 prisoners are covered by it, of whom 3,500 have been released from prison. The bank accounts of human rights defenders have also been restored, and there have been many other developments in Azerbaijan. Why? Because of mutual understanding between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan, and because of the atmosphere of dialogue – we are ready to listen to each other.
The rapporteur mentioned what we need to do for future co-operation among the member States, and we should return to that matter in this week’s current affairs debate. We should invite all member States to respect international law and to take steps to change the situation in Europe. It is not only the rest of the world but Europe as well that is suffering from the absence of law and from other big problems.
I express my gratitude to the rapporteur again for his excellent report.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Seyidov. Mr Kürkçü is not here. I call Ms Naghdalyan.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – On behalf of the Armenian delegation, I express my deep condolences on the murder of the British MP.
On 7 June, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its latest regular report on Azerbaijan. The document stresses shortcomings and malfunctions in Azerbaijan with regard to freedom of expression, religion and association, and it mentions the wide-ranging crackdown on independent civil society, deficient integration policies for migrants and historical minorities, and problems with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Among the numerous problems in the country, the commission makes specific reference to the policy of inciting hatred against Armenians, which is followed by Azerbaijan’s highest officials. According to the report, “Political leaders, educational institutions and media have continued using hate speech against Armenians…An entire generation of Azerbaijanis has grown up listening to constant hateful rhetoric.”
According to a survey, 91% of Azerbaijani people perceive Armenia as Azerbaijan’s greatest enemy and feel real hatred towards everything Armenian. The President of Azerbaijan and other high-ranking officials designate the entire Armenian nation as enemy No. 1, and what is normally a crime is considered a glorious deed in Azerbaijan. A vivid example is that of Safarov, the Azeri officer who murdered an Armenian coursemate in his sleep. The ECRI report says about that case that “the authorities pardoned, released and promoted Ramil Safarov, without taking into account the risk of cultivating a sense of impunity” for racist criminals.
Another awful manifestation of xenophobic policies came during the unprecedented military aggression that the Azerbaijani army unleashed against Nagorno-Karabakh in April this year. An Azeri soldier who beheaded an Armenian soldier and posted a photograph of the head on the internet – a cynical murder and a war crime – was decorated and promoted by the President of Azerbaijan.
The Safarov case has been widely discussed and denounced in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We adopted a resolution on measures to prevent the abuse of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the rapporteur on that occasion, our colleague Mr Chope, explained the possible harm that could stem from an inadequate reaction. However, there was not a sufficient reaction from the Parliamentary Assembly to stop Aliyev. Our silence encourages the Azerbaijani regime to commit further crimes.
Aliyev’s regime causes evil, and not just to his own people. Fifteen years of Council of Europe membership has not improved the democracy and human rights situation in Azerbaijan. All the statements about the progress of democracy in Azerbaijan are a bluff, and the situation is degrading further. Dictatorship has no place in the Council of Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly must be firm about eradicating this plague and stopping Aliyev’s regime. I suggest suspending Azerbaijan’s membership of the Parliamentary Assembly.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Naghdalyan.
I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office in typescript for publication in the Official Report, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, do you wish to reply? You have six and a half minutes remaining.
Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER (United Kingdom) – What an interesting debate. What has come through from all speakers is the importance of allowing people who have been detained against their will the opportunity to speak freely not just in the Parliamentary Assembly but across the whole of Europe.
Mr Németh made poignant comments about the situation in Georgia, the Russian elections and the rights of children. Mr Nicoletti, as always, gave an intellectual speech about political prisoners. On behalf of my colleagues, may I thank him and other members for their thoughts about Jo Cox?
Mr Xuclà rightly said that all parliamentarians should be free to say what they want, when they want, how they want, wherever they are. He also made important points about Georgia and Greece. Mr Kox made a valid point about what matters to people and why we need solidarity in Europe and understanding among European people. He has mentioned that before, but it is always worth pushing that point forward and continuing the debate. I thank Mr Ariev, from Ukraine, for a valid set of comments about the situation there. We know it is extremely difficult, and I thank him for all the work he is doing and for keeping us informed.
I very rudely forgot my colleague, Sir Roger Gale, who made a point about staffing levels and other staffing matters here. I am sure that point will be taken on by the Secretary General. It has been brought up and it was firmly discussed at the last meeting, as noted in the second paragraph of section 2.19. So that has been done.
Lord Foulkes, thank you very much for your very interesting comments. We are invited to countries; we do not invite ourselves. So, unfortunately, we have to wait for the invitation to go before we can go, and that is the way it is. Mr Neguta referred to the Russian elections. The point was well made. I believe that we have not yet had an approach from the Russian Duma to allow us to monitor elections and I will wait to see what happens. We have time yet, but on that basis we will have to see what happens. Mr Huseynov of Azerbaijan has spent 15 years here in the Council of Europe, which is marvellous. It was also marvellous to hear a bit of the history of some of the situations in Azerbaijan and some of the challenges facing it. That is obviously interesting and important in a place like this, which stands up for democracy.
Mr Seyidov, who is in my group, very kindly talked about the amnesty of 10,000 prisoners, why it matters and why people need to be respected. If there are people in a country and there is an opportunity to release them, humanity alone must dictate that that is what we should do, because that is what we are in this place – we are humanity at its very best. Ms Naghdalyan from Armenia made a very powerful speech indeed. You put your point of view very powerfully and that is most important.
If I may say so, Mr President, the great beauty of this Bureau and the Presidential Committee is that they are open forums. Every parliamentarian in this place, from whatever country we come from in whichever part of Europe, must always have the right to talk through the Bureau and the Presidential Committee to all of us. It is crucial that we have these debates and I think we have seen the enormous amount of work that the President has done and all the work is done by all of you, in so many countries and so many places, to highlight the challenges we face and what we need to do as democrats and parliamentarians. I do not think that there is any doubt that the Council of Europe is in very good heart and with contributions like the ones we have heard today, Mr President, I think we can safely say we have a very strong future ahead of us.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Liddell-Grainger.
The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, set out in Document 14086 and Addendum I.
Is there any objection to the proposed references to committees?
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
I invite the Assembly to approve the decisions of the Bureau requiring ratification by the Assembly, as set out in the progress report (Document 14086 and Addenda I to III).
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is approved.
11. #NoHateNoFear initiative
The PRESIDENT – Terrorism has become a reality in our lives. Atrocious attacks in Istanbul, in Brussels, in Tunisia, in Paris and recently in Orlando have taken the lives of many of our citizens. These heinous attacks have left deep scars that will take years to heal. I am not sure we can fully imagine the feelings of those who have lost their loved ones, including relatives, in a barbaric attack; I am not sure we can fully imagine what one would say to children who have lost a parent, a brother, a sister or a close friend in a senseless and inhuman attack; and I am not sure we can fully imagine the psychological stress of those who were lucky to escape unharmed from terrorists but have to live with the memories of a terrible attack for the rest of their life.
Terrorists seek to destabilise our societies and destroy our way of life by creating a sense of fear and hate among our citizens, and by propagating suspicion and mistrust. They want to turn members of the community against each other in order to divide us. They seek to restrict our fundamental freedoms and rights, and to destroy the very foundation of our democratic societies.
The supreme values of human life and dignity are the principles of respect, tolerance and non-discrimination. Terror works only when we let our fear and anger dictate what happens next. So what should be our response to terrorism? We should not give in to hatred and fear; we should resist and defend with even greater vigour our principles and ideas. We have to open our hearts and arms to our fellow people, and not look at them with suspicion or hostility. As politicians, we must take responsibility for our citizens, who have elected us as their representatives. Therefore, it is our duty to reassure them, to show an example, to speak out strongly against hate and fear, and to support our fundamental values and freedoms.
The #NoHateNoFear initiative that we are launching today is a tool at everyone’s disposal to spread this message. Dear colleagues, many of you may have read the letter that Antoine Leiris, a reporter for France info, published on Facebook after losing his wife in the Bataclan attack. I was deeply moved and impressed by the strength of his message. Like him, we should not give the fanatics the gift of hatred. Like him and his two-year-old son, we should continue to live our daily life to the full and enjoy our freedom.
We will now watch the video prepared by the BBC, with Antoine’s moving words.
(The words spoken in the film were as follows:
“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being; the love of my life; the mother of my son. But you will not have my hatred.I
I do not know who you are, and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in his image, each bullet in my wife’s body will have been a wound in his heart.
Therefore, I will not give you the gift of hating you. You obviously sought that, but to respond to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens, to sacrifice my freedom for security? You lost – same player; same game.
I saw her this morning, finally after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night; as beautiful as when I fell madly in love with her more than 12 years ago.
Of course I’m devastated with grief – I will give you that tiny victory – but this will be a short-term grief. I know that she will join us every day and that we will find each other again in a paradise of free souls which you will never have access to.
We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies. In any case, I have no more time to waste on you; I have to get back to Melvil, who is waking up from his afternoon nap. He is just 17 months old. He will eat his snack as he does every day, and then we will go and play as we do every day, and for every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom, because you will not have his hatred either.”)
The PRESIDENT – I invite members to join me at the end of the sitting in the central part of the Chamber for a photograph to mark the launch of the #NoHateNoFear initiative.
12. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.)
1. Opening of the third part of the 2016 ordinary session
2. Statement by the President
3. Examination of credentials
4. Changes in the membership of committees
5. Request for current affairs debate
6. Adoption of the agenda
7. Time limits on speeches
8. Approval of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee
9. Personal statement - Ms Nadiia Savchenko
10. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
Presentation by Mr Liddell-Grainger, of the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee, (Document 14086, Addenda I, II and III, Document 14088)
Speakers: Mr Németh, Mr Nicoletti, Mr Xuclà, Sir Roger Gale, Mr Kox, Mr Ariev, Lord Foulkes, Mr Neguta, Mr Huseynov, Mr Seyidov, Ms Naghdalyan.
11. #NoHateNoFear initiative
12. Next public business
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
Werner AMON/Christine Muttonen
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Mehmet BABAOĞLU/Salih Firat
Theodora BAKOYANNIS/Georgios Mavrotas
Gérard BAPT/Jean-Claude Frécon
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI
Tilde BORK/Rasmus Nordqvist
Mladen BOSIĆ/Saša Magazinović
Piet De BRUYN*
Margareta BUDNER/Jarosław Obremski
David CRAUSBY/Lord George Foulkes
Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Manlio DI STEFANO*
Francesc Xavier DOMENECH*
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON
Daphné DUMERY/Hendrik Daems
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Franz Leonhard EẞL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
Doris FIALA/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter
Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Jana Fischerová
Axel E. FISCHER
Sir Roger GALE
Xavier GARCÍA ALBIOL*
José Ramón GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ*
Mihai GHIMPU/Alina Zotea
Francesco Maria GIRO
Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES*
Oleksii GONCHARENKO/Vladyslav Golub
Alina Ștefania GORGHIU/Maria Grecea
Sylvie GOY-CHAVENT/ Jacques Legendre
François GROSDIDIER/André Reichardt
Dzhema GROZDANOVA/Milena Damyanova
Emine Nur GÜNAY
Maria GUZENINA/Olli-Poika Parviainen
Andrzej HALICKI/Killion Munyama
Michael HENNRICH/ Thomas Feist
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU
Tedo JAPARIDZE/Eka Beselia
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ/Stefana Miladinović
Marietta KARAMANLI/Geneviève Gosselin-Fleury
Nina KASIMATI/Georgios Psychogios
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR
Danail KIRILOV/Krasimira Kovachka
Bogdan KLICH/Aleksander Pociej
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR
Alev KORUN/Nikolaus Scherak
Rom KOSTŘICA/ Gabriela Pecková
Borjana KRIŠTO/Bariša Čolak
Eerik-Niiles KROSS/Andres Herkel
Yuliya L OVOCHKINA*
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’*
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*
Luís LEITE RAMOS
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA/Imer Aliu
Evangelos MEIMARAKIS/Evangelos Venizelos
Ana Catarina MENDES
Attila MESTERHÁZY/Gábor Harangozó
Anouchka van MILTENBURG*
Carina OHLSSON/Lotta Johnsson Fornarve
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Jaana PELKONEN/Anne Louhelainen
Cezar Florin PREDA
Mark PRITCHARD/Lord Richard Balfe
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO*
François ROCHEBLOINE/André Schneider
Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ*
Helena ROSETA/António Filipe Rodrigues
Milena SANTERINI/Cristina De Pietro
Deborah SCHEMBRI/Joseph Sammut
Aleksandar SENIĆ/Vesna Marjanović
Paula SHERRIFF/Baroness Doreen Massey
Jan ŠKOBERNE/Matjaž Hanžek
Ionuț-Marian STROE/Ion Popa
Krzysztof TRUSKOLASKI/Jacek Osuch
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*
Leyla Şahin USTA/Lütfiye Ilksen Ceritoğlu Kurt
Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Hans Fredrik Grøvan
Mart van de VEN
Vladimir VORONIN/Maria Postoico
Morten WOLD/Ingebjørg Godskesen
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Marie-Christine Dalloz
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Ulises RAMÍREZ NÚÑEZ
Miguel ROMO MEDINA
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