AS (2016) CR 20
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 20 June 2016 at 3 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.05 p.m.)
1. Changes in the membership of committees
The PRESIDENT – Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in document Commissions (2016) 06 Addendum 2, revised.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
2. Questions to Mr Thorbjřrn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
The PRESIDENT – The first item on the agenda is questions to Mr Thorbjřrn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
I remind the Assembly that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should ask questions, not make speeches.
The first question is from Mr Kürkçü.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I would like to ask the Secretary General about his interest in immunities in the case of Turkey. We are thankful that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been very active in securing the release of Ms Savchenko from prison, but in the meantime my colleagues and I have fallen victim to the lifting of immunities, and there will probably be cases of arrest. I would therefore like to ask the Secretary General whether he will be as active for Turkish colleagues as he was in the Savchenko case.
Mr JAGLAND (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) – We have already been very active in raising our concern about this development. Indeed, I will say here and now that if prosecutions are started and some or all of them are brought to the courts, it will be up to the courts to look at the evidence, and all these cases will be test cases for the Turkish courts, for whether or not they are independent. The end of the process will probably be in Turkey’s Court of Cassation, so then we will see whether or not it will rule on the basis of the case law of the Court here in Strasbourg. Of course, ultimately those cases could land in the Court here in Strasbourg. I hope that such proceedings will be avoided, but if prosecutions are started we will follow them very carefully, because one of course has to be very cautious about the mandates of parliamentarians in all member States.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – Thank you, Mr Secretary General, for that answer to my Turkish colleague.
In the autumn there will be elections in Belarus and Russia. I know that in the background there will be lots of regular talks and meetings. First, how are the talks with Belarus on the death penalty going? Secondly, do you think we will be invited back to Russia as observers?
Mr JAGLAND – There has been a lot of activity to influence Belarus on the death penalty. I hope that progress can be made in this field, or at least that Belarus, as a first step, will introduce a moratorium on executions. That would also lead to closer relations with the Council of Europe. With regard to the elections, it will of course be up to the Parliamentary Assembly, but as far as I know you have been invited to observe.
With regard to the elections in the Russian Federation, I cannot give you an answer, because it will depend on what you can achieve with the Russian State Duma and its delegation. It is entirely up to you; it is not something I can interfere in. Of course, the ODIHR of the OSCE will certainly be present and observing the elections. I hope that as many as possible, including the Parliamentary Assembly, can observe those elections.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Recently the United Nations, the OSCE, the European Union, non-governmental organisations and human rights activists have expressed serious concerns about the rapid deterioration of the situation concerning human rights and democratic freedoms in Crimea. Will you kindly inform us what has been done by the Council of Europe to protect the rights of people living in the illegally occupied peninsula, and how you intend to ensure the return of the Organisation’s monitoring bodies to Crimea?
Mr JAGLAND – Thank you for that question, which gives me the opportunity to explain further what we have done. The Council of Europe is the only international organisation to have been present in Crimea for nearly two years. No other international organisation has been able to send delegations or missions to Crimea. We were able to negotiate with the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian authority to send a human rights delegation to Crimea, which was headed by Ambassador Stoudmann. He wrote a detailed report of nearly 20 pages. He held 50 meetings in eight days in Crimea. He met representatives from civil society, and young people in classrooms. He also met the Crimean Tatar leaders in Kiev before he went to Crimea, and met the deputy chair of the Mejlis – the deputy chair is in prison, as you will know, so he went to the prison to speak with him. His visit was very extensive. The report was then written, and is based on the work of the group of experts that he headed. As you will know, Gérard Stoudmann was head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw for five years, so he is a real expert in this field. The report is from people who have been in Crimea; all other reports come from people who have not been there.
We will now try to find a way back for the permanent monitoring bodies. It will be very difficult, for legal and political reasons, but we will continue to make those efforts. I have stated again and again the important principle that all people on the European continent, except Belarus, are covered by the European Convention on Human Rights, and so we cannot accept our monitoring bodies’ being unable to visit the whole continent; by the way, people in Crimea – like those in Donbass, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh – have the right to go to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and do so. It is therefore unacceptable that we are unable to deploy all the monitoring bodies there. But the only way to achieve their return is through a diplomatic process; that process started with the mission I sent to Crimea. As I said, the Council of Europe is the only international organisation to have been able to do that.
Ms MATEU (Andorra, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – Mr Secretary General, you welcomed the agreement between Turkey and the European Union last March on matters relating to migrants. Three months on, what do you think of the agreement? Do you think that, pursuant to that agreement, from the end of this month Turkish citizens will no longer need visas to reach the member States of the European Union?
Mr JAGLAND – First, I commend you and the other members of the delegation that visited Greece. I too was in Greece. My special representative has been there twice and has also been to Turkey.
As I see it, the agreement between the EU and Turkey was the only possible way to avoid the continuation of human trafficking or human smuggling. It has been shown to be working well. We supported it provided that there was a guarantee that all people could apply for asylum on an individual basis. That is happening, and the Greek authorities are making tremendous efforts to apply that principle. We are following events very closely. My special representative is working on this, and all other international organisations are doing the same. Let us see how the agreement works.
I also remind you that the Court of Human Rights can stop the transfer of people if it does not think that it would be safe. We should remember that it has done so before, with regard to Belgium, when it overruled the Dublin regulations and stated that Dublin countries should not be allowed to send people back to Greece given the current situation. I mention that to show that the Court also has the right to intervene in such cases. It has not done so until now but it can if necessary. What was the second part of the question?
Ms MATEU* – The second part of my question concerned whether Turkey has fulfilled the reference criteria to which the agreement refers so that Turkish citizens no longer need visas to go to member States of the European Union.
Mr JAGLAND – I first want to add that assessing whether a country is safe can be considered only case by case. It can be safe to send an individual back to one country, but not safe to do so to another country. That is why we have to respect the individual’s right to apply for asylum.
On visa liberalisation, the negotiations between the EU and Turkey involve a number of conditions. For us, it is important to know that one of the conditions is that Turkey has to change its laws terrorism-related that are affecting freedom of expression. It is of great interest to us because the European Court of Human Rights has made a number of judgments against Turkey in that regard. That is why we, together with Turkey, have set up a joint working group of experts to look at how to remedy the shortcomings in the legislation and the judicial practices in this field. Let us hope that the group will make progress so that Turkish citizens who have passports can move more freely into the Schengen area.
Ms FERNANDES (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – The Council of Europe spends €1.2 million on the prestige World Forum for Democracy project, paying for the participants’ expenses. Surely a better use of the money would be to support interns to enable them to spend time at the Council of Europe. Currently, they are often not appointed because the high cost of living in Strasbourg prevents bright young people from working and developing their skills here.
Mr JAGLAND – We are not spending that amount of money on the work of the World Forum for Democracy. We have many partners who are paying for that work, but I am not sure they would pay for internships in the Assembly. We must not mix up those two things.
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the other Members on the speakers list. I suggest, Mr Jagland, that we take the questions three by three, because there is a long list.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – Mr Secretary General, could you make an initial assessment of how the implementation of the action plan for the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism, which the Committee of Ministers adopted last year, is going and how many resources have been allocated to the action plan?
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Mr Secretary General, in January the Assembly adopted a resolution entitled, “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”. The resolution demanded that the Armenian authorities stop using water resources for political influence or pressure, but Armenia has not taken any steps regarding this document and 10,000 Azerbaijanis and several sparsely populated regions continue to suffer very seriously. What contribution can you make as Secretary General to prevent this humanitarian disaster?
Mr FLYNN (United Kingdom) – Mr Secretary General, on 16 December 2015, you announced an official investigation into the implementation by Azerbaijan of the European Convention on Human Rights. What progress has been made?
Mr JAGLAND – On the first question, about the implementation of the action plan for combating terrorism, we are implementing all of the items in the plan. As you know, the additional protocol was negotiated and opened for signature last autumn in Riga. Some member States have already signed the protocol, and we hope that it will enter into force very soon.
In April, we gathered together all the European Education Ministers to make a presentation about what we are going to do in the field of education. As you know, we have worked out descriptors to help schools throughout the continent to educate young people at different levels in the education system on what it means to be a citizen. This project will be very important – as important as what we did with regard to teaching languages, which is now being used in schools across the continent. We described how one should teach young people to learn languages at different levels in the school system, and we are now doing the same in relation to what it means to be a citizen. I think that will be as helpful as what we did in relation to teaching languages.
We have already implemented what we said we would do to help prevent radicalisation in prisons. By the way, only a week ago, the Holy See had a very important conference in this building, which gathered together a huge number of chaplains working in prisons to discuss how they could contribute to prevent radicalisation in prisons. As you know, our No Hate Speech campaign, for which Anne Brasseur is an ambassador, is making a lot of progress, and that is also very important in this respect. We are therefore doing a lot, and we are delivering on what was said at the Committee of Ministers meeting in Brussels a year ago.
On the question from the Azerbaijani Member, I can only repeat what I have said again and again in the Chamber, which is that we do not have a role in solving the conflict. That is what your question is about. As I have said again and again, this is a matter for the OSCE’s Minsk Group. It does not want any interference from the outside, and we must respect that. If we are asked to contribute to the Minsk process, we will of course do so, but so long as they do not want us to do so, I see no point in the Council of Europe making problems for the process.
Now I come to the situation in Azerbaijan in respect of all those who have been in prison, and the question on the progress that has been made since I decided to use my right under Article 52 of the Convention to intervene. As we have seen, a number of people in prison have been released, but I have to add that we must be cautious in the way we interpret this. Some have been released because of their serious health conditions, which meant that they could no longer be in prison. All the others have been released on condition; they have not been acquitted, and it remains to be seen whether they can resume a normal life and take up their work again. The office of Intigam Aliyev, the famous human rights advocate, is completely closed, as far as I know, and he cannot resume his activities there.
Most important for us, and something that many tend to forget, is the case of Ilgar Mammadov, the only one on whom the Court in Strasbourg made a judgment. In that judgment the Court referred to Article 18 of the Convention, which it rarely does, and said that the evidence against him was politically motivated and that he should be released. This was more than two years ago, and he is still in prison.
Let us not forget all this. Of course, it is positive that many have been released, but let us see what their future is in Azerbaijan. I can assure you that we will continue to work for Ilgar Mammadov and to ensure that all those who are out of prison can resume their normal activities and their normal work in Azerbaijan.
Mr GRŘVAN (Norway) – Mr Secretary General, this last year’s terror attacks have actualised the balance between civil rights, the right to privacy and the need for control and security. It seems that we are gradually willing to accept more surveillance at the expense of privacy and fundamental values. How should we go about taking care of the balance between the respect for privacy and the need for security and protection against terror attacks, and how do you see the role of the Council of Europe in this?
Mr BILLSTRÖM (Sweden) – Mr Secretary General, in January this year this Assembly decided to grant the Jordanian Parliament partner for democracy status, yet at the same time the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan decided to ban the showing of the movie “The Danish Girl”. Jordanian officials have reportedly claimed that the film promoted homosexuality and gender transformation. I would like to know your mind on partnerships for democracy and how you, as Secretary General, will act in upholding the values that this Assembly stands for.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Mr Secretary General, I have asked you twice about the Bodnariu Family in Norway. After a long campaign and a lot of effort, I am glad to report that there is a happy ending for this family today. However, many more families are faced with this challenge, so my question is: how do we strike a balance between the best interests of the child and the rights of families to be with their children? What can the Council of Europe do in this regard?
Mr JAGLAND – The Norwegian delegate asked what we can do to secure the right to privacy. This is, of course, a challenge now. There are a number of legislative initiatives around Europe, and it is, first and foremost, up to the national parliaments to look into these new laws. It is therefore very important that one looks to the Court of Human Rights case law, which is quite rich in this area and gives good guidance when the parliaments are adopting new legislation in this field. In some cases, we are intervening directly on national parliaments. We have done that several times, and we will continue to do so. We open dialogues with governments when they prepare new laws and present them to parliament. As you know, we have had an exchange with the French Government and others, and we will continue to follow these things carefully, because this issue is a huge challenge.
I believe that we can do more with regard to surveillance, provided that we are able and willing to provide the right safeguards for the right to privacy. I would also like to mention here that work is ongoing to revise Convention 108, which is about data protection. This is the only such convention in the world; it has become famous all over the world and is being used by many. This convention is now being revised because of new challenges with regard to new technologies. So this is another important thing for us to work on.
On the question from Sweden, I have no opinion on what the Parliamentary Assembly has decided on granting partner for democracy status to Jordan. This must be up to the Assembly. We have some co-operation activities with the Jordanian Government under the neighbourhood policy framework, as we have with Tunisia and Morocco, and we always raise the issue of everybody’s rights, including those of LGBTI people. We cannot confront them with the same obligations as we can other member States, because they are not a party to the Convention or to the Court. It is always a part of our conversations with the authorities there, but we are all aware that these are very sensitive issues in that neighbourhood.
We discussed Mr Ghiletchi’s question last time, too. It is always difficult to strike the right balance between the best interests of the child and their family. In the case of Norway, everybody has the right to go to court if they cannot solve an issue in a friendly manner. There are relevant cases in the Court here in Strasbourg, so let us see how the Court here assesses this issue. I fully agree with you, Mr Ghiletchi, that one has to be very sensitive in such cases, but I know that in Norway the best interests of the child are always considered. One can look to what is said in the UN Convention, for instance, about the best interests of the child, and one can always discuss where the right balance is.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – Mr Secretary General, I cannot find, in the 104 pages of your annual report on the violation of human rights, anything about the occupied territories of Crimea and the Donbass in eastern Ukraine, despite the thousands of kidnappings and killings there of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians. Do you perhaps need a special annual report on the violation of human rights in those occupied territories?
Ms BARTOS (Hungary) – Mr Secretary General, the whole of Europe is currently celebrating a feast of football, but the European football championship – that great competition between nations – which should be about togetherness, is sometimes overshadowed by the aggression and violence of football fans. What role can the Council of Europe play in fighting such aggression by fanatical football supporters?
Mr XUCLŔ (Spain)* - Mr Secretary General, what is your view of the constitutional reforms in Poland, including the reforms to the constitutional court, and their adherence to the norms of the Council of Europe? What efforts have you deployed, through diplomatic channels, to make the reforms in Poland tally with our democratic standards?
Mr JAGLAND – On human rights in Crimea and the Donbass, I said earlier that I sent a human rights mission to Crimea that wrote an extensive report based on its eight-day stay. No one else had done that. The annual report was discussed in the Committee of Ministers when I took the initiative to start writing such a report on the state of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe. Many were sceptical that I should produce such a report. Despite the fact that others were doing it, it was thought difficult to do here. It was agreed, however, that the annual report should be based only on our permanent monitoring bodies, the Venice Commission and, of course, European Court of Human Rights judgments.
That is why it was difficult to include the difficulties in Crimea in the annual report – there had not been any monitoring in Crimea. Had I included them, I would have been in breach of the agreement in the Committee of Ministers. And by the way, Ukraine was one of the countries that insisted on this procedure. For that reason, I decided to send a special mission to Crimea – not a monitoring mission but a human rights mission – to consider how to proceed with more permanent monitoring bodies, and the mission produced a report on the situation there. That is where we are. I reiterate, however, that I find it unacceptable that the Council of Europe cannot be present all over the continent – not only in Crimea but in other areas of unresolved conflict. I will continue to work on this, but we can reach an agreement on how it can be done only through a diplomatic process, which is why I sent the mission to Crimea.
On the new laws in Poland and the controversy around the constitutional court, I recommended to the Polish Government that it seek the advice of the Venice Commission, which it did. The commission issued an opinion and the Polish Parliament has now started a process and appointed a group of experts to consider how to implement the commission’s recommendation. Moreover, as you know, there are concrete negotiations between the Polish Government and the European Union in this respect. With regard to the new laws and the initiatives for the media sector, I suggested an exchange of experts to the Polish Government, and it responded positively. We have now sent experts to Poland to discuss these matters, and the Polish Government has decided to postpone discussion of the media package before Parliament in order to make it conform with the standards of the Council of Europe. The Polish Government has stated that explicitly, so let us hope that this work can bring results.
(Ms Gambaro, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
Mr SABELLA (Palestine, Partner for Demorcracy) – On conflict in the Middle East, what can we do to end the Israeli occupation and expedite the political process, to help end the crisis in Syria and to stabilise Iraq?
Ms STEFANELLI (San Marino)* – Mr Secretary General, last April, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 2111 to increase the presence of women in national parliaments and elective assemblies. We have seen today the introduction into the electoral legislation of a member State of single preference voting with a proportional system for elections to parliament. Would that be in line with Resolution 2111? What suggestions could you make about that?
Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – Mr Secretary General, I would like to ask about the usefulness of the North-South Centre. Last time I asked this question, there was no activity for 2016 on the site. Has some activity miraculously appeared? There does not seem to be much going on. Am I wrong?
Mr JAGLAND – If I had an answer to the question, “How can we end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian soil?”, I would be really glad, but I do not. As you know, I have long experience of this matter, dating back to the famous Oslo accords in 1993. I have worked on the issue in several positions, as many others have done. I was a member of the Mitchell Committee, which President Clinton and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed to make recommendations for how to end the violence and proceed towards a two-state solution. We made recommendations and presented them to the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, both of which agreed to follow them. Only a few weeks later, everything was killed. Unfortunately, those are the experiences of many, but I assure you I still believe that the only solution to this problem is a two-state solution.
I do not know how we can end the conflict in Syria and Iraq, but all conflicts must come to an end. My only recommendation is to entertain diplomacy so that a compromise can be found between the fighting parties. That seems to be difficult to achieve, but it is absolutely outrageous that such a conflict can go on in the 21st century, with so many people killed, so many people displaced and so many refugees. We discuss the so-called refugee crisis in Europe, but this is its origin – the continuation of the conflict in Syria and the wider area. It is necessary to find a political solution.
The second question was about the presence of women in national parliaments. We do not have standards on that. It is extremely difficult for us to intervene and say, “This is right and this is wrong,” but I support any initiative that contributes to a better balance between men and women in national parliaments. My party in Norway introduced quotas for both sexes that were later adopted by all the other political parties. The quotas say that each sex should make up at least 40% of every political party. That has contributed to our parliament being fairly balanced between men and women. It is extremely difficult to ask people who are voting in parliamentary elections to vote for this or that, because they are free to vote for anybody they want, but parties have a right to have such quotas and that eventually leads to a better balance between men and women in national parliaments. That is one method that can be applied.
The Committee of Ministers evaluated the North-South Centre a year ago. It came to the conclusion that the centre was still relevant, and that it was doing interesting and good activities in the framework of the neighbourhood policy, particularly with respect to young people and women. I do not think it is right to say that there are no activities at the centre, at least not according to the information that I have.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Thank you very much for your comments, Mr Jagland. We are celebrating 25 years since Mr Yeltsin, Kravchuk, the former President of Ukraine, and Shushkevich signed the declaration of the end of the Soviet Union. It was a most peaceful revolution. How do you think we can celebrate the end of the Bolshevik empire? My second question is about the decision of the Court of Human Rights about Mr Merabishvili a few days ago in respect of Article 18 of the Convention.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – Mr Jagland, I am sure you know that on 2 June, the German Bundestag adopted a resolution on the genocide of Armenians almost unanimously. Before and after the vote, MPs were threatened by Turks, and the President of Turkey and other high-ranking officials have used plenty of abusive words about the decision. President Erdoğan even called for the blood of MPs of Turkish origin who voted in favour to be checked. Unfortunately, the idea of so-called pure blood is very familiar to Europe from the Nazi regime. What is your attitude towards such pressure being put on MPs, particularly by another country? How can one member State behave towards another member State in such a way, just because it has fair voting?
Mr ROUQUET (France)* – We note with concern the increasing difficulties of enforcement in a number of member States. Only two States – the United Kingdom and Russia – refuse to execute certain decisions. What can be done, Mr Secretary General, to remedy that problem?
Mr JAGLAND – Mr Zingeris referred to what happened 25 years ago. It was, indeed, an historic development. Let us all hope and work for its continuation. Many people say that we are more or less in a state of cold war again. I do not believe so. I strongly believe that it can be avoided and that we can find solutions to the conflicts that exist. We have a mandate to work for that, and I hope that everybody will do so. I see all the threats around us, but we should not give up the Europe that was shaped after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
With regard to the slaughter of people in Armenia after the First World War, my approach follows what was said in the famous accords between Turkey and Armenia. It was foreseen that we should let historians give the answer as to what happened. That is where I stand now, although I see that others have a different opinion and that national parliaments have adopted resolutions on the subject. We do not have any opinion in the Council of Europe, at least not on the intergovernmental side. I have no opinion on what the Parliamentary Assembly should do, but I think that the best way to deal with history is to let the experts who work with it advise us on the facts. We can then make our opinions based on that. Every time I meet the leaders in Armenia and Turkey, I urge them to go back to what they agreed upon in the famous accords. That seems unrealistic now, but I hope that they will do so sooner or later.
Mr Rouquet’s question about the implementation of the Court’s judgments is an important one. I commend him for the initiative he has taken to convene an important conference in the French National Assembly to highlight the role of the Court and the necessity of implementing the Convention at national level. I would like to see more initiatives like that in our national parliaments so that parliamentarians are more aware of the importance of the Convention and the implementation of judgments. Article 46 of the Convention states that all member States shall undertake to implement the judgments of the Court. That is the strength of the Convention and what makes it different from, say, UN conventions, which do not have that inbuilt right to bring cases to an international court and are therefore not as strong as the Convention, which does have that right built into it and which also provides that the Court’s decisions shall be implemented by member States.
If that is not respected, the Convention will collapse. That is why we insist on this important principle. Yes, we still have problems, for instance with prisoner voting in the United Kingdom, although that is not the only example. As I have said, we need to remind ourselves what the rule of law means. In this case it means that the Court has the final word. If not, the Convention will be weakened or even collapse totally. The more we can discuss at a national level and share information on this important principle, the better it will be for the European Convention on Human Rights and the strength of the Court.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Secretary General, for this interesting and comprehensive exchange of views. We look forward to continuing our discussions in the next part-session.
3. Free debate
THE PRESIDENT – We now come to the free debate. I remind members that this debate is for topics not already on the agenda agreed this morning. Speaking time will be limited to three minutes. The free debate will finish at 5 p.m.
Mr G. DAVIES (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – May I first of all put on record my very deep sadness and shock at the tragic and brutal murder of my friend and colleague Jo Cox, the MP who was killed on Thursday? She was a great politician, a proud mother and a great person. I very much hope that the prejudice, hate and violence that killed her will not dim the human rights, freedom and democracy that she stood for so gallantly.
I want to talk briefly about the rise of popular nationalism, as the Secretary General put it. In the run-up to the referendum in the UK, the verdict of economists and businesses has been universally in favour of staying in, yet these are dismissed as biased claims. Even the Governor of the Bank of England is dismissed as biased by those who would whip up fear of immigration to try and get us to leave Europe. In Britain, the Conservative Government have introduced austerity and cuts specifically targeted at the poorest – because, as former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith explained, they do not vote or they vote Labour. Respected figures such as former Mayor Boris Johnson have now suggested, among other things, that foreigners are basically taking our jobs and services, when in fact they contribute Ł2.5 billion a year net to our economy. We saw these tactics of divide and rule in the mayoral election in London, with the now Mayor, Sadiq Khan, described as a terrorist threat.
In the history of Europe, we have seen minorities blamed for poverty and the whipping up of a frenzy of fear that unleashed the dark forces that led to fascism in Germany and beyond. Boris Johnson is only a late convert to anti-Europeanism. His family are in favour of it, but he knows that the majority of Conservative party members are old people who are sceptical about Europe and he wants to get the Conservative crown at any cost. Ultimately, we risk seeing the fragile cloth of diversity that is so well respected across the globe being ripped up so that he can snatch the Conservative crown.
These are dark days for Britain. I very much hope we can turn towards spreading wealth, tolerance and co-operation and extend an open hand of friendship towards each other across Europe, instead of the clenched fist of resistance and instead of breaking free of Europe and breaking up Britain. I agree with the proposition before us: #NoHateNoFear. Instead, we want to see love and hope. I very much hope we will be part of the European family after Thursday.
Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I would like to draw your attention to the situation in the Russian Federation ahead of the parliamentary elections in September 2016. Our group has been active in communicating with representatives of civil society organisations and leaders of the Russian democratic opposition. Unfortunately, the picture they have described does not give us hope that Russia will hold free and fair elections in 2016.
Unfortunately, we see an ineffective approach to the activities of NGOs. In particular, NGOs and lawyers working on politically sensitive cases, including those before the European Court of Human Rights, those monitoring human rights abuses in the northern Caucasus and those dealing with investigative reports of corruption are being threatened.
Unfortunately, our Assembly has not made a statement about the assassination of the major democratic opposition leader, Mr Boris Nemtsov. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe supports the referral of Mr Nemtsov’s assassination to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for a report. We do not have the right to delay that Committee. We have to know what happened and how it happened. We cannot accept the official version – that the opposition’s main leader was assassinated by a driver who came from Chechnya on his own. We need to know who the masterminds were behind what was a major political assassination within the Council of Europe’s borders.
We have seen other opposition leaders violently attacked – I am thinking of the recent attack on Mr Navalny and his supporters, and I should also mention the poisoning of Mr Vladimir Kara-Murza, another opposition leader. Unfortunately, in all these cases investigations have had no concrete results. We see that there is absolute impunity for such violations. We might even think that the Russian authorities are behind these attacks.
I should also mention Mr Ilya Ponomarev, a Russian member of parliament who was recently stripped of his parliamentary mandate, the reason being that he was the only member not to vote in favour of the annexation of Crimea. Unfortunately, the conditions for conducting free and fair elections in Russia are not being met. Under the circumstances, we as the Parliamentary Assembly should not legitimise the results of such elections. We must continue to help the Russian opposition and NGOs by bringing them here as often as possible.
Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I would like to draw attention to the positive aspects of our main European institutions: the European Union and the Council of Europe. The European Union structures many economic benefits. Yet through checks and balances there are also measures of protection against too much outside interference.
One such comes through subsidiarity. As we know already, this expedient curtails unnecessary control by Brussels. Instead, it encourages matters to be dealt with directly by EU member States themselves.
An associated issue is the relationship between national legislatures and their executives. Since this is internal, it has nothing at all to do with national membership of European institutions, which is external. The focus is upon an internal accommodation within the national State itself. Power exerted too much by executives and too little by parliamentarians is bad for democracy. However, this internal balance still stands to be assisted by external membership of European institutions all the same for two reasons: first, through the terms of external membership, since both the EU and the Council of Europe uphold the rights of European citizens; and secondly, through subsidiarity, which in any case prevents European bureaucracy from undermining national democracy.
Then there is the political inference from the scope and range of the Court of Human Rights, set up by the Council of Europe and subscribed to by its 47 member States. For if through this Court an individual has the legal right to contest a State, it follows politically that State and citizen can be accepted as being on an equal footing; a tenet quite unthinkable in Europe’s past when nationalism held sway, and one that was able to apply only after the second of two devastating world wars.
Another feature of Europe’s affiliations, perhaps insufficiently recognised, is that of political flexibility. Between different cities and regions in different countries, examples include working partnerships and local initiatives. These re-energise national and European democracy at grassroots level. Nevertheless, traditional political theory would have suggested otherwise, reflecting how things used to be. Yet in 21st century Europe the corollary to this is that an emphasis upon democratic qualities at local level does not in fact upstage the State at national level at all; instead, it helps to restore trust and confidence in European Governments and Administrations, which are often accused of being out of touch with their own people.
Clearly, further adjustments should be made to the functions of both the European Union and the Council of Europe. Equally, their performances and effects must be continually reassessed and reviewed. Yet we should be very grateful for the achievements to date of both institutions and for the stability which they have already brought to Europe.
Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – There is currently immense social and political polarisation in Turkey that we think was engineered by President Erdoğan himself. He has been systematically violating the fundamental democratic principles of the separation of powers and the rule of law. He has virtually monopolised executive, legislative and judicial powers. Having ended the peace process with the Kurdish movement in spring 2015, President Erdoğan has dragged both the Kurdish issue and the country as a whole into a vicious cycle of violence. There are systematic Government attacks on democratic life in Turkey. More than 2 000 academics are facing legal and administrative investigations for signing a pro-peace statement on the Kurdish issue. More than 50 of them have already lost their jobs, and four of them have faced pre-trial detention.
There is no press freedom in the country. More than 30 journalists, mostly Kurdish, are in prison, and more than 2 000 HDP – my political party – and DBP members and executives are in prison. The immunities of HDP deputies were lifted. Twenty-one democratically elected Kurdish mayors are now in prison, and the Ministry of the Interior has dismissed 31 other Kurdish mayors, which has totally undermined local democracy in the Kurdish region. Several Kurdish towns have been put under siege or indefinite curfew since August 2015, and some 10 Kurdish towns were totally destroyed with heavy artillery and tank fire on the pretext of fighting terror. Some of those towns look worse than towns in Syria and Iraq.
About 60 refugees from Syria were reportedly killed trying to cross the Turkey-Syria border, and there have been systematic attacks on sexual minorities and on women’s rights in Turkey. There is illegal expropriation of the property of those affiliated with anti-President Erdoğan political tracts. According to several witnesses, Mr Hurşit Külter, a Kurdish citizen of Turkey and an executive member of the Democratic Regions Party was taken into custody on 27 May. Since then, state authorities and security forces have denied that he is in custody. We suspect that he was disappeared. Only half an hour ago I got the news that Professor Şebnem Korur Fincanci – the world-renowned human and women’s rights activist, the chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and a senior professor of forensic medicine – Mr Erol Önderoglu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders, and Mr Ahmet Nesin, an author and publisher, were arrested and sent to jail on charges of making terrorist propaganda because they showed solidarity with Özgür Gündem, a critical Kurdish newspaper that has faced constant Government harassment.
Why have the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe chosen to remain silent on the issues in Turkey? When will they break their silence?
The PRESIDENT – I am sorry, Mr Özsoy, but I draw your attention to the fact that the Parliamentary Assembly already has Turkey on its agenda. According to Rule 39, speakers in a free debate may speak on any subject of their choice not appearing on the agenda for the part-session. I call Mr Feist.
Mr FEIST (Germany, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party)* – On behalf of my group, I thank you, Madam President, for the fact that the #NoHateNoFear initiative is being celebrated in the Parliamentary Assembly. It is important that we emphasise the initiative at a time when we are seeing assaults, particularly on politicians. The initiative coincides with the assassination of a British parliamentarian, Jo Cox, only last week, and the initiative has been espoused by other Parliaments, including France, Italy, Hungary and elsewhere.
Wherever we are, we need to realise what we stand for. Are we all of one opinion? No, we disagree on many things, but we respect other people and exchange one with another in spite of our differences. Here in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe it is particularly important that we do that because, of course, we have to serve as an example, and deeds often follow on from words, as we know from the Bundestag’s resolution on Armenia. They are just words, but elsewhere people tend to act on the basis of those words. We know that elsewhere politicians are being assaulted because of their political convictions, and the people who are accused of those crimes are not even being taken into custody by the police. It is important that we raise our voice and that we do it together on the basis of the values that unite us. Of course, human dignity is one of those values. It is part of the foundation on which our actions must rest.
There is also what we understand by human rights and social justice. However tense the debate might sometimes become on the conflicts that we discuss over the course of this week, we need to recall that the democratic culture we bring to the debate is important for the message that we send to the outside world. We set an example for the young people who follow us, and for them it is particularly important that we not only talk but that our words and deeds are consistent. We need to have no hate, no fear and no violence. I come from Leipzig, the city of peaceful dialogue. Dialogue in the absence of violence is something that unites us.
Mr EßL (Austria)* – There are, of course, horrifying topical events at the moment, such as the murder of the British Labour parliamentarian Jo Cox and other terrorist attacks, which we have condemned. However, there is also good news – Ms Savchenko is back with us as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly, and our congratulations go to her. Before her release we condemned what had happened, but nothing has changed in the critical situation between Ukraine and Russia. It is at a total standstill.
It is incumbent on the Council of Europe to make its voice heard. It has withdrawn the voting rights of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, and the European Union has imposed sanctions on Russia. The consequence is that the Russian delegation is no longer turning up to sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly, and Europe’s agriculture is having to foot the bill for the sanctions. Those measures are obviously falling short of their target, so we need more dialogue. The good suggestion was made this morning that the President of the Assembly travel with a delegation to Ukraine and Russia to engage in intensive talks. Secretary General Jagland has said that some steps have already been taken towards that end.
Of course, there is also the refugee and migrant crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people on the move. We are confronted on a daily basis with the tragedies befalling many of those migrants, and it needs to be said that we cannot leave certain countries to bear the burden alone. People are travelling across the seas to arrive in Europe, and Germany, Sweden and Austria have taken in huge numbers of refugees. Austria is often criticised for wanting to patrol its borders, for example along the Brenner, but if other countries had done what Austria has, 900 000 refugees would be accommodated in France, 850 000 in Italy and more than 10 million in the member States of the Council of Europe as a whole. We need to remain on the ball, and we need a common European solution, if not an international solution, to address problems where they arise. Only by tackling the root causes will we be in a position to provide solutions for people in need of our assistance.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – A few days ago in Paris, on 3 June, there was a meeting on an international initiative for peace in the Middle East between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The meeting brought together the representatives of 28 States – most of their foreign ministers were there –with representatives of the Quartet, which still exists, the Arab initiative, which remains valid, and the United Nations. However, the Israelis and the Palestinians were not invited.
The aim of the meeting was to restate that negotiation and a two-State solution is the only answer for an enduring peace. We need to restore dialogue, and we must repeatedly and unstintingly denounce the status quo, which is the occupation of Palestine and the building of settlements. We need to create a new international climate and hold a new international conference – there has not been one since 2007 in Annapolis, and it is high time to restore and relaunch the dialogue. Those of us here – first and foremost the Palestinians – need to galvanise the international community to support that approach. I heard what Bernard Sabella, the MP for Jerusalem East, said earlier. We must say to the Palestinians that their people should reconcile as well, which is easier said than done. We need to reunify the West Bank and Gaza, but there also need to be elections. The question is how all of that can be organised. The Israelis – or at least Netanyahu himself – do not support international discussions. They prefer direct negotiations, which have achieved nothing.
I support the idea of having an international conference in the autumn to develop a drive for peace. I make this appeal to the Assembly: let us mobilise for peace, because the situation in the Middle East is about not just Syria but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ms DALLOZ (France)* – The migration crisis is a challenge for Europe, and contrary to what some might believe, particularly in Brussels, solving it is not merely about imposing quotas or coming up with complex agreements. There is a trend towards lauding some countries in the Assembly and pointing an accusing finger at others that are not doing enough, but we need to be clear that at times of economic crisis, when many countries in Europe are having to grapple with budgetary austerity, taking in refugees brings serious budgetary problems. There is also the frustration felt by nationals who are in difficult straits because they do not have a job or decent housing. The rise of populism in our countries is proof of that. Given that, should we not disconnect the fate of nationals from that of migrants?
The status of migrants in many countries, over-protected and very costly, might well boomerang against them. The generous migration status available to them came about when Europe was experiencing full employment and robust growth. That is not the case today, and we need to consider the consequences.
The European Union is now questioning conditions of access to social benefits in member States, although that might primarily concern internal migration. On 14 June, the Court of Justice of the European Union endorsed the principle that proof of legal residence can be required for the receipt of social benefits. Organisations including the Council of Europe need to address the issue of all migrants having free access to benefits without exception and without anything being asked in return. Do we have the financial means required to finance those benefits? Our Keynesian social security systems for nationals, where they exist, are often in deficit.
We also need to consider better use of our resources. Should we not invest in language courses or vocational training geared to the needs of sectors in which there is a manpower shortage? That might well ensure the successful integration of people with a background of migration.
Together, we need to reflect on the financial consequences of the situation for our member States; otherwise we risk coming up with a system that would provide an open door for all migrants. However, they would not enjoy any kind of benefits; they would just have to muddle through. That is the ultra-liberal American model, which has led to wonderful success stories but also to the most appalling tragedies. I do not believe that we want such a model in Europe. Our tradition and culture are very different. We need to reform our welfare system and shoulder our responsibilities so that we can continue to take in migrants – and especially integrate them – wherever they come from. Our democracies and our values depend on that.
Ms BESALIA (Georgia) – Georgia is at the crossroads of important reforms to its democratic institutions. The protection of human rights now has the highest priority in the political agenda. The 2016 parliamentary election campaign has started, and the government takes full responsibility for ensuring the most peaceful and democratic election environment that has ever existed in my country since its independence.
Before the 2012 parliamentary election, my political party, Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, which was the opposition party, faced so many problems, such as an aggressive and violent environment created by the former ruling party, that we will do our best to avoid these violations in the future. We should provide for every party an absolutely pluralistic, fair and peaceful electoral environment. To accomplish this, we have already adopted tens of amendments to the relevant legislation, including a special norm in the criminal code of Georgia preventing any kind of violence or threat of violence during the elections inside polling stations or nearby, and punishing any violation. The government will not tolerate any violators.
No one country can be absolutely perfect and no one can be totally insured against some incidents, especially in the pre-election period, during which tensions rise, but the main issue is to have the relevant legal instruments and the political will to address these challenges, and that the ruling party guarantees that the parliamentary elections in October will be conducted in full compliance with democratic principles in a very transparent environment.
In that regard, it is very important for us to have a high-level observation mission from the Council of Europe to monitor the election. My party, Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, has a high expectation that it will receive strong support from the majority of our citizens to continue important reforms; to combat our main opponent, which is the social problems we face; to ensure economic growth in my country and make it attractive for investments; to ensure its Euro-Atlantic integration; to continue the peace-building and confidence-building process with our Abkhazian and Ossetian brothers and sisters; to protect and promote human rights; and to ensure the future development of my country.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Dear colleagues, I would like to draw your attention to one issue and ask you to make more efforts in this direction. As you already know, some months ago a separatist Armenian regime, established in the occupied Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, engaged in inhuman acts that violated all international norms and principles against two Azerbaijanis, Shabaz Guiyev and Dilgam Asgarov, who had been taken hostage by it. The regime has ignored calls by the international community as well as by our Assembly to release the men; they are still being held hostage. Their families wait for your support and I call on our Assembly to increase its efforts to secure their freedom.
In January, the Assembly adopted a resolution saying that the inhabitants of the frontier region of Azerbaijan are being deliberately deprived of water. The resolution demanded that the Armenian Government stop the use of water resources as a means of applying political influence or pressure. However, Armenia has not taken any steps in this regard and thousands of Azerbaijanis in several densely populated areas continue to suffer very seriously. We call on the Assembly to pay more attention to this issue and to use strict mechanisms to implement the resolution that it adopted. The Armenian Government is also not taking any action to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Chiragov and others v. Armenia. Such issues should seriously concern the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
We also condemn the recent decision of the German Parliament. Those who a hundred years ago described a historical event as genocide without any ruling by an international court or a historical commission committed a huge injustice.
We also call on our Assembly to be more sensible on the issue of internally displaced persons and to put pressure on Armenia to fulfil Resolution 1416. Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani IDPs who have been unable to return to their homes for 23 years wait for such action from you.
At the end of my speech, I want to touch upon Ms Naghdalyan’s speech in the debate on the progress report. I strongly condemn Ms Naghdalyan’s hate-filled speech about my country, which she made while we are showing solidarity with the #NoHateNoFear campaign that was initiated by our honourable President Agramunt.
Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – Pope Francis will be visiting Armenia in four days’ time. He has asked the faithful to pray for his upcoming visit to Armenia. Let me quote his Holiness: “I ask you to pray for me, who in a few days will go as a pilgrim to an eastern land, Armenia, the first among nations to receive the gospel of Jesus.” Pope Francis’s visit is to record the brilliantly unique relations between Armenia and the Holy See, and the excellent co-operation between two ancient churches – the Catholic Church of Rome and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Christianity has been a cornerstone of Armenian national identity throughout our long and historic journey. Armenians have made an exceptional and invaluable contribution to the unity of Christ’s disciples, while millions of Armenians have been martyred and shed their blood for Christ. However, the blood of martyrs became a seed for renewed faith, passion, commitment and unity, and Armenia and millions of Armenians the world over will greet Pope Francis in Yerevan, Etchmiadzin and Gyumri with a reborn and progressive statehood, a strong commitment to peace, renewed love for others and as enlightened souls praying for all children of Christ in any corner of the world.
Pope Francis will also visit Tsitsernakaberd, a memorial in Yerevan dedicated to the remembrance of the 1.5 million saints and martyrs of the Armenian genocide who were killed in Ottoman Turkey simply because they were different – they were Armenian and they were Christian. Pope Francis’s visit to the genocide memorial will become a big question mark in response to the unwise and increasingly dangerous policy of denial by Erdoğan’s Turkey. This visit will redeliver his Holiness’s precept that “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it”. The life-threatening, blackmailing, Nazi-style calls to analyse the “blood purity” of all those courageous German Bundestag Members of Parliament who voted for recognition of the Armenian genocide just weeks ago are an alarm signal to the international community to keep its ears open to the precept of Pope Francis.
His Holiness’s visit to Armenia will also bring a message of peace to the whole region of South Caucasus, which is still suffering from the deadly military provocations of Azerbaijan and the anti-Armenian hate and intolerance that dominates that country. While the Presidents of Armenia and Russia try to deliver a message to President Aliyev right now in St Petersburg and try to explain that there is no military solution to the conflict, we should also deliver a message to the ordinary people of Azerbaijan that they should keep their ears open to the voice of Pope Francis and to the millions of faithful prayers in Armenia for peace, hope and love in the coming days, so that they can deliver a simple message to our colleagues in Azerbaijan, including the beautiful Ms Pashayeva, that darkness cannot be driven out by darkness and hate cannot be driven out by hate.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Unfortunately we have just heard a hate-speech from our colleague. We should remember that this Assembly has done a great job for the reunification of Europe and we celebrated the developments in different countries just a couple of hours ago. That means that when we are talking about democracy, we should be a little more serious, and when somebody tries to monopolise Christianity or to present themselves as if they were the last instance of the truth, we should be very careful.
Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country, but we are proud that in the centre of our city we have a working Catholic church. We are proud that in our parliament we have representatives of the country’s Jewish minority. We are proud that despite all the hate speeches from the Armenian side, we have an Armenian church in the centre of our city – it is under reconstruction and is preserved by the Azerbaijani Government.
My friends, I hate the word “tolerance”. Why? Because, from my point of view, tolerance means that I am not so happy with you but we have to be together. Let us forget tolerance as a value and instead return to respect for each other. Only from that point of view will we be able to find solutions to our problems.
We are talking about diversity, but unfortunately we are unable to take into account the differences between us; between Muslims and Jews, and between Catholics and Orthodox Christians. We should be together in order to find peace in Europe and across the entire world. That is the only way to create our European home – no hate; no fear.
On behalf of the Azerbaijani delegation, I want to express my gratitude to the leadership of the Council of Europe for the #NoHateNoFear initiative, but please add to it by also taking into account the diversity of the Council of Europe. This is very important for the future of this land.
Ms CROZON (France)* – As we begin our summer part-session, may I express my thoughts for the victims of the slaughter in Orlando and their families? The massacre, the deadliest in the United States since the 2001 terrorist attacks, raises a number of questions, and in the midst of the US presidential campaign, triggers competing interpretations. Given that there were 354 mass shootings leading to 12 181 deaths just in 2015 in the US, obviously the question of gun control is brought to the forefront by the Democratic administration. Equally predictably, the Islamist claim of responsibility is highlighted by the Republican opposition. This meets with a certain resonance in European countries recently stricken by attacks from Daesh.
These two analyses are not actually contradictory. In a country where access to guns daily creates tragedies caused by deranged people, it is quite common for some people to clothe their barbarism in the garb of political justifications, whether they be white supremacists or radical Islamists. But they are all part and parcel of a phenomenon that has profoundly shocked me: making the victims invisible.
Those who died in Orlando did not die by chance; they died because they went to a gay nightclub, and a gay nightclub frequented mainly by black and Hispanic minorities to boot, and on the occasion of a transgender party. Public opinion immediately understood the homophobic and transphobic motivation behind the slaughter. Our streets, public squares and social networks immediately took up the rainbow flag – even more so than the US flag – to demonstrate their solidarity with the LGBT community. Equally spontaneously, the homophobic networks of what we dub the “fascophere” engaged at an unprecedented scale in a scandalous apologia for terrorism.
These spontaneous outpourings of solidarity contrast with the timorousness of political leaders and the media, all too many of whom neglected the identity of the victims. In France, of some 50 national and regional newspaper headlines published the next day, only one led on the manifestly homophobic nature of the crime. How can we understand this embarrassment, and this inability to call something by its proper name, when the UN is constantly sounding the alarm about the upsurge in crimes perpetrated on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity? How can we overlook the fact that 20% of crimes committed in the United States – but also in Latin America, north Africa and eastern Europe – are driven by homophobia? How can we forget that 72 countries still punish people for being homosexual, including 10 by the death penalty?
In this forum, which takes pride in its defence of the principle of non-discrimination, and which elevates gender identity and sexual orientation to the same rank as gender, religion and nationality, we need to say clearly that there is no contradiction between describing an act as terrorist and describing it as homophobic. On the contrary, there is a consistent factor: hatred.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Dear colleagues and members of this honourable Assembly, today I would like to draw your attention to a very important humanitarian and environmental issue that could result in the loss of thousands of lives due to the irresponsible actions of the Armenian authorities concerning the functioning of the Metsamor nuclear power plant. The issue has been raised several times within different Council of Europe structures, but unfortunately it has not yet reached the attention of this Assembly. We think that the issue should now receive attention at a higher level, and for two alarming reasons.
First, in April the Georgian authorities reported the arrest of several Armenian nationals trying to smuggle $200 million-worth of nuclear-grade material. Unfortunately, it was not the first such case. The possibilities for such smuggling and the high level of corruption in Armenia, which does not bypass law enforcement and border control, make it quite an interesting place for the wrong hands and the terrorists. Unfortunately, Armenia itself is not immune from such wrong hands, as a current member of its parliament and former deputy prime minister has claimed several times that Armenia has developed a nuclear weapon. These claims and the recent developments are very alarming.
The second alarming reason is the state of the Metsamor nuclear power plant. It is considered to be the oldest and most insecure nuclear power plant in the world. It started to function in 1976 and halted its operation in 1988, after an earthquake in Armenia. It resumed its operation in 1995, despite huge international protests. In fact, the European Union called many times for its operation to be halted. In fact, the epicentre of the earthquake lies only 75 km away. The plant therefore poses a serious threat to the population of not only Armenia, but the entire region, as it lies approximately between 20 km and 100 km away from its neighbouring countries.
Therefore, our Assembly’s intervention is crucial, because what we have observed is that the Armenian regime is not interested in the safety of its own population or that of the neighbouring region. We therefore think that the Assembly should call for a strengthening of safety standards, respecting human safety and stopping the outdated nuclear power plant with its expired term of operation. The Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have not been forgotten, and we should raise our voice to solve this concern.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – Today racism and intolerance have become real enemies for us to fight; Europe should unite to prevent them from developing further. Every single person who demonstrates racism should be stopped and punished. Once Europe suffered a sad experience of the escalation of violence and intolerance and it had a name: the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, here in the Council of Europe there are still member States whose regimes use strong words of intolerance and racism toward ethnicities, nationalities and other countries, spreading hatred and shaking spears at other countries. So yes, No Hate, No Fear, but also no to lying to Europe. We have plenty of evidence of the destruction of the cultural heritage of ancient Armenia. Do not lie to Europe.
The latest report on Azerbaijan of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance firmly confirms what I am saying. In paragraph 21 of that report we read: “An entire generation of Azerbaijanis has now grown up listening to constant rhetoric of Armenian aggression. According to a 2012 survey, 91% perceived Armenia as Azerbaijan’s greatest enemy.” The same paragraph also states: “According to other sources, there is a conflict-ridden domestic political discourse and Azerbaijan’s leadership, education system and media are very prolific in their denigration of Armenians. Political opponents are accused of having Armenian roots or of receiving funds from Armenian sources.”
It is not simply about that issue. There are many other examples. In schools there are different tasks and games that are far too full of intolerance and hate speech towards Armenians. School children are taught to have an enemy from an early age. That enemy is Armenians.
It will be no surprise to the Council of Europe that in its report ECRI also mentioned the case of Ramil Safarov, which was the basis of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe report Document 13450 by Mr Chope. I remind the Assembly that Ramil Safarov, an Azeri military officer who killed an Armenian colleague while he was asleep solely because he was Armenian, was given a flat and other honours. In its press release ECRI pointed out the risk that such action could cultivate a sense of impunity for the perpetrators of racist crimes of the most serious nature. That is no surprise, given the Azeri regime’s style. Just a month ago, another murderer - again, an Azeri military officer - who beheaded Qyaram Sloyan, a solider in the Karabakh defence army, was also honoured by President Aliyev.
I call on the Parliamentary Assembly to stop Nazism, racism and intolerance, and to stop the Aliyev regime.
Mr FRIDEZ (Switzerland)* – We are the children and grandchildren of those who emerged from the Second World War saying, “Never again,” so that we would not experience such terrible years of terror, blind violence and mass destruction, and so that there would be no more genocide. In order that we would never experience such grave times, our forebears decided to build a common Europe of friendship and peaceful co-existence, respecting the great principles of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech.
We are the heirs to that new Europe, and the Council of Europe is the bastion par excellence of democracy, justice and respect for human rights. Getting to know each other and working together reduce the risk of conflict. It is always better to have jaw-jaw than war-war. I have been among you in this Assembly for a few months now, and have appreciated the spirit of consensus and dialogue. I wish to promote the founding values of the Council of Europe. The Assembly represents, par excellence, a place where the countries of Europe can come together, get to know one another, discuss things with one another and bring about a more peaceful and united Europe. All that relies on respect for each other and a resolve to engage in dialogue. Ours is the only forum in which Israelis and Palestinians sit together as observers.
Everything that brings people together is heartening, but I am troubled, because we are going through a period of turbulence. For more than 15 years we have seen killing resurface in Nagorno-Karabakh and Ukraine. Intolerance, the extreme right, homophobia, xenophobia and racism are re-emerging in various places with violence, such as the most recent incident, the killing of Jo Cox in particularly tragic circumstances. Our house is becoming splintered. Too many people are suffering from insecurity. We must realise that the way in which we treat migrants - men, women and children - has not matched the extent of the tragedy in Syria, and the migration tragedy more generally. Turkish democracy is experiencing a dark hour, with the threat to freedom and parliamentary immunity. There are threats to the peace that our forebears built with such care.
That situation is resonating within the walls of our Council. I do not wish to point the finger at anyone, and suffering injustice should never be hushed up, but I regret that each issue is becoming an opportunity for exploiting our debate and throwing oil on the fire. That runs counter to the values of the Council of Europe. Our Assembly should represent, first and foremost, exchange, compromise and mutual respect, a place where we speak to each other, engage in dialogue, and bring about what unites rather than what divides us.
Mr CSENGER-ZALÁN (Hungary) – In 2009, László Tőkés, a Romanian politician from the Hungarian minority in Romania received the Order of the Star of Romania from Traian Băsescu, the then President of Romania. He received the decoration for his historic role in the 1989 Romanian revolution and change of regime. Mr Tőkés took the floor as an elected Member of the European Parliament and spoke in favour of the minority rights of the Hungarian community in Romania. In his speeches, he sometimes criticised the Romanian authorities and their policies. As a result, the withdrawal of his decoration was initiated in 2013. The current Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis, withdrew the state award on 3 March 2016.
We all know that one of the basic principles of parliamentary democracy is free speech. I find it extremely disturbing that an MP in a fellow Assembly, the European Parliament, has been stripped of his decoration because he spoke up for the rights of the community that elected him. Please let me go further: it is not only a question of free speech; the approach of the Romanian authorities and politicians reflects their true attitude towards the Hungarian community in Romania. Instead of open dialogue, they have taken away the decoration of an MP who speaks up for his community.
We deeply regret that the minority rights of the Hungarian community in Romania are still not respected as much as they should be on the basis of Council of Europe standards. Instead of being forward looking, stripping an MP of his decoration is, in fact, a step in the wrong direction. It will increase tension rather than provide a truly European solution in line with Council of Europe standards.
I am sensitive to the need for democracy not only in Romania, but in Georgia. I therefore call on the President of Georgia to accept and follow the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
The PRESIDENT* – I must now interrupt the list of speakers. Members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may, in the next four hours, forward their typescript to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. If possible, this must be done electronically. The free debate is closed.
4. Personal Statement
The PRESIDENT* – Pursuant to Rule 35.6, Ms Kavvadia wishes to make a personal statement. I remind the Assembly that such a statement cannot be followed by a debate.
Ms Kavvadia, you have the floor. You have two minutes.
Ms KAVVADIA (Greece) – Thank you, Madam President. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the members of the Assembly about an error of mine that occurred during the last part-session in April. I am referring to the voting procedure on Amendment 9 to Document 14015, the report on humanitarian concerns with regard to people captured during the war in Ukraine – Resolution 2112 of 2016. My intention was to vote against this amendment. However, by mistake, I voted in favour, which I noticed only after returning home from Strasbourg. Obviously, both my group and I were against this amendment, which proposed further sanctions against the Russian side. Such a move would be counter-productive and would create difficulties in the rapprochement talks being held at this very instant between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Russian delegation. I therefore ask the Assembly to take note of this, which I understand is the only thing that can be done at this point, as no votes can be corrected after they have been registered. I would like my clarification to be added to the appendix to the verbatim record. That way, as a matter of principle, as well as a matter of public record, the error will be rectified.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Kavvadia.
5. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5 p.m.)
1. Changes in the membership of committees
2. Questions to Mr Thorbjřrn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Questions: Mr Kürkçü, Mr Ariev, Mr Schennach, Ms Mateu, Ms Fernandes, Mr Fournier, Ms Pashayeva, Mr Flynn, Mr Grřvan, Mr Billström, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Sobolev, Mr Bartos, Mr Xuclŕ, Mr Sabella, Ms Stefanelli, Mr Destexhe, Mr Zingeris, Ms Karapetyan, Mr Rouquet.
3. Free debate
Speakers: Mr G. Davies, Ms Taktakishvili, the Earl of Dundee, Mr Özsoy, Mr Feist, Mr Eẞl, Ms Durrieu, Ms Dalloz, Ms Beselia, Ms Pashayeva, Mr Farmanyan, Mr Seyidov, Ms Crozon, Mr Huseynov, Ms Karapetyan, Mr Fridez, Mr Csenger-Zalán.
4. Personal statement
5. 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*
Theodora BAKOYANNIS/Georgios Mavrotas
David BAKRADZE/ Giorgi Kandelaki
Gérard BAPT/Jean-Claude Frécon
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*
Tilde BORK/Rasmus Nordqvist
Piet De BRUYN
David CRAUSBY/ Paul Flynn
Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Manlio DI STEFANO*
Francesc Xavier DOMENECH*
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON*
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Franz Leonhard EẞL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI*
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU
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
Rainer GOPP/Hubert Lampert
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
Sabir HAJIYEV/Vusal Huseynov
Andrzej HALICKI/Killion Munyama
Alfred HEER/Jean-Pierre Grin
Michael HENNRICH/ Thomas Feist
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU
Tedo JAPARIDZE/Eka Beselia
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Florina-Ruxandra JIPA/Viorel Riceard Badea
Marietta KARAMANLI/Genevičve Gosselin-Fleury
Nina KASIMATI/Georgios Psychogios
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR
Bogdan KLICH/Aleksander Pociej
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR
Alev KORUN/Nikolaus Scherak
Eerik-Niiles KROSS/Andres Herkel
Yuliya L OVOCHKINA/Serhii Kiral
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’/Pascale Crozon
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT
Luís LEITE RAMOS
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE*
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA*
Evangelos MEIMARAKIS/Evangelos Venizelos
Ana Catarina MENDES
Anouchka van MILTENBURG*
Thomas MÜLLER/Roland Rino Büchel
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Jaana PELKONEN/Anne Louhelainen
Cezar Florin PREDA
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO*
François ROCHEBLOINE/André Schneider
Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ*
Milena SANTERINI/Cristina De Pietro
Deborah SCHEMBRI/Joseph Sammut
Paula SHERRIFF/Baroness Doreen Massey
Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis
Jan ŠKOBERNE/Matjaž Hanžek
Krzysztof TRUSKOLASKI/Jacek Osuch
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*
Leyla Şahin USTA/Lütfiye Ilksen Ceritoğlu Kurt
Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Hans Fredrik Grřvan
Mart van de VEN*
Vladimir VORONIN/Maria Postoico
Draginja VUKSANOVIĆ/Snežana Jonica
Katrin WERNER/Annette Groth
Morten WOLD/Ingebjřrg Godskesen
Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN/Marie-Christine Dalloz
Levon ZOURABIAN/Naira Karapetyan
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Ulises RAMÍREZ NÚŃEZ
Miguel ROMO MEDINA
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