AS (2016) CR 26
Provisional edition



(Third part)


Twenty-sixth sitting

Thursday 23 June 2016 at 3.30 p.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.

1. Personal statement

      The PRESIDENT – I call Mr Tuponja to make a personal statement.

      Mr TUPONJA (Montenegro) – Earlier today, during the votes on the recommendations on culture and democracy, I voted against the recommendations by mistake, instead of for them, as was my intention. I strongly support the adopted text. Please record my statement in the minutes of the session.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Tuponja. It is not possible to change a vote, but we have certainly taken note of your explanation. It will appear in our record of proceedings.

2. Debate: Transparency and openness in European institutions

      The PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled “Transparency and openness in European institutions”, Document 14075, presented by Ms Vučković on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights with an opinion presented by Ms Taktakishvili on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Document 14096.

      The speaking time today is limited to four minutes.

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

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – Dear Mr President and colleagues, the report focuses on transparency and openness in European institutions – an issue that also concerns our Organisation – and is based on a motion for a resolution that underlines the direct and indirect ties between industry and European decision makers, especially in the financial sector and the drug and food industries. Thus, it covers activities that fall mainly within the remit of the European Union institutions directly involved in the drafting of European legislation that affects consumers and fixes norms in various branches of industry and the financial sector. That is why a large part of my report is devoted to the question of transparency and openness in the EU.

      Non-governmental organisations such as Transparency International and Corporate Europe Observatory have reported various facts and allegations concerning the pressure exerted by lobbyists on EU decision makers and institutions, conflicts of interest and the “revolving door” policy between the public and private sector. The question of EU institutions’ openness and access to documents has also been the subject of numerous recommendations of the European Ombudsman, who has taken a strong stance on these matters.

      In my report, I referred to some recent stories about abusive lobbying by big multinational companies in EU institutions and problems with conflicts of interests of former officials and members of the European Parliament. I also listed the measures taken by the EU to ensure the transparency and openness of its institutions and its law-making process. It should be stressed that the EU has made improvements in this field in the last few years, particularly by adopting the code of conduct for the commissioners and by creating a joint transparency register for the European Commission and the European Parliament.

      According to civil society and the European Ombudsman, however, these measures are not sufficient and more could be done, particularly by expanding the transparency register to cover the EU Council; by providing more public information on the so-called “trilogues” and the TTIP negotiations; and by making more transparent the composition and work of the expert groups of the European Commission. The “revolving door” strategy of certain former high officials remains an issue.

      Due to its role in regulating the internal market, the EU is very much exposed to opaque lobbying activities. Although the Council of Europe is less targeted by lobbyists, it is not totally immune from their influence. Thus, we should also reflect on what is happening in this context in our Organisation and on whether new rules should be established to guarantee more transparency and openness. That is why a part of my report is about the Council of Europe itself – in particular, about the latest changes to the Rules of Procedure of our Assembly.

      It should be recalled that our Assembly has already adopted a few texts on the regulation of lobbying, such as Recommendation 1908, in 2010, on “Lobbying in a democratic society”, including the so-called “European code of good conduct on lobbying”, and Resolution 1744, in 2010, on “Extra-institutional actors in the democratic system”. Following the latter resolution, in 2013, the Venice Commission prepared a study on “The role of extra-institutional actors in a democratic system.” Moreover, the Committee of Ministers is now finalising the Council of Europe’s legal instrument on the regulation of lobbying activities. The Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents is also a step forward, but unfortunately it has been ratified by only eight countries.

      GRECO regularly examines measures that are taken in member States against corruption and it reflected on the issue of lobbying in its 13th general activity report in 2012. Interestingly, according to the Venice Commission’s 2013 study, there are different levels of regulation in respect of lobbying: low, medium and high. Most Council of Europe member States, as well as the European Parliament and the European Commission, have adopted a low regulatory system.

      To conclude, lobbying is not illegitimate per se, but if it is correlated with secrecy, conflicts of interest, privileged access to decision makers and a disproportionate number of lobbyists, it may undermine democracy and the rule of law. That is why the draft resolution proposes measures to be taken by our Organisation, its member States and the European Union to increase the transparency of decision making and access to documents. Although a number of concrete recommendations have been made with respect to EU institutions, we should not forget about our own problems in our national parliaments and the Assembly. It is especially regrettable that only a few member States of the Council of Europe have so far ratified the Convention on Access to Official Documents.

      The draft recommendation focuses on the need to finalise the legal instrument on the regulation of lobbying activities; to conduct a reflection on the role of extra-institutional actors within the Council of Europe; and to promote the Convention on Access to Official Documents and the EU’s accession to GRECO. I hope that the Assembly will back my proposals, which are of paramount importance not only to our Organisation, the EU and other European organisations, but to our own national parliaments. Thank you for your attention.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, rapporteur. You have six and a half minutes remaining for your reply to the debate.

      I call Ms Taktakishvili, rapporteur of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to present the committee’s opinion.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I thank the rapporteur and congratulate her on her substantial and detailed report. The committee has drafted several amendments, the aim of which is twofold. First, we would like to intensify the wording in relation to some issues. Secondly, given our mandate, we would like to provide input with regard to transparency and the functioning of Council of Europe bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly.

      First, we would like to emphasise the role of non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and the media in making the best use of the information that is often provided in lobbying registers. If they are not able safely to do their work, our transparency will not be used.

      Secondly, we have observed that 70% of the lobbying activity within the European Commission involves experts representing the financial sector. We agree with the recommendation of Transparency International that the advisory expert groups should be more balanced so that they represent all interest groups, including human rights groups. We propose an amendment in that regard.

      Thirdly, I would like to highlight the role of our network of international NGOs with regard to the monitoring of our integrity system. We recommend that the European Union accedes to our conventions, namely the Convention on Access to Official Documents and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. We would also like the European Union to be a member of our prominent anti-corruption mechanism, which is conducted by GRECO. That would bring about a huge change, because GRECO would be able to monitor the activities of the European Parliament, as well as those of our national parliaments.

      I kindly ask members to support the amendments. I thank the rapporteur for the agreements that we have made on the compromise text of the amendments.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, rapporteur, for your opinion. We will now move on to the general debate. I do not see Mr Kox, so I call Mr Schennach.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I thank both rapporteurs for all the work they have done on this report. Transparency and openness are very important in this day and age. For that reason, I congratulate them most warmly. It is positive that both the rapporteurs come from outside the European Union.

      There are a number of areas in which we need greater transparency, openness and access. The report mentions the transparency register and the code of conduct. It is also important that we extend this process to our national parliaments. It is true that lobbying takes place, but we must draw a distinction between the types of lobbying that go on. There is economic lobbying, agency lobbying and state lobbying; there are chambers of commerce, chambers of agriculture and the like; there is lobbying at the federal level or at the level of the Länder or provinces. There is a host of different types of lobbying.

      Nataša spoke about the trilogue procedure. A trilogue is set in motion if a Council does not agree with decisions made by the European Parliament. There are three variants, with an official procedure and an unofficial procedure. The unofficial trilogue procedure is used more widely, but we know next to nothing about what goes on in those unofficial trilogues.

      We have been able to inject a far greater degree of transparency into our national parliaments. The European Commission has to publish its plans on the directives, reports and so on that are in the pipeline. It sends 20 000 files per year to national parliaments. The idea is to ensure that they are all properly distributed. If national parliaments have to deliver an opinion, they will usually do so at a very early stage in proceedings. Once they have delivered a preliminary opinion, the negotiations start. All too often, there is no transparency whatsoever and we do not know what influences are brought to bear on the process and how they affect the final result.

      We here in the Council of Europe, who have called for the registration of NGOs, can set an example in this respect. I really think that what we do is exemplary. This practice might be improved across all European institutions. As I say, I think that the Council of Europe can serve as a role model in this regard.

      Another important part of the report is about what happens when people step down from public office. It should not be possible for them to immediately go and work for a private company. There should be no automatic switching from public to private sectors. There needs to be a cooling-off period. In that way, you do not get conflicts of interest when people serve a period in office. You should not have the situation in which somebody serves a term in office and then immediately goes into the private sector, because that casts doubt on their objectivity.

      We are all aware of the kind of lobbying that is going on about genetic engineering and TTIP, and of the strong interests that are at stake. I am the chair of the EU committee in my parliament. In the case of TTIP, all the negotiations are confidential. I cannot stand here and talk to you about TTIP because it is all taking place behind closed doors and everything is confidential. I can remember the Swedish chair simply putting everything online, which was great. That is the way we should be doing things in Europe. We should not constantly have to keep everything under wraps.

      Mr van de VEN (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – On behalf of ALDE, I would like to congratulate Ms Nataša Vučković on her in-depth report on transparency and openness and to thank Ms Chiora Taktakishvili for giving the opinion of the committee.

      The practice of lobbying is not illegal. Lobbying is a feature of our democratic system. Nevertheless, the common people widely associate lobbying with secrecy and unfair advantage. Lobbying is regularly and justly associated with enterprises and NGOs. The focus of the Council of Europe is on human rights. Nevertheless, lobbying may also extend to our work as members of the Parliamentary Assembly. I therefore congratulate Ms Vučković on starting her work as rapporteur with a fact-finding investigation into international institutions of the EU, where discussions on decisions with huge financial impacts are standard. By doing so she was able to put the issue of lobbying in European institutions into the right perspective, thereby ensuring a better understanding of the issue on the part of the Council of Europe and its members.

      It is clear from Ms Vučković’s excellent report that the Council of Europe already avails itself of instruments for openness and transparency. ALDE derives from the report the conclusion that the Assembly should be more effective in monitoring possible conflicts of interest where its members are concerned. ALDE therefore endorses the conclusion in the report that we should follow more closely the modus operandi of GRECO, while adhering to the standards of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, ALDE endorses the report’s conclusion that NGOs and the media may contribute favourably to transparency and openness in the work of the Council of Europe.

      On behalf of ALDE, I should like once again to thank Ms Vučković and Ms Taktakishvili for an outstanding report and opinion.

      Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I have read the report very carefully and I can agree with many of its conclusions. The starting point, which the report acknowledges, is that lobbying is part of the functioning of a democratic society. We are all, for example, lobbied by the people who voted in our elections. The report also acknowledges that pressure groups include trade unions and consumer groups. These are also lobbyists.

      I welcome the emphasis in the report on encouraging transparency and openness in European institutions – which includes this very Organisation, where former members can be seen acting as lobbyists. The role played by national parliaments in scrutinising European Union legislation makes an important contribution to that. Of course, decision making needs to be undertaken efficiently and with a degree of confidentiality, but there is something in this report for us all to consider.

      What we are trying to tie down in this report is activities that could lead to corruption. There are countries in the world where corruption runs riot. One that I work with closely sees 40% of its oil stolen before the government can get hold of the revenues, making a big difference to the finances of that country. We are not talking about such obvious and flagrant examples of corruption in Europe, but we are talking about a level of secrecy that goes beyond confidentiality and affects decisions that have an impact on us all.

      I support the calls for the EU to take further care of its transparency and openness. One area where I would urge more caution and thought is in the proposals to restrict the activities of MEPs. The report talks of a revolving door between being a lobbyist and being an MEP. One thing it is essential to stop is the carrying out of lobbying activities while still holding office. This is something we have addressed in the UK Parliament. Indeed, ministers, who are the ones with a real level of influence in our parliament, are banned from holding positions for two years after leaving office, so there is a cooling-off period. Only the other day I was talking about a potential project with a former minister who had to back off, saying she was unable to lobby government for two years. Where MEPs have had direct influence over an area, they should have to follow rules on conflicts of interest and access to documents.

      But what is a good rule for one side is also a good rule for the other. I am regularly lobbied by a number of groups that try to galvanise interest from the community at large for a particular action without disclosing who is backing them or where their money comes from. Giving people the knowledge to enable them to make up their own minds demands a level of openness that we currently do not see among these organisations, yet they operate in an openly political way to change public opinion.

      The report touches on an important area for us all, but it is not a straightforward one. I urge the EU to step up its co-operation with the Council of Europe in the fight against corruption and I fully support the calls for the EU to take its decisions in as open a way as possible.

      Mr SHAHGELDYAN (Armenia)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on choosing such an important subject and doing an excellent job of work. This is an important subject for democratic development and regulation, not only for European institutions but at the national and international level too. With globalisation and the growing plethora of stakeholders and political decision makers, regulating the rules of the game in the political sphere is very important.

      Lobbying is an important tool of modern democracy, but it needs to be institutionalised and regulated. There must be financial transparency and anti-corruption measures applied. This is an issue not just in politics but in diplomacy and international co-operation. I agree with many of the positions taken by the rapporteur. At the same time, it would be interesting to study the methods used by States and inter-State lobbyists in international institutions, because there are certain States in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that apply methods that we consider unacceptable. We need much more transparent mechanisms to ensure oversight of these approaches and methods.

      The European Stability Initiative has carried out a study of the murky world of “caviar diplomacy” used by Azerbaijan. This type of Azerbaijani lobbying has been revealed on a number of occasions. The report finds that the lobbying is combating any oversight or examination of political prisoners by international institutions. Caviar diplomacy is also used to disseminate anti-Armenian propaganda. The use of such lobbying within our institutions is politically and culturally unacceptable in the 21st century, and I appeal to colleagues to start the process of modernising our rules to set up obstacles to that modus operandi. We need much more transparency not only on finances but on the methods used by lobbyists. The 21st century is full of potential, but it is also full of problems. We can overcome those problems through greater transparency.

      Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – The report is not the first of its kind, and it will probably not be the last. Politicians have always had a hard time recognising that their own institutions are not as transparent as they would like. Some politicians from large European countries such as Germany even have certain advantages because they get information at the trialogues or in informal negotiations that parliamentarians from smaller countries do not receive, which is not as it should be.

      Let us be honest. Lack of transparency is about power. Having information that others do not have gives you power, which is what lobbying is really about. Lobbyists have their own agenda, and they use politicians’ greed for power to obtain their goals. Politicians should uphold their integrity and not give in to lobbying. We need instruments such as transparency registers and legislative footprints. Even if transparency and the right to open access to information are high on many of our agendas, and even if we try hard to limit the influence of lobbyists on our political work, citizens often suspect that we politicians are not telling everything. Indeed, some of us do not tell everything and have conflicts of interest. Many people believe politicians will never be completely honest and transparent and will always try to hide something. They think that because some of us are not honest, and they are often right.

      Let us not forget that our European institutions consist of politicians like ourselves. Blaming our institutions is really blaming ourselves. We are all human beings and the temptations are numerous, and only by installing regulations and codes will we be protected against the negative impact of irregular lobbying activities. There is often a huge gap between citizens and politicians. The former Greek Minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis, recently said that there is a gigantic lack of democracy in Europe because bureaucracy rules and deals are made behind closed doors. I am afraid that he is right.

      The report lists some relevant examples. We are all aware of lobbying by the tobacco, automobile and chemical industries. We know that scientific experts who advise the Commission often have ties to industry, and the recent charade of setting the criteria for endocrine-disrupting chemicals is fresh in our memory. The criteria were delayed by heavy lobbying in the TTIP negotiations. Indeed, the Commission was condemned by the European Court of Justice in December 2015 for the unacceptable delay in determining strict criteria for endocrine disruptors. The Commission recently proposed criteria that will ban almost none of these chemicals, asking for the highest level of evidence from human research, which is not only difficult to obtain but will always remain a grey area. It is clear which lobbies have dictated those criteria. Similar things happen regularly in relation to food, agriculture and the environment.

      So long as transparency and openness are not fully implemented in European institutions, our European laws will continue to be written by lobbyists. This must stop. Please give your full support to Ms Vučković’s excellent report.

      Mr KANDEMIR (Turkey)* – I thank the rapporteur for her informative report on an interesting topic. The concept of democracy may be defined in different ways, but one of the most commonly accepted definitions is that politics is the art of sharing resources. In that context, lobbying is one of the most important tools through which people increase their share of resources and seek to influence legislators on various issues.

      Our State systems are founded on representative democracy. It must therefore be accepted that individual demands, complaints, opinions and expectations will be communicated to decision makers and lawmakers, which is a legitimate right and activity. The system’s success is therefore based on robust communication between citizens and the State. Lobbying is a key method of communication, but as the report specifically states, such activity mostly happens behind the scenes. Privileged groups that have disproportionate power have significant influence on decision makers, which often leads to unjust treatment of individuals, communities and institutions and a loss of confidence in the State and its laws.

      As the report says, there are widespread problems stemming from lobbying in our member States. To provide social justice it is important that the regulation of lobbying follows the principles of transparency and openness, which will ensure the accountability of people and institutions who are targets of lobbying activities. On the other hand, such regulation should also aim to strengthen pluralism by increasing the democratic participation of citizens. Otherwise we can only obtain results by controlling lobbying activities.

      We must remove the obstacles ahead of individuals and societies, and especially minority groups whose voices are not heard by decision makers. Only in that way can we prevent dominant lobbyists from taking advantage of their economic and political power. In that context the experience of the Council of Europe, European Union institutions and member States can be a good guide for other international organisations and countries. As the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we should continue our effort. I reiterate that the report is both comprehensive and satisfying.

      Mr WOOD (United Kingdom) – Before I start, as this is a debate on openness and transparency, I should declare an interest. I worked in public affairs many years ago. I am not sure that I was a great lobbyist, and I am sure there will be plenty of people who think that I am not much better as a member of parliament. As legislators, however, we all have a responsibility to behave openly and transparently. As people in public life, we are expected to be committed to the highest standards.

      This week I was surprised to hear a committee chair opening a meeting by saying that the meeting was confidential and that the details of proceedings must not be disclosed to the public. Then today we decided to have a committee meeting in camera. I do not know whether that was the right or wrong decision, but we have to accept that it makes it more difficult for us to speak credibly about openness or transparency.

      During the seven years that I spent working in the European Parliament, I was surprised at the scale and intensity of the lobbying industry in Brussels. It was much more prevalent than anything that I have since seen as a member of parliament in Britain.

      As has been said, lobbyists play an important part in the political process, helping to make sure that decision makers are better briefed on issues. One of the oldest civil rights in Britain is the right to petition parliament. However, it is vital that we as parliamentarians and the people we represent are aware of the context in which briefings are made and the interests of those who seek to influence our decisions.

      As my colleague Mr Howell said, lobbying is increasingly done not only by traditional stakeholders such as businesses, trade unions and civil society but by online pressure groups, often with automated campaigns to influence legislators. There is nothing wrong with that use of modern technology, but just as we expect commercial organisations and non-governmental organisations to be clear about who they represent and who funds them, we should expect the same standards from online pressure groups, whether they are lobbying national parliaments or the European institutions. It is time for them to come clean – who is funding them? What are their interests? Only then can our citizens and our parliamentarians put their lobbying campaigns into proper context and be sure that people are not using such organisations to circumnavigate the rules that we rightly and properly put in place to regulate lobbying.

      I congratulate the rapporteur on a thorough report, but I ask that we look a bit more widely at what we mean by lobbying and what action we can take to ensure that we have a comprehensive response to lobbying, whether by orthodox, traditional lobbyists or the new breed of campaign organisations.

      Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – First, I want to reject fully the speech of Mr Shahgeldyan. Once again, I invite our Armenian colleagues to observe transparency and openness.

      There is great importance in the European institutions’ activities to ensure a common Europe based on the rule of law and human rights and liberties. However, there is a difference between how the European organisations look from a distance and how they look from close up, and particularly from inside. Sometimes they look ideal from the outside, but when we see them from the inside we realise that the organisations from which we occasionally need assistance are defective and sometimes need assistance themselves.

      We should acknowledge that a number of European and global organisations are failing to operate as successfully as they did 25 or 30 years ago. If one reason for that is ageing methods of working and the non-application of flexible working mechanisms that would be suitable for the changing world and our changing societies, another important reason is the penetration of undesirable trends into those organisations. For instance, such important dimensions as objectiveness and fairness are not properly observed.

      Since the late 20th century, and especially in the new century, we have increasingly had to talk about the double standards in the activities of European institutions. For instance, in the early 1990s the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions on Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, but it has not taken effective steps towards implementing them in the 20 years since, despite possessing the mechanisms to do so. Nor has it introduced further resolutions containing hard demands. Such things decrease the trust in that influential organisation.

      In 2005, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution officially recognising Armenia as an occupant State, but it has not taken any steps against that member State in the more than 10 years since. Such things undermine the trust in this Organisation’s sincerity and the necessity for it, particularly as we have seen the Council of Europe impose sanctions on other member States in similar cases without delay or hesitation. It is an amazing situation, and it leads me to pose a question: if we are all members of one family, with equal rights, why are there such discriminatory attitudes?

      Such negative manifestations in the activities of the European institutions set a bad precedent for national parliaments. The German Bundestag’s adoption of a resolution recognising the false Armenian genocide, with no historical or scientific grounds, is one of many similar unpleasant deeds.

      I hope members will not find it irrelevant if I finish my thoughts on such a serious topic, at such a serious place, with a story. A man is asked whether he can give an example of a transparent body. He asks what “transparent” means, and is told that it means something that can be seen through from both sides. Naďvely, he responds, “A keyhole”. Such stories carry a certain truth, because transparency should not be the size of a keyhole. It should not be limited. It should be at its full extent.

      We talk about transparency and openness, so we should be able to speak about all painful things without hiding anything. We cannot continue the hypocrisy of claiming transparency and openness while supposing that what is actually happening is invisible. We should not just pay lip service to those ideas and cheapen them through constantly repeating them; instead, they should become the major factors regulating the functioning of the European institutions.

      The PRESIDENT – Mr Reiss and Ms El Ouafi are not here, so I call Mr Vusal Huseynov.

      Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Today we will be voting on an important document that will contribute to increasing the transparency of the European institutions’ work.

      Transparency shines light on dark dealings and decisions that the public do not deserve and should not be subject to. The report reveals the regrettable fact that many member States still lack comprehensive mechanisms to regulate lobbying. In fact, only a very limited number of countries have such mechanisms. That means that the voice of citizens can be manipulated and that democracy is under threat.

      Those in the Chamber know about the power of lobbying and the damage that it can cause if applied with black intentions. We should be at the forefront of addressing the concerns raised in the report, and I hope that it will turn a new page and speed up the application of regulatory mechanisms to lobbying.

      Transparency is also very important for the European institutions, so that they can get public trust. Unfortunately, even though the institutions are guided by high values of democracy and are located in the heart of Europe, they cannot isolate themselves from the negative impact of lobbying. Such lobbying is often not seen, and sometimes it is widely accepted, but the damage it can cause can easily be felt. That has been the experience of Azerbaijan – dirty lobbying campaigns have caused us damage in some of the European institutions, our relations with which we value. Sometimes, we have even been the victim of aggression and occupation by Armenia. That is a well-known fact, accepted by everyone, including the members of this Assembly. We have received unfair treatment, as we witnessed today. When we tell the truth, our Armenian colleagues call it propaganda.

      We should also note that European institutions do not make decisions that only affect internal EU affairs. These decisions also affect States that are not members of the EU, which is why it is very important that people living in the remote areas of Europe – in fact, people living everywhere in Europe – should have access to information about the vested interests involved in the decisions that are made.

      By adopting this draft resolution, our Assembly will send out two major messages. First, we will express our firm stand on this issue and we will do so as an Organisation. We will not tolerate anything like the things we have heard about. In this case, I advise our Armenian colleagues to be very careful in questioning the integrity of this Assembly, including the integrity of those involved in the decisions made in this Assembly.

      The second message, of course, is the assistance that this report will provide. We will be saying that member States can benefit from our resources, the resources of the Venice Commission and the resources of GRECO, and especially from your call to deepen co-operation with GRECO, which has the most experience of combating corruption and increasing transparency.

      I think that this report will contribute significantly to increasing the transparency of the European Union and I thank the rapporteurs very much for the comprehensive report that they have prepared. Once again, I call on colleagues to support it.

      Mr REISS (France)* – I apologise for my late arrival, but I was at the Palais des Congrčs in Strasbourg with the President of the Republic.

      Enabling citizens to have full confidence in institutions is a vital condition for the proper functioning of a modern democracy in today’s world. It is all the more true for European institutions, which have the disadvantage of being at a remove from the citizens of the member States. European institutions also suffer from the inherent complexity of a decision-making process that requires exemplary behaviour to prevent the increase of euroscepticism. Therefore, the excellent report of Ms Vučković is particularly welcome.

      There are two approaches that one can adopt to bring about exemplary behaviour: creating transparency and tackling the issue of corruption. I will address transparency first of all. As is the case with the rapporteur, I welcome the establishment of a common transparency register, shared with the European Parliament and the Commission. I also share the rapporteur’s view that supplementary measures should be adopted to ensure that all interested parties have fair and balanced access to the community institutions. Ordinary citizens should enjoy the same rights of access to the European Commission as Microsoft or Volkswagen, for example. However, the report tells us that currently 90% of meetings of this type are held with corporate lobbyists.

      We need a mechanism to prevent lobbying from leading to corruption. We need to have the code of conduct of the European Parliament amended to create a cooling-off period for Members of the European Parliament who leave the Parliament. The need to prevent conflicts of interest from arising applies a fortiori for European Commissioners and for European civil servants. There is no point in having rules that only apply to elected representatives and do not apply to the officials of the European Commission who wield considerable power. To achieve these objectives, the European Union asked Mr Verheugen, the former Industry Commissioner, to appear before the Volkswagen committee of inquiry in the European Parliament, but he refused to do so, despite it being the express wish of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. That is most regrettable.

      To tackle corruption, the European Union needs to act urgently to change the various legal instruments that have been elaborated on by the Council of Europe as well. I believe that, in particular, GRECO has a role to play here, but its signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights seems to be an ever further and more distant goal. However, the agreement to combat corruption is open to all member States of the Council of Europe, and I also note that the US has ratified the convention.

      The PRESIDENT* – Ms Sotnyk is not here, which means we have come to the end of our list of speakers. We are ahead of time. That being the case, I can give the floor to some other speakers – people who have not yet spoken in the debate. Does anybody wish to take the floor? Apparently not.

      In that case, we will continue and I call the rapporteur to respond to the group spokespersons. You have six minutes and 40 seconds to do so.

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia)* – First of all, I thank everyone who has spoken in this very important debate. I also thank you all for the support that you have expressed.

      (The speaker continued in English.)

      It is good that both rapporteurs – myself and the rapporteur for opinion – are not from countries that are members of the European Union. Why is that? It is because very often in everyday political life in our countries, the European Union is taken as a model. The European Union imposes some standards on our countries and our societies, which is excellent, because we want to become modern, organised, efficient and responsible States and democratic societies. However, we also want to see that such models are applied within the European Union, which we wish to join. That is why our focus on European institutions that make laws and policies is very important, and it is also why I think it is good that we are not from countries that are yet member States of the European Union, although our countries aspire to join it.

      It is very important that we focus on trilogues, on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, on expert commissions and so on. There are a lot of things that should be and could be improved in those areas.

      I also thank Mr Mart van de Ven for his very open expression of support.

      A few colleagues spoke about corruption. Mr John Howell and Petra De Sutter also spoke about secrecy, which enables power; power is somehow achieved with secrecy. However, we certainly do not think that lobbying equals corruption; it is far from being that. What we tried to emphasise in this report is that lobbying is essential in our complex societies, in which so many different needs and interests exist.

      I think there is another way in which we should consider lobbying. I would say that, as representatives of citizens, we have the obligation to be lobbied by them. However, very often they do not have the strength or the influence that big businesses and big organisations have. That is why, although we want to regulate lobbying, we also need to give some more space to ordinary people. I do not like that expression “ordinary people”; I mean those citizens whom we must represent and whose voices we have to amplify in our societies and in our institutions. We also need to consider that when we speak about regulating lobbying.

      In this report, we address the EU institutions, as well as the Council of Europe and its mechanisms. There are other European institutions that we might have focused on in our report, but somehow we selected those that make laws and binding regulations. However, I consider that the essential message of this report and of this debate is that we must work together in our institutions and intensify our co-operation, building on our experience, our acquis and on the valuable expertise that we already have in this field in various organisations.

      I want to thank the rapporteur for her excellent report and for her support. I also thank the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and its secretariat for their excellent contribution and commitment.

      The PRESIDENT* – Mr Destexhe, as chairperson of the committee, do you wish to reply? If so, you have two minutes.

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank Ms Vučković for her excellent work on this complex and sensitive issue. It concerns not only European institutions, including the Council of Europe, but us and our national parliaments. Of course, this remarkable work is not the end of the story; many of these issues will need further work in future. I also thank Ms Taktakishvili and the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for their constructive proposals, which flesh out and improve the text produced by our rapporteur.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Destexhe.

      The debate is closed.

      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution to which four amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation to which four amendments have been tabled.

      I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the following amendments, which we unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. The amendments are 1 and 3 to the draft resolution, and 6 and 7 to the draft recommendation.

      Is that so, Mr Destexhe?

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – Yes.

      The PRESIDENT* – Are there any objections? That is not the case.

      Amendment 1, 3, 6 and 7 are adopted.

      We come to Amendment 2. I call Ms Taktakishvili to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment seeks to point out a recommendation from a major civil society and expert monitoring organisation – Transparency International – that the composition of the European Commission’s expert group should be more balanced and that the process of consultation should be more transparent.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – The amendment was rejected.

      The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 2 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 4. I call Ms Taktakishvili to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment was prompted by remarks made by our prominent colleagues from the United Kingdom. It states that we should be more effective in monitoring conflicts of interest and that we should ensure the implementation of the instruments that we already have. We are seeking more transparency in our contacts with lobbying groups.

      The PRESIDENT* – We now come to the sub-amendment. I call Ms Vučković to support the sub-amendment.

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – We just want to change the order of the words “Council of Europe staff” and “members of the Assembly” in the second sentence of amendment 4, so that it reads “members of the Assembly and Council of Europe staff”.

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

      What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia)* – I am obviously in favour.

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

      I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

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

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – The committee is in favour.

      The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 4, as amended, is adopted.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14075, as amended. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 14075, as amended, is adopted, with 52 votes for, 0 against and 2 abstentions.

      We now come to the draft recommendation. Amendments 6 and 7 have been adopted. The remaining amendments will be taken in the order in which they are published in the compendium of amendments. I call Ms Taktakishvili to support amendment 5.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment calls on the Committee of Ministers to draft a regulatory impact analysis of the need for a new regulation on lobbying in Council of Europe member States.

      The PRESIDENT* – We now come to sub-amendment 1. I call Ms Taktakishvili to support the sub-amendment.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – As the mover of the main amendment, I agree that we should not replace the comparative study in the recommendation with a draft regulatory impact analysis but rather should add the regulatory analysis to the existing text.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? No. What is the view of the author of the original amendment?

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I am in favour.

      The PRESIDENT* – The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is obviously in favour of the sub-amendment.

      I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      We now return to the original amendment. Does anyone wish to speak against amendment 5, as amended? That is not the case.

      What is the view of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights?

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium) – The committee is in favour.

      The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 5, as amended, is adopted.

      Amendments 6 and 7 were adopted unanimously. I therefore call Ms Taktakishvili to support amendment 8 on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. You have 30 seconds.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment aims to highlight the reference to the European Union’s commitment, already expressed, to more transparency and more balanced representation of interest groups. It relates to the committee’s call to the Committee of Ministers to advance negotiations with the European Union on its accession to the Convention on Access to Official Documents.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Vučković.

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – We agree with the amendment in substance, but we should bear in mind that it would amend a recommendation addressed to the Committee of Ministers, which is not the right place to call for the European Commission’s documents. I agree with the substance, but this is not the right place.

      The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?

      Mr DESTEXHE (Belgium)* – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 8 is rejected.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 14075, as amended. A two-thirds majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 14075, as amended, is adopted, with 57 votes for, 0 against and 1 abstention.

3. Joint debate: The nature of the mandate of members of the Parliamentary Assembly and Parliamentary immunity: challenges to the scope of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by members of the Parliamentary Assembly

      The PRESIDENT* – We now come to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. The first is titled “The nature of the mandate of members of the Parliamentary Assembly”, Document 14077, presented by Ms Vučković; the second is titled “Parliamentary immunity: challenges to the scope of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by members of the Parliamentary Assembly”, Document 14076, presented by Ms Palihovici.

      I call Ms Vučković, rapporteur, to present the first report. Each of the rapporteurs has 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and replying to the debate.

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – The basic principle of a parliamentary democracy is that parliamentarians are independent and do not take instructions. In Council of Europe member States, national parliamentarians have a representative mandate that has the distinction of being general, free and irrevocable. They are considered to be able to exercise their mandate freely without being bound by any undertakings, orders or instructions from their voters or issued by their party or political group in the parliament. But to what extent are Assembly members really independent in relation to their national delegations or political parties? Do they have to stick to the positions agreed by the political groups within the Assembly? Does a refusal to hold the position of or follow a decision by their political party or political group open the door to sanctions?

      In recent years, some Assembly members have, with increasing openness, voiced concerns over pressures put on them in their national delegation, their national parliament, their political party or their Parliamentary Assembly political group. Examples abound.

      Assembly members enjoy a protected status. They discharge their mandates freely and independently and may express their opinions freely, in particular in votes. However, this principle of independence and freedom of expression is being undermined, as demonstrated by some examples in the report.

      The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has discussed several cases of political pressure being exerted on Assembly members, disclosing typical types of abuse, in particular: the misuse of the rules of procedure of national parliaments to restrict travel or prevent the participation of a delegation member in a part-session or an Assembly committee meeting; the practice under which certain members, in particular substitutes, are excluded from any participation in Assembly activities for budgetary reasons; and the politically motivated replacement of members of delegations, which, on the pretext of individual resignations or an overall renewal of membership, might reveal a sanction in disguise. Members will probably all also be aware of other cases that have not been mentioned in the report.

      As one national parliamentarian succinctly put it during a seminar organised by the Inter- Parliamentary Union in 2005, “in order to carry out our functions, we must be able to freely express ourselves without fear of reprisal from any quarter. That is a condition sine qua non for ensuring the independence of the parliament itself and the separation of powers…However…freedom of expression, which every parliamentarian must enjoy, can be seriously limited by party discipline, which may involve sanctions, even including the loss of the parliamentary mandate. Party discipline may have the effect of preventing parliamentarians from speaking on behalf of their constituents”.

      Assembly members should not be bound by any instructions from their national delegations, political parties or political groups. That is a vital safeguard. This is also a vital issue at national level for parliamentarians in several countries where the ruling party is seeking to promote its position at all levels and in an absolute manner.

      The great majority of members of the Parliamentary Assembly sit not only as members of a national delegation but as part of a political group to which they have declared their affiliation. It is entirely legitimate for political groups to seek to ensure that their members abide by a common stance on certain issues. With regard to members’ compliance with their parties’ or political groups’ stances or decisions the consequences are automatic and – notwithstanding the principle of freedom of opinion, which is a fundamental value in democratic societies – lack of loyalty exposes the members concerned to sanctions by their groups.

      The draft resolution submitted to the Assembly intends to promote a set of essential principles that aim to introduce a proper balance between parliamentarians’ freedom of opinion and right to vote as they wish on the one hand, and respect for the political obligations that flow from membership of a political party or group on the other.

      As national elected representatives, parliamentarians are mandated by their electorate to act in the general interest, albeit with respect for the political values professed by their political party. As members of the Assembly, they undertake to adhere to the fundamental objectives and principles of the Council of Europe and – to the extent that they are affiliated to one of the five political groups of the Assembly, and that the rules of procedure or statutes of the group, where they exist, so provide – to promote the group’s objectives, values and principles. To analyse the nature of the mandate of Assembly members, we have to look at the regulations that apply to them as national parliamentarians – a free mandate of a representative nature or a binding mandate; a professional or a non-professional mandate; a general mandate or otherwise – as specified by their countries’ constitutions or in legislative provisions or regulations.

      Each year, the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs compiles a report assessing the participation of Assembly members, with precise records and statistics, to draw the attention of national delegations to the need to increase the participation of their members in Assembly sessions and committee meetings. In this context, there is the issue of substitutes in delegations and alternates in committees. In some delegations, members have to complete a bureaucratic obstacle course to participate in the Assembly’s sessions. As far as participation by members is concerned, budgetary considerations should not take precedence over all others and, in particular, should not be allowed to hinder the participation of substitutes who perform specific functions, such as rapporteurs.

      The purpose of this report is not to assess the state of representative democracy in Europe, but, more simply, to consider the reality of the parliamentary function through the conditions of office of elected representatives at both the general level of the functioning of national parliaments and the more specific level of the functioning of our Parliamentary Assembly. In the light of national parliaments’ rules of procedure, or in the absence of such rules, for the appointment of national delegations, the composition of committees and the participation of their members in Assembly sessions and committee meetings, there is a need to apply a number of principles to promote good practice based on a proper balance between freedom of opinion in parliamentary votes and respect for the political obligations that flow from membership of a political party or group.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Vučković. You have five minutes 47 seconds remaining to respond later in the debate. I call Ms Palihovici, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

      Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova) – The report I am presenting today touches on the very essence of the work of elected representatives. It reflects on the boundaries of our responsibility, the extent of our rights and the manner in which these rights have to be protected.

      Parliamentary immunity, which is dealt with in my report, remains the strongest tool for protecting the independence of members of parliament in the performance of their duties. Parliamentary immunity in its two forms – non-liability and inviolability – is an ancient and fundamental democratic safeguard and a common European constitutional tradition. Of course, rules on parliamentary immunity vary considerably between European countries according to their traditions and political culture, but, for 300 years, parliamentary immunity has preserved the integrity of parliaments as institutions, their operation and their acts. That is why calling into question the traditional scope of parliamentary privileges and immunities is a matter of great concern.

      In addition, European immunity laid down by the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe and its additional protocol faces a dangerous trend in that changes made to national systems of parliamentary immunity by means of amending or suspending constitutional provisions have, de facto, rendered ineffective the system of protection afforded to Assembly members. For these reasons, the Assembly should take a fresh look at the system of parliamentary immunities in Europe, about which the last substantial report dates back to 2003.

      The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has evaluated the current rules at both national and European level governing the immunities enjoyed by its members. Questionnaires were sent to the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation, and national delegations were asked to present additional information. By studying recent developments, it was possible to assess current trends and to put forward these recommendations. I would like to share with you some of our findings.

      There are a great number of systems of parliamentary immunity in member States, but almost all of them make a distinction between two main categories of immunities – non-liability and inviolability. The two types are quite distinct, and they are therefore regulated and applied in different ways. In theory, non-liability is absolute, permanent and perpetual in nature and, accordingly, cannot be waived. It exempts members of parliament from legal proceedings for votes or opinions expressed in a parliament or in discharge of parliamentary duties, mainly with regard to the words they have spoken. It protects members of parliament against any criminal or civil law proceedings that, outside the context of a parliamentary mandate, would be punishable under criminal law or lead to another liability. There are examples of relative non-liability, in which the right to free speech must “be balanced with other aspects of the public interest and the rights of others”. Some countries have restricted the scope of non-liability so that it does not cover insults, defamation and racist remarks, threats or incitement to violence or crime, but, for the moment, the Venice Commission is still in favour of maintaining national rules on parliamentary non-liability.

      Inviolability – the second component of parliamentary immunity – aims to ensure that the exercise of the parliamentary term of office is not obstructed by legal actions relating to acts carried out by members of parliament merely as citizens. As stated in its 2014 report, the Venice Commission generally considers that rules on parliamentary inviolability are not a necessary part of modern democracy. In a well-functioning political system, members of parliament should enjoy adequate protection through other mechanisms and should not need special immunities of this kind. Moreover, the Venice Commission pointed out another argument against parliamentary inviolability – the principle of equality of all citizens before the law. Indeed, members of parliament are given a special legal protection that other citizens do not have.

      Parliamentary immunity may be open to misuse and it may be used to obstruct justice, especially in connection with the fight against corruption that is under way in many States. If misused, parliamentary immunity may undermine public confidence in parliament and discredit politicians. On the basis of the data in chapter 3.1 of the report, there is a slight trend towards limiting the scope of inviolability in Europe, with 13 of the 47 member States having significantly reduced the scope of inviolability. However, even though parliamentary inviolability is no longer considered an imperative form of protection, given this slight trend towards restricting its scope among member States, it continues to play an important role in countries that do not provide their parliamentarians with adequate means of protection, especially because their judicial and criminal justice system provides insufficient safeguards. In that regard, a line should be drawn between so-called new democracies and those that have reached a certain level of maturity and stability. If the parliamentarians of the old democracies are adequately protected in other ways, those in the new democracies still require immunities to be protected against false charges.

      Finally on parliamentary inviolability, it continues to fulfil its original fundamental roles in a number of countries. Should countries decide to review their system of parliamentary immunity they are invited to take into account the general principles specified in paragraph 12 of the draft resolution. In particular, a revision of the scope and extent of parliamentary immunity must be carefully examined with regard to its objectives, criteria and impact, and it must be based on a rational approach and free from any demagogy or populism.

      Speaking about European immunity, I have to remind Assembly members that in addition to their national immunity they also enjoy European immunity, which they share with members of the European Parliament. The main objective of European immunity is to provide protection against fumus persecutionis: in other words, to reject the presumption that a judicial action at the national level has been brought with the intention of causing a member political damage. That is why it will be up to the Assembly, regardless of the procedure that could take place at national level, also to consider lifting the immunity that its members enjoy under the Protocol of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities.

      Finally, the efficient functioning of the system of European immunity of Assembly members would not be possible without member States being ready to fulfil their international obligations in good faith. By doing so, they prevent restrictions on the free movement of members and cases similar to that of Ms Nadiia Savchenko from occurring in the future.

      I thank all national delegations who have provided the relevant information that I used for the preparation of this report. Special thanks go to the secretariat of the Committee on Rules of Procedure for their valuable assistance in the preparation of the report.

      Thank you for your attention.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Palihovici. You will have four minutes and 40 seconds to answer questions from the speakers.

      (The President continued in French).

      We now begin the general debate, starting with the speeches from the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

      Mr LOGVYNSKYI (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Dear President and colleagues, allow me to congratulate our rapporteurs on their excellent reports, which I am ready to support fully.

      The topic of immunity always interested me as a lawyer and a politician. As a lawyer, I know that immunity as an institution has been criticised in legal doctrines, as it is assumed to be contrary to the fundamental principles of modern constitutional law, such as the principle of equality. As a politician, however, I know that a parliamentarian’s immunity is strictly functional. It is designed to safeguard the rights of our electors, because it allows us to act on their behalf without pressure. The criticism of parliamentary immunity is connected, from my point of view, with the abuse of this privilege by some members of parliament, which I hope does not concern our colleagues in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It is always important to remember that the privileges of members of the Parliamentary Assembly are rights that are absolutely necessary for the due execution of its powers. Individual members enjoy them because the Parliamentary Assembly cannot perform its functions without unobstructed use of the services of its members. We serve the Parliamentary Assembly, and our immunities serve the Parliamentary Assembly accordingly. We support the position of the rapporteurs and call on all member States to respect our immunities, which at the end of the day are beneficial to Europe.

      In this respect it is also important to mention that it follows both from the text of the reports and from the international documents referred to in them that although immunity does not limit members of the Parliamentary Assembly in their freedom of movement, that immunity does not absolve them from the need to obtain a visa, for instance, or from administrative or even criminal responsibility if they violate a national law during unofficial trips that are not authorised by the Parliamentary Assembly. The private and non-authorised trips of Parliamentary Assembly members to unrecognised, occupied or disputed areas such as Crimea should be strongly condemned, given the high sensitivity of the issues at stake, as such trips might create the wrong impression and appear to regularise the status of such a territory, thereby giving false legitimacy to de facto illegal regimes.

      Moreover, such trips should be organised in accordance with national and international legal norms. The functional immunity of a member of the Parliamentary Assembly does not cover these situations. If it did, the whole Organisation would lose its credibility. We should use our immunity to serve the Parliamentary Assembly, not to destroy it.

      Once again, I thank the rapporteurs for their excellent reports, and I repeat that the functional immunity of a member of the Parliamentary Assembly is a pre-condition of his or her efficient work, especially in young or unstable democracies.

      Mr ROUQUET (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – Rapporteurs, on behalf of the Socialist Group I very much welcome the fact that these two excellent reports enable us to deal with essential questions that are rarely debated.

      When it comes to the question of freedom of expression and the actions of members of parliament, we in fact base ourselves on a 19th century approach whereby people acted with full independence. Then political parties came to the fore that have a role to play in the proper running of a democracy.

      Like Ms Vučković, I believe that we need to find a proper balance between the freedom of members of parliament and the respect for commitments that arise from party allegiance. We must of course be aware of the severe budgetary constraints of certain parliaments. Perhaps I could cite the example of France, which enables full and substitute members fully to attend meetings of the Assembly and its committees. We see from our statute and our rules that it is national parliaments that are held responsible for authorising the accredited members of their delegation to attend the Parliamentary Assembly until they are replaced by a successor.

      When it comes to the continuity of the work of our Assembly, it is important to bear in mind, when elections take place in the same period in a series of countries, that members of the Parliamentary Assembly are not here, quite self-evidently, to carry out the instructions of their governments. We are talking very much about parliamentary immunity, which I believe constitutes an important safeguard for opposition in some countries. In fact, it is an important guarantee in all our countries. The risk is not limited to the actions of the majority of the government vis-ŕ-vis the opposition. In contemporary society, it is very easy to undertake actions against anyone. Therefore, it is important to enjoy a degree of protection against abuse. Today, a member of parliament is far more likely to find themselves accused of a particular charge than an ordinary member of the public.

      We are also talking about inviolability: the fact that a member of parliament may not lose their liberty, which applies only during the mandate in the case of France. It is not observed if a definitive conviction is handed down. Of course, inviolability relates only to actions linked directly to the nature of the mandate. We also have to face public opinion and the media.

      There is another angle, which is just as important: the freedom of movement of members of the Parliamentary Assembly throughout the member States. Contrary to the rules, a number of States have drawn up blacklists of members of parliaments who are not allowed into their territory. This is unacceptable, and I believe that our Assembly must react more forcefully than it has in the past to such exclusions. A country practising such a method is not at home in our midst. It is a matter of our credibility.

      Mr van de VEN (Netherlands, spokesperson of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Today’s joint debate is on two reports concerning the core of our status as members of the Parliamentary Assembly. Our status when contributing to the work of the Assembly is defined by immunities, privileges and the nature of our mandate. ALDE welcomes the report on parliamentary immunity by Ms Liliana Palihovici and on the nature of the mandate of members of the Parliamentary Assembly by Ms Nataša Vučković.

      Our status as members of the Parliamentary Assembly can be traced as far back as the great Greek poet Homer, who lived around 750 B.C. In his famous poems, the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”, the envoy was regarded as sacrosanct. The ancient Greek word for envoy is “angelos” – now “angel’ in English. Today, our status as members of the Assembly is dictated by functionalism and is not sacrosanct. As members, we should be in a position to speak freely and to act unhindered and in an unbiased way. We should be in a position to fulfil our function as members of the Assembly in representing citizens of democratic States, and we should respect and honour the word of our fellow members, but we should also speak firmly, loudly and clearly if we think that human rights are at stake.

      Privileges and immunities should not be used with impunity – there is no room for abuse of our special rights since we also have special obligations towards the citizens we represent. On the other hand, the lifting of immunity should not be abused. I should like to make a distinction between immunity in fact and immunity in appearance. For members of the Assembly, immunity should exist in appearance and in fact. This double-edged immunity prevents sending States from factually hindering those members of the Assembly who belong to a minority opposition party, especially during a political campaign in their home State. In our Assembly, members of opposition parties in sending states should enjoy a freedom of speech, under their representative mandate, that is general, free and irrevocable, and they should not run the risk of being held accountable when they return to their home State.

      In conclusion, the ALDE group endorses the reports by Ms Palihovici and Ms Vučković.

      Mr ÖNAL (Turkey, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group)* – I extend my deepest gratitude to the rapporteur for this very important report on the mandate of parliamentarians and the effect on national parliaments and political parties.

      As mentioned in the report, it is important to discuss parliamentarians’ freedom of expression in democratic societies. Parliamentary immunity protects parliamentarians so that they can work freely and without pressure. Despite that, however, as is indicated in the report, there might be consequences in practice. When a citizen becomes a parliamentarian, they should not be subject to different rules before the law. Such a thing might create unrest in society. Immunities that aim to protect parliamentarians sometimes create a vacuum in which serious crimes are left unpunished. In such cases, parliamentary immunities have to be revisited and necessary action taken in order that justice might be served.

      As discussed in the report, last month a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Turkish Parliament and the immunities of certain MPs under investigation were lifted. The nature of their crimes has not been discussed and all will now go through the judicial process. I regret the implication in the report that this step was taken against the opposition. The situation is quite the opposite. Whatever their parliamentary affiliation, MPs who have committed crimes must be held to account. As a member of the Justice and Development Party, I know that there is an investigation file on me. I am subject to the same rules and laws in Turkey as anyone else, and therefore I endorse the constitutional amendment.

      Some 682 investigation files are to be considered by the parliament: 212 are about terrorist-related crimes, 201 are about defamation, and the rest cover crimes such as fraud, misconduct, incitement of violence and insult. As you will appreciate, when a person is alleged to have committed such crimes, they should not be exempt from judicial review just because they are a parliamentarian. We cannot allow someone to support terrorism just because they are a parliamentarian or to benefit from immunity if they do so. This would not be in line with the rule of law. Parliamentarians must pay the price for their conduct regardless of their being parliamentarians. If they are innocent, the courts will acquit them.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I congratulate both rapporteurs on their most useful reports and draft resolutions. My group see them as relevant guidance to our Assembly, our national parliaments and our national political groups.

      Ms Vučković’s report on the nature of the mandate of members of the Parliamentary Assembly gives guidance to ensure that members’ representative mandate – as national MPs, members of national delegations and political parties and as members of this Assembly and its political groups – is respected. The resolution is careful not to interfere with national regulations regarding the position of MPs, and we compliment the rapporteur on this. My group will think upon the proposals in the resolution and inform our parties of its contents. I assume that all groups will do the same. I want to pay particular attention to paragraph 14 on the rights of substitute members to our Assembly sent by national parliaments. They, too, should not be hindered in their work, as often happens nowadays, but should be allowed to participate in our meetings and activities. I will inform my group colleagues’ national parties on this point.

      Ms Palihovici’s report on parliamentary immunity gives guidance to member States considering reviewing the system of immunities protecting their members of parliament. This indicates that we are not dealing with an academic question. Several of our members are, or have been, threatened with losing their immunity, and even their freedom. My group supports her six proposals in the draft resolution. With her, we want to underline the specific position regarding the immunity of Assembly members. It is most important that our national parliaments are also aware of that part of the report.

      I welcome the proposal in Amendment 7 to request the opinion of the Venice Commission on the lifting of immunity from almost a quarter – not “some”, Mr Önal – of the members of the Turkish Parliament. The Venice Commission will give us the necessary guidance and that will be important to all our Turkish colleagues. I urge Mr Önal to read the opinion of the Venice Commission very carefully. I want to meet all my Turkish colleagues here in Assembly, not in a Turkish prison.

      All in all, the useful guidance in both reports is most welcome. It can help us and will probably be endorsed by the Assembly. The fact that all these wise proposals come from two female rapporteurs from a committee headed by a female chairperson, with the assistance of two female staff members, and have been presented in a debate chaired by a female President strengthens the idea that, whether we accept it or not, women are indeed the wiser half of mankind.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Kox. We will now proceed with the list of speakers. I call Mr Ghiletchi.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I congratulate both rapporteurs, Ms Liliana Palihovici and Ms Nataša Vučković. Both reports have been very well prepared. They answer many questions and tackle important issues.

      I was glad to hear Ms Vučković emphasise the freedom and independence of parliamentarians, which I believe is very important. I was also glad that freedom and independence were combined with responsibility and accountability. That is expressed very clearly in paragraph 13. That is what we need. It is the key to our having a successful mandate. If we want to have freedom and independence, it is important to ensure that all members of the Assembly are responsible and accountable.

      On immunity, Ms Palihovici rightly mentioned that our systems are different. We have many things in common, but the systems in our countries are different. Because they are different, when we try to draw up principles and send messages to our countries, we need to be more general. Some colleagues want to be more specific, but because we have different systems, we need to stay general.

      I agree with the statement, which some colleagues have mentioned, that immunity does not mean impunity. We know that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely, so we need to have checks and balances. For me, it is important that we do not give up on immunity. We need to have clear regulations on how to lift immunity, so that parliamentarians feel responsible for what they do and say. That is very important.

      For example, we found ourselves in an interesting situation in Moldova. We decided to limit the immunity of parliamentarians and judges, but the constitutional court said that we could not touch judges. Judges kept what they had, but said it was okay for parliamentarians. We need to be aware that we are under a great deal of pressure. If we want to ensure that parliamentarians are free to tackle serious problems in society, they need this protection. Without this protection, it is difficult to address complicated issues.

      I agree with some limitations in respect of freedom of speech, especially nowadays when we see the tendencies of populism and extremism. I have a small objection in respect of hate speech. So far, hate speech has not been very clearly defined. Incitement to hatred and violence is an important matter, but we need to stick to this, otherwise I am afraid that if we limit the use of some expressions, we will limit or censor our criticism. We need to be careful about such attitudes.

      In conclusion, making politicians more vulnerable does not make them more accountable. We need to ensure that we have very clear rules so that parliamentarians are protected and have immunity, but are also accountable. At the end of the day, they are accountable to their electorate and to those who voted them into parliament.

      Thank you for the reports; they deserve our support.

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine)* – I thank Liliana Palihovici and Nataša Vučković for their excellent work and for the well-prepared resolutions.

      The institution of immunity is a distinctive feature of our parliamentary system. It was not created recently, but has deep roots. That is no coincidence. The member of a national parliament in a democratic society is entrusted with a representative mandate by the voters. It is not an imperative mandate. Naturally, we can have a discussion about where the limits of immunity should be, but I remain convinced by the fundamental doctrine of parliamentary immunity, which appears in the Statute of the Council of Europe and is provided for in the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe.

      It is crucial to note that there is freedom of movement and a guarantee of judicial and general non-liability, which protects parliamentarians from any judicial or non-judicial prosecution for their votes, political actions or opinions expressed while exercising their parliamentary functions. A parliamentarian may not be arrested, their liberty may not be limited and they may not be subjected to judicial prosecution outside their national jurisdiction.

      On that last aspect, namely supranational immunity, it is worth mentioning the example of our colleague who is with us in this Chamber today, but who very recently was illegally arrested and imprisoned by the blood-stained regime of Putin. I refer, of course, to Nadiia Savchenko. As members of this Assembly, we represent our respective parliaments, but in our relations with other countries, we act not only as representatives of our national parliaments, but as representatives of this international institution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That is why the issue of supranational immunity is so crucial in this case. This example of the violation of its own international obligations by the Russian Federation bears witness to its lack of respect for the institution of international parliamentary immunity, even though this country, like every other member State of the Council of Europe, is duty bound to act in conformity with the provisions of the Statute of the Organisation and the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities.

      Immunity is irrevocable and unconditional by its very nature. That means that we cannot deprive ourselves of it voluntarily and that we enjoy it from the very first day of our term of office as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Nadiia Savchenko won a representative mandate after the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in October 2014, the new delegation of Ukraine to the Assembly was constituted in December 2014 and her mandate was approved at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly in January 2015. As of that day, our colleague was under the protection of the institution of international immunity. Yet, at that very time, she was subject to illegal judicial prosecution by the Russian Federation.

      Had we been dealing with a democracy, where respect for human rights is an important value and the functioning of democratic institutions is the basis for the rule of law, we would not be discussing this matter. In cases of political imprisonment, the institution of international immunity should realise its protective mission. In this regard let me refer to the example of my country, Ukraine, where, under the presidency of Mr Kuchma, the authorities released the owner of one of the main opposition dailies after his election to the Parliamentary Assembly.

      I thank Ms Palihovici and Ms Vučković for doing an excellent job of work.

      Mr TORNARE (Switzerland)* – Like my predecessors, I wish to thank the two rapporteurs for their excellent report.

      There are two topics we are dealing with this afternoon. One is the mandate of parliamentarians in general. For me, immunity constitutes an intrinsic value connected to that mandate. The mandate of parliamentarians was defined a long time ago. Its principles are based on a regulatory and legislative arsenal that we are familiar with, varying over the centuries and from country to country, pursuant to history, culture and so forth, with variants, it must be admitted, that are not always entirely satisfactory. But in order to join our common house here we should apply clear and intangible principles – those that created the base of European democracy, of which we should be proud, but which we of course have to adapt. This is what distinguishes us from totalitarianism.

      Many of these principles guarantee freedom, independence and autonomy – “autonomy” in Greek means having one’s own movement – and this builds the mandate of parliamentarians. I cannot mention them all, but the first of these principles is the separation of power. The executive should not intervene in the discussions of parliamentarians, just as it should not intervene in the debates of the judiciary. This is a principle that Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from my city, defined in their time. These are principles that are universal, whatever else may be said.

      Secondly, we are talking about guaranteeing parliamentarians satisfactory remuneration. The great Talleyrand said that if you do not pay parliamentarians well, it will cost you more. A moment ago we were talking about lobbying. When lobbyists are connected to parliamentarians, they will always vote pursuant to what they earn and not what they think. This is not admissible and does guarantee the independence or autonomy of parliamentarians. It is the canker of democracy.

      The rapporteur mentioned the clever articulation – this is political art – between obligations binding towards a party or group and the freedom of choice of parliamentarians. Some parties, even in my country, have removed parliamentarians from this Assembly who did not comply with partisan orders. This is inadmissible and I denounce it – it has happened in my country and others, too. The connection between a certain regulatory or partisan determinism and freedom of choice, as St Thomas Aquinas would say, is deserving of in-depth reflection, with far clearer rules. This would require days of thinking and reflection.

      The fourth principle – it has just been mentioned and in my view is intangible – is parliamentary immunity. Why did they establish immunity in France from 1789 right up to 1792, during the Convention? It was to guarantee themselves against the absolutist, totalitarian authority of the king. This is a guarantee that allows parliamentarians to exercise their freedom and also to represent not only themselves, but the electors – unfortunately they were only men at the time – who elected them. It is also a guarantee of the separation of powers. We can see that, unfortunately, history repeats itself. We have said it already, but in some countries – those that are heading towards populism – immunities are being lifted. What we have to opt for is a case-by-case approach, but immunity for groups or collective immunities is inadmissible. Such a measure is an attack on parliamentarianism. It is the honey that populist executives avail themselves of in order to become stronger.

      Let me finish with a quotation, which was mentioned the other day, from the Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Mr Martin Chungong, who said in Geneva: “At a time of increased polarization, it is all the more important that the Parliament verifies carefully that peaceful and legal political activities by…MPs are not presented as evidence of criminal and terrorist acts.” We should follow what he said.

      Ms KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR (Turkey) – I recently came across a speech by Mr Tiny Kox from 2012. He was calling upon the Assembly to stop allowing our countries to imprison or threaten elected members of parliament and to ensure that all members of the Assembly can properly participate in the work they were elected for. He was referring to Mr Kürkçü, who is here among us today.

      Today the situation is a lot more serious than in 2012. The immunity bill, which allowed the prosecution of 139 MPs, was voted for in parliament and immediately passed. However, it is clear to anyone who reads the debates on the bill, led by President Erdoğan, that it openly and specifically targets our party. The bill paved the way for the prosecution of 55 of the 59 HDP MPs, mostly for their statements. This corresponds to 93% of the HDP’s parliamentary representation.

      I am one of the 55 HDP MPs whose immunities have been lifted. A case has been launched against me on charges of “violating the law on assembly”, as, with at most 100 women, we tried to make a press statement. We intended to call on the government to stop the ongoing war and to put an end the war on women’s bodies, as the lifeless, naked bodies of women who had been killed were served up to social media by so-called security personnel. As a practising lawyer of 30 years, the stripping of immunities and opening of files on charges of making a public statement reminds me of the 1980 Turkish coup d’état.

      The Peoples’ Democratic Party, which started and continues its work under the slogan “A woman’s party” and 40% of whose parliamentary deputies are female, has drastically increased the rate of female deputies in general. The HDP is also the representative in parliament of women struggling for peace and women’s rights. All female deputies have now been stripped of their immunity. This is because the immunity bill, which allows the prosecution of all of us, is also an attack on the women’s movement.

      The HDP represents the Kurdish political opposition, Alevi and Christian groups and other marginalised ethnic communities, labour and women’s organizations, the LGBTI community and ecology groups, who have come together around values such as human rights, pluralist democracy, peace, justice, and equality.

      This coup is a firm step towards replacing Turkey’s already weak parliamentary democracy. In this critical context, we invite the Council of Europe, which embraces universal democratic values, to observe the political and legal process in Turkey and to stand in solidarity with our struggle against this totalitarian attack on the HDP and the political future of our country.

      Mr KANDEMIR (Turkey)* – I congratulate the rapporteurs on their excellent reports. In a democratic society, the ability of parliamentarians to freely express their opinions is an important right, but that right is sometimes limited for reasons of internal party discipline – a kind of self-censorship – and a high level of self-censorship can stifle internal debate. It is important that national parliaments make facilities available so that our participation in Parliamentary Assembly activities is not limited.

      I have found a number of errors in the report. The explanatory memorandum’s comment on the changes to the Turkish delegation at the start of 2014 following protests in 2013 is factually wrong. According to an internal rule, the composition of the delegation changes every two years, so such changes are routine. It has nothing to do with punishing parliamentarians.

      The Assembly has talked much about parliamentary immunity in Turkey. It is important that the public continue to have confidence in parliament and that immunity should not be exploited by certain members of parliament. Immunity is necessary to protect parliament, rather than to undermine it. Protecting the rights and duties of parliamentarians is an important principle about which many people have spoken.

      In Turkey there has recently been a vote on changing the right of immunity, and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of the legislation so that some members of parliament can be prosecuted. If a society is preoccupied by certain issues, as we have recently seen in Germany – I convey my best wishes to the German people – and if terrorist groups such as Daesh or the PKK are carrying out bloody activities to undermine the values that we hold dear, steps must be taken if members of parliament speak out in defence of such acts or activities.

      Charges have been brought against members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly whose immunity has been lifted. Arms that were to be delivered to the PKK were found in the car of one member. Another member was due to attend the funeral of a suicide bomber. Those are only allegations, and the courts will decide whether those members are guilty of misconduct. We do not want to see any parliamentarians end up in prison. It is important that parliamentarians are able to speak out in all forums, on the condition that they do not speak out in support of terrorism.

      Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – I thank the rapporteurs for their reports on parliamentary immunity. I stress that non-liability and inviolability are extremely important for every parliamentarian in this Assembly and in national assemblies. In any democratic country the lifting of such immunities is only acceptable in extreme cases and should not be normal or routine. Immunity is a right gained after hundreds of years of struggle between parliaments and absolute monarchs. We cannot leave aside that right as unnecessary or restrictable – lifting immunity should not be discussed, particularly in member States of the Council of Europe that are in the post-monitoring process. The administrative and political mechanisms of such countries bear the marks of years, decades or even a half-century of repression. Countries such as Turkey should not play with immunity as if it were part of civil law. Parliamentary immunity is necessary for protecting not only the right of free speech in parliament but the right to act as a parliamentarian. It is about the freedom to travel from home to the parliament building. We should be able to walk, think and speak without fear, but we are faced with a crude violation of centuries of tradition.

      Parliamentary immunity should not be lifted at the same as parliament is giving military personnel absolute impunity. Justice is being rigged for the so-called crimes committed by parliamentarians at the same time as army officers, soldiers and policemen are being given absolute impunity – court cases can only be initiated by the prime minister. That cannot be sincere or valid; it is sinister, cynical and unacceptable. I ask the Assembly to listen to Turkish colleagues. By stressing the importance of parliamentary immunity, you will be supporting the freedom of the Turkish people and the Turkish Parliament from repression and absolute power.

      Ms KOBAKHIDZE (Georgia) – I thank the rapporteurs for their reports on parliamentary immunity. In the modern world, immunity is the most important political and legal instrument granted to members of parliament to strengthen their independence and to minimise the risk of political pressure. When considering constitutional practices and regulations, it is necessary to ensure an active exchange of opinions to further refine the standards expected of members of parliament when exercising their powers.

      I consider it appropriate to comment on what the report says about the situation in Georgia. It states that an amendment to the criminal procedure code of Georgia made in May 2014 was an act directed against an opposition member of parliament, aimed at undermining his immunity. That is absolutely not true, and I am sure that it was submitted by the Georgian opposition. The amendment to the code instead served the sole purpose of bringing the law into full compliance with the Georgian constitution.

      To give more detail, in April 2004 one component of parliamentary privilege – the requirement of prior consent of the parliament for depriving a member of parliament of immunity from criminal prosecution and starting criminal proceedings against him or her – was removed from the constitution of Georgia. The criminal procedure code was amended accordingly soon afterwards. Later, in 2010, the then governing party, the United National Movement, reinstated the relevant provision in the criminal procedure code, in spite of the fact that it contradicted the constitutional provisions. It established boundaries that were not envisaged in the constitution, which resulted in a legislative collision.

      I have outlined clearly the Government of Georgia’s real motivation for the amendments made in 2014. Amendments to legislation can no longer be used as instruments of persecution against any citizen or member of parliament in Georgia. We remain firmly committed to building a free, democratic State where human rights are upheld and protected.

      I remind the Assembly that parliamentary immunity is neither a pure privilege nor a shield against being held liable for a violation of the law. Instead, with the parliamentary privileges that we enjoy, we become the bearers of the greatest responsibility to the State and society for displaying exemplary law abidance and being model citizens.

      Mr VLASENKO (Ukraine) – I congratulate both rapporteurs on their excellent job and thank them for raising the issues covered in their reports. I want to say a special thank you to Nataša Vučković, who used my personal case as an example of the violation of parliamentary immunity.

      The violation of the immunity of a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is an important topic, but the rapporteur mentioned only half of my case. In 2013, even though I was an active member of parliament and an elected member of this Assembly, the previous Ukrainian regime would not allow me to leave the country and participate in the Parliamentary Assembly’s session. I am grateful to the Assembly for reacting immediately by adopting a decision on the issue. That was politically very helpful, but it was not effective. As a person being politically persecuted, I had no practical help from this Assembly. Maybe we should consider some new effective mechanisms to help our members who suffer political persecution.

      Maybe people will say, “Oh, the Ukrainians are standing up and talking about sanctions again”, or whatever. Maybe they will be right, or maybe we as Ukrainians know better than them what tyranny is. Just two and a half years ago we had an authoritarian regime in our country, and today we have a conflict with a country that could not be described as democratic. We have great experience in fighting tyranny. Perhaps some new mechanism should be established to avoid the violation of the immunity of members of the Assembly.

      Of course, the latest example of such violation is the case of Nadiia Savchenko. When a member State of the Council of Europe fails to recognise the immunity of a member of the Assembly, that is absolutely unacceptable. We passed a lot of resolutions about Nadiia Savchenko’s case, participated in negotiations and put pressure on, and we got a result. She was imprisoned for two years, and it was obviously politically motivated. Thank God, Nadiia is alive and with us, but in another case it could be too late after two years. Someone whose rights are obviously violated should receive some help.

      I once more thank the rapporteurs for their brilliant job and for raising very important issues.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. That concludes the list of speakers.

      I call Ms Palihovici, rapporteur, to reply. You have five minutes left.

      Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova) – Colleagues, thank you for your appreciation of the report that I have presented today. From today’s speeches, we can see the differences between each country in the level of democracy and in how parliamentary immunity is seen.

      Modifications to national legislation on parliamentary immunity should be made in the most democratic way possible. They should be debated publicly and examined by the Venice Commission and other highly trusted international institutions. Such modifications should lead to people having more trust in parliamentary institutions. If they gave people less trust, that would then lead them to have less trust in State institutions and in their country’s democratic future.

      Today’s speeches have shown that the subjects of both reports are not academic but affect people in a concrete way, especially active members of parliament, who must not have fear about speaking out on issues that are uncomfortable for many people in their own country.

      Rules on parliamentary immunity are based first and foremost on the need to protect the principle of representative democracy. Such immunity can be justified to the extent that it is necessary to ensure that the elected representatives of the people can fulfil their democratic functions effectively without fear of harassment or undue interference by the executive, the courts or political opponents.

      I totally agree with Mr Ghiletchi, who mentioned the case of Moldova today when we were speaking about modifications to legislation and comparing attempts to maintain immunity for MPs and judges. That should not be analysed in a selective way; it should be analysed from the perspective of a real democracy. This is one more reason why I said in the report that there are differences between all democracies, or between traditional democracies and new democracies. The new democracies should learn from the traditional democracies what the activity of parliamentarians means and how real parliamentary activities should be implemented.

      Colleagues, I really hope that you will support and vote in favour of this resolution and this recommendation, and that all countries will respect all the resolutions and recommendations that we approve today. I also hope that MPs in all 47 member States of the Council of Europe will feel free to speak and to speak in the interests of their citizens – those who have voted for them. Finally, I hope that this resolution and this recommendation will also create more trust in our Assembly.

      The PRESIDENT – Ms Vučković, as rapporteur you also have six minutes remaining to reply, if you wish to do so.

      Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – I also thank all those who have participated in this debate, which is already running very late.

      I agree with all of those who understood that it was important that we established the right balance between the extent to which we abide by our political parties, national delegations, parliamentary groups and so on. There is no clear recipe for how to do that; it is a challenge that we face every day in our political lives. However, the principle of honesty and an understanding of our constituents and their needs should be our guiding values in resolving that problem. These are not doctrinal questions, although of course colleagues examine these relations.

      Today, we in the Rules Committee had a debate on various topics and then the Secretary General of our Assembly said, “Well, it is not only our written rules that we should follow. We should also explore what are the concepts behind the regulations that we impose on ourselves.” I must say that there are a lot of differences between our member States and our societies about what we understand regarding the concept of following the rules and the regulations that exists in Britain.

      Very often when we speak with each other, we see that there are very big conceptual differences between, let us say, what Scandinavian countries think about what is allowed or not allowed, separate from the written regulations, and what the view is in our more Mediterranean countries, or in those countries that we call new democracies, and so on. We still have a lot to do in establishing and rooting our democracies.

      However, we are all together, whatever the differences in our democratic histories and traditions. Today we are all faced with one common challenge, which is the rise of extremism and populism. We are increasingly faced with the danger that we will have to act in response to the demands of extremism and populism. We have to deal with that challenge and fight against the demand that we should all abide by some imagined national interest. Every single member of parliament should be able to determine what their national interest is and how he or she understands it. That is actually democracy, and this report and the immunity report of Ms Palihovici address that.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Vučković.

      Ms Maury Pasquier, you have four minutes remaining if you wish to speak.

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Colleagues, the two reports that we are debating today allow us in a timely manner – in the light of recent developments – to remember how important it is that we allow ourselves, as parliamentarians, to express our decisions freely through our votes. Of course, that means not that parliamentarians are above the law, but that no form or pressure and no threat of sanction, be it governmental, party-based or one imposed in a majority versus minority situation, can be used to constrain our independence or our freedom of expression and action, and thereby prevent us from discharging the mandate entrusted to us by our electorate.

      Thank you, Ms Vučković and Ms Palihovici, for your outstanding work, and for the clear, lucid and strong statements that you have made today, enlightening us about the rules and about the lessons that we need to follow to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

      The PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.

      The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has presented a draft resolution, to which five amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in numerical order.

      I call Mr Ghiletchi to support Amendment 1. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I will just move this amendment and I would like to hear what the Committee thinks about it.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anybody wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Schennach to speak against the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The amendment and the following amendment are always seeking to include references to the national interests of the parties, which is a mistake. We are here in a European Assembly and we should leave our national interests back at home. Everybody has their convictions and all those are now being brought here, so that people are arguing that the members of the Council of Europe should take care of national interests. That is not the way to act as a member of the Council of Europe.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The committee is against the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 1 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 2. I call Mr Ghiletchi to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I would like to move this amendment as well, but again I do now know what the fate of the amendment was in the committee. However, I am happy to move it.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Schennach to speak against the amendment. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The situation is the same as with Amendment 1. We can all send ambassadors to represent the State, but we are members of our parliaments from the opposition or from the government, and we only have to represent ourselves and work in political committees here. We are not representing the interests of the State. Please remember what it is like when Armenia and Azerbaijan are being discussed. Do you want that to be the case for all of us?

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The Committee is against the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 2 is rejected.

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

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I will try, although I do not know how successful I will be – I do not think I have a choice. I move this amendment.

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

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Having listened to Mr Ghiletchi’s arguments, I think that there are many more reasons not to adopt this amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 3 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 4. Mr Ghiletchi, you are doing such a good job that we are going to invite you once again to support the amendment.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Well, for the sake of democracy, I think that it is good to exercise our right to vote. I therefore move this amendment, and we will see what happens.

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

       Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I have learnt that only the good Lord is able to be one person in three, but here we are being asked to follow the instructions of our national delegation, our political party and even our political boss in this Assembly. Although that might have given me more power than I ever had, I do not think this is a good idea. It cannot be combined and we should not instruct out Assembly members on how to act. They are wise enough and mature enough to make decisions themselves.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 4 is rejected

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

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I will try for the last time. Looking at the amendment, I am tempted to believe that it is worth supporting. If we are serious about the national interests of our countries, regardless of whether we are from the opposition or the government, it is not a bad thing. We will see what happens in the vote.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Cilevičs.

       Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – With sincere respect to Mr Ghiletchi, the question is who formulates national interests. Usually governments speak on behalf of national interests, which means that the opposition has no right to object, but this is the nature of the political process. I am sorry, Mr Ghiletchi, but I cannot agree with you.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 5 is rejected

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14077. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 14077 is adopted, with 44 votes for, 2 against and 0 abstentions.

      The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has presented a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation to which one amendment has been tabled.

      I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that the following amendments, which were unanimously agreed by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. The amendments are 5, 6 and 7 to the draft resolution.

      Is that so, Ms Maury Pasquier?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – Yes.

      The PRESIDENT – Are there any objections? That is not the case.

      Amendments 5, 6 and 7 are adopted.

      We come to Amendment 1. I call Mr Golub to support the amendment.

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – Of course, if we were speaking about members of parliament who have been caught committing an offence, there could be no immunity. However, we propose deleting the words “or have been handed a final conviction” because we see in the resolution that such a conviction could be politically motivated. It is not always the case that there are no political issues behind a final conviction.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 1 is rejected.

      I call Mr Golub to support Amendment 2.

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – We propose to delete the words “such as taxation matters” because we do not need to emphasise that or any other particular type of case. What will we do about corruption cases, or any other type of case? Why should we emphasise only one type of case? Our amendment would not alter the meaning of the paragraph as a whole.

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

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Every citizen has to pay tax. It is a private matter, and there is no immunity on tax matters, as for criminal matters. We should not remove the words. We are not in favour of a society of two classes of people, those who have immunity on tax matters and normal people who do not. Please reject the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – We are against.

      The PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 2 is rejected.

      I call Mr Golub to support Amendment 3.

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – This is the most crucial amendment. It states that our immunities are unconditional in this Assembly of the Council of Europe, where we represent our national parliaments. We also wish to address the most notable and important breach of those immunities, namely that by the Russian Federation in the case of Nadiia Savchenko. We have already made reference to that in another resolution, so we propose including it here.

      The PRESIDENT – I have been informed that the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, which is, in Amendment 3 replace the three paragraphs with the following paragraph:

      “The Assembly emphasises that the immunities provided for its members by the Council of Europe Statute and Articles 13, 14 and 15 of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities extend to an Assembly member immediately on becoming a member of the Assembly and cover the whole period of his or her activity as a member of the respective national delegation to the Assembly during the sessions of the Assembly.”In

      In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – On a point of order, Mr President. I might be mistaken but during the committee meeting three oral sub-amendments were discussed. You have read out only the first one. Will you confirm whether we will be voting on those three oral sub-amendments separately or be taking one sub-amendment?

      The PRESIDENT – The sub-amendments have been combined into one. The committee wishes to replace the three paragraphs of amendment 3 with the paragraph that I read out. As more than 10 members have not objected, the matter can be debated. I therefore call on a member of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to support the oral sub-amendment.

      Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova) – In the debate in the committee I set out two oral sub-amendments. The first was to replace the first paragraph of amendment 3 with the text you have just read out, Mr President. My second oral sub-amendment would delete the third paragraph of amendment 3. Those are the two oral sub-amendments that I presented to the committee.

      The PRESIDENT – For clarification, that is absolutely correct, but in effect those two sub-amendments have been combined into one. Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case. What is the opinion of Mr Golub?

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – We agree with the oral sub-amendment – well, with the two sub-amendments.

      The PRESIDENT – The committee is obviously in favour.

      I will now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      We will now consider the main amendment, as amended.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – On a point of order, Mr President. I simply wish to ask whether we are now voting on the amendment as amended in the way that you read out, because the committee also decided to remove the third paragraph. If we are voting on the text that you read, everything is fine in my view.

      The PRESIDENT – It is the text as I read it. I now invite any member who chooses to do so to speak against the amendment, as amended. Does anyone wish to do so?

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – On a point of order, Mr President. As I remember it, a few minutes ago Ms Palihovici stated that she proposed two oral sub-amendments, which would mean we included the second paragraph, and we voted – me especially – on that; that will be clear in the transcript of the session. As far as I remember, we voted on what Ms Palihovici presented.

      The PRESIDENT – Mr Golub, I am afraid you remember incorrectly. I am not going to reopen the debate, but I will clarify the situation so that the Chamber is absolutely clear about what has been agreed. What I read, what was voted on and what was carried was that in Mr Golub’s Amendment 3, all three paragraphs would be replaced by the wording that I read out – if the Assembly wishes, I will read it out again. I think that is absolutely clear. You have the opportunity to vote against the amendment, as amended, if you do not like it.

      What is the opinion of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs on the amendment, as amended?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – The committee supports the amendment, as amended.

      The PRESIDENT – The committee supports the amendment, as amended by the sub-amendment voted upon.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 3, as amended, is adopted.

      We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 14076, as amended.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 14076, as amended, is adopted, with 43 votes for, 3 against and 2 abstentions.

      We now come to the amendment on the draft recommendation.

      I call Mr Golub to support Amendment 4 to the draft recommendation. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr GOLUB (Ukraine) – The resolution is not a general one. For example, as Amendment 2 was rejected, it retains the words “such as taxation matters”. We propose to add, after “The Assembly strongly condemns the breaches by some Council of Europe member States” the words, “notably, by the Russian Federation”. It is obvious to everyone in the Chamber that the main country to have committed such breaches is the Russian Federation. We should be precise in the resolution and in the recommendation.

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

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Unfortunately, Mr Golub, if we were wanted to be precise, we would have to mention not only the Russian Federation, but Israel, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkey and, sadly, even more member States. It is better not to do so, but to keep the general phrase, because the problem is that too many countries are violating the right of freedom of movement.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Kox. What is the opinion of the committee?

      Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) – Against.

      The PRESIDENT – I will now put the amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 4 is rejected.

      We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 14076. A two-thirds majority, counting only affirmative and negative votes, is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 14076 is adopted, with 43 votes for, 6 against and 0 abstentions.

4. 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 on Monday morning.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 6.30 p.m.)


1. Personal statement

2. Debate: Transparency and openness in European institutions

Presentation by Ms Vučković of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Document 14075

Presentation by Ms Taktakishvili of the opinion of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Document 14096

Draft resolution in Document 14075, as amended, adopted

Draft recommendation in Document 14075, as amended, adopted

Speakers: Mr Schennach, Mr van de Ven, Mr Howell, Mr Shahgeldyan, Ms De Sutter, Mr Kandemir, Mr Wood, Mr R Huseynov, Mr V Huseynov, Mr Reiss, Ms Sotnyk.

3. Joint debate: The nature of the mandate of members of the Parliamentary Assembly and Parliamentary immunity: challenges to the scope of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by members of the Parliamentary Assembly

Presentation by Ms Vučković of the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Document 14077

Presentation by Ms Palihovici of the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, Document 14076

Speakers: Mr Logvynskyi, Mr Rouquet, Mr Van de Ven, Mr Önal, Mr Kox, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Golub, Mr Tornare, Ms Kerestecioğlu Demir, Mr Kandemir, Mr Kürkçü, Ms Kobakhidze, Mr Vlasenko.

Draft resolution in Document 14077 adopted

Draft resolution in Document 14076, as amended, adopted

Draft recommendation in Document 14076 adopted

4. Next public business

Appendix I

Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk



Brigitte ALLAIN*

Jean-Charles ALLAVENA*

Werner AMON*


Lord Donald ANDERSON*

Sirkka-Liisa ANTTILA*


Iwona ARENT*

Volodymyr ARIEV/Sergiy Vlasenko



Mehmet BABAOĞLU/Salih Firat



Gérard BAPT*


José Manuel BARREIRO*

Meritxell BATET*


Guto BEBB*

Marieluise BECK*





Włodzimierz BERNACKI

Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone

Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*

Andris BĒRZINŠ/Boriss Cilevičs




Oleksandr BILOVOL*

Philippe BLANCHART/ Petra De Sutter

Maryvonne BLONDIN*

Tilde BORK*

Mladen BOSIĆ/Saša Magazinović



Margareta BUDNER*

Valentina BULIGA







Vannino CHITI/Carlo Lucherini







Katalin CSÖBÖR*

Geraint DAVIES





Şaban DİŞLİ*

Sergio DIVINA*

Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ*

Namik DOKLE*

Francesc Xavier DOMENECH/Miren Edurne Gorrotxategui

Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON*



Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*


Josette DURRIEU*


Lady Diana ECCLES*

Franz Leonhard EẞL*

Markar ESEYAN*

Nigel EVANS*



Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*

Doris FIALA/Manuel Tornare

Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová





Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ


Sir Roger GALE









Francesco Maria GIRO

Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES

Oleksii GONCHARENKO/Vladyslav Golub

Rainer GOPP*

Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*




Gergely GULYÁS*

Emine Nur GÜNAY*







Andrzej HALICKI/Killion Munyama

Hamid HAMID*

Alfred HEER/Jean-Pierre Grin

Gabriela HEINRICH*






Johannes HÜBNER/Barbara Rosenkranz

Andrej HUNKO*


Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU*

Denis JACQUAT/ Frédéric Reiss





Michael Aastrup JENSEN*

Mogens JENSEN*


Florina-Ruxandra JIPA*

Ögmundur JÓNASSON*

Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ/ Stefana Miladinović





Nina KASIMATI/Georgios Psychogios




Danail KIRILOV/Krasimira Kovachka

Bogdan KLICH


Haluk KOÇ


Attila KORODI*

Alev KORUN/Eduard Köck

Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková

Elvira KOVÁCS*

Tiny KOX


Borjana KRIŠTO*


Eerik-Niiles KROSS/Andres Herkel


Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ


Georgios KYRITSIS*



Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’*

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT


Valentina LESKAJ*





Filippo LOMBARDI/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter

François LONCLE*


Philippe MAHOUX*

Marit MAIJ*

Muslum MAMMADOV/Vusal Huseynov

Thierry MARIANI*

Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík




Meritxell MATEU/ Carles Jordana


Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE*



Ana Catarina MENDES*

Jasen MESIĆ*


Jean-Claude MIGNON*

Marianne MIKKO


Anouchka van MILTENBURG*



Arkadiusz MULARCZYK*

Thomas MÜLLER/Hannes Germann



Marian NEACȘU*



Miroslav NENUTIL


Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI*





Judith OEHRI*




Joseph O’REILLY*




Jaroslav PAŠKA*

Florin Costin PÂSLARU*



Agnieszka POMASKA*

Cezar Florin PREDA*






Mailis REPS*




Helena ROSETA/António Filipe Rodrigues


Alex SALMOND/Mike Wood







Ingjerd SCHOU/Ingebjřrg Godskesen




Aleksandar SENIĆ/Vesna Marjanović








Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis







Ionuț-Marian STROE*







İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*


Konstantinos TZAVARAS*

Leyla Şahin USTA*


Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Kristin Řrmen Johnsen

Petrit VASILI*


Mart van de VEN

Stefaan VERCAMER/ Dirk Van Der Maelen




Vladimir VORONIN/Liliana Palihovici

Viktor VOVK



Karl-Georg WELLMANN*

Katrin WERNER*

Jacek WILK*

Andrzej WOJTYŁA*

Morten WOLD*

Gisela WURM*

Jordi XUCLŔ*

Serap YAŞAR*


Tobias ZECH*



Emanuelis ZINGERIS


Levon ZOURABIAN/Mher Shahgeldyan

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote





Partners for Democracy