AS (2016) CR 29
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 10 October 2016 at 3 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
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The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.06 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Questions to Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
The PRESIDENT – The first item on the agenda this afternoon is questions to Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
I remind the Assembly that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches. The first question comes from Ms Liliana Palihovici.
Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I would like to ask a question on Council of Europe monitoring procedures. From the start, the plan was to introduce those procedures to offer the Assembly’s help to Council of Europe member States in fulfilling their promises to uphold the highest democratic and human rights standards. The process works in different ways, including through full monitoring procedures, which involve regular visits, ongoing dialogue with authorities, debates in the Council of Europe and post-monitoring dialogue. What should be done to amend the monitoring process to make it more transparent to citizens of the countries under monitoring? What else should we do to help those countries to avoid big challenges to the statutes of democracy?
Mr JAGLAND (Secretary General of the Council of Europe) – That is a complicated question, in the sense that there is no one answer to it. First of all, we need to keep in mind what kind of system we have. There is, of course, permanent monitoring of all the 47 member States by all the permanent monitoring bodies, such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which apply to all 47 member States. The Committee of Ministers monitors a few member States, and then, there is monitoring from the Parliamentary Assembly, which is its business.
I am very much in favour of strengthening the monitoring of the Council of Europe and co-ordinating it better. I am responsible for monitoring on the inter-governmental side. We are doing a lot to co-ordinate better – for instance, to get the monitoring bodies to have joint visits – and to have better oversight of the calendar of the monitoring bodies, and to make it more relevant. One of the problems we have with the permanent monitoring bodies is that they make regular visits, but not very often. When things happen, they should be able to look into specific situations and not only keep to the regular monitoring sequences, because they will then never really be relevant to specific situations that arise. There has been an improvement in that area: for instance, the CPT paid a visit to Turkey to look into allegations that there had been ill treatment of those who were arrested after the attempted coup. That visit was outside the regular sequence of the CPT’s work, but a lot more can be done to make us more up to date and relevant in specific situations.
Ms DURRIEU (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – When discussing Aleppo and Syria we are really talking about war crimes, but the ruins of Aleppo also contain a challenge to our international conscience. The Russians have vetoed the United Nations resolution tabled by France, so is everything now blocked? What happens next? How can we end this impasse? We must engage in dialogue with Russia. We need a diplomatic solution, but is that still possible? What kind of initiative would you take? What can the Council of Europe do to ensure that we speak of Aleppo not only in terms of war crimes, but as an area in which the Council of Europe can achieve something?
Mr JAGLAND – I am glad you ask that question. It is obviously not something that is within the mandate of the Council of Europe, but we should never give up on diplomatic solutions. I have said from the beginning that what we have witnessed in Syria is an unbelievable catastrophe. How can it be going on in the 21st century? It is a big failure of the United Nations Security Council. It is written in the United Nations Charter that members of the Security Council – mostly the P5 – are responsible for the peace and security of all other United Nations member States and those States gave them that huge responsibility.
The aerial bombing which started in Libya and has happened many times in Syria is absolutely outrageous. It will not lead to any solution to the conflict. What can we do? We can call on those who are responsible for this catastrophe, in particular members of the United Nations Security Council, to take up the responsibility that they have under the United Nations Charter. They have insisted on that responsibility. They have not abandoned it. I cannot see any military solution to the conflict. One side could partially win, but there are already signs that ISIL is moving to Libya and other places as it is forced out of Syria. There must be concerted action and a political solution from all the parties involved. Of course, a cease-fire has to be the beginning, but a broader solution must follow later.
As I said, this is not really in my mandate, but what we have witnessed in Syria is absolutely outrageous to see in the 21st century.
Mr Michael JENSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Something that is within the mandate of the Council of Europe is addressing Russian aggression against Ukraine. What will the Secretary General do to ensure that the violations that happen almost daily from the Russian side are stopped? Will he ensure that this does not end up as a frozen conflict like many other conflicts around Europe?
Mr JAGLAND – The best answer is to support the Minsk process. What are the concrete ways in which we are doing that? We are helping to stabilise Ukraine as an independent sovereign State, which is about building solid institutions in which people can believe, doing away with corruption, decentralising power – which is important in Ukraine – and establishing a constitution that will make it possible to find a deal for Donbass, including Donetsk and Luhansk. We know that the process is complicated due to what is coming from the Russian side, to which Mr Jensen referred, but we must call on all parties to look at what has been agreed in the Minsk process and to try to implement it. On the other hand, it is clear that if the Ukrainian people do not trust Ukraine’s institutions, they will not support the necessary steps to establish peace or to move to a better situation. We have to do what we can within the mandate of the Council of Europe.
Mr TARCZYŃSKI (Poland, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I have a simple question about what steps are being taken in Austria after the election, which, as we know, is about to be repeated due to irregularities. Will the situation in countries such as Poland and Austria be looked at through the Venice Commission or by the Council of Europe itself?
Mr JAGLAND – Actually, it was the Austrian State bodies that took action. If they had not, it might have been necessary for us to intervene, but when the Constitutional Court of Austria saw that mistakes had been made, it looked into them and came to the conclusion that the election had to be run a second time and then that the date must be postponed. We did not deem it necessary to intervene in that situation, but we carefully follow all election processes in all 47 member States.
Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – The Unified European Left is extremely worried about the freedom of the press in Ukraine, Hungary and, in particular, Turkey. The Turkish Government has been exploiting the failed coup attempt of 15 July as an opportunity to silence all opposition voices in the country. A key target of the ongoing witch hunt is the press. The number of arrested journalists has increased from 30 to 120 in the past two months. Most recently, 23 media outlets – mostly Kurdish and Alevi – were closed down by government decree, including Zarok TV, which broadcasts cartoons for Kurdish children and has nothing to do with the coup. What is your position on the issue? Do you have any concrete plans to help improve the freedom of the press in Turkey?
Mr JAGLAND – Thank you for that question, because it gives me the opportunity to say that I, too, am very concerned. That is why we are doing a lot of work with the Turkish authorities on that issue. Other issues related to terrorism legislation were on the table before the attempted coup, but, following it, we need to speed up the process. Other questions include how the Turkish authorities are taking on those behind the attempted coup.
Last week, therefore, on Thursday, I had a meeting with the most important press organisations in Europe, which are part of a platform that we have established with them where they can post alerts about threats against freedom of expression and against journalists. In particular, they informed me about the situation in Turkey and gave me some important information.
In concrete terms, what we are doing is related to a number of judgments by the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey on how it applies terrorism legislation, in particular, so as to violate freedom of expression. There are a number of Court decisions in that respect, and there is an ongoing process in the Committee of Ministers, which is responsible for getting member States to implement Court judgments. Normally, the Court requires an individual measure, which is often to do with compensation to the individual whose right has been violated, as well as general measures, such as changes to the legislation – or its application – that has led to the violation of a certain article. That is what we are dealing with now in the Committee of Ministers.
The Committee of Ministers has made several decisions and, in a special working group that includes the Turkish authorities, we are discussing how Turkey can implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights by changing either the application of its existing laws or the laws themselves in order to bring everything into conformity with the judgment. This has already been in the media, so I can say that that is also interesting for the visa liberalisation negotiations between the European Union and Turkey, because the European Union has made demands of Turkey in that respect.
In general, we have had very concrete interactions with the Turkish authorities about the measures taken after the attempted coup. We are going through all the decrees that have been issued under the state of emergency. It is important for us that the authorities put in place judicial safeguards for all those who have been arrested, investigated or prosecuted, or who have been suspended from or lost their jobs. There has to be due process, and a fair process, for those people.
I have reminded the Turkish authorities about the following: even in a state of emergency, the rule of law exists and the European Convention exists. There might be some misunderstanding here – that the Convention can be suspended. That is not true. One may derogate or deviate from certain articles under a state of emergency, but all Turks have the right to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to complain about any wrongdoing by their authorities. It is important to know that, because if the Turkish authorities are not acting in conformity with the Convention and the case law of the Court, and we cannot get them to do so, the risk is that we get thousands of applications to the Court. Last week, we heard how nearly 20 000 applications had arrived at the Constitutional Court of Turkey, and if it does not deal with those properly, they will come here.
We have to do everything we can in co-operation with Turkey to avoid that situation. That is what we are doing, and that is why it is important to speak about the matter you raised.
The PRESIDENT – I propose that the next three questions are taken together, so that Mr Jagland may answer them together. That should save some time. Do you agree, Mr Jagland?
Mr JAGLAND – As always.
Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – In recent public debate in many member States of the Council of Europe, there have been proposals to reduce, or even ban, family reunification, which would run counter to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 2 of the international Convention on the Rights of the Child. What could and should the Council of Europe do to remind the 47 member States of their obligations?
Ms AHMED-SHEIKH (United Kingdom) – I note that the Secretary General has stated that Brexit might trigger more exits, which could harm the human rights of ordinary people. I agree with that sentiment. Does he agree that respecting the democratic will of the people of my country, Scotland, who voted to stay within the European Union, is paramount? Will he note that we will do all that we can to continue to work with our friends throughout the European Union to respect and protect that key relationship?
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – One week ago, His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome visited Baku. As well as speaking about our achievements and the strong progress of Azerbaijan as an example of tolerance, he did not forget our problems. Talking about the tragedy of the 1 million people who became refugees or internally displaced as a result of Armenian aggression, he called on everyone to do their best to achieve the necessary solution to allow the prevalence of a stable peace in the region. The appeal of the Roman Pope directly relates to us in the Council of Europe. Instead of the usual reference to the Minsk Group as an excuse to step aside, we should exert pressure on Armenia, which is an accepted aggressor according to Parliamentary Assembly official resolutions.
Mr JAGLAND – Mr Le Borgn’ mentioned that there have been discussions about Article 8 of the Convention, which concerns the right to family life. Some member States have suggested that the article should be revised because it makes it difficult for them to restrict the right to family reunification. What can we do? We should explain what this is about, and I will give two examples. In Greece, there are 26 000 unaccompanied children, for whom Greece is doing its utmost to give safe accommodation, education and security. What Greece is doing is extraordinary, because it is a very poor country. Many of those young children have parents in other European countries, but it is increasingly difficult for them to reunite with their families because of stricter legislation and practices in member countries. It is said that in the camp in Calais there are 1 000 unaccompanied children. They should be given the opportunity to reunite with their parents, many of whom are in the United Kingdom.
It is important to tell those stories and explain why we have Article 8 and the right to family reunification. That right is not unlimited and does not apply under all circumstances, but in this situation we should not do anything to weaken the protection that we established. This is exactly the sort of situation in which we need the international conventions that were set up after the Second World War. I appeal strongly to other member States to think about that when they start to link the situation directly to the problems that they face at home. They should deal with those problems instead of questioning international conventions.
With regard to Scotland, I can only say that all Scots are under the European Convention on Human Rights. Whatever happens with Brexit and relations between the United Kingdom and Scotland, that will continue to be the case if the Scottish people want it to be, and my impression is that they do. It is the same with Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement is based on the fact that the European Convention on Human Rights applies.
That brings me to the third question, from Mr Huseynov, who talked about the victims of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Several times in my annual reports on the state of human rights, democracy and the rule of law – from the first to the most recent – I have raised the role of human rights in the so-called frozen conflicts, where the Council of Europe does not have access to enable it to look after the rights of people who live there. I have said that that is unacceptable. The Convention applies all over the continent, including in those areas, and therefore we should be given access so that we can look after those people’s rights. I will continue to raise that issue so that the Council of Europe can fulfil its mandate in those areas. We cannot be politicised by being impeded from working in all the areas where the Convention applies.
The PRESIDENT – We will take three more questions.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – My question concerns the situation in Turkey. Today, there is a commemoration of the first anniversary of the dreadful terrorist attacks that took place on 10 October, but those involved in that commemoration are being attacked with water cannon and gas by the Turkish police. Of course we need to co-operate with the Turkish authorities, but why are you avoiding giving a clear statement regarding what is happening in Turkey? It is important that we send out a clear message, and that you do the same.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – I strongly support the Secretary General’s condemnation of the attempted coup in Turkey. In the aftermath, the rule of law in Turkey was put to the test. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or suspended from their jobs, and they must be given individual legal processes in accordance with Council of Europe standards. What can the Council of Europe do to ensure that Article 6 of the Convention, on the right to a fair trial, is respected in Turkey?
The PRESIDENT – Mr Ghiletchi and Mr Kürkçü are not here, so I call Ms Zimmermann.
Ms ZIMMERMANN (France)* – Secretary General, you have condemned those who call Memorial a foreign agent, and you have said that NGOs are vital in civil society for any democracy. People need to be taught history and geography, and nobody can know where they are going if they do not know where they came from. Efforts to rewrite history are deplorable. What can the Council of Europe do to purge ignorance, which is a threat to us?
The PRESIDENT – It seems that Mr Kürkçü was here, so I call him.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – My question is this. Turkey has declared that it has derogated from the European Convention on Human Rights in total. Is that probable? Does that mean that Turkey has derogated from the right to property, the right to free speech and the right to organise? Is that acceptable, and does it correspond to the presumed threat that the country is fighting? Please clarify.
Mr JAGLAND – Mr Hunko asked about the recent crackdown on the attempted commemoration of what happened a year ago in Turkey. I, too, find the methods that were used unacceptable. When such things happened in Gezi park some time ago, I was on the spot immediately and spoke with the Turkish authorities. I do not find it very pleasant to see things being done that we agreed at the time should not be done, so you can be sure that that will be raised. In general, however, I cannot comment daily on all the things that are happening, because we have a constructive dialogue with the Turkish authorities and we need to go through everything. Turkey is in a difficult situation. I cannot be a judge; I am not a courtroom. I must now work with Turkey on our mandate – namely to put in place judicial safeguards for all those who are being prosecuted, to see that their rights are met and that there is due process in the Turkish judiciary.
That brings me to the next question, from Ms Schou: what can we do to ensure that there are fair trials in Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted coup? We from the Council of Europe or the Secretariat cannot intervene in the process in the courtroom. We have a principled position that we cannot be directly involved in, for instance, observing the trials. Others can do it, however, and many will, for sure. It is extremely important that this is done so that there is full transparency where full transparency is possible in these trials.
I did not understand the question about NGOs or foreign agents in the Russian Federation, but if it was about Memorial being put on the list of foreign agents in Russia, I immediately protested and said the same as I have always said. Yes, this conforms to Russian law but therefore the Russian law should be changed. I recognise that all nation States have the right to say that NGOs should explain where their funding comes from. It is very important, if you receive funding from abroad, that you should make it public. However, to call those who get money from abroad foreign agents is wrong. This has a clearly chilling effect on the NGO community. It is very harmful for an NGO to be branded like that. We all start to think about what happened in the past. That is why I have said – and will say again when I visit Moscow in December, taking it up with the State Duma – that they should start the process of changing the law on this point.
I was very glad to get the question about derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in Turkey. No, the Convention as a whole cannot be derogated from. Certain articles in it cannot be suspended or derogated from, including Article 2, on the death penalty, Article 3, on ill treatment and torture, Article 4, on forced labour and slavery, and Article 7 on judicial processes. You cannot set aside these articles. As I said, derogation must be limited in time and scope. It is the Court here in Strasbourg that decides whether the measures under a state of emergency are proportionate and conform to the rule of law. So the European Convention on Human Rights applies in Turkey; all Turkish citizens have the right to go to the Court. The measures under the state of emergency must be brought to the courts in Turkey and to the constitutional court. If the constitutional court does not rule on this, the European Court of Human Rights here will get the applications and deal with them.
It is a misunderstanding that the whole Convention can be derogated from. I see that there has recently been a discussion in the United Kingdom on a specific point. I got the impression that someone was talking about reserving parts of the Convention – this is not possible. You cannot make a reservation as you can in the European Union; you can, for instance, reserve certain fields of European Union co-operation. When it comes to the European Convention, however, there is no right to reservation. You may derogate from some of the Convention’s articles for a limited time and the measures you take in this limited time must be proportionate. It is the Court here that decides whether measures are proportionate. If you do not follow this, the risk is that there will be complaints to the Court and condemnation, which would be very bad.
The PRESIDENT – That is the end of the questions. Thank you very much, Mr Secretary General, for being here for our traditional question time session. We always greatly appreciate your willingness to exchange views with us on some of the most topical issues on the European agenda. You have spoken on many of the pressing issues in Europe: conflicts, including frozen conflicts; the situation in Syria; relations with the Russian Federation; the monitoring work of the Council of Europe; migrants and refugees; and, of course, the coup d’état in Turkey. Thank you very much for this interesting and fruitful exchange of views. We look forward to continuing our discussions during the January part-session.
2. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee – resumed debate
The PRESIDENT – We will now continue with the consideration of the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee and the observations of the parliamentary elections in Belarus and Jordan.
I call Mr Korodi on behalf of the European People’s Party. You have three minutes.
Mr KORODI (Romania, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – On behalf of my political group, I welcome Ms Ingjerd Schou’s report outlining the key issues raised by the Bureau and Standing Committee in the past three months. I praise the Assembly’s work in observing elections in Belarus, Jordan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Morocco. We appreciate the results that we have in our partnership for democracy with the Parliament of Morocco. The recent election was properly organised and fulfilled the main democratic criteria; it was an example to all the countries in the Mediterranean region and elsewhere.
Brexit, the effects of which are far from being evaluated in their entirety, means that we must be more creative in shaping our future relationship with the United Kingdom. Brexit was a sovereign decision of the people of the United Kingdom and we must respect that, but at the same time we need more responsible politicians, unlike Nigel Farage, who rapidly resigned after the result of the referendum.
I should like to emphasise the complicated situation that Brexit creates for Ireland and the central European countries when it comes to fundamental freedoms, the right to movement of people or workers, the economy, trade and the safety of boundaries. The specific situation requires a transition, and the rights of European citizens gained over decades should remain a starting point in the new context.
Migration is a considerable challenge to us, and it will continue to be high on the European and global agendas. Its economic, social, political and humanitarian impacts require strong dedicated efforts from us all. We must support a common European answer and a comprehensive approach to the root causes of migration. Concerted co-operation and dialogue with the countries of origin and transit is required, especially by making the diplomatic efforts needed to put an end to conflict. In a spirit of solidarity, we also need to contribute to common efforts, for example by strengthening Frontex’s ability to intervene. In addition, it is important to continue to co-operate with Turkey in managing the migratory pressure Europe is confronted with. We in the Council of Europe, in co-operation with other international organisations, must do everything possible to tackle these challenges.
Following the failed coup d’état, Turkey needs to respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. As President Agramunt said, the best response to the attack against democracy is more democracy. The Turkish people are as one against the coup. In this context, the involvement of the population is of great importance in having Turkey uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation, democratic institutions and the rule of law.
The Assembly’s #NoHateNoFear initiative is designed to involve stakeholders as much as possible in effectively fighting the terrorists who are threatening the lives of our citizens. The events of Paris, Ankara, Brussels, Munich and Istanbul show that there is a European terror network, and we must undertake the most effective means to tackle the daily threats to our citizens’ lives.
(Sir Roger Gale, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I congratulate the three rapporteurs on the progress report. As President Agramunt said, the last three months was of course a time in which the putsch in Turkey failed, but since then we have been discussing the reactions to the coup and the mass arrests that ensued. There have also been a lot of elections. We have had election reports on Jordan and Belarus, and there has been a series of other elections where members of our Assembly were involved and did important observation work. That is underlined in the progress report.
I also want to mention Kosovo. We took a decision in January this year, and it is important to implement that by entering into dialogue, inviting the parliamentary Assembly of Kosovo to take up its three places here, and clarifying whether they will have the right to speak or to speak and vote. The minority in Kosovo must also be represented among those three seats here. All this is important to lend greater stability to the Balkans, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is very capable of maintaining dialogue even in difficult times, particularly with States that are not yet members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That is why our election observation missions, particularly the one in Belarus, have been very significant.
Today in the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, we decided to have a separate report on the nuclear programme in Belarus. I thank those who have spoken today who produced the reports on behalf of my group. We often have elections – there seems to be one almost every half-year. The partnership for democracy – which is what René Rouquet was reporting on today and representatives of which we sent to Morocco just a few days ago – is very significant. It helps us promote the rule of law, democracy and human rights, as the progress report demonstrates.
Mr XUCLÀ (Spain, spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – I thank Ms Schou for her statement on behalf of the Bureau on developments over the last three months and I thank those involved in the electoral mission to Jordan, and most recently the Belarus electoral observation mission.
Over the course of the last three months, we have witnessed some important events, including the failed coup in Turkey. We will be talking about these issues this week, including whether we also need to look at developments after this coup. There are colleagues of ours in the majority and opposition in Turkey, and if the coup had not failed, they would not be here in the Chamber, so it is important that we demonstrate our support for the institutional system in Turkey.
At the same time, it is good that Mr Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Affairs Minister of Turkey, will come before the Chamber on Wednesday because that allows us to have a debate – we will also have a debate on Thursday – in which we will be able to voice our concerns about the disproportionate nature of some of the measures adopted after the attempted coup. We can also make some general statements about the prolonged states of emergency in Turkey and France. We need to assess these extensions: should they take place automatically or should they have to be premised on some justification based on the Convention, which, after all, is there to support us and inspire our work? We must reflect on that this week.
We have also noticed that the Council of Europe has had some problems with regard to the enforcement of judgments.
Unfortunately, the European Union has failed completely in agreeing a common policy for migration. That is important for the European Union, but the failure of the policy has an impact on others, too, including the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons of our own Assembly.
There are also now responses and reactions in the form of renationalising policy. Sometimes they are perfectly legitimate, such as what is happening in the United Kingdom: there was a narrow majority, but nevertheless a majority, in favour of leaving the European Union. That in turn means we will be facing major challenges in the future: how can we govern in times of globalisation, and how can we learn something from the United Kingdom example? Some in the United Kingdom would like to stay in the European Free Trade Association: how do we deal with that, and how do we handle Brexit in terms of borders with Ireland? These questions, and other aspects, we will need to address in future.
Let me finish by making a few brief comments. We are electing judges to the European Court of Human Rights. We must make sure this role is seen as––
The PRESIDENT – I am sorry, but you have well exceeded your three minutes.
Mr Liddell-Grainger is not present. The European Conservatives Group has not nominated another spokesman, so I call Mr Tiny Kox for the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KOX (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I compliment Ms Schou on her very relevant progress report. As she discusses in her report, a lot has happened in our area and neighbouring areas in the Council of Europe. I will comment on some of those developments.
On the negative side, there has been the coup d’état in Turkey and its aftermath. We compliment all our Turkish colleagues on their firm and brave stance against the coup, but we in the Group of the Unified European Left are shocked by the ongoing suppression of fundamental freedoms in Turkey with the false excuse that such violations would not be necessary if not for the failed coup d’état. The coup seriously threatened Turkey’s democracy, but I am sorry to say that the way that the Turkish authorities are acting now is doing the same. I therefore urge all our Turkish colleagues to stand firmly for the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in their country.
Also negative are the continued non-implementation of the Minsk agreement and the ongoing civil war in Ukraine. I urge all parties involved to overcome their difficulties and comply with the agreement, including, first and foremost, the Ukrainian Government and Parliament, which are the authorities responsible for guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and rights for all Ukrainians.
On the negative side as well, people continue to die in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, and European States continue to refuse to share the burden. Greece is bearing most of the refugee burden. It is to be complimented for sheltering so many, but it is a shame that the rest of Europe cannot organise international solidarity on that issue.
Fortunately, there is also some positive news. I congratulate all colleagues who participated in the election observation missions to Belarus and Jordan. I hope that we will soon receive the new delegation from Jordan, and that one day we will also receive a delegation from Belarus when it is willing and able to meet its obligations.
Finally, I wholeheartedly support the attempts by the President of this Assembly to bring together once again elected representatives of all member States in this Chamber. In the opinion of the Group of the Unified European Left, it does not make sense to exclude parliamentarians from this Assembly as long as their governments participate fully in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. I therefore hope that we will welcome a new Russian delegation in the January part-session. In these dangerous times, we are in dire need of an Assembly in which the parliaments of all member States are represented and participate.
The PRESIDENT – Ms Schou will reply at the end of this debate. You will have six minutes. I call Mr Fournier.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – I would like to mention the situation in Jordan following the elections on 20 September, which were observed by the ad hoc committee set up by René Rouquet, whose report I commend. The mission was particularly important for various reasons. First, since January, the Jordanian Parliament has been a partner for democracy in this Assembly, due to mutual commitments that bind our two institutions. I am pleased that the elections were organised according to completely new rules introduced last March to create a better parliament. Major reforms have been adopted, most notably concerning the electoral system and party politics, as part of wide-ranging constitutional reforms.
Now that the electoral campaign has ended, various occurrences should be underlined: the introduction of a proportional election system that increases access, the absence of major incidents during the campaign, the professionalism of the independent electoral committees, greater information due to the role of the media and social networks, the absence of any irregularities and, for the first time, the election of 20 women members of parliament.
What political lessons can be drawn? At the moment, it is difficult to answer that question, even though it is essential to do so. It will not be a secret to anyone here that the king plays a key role in Jordan’s institutional political life. That key role has been underscored by the recent constitutional reform. Furthermore, the newly elected chamber of deputies has gained greater legitimacy and addresses the demand for improvement. These initiatives have come about in a country whose situation is particularly complex and whose broader context is already tense. The country is addressing the situation with courage and has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees; armed forces have made incursions into its territory. In that difficult context, there are considerable challenges. Let us hope that the new parliament will be sufficiently strong to contribute to addressing them. The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly must be ready to provide to Jordan and its institutions all the aid that they may need.
Ms GOSSELIN-FLEURY (France)* – I had the honour of participating in the ad hoc committee entrusted with observing elections in Jordan on 20 September. I would like to share my impressions, having visited Jordan. First, it is true to say that the vote was organised properly and very professionally. In the polling stations that I observed in Aqaba and other areas, great calm prevailed, and voting procedures conformed to democratic criteria. As the rapporteur said, those in polling stations showed a real desire to do things properly. Even during the most delicate stage, the count, there was always a concern to ensure that transparency prevailed, and to show the observers present that that was the case. We can only congratulate the Jordanians and welcome the way in which the vote was conducted; some member States could even seek inspiration from our Jordanian friends, especially given that the region is war-torn and that the country is confronted with the consequences of the Syrian conflict.
However, as we are partners, it is only fair to speak out about what did not work as well. I refer to the need to ensure that campaign silence prevails in the two days prior to the vote. Like most of my colleagues, I saw electoral propaganda and leafleting and other activities outside polling stations. Electoral campaigning right until the very last minute does not seem acceptable to me. Even though calm prevailed, it is legitimate to wonder about the influence of that last-minute electoral campaigning on undecided or impressionable voters. Once the time for democratic debate has finished, legitimate political wrangling should be followed by a period of reflection during which citizens can make up their own minds, free from pressure. That period of calm prior to polling day exists in France, and it would represent considerable progress in countries such as Jordan.
Above and beyond the actual organisation of the elections, I as a female member of parliament welcome the progress on women’s political representation in the new parliament. Some 252 women candidates stood, an all-time record for Jordan. They campaigned freely, and 20 women were elected, even more than the 15 seats reserved for women. As Asma Khader, a former minister, said, the outcome is a sign of the public’s acceptance of women in politics in a region where women’s rights are flouted every day. Once again, Jordan is sending a message of hope that we should salute and support. Equality between men and women, after all, is one of the pillars of our partnership in democracy.
THE PRESIDENT – Mr Ghiletchi is not here, so I call Mr Csenger-Zalán.
Mr CSENGER-ZALÁN (Hungary) – I express my gratitude to the rapporteurs and to the long and short-term observers for the great job that they have done. I have just arrived from an observation mission in Georgia, so I know how difficult such work can be.
The parliamentary elections held in Belarus on 11 September represent a further important and positive step. I welcome the Belarus Government’s efforts to accept and address the issues raised by the European Union and other international institutions in relation to organising elections, as observed by our Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and other institutions.
This is the first time that an opposition candidate has received a mandate in Belarus. The limited but increased role of the opposition opens up new possibilities for European Union-Belarus relations. We should, therefore, increase our support for it and use the Minsk agreement to encourage the continuation of that favourable trend. I hope that the political and economic relations between the European Union and Belarus continue to develop, and that Belarus maintains a constructive approach to the European Union and important regional issues, including the realisation of the Minsk agreement.
Following the formation of the new Belarusian legislature, it will be important to widen the parliamentary dimension of the relations between Belarus and European institutions, especially the Council of Europe. Although Belarus is at the beginning of a long journey, I am convinced that open dialogue is the only way that we can help the development of democracy in this important country, and that sooner or later we will be able to greet its MPs in this Chamber as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – Colleagues have spoken about how people voted in the Jordanian elections. I want to provide an analysis. It is important that we pursue progress in this small country, which is a partner for democracy. The elections were held under certain conditions. There were open lists, each of which had to have no fewer than three candidates. That is what the king wanted. Law reform was carried out in January, the assembly was dissolved in July, and the elections were held at the end of September. Things went quickly – perhaps a little too quickly – so perhaps we could make an appeal about the way in which things have progressed.
There has been no in-depth renewal. The country needs parties, but neither they nor the manifestos that should have been thrashed out have come about. It is good that the parliament will include representatives of many minorities. They will be able to form ad hoc groups and the parliament will be politicised as a result. As for renewal of the more than 130 members who were elected, 56 were existing members, while various friends of ours were among those who were not returned.
If we analyse the results, we will see that members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been re-elected. It was the only structured group, but its political position is still relatively weak, so who were the election winners? They include business people, but perhaps that is not so good, because of corruption. I would pay closer attention to that. They also include heads of tribes and, above all, conservatives.
One could argue that what the king wanted has not necessarily come about, although there are small signs of strength among and competition between the different tribes. That is a new development. Several members of the same family stood as candidates, which shows that things are moving slowly. There is a will for reform among young people, Christians and the middle classes, and there was a reformist manifesto. There have been changes, even if they are not sufficient. There were also many abstentions. The situation for women could be better: there were 21 in the previous parliament and there are now a further three. The strong block needs to be asked about future reforms, given that the king played a fundamental role. What about civil society? It does exist – it is bubbling away – but we need to help it along.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – I was part of the ad hoc delegation that observed the parliamentary elections in Belarus. As Rapporteur of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, I wish to share one or two political considerations.
I thank our chair for chairing the delegation so expertly. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was invited to observe the parliamentary elections, having observed the presidential elections the previous year. After a period of 15 years during which we had more or less broken off relations, we have attempted to resuscitate them. Belarus is a European country, but it is not a member of the Council of Europe; unlike Jordan, it does not even have partner for democracy status. Even so, the Government of Belarus asked us to observe the presidential and parliamentary elections.
As our Hungarian colleague said, it is incumbent on us to play an active role. We need to throw our weight behind achieving a balance in the social, economic and political life of the country. We cannot stand on the sidelines and just observe what is going on from the gallery in the hope that change will happen. We have to ensure that we have an influence and an impact on the country. We have to raise the voice of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
We know that there are difficulties and that Belarus has a long way to go to fully espouse the values of the Council of Europe, namely human rights, democracy and the rule of law. That should encourage us to underscore the importance of ensuring that our voice is heard. More has been done in the past couple of years than in the past 10 years in terms of relations between the Council of Europe and Belarus. In the past, we erected barriers, but the country is central to Europe and European history, so we need to dismantle barriers and establish relations.
Barriers and walls – iron curtains – are going up in response to the migrant crisis, but that is not our function in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Our role is to ensure that the values that we represent take root in Belarus. We need stronger relations and ties with political authorities, including the opposition. We met representatives of the political opposition, including women who hold a political mandate. Often, forces are pitted one against the other. Opposition forces do not enjoy much credibility. As far as public opinion is concerned, it is very difficult to promote a new approach or open a new chapter in Belarus.
I observed the count in electoral district 225 in Minsk. That polling station returned an opposition representative. Not one, but two opposition representatives were standing. In the final result, an opposition representative was returned. Another candidate stood under the ticket “Against All”. It was a protest vote, and that shows the strength of the opposition forces in Belarus.
THE PRESIDENT – I am sorry to have to interrupt you. I gently ask colleagues to keep one eye on the clock please. Every speech bar one has overrun slightly.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – First let me express my gratitude to the rapporteur for an excellent presentation and an important report. This summer was crucial, as one of our member States, Turkey, faced an attempted coup d’état. I express my condolences on behalf of my delegation, of all Turkey’s friends and of those who are able to understand the difficulties that Turkey faces. Sons and daughters of Turkey made sacrifices not only for their country, but for democracy and the values we share here. Turkey is fighting for democracy, and we should do our best to support it.
As well as that attempted coup d’état, Turkey faces other dangerous challenges. It is fighting against the PKK on one side, and, on the other, ISIS is doing terrible things within Turkey and to Turks outside Turkey. Democratic values are so important for Turkey, and that is why the forthcoming debates and discussions in this Parliamentary Assembly will give the right signal on the direction we should take and on what we should do to support a country that is essential to the Council of Europe. That is the first point I stress.
The second point I stress relates to Belarus. I express my gratitude to the rapporteur, Ms Gisela Wurm. Belarus sent a special signal when it came to the Council of Europe. We have heard a lot of discussions on Belarus in this Chamber, but the time has come to understand that Belarus is doing its best to return to our family. We should do our best to support it. Belarus is in the centre of Europe, and its economic stability and its political reforms, which we are starting to see, are very important for other countries in the region. I hope we will be able to understand these problematic issues.
Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – I thank the rapporteur for the progress report. We are ratifying a decision that the Assembly took during the January part-session. The decision relates to Kosovo. Paragraph 13 of Resolution 2094 clearly calls on the Council of Europe “to step up dialogue” with Kosovo and to invite Kosovo “to designate a delegation which would ensure the representation also of minority communities, in addition to the majority and the opposition.” That was a big achievement that showed great support for dialogue and democracy in our region, especially because for the first time the delegation to the Council of Europe will have representation from minority groups. That will be good for those groups, for Kosovo, for Serbia and for the region. Participation in the delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will enhance Kosovo’s accountability in strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law. That will have a positive impact for Kosovo and our whole region.
The decision is forward looking, and it is a good step. It shows the value of the Council of Europe in improving and promoting dialogue. We must encourage not only dialogue, but the possibility to give groups the right to speak for the delegation. By giving that right, our region is moving in the right direction and things will be much better. I thank all contributors to the process and hail the decision that will be made by the end of the day.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – I want to look at the two main questions that we are discussing. The observation missions in Jordan, Belarus and Georgia did excellent work that allows us to analyse the processes of democracy and the transparency of elections.
The past three months were not only the most dangerous period for our Organisation and our Bureau and Standing Committee, but for the whole world. Three weeks ago, a special report of an international investigation committee announced by the attorney-general of the Netherlands gave concrete facts about the terrorist attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. There was no reaction by the Bureau or the Standing Committee. The Buk missile system came from the Russian Federation, shot down a civilian aeroplane and returned to the Russian Federation. The missile was fired from the territory totally controlled by pro-Russian and Russian forces, and there was no reaction from the Council of Europe.
Secondly, three States – the United States, France and Great Britain – announced a special session of the United Nations on Aleppo, where presidents called what is happening there a war crime committed by the Russian Federation. There was no reaction. Thirdly, we have the real war crime: the Red Cross humanitarian mission that was fired on by Russians near Aleppo. Again, there was no reaction. Words and definitions are very important in this. In 1914, no one thought that the events in Sarajevo would lead to the First World War. We need to discuss Aleppo and the war crimes of the Russian Federation in all our bodies, but first in the Bureau and the Standing Committee. The reaction of the Bureau and the Standing Committee in the past three months was not an adequate response to the situation.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – Colleagues, we are all here for the same reason – democracy. It has many ways of implementation and expression, but the main and the only way to go forward is to go towards democracy. In many member States, different steps are being taken during this period, but I especially draw your attention to the constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan. This is not an issue between our two countries but a problem for the Council of Europe. If there is a State among us which makes huge steps back from democracy, what should we do here, in the cradle of democracy?
The opinion by the Council of Europe’s constitutional law experts, the Venice Commission, criticising modifications to the constitution of Azerbaijan, which was put to a referendum on 26 September, can be considered very strict. The Venice Commission targets many proposed amendments severely upsetting the balance of power by giving unprecedented powers to the president, such as the extension of the presidential mandate, reducing the age threshold for the president and MPs, and the figure of the so-called unelected vice-president appointed by the president.
The Venice Commission is also concerned about human rights issues. It criticises the fact that although permitted by the current procedure for modifying the constitution, the draft was put to the referendum directly, without any involvement of the parliament. The commission is also concerned about the limitation clauses, particularly those that may affect freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. The modifications weaken the role of parliament, which affects the independence of the judiciary, since parliament’s role in the approval of judges will be reduced.
It should be noted that Azerbaijan did not co-operate with the Venice Commission in the implementation of the modifications. In the letter of 6 September, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, on behalf of the Bureau, requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft modification to the Constitution of Azerbaijan. As you can see, there were only 20 days to read it. Regardless of the criticism, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has sent a seven-member assessment mission.
I really wonder how the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by its presence on election day, can legitimise this referendum. How can the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe observers have any opinion on election day without looking into the content of the document being voted on? What does it mean to discuss the Venice Commission conclusion post factum, after the constitution has already been voted on? Is this the real form of true democracy? I am sure that it is not. Are these the values of the European family? I am sure they are not. Will this bring us to the establishing of a democratic and free society? I am sure it will not.
Mr SABELLA (Palestine, Partner for Democracy) – I believe that the PACE observation mission to Jordan, headed by Mr Rouquet, received good coverage in the Jordanian media. I happened to be in Jordan during the two days before the elections, and I followed the Jordanian media. But this is not the only reason for congratulating the mission, as a greater objective is to help ensure the practice of democratic representation in the region. Jordan is an important stabilising State in the region, and, as such, it is becoming a partner for democracy with the and the Council of Europe, and opening up relations with the Council of Europe, reinforcing the democratic tradition of the country. It sets an example that other countries in the region can follow. We in Palestine congratulate our Jordanian counterparts as we wish them the best in the democratic tradition, despite the fact that two of my personal friends, including Mustafa Hamani, who led the Jordanian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, lost their seats in the elections.
It is important to use the partner for democracy programme to strengthen ties between Europe and its southern neighbourhood, especially at a time when polarisation and an increasing gulf seem to easily overwhelm, among some, the potential for more serious and concerted efforts across the Mediterranean. The partner for democracy programme and the visits of the PACE observer missions to the region, especially during election times, should go towards developing a strategy, and not simply a tactic, of co-operation and of strengthening and reinforcing democratic values, the rule of law, and basic respect to human rights.
Ms KALMARI (Finland) – I was one of the observers in Jordan, and I must say, like everyone else here, that Jordan has basically managed very well. All the notes given by the observers in the last elections were taken seriously, and the whole political system improved from the system where candidates represented only families or tribes to a freer system including political parties, with their goals and strategies.
Any Jordanian citizen over 17 years and three months has the right to vote, both men and women, but only if they have full civil and political rights, and do not present any of the disqualifying criteria provided for in law. So someone born in Jordan to a Jordanian mother but with a Palestinian father cannot vote. Someone working for the security services is unable to vote. Only a person over 30 years can be a candidate. If Jordan would like to get a higher turnout and get younger people to vote, I recommend it to think whether it would be in any way possible to allow younger candidates. That is still something to improve.
The polling stations were peaceful, but outside there was huge campaigning, as we have heard, with leaflets, small presents, shouting, megaphones, and pressure on the candidates. Voting did not stop at the time it should have. However, everything was very well organised inside the schools where voting happens. It is a fantastic thing to have a democracy in a poor country with millions of refugees. Especially when we look at the neighbouring countries of Iraq, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia, Jordanians should be proud of free elections, and we should all help as much as we can.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – During the past two years, Armenia has stepped up a process of constitutional reforms which were adopted by a referendum on 6 December 2015. These reforms are an important milestone for strengthening the Armenian State and democratic institutions. As a result of the constitutional reforms, contextual and structural changes were implemented in the judicial sphere, in the governance model, and in the spheres of self-government, balance of power and the rule of law.
The whole process of the development of amendments was done in close co-operation with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. It is important for us that the proposed amendments were commended by the Venice Commission and deemed to correspond to modern European standards. All the Commission’s recommendations were accepted by the Armenian authorities. The process of the reforms and the amendments were also welcomed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe through its monitoring procedure and the progress report.
We are confident that as a result of the constitutional changes, the political system of Armenia will become more open, transparent and flexible, and more responsive to the position of political opposition. The amended constitution is aimed, first of all, at strengthening the freedoms of the citizens of Armenia, bringing increased democratic opportunities as a consequence.
We have stepped up to the next phase, when constitutional amendments should be properly reflected in the entire legal system of the country. New constitutional laws should be adopted and respective changes should be made in hundreds of laws. In the last few months, the electoral code has been the most debated aspect. That has been discussed jointly, with the participation of members of the ruling coalition, the opposition and civil society—the so-called “4+4+4” format. The process of developing the new electoral code progressed in a spirit of co-operation between all interested political forces. The authorities of the country aimed to build a consensus around this crucial issue, with the main goal to raise and ensure people’s confidence. It was an exceptional collaboration, directed at creating a stable and reliable base for the upcoming elections next year. Holding free and fair elections is the top priority of the country. Due process and legitimacy is much more important than results.
In comparison, I would like to refer briefly to the latest referendum in Azerbaijan on constitutional amendments. It raised serious concerns for the Venice Commission, which was totally withdrawn from the process of developing changes. What has happened is natural for autocratic regimes. Amendments were adopted to safeguard the Aliyev dynasty’s eternal rule. The people of Armenia have chosen the path of democracy and I believe that due to those reforms, we will have a society in which our future generations live in prosperity and stability. Democratic reforms in the countries of the region are the most reliable path towards––
The PRESIDENT – I am sorry, Ms Naghdalyan, I have to interrupt you. Because we are overrunning, because speeches have overrun and because the debate started late, I am afraid that we are not going to get all the speakers in. I am sorry about that, but we have to do what we have to do. We shall conclude the debate at 4.50 p.m. to allow for the wind-ups.
I call Ms Zohrabyan on a point of order.
Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia)* – The President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Agramunt, regularly denies me speaking time for no reason. He informed the head of my delegation, as well as our new ambassador, that he did not like my contributions. In addition, they published my contributions having suppressed passages that Mr Agramunt did not like –
The PRESIDENT – That is not a point of order for the Chair. Will you take your seat please, Ms Zohrabyan? I call Mr Huseynov.
Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Thank you, Mr President. I thank the rapporteur for the excellent report, which gives us an opportunity to highlight important events of the recent past. The most important event we witnessed was the failed coup attempt in Turkey. It was a brilliant example of the unity of political parties, people and social groups. The source of that unity is the belief in democracy and that violence and killings cannot be the source of challenges to democratic institutions. That process also showed us that in Turkey, there is a strong willingness to co-operate with the Council of Europe, to be committed to its values, and to intensify the dialogue. That is very important and I am proud to note that our Organisation, our President and our Secretary General were first to visit Turkey to express their support and stand by the Turkish people. We should continue to have that approach because these are difficult times, and we should stand by Turkey in the post-coup period.
I would also like to comment on the words of my colleague from Armenia, Ms Naghdalyan. As we witness in every session, the Armenian delegates think that their most important role here is to provide biased information on Azerbaijan, to misguide people and confuse their audience by providing false information. I remind them that their role is not limited to providing black information and complaining about Azerbaijan. As well as dealing with the human rights of those who became refugees because of the Armenian occupation of our territory and the rights of the refugees living in Azerbaijan, they should have the courage to take responsibility for Khojaly in which their government and president were directly involved.
Ms Naghdalyan mentioned the referendum in Azerbaijan and indeed, it was a very important constitutional reform. The aim was to ensure a more efficient governance system in Azerbaijan. It had a high level of support from the people. The PACE evaluation mission visited Azerbaijan along with thousands of observers. They all found that the process was transparent and evaluated the process positively. That showed us that there is a strong link in Azerbaijan between the people and the president, and we cannot see that in Armenia if we are talking about the past. The clear example is the Erebuni case, which happened three months ago. The opposition leaders and human rights defenders risked their lives to keep a police station open, just to request the resignation of the President of Armenia.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Huseynov. I am advised that if we try the patience of our splendid interpreters, we may be able to get to the end of the speakers’ list, but it will mean that we run very slightly over time. I call Mr Ariev, please – as quickly as you can.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – I address this question to all the members of the Assembly present: why was the Soviet Union not a member of the Council of Europe? It was not a member because it did not satisfy the criteria and values of the Council of Europe. The difference now between the Soviet Union and Russia, as the successor of the U.S.S.R. – as Russia proclaims itself to be – is only one thing: the absence of the death penalty. Everything else is similar to the Soviet Union before it failed.
I say that because I am deeply concerned about the intention of some influential members, including the President of the Assembly, to return Russia without any restrictions or any limitations. It looks as though they are being forgiven for everything that they did through the principle of wide shut eyes. I want to inform the Chamber that leaders and deputies of all political groups visited the Moscow in September. There was contact with Russia in St Petersburg and the President of the Russian Federation Council was here in Strasbourg. What information did we get from that meeting? There was no attempt to discuss what Russia has to do to fulfil its obligation to the Council of Europe. Despite that, what we have got on the table at the Assembly is the list of demands that we should follow to allow the Russians to come back to the Council of Europe.
This is the first time that a member State is not being asked to meet the requirements of the institution. Instead, the institution is rolling out the red carpet based on the requirements of the State. We have to ask ourselves whether we are going to continue with the hypocrisy of the so-called dialogue. It is not dialogue; Russia is saying to the world, “We win, you lose.” After Ukraine and Aleppo, Russia is now trying to burn the Balkans in Serbian Krajina. We should protect a member of the Assembly from self-elimination and choose the last option.
Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia)* – We need a debate under the urgent procedure on the referendum on constitutional changes in Azerbaijan on 26 September. Through that referendum, that member State of the Council of Europe became a sultanate, the main model of which involves the inheriting of the position of president, which is now part of its fundamental laws. Presidential power has been extended and the minimum-age barrier has been lifted by these constitutional changes. A principle has been enshrined in law meaning that the ruler’s son could succeed him, restricting the rights of others. Human rights defenders, the Musavat party and others have called on the constitutional court not to provide a positive view. Otherwise, Aliyev will be given greater freedoms in a State that has become a tyrannical sultanate.
I do not even want to mention the other violations that occurred during the referendum. I hope that the Assembly will discuss the unbelievable response of the PACE mission, which stated that the referendum in Azerbaijan was open and transparent and which ignored the assessment of the OSCE and the Venice Commission. How can our colleagues in the Assembly consider the referendum untouchable given all the electoral fraud, including even allowing school-age children to vote? In other countries, demonstrations took place outside embassies with banners saying, "The people do not want a king”. Despite all this scandal, we are told that 91% of Azerbaijan is in favour of having a king. What happened on 26 September must be the subject of serious debate. We kept silent when Aliyev changed the constitution to provide the right to be elected president for life, and we keep silent even when such things are officially declared.
Mr ABU SHAHLA (Palestine, Partner for Democracy) – I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur for the two reports about the missions to observe elections in Belarus and Jordan. I strongly support PACE missions to observe elections, particularly in our region where democracy is evolving and growing. Successful and frequent electoral processes encourage other countries to adopt democracy as a means of change. Peaceful transformation and social cohesion can be achieved by replacing bullets with ballot boxes. Through democracy, people can choose their type of governance, their representation, their rulers, and their constitution. The Council of Europe is crucial in supporting democracy and the adoption of the rule of law and human rights.
We Palestinians are struggling to get an independent State and to end the occupation of our lands. We expect the support of all Council of Europe member States, which should recognise our future State. We hope that parliamentarians here will encourage their countries to support the French initiative of an international conference for peace in the Middle East, which aims to put in place a timetable to end the occupation. We hope that 2017 will be the year that the occupation ends and that the world recognises our State, which has adopted the same standards as the Council of Europe.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Kandemir is not here, so that concludes the list of speakers.
I call Ms Schou to reply. You have up to six minutes, but if you can manage with less, that would be a kindness.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – I thank the Assembly for sharing its views on and experience of election observation and the necessity of securing democracy.
Mr Schennach and Ms Leskaj mentioned Kosovo. The Bureau decision of 5 September is a clarification of what the Assembly decided in Resolution 2094, paragraph 13. It clarifies how this political decision can be implemented in practice. The January decision stands, so I urge you to ratify the decision of the Bureau. Failure to do so would only mean discussing the issue anew in the Bureau.
Mr Xuclà, Mr Kox and Mr Seyidov mentioned that on Wednesday we will welcome our former President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. On Thursday, we will have a current affairs debate on the situation in Turkey since the attempted coup. As we will have time to discuss that later in the week, I will comment no further on Turkey now.
Mr Kox also mentioned Ukraine. Two reports on Ukraine have been prepared for this part-session, so we will have ample time to discuss Ukraine on Wednesday and I will again not comment further at this point.
Mr Kox and Mr Sobolev mentioned Russia, and I want to say that President Agramunt has on several occasions underlined the importance of our Organisation being pan-European. The Bureau has supported this, and the declaration I referred to in my presentation is proof. I am also looking forward to hearing more about the visit that President Agramunt and the chairs of the political groups made to Russia in September.
To say only a few words about Azerbaijan, I support the advice of the assessment mission to Azerbaijan to respect the opinion of the Venice Commission when it comes to the balance of power and the role of parliament.
Terrorist attacks, the attempted coup in Turkey, the continuing conflict in Ukraine and the ongoing migration crisis all show the importance of the Council of Europe. We must be vigilant. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the core principles of our Organisation, are continuously being challenged and, as we saw this summer, they even come under direct threat. In September, I attended a colloquium arranged by our esteemed colleague, Mr René Rouquet. The question headlining our day in Paris was whether the Council of Europe has a future. Our conclusion was yes, indeed. This summer has been a testament to that fact.
In closing, I quote economist and scholar Amartya Sen on democratic development: “A country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fit through democracy.” As members of the Council of Europe, we are in the fitness business – we work to make each other fitter by strengthening our democracies.
The PRESIDENT – I am now required to give an update on the election of judges in respect of Hungary. With reference to ratification by the Assembly of the recommendations of the Committee on the Election of Judges to reject the list in respect of Hungary, I have to inform the Assembly that one of the candidates on the Hungarian list decided to withdraw his name. Therefore, in line with Resolution 1432 of the Assembly, the procedure for Hungary is immediately interrupted, and the Government of Hungary will be asked to complete the list. As a consequence, at this time the Assembly is no longer able to ratify the recommendation with respect to Hungary.
The Bureau has proposed in the progress report a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly.
Is there any objection to the proposed references to committees?
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
I now invite the Assembly to approve the other decisions of the Bureau, as set out in the progress report (Document 14150, Addenda I and II). Are there any objections?
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is approved.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5 p.m.)
1. Questions to Mr Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Questions: Ms Palihovici (Republic of Moldova), Ms Durrieu (France), Mr Michael Jensen (Denmark), Mr Tarczyński (Poland), Mr Özsoy (Turkey), Mr Le Borgn’ (France), Ms Ahmed-Sheikh (United Kingdom), Mr R. Huseynov (Azerbaijan), Mr Hunko (Germany), Ms Schou (Norway), Ms Zimmermann (France) and Mr Kürkçü (Turkey)
2. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee – debate resumed
Speakers: Mr Korodi (Romania), Mr Schennach (Austria), Mr Xuclà (Spain), Mr Kox (Netherlands), Mr Fournier (France), Ms Gosselin-Fleury (France), Mr Csenger-Zalán (Hungary), Ms Durrieu (France), Mr Rigoni (Italy), Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan), Ms Leskaj (Albania), Mr Sobolev (Ukraine), Ms Karapetyan (Armenia), Mr Sabella (Palestine), Ms Kalmari (Finland), Ms Naghdalyan (Armenia), Ms Zohrabyan (Armenia), Mr V. Huseynov (Azerbaijan), Mr Ariev (Ukraine), Ms Zohrabyan (Armenia) and Mr Abu Shahla (Palestine)
Replies: Ms Schou (Norway)
3. Next public sitting
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the register of attendance in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of members substituted follow (in brackets) the names of participating members.
Liste des représentants ou suppléants ayant signé le registre de présence, conformément à l’article 12.2 du Règlement Les noms des titulaires remplacés figurent (entre parenthèses) après les noms des membres participants.
ÅBERG, Boriana [Ms] (BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr])
AHMED-SHEIKH, Tasmina [Ms]
ALIU, Imer [Mr] (MEHMETI DEVAJA, Ermira [Ms])
AMTSBERG, Luise [Ms]
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARENT, Iwona [Ms]
ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr]
BARNETT, Doris [Ms]
BAYKAL, Deniz [Mr]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr]
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BOJIĆ, Milovan [Mr]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BRUYN, Piet De [Mr]
BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
BUDNER, Margareta [Ms]
CEPEDA, José [Mr]
CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
CIMOSZEWICZ, Tomasz [Mr] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr]
DESKOSKA, Renata [Ms]
DJUROVIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
DOKLE, Namik [M.]
DONALDSON, Jeffrey [Sir]
DURRIEU, Josette [Mme]
DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr]
EATON, Margaret [Baroness] (HOWELL, John [Mr])
ECCLES, Diana [Lady]
ESEYAN, Markar [Mr]
EẞL, Franz Leonhard [Mr]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FAZZONE, Claudio [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
FEIST, Thomas [Mr] (WELLMANN, Karl-Georg [Mr])
FENECH ADAMI, Joseph [Mr]
FOULKES, George [Lord] (PRESCOTT, John [Mr])
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRÉCON, Jean-Claude [M.] (KARAMANLI, Marietta [Mme])
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GHASEMI, Tina [Ms]
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GOSSELIN-FLEURY, Geneviève [Mme] (BAPT, Gérard [M.])
GÜNAY, Emine Nur [Ms]
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
GUTIÉRREZ, Antonio [Mr]
HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr]
HEER, Alfred [Mr]
HERKEL, Andres [Mr] (KROSS, Eerik-Niiles [Mr])
HOFFMANN, Rózsa [Mme] (VEJKEY, Imre [Mr])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HUNKO Andrej [Mr]
HUOVINEN, Susanna [Ms] (GUZENINA, Maria [Ms])
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Vusal [Mr] (MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.])
JAKAVONIS, Gediminas [M.]
JENSEN, Michael Aastrup [Mr]
JÓNASSON, Ögmundur [Mr]
JONICA, Snežana [Ms] (TUPONJA, Goran [Mr])
JORDANA, Carles [M.]
JOVANOVIĆ, Jovan [Mr]
KALMARI, Anne [Ms]
KANDEMIR, Erkan [Mr]
KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms] (ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr])
KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr]
KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR, Filiz [Ms]
KESİCİ, İlhan [Mr]
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (SOTNYK, Olena [Ms])
KOÇ, Haluk [Mr]
KORODI, Attila [Mr]
KORUN, Alev [Ms]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KÜÇÜKCAN, Talip [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
L OVOCHKINA, Yuliya [Ms]
LE BORGN', Pierre-Yves [M.]
LE DAIN, Anne-Yvonne [Mme] (LE DÉAUT, Jean-Yves [M.])
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LESKAJ, Valentina [Ms]
LEYDEN, Terry [Mr] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])
LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms]
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LOUHELAINEN, Anne [Ms] (PACKALÉN, Tom [Mr])
LOZOVOY, Andriy [Mr] (VOVK, Viktor [Mr])
LUIS, Teófilo de [Mr] (BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr])
MAELEN, Dirk Van der [Mr] (DUMERY, Daphné [Ms])
MAIJ, Marit [Ms]
MANNINGER, Jenő [Mr] (GULYÁS, Gergely [Mr])
MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MEALE, Alan [Sir]
MESTERHÁZY, Attila [Mr]
MIGNON, Jean-Claude [M.]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MILEWSKI, Daniel [Mr]
MILTENBURG, Anouchka van [Ms]
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (CROWE, Seán [Mr])
NAGHDALYAN, Hermine [Ms]
NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]
NIKOLOSKI, Aleksandar [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OEHRI, Judith [Ms]
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
ÖNAL, Suat [Mr]
O'REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
OSUCH, Jacek [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])
PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms] (NEGUTA, Andrei [M.])
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]
PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms]
PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms]
PASQUIER, Bernard [M.] (ALLAVENA, Jean-Charles [M.])
PECKOVÁ, Gabriela [Ms] (BENEŠIK, Ondřej [Mr])
PELKONEN, Jaana [Ms]
POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
POSTOICO, Maria [Mme] (VORONIN, Vladimir [M.])
PREDA, Cezar Florin [M.]
PSYCHOGIOS, Georgios [Mr] (KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms])
QUÉRÉ, Catherine [Mme] (ALLAIN, Brigitte [Mme])
QUINTANILLA, Carmen [Mme]
RADOMSKI, Kerstin [Ms]
REICHARDT, André [M.] (DURANTON, Nicole [Mme])
REISS, Frédéric [M.] (JACQUAT, Denis [M.])
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms]
RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Soraya [Mme] (BATET, Meritxell [Ms])
SALLES, Rudy [M.] (ROCHEBLOINE, François [M.])
SALMOND, Alex [Mr]
SAMMUT, Joseph [Mr] (SCHEMBRI, Deborah [Ms])
SAVCHENKO, Nadiia [Ms]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER, Elisabeth [Mme] (LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.])
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCULLY, Paul [Mr] (GALE, Roger [Sir])
SEYIDOV, Samad [Mr]
SILVA, Adão [M.]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
STOILOV, Yanaki [Mr]
TARCZYŃSKI, Dominik [M.]
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
TORNARE, Manuel [M.] (FIALA, Doris [Mme])
TORUN, Cemalettin Kani [Mr]
TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
USTA, Leyla Şahin [Ms]
UYSAL, Burhanettin [Mr] (BABAOĞLU, Mehmet [Mr])
VÁHALOVÁ, Dana [Ms]
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr] (SKARDŽIUS, Arturas [Mr])
VASILI, Petrit [Mr]
VĖSAITĖ, Birutė [Ms]
WILK, Jacek [Mr]
WURM, Gisela [Ms]
XUCLÀ, Jordi [Mr]
YAŞAR, Serap [Mme]
YEMETS, Leonid [Mr]
ZELIENKOVÁ, Kristýna [Ms]
ZIMMERMANN, Marie-Jo [Mme]
ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme
Vacant Seat, Andorra/Siège vacant, Andorre (JORDANA, Carles [M.])
Vacant Seat, Croatia/Siège vacant, Croatie*
Vacant Seat,Cyprus/Siège vacant, Chypre
Also present/Egalement présents
Représentants et Suppléants non autorisés à voter/
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote
BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr]
MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.]
MELKUMYAN, Mikayel [M.]
ÖZSOY, Hişyar [Mr]
PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms]
SITARSKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)/ Représentants de la communauté chypriote turque (Conformément à la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)
RAMÍREZ NÚÑEZ, Ulises [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
Partners for democracy/Partenaires pour la démocratie
ABUSHAHLA, Mohammedfaisal [Mr]
KHADER, Qais [Mr]
SABELLA, Bernard [Mr]