AS (2016) CR 31
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday 11 October 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 report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the chair at 3.35 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
The PRESIDENT – I must remind you that the vote is again open for the election of two judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
The poll will close at 5 p.m. Those who have not yet voted may still do so by going to the area behind the President’s chair.
I remind the tellers, Ms Anttila, Mr Geraint Davies, Mr Hunko and Mr Daems, that they should meet behind the President’s chair at 5 p.m.
2. Credentials of the delegation of Serbia
The PRESIDENT – At the Assembly’s opening sitting yesterday morning, the still unratified credentials of the parliamentary delegation of Serbia were challenged on procedural grounds, under Rule 7 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure. The Assembly accordingly referred the credentials to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.
At its meeting this morning, the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs adopted the following opinion, which I shall read out:
“The Committee on Rules of Procedure examined the objection raised in plenary that the composition of the delegation did not allow fair representation of the political parties or groups in the Serbian Parliament. It noted the explanations provided by the Serbian delegation and the fact that the appointment of the delegation was carried out in the context of an overall procedure to nominate representatives on 11 international parliamentary delegations in accordance with the procedure laid down by the rules of procedure of the Serbian Parliament guaranteeing fair political representation of the political groups represented in parliament.Wi
With reference to Rule 25 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, Rule 6 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, and Assembly Resolution 1798 (2011) on fair representation of the political parties or groups of national parliaments in their delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly, the committee considers that the decision on the composition of parliamentary delegations was made by the Serbian Parliament in accordance with its internal procedure, which is based on the pluralist functioning of parliament, and that there are insufficient grounds not to ratify the credentials of the Serbian delegation.
The committee therefore concludes that the credentials of the Serbian parliamentary delegation should be ratified.”
The credentials of the Serbian delegation are now ratified, without debate.
3. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
The PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly presented by Mr Jürgen Ligi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. This will be followed by questions to Mr Ligi.
I am honoured to welcome Mr Jürgen Ligi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. Thank you very much for being with us today, Minister. I would like to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, my warmest congratulations on your recent appointment to the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia. This Assembly has already had the pleasure of co-operating closely with your predecessor, Ms Marina Kaljurand, and we are pleased to continue this collaboration with you during the rest of the Estonian chairmanship and afterwards. I am sure that, given your extensive experience, including as Minister of Education and Minister of Defence, you will bring an important perspective to our discussions.
Mr LIGI (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) – Distinguished President, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to address this Assembly in my capacity as Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. The written activity report on the progress achieved under the Estonian chairmanship over the past few months has already been distributed. However, I take this opportunity to highlight some important recent developments that have affected our work.
These include, of course, the attempted coup d’état in Turkey. We were all deeply saddened by the dramatic events that took place during the night of 14/15 July. Like you, Mr President, my predecessor, Ms Marina Kaljurand, immediately condemned the attempted coup and, like the Secretary General, visited Ankara in August to express her solidarity with the Turkish people and subsequently remained in close contact with the Turkish authorities.
On 7 September, the Ministers’ Deputies held an exchange of views with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Çavuşoğlu. A number of ministers and other senior officials from member States participated in this exchange. As was highlighted during the exchange, the Turkish authorities are legitimate in their action to bring to justice those who organised and took part in the attempted coup. At the same time, extreme care must be taken to respect the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the right to a fair trial. One should also avoid any indiscriminate action that would target people who were not involved in the coup. Respect for freedom of expression and the media is another core principle. Your Assembly will have the opportunity to learn more about the events that took place in Turkey during its exchange of views with Minister Çavuşoğlu tomorrow.
In these challenging times, it is important that the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, the two main statutory bodies of our Organisation, work closely to support the Turkish authorities and the people of Turkey. The Council of Europe should continue to stand by Turkey and provide its valuable assistance, in particular in the areas of the judiciary and the media. The recent visits of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Commissioner for Human Rights to Turkey are welcome steps.
I should also mention the two recent meetings between experts from the Turkish Ministry of Justice and representatives of the Secretariat on taking steps to ensure that the measures adopted under the state of emergency comply with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. This matter is of particular importance and I trust that the Turkish authorities will draw on the advice given in this context.
Terrorism is another topic that continues to retain our attention. Since the previous session last June, terrorists have continued to employ indiscriminate violence in Europe and elsewhere. The horrific attacks in Nice on 14 July and in the south of Turkey, including those last Sunday, as well as the recent shootings in the United States, all remind us that the fight against terrorism is far from being won and that more needs to be done. It is up to us all to ensure that our countries tirelessly continue their counter-terrorism efforts.
As regards the Council of Europe’s instruments, our governments must be encouraged to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. The main aim of the protocol is to prevent and combat the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, in particular by establishing “travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism” as a criminal offence. I stress that the protocol is the only existing international instrument in the world that offers legal tools and practical measures to address this problem. Estonia is in the process of ratifying the protocol; I hope many countries will rapidly ratify it so that it can come into force as soon as possible.
We are all aware that one of the terrorists’ main objectives is to spread hatred and create dividing lines in our culturally diverse societies. It is precisely to prevent their achieving this goal that the Committee of Ministers is continuing forcefully to counter hate speech and racism. I know our committee can rely on the support of the Assembly in so doing as the Assembly has already taken several initiatives in this area, in particular the #NoHateNoFear initiative.
The refugee crisis, with which virtually all our member States are confronted, has also fuelled racism and populism. Over the past few weeks, new tragedies have struck the shores of the Mediterranean and tensions in and around the refugee camps are steadily growing. States must work together to find a solution to the current crisis. It also requires a response in keeping with our human rights commitments. Refugees and migrants, like all other persons within the jurisdiction of one of our member States, are entitled to the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights. The migration crisis is an issue to which the committee continues to pay particular attention. The Ministers’ Deputies hold regular exchanges of views with Ambassador Tomáš Boček, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees.
One of the priorities of the Estonian chairmanship has been keeping children’s rights in the limelight, particularly in relation to the refugee crisis. It is our responsibility to ensure that the children in the refugee centres and camps receive care and attention on a level we consider right for any child and young person. Education is the key in the post-crisis world; today’s children will be rebuilding their broken societies tomorrow. It is vital that refugee children continue to receive education throughout these difficult times and challenging circumstances. This message was delivered by the Estonian President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, three weeks ago at the UNICEF-Council of Europe joint event Carry Light for Children in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. Estonia will continue to address the subject of children in the refugee crisis at a high-level conference on children’s rights to be held in Tallinn on 4 November.
In September, the committee held its third human rights meeting of 2016, during which it examined the implementation by several member States of the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. On this occasion, it once again discussed the Mammadov v. Azerbaijan case, which is henceforth included on the agenda of every meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies. At the end of the human rights meeting, the Committee of Ministers once again regretted the fact that Ilgar Mammadov was still being held in detention, in violation of the Convention. The Committee of Ministers has on several occasions called for Mr Mammadov’s immediate release and I trust that the Azerbaijani authorities will respond rapidly.
Still in Azerbaijan, a referendum was held last month on amendments to the constitution. In a preliminary opinion, the Venice Commission concluded that the draft modifications submitted to the referendum were “at odds with European constitutional heritage”. It is important that the Azerbaijani authorities take this opinion into serious account before implementing the envisaged reforms.
Elections were also held recently, or will be held shortly, in a number of other member States. The credibility of our democratic systems depends to a large extent on the conditions in which elections are held. The holding of free and fair elections is an absolute prerequisite for good democratic governance, but also a right that is safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Committee of Ministers regularly adopts electoral assistance programmes to help our member States organise elections that are in keeping with democratic principles. This is, for example, the case in Georgia for the parliamentary elections held last weekend, as well as in the Republic of Moldova, which will shortly hold elections that will be decisive for its future development.
Mentioning elections, I cannot but recall the position of the Committee of Ministers on the non-recognition of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Therefore, the parliamentary elections which were organised there by the Russian Federation are contrary to international law and invalid.
For its part, our Assembly plays a key role in ensuring the promotion and application of European electoral standards. The international observation of elections in Europe in an institutionalised form originates from the Assembly, and a delegation from our Assembly recently took part in observing the parliamentary elections in Belarus. The observation mission found that a number of systemic shortcomings in the preparation of, and the run-up to, the elections remain to be addressed, including with respect to political rights and media coverage.
The Committee of Ministers continues to pay particular attention to the situation in Belarus and, more particularly, to the questions that I just mentioned. In the coming weeks, the Ministers’ Deputies are likely to adopt a new action plan for Belarus that includes projects in the field of human rights, justice, the rule of law and democratic governance. Our strategic goal remains the integration of Belarus into the Organisation. However, for this to happen further democratic progress in Belarus is needed.
Yesterday, we celebrated the European day against the death penalty. A significant step towards integration would be for Belarus to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty as a first move towards its abolition. Unfortunately, the situation does not seem to be improving. No later than last week, the Ministers’ Deputies adopted a declaration deploring the confirmation of another death sentence by the Supreme Court of Belarus.
Talking about the tools at our disposal for supporting countries in their democratic reforms, I will briefly mention the most ambitious action plan ever adopted by the Committee of Ministers. The Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2015-17, with a budget of €45 million, shows the importance our Organisation attaches to supporting the ambitious reform agenda of the Ukrainian authorities. My country, Estonia, is among the many member States which have contributed to its financing. At a high-level stocktaking conference here in Strasbourg last week, we were given an in-depth overview of the state of reforms in Ukraine, from human rights protection and the independence of the judiciary to the fight against corruption – a key to sustainable success in any country.
When calling on Ukraine to make further efforts in the implementation of reforms, we should not forget that the country is currently experiencing a difficult time. The Committee of Ministers attaches particular importance to the ongoing conflict, the violation of territorial integrity and the resulting deterioration of human rights and overall security. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea at the beginning of 2014, the Committee has addressed the issue a number of times and will continue to do so until peace, security and the territorial integrity of Ukraine are restored.
Before concluding, I should briefly like to go over the priorities of the Estonian chairmanship. Back in June, my predecessor introduced our plans to you, and now it is my turn to give an overview of what has been done. I have already mentioned children’s rights in the context of the migration crisis, highlighted prominently at the UNICEF-Council of Europe joint conference on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly. The forthcoming children’s rights conference in Tallinn I mentioned earlier will address another up-and-coming theme: children in the digital environment. A constantly evolving digital world creates a huge potential for everyone from governments to individuals, and in particular children. Experts predict that within 10 years almost 90% of the entire population will be connected to the Internet and the digital and physical worlds will be merged. Will there still be a clear distinction between virtual and real life?
Along with opportunities come challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to find means and strategies to cope with the risks that widespread digitalisation may have on children’s well-being, as well as to spot the opportunities the digital world offers to education and personal development. By the end of next month, we hope to have enriched our compilation of shared practices from all of our countries.
What the rapidly developing digital environment means for the future of our societies in general is one of the most pertinent questions of today. Human rights and the rule of law on the Internet is evidently among Estonia’s priorities. Our success in building up an innovative Internet-based digital society has been based on the precondition that Internet is free and accessible to everyone. I would like to commend the Council of Europe’s high ambitions and extensive work on Internet-related issues. The Council of Europe has taken an active role in the Internet Governance Forum and the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, or EuroDIG. In that context, I am pleased to announce that Estonia will host the next EuroDIG event in Tallinn in June 2017.
I invite the Council of Europe to continue with its ahead-of-the-curve standard setting and monitoring arrangements, which address and follow the evolution of the Internet and of new technology in general. In this age of data-driven economies, the private sector has a growing responsibility for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online, including the protection of personal data. Governments and international organisations need increasingly to engage with the private sector. European governments need dynamic and innovation-oriented European institutions to make us all fit for purpose in the digital age.
The last but perhaps most polemic issue on our priority list is gender equality, or the lack of it. Achieving gender equality is central to the protection of human rights, the functioning of democracy and economic growth and sustainability. More equal societies work better for everyone. For this reason, we in Estonia work hard to achieve gender equality in every field of life. The stock-taking conference of the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2014-17 in Tallinn on 30 June and 1 July explored, among other themes, the impact of the Internet era on gender equality, challenges and opportunities and concluded that the Istanbul Convention, which Estonia will ratify soon, offers important tools for tackling online sexist hate speech and gender-based cyber-bullying. It also made the point that until men fully throw their weight behind the fight against inequality and gender discrimination, progress is bound to be slow. However, surmounting limiting gender stereotypes is a task for men as well as women.
In my country, we are struggling with the gender pay gap. The Estonian Government will amend the Gender Equality Act by tasking the labour inspectorate to check employers’ salary practices. The problem is common in all countries, but some are more advanced in researching the hidden causes and offering viable solutions. We need to share our best practices. Perhaps the Parliamentary Assembly could lead the way.
It has been an honour for us to chair the Committee of Ministers. Next month, our chairmanship will come to an end. I express my delegation’s full support for Cyprus, which is to succeed us. I thank you for your attention and will be glad to answer your questions. [Applause.]
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Ligi. We will now proceed to questions. I remind colleagues that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should ask questions, not make speeches.
The first question is by Mr Axel Fischer on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr FISCHER (Germany, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party)* – Many thanks, Minister, for setting out the work of the Committee of Ministers and giving us some idea of its breadth. You said that the committee has concluded that the elections organised in Crimea by Russia are contrary to international law and therefore null and void. I am interested to know how the committee thinks co-operation with Russia should occur.
Mr LIGI – I believe the assistance of the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers has been made clear. The elections in Crimea are not defined as legal. A discussion took place at the meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies on 28 September about the elections in the Crimea. I cannot but recall the Committee of Ministers’ non-recognition of the Russian Federation’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine. The parliamentary elections organised there by the Russian Federation were contrary to international law and invalid, as I said. Decisions about co-operation by the Parliamentary Assembly are, of course, for the Assembly itself.
Ms BLONDIN (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – There have been a lot of concerns in Assembly member States about fundamental rights. In Poland lately, since the assault on the independence of the courts, there have been attacks on women’s rights, particularly the right to abortion. What procedure do you have in the Committee of Ministers to ensure the upholding of fundamental rights, equality between men and women and of course democracy?
Mr LIGI – Thank you for that important question. As you know, member States’ positions on this issue are not always the same, but our common position is that gender equality is essential to human rights and genuine democracy. That is a fundamental principle advocated by the Council of Europe based on a strong legal and political framework. As I also mentioned, gender equality is a priority of our chairmanship. We work hard to achieve de facto gender equality in Estonia and to contribute to spreading the word across Europe. On the issue of abortion, there is no common position among member States. The Committee of Ministers considers that, in view of the differences in situation and approach among member States on the issue, responses must be given at national level.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Radical tendencies have increased recently in the political life of some European countries. Radical statements by some political parties negatively affect people and strengthen anti-migrant, anti-Islam and anti-Semitic feeling in some European countries, and such political parties get more votes in each new election. Are you worried about the increase of such tendencies in Europe, which create a great risk for the future of the continent? What measures does the Committee of Ministers plan to take to prevent those tendencies and promote multiculturalism in Europe?
Mr LIGI – You are right. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a rise in racism, intolerance, disconnection, hate speech and other forms of extremist and xenophobic expression across our member States. Even before the current refugee crisis, a growing atmosphere of intolerance was evident in many, if not all, member States, with populist and xenophobic parties, among other things, gaining popularity across Europe. Such trends are a threat to peace and democratic security. Acting against extremism and rising intolerance and xenophobia is, therefore, a top priority for the Committee of Ministers. To do so, the Organisation has many tools, including a number of legal instruments and monitoring mechanisms, such as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. There are also practical tools such as action plans on building inclusive societies and the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism or the campaign against hate speech on the Internet. Both the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers must use those and the other available tools to fight with determination against those negative trends.
Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – In congratulating the Minister on his country’s effective chairmanship of the Council of Europe, may I ask him whether he agrees that, while dealing with topical issues, each successive and future national chairmanship should nevertheless strongly emphasise our key European priorities, namely peace, political stability, human rights and the rule of law? Before demitting office next month, what steps does he plan to take in order to communicate and achieve such continuity of resolve and emphasis by future Council of Europe national chairmanships?
Mr LIGI – My short reply is yes, I totally agree: that has to be worked upon.
Mr HUNKO (Germany, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left)* – The coup in Turkey and all the terrible incidents since then have taken place during your chairmanship. Thousands of judges were dismissed and institutions were closed down. Most recently, a commemoration of the country’s greatest terrorist attack was closed down yesterday. Dozens of politicians from the HDP in the southern part of Turkey have been arrested. What is the Committee of Ministers doing to make sure that we can stop the transformation of Turkey into an autocratic regime?
Mr LIGI – I think that most of the answer to that question has already been given to you in written form. I am afraid that I cannot add much to that. The answer is too long to read out. The report of the Commissioner for Human Rights on the fight against terrorism shows that we need more human rights, more rule of law and more democracy and transparency, not less.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Minister. That brings to an end the speakers on behalf of the political groups. We now turn to the speakers list. The Minister will answer three questions at a time.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – Russia has enacted a law that places its constitutional court above the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which is a flagrant violation of the Convention. How does the Committee of Ministers envisage the implementation of Court decisions in respect of Russia, given the new circumstances created by that law?
Mr R HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – As well as providing economic dividends, tourism offers an exceptional opportunity to deepen amity between countries and to develop friendly relations and ties, so it carries political weight. Such relations do not exist among some member States of the Council of Europe; at best, they are rooted in individual initiatives. Can the Committee of Ministers initiate the improvement of touristic relations among member States by preparing a special programme for systematic action?
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands) – Following on from Mr Hunko’s question, 100 000 people have been dismissed in Turkey and 50 000 arrested. We are talking about a purge. The answers of the Committee of Ministers were absent and flat. They talked about democracy in Turkey, but 100 000 people have lost their jobs with no right of appeal. How will the Committee of Ministers ensure that those people get the right to appeal through a proper process and that they can be reinstated if they are not found guilty?
Secondly, will the Minister make sure that the report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was written in aftermath of the coup and counter-coup, will be made public by November?
Mr LIGI – I will start with the first question about the Russian Federation and constitutional law changes in relation to European Court of Human Rights judgments. The law adopted by the Russian Duma on 4 December 2015 was discussed by the Committee of Ministers on 16 December. As the Secretary General underlined, no country can invoke its constitution in order not to implement an obligation under an international treaty. The obligation under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights is binding. The decision adopted last spring by the Russian Constitutional Court in the case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia, regarding the rights of prisoners to vote, suggests that ways can be found to reconcile the provisions of domestic constitutional law with international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Venice Commission recently adopted a final opinion on the amendments to the federal constitutional law of the constitutional court, and it proposes further amendments to that law, which would bring it in line with international standards. I have every confidence that the Russian authorities will search for solutions in a constructive and co-operative spirit, in the interests of human rights protection.
I thank Mr Huseynov for asking the next question, which was about the promotion of cultural routes. I agree that tourism is an interesting way of promoting mutual knowledge and understanding among people. The issues raised are covered, to some extent, by the work of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes. Key elements are cultural co-operation and exchange, tourism and social cohesion, with a particular focus on the themes of symbolic importance for European unity, history, culture and values. I encourage member States with a strong interest in those subjects to accede to the cultural routes and to contribute to this important co-operation and networking.
There was a question about Turkey. Together with Secretary General Jagland, my predecessor was in close contact with the Turkish authorities throughout the summer following the coup attempt and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency. Both made visits to Ankara in August to express solidarity and to discuss the situation with President Erdoğan, the Prime Minister, the Ministers for Justice and for Foreign Affairs and the Speaker of the Parliament. On 7 September, the Ministers’ Deputies held an exchange of views with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Çavuşoğlu. A number of ministers and other high officials from member States participated in that exchange. As was pointed out during the exchange, the Turkish authorities are legitimately acting to bring justice to those who organised and participated in the coup attempt, but, at the same time, extreme care must be taken to respect the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly the right to a fair trial, to avoid any criminal action targeting people who had nothing to do with the coup. A transparent, independent and impartial judicial process is essential.
Respect of freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom of association and freedom of assembly are core principles. The Council of Europe should continue to provide valuable assistance to Turkey, particularly in the areas of the judiciary and the media. The recent visits to Turkey by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Commissioner for Human Rights are welcome steps. I trust the Turkish authorities will follow their recommendations and will, in accordance with usual practice, publish the report on the visit the CPT made in due course. I also trust that they will follow up on the recommendations following the two recent meetings between experts from the Turkish Ministry of Justice and representatives of the Secretariat. Those are recommendations on the steps that should be taken to ensure that the methods adopted under the state of emergency comply with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Ms BARTOS (Hungary) – Given the fact that the Internet and digitalisation are high on the agenda of the Estonian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers – they form an integral part of the priorities under the Estonian presidency – let me ask for your opinion. To what extent to do you intend to build on the experiences gained here in the Council of Europe? Do you envisage the projects launched during your chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers being followed up?
Mr BILLSTRÖM (Sweden) – I would like to ask Mr Ligi about the approach by the Committee of Ministers regarding Russia and Ukraine. We will soon pass from 2016 into 2017, and then it will be time to review the credentials and the attitude of the Russian Government and its representation in the Council of Europe. It is important to underline that the illegal occupation of Ukraine is continuing, as is the war in eastern Ukraine. We have so far seen no improvement from President Putin on these issues. What approach does the Estonian presidency take regarding Russia and Ukraine?
THE PRESIDENT – Mr Mignon and Mr Eseyan are not here. I call Mr O’Reilly.
Mr O’REILLY (Ireland) – As Mr Ligi will know, the Internet has transformed the Irish economy over the past decades, with many well-known Internet companies setting up their European headquarters in Ireland. I note that Estonia is also very advanced in this area. What activities are going on in the Committee of Ministers in the important area of Internet governance? What are the prospects for the future of that work?
Mr LIGI – I will start with Ms Bartos’s question. Keeping the Internet free and open is among the Estonian priorities. On 9 September, the Estonian chairmanship co-organised a conference, “Internet Freedom: a constant factor of democratic security in Europe”, with the German chairmanship of the OSCE. The conference promoted the Committee of Ministers’ recommendation on Internet freedom by examining best practice and examples regarding its implementation by member States. It also advocated an approach rooted in the European Convention on Human Rights and other relevant standards. The Council of Europe will continue to promote Internet freedom after the Estonian chairmanship ends. It will remain a priority of international co-operation.
Mr Billström asked about the credentials of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly. The position of the Committee of Ministers on Ukraine is well known and clear. A political solution to the crisis in Ukraine can be based only on the principles of a peaceful settlement of disputes, full respect of Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and the protection of human rights. The Committee of Ministers has called on several occasions for full respect of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, most recently in decisions adopted on 27 April. The Committee of Ministers has urged the Russian Federation to withdraw all its troops from Ukraine and to refrain from any military interference. The Committee of Ministers has condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. The credentials of the Russian delegation and the voting rights is an issue for the Assembly, not the Committee. I am sure that decisions will be made while remembering why the voting rights of Russia were suspended.
On Mr O’Reilly’s question about Internet governance, it is essential, as already mentioned in my communication, to ensure that human rights, democracy and the rule of law apply online as well as offline. This is among Estonia’s priorities. The Council of Europe has a vital role to play in this respect. The principle has been anchored in the Council of Europe’s Internet governance strategy 2016-19, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in March this year. First and foremost, the strategy underlines the importance of keeping the Internet open and free-flowing. The strategy also reminds us that the Internet is shaped by a variety of stakeholders, which means that its governance is a shared responsibility. In other words, the strategy advocates an inclusive dialogue between international organisations, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, and governments.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Minister. There are only two more questions, and we are on time, so if you are agreed, I call Ms Magradze.
Ms MAGRADZE (Georgia) – The topic that is under discussion is one of a number of subjects that imply not only different opinions but different points of view. It concerns serious ethical and religious concepts. On the one hand, new opportunities are emerging with the development of science and technology. On the other hand, surrogacy concerns many people’s essential and fundamental values, namely through the eschewing—
The PRESIDENT – We are still on questions.
Ms MAGRADZE – Questions to the Minister? Ah yes, I am sorry; excuse me.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, but that is all.
Ms MAGRADZE – Can I ask my question now?
The PRESIDENT – We have no time. I am sorry. I call Mr Geraint Davies.
Mr G. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – Next week, the European Union Council of Ministers is due to sign the provisional agreement of the European Union-Canada free trade agreement, CETA, which will give immediate powers to investor companies to sue member States in arbitration courts without member States ratifying the agreement first. Will the Minister urgently convey our deep concerns about the implications of this precedent for democracy, the rule of law and human rights through his trade ministers, via the Committee of Ministers, before 18 October next week, when the decision will be made?
Mr LIGI – I am afraid that this question has not been discussed in the Committee of Ministers because its competency belongs to the European Union, not to the Council of Europe.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you once again, Minister, for your participation. We really appreciate the opportunity to exchange views with you. The Assembly will continue to play its part in supporting the priorities of the Estonian chairmanship, and I look forward to continuing our co-operation.
I remind members that the vote is in progress to elect two judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The poll will close at 5 p.m. Those who have not yet voted may still do so by going to the area behind the President’s Chair.
(Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
4. Children’s rights related to surrogacy
The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the debate on the report titled, “Children’s rights related to surrogacy” (Document 14140) presented by Ms Petra De Sutter on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. I remind you that during Monday’s session we decided to limit the speaking time to three minutes. We will have to finish examining this, including the vote, at 6.30 p.m., so I suggest that we stop the list of speakers at 6.15 p.m. to allow time for the replies and to allow for the conduct of the vote.
I call Ms De Sutter, rapporteur. You have a total of 13 minutes which you may divide as you see fit between presenting the report and replying to the debate.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca said that it is not because things are difficult that we are afraid of them; it is because we are afraid of them that they are difficult. Let us show the world that this Assembly is not afraid to deal with difficult subjects. Today we will be discussing an issue which is probably one of the most controversial ethical subjects ever dealt with in this Assembly.
The history of this report, from the moment the original motion was tabled until today, is well known to most of you. When I presented myself as a candidate rapporteur, I was not aware of what awaited me. I will not remind you of what has happened, because I am convinced that a lot of the personal attacks I have suffered result from ignorance and misunderstanding. Nevertheless, here we are today, discussing the topic of surrogacy. I am happy that the subject is now open for debate. We will hear arguments pro and contra in the debate, and this is good. We do need to reflect on important societal issues such as whether there is a right to a child and whether a woman can carry a child for another person, and if so, under which conditions.
But that is not the issue that we will discuss today, because we are not voting on a resolution. As you know, several versions of the resolution I prepared have been voted down by the committee, even after they were substantially altered, because we did not agree on the answers to all these questions. We are divided. However, the committee did vote for the recommendations in Paris two weeks ago, and it is these recommendations I want to discuss with you. The resolutions were merely the introduction to the problem – the analysis, so to speak – written from a point of view that the committee did not agree on, and this is okay. I respect the democratic rules of the Assembly, and a tie is a tie.
We are heavily divided on the question of whether this Assembly can or cannot accept surrogacy under certain conditions. We did not reach a consensus on this. So be it. However, we all agree on the fact that commercial surrogacy especially poses serious threats to all parties involved: the children, the surrogate mothers, and the intended parents. Even if we do not fully agree on the exact nature of all possible human rights violations dealing with surrogacy, we do agree that they should be condemned, and that the subject of surrogacy needs to be taken seriously. Whether we want to ban or legalise it, we recommend to the Committee of Ministers to take this issue to heart, and put it on their agenda. That is the first recommendation.
Dear Ministers, we know that the situation in different member States is very different. Some countries have banned surrogacy, some have legalised it, and some just tolerate it. Some accept not-for-profit surrogacy, whereas some do not. Member States are as divided on the issue as this Assembly. But please, think about how to create a European framework to protect these children. We need legally binding measures for countries that tolerate or have legalised the practice. On the one hand, we need them in those countries because there are many risks of abuse and exploitation in the practice of surrogacy, whether commercial or not: children and surrogate mothers are at risk and need our legal protection. On the other hand, think of the children born from surrogacy arrangements abroad coming back to countries that have banned it. Even if one believes that it would be better if they had not been born, they have been, and they need protection and legal recognition.
We need to put those issues on the political agenda, not by shouting out loud that we are in favour of or against surrogacy, but by asking for binding measures, based on scientific facts and on genuine concerns for human rights. We do not need slogans; we need solutions. Dear Ministers, we give you important homework to do. We need to avoid violations of human rights, which currently happen in some of our member States. That should stop.
The second recommendation is to ask the Committee of Ministers to collaborate with the Hague Conference, which has done a lot of work in the field of international adoption and is starting work on surrogacy. And no, that does not mean that surrogacy will de facto be legalised all over Europe. Every member State must decide what it does, but without international consultation, including with countries outside the Council of Europe, there will never be a solution to the problem of reproductive tourism and international surrogacy. Vote for the recommendations as they stand. Let us not close our eyes and remain silent on the issue. An international convention will not lead to an overall ban or acceptance, but will respect member States’ autonomy.
Certain countries may well decide not to offer surrogacy to citizens from countries that ban it, or they may discuss the framework for countries that do not ban it. The same principle applies to international adoption. There is nothing wrong with accepting the subsidiarity principle in ethical issues, as is done for many other delicate topics. One member State should not decide what another must accept or ban, but we should agree to respect one another’s position.
Descartes once said: “Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.” I therefore ask you to think carefully about the formulation of the recommendations as they now stand. They are a small first step towards an international solution. They do not take any position on the fundamentals of the matter, because we did not reach consensus on those. They simply recommend that we take the subject seriously and surpass the polarised views that many do have on this subject.
Voting in favour of these recommendations is not voting for or against the legalisation of surrogacy; it is a vote to take the issue seriously. If we close our eyes and remain silent, this Assembly accepts what is going on in some of our member States. We must not remain silent on this issue, but clearly say to the Committee of Ministers that it has to stop human rights violations relating to surrogacy, independent of our personal views on surrogacy.
Dear colleagues, I have made my arguments and I hope you will consider them sincerely. I call upon you to vote according to what you have now heard and not according to what you have been told. Our Assembly is not a place for manipulations, threats or misinformation. Support the recommendations as they stand and let your independent and clear conscience speak.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms De Sutter. You will have five and a half minutes to respond to speakers later. To begin the general debate, I call Ms Rodríguez Hernández.
Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Spain, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – We in the Liberal group condemn the threats and attempts to put pressure on the rapporteur, Ms De Sutter. We would also like the debate to go further and to address issues relating to surrogacy. We are not talking about surrogate gestation, but about children who have been born in this way.
The amendments we will discuss go beyond what we are discussing in the Chamber and what we are supposed to be voting on. There is an attempt to create a parallel discussion. This goes back to what we said before: the amendments mean that we will have to point to other countries that have found solutions and that would exceed the powers of this Assembly. We ought to be discussing human rights. The countries in which the practice is legal are perfectly clear, but we need to think about children who come from countries where there is no such protection. Are we going to defend the rights of some or the rights of all? Are there first and second-class children, or are we here to defend the interests of all children? I ask members to think about that carefully and leave aside cheap populism.
Let us not blur the debate simply because we do not like the sound of something or find it challenging. We should have sufficient courage to take a step forward. The Liberals, at least, have decided that we cannot shy away from this. We need to address the issue straight on and defend the rights not just of children, but of women. None of us has the right to decide the fate of an individual. Neither the lobbies nor moral conflicts allow us to try and blur these issues. We are here today to defend children and their rights. What is more, all religions talk about children as innocents who deserve protection. Think about that; leave aside your religious convictions and concentrate on the matter at hand.
Finally, in my humble opinion, let us leave aside politics, in the worst sense of that term. Think about the amount of mail that is sent to try and deflect us from what should be getting our attention, and think about debates that go ahead at tremendous speed. Perhaps we cannot keep up with that, but we need to think about the issue carefully. Let us not forget the matter at hand. The crux of this is human rights, not just of children, but of all individuals. If we do not address the matter today, we need to do so at a later stage and think about all the different forms of surrogacy. I am here to defend the interests of all children and I hope we will have an open and honest debate.
Sir Jeffrey DONALDSON (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I have no doubt that this will be an impassioned debate. Those of us who oppose surrogacy are equally impassioned in our belief that we must protect the rights of women who are being trafficked in this practice. We must protect the rights of all citizens, including children, but indeed, we must not blur the lines. The problem is that the recommendation before the Assembly will blur the lines. It suggests that we should make provision for some forms of surrogacy. In the interests of children and women, the European Conservatives Group cannot support that. We will support Amendments 1 and 2 to the recommendation.
As a member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, I find it extraordinary that we have a recommendation with no resolution behind it. Surely that suggests that there were deep divisions in the committee. We do not have a consensus and that is not the best way, in my opinion, to proceed on such a sensitive issue. This recommendation has been amended by the committee – indeed, both amendments were approved by it – so clearly, there are strong feelings in that committee, which took a lot of time to examine the issue. By a clear majority, there is opposition to surrogacy and the committee’s views should be respected.
It is entirely wrong for the rapporteur to be subjected to any form of abuse. I hope that she feels that no member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development subjected her to any abuse or intimidation. We had measured debates and impassioned debates, but we rose above issues of personality. I deeply respect Ms De Sutter. I do not agree with her views on surrogacy, but she is entitled to hold such views. I hope that today’s debate will respect the arguments of both sides.
All international conventions have human dignity, as opposed to the objectification of the human body, as their priority. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and conventions relating to the elimination of human trafficking all highlight difficulties relating to surrogacy. Those conventions should be respected. Most troubling is the fact that surrogacy represents a modern form of human trafficking, which is clearly outlined by the European Parliament’s policy to fight violence against women. This is not just my opinion, but that of many European parliamentarians.
For all those reasons, we can support the recommendation only if it is amended by Amendments 1 and 2.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Donaldson. I am going to switch the speeches around a bit. Mr Geraint Davies is a teller for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights and has to start work shortly, so I give him the floor now.
Mr G. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – This paper was supposed to be about the rights of surrogate children, on which we should be focusing, but it has been hijacked by those who say that all forms of surrogacy are wrong. I do not agree. One has only to think of one example where it is not wrong: many couples have an egg and a sperm but not a uterus due to various medical conditions, including cancer. In that situation, many people would want to have a baby for their sister or another family member – it has happened in my family. It cannot be morally right for people in this room to say that it is wrong for someone to have the child of someone else in their family and to bring happiness and life into this world. I simply do not accept that.
There seems to be a thin line between abortion and stopping surrogacy. In most cases, abortion is about stopping a difficult life. Stopping surrogacy means stopping a happy life and a happy family, which is morally wrong. I accept that there are cases of abuse, which is why a system of regulation is proposed to protect women and children. However, the fundamentalists say that a woman should never have the right to have her own family’s children and to provide love, happiness and a future. Who are we to say that that is wrong? It is wrong to say that it is wrong. In the name of humanity, I urge people not to support the amendments.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – It is understandable that emotions run high on this issue and that should be respected. This important topic poses fundamental moral questions and questions about exploitation and the rights of children born through surrogacy. Those were the concerns of the rapporteur and I commend Petra De Sutter on how she handled things, on her professionalism and on her willingness to compromise. I sit on the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and she has been the victim of intimidation as I understand it.
I have reservations about surrogacy and I am categorically against for-profit surrogacy – we are united on that – but surrogacy is a fact. Children exist who were born through surrogacy. We cannot vote them out of existence. We had a comprehensive recommendation about the rights of the child, but it has now been reduced to the bare minimum. We are asking the Committee of Ministers to consider the desirability and feasibility of drawing up European guidelines to safeguard children’s rights in surrogacy arrangements and to collaborate with the Hague Conference on Private International Law to defend children’s rights. However, the amendments would turn the text into a categorical condemnation of surrogacy. It is a small step from such condemnation to the deprivation of human rights. Who are we to deprive a child of his or her human dignity? We have no right to do that. I will vote against the amendments. If they are accepted, I will vote against the recommendation.
Ms CENTEMERO (Italy, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party)* – Bearing and giving life to a child for someone else is what surrogacy is about. The practice often happens through the exploitation of difficult economic situations and of people who are deprived or socially vulnerable. Surrogacy is not just a type of reproduction; it has enormous ethical implications and involves many different human rights – the rights that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is here to protect. Whether for-profit or altruistic, surrogacy uses a woman’s body as an object to satisfy the parental aspirations of others, but according to the principle that the human body, and therefore its uterus, cannot be bought, sold or rented, that runs counter to the respect of the mother’s dignity. The commercialisation of children and the exploitation of women’s bodies are a grave assault on human dignity and an infringement of fundamental human rights.
Many in civil society have asked us to take a clear position on the issue of wombs for rent, which is why we must have the courage to make a clear decision today and put an end to this report’s fraught and drawn-out journey. The text, which has survived only in the form of a recommendation as the draft resolution was rejected in committee, does not hang together. We have to ask ourselves, “What are the rights of the child?” They include the right to know your identity and your parents, but the primary right is surely that a child should not have to come into the world as the result of a contract. Maternity and paternity should happen in freedom, not as the result of an obligation or a right. The position of the Group of the European People’s Party is clear and based on the values and principles of our political family, so we will support both amendments but not the sub-amendment.
The rights of the child cannot be separated from women’s rights. The report seems to imply that women are invisible, but they are human beings who carry and give birth to the child. We cannot allow violation of the fundamental rights of children and women.
In December 2015, the European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the practice of surrogacy and saying that it should be banned as a matter of urgency in terms of human rights. It is not only right, but our duty in this Assembly to express ourselves categorically against surrogacy and in favour of the rights of women and children, which cannot be separated at all.
The PRESIDENT* – It is now nearly 5 p.m. Does anyone else want to vote in the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights?
The ballot for electing two judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is now closed.
I ask the tellers, Ms Anttila, Mr Junko, Mr Geraint Davies and Mr Daems, to meet behind the President’s chair.
The results will be given before the end of the sitting, or at the opening of the next sitting.
I now give the floor to Ms Bonet of Andorra, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms BONET (Andorra, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – Discussion of the report has become a complex issue, because of both its form and its substance, and it is certainly challenging to talk about this subject matter, as those of us who are members of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development have particularly seen. We still bear the scars of our work, because there are many different positions and stances. The subject matter is sensitive and is embedded in an infinite number of bioethical issues. It is very difficult for us to come to any unanimous position, which would have been my preference.
We have had a long discussion, but in this case we have not been able to debate the report properly. At the end of the day, there is no real report; all we have is the recommendation. That is a great pity. We are politicians, and so we should be able to find answers to problems, the real problems encountered by our citizens and, in particular, children born from surrogacy.
The problem is genuine – it does exist – and we should have been able to discuss it properly. We should have been able to put before this Chamber, in this plenary part-session, a report on which other Assembly members could have commented and given an opinion, but that did not prove possible. So we have not been able to do that – we have not really given other members the opportunity to express their opinions, except perhaps through the recommendation.
The recommendation is derived from the mandate given to the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. The first report fell and the rapporteur was then asked to concentrate exclusively on the rights of the child. That is exactly what she did. She was focusing on that because it was felt that this was a point on which we could reach some kind of agreement. Unfortunately, that did not work out either.
The Council of Europe is made up of member States, some of which accept the principle of surrogacy, and in my opinion that has implications. It means that the rest of us must be able to come up with an answer to the problem, because to sweep it aside and not discuss it is not a solution. If we think that the problem will disappear as a consequence, that is completely erroneous. We need to recognise that if we dismiss this issue, far worse problems will come down the pipeline.
We are talking about the rights of women and of children. If we try to cover the issue up, or sweep it aside, all we will do is make things worse, with all sorts of unlawful actions continuing to exist. That is not what we want. We need to vote on the basis of conscience and in the best way possible. How will we find a solution? My point is that we must try to move towards the best possible solution to which we can agree.
The PRESIDENT* – The rapporteur does not wish to reply now, so I call Mr Ardelean.
Mr ARDELEAN (Romania) – I remind colleagues that, over the year, this report has been the subject of serious debate in committees. It is one of the most controversial reports with which I have dealt, provoking protests in the streets and many people opposing it, because it is not in line with the original resolution. It was supposed to show the different ethical positions and issues in the debate, but it has not done that. On the contrary, it added statements such as the report being about the protection of children born as a result of surrogacy. That should not have been the case.
It is important to know that surrogacy is a harmful practice, which can undermine the dignity and fundamental rights of women. In every surrogacy arrangement, a woman’s body is used at the wish of another under a legal agreement. The woman is therefore turned into a simple reproductive vessel. How can we, as members of the world’s leading human rights organisation, support such a practice as surrogacy, which harms people’s rights?
If we do not call for a ban on surrogacy, I fear that an international surrogacy market, in which women are treated as business assets, will grow. We cannot allow that to happen, so we must call for a ban, an international prohibition of surrogacy. I therefore cannot support the De Sutter recommendation. We condemn surrogacy. We will support the amendments, but not the sub-amendment. In fairness, it is important to regard women with full dignity, not as vessels or assets to be used in a commercial venture.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – The Parliamentary Assembly is being asked to consider an important issue. I tabled this motion with the aim of protecting women and children – it was not hijacked by those who voted against the resolution, as Mr Davies suggested. Unfortunately, the rapporteur has taken the report in a different direction. I respect Ms De Sutter, but I cannot agree with her.
Surrogacy has very dangerous and harmful consequences for both women and children. As an Organisation that is called to protect human rights – fundamental rights and women and children – we must ban surrogacy. If we do not call for such a ban, as Mr Ardelean said, an international surrogacy market will grow in which women are treated as business assets. We cannot allow that to happen. We must go further than so-called regulation – how can we possibly regulate such a practice without first calling for a full prohibition on surrogacy?
Many women are in a vulnerable position when entering into surrogacy agreements. We have all heard a lot of very sad stories about women who were used to produce babies in baby farms in India. Children should not be used as a shield. We cannot protect baby farms; we must protect children. All children must be protected with the same approach – there are no differences between children. Children are children, and they must be protected.
I therefore support the two amendments to the recommendation proposed by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which were overwhelmingly supported. I urge members to vote for the amendments and to reject the sub-amendment. If we are successful with the amendments, we must vote for the amended recommendation. Only in that way will we protect women, their dignity and our children. I urge you to support both amendments, which condemn all forms of surrogacy.
We have a duty as the leading human rights Assembly in the world to protect women’s rights and children’s rights. Let us say no to surrogacy today; let us say yes to our children. Please support the amendments, and the recommendation if the amendments are adopted.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Ghiletchi, I wish to reassure you that the sound is working perfectly well. I now give the floor to Ms Maury Pasquier.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – Whether we like it or not, surrogacy exists and will continue to do so. In a globalised world, even States that prohibit surrogacy and sperm donation will inevitably have to deal with them. It is therefore better to get to grips with the matter pragmatically and regulate it, rather than attempting to stifle it with illusory bans.
Surrogacy – particularly for-profit surrogacy, which is tantamount to buying women and selling children – raises numerous ethical questions. To defend the rights of all, and to clarify the status of the intending parents, we must regulate surrogacy internationally. For surrogate mothers and the vulnerable children to whom they give birth, freedom oppresses and the law frees.
Surrogate mothers who sign for-profit surrogacy agreements are often poor and, for money, they run pregnancy and birth-related risks, to say nothing of the psychological risks involved in separating from the new-born child and the risk of interference from the intending parents in decisions that affect the mother’s health and body. Children born through for-profit surrogacy are exposed to uncertain or shaky parentage, which is regulated on an ad hoc basis by States that prohibit this practice. Those children risk being abandoned or abused by their intending parents, and they are especially prone to trafficking.
Priority must be given to the best interests of the child. As the report proposes, one way to defend that interest would be to prohibit for-profit surrogacy and use the organ donation system as a model for regulating surrogacy. I urge Assembly members to support the recommendation intact, without any amendments, and in so doing to heed the voice of reason rather than pursuing the path of prohibition. The Swiss national ethics commission in the field of human medicine has also called for the prohibition on surrogacy in my country to be lifted. The best interests of the child are at stake, and it is worth working pragmatically to find a solution, however long and difficult the path may be. Let us remove the passion from this debate, discuss the matter without shouting and adopt the resolution.
Mr REISS (France)* – The draft recommendation could create a dangerous breach in our values and law, and the best interests of the child should not be used as a pretext for the veiled legalisation of things that should not be happening. When these children come into France, they are not in danger, they will not be taken away from their parents, they have a right to education and healthcare and they have a passport from the country in which they were conceived. They can even gain French nationality after five years or obtain a temporary certificate of nationality if one of their parents is French. The debate has focused on parentage, but the situation of these children is not the responsibility of States. Rather, it is the responsibility of people who, because they want a child at any cost, go abroad to order a child. As such, we cannot isolate the rights of the child as the draft recommendation tries to do.
Surrogacy is the commercialisation of a woman’s body and the turning of a child into a consumer good – a luxury good, judging by the market price. Surrogacy is an affront to human dignity, particularly the dignity of vulnerable female victims of this form of trafficking. How can we invoke the Convention on the Rights of the Child, when a child born of surrogacy is ordered and paid for? Why should we accept in civil society something that is against the law in many countries? The children are not guilty, but the parents certainly are. It is interesting to note that many Ukrainian surrogacy agencies offer to provide foreign birth certificates. If we give ground on this, how can we stop surrogacy for our nationals? We are simply cultivating the market. Do we in the Council of Europe really want to do that? Setting guidelines on the status of surrogate children goes against our ethics and the values in the Oviedo Convention. That is not acceptable, so I urge colleagues to vote in favour of the amendments.
Ms BARTOS (Hungary) – We are at the end of a two-year discussion of a very sensitive and complex issue. I am sure that we all agree on two points: first, that the Council of Europe is one of the most important international organisations striving to protect human rights and dignity; and, secondly, that a child is the greatest gift of life.
Since we started considering surrogacy two years ago, concepts such as the trafficking of human beings, the black market, children and mothers as commodities, for-profit arrangements and wombs for rent have arisen. They are in complete opposition to the values that I have mentioned. We have heard nothing about the most essential element, which is that a child is the real gift. The complexity of the issue is demonstrated by the fact that the two proposed approaches are completely different, and that this is the second report dedicated to the topic. The earlier report focused in more detail on the situation and rights of other stakeholders, such as mothers. However, the relevant committee rejected the preliminary draft resolution and draft recommendation because they did not address in detail human rights and the dignity of children. That is the background to the present recommendations.
Various participants are affected by surrogacy, including the intending parents, surrogate mothers, gamete donors, clinics, agencies and States. The procedure is extremely complex, with an incredibly high number of stakeholders. We are therefore not surprised that the first report could not provide the proper instruments fully to protect the rights of children and mothers. The way out seemed to be for the rapporteur to focus on the rights of the most vulnerable group – the rights and dignity of children alone. In my view, that is not a solution. On the contrary, it aggravates the situation. That approach will open the gates to uncontrollable things, and it will encourage procedures that lead to physical and psychological injury of children and mothers, which seriously violate their human rights.
The European Parliament has recognised this challenge, and in a resolution in 2011 it “Asks Member States to acknowledge the serious problem of surrogacy which constitutes an exploitation of the female body and her reproductive organs” and “Emphasises that women and children are subject to the same forms of exploitation and both can be regarded as commodities on the international reproductive market”. The majority of members of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development share this opinion, and the two amendments reflecting that view were adopted in the committee this morning. I emphasise that that approach serves to protect the rights and dignity of children.
Ms LE DAIN (France)* – We are dealing with a difficult, even painful, issue. All those who would like to have children would really like to have children. Sometimes that is not possible for various complex reasons – because you cannot have children or because of human situations, such as love relationships, which simply do not allow for it. Is it a right to have a child? You may say no, the right to a child does not exist, but the rights of children exist.
Children’s rights are not in peril. In France, these children are welcomed; they are given to parents who will look after them, and they will have social security and nationality. The only thing that they do not have is parentage – that is, affiliation. A woman will have given her egg for money and a woman will have carried the child. They will have been subjected to hormone treatment, chemical treatment to stabilise their cycle and so on. They will have, if you like, carried the scars of pregnancy during that time. In giving birth, there is the risk of disease, mortality, ovarian cancer and so on. For those who are not familiar with this, nausea is also an experience. Lots of things happen during your pregnancy.
The women who carry the children are often poor. We talk about altruistic gestational surrogacy or ethical surrogacy, as compared to commodified gestational surrogacy. In those countries where it is allowed, there are fewer women who want to do it. Why do this? Why go through it if you do not get any kind of compensation, either financial or moral?
You may say that this is permissible within a family, but what does that mean? Would it be a sister doing it for her brother, or a mother for her son? Just imagine the psychological pressure in a family if you decided to refuse to give such assistance. What would that woman be told if she were to prevent her sister having a child?
The crux of the matter is not the one that has been raised in this debate – namely, the situation of the child. The child is perfectly safe in our European countries represented around this Chamber and in this Organisation. If these children were at risk, that is what the Chamber should be dealing with, making sure that children are safe in terms of their health, material comfort, medical assistance and of moral and ethical issues. Here, however, we are talking about identity, but identity vis-ŕ-vis whom? Identity is a highly complex matter. It is not just a question of genetics. No, this is really the wrong debate; it misses the point. Genes have to be transmitted and this is what is so important. Society is made up of human beings and in the name of humanity we must not yield on this issue of gestational surrogacy. People talk of a mirror, saying that these children do not have identity. That is not true – these children are taken care of. Of course you must take care of them – you must not humiliate them in any way – but a woman’s body, or two women’s bodies, should not be used for this purpose with no recompense.
Mr WILK (Poland) – The draft recommendation is another attempt to adopt solutions relating to surrogacy in the forum of the Council of Europe. Previous documents were rejected by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. This time, the presented project concentrates on the rights of children born through surrogacy but says nothing about agreement with European and international law. In my opinion, it is obviously against European and international law on human rights and the rights of children. It is not really important whether the surrogacy is on a commercial or altruistic basis. The border between them is very fluid. It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between the price and the cost of bearing a child. We must be against any form of trade in people. That is why I ask my colleagues to vote for both amendments.
Mr LE DÉAUT (France)* – Some two years ago, our Assembly started studying this issue, which has been addressed from various standpoints and rejected twice by the committee but keeps coming back. Personally, I reject this proposal because it does not correspond to my conception of human rights, especially the rights of women and especially when they are vulnerable. If you allow yourself to get caught up in this process, you accept this modern form of slavery. Using Ms De Sutter’s figures, out of 20 000 cases of surrogacy around the world, 5 000 are in India. You can all recall those images of baby farms, with dozens and dozens of women waiting nine months before they bring a child into the world.
You can say that there are two types of surrogacy – ethical, or altruistic, surrogacy and for-profit surrogacy. But who is to decide what is altruistic and what is not? I chair the French Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment, which works on ethical issues such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis. How do you decide who undertakes this sort of operation? I think we are approaching the matter from the wrong end. We could have begun by prohibiting for-profit surrogacy arrangements.
I heard what Ms Maury Pasquier said. It is a globalised world, but even in a globalised world how can you accept laws being enacted but then circumvented by going to another country, with the law as enacted not applying to everyone? Therefore, the question is how we address the issue. In our countries, we should at least draw up a census of what happens to these children. When they return, they will have a passport and after five years, they can obtain nationality. Adoption could be one method of settling these matters.
If we try to deal with altruistic surrogacy without defining it, we will end up dealing with for-profit surrogacy and the dreadful things that are happening in certain countries. In the United States, for example, not a single white woman has carried a child for white parents. That shows that we need to continue to debate the matter and to reject the recommendation today.
Ms MAGRADZE (Georgia) – The topic under discussion is one of a number that involve different opinions and points of view and concern serious scientific, ethical and religious concepts. On the one hand, new opportunities are emerging with the development of science and technology. On the other, surrogacy concerns many people’s essential and fundamental values. Through the achievements of science and technology, surrogacy gives families and couples who, due to health or physiological issues, cannot have children the possibility of having children. It is valuable that surrogacy gives them an opportunity to have their own biological children. The birth of a new human being is always important and is a great reason for happiness. Surrogacy exists as a possibility; therefore families with good intentions will use it for their sake.
Of course, there will also be people who will try to gain money if the issue is not regulated by law. It is important to ensure that the negative impacts of surrogacy are avoided. For the Council of Europe, as one of the leading organisations for human rights protection, it is important to regulate this topic and at the same time protect the rights of families that would like to have children through surrogacy.
The report presented by our colleague Ms De Sutter represents an attempt to regulate the most important question in relation to surrogacy. I think we all agree that the major aspect that needs to be solved now is to protect the rights of children born as a result of surrogacy and ensure their equal rights. We need to support the main idea of the report; it will be a step forward. This should be done for the protection of children’s rights as a first step. In future, we must continue to work on these issues and find the appropriate legal mechanisms to protect the rights of surrogate mothers and biological parents, to ensure the human rights of all will be protected.
In the end, when some of our colleagues condemn surrogacy, that invites the question of why we should develop science and technology if we do not use their achievements to make people happier. We must regulate, not ban, surrogacy, because it exists and will continue to exist as it makes people happier because it gives some the possibility of having children.
Mr GYÖNGYÖSI (Hungary) – Having listened to this debate, it appears that some committee members have a different recollection of how this report was hijacked – or, as it has also been phrased, parallel discussions were created. I remind everyone that this discussion started off by the tabling of a motion with the title “Human rights and ethical issues related to surrogacy.” This motion declared that surrogacy undermines the human dignity of women and the rights of children. The report should have been drafted in accordance with this motion, declaring that the protection of the human dignity and rights of all who are subject to surrogacy should be taken into consideration.
In March, this first report was rejected. The second report, where the scope was narrowed by the rapporteur and the title of “Children’s rights related to for-profit surrogacy” was given so that only certain segments of surrogacy arrangements were included, was also rejected by the committee in Paris in September. I was present on both occasions, and the rejection was on the ground that surrogacy is incompatible with international law, as Mr Wilk said, and with the Oviedo Convention, which says that the exploitation of women, and the sale of women’s bodies or any part thereof, should be prohibited. Anybody who knows what surrogacy arrangements entail knows that.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is also contradicted by surrogacy arrangements because children are subjects; they are a commodity in a contract that states that the children will be transferred after the birth from the surrogate mother. On these grounds, both reports were rejected, yet now we have this recommendation before us. I firmly believe it should reflect the history of this paper and the work done in this committee. It should take into consideration that both reports were rejected by a majority.
If we want to promote the best interests of the child, I am convinced that that can only be achieved by the outright prohibition of surrogacy, because I believe there is no such thing as an ethical surrogacy. It simply does not exist; it is bad logic to say that just because there are children born from surrogacy, we should legalise it. That would lead us on to a path heading in a bad direction, and this Assembly – the Council of Europe, which is in charge of protecting human rights and human dignity – should take that into consideration.
Ms PECKOVÁ (Czech Republic) – I want to make it clear that my speech is about altruistic surrogacy. We are discussing this issue because of the eternal desire to have a child and successor, because of the huge number of young women who have to undergo radical operations on their reproductive organs and because of women suffering from other forms of infertility. For these women, surrogacy is an option today; transplantation of the uterus might come tomorrow as a new form of reproductive medicine.
Some may view these methods as a challenge to health and others as a means to exploitation, misuse and trafficking. Interestingly, transplantation, in contrast to surrogacy, is perceived as ethical and acceptable even though it is often connected with crime and the trafficking of human organs.
There are two possible ways to go with surrogacy now. The first is to close our eyes and pretend the problem does not exist. Yet the children born from these arrangements certainly do exist, and what about them? Our imperative commitment must be to their best interests. The second path we can take is to urge member States to establish a useful and viable legal framework as a precaution against any kind of exploitation. However, achieving unity on this issue will probably not be possible and jurisdiction will remain in the hands of national parliaments. In my country, surrogacy legislation is not considered necessary because we signed the Oviedo Convention, but is it sufficient if the substitution of the term “fee” by the term “compensation” is so easy?
If we reject these recommendations now, we will open the door to all forms of surrogacy arrangements worldwide, both altruistic and for-profit, and the children born will be at risk of ending up in a legal vacuum with their human rights being violated, as well as those of their intended parents.
The Council of Europe must stay alert and consider all ethical aspects and any scientific progress, and perhaps next time we will have to face the ethical issues accompanying the treatment of infertility by genetic engineering. Mankind has been endowed with great potential and we must not waste it where we can help. Altruistic surrogacy offers hope and help for many infertile couples.
Ms MAIJ (Netherlands) – Ethical issues are the most difficult issues to talk about. From the debate, it is clear there is a strong divide between us on what is surrogacy and what should be surrogacy. I want to follow up on what the previous speaker said: there is surrogacy in some of our countries and there is regulation of surrogacy in some of them. Does that mean every woman participating in this has her womb for rent? I do not think so. There is the possibility of altruistic surrogacy, where women help others, maybe their sisters, cousins or good friends – [Interruption.] I am entitled to my opinion. I know this is a difficult subject, and I hear people around me yelling, “No, no,” yet I can give examples from among my own close friends and colleagues where this has happened. It is possible and it is there, so we must not ignore the fact that there are different practices in different countries of the Council of Europe.
Not all women in a surrogacy situation who give birth to a child for someone else are being exploited. Let me be very clear: commercial surrogacy for exploitation is never good. That is not good, but when it is a free choice and it is not commercial we should not so easily and quickly condemn that choice. But this report is not about surrogacy or the rights for surrogacy. It is not about condoning surrogacy, because I have heard that in the committee it has been too difficult to come to a conclusion on what it should, and should not, be. This report is about the children who are here and those being born. The only thing this report asks is that we look at the rights of those children and make sure they have rights in all our countries, because they are here. We should think of those children and put aside the differences we have on surrogacy and vote for the recommendation the way it is.
Mr EẞL (Austria)* – Surrogacy is banned in some countries but not in others. If we wanted to establish clear rules for surrogacy, we would have to listen carefully to interested parties, and we might let in for-profit surrogacy through the back door. This is about individual people, not commodities.
We know that nature often sets limits that are very hard for those affected. For people who want to have children but are unable to conceive them, that is a hard truth that they try to get around, but it undoubtedly gives rise to greater problems. Through surrogacy, surrogate mothers become mere incubators, and children become commodities. That is a danger that could come about. As one colleague said, we cannot simply allow a woman’s uterus to become an instrument for hire. A child born in such a way would be in a particularly invidious position. We must be very careful. There are certain misconceptions about what might happen to a child who does not meet the parents’ expectations, or a child born with certain handicaps, if the parents who ordered the child do not wish to take it on.
We must think about the rights of the child in this situation. When we talk about the rights of women in relation to surrogacy, many questions and problems arise that we cannot answer. Ultimately, we should come out against all forms of surrogacy. The European Parliament did so in 2015, and the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development did so this morning, after intensive debate. It was not so difficult to form an opinion; it was simply an opinion that the rapporteur did not like. In the plenary of this Assembly, we should say a clear no to surrogacy.
Ms SANTERINI (Italy)* – I respect the work of those like the rapporteur who have sought solutions to a complex situation. We should not amend the report out of fear or ideology, or because we are biased or afraid of progress. We should not do so to defend motherhood with a capital M. We need a lot of courage to stand up and say that we should in no way legitimise surrogacy. It is a form of production of a product, a child, through a means, the mother. Everyone accepts that, even those now asking for regulation to defend the child. We can defend a child who has already been born in this way – it is protected by the remit of all our existing guidelines – but introducing guidelines is tantamount to saying that we must accept surrogacy as a fait accompli. Perhaps we need the courage to stand up and say, “No, let’s stop here,” at least when it comes to commodifying women and children.
I agree that the rights of both women and children need to be upheld. There are feminist organisations that say we must defend women’s rights, but there are also people involved in adoption who say that we must also defend the rights of children around the world who are waiting to be adopted. Surrogacy must be discouraged. I do not think that it is relevant whether we must defend the child or introduce guidelines. After all, the resolution was thrown out in committee today.
I accept that there are some cases of altruistic surrogacy out there, but we are still condoning commodification. The mother who gives the ovary might not be the mother who gives the womb, and so on. A child could have many parents and no parents, because the parents might decide, “I don’t want it after all.” We must understand the suffering of those who want children very badly, but we cannot create their happiness from the pain of others. I have heard people talk today about happiness, but this is not about creating happiness by accommodating the desires of some through the pain of others. Surrogacy might programme the abandonment of the child. In a sense, that child is already abandoned before it is born. We should not turn our backs on our principles. That is why I will be voting in favour of the amendments.
Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – It seems to me that we now have a choice. We can vote for the recommendation, which essentially says to the Committee of Ministers, “Sorry, we don’t know how to decide this issue, and we haven’t even got a coherent resolution, so please tell us what we ought to do. We have nothing to say about the difference between commercial and so-called altruistic surrogacy.” That would really be sending the message that under the guise of guidelines, we would like them to permit it. Of course, it would be wise to reject such a recommendation. If you are against surrogacy in some cases, it would seem foolhardy to send such a general recommendation. It would discredit the Parliamentary Assembly.
However, we have one other option, due to the amendments passed today by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development: to make a clear statement that the dignity and rights of women and children, taken together and not in conflict with each other, call for us to make a clear statement against surrogacy as a matter of public policy, as many international instruments have done. When we protect vulnerable people in our society, it is generally not by regulating a practice that hurts them.
Sadly, in our world today, there are many examples of the exploitation and abuse of children, some of them egregious. It is not always possible for the law to prevent every instance of abuse or exploitation, but it is possible for the law to say a general no to a practice that generally exploits and abuses. That is why one can say a complete no to surrogacy while also ensuring that we have laws and policies that reach out enough to look at each situation where there is abuse of the law by a family that has followed through on its desire to have a child by making a decision in the child’s best interest, but I do not think that we can coherently do that while also legitimating a practice that exploits more and more of them.
Ms De Sutter, I will stand with you in your desire to protect children’s rights, but I feel I must oppose you given that it appears you wish only to regulate the practice of surrogacy, and that you are putting the rights and dignity of women and children in second place. A child-centred policy must always use the limited tool of the law to ban practices that hurt people. We see that in the growing consensus, for example, in favour of criminalising the purchaser of sex, because of the damage that it does to women’s dignity and respect for women in our society. Nobody thinks that we will drive prostitution underground forever, but we can adopt other laws and policies to make sure that we reach people who are victimised. We should say the same about surrogacy and say no to it, without exceptions, while looking out for the women and children who will be affected when people abuse the law. We should vote for the amendments and, if they are not accepted, we should vote down this very unfortunate recommendation.
Baroness MASSEY (United Kingdom) – I thank the rapporteur for rewriting this report so many times and for taking on board the issues raised by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Its history has been described, but I shall not go there – we are where we are. The rapporteur rightly points out that the vast majority of surrogacy arrangements are gestational, cross-border and not for profit. She describes the risk of the practice and recommends that the Committee of Ministers consider the feasibility of drawing up European guidelines to safeguard children’s rights. She encourages collaboration with the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
Even if surrogacy were condemned or banned, it would go on happening anyway – I think we know that. The key issue is safety and regulation for the sake of women and children. I have heard the view – this has been expressed not just today – that the key issue is women’s rights. I am a strong supporter of women’s rights. Many countries represented here today have spent decades fighting for women’s rights, but I cannot agree that this is about women’s rights.
Essentially, women’s rights involve choices – the woman’s right to choose. Some women choose surrogacy for many reasons, mainly because they cannot – not by choice – have children. They will carry on doing so. It is important not to stigmatise them or their children, and I cannot support any amendment that turns this report into a condemnation of all surrogacy.
I acknowledge that this issue is controversial. We are all entitled to our own views – I understand and respect that. What has disturbed me about the process of producing this report has been, most seriously, intimidation of the rapporteur, both personally and professionally, and harassment of the committee itself. I do not think that aggressive views or slogans should be imposed on civilised debate or decisions. I know that intimidation in particular will shock colleagues in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, whichever way they vote. I congratulate the rapporteur again on her patience and dignity.
Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – I will start where Baroness Massey ended and compliment the rapporteur for being very brave in taking on such a difficult issue and in standing up through the entire process and through what has been a nasty discussion. I am saddened by what we have seen during the process up to now. The debate has been heated and ugly, which is sad because this is one of the most difficult ethical issues of our time. We have been deprived of the opportunity to have a good, civilised discussion about how we should deal with the matter. That is very sad.
The draft recommendation is a good way forward for future discussions about how we should deal with the issue. It does not say anything about surrogacy itself, which is good for people like me who have not decided yet – I am not really sure what I think. The language used – it asks the Committee of Ministers to consider the desirability of introducing guidelines – is very clever. It gives us a sense that this is a sensitive matter that needs to be dealt with sensitively. If the amendments are agreed, that strategy would be abandoned, and that would be sad. I will vote against the amendments and for the draft recommendation as it stands, so that the discussion can continue in a civilised manner.
Mr POZZO DI BORGO (France)* – Ms De Sutter has chosen to refocus her report towards the rights of the child, thereby taking into account the rejection by the majority of members of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, but we all know that the substantive issue is that of surrogacy and surrogate mothers. We certainly should not underestimate the distress of heterosexual and homosexual couples alike who cannot fulfil their sincere wish to have children. Does that give rise to the issue of the rights of the child? I am inclined to think that it does not.
Surrogacy gives rise to a number of ethical issues and questions of conscience, which everyone, irrespective of political differences, will resolve in his or her own way. Personally, I tend to view surrogacy as an intolerable practice with serious risks to the health of the mother and the child and to the health of society. It exploits women, specifically those who are most in need. We need simply look at what is happening in India, where there are potentially sordid, squalid commercial practices. In France, the civil code prohibits any surrogacy arrangement under the principle of the integrity of the human body.
We have to take note of the fact that there is major diversity between countries’ laws and situations. Some recognise only one of either altruistic surrogacy or commercial surrogacy, even if altruistic surrogacy implies a certain hypocrisy. This takes us into difficult legal terrain. France had viewed surrogacy as a distortion of the law, but the Strasbourg Court condemned the French Republic for failing to recognise the rights and identity of the child from surrogacy arrangements. It is only right that children should be protected, but in France those decisions triggered a major political offensive, from the opposition and ruling parties alike, against the European Court of Human Rights. I am glad that this morning the President of France, François Hollande, reminded us that the Convention and Court apply to all the member States of the Council of Europe.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – I am back again as a new member, so I am getting used to the procedure. I know that some members of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development will find this difficult to believe, but I was not very passionate about this issue until I got on to the committee. I was absolutely astonished at the campaign of vitriol against this report and against Ms De Sutter in particular. There were wild demonstrations outside the office in Paris. One of the report’s strongest opponents, Mr Ghiletchi, used every procedure and constitutional device imaginable to try to derail it and get through a total ban on surrogacy. That was really astonishing. And now, if I heard it rightly, Jeffrey Donaldson said that the European Conservatives Group is mandated to vote against the report. Then I heard Ms Centemero say that the Group of the European People’s Party is mandated to vote against it. I am a member of the Socialist Group, and we, as different members of the group have said, decided that this is an issue of conscience on which we should have a free vote. I hope that, whatever group you are a member of, you will vote according to your conscience later this afternoon.
As far as my conscience is concerned, I am against commercial surrogacy. I think most if not all of us are. For those who cannot have children, however – I have been lucky enough to have three children and four grandchildren – it is an opportunity to have children. They are the most cared for, the most loved and the most cherished children you can imagine. If some of the effort put into trying to derail this report was put into saving the children in Calais or the children dying in Aleppo, I would be cheering. I would be saying, “How wonderful!” However, the effort is being used in a negative way for some passionate reason. I understand the passion, but I hope we will reject the campaign of vitriol against this report and adopt it overwhelmingly.
Ms GRECEA (Romania) – Powerful emotions come out when talking about children born through surrogacy. The pro and con camps bring in their rational and emotional arguments. Still, when we talk about a secret process of reproduction, I believe it is at least strange to mix having children with work and money. Those things should not mix. The most important aspect is that during a pregnancy, a woman is supposed to bond with her unborn baby. The child is the end goal in a pregnancy. Surrogacy prevents the mother from forming a natural bond with her baby and therefore forces her to emotionally detach herself from her pregnancy. The child becomes the means to something else: money. When the child becomes a means, the child is commoditised.
Surrogacy may become a trend in some States, but that will lead to the exploitation of poor women who will accept compromise against their will. They will not be agreeing to give birth, but to host a child. In that way, the child becomes a commodity, and that is unacceptable. Moreover, l ask you all: who is the child’s mother? The one who sacrificed her body to give birth, or the one who commissioned the birth?
Surrogacy means that the child is given away without the right to know or determine the real mother. A typical objection to surrogacy that I embrace is to compare the physical aspects of surrogacy to a form of prostitution. In both cases, women are selling physical, intimate bodily services. They are selling their body and its functions for money. We should not forget that surrogacy can be a very expensive affair, as it is not regulated in many western countries. Third-world women are exploited to that end. We have a moral duty to care for the already existing abandoned children or orphans in need of a loving, caring family, rather than proceeding to use surrogates.
Public awareness is essential, so it is important to invest in pro-adoption campaigns. The national authorities should support that by adopting unique and predictable legislation on that matter. We must all stand for children’s and women’s rights by acting against the exploitation of surrogate mothers. In the development of this legislative proposal, the welfare and best interests of children must be key considerations. In conclusion, I make a kind but strong request to all those couples who want a child and are thinking about surrogacy: adopt. There are lots of children waiting for a loving family.
Ms ĹBERG (Sweden) – I thank the rapporteur for her work and her patience. The majority of speakers on this subject have highlighted that women must have rights over their own bodies. That includes the right to be able to become a surrogate mother, if one chooses. Women have to have control over their bodies when it comes to ending a pregnancy – including safe abortions – and when it comes to carrying a child for someone else.
I am well aware that many members do not share those values, but I think those of us who are blessed with biological children that we gave birth to ourselves should be humble about other people’s desire for children. Surrogate mothers are giving birth with the express wish that they do not become the parent or guardian of that child. The legal situation for those children is unclear. Those children exist, and it is not worthy of a constitutional State to leave the situation unregulated.
Surrogacy is a treatment for infertility that offers new paths to parenthood for parents who do not have any other way to create a family, such as women born without a uterus and women who have undergone cancer treatment or operations that mean it is not possible to undergo pregnancy. In recent years, surrogacy has offered an opportunity for same-sex couples to become parents.
Studies of children born through surrogacy show that they develop in the same way as other children. There is no evidence that regulated altruistic surrogacy does not work. The supposed problems and issues that could arise between surrogate mothers and intending parents have not been seen in follow-up studies in countries with long experience of regulated surrogacy. Women’s right to decide over their bodies has to apply as much to termination and safe abortion as it does to the choice to carry a child for someone else.
The PRESIDENT* – We still have six speakers on the list, so I ask members to be succinct in what they say so that everyone can speak. I call Mr De Bruyn.
Mr De BRUYN (Belgium) – I fully understand how sensitive this issue is. I took part in several meetings of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and witnessed a debate that was from time to time emotional but, regrettably, also aggressive. I respect the different points of view and I am aware that we will not easily reach a widely supported and accepted common point of view, but in my humble opinion we missed an opportunity to discuss the issue constructively and find a base that we should all be able to agree on: the safeguarding of the rights of the children born from surrogacy. That could have been a first step towards allowing a more in-depth discussion about surrogacy at some point in the future.
Given the situation we are facing today, I first express my sincere appreciation of Ms De Sutter, who did her very best to come up with a balanced report. She became the subject of hate campaigns on social media, and there were unfounded allegations of conflicts of interest at the Council of Europe. Secondly, I support the rapporteur’s recommendations urging the Committee of Ministers to consider the desirability of creating European guidelines to safeguard children’s rights in relation to surrogacy. The committee should collaborate with the Hague Conference on Private International Law to ensure that the views of the Council of Europe are heard and taken into account wherever applicable.
Mr UNHURIAN (Ukraine) – I am very concerned that our Assembly is being asked to consider an important issue such as surrogacy without a full report on the impact of surrogacy on women and their rights. The recommendations focus on children, but no attention is paid to the exploitation of women. Many feminist groups and human rights organisations are very concerned about any legalisation of surrogacy. Many women are in a vulnerable position when entering into surrogacy agreements. We have all heard about the horrific human rights abuses of women in surrogacy baby farms in India. Where are their voices in these proposals?
The Council of Europe must work towards a global ban on and prohibition of all surrogacy agreements. This is how we will show vulnerable women that their international community is working towards the ending of the global surrogacy market. We must protect women from abuse and exploitation, and ensure that children do not become a commodity that is transferred, bought or sold. Regulation is not enough: only a full ban will protect women and safeguard children’s rights. Therefore, I cannot support the draft recommendation and call on the Assembly to vote for the two amendments.
Ms ROSETA (Portugal)* – First and foremost, I pay tribute to Ms De Sutter and commend her courage and her patience.
Secondly, I know a little bit about the history of human rights, and I believe that the universe of rights is expanding. Very often, we have had to increase its scope. New rights were added because new challenges emerged on the horizon and affected the people of the world. Science and society often proceed more quickly than the law, so we must not close our eyes. We must keep our eyes peeled, be attentive to what is happening and do what we can to make some kind of response to what society is calling for.
In Portugal, we have just adopted legislation that legalises surrogacy for altruistic purposes. Surrogacy for profit is criminalised in Portuguese law. It is very much against the law. I have heard many of you say that this is a dangerous area, and I can agree with your analysis. I am not in favour of surrogacy if it is for a profit-making purpose. Having said that, there can also be altruistic surrogacy. It does exist, and it is legal in Portugal. I cannot imagine a situation where, after 41 years of democracy in Portugal, the Council of Europe could condemn a practice that we have just democratically approved with the support of all members back in my country.
With that testimony, I urge the Assembly to support this recommendation. It does not close the door; it is in fact a first step allowing us to continue with this discussion and take it to its conclusion. It took us four years to do this work in the Portuguese Parliament, under two different governments – four years of serious debate. It is a very difficult debate, but we should be courageous and patient. Most importantly, we must make sure that we pay heed to people’s needs.
Ms STRIK (Netherlands) – I compliment Ms De Sutter on her brave attitude and perseverance. She defends the position of the most vulnerable people in society – women exploited by commercial surrogacy and children who are born out of it. They are not protected by legislation and not recognised as persons like you and me, enjoying all the universal human rights. It is to be deplored that this humane approach is frustrated by certain groups trying to prevent an open debate in which all arguments, pro and contra, are exchanged. I am glad that we are having this debate now, because trying to stop any discussion is always a proof of weakness. Using or misusing procedures is one thing, but personal attacks intimidating the rapporteur go against all the values that we as the Council of Europe strive for. It makes me feel ashamed. It is very important that we seriously condemn these practices.
The rapporteur urges a ban on commercial surrogacy, and her recommendation deals with the result of it – children. They have no choice – they are there, full stop – but they have no right to registration and no access to nationality or information on their origin. The recommendation proposes that their interests and rights be safeguarded. I think that we can all support this. The amendment that condemns all forms of surrogacy distracts from the real problems in practice. Expanding the concerns to situations in which women autonomously decide to help a friend or a family makes the recommendation completely ineffective, thereby, in the end, harming the rights and the interests of the children.
Mr Van der MAELEN (Belgium) – The debate surrounding this report has met with great difficulties. Personally, I think that these difficulties spring from and are motivated by strong religious convictions. Nevertheless, I have a question for you. Does the Convention not oblige us to respect each other’s beliefs? Today’s vote must leave room for everyone’s personal conscience. This is the only right thing to do in relation to such a sensitive subject, and for the children born out of surrogacy.
We all know that we cannot ban surrogacy completely in all forms, because that would be ignoring the rights of the children born from surrogacy. What we are going to vote on is the international protection of children. It is not a vote on condemning or legalising surrogacy in Europe. The Council of Europe cannot simply ban surrogacy. Each member State has to decide on that for itself. Those who remember the hearing with Mrs Laura Martínez-Mora, the principal legal officer of the Hague Conference, know that she was very clear on this. The only aim of the Hague Conference is to study international surrogacy arrangements in the light of human rights.
In a couple of minutes, we will not vote on whether we personally agree or disagree with surrogacy. That is not the topic of the rapporteur’s recommendation. We will not vote on whether our countries should or should not recognise surrogacy agreements. That is not the topic of the rapporteur’s recommendation. We will not vote on whether surrogacy happens only for profit or whether it can be altruistic. That is not the topic of the rapporteur’s recommendation either. I repeat very clearly: the topic of these recommendations, and of the vote today, is the international protection of children.
Ms CIMBRO* (Italy) – First, I should like to respond to many colleagues who have said that we did not have a civilised debate in committee. Unlike many others who did not bother to attend the committee, I was always there, and I always expressed my opinion. Although the rapporteur, Ms De Sutter, was attacked personally away from the Council of Europe, I can tell you at first hand that extremely good work was done in committee. We exchanged views in a civilised fashion and were able to air very different views. There were never any personal attacks on the rapporteur in committee. It is important to say that, as the falsehoods we are hearing here simply do not reflect the truth. There have been heated public debates and strong opinions because we raised a very important issue. Several events have taken place outside these walls, either here in Strasbourg or elsewhere. We have always seen respect for all the individuals involved, so I do not think that people should try to paint themselves as victims. That is completely at odds with the way in which this debate has been conducted.
Many colleagues have pointed out that this report was the result of an initiative by Mr Ghiletchi – it was taken over by Ms De Sutter – on the legal rights of children born as a result of surrogacy. A committee was made responsible and looked at the regulation. Like many people here today, it was fortunate enough to hear from experts. We are not here necessarily to express our personal views on surrogacy but to represent our countries as parliamentarians, and to try to get to grips with an issue that not only has ethical dimensions, but involves a number of scientific factors.
All the experts we heard from have shown that surrogacy – whether that is altruistic surrogacy or other forms – is bound to have repercussions for the child. We need to look at the percentage of women who are involved in voluntary surrogacy and the percentage who come forward as altruistic surrogates. We have seen many studies showing that during pregnancy, a very close relationship is forged between a mother and the unborn child. I therefore conclude by saying that the amendments we have tabled – particularly the first amendment – really do not detract at all from what Ms De Sutter is saying. On the contrary, we are trying to strengthen Ms De Sutter’s report through the recommendations, because we want countries to take account of mothers’ rights. I will explain that point in greater detail later, but we are not in any way attempting to detract from what she is trying to achieve.
The PRESIDENT* – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Ms De Sutter to reply. You have five minutes and 30 seconds to do so.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – I have listened to all the arguments for and against and have counted the speeches. It is clear that about half of the people who spoke did so in favour of the recommendations and half against. Although it was said that the amendments voted for in committee had a large majority, that is not completely true, because the same committee voted for the recommendation two weeks ago in Paris. I would argue that all the majorities that we have today and in the past are arbitrary and do not reflect the big divide on this issue, which is why we need to go further and ask the Committee of Ministers to make regulations and discuss the matter at the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
Let me deal with a few issues that were touched on. Reference was made several times today to the European Parliament resolution, and I want to highlight two things. There has never been a European Parliament resolution on surrogacy. There was a paragraph – paragraph 114 – in a very long resolution on the European Union’s Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014. I have talked to a lot of people in the European Parliament and they all agreed that the debate on surrogacy is not finished. It has yet to start, so the resolution is not a fair reference. Even more surprisingly, in that paragraph the European Parliament called only for the prohibition of gestational for-profit surrogacy and I agree with that, because the resolution mentioned for-profit surrogacy. Let us be clear that the draft recommendation tabled by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development does not contradict the paragraph in the European Parliament’s resolution; rather, the amendments that have been tabled contradict it.
I do not agree with the argument that surrogacy is a human rights violation, independently of how it is done. I think we all agree that for-profit surrogacy needs to be condemned and with all the arguments that we have heard in that regard. I listened carefully and we have the same opinion on many of these issues, but we have just come to different conclusions. The conclusion of the two proposed amendments is not the right one.
Let me tell you why I believe, like half the people in the committee, that surrogacy can be done ethically. I remind you that in France, which banned surrogacy, 57% of French people have indicated that they want to regulate surrogacy rather than ban it, according to a recent poll. I am one of the more than 80% in the countries of the Council of Europe who believe that surrogacy can be done in a way that respects human rights. Surrogacy can be done ethically by respecting the full autonomy of the surrogate mother and the rights of the child. And yes, Ms Bartos, I completely agree with you: a child is a gift. There is no bigger act of altruism than to carry the child of another, as is sometimes the case between sisters or close friends. I agree that the surrogate mother needs to have an important place in the life of the child and should certainly not be subject to a commercial contract. A surrogate mother must keep all legal and other rights during pregnancy – let us be clear about that – and her motivation should not be driven by financial gain. Any procedure of the transfer of parental rights must safeguard the rights of the child and the intended parents. I know that those criteria are strict, but it is possible to fulfil them and several Council of Europe countries are doing so through strict regulation.
Surrogacy itself is not a violation of human rights. It is the exploitation, commercialisation and abuse of surrogate mothers and children that we all want to combat. We agree on that. The problem of surrogacy is similar to that of adoption, which has also put children at risk of trafficking and abuse. It has made easy victims of intended parents and led to unacceptable financial interactions. There is an international framework for adoption, which was worked on by the Hague Conference. It can do so again for surrogacy, so let us ask our Committee of Ministers to do that for children’s sake.
The recommendations are the result of debates held in the committee over the course of more than one and a half years. We do not agree on some crucial issues, but we do agree that the practice of surrogacy is problematic and may lead to human rights violations. Half of us believe that it should be banned, whereas the other half believe that it should be regulated. Let us agree to have these different views but let us take responsibility for the many women and children who may be victims of exploitation or trafficking. Let us contribute to a further solution to this complex problem and leave the slogans and emotions to others. I ask you to understand the urgent need to accept these recommendations as they stand and to vote in favour of them.
The PRESIDENT* – Does the chairperson of the committee wish to speak? I call Ms Kyriakides.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I am very glad we have been able to have this debate in the Chamber today. As you know, it has been a rocky road to get here, to say the least. Discussions in the committee have often been difficult and the atmosphere has been tense. There have unfortunately been a number of attacks, some of them unacceptable, on the person of the rapporteur, the members of the secretariat and on me as the chair.
As the chair of the committee, I also need to point out that some of the assertions I have heard made here today about the process followed in the committee do not correspond to the truth. I will not go into the detail, but I refer all interested members of the Assembly to the extensive minutes of the meetings. I have also heard a different assertion, so I want to point out that Ms De Sutter was elected rapporteur with a large majority by secret ballot in January 2015.
I always try to find the bright side, so on the brighter side of things I have had a crash course in the Rules of Procedure over the past few months. Today’s debate was the most important thing as it allowed for all views to be put forward and heard, which is what this Assembly is about. I firmly believe that we all have the best interests of the child at heart. That means all children, including those born through surrogacy. Whatever our position on surrogacy and whatever the result of the votes, I hope that all of us will ensure that all children are protected. That is what we have been asked to do.
I thank the rapporteur, the secretariat and all colleagues who took part in the debate.
The PRESIDENT* – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft recommendation to which two amendments and one sub-amendment have been tabled. They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the revised Compendium and the Organisation of Debates. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment 1. I call Ms Cimbro to support the amendment.
Ms CIMBRO (Italy)* – As I said earlier, Amendment 1 adds to the recommendation and does not delete what Ms De Sutter is calling for. We added the words “and women’s” because we are also talking about women’s rights and the other words because we want to ensure that any European body that is tasked with drawing up guidelines takes into account our view that all forms of surrogacy should be condemned. Children’s rights and women’s rights would remain in the guidelines, but we want the guidelines to work towards that condemnation.
The PRESIDENT* – I call Ms Maij to support the sub-amendment.
Ms MAIJ (Netherlands) – As I mentioned in my speech, this debate is not about whether we should condone surrogacy, on which we are split. Amendment 1 would introduce a discussion about whether we should be in favour of surrogacy, so we want to delete “by condemning all forms of surrogacy” because altruistic surrogacy should be possible.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? I call Mr Mullen.
Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – The committee’s clear view is that Amendment 1 should stand. Sub-amendments should not take away from the sense of an amendment, but the sub-amendment would rob what was recommended with a clear majority in the sub-committee of all meaning, which would subtract further from the coherence of what we will send to the Committee of Ministers.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 1?
Ms CIMBRO (Italy)* – I am obviously against the sub-amendment because I have just moved an amendment that would add women’s rights to the recommendation and condemn all forms of surrogacy. I therefore invite colleagues to vote in favour of Amendment 1 and against the sub-amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee on the sub-amendment?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee does not have a position on the sub-amendment because it was tabled after we had decided on Amendment 1.
The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.
The vote is open – [Interruption.] There is apparently a problem, which we will look into. The technicians will tell us what is happening.
I am told that there are no problems with the voting system and that 154 votes were cast. Ninety were against the sub-amendment and 57 were in favour, with seven abstentions.
The sub-amendment is rejected.
Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 1?
Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Spain)* – Both amendments are designed to manipulate the final result of what we are voting on today. People are trying to change the document. Anyone who wants to defend human rights should not seek to subvert the meaning of the recommendation.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee is in favour of Amendment 1, with 24 votes for and 16 against.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We move on to Amendment 2. I call Ms Centemero to support the amendment.
Ms CENTEMERO (Italy)* – The original wording said that we should collaborate with the Hague Conference on surrogacy issues. We want to give the Hague Conference not a blank cheque, but a specific steer. We believe that since it is an international private law institution, it needs guidance from us. Our guidance is that we discourage and delegitimise surrogacy.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call the rapporteur.
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium)* – I oppose the amendment for the same reasons as before – it would completely subvert the purpose of the report by taking a position against all forms of surrogacy. It is completely at odds with the spirit of the report, which is why I invite everyone to vote against the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee was in favour by 27 votes to 16.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is rejected.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation in Document 14140 to the vote. A two-thirds majority will be required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 14140, as amended, is rejected, with 77 votes for, 83 votes against and 7 abstentions.
5. Election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
The PRESIDENT* – Let me give you the results of the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
Number voting: 203
Blank or spoiled ballot papers: 25
Votes cast: 178
Absolute majority: 90
The votes cast were as follows:
Ms Kemale Abiyeva: 35
Mr Letif Hüseynov: 134
Mr Rövşən İsmayilov: 9
Accordingly, Mr Hüseynov, having obtained an absolute majority of votes cast, is elected a judge in the European Court of Human Rights. His nine-year term will start no later than three months from the date of his election, 11 October 2016.
“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”Nu
Number voting: 203
Blank or spoiled ballot papers: 6
Votes cast: 197
Absolute majority: 99
The votes cast were as follows:
Ms Natasha Gaber-Damjanovska: 86
Mr Jovan Ilievski: 106
Mr Zvonimir Jankulovski: 5
Accordingly, Mr Ilievski, having obtained an absolute majority of votes cast, is elected a judge in the European Court of Human Rights. His nine-year term will begin on 1 February 2017.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Rouquet.)
6. Lessons from the “Panama Papers” to ensure fiscal and social justice
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business is the debate on the report entitled “Lessons from the ‘Panama Papers’ to ensure fiscal and social justice” (Document 14141 and Addendum) presented by Mr Stefan Schennach on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, with an opinion presented by Mr Dirk Van der Maelen on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy (Document 14156) and an oral opinion presented by Mr Mart van de Ven, Rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
I propose that in order to finish by 8.30 p.m., we interrupt the list of speakers at about 8.15 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote. Is that agreed?
It is agreed, so I call Mr Schennach, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I want to approach this debate on the Panama papers – I have broadened it to include the Bahamas leaks – from the perspective of social and legal justice. There are some grey areas, but essentially there is legally managed money and legal property, and then there is illegally managed money and illegal property, which can be removed from the tax system in large quantities. This might be termed cavalier crime, because such widely practised and aggressive tax avoidance is closely linked to tax evasion and money laundering.
Let us take some figures concerning the well-being of our societies and the amount of money that is being removed from them. The Tax Justice Network, at the request of and in co-operation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund, has worked out that more than 8% of property worldwide, or $7.5 trillion, is never taxed. Some 10% of European property and 4% of United States property is held in offshore accounts. The situation is much worse on other continents; 20% of Latin American property, 30% of African property and 50% of Russian property is in offshore accounts. If that money were to be taxed at an average rate of only 30%, $188 billion would be raised in tax revenue every year.
Why do I emphasise that in the context of justice? Small businesses owners such as hairdressers, photo shop owners and butchers pay taxes, as do people who work in factories in the private sector. They do not have accounts in the Cayman Islands, Aruba or the British Virgin Islands. But people with huge amounts of property and big firms that can afford to pay armies of lawyers and advisers pay practically no taxes at all. Taxpayers’ contributions ensure that our social services – our welfare, education and health systems – work and that we can pay for our infrastructure and administration. Those things are paid for by people who have no chance whatsoever of catching the next flight to the Cayman Islands, and who have no connections with the conglomerates and banks that use their extensive legal and financial counsel to shift money elsewhere and exploit confidentiality and our opaque system.
The scope of the Panama papers was shocking. I am tempted to name some names, but that would be meaningless because we are talking about the system. We have clear things to say to each and every country that creates new regulations. In the United States, unbelievably large sums of money are hidden in three States: Delaware, Nevada and South Dakota. One million companies – 60% of the biggest firms in the world – are registered in Delaware alone.
The point of this report is that it is not enough simply to encourage agreement on measures and conventions against money laundering or for equitable taxation. The Warsaw Agreement of 2005 has been ratified by only 26 countries, and 21 member States of the Council of Europe have not ratified it. In 2015, European Union member States worked with the Financial Action Task Force to implement improved anti-money laundering measures, but Moneyval, which is part of the Council of Europe, says that the fight fought by member States is sub-optimal. That is why I welcome proposed amendments from the committee. We must proactively follow up on penal cases. We need a system of transparency, sanctions and automatic exchange of information.
Our goal in producing the report was not to conduct research and find out who has hidden their money in Panama or the Bahamas, but to explain that tax flight and tax avoidance have taken on such proportions that they have become a danger to peace and social responsibility. That is why mention is made of the fact that we need to protect whistle-blowers, to make clear statements about tax havens and to implement some form of seizure and common action.
I look forward to the debate. Almost all the measures were agreed to unanimously in the committee, and I hope that the same thing will happen in this plenary session.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Schennach. You have four minutes remaining.
I call Mr Van der Maelen, Rapporteur of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, to support the committee’s opinion. You have three minutes.
Mr Van der MAELEN – I congratulate Stefan Schennach and the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. They have presented a strong report, and we are very happy with it. I am informed that the committee accepted five of our six amendments, so I shall not waste my time on those five but try to convince the plenary on the sixth, Amendment 2 in paragraph 5.2.
With this amendment, which is backed by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, I plead for a multilateral approach in the implementation of the agreement on automatic exchange of information. In the agreement, under the auspices of the OECD and the G20, two options are left for the nation States. The first is that they can try to fulfil their obligation through bilateral agreements with the rest of the world. There is another option, however: for all the nations of the world to reach a multilateral agreement. My amendment pleads for a recommendation to the nation States to choose the multilateral option.
I shall try to explain it. If you calculate – as I did – based on all 196 nations opting for the bilateral way, it would mean that we need 38 220 bilateral agreements. You see my first argument: it is much easier and saves the time and resources of our nation States if, instead of investing in signing bilateral treaties with all the other nations, they invest their people and time in a multilateral agreement.
Turning to my second argument, if you need 38 220 bilateral treaties, you can see how long it will take before we have a worldwide network. There will be rules in the system for a long time. So the second argument is that worldwide coverage is much faster.
Finally, a multilateral approach guarantees us a level playing field. If you have 38 220 treaties, I assure you that there will be differences and they will be very difficult to implement. Therefore, I plead again: please, let us vote on a recommendation that asks the nation States to choose the multilateral approach.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Van der Maelen. I call Mr van de Ven, Rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to present the committee’s opinion. You have three minutes.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands) – On behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, I congratulate Mr Schennach, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, on his excellent report.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights generally supports the draft resolution. The proposals to combat tax evasion and tax avoidance by multinational companies and well-known personalities, including politicians, in combination with the proposed measures to combat money laundering, are critical for the restoration of citizens’ trust in our European democracies.
The report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development addresses the restoration of the trust of citizens shocked by the disclosure of the Panama papers. Well-known politicians, businesspeople, artists and sportspeople around the world were named and shamed for hiding assets and income. Politicians bear a special responsibility as role models. Politicians evading taxes while enforcing them against their voters undermines people’s trust in democracy. There should be no impunity when it comes to tax fraud.
In most countries, people pay their taxes and social contributions as a matter of compliance with the law and regulations in return for public goods and services funded by the taxes and contributions paid. Citizens have the right to arrange their affairs in such a way as to minimise taxes, as long as they stay within the limits set by the law, States must co-operate with one another to limit the race to the bottom that endangers their ability to fulfil their tasks.
The Council of Europe should therefore encourage States to impose rules of transparency on skeleton companies for tax purposes and to exchange fiscal information, particularly in respect of the well-known tax havens. States with a proven interest in taxing income and assets hidden in skeleton companies should be allowed to recover taxes from the income and assets of such companies.
While generally supporting the draft resolution, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights considers that, contrary to the conclusion of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, there is still room for improving or completing the relevant international legal framework. It therefore suggests negotiating a new convention or, as proposed by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, launching a review of the existing joint OECD-Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. Such a review should also consider the possibility of directly taxing the income and assets of tax haven companies.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose amendments to further strengthen the draft resolution.
(Sir Roger Gale, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
The PRESIDENT – We now move to the speakers on behalf of the political groups. I call Ms Günay.
Ms GÜNAY (Turkey, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – The report examines in depth a problem that has become chronic. For this reason, I thank everyone who contributed to it. The economic crisis that we experienced in 2008 proved that millionaires and billionaires should be taxed on a different tariff and a series of measures should be taken to prevent tax avoidance and tax evasion. Disclosure of the Panama papers proved that these measures are necessary but at the same time insufficient.
Today, States should not only control their own territories but work to improve the ability to follow their taxpayers worldwide. This necessity is of the utmost importance for the wealth of humanity. This step will not only affect the multimillionaires and multinational corporations, but improve the welfare of citizens and States.
There is no doubt that the $7.6 trillion indicated in the report is a huge amount. If only this evasion could be turned into services and employment opportunities, it would be useful to overcome the recession, economic and social injustice and poverty. In the last annual meeting of the presidents and prime ministers of the G20, subjects such as global economic growth and the regulation of financial markets were discussed as usual. During the presidency of Germany, the topic of tax certainty will have priority. The main goal is to create a convenient environment for the taxation of entrepreneurs and reliable general conditions for investment. To control this amount of money, we need permanent and strong co-operation. At this point I ask: who will be the authority to lay down regulations for co-ordination between States and institutions?
There is another issue I should like to raise. The Panama papers leaked thousands of names in more than 11.5 million files, yet we do not know whether all those named are guilty. We should bear in mind that these people have the right to defend themselves against criminal charges. Therefore, a full in-depth investigation should be conducted to distinguish the innocent from the guilty.
Mr LOUCAIDES (Cyprus, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left.) – The Panama papers case has been described as the “biggest discovery of the century”. It would be hypocritical to argue this scandal came as a big surprise if one understands how global capitalism functions. Let us not forget the Luxleaks case, listing the names of the largest depositors in Swiss banks, and also the recent Bahamas leak of 1.3 million documents from its corporate registry.
In addition to illegal tax practices, one could add the powerful lobbies, as mentioned in the concluding remarks of the report, which actually prescribe the tax policy pursued by governments to the exclusive benefit of wealthy individuals and corporations. These, in turn, are subjected to very little, or no, tax obligations; they are in effect a voluntary contribution, while the remaining 99% of the population continues to endure ruthless austerity measures.
We cannot deny the fact that these phenomena are inherent features of an economic system whose DNA is defined by exploitation, by the legalisation of theft and by non-transparency. The figures stated in the report are revealing as to the massive scale of lost tax revenues. This is why we as parliamentarians must intervene to uncover the truth behind wealth and its concentration in fewer and fewer hands. I must commend at this stage Mr Stefan Schennach for his very strong contribution in this debate and the preparation of this sound and balanced report.
Despite the initial public outcry following the scandal, it seems that the international offshore elites are continuing business as usual. This should serve to urge us to act more decisively and strengthen international co-operation, in order to dismantle these networks, bolster our legislative frameworks and politically expose those who are implicated or have concealed such dubious transactions.
More specifically, we look forward to the findings of the special PANA Committee of the European Parliament, which is expected to shed more light on the breaches of European law through these unlawful practices. Furthermore, we underline the need to continuously strengthen and update legislation so as to close loopholes in the relevant European directives. Access to relevant information from European institutions must be secured and legal frameworks made more stringent. Stronger sanctions should apply to banks and legal entities, while whistle-blower protection should be safeguarded.
Finally, we must ask ourselves one crucial question: how much more time are we willing to give to a system that is either producing or circumventing legislation to protect the interests of a very small fraction of privileged individuals, to the detriment and desolation of billions of other people?
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party.) – I thank the rapporteur and the other speakers for their committees for giving some insightful information. However, we are not going to solve the problem of the tax havens here tonight. To start doing that, we might want to look at our own countries first. The previous speakers came from Austria and Belgium, the two countries that found it very difficult to go along with negotiations for the last Council of Europe treaty, from the Netherlands, my own country, which is often criticised for the big flows of money through the country, and from Cyprus, which is listed on the last page as a tax haven, together with Malta, another member country of the Council of Europe.
If all of us start blaming the other countries and people for being tax havens and making the mistakes, I am pretty sure we will never get anywhere in solving this problem. It is frightening that we have had the Panama leaks and the Luxleaks, and it is the guy who leaked them – the guy who blew the whistle – who ends up before a judge. He gets a suspended jail sentence, not the people on the list.
Normally here in the Assembly, we do not have any problems naming anyone in a report. We say exactly who was wrong. Did anyone find any names of any of the involved politicians in the report? I did not. I find that amazing. If we are really serious about solving what is going on, we should name names.
I therefore ask the rapporteur what he thinks this Assembly could do in the next two to three years to begin solving these problems one by one. That means having country-by-country reporting in the Assembly on what countries could do individually – and usually it is much easier to tell another country what it should do than to tell our own country what it should do. It also means taking measures against politicians who do stupid things. If we are not serious about that, I should have had a nice dinner in town tonight, because otherwise we are not going to make any progress.
Ms RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS (Spain, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I congratulate the rapporteur because this is a smart way of approaching the problem. We are trying to put an end to tax havens, and it is not that we need more international rules and regulations, but rather that we simply need to enforce the rules we already have. If we are to clamp down on tax avoidance or evasion, we must realise that the issue is about not so much a lack of the wherewithal to tackle it, but rather the willingness and determination to apply the rules that we have. There are an awful lot of international conventions that do not add very much. There is also a lack of global trust on the part of ordinary citizens in their political leaders, which undermines democracy, and we are not going to get anywhere if we do not solve this problem. We will do nothing to restore trust unless we successfully deal with it.
Tax havens do not increase or decrease; they just mutate. The rapporteur talked about non-co-operative jurisdictions, but what we have seen is a massive increase in the quantity of assets stashed in these tax havens. Billions of euros and dollars are stashed from Germany, the United Kingdom and wherever, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars from developing countries that never get into the public coffers. Meanwhile, our own countries make spending cuts and the working class has its wages slashed. That is why we need to move in the direction suggested by the report: we need to apply reporting requirements, to have automatic computer reporting, and to put in place sanctions for those countries that fail to comply or do what they can to address illicit activities.
Multinationals must report on their operations in all countries in which they are active, and we need the country-by-country reporting system as it is the only way we will be able to uncover suspicious activities and take action to counter them. It is important that all our banking legislation is complied with, and that there are no grey areas in third countries that do not comply with the legislation. I believe the rapporteur stated that in five years’ time all public officials should come under stringent scrutiny, to make sure they do not use any such channels.
Mr BILDARRATZ (Spain, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.)* – I warmly thank the rapporteur and co-rapporteurs for their work.
Let me begin by giving a figure which is of great concern to me, and which I think will concern everyone here. In 2014, the European Union had 122 million people – one in four, in other words – living in poverty or social exclusion. Those of us here today represent 47 member States, some of which are known as welfare States. To that end, we have a series of taxes whose only goal is not to leave any citizen behind. In this economic situation, we have problems with fraud and money laundering, which we know are bad, but in 2008 we found ourselves in a very difficult economic situation when citizens saw hundreds of people at what we might call the top level, economically speaking – prime ministers, heads of State, ministers and leading sporting figures – whose only goal seemed to be to avoid paying taxes or to cheat their own society. Obviously, this made people angry.
United Nations analysis calls such phenomena illegal flows. The amounts have been estimated at different levels, but we suppose that they must correspond more or less to 3.5% of world GDP. As other speakers have said, we need to be able to evaluate the commitment made in each and every country. We must be able to use such revelations effectively, whether they are financial or tax-related, and be aware that there is 44% opacity in European Union countries.
Let me emphasise four aspects of the report which seem to me to be key. The first is transparency concerning the beneficial owners and management of firms. The final analysis for Panama is 72% opacity. The second important aspect is control and oversight, the third is international co-operation, and the fourth and main goal is to create trust among citizens. Citizens will only trust us if we can take the 44% opacity level in the European Union and convert it to 0%.
The PRESIDENT – That concludes the speakers from the political groups. We now move on to the main speakers list. I call Ms Zimmermann.
Ms ZIMMERMANN (France)* – We approve the measures that need to be taken against tax havens and fraud. Several recent shocking cases have proved the need to act. I have no objections to the report, but I would like an explanation of paragraph 7 of the draft resolution. Rapporteur, how do you suggest that States address the secret jurisdictions that exist in Europe? Clearly we must get rid of them, but if they are outside Europe how can European States work to stamp them out? In the United States, we have seen examples of extraterritorial courts, which is problematic, and we are talking about the leading economic power in the world. If we continue to protect secret jurisdictions, it is an issue for the courts. There is a temptation to move towards extraterritoriality. Paragraph 7 contains a proposal to introduce suspicion with regard to politically exposed persons. The main body of the report discusses foreign politically exposed persons. Why have we drawn this difference?
Dysfunctions in tax systems, not just in Panama but in Europe, are causing the problems that we are discussing. According to Eurostat, obligatory tax made up 47.5% of taxes raised, compared with just over 30,5% in Ireland. That is fiscal dumping. The European Commission acted courageously in its recent decision on Ireland, but it is not only Ireland that is acting in that way. There are structural issues in Europe that encourage tax evasion. We need competition, but it must not be wild and uncontrolled; it needs regulation. Our Parliamentary Assembly must work closely with the European Union on this issue.
Mr WILSON (United Kingdom) – I welcome this thorough report. The Panama papers proved the lengths to which some rich individuals and corporations will go to avoid tax. It undermines equality, the fair distribution of wealth and the funding of public services in many of our countries – things from which we all benefit. In a global economy where many now feel that they are being left behind economically, it is important for the international community to work together to regulate financial markets and tax regimes so that tax havens are closed down, at least.
The London Anti-Corruption Summit, held in May this year, was an important step towards ensuring that we all work together. The summit was important because it brought together nations from around the world to expose, punish and drive out corruption. While Britain, France and the Netherlands have agreed to publish a register of who really owns what companies in their territories – a register of beneficial ownership – other nations have not, so there is still a great deal of work to do. However, there is still the issue of which companies pay what taxes where. That is why Google, Amazon and Starbucks, for example, must pay tax on their profits in the countries where those profits are generated. In my view, that is only fair and equitable. It is why the UK Government accepted an amendment to the United Kingdom’s latest Finance Bill, calling on the UK Government to allow greater corporate transparency under new rules forcing companies to open up their tax affairs to public scrutiny. This should be undertaken on a country-by-country basis.
The Financial Action Task Force, set up in the 1980s by the G7, laid down the principles that the international community should follow: develop domestic co-ordination; tackle money laundering; apply preventive measures for the financial sector; establish powers and responsibilities for competent authorities such as law enforcement; enhance transparency; and facilitate international co-operation. The final two principles, taken together – transparency through international co-operation – will lead to confidence in the global economy. Now, more than ever, it is time for international institutions like the Council of Europe to work together under those principles to expose greed, alleviate poverty, promote opportunity and equality and stamp out corruption, so that globalisation can work for all people at all times, in all places around the world.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – It is great to follow my colleague Phil Wilson. We are a bit like London buses: you wait a long time, and then they come along in pairs. May I compliment Mr Schennach? I said in committee that I think he has done a really good job, but as others have said, it is just the start. Pieter Omtzigt from the Netherlands was right to challenge us by saying that we should look at our own countries first. I was doing that in the 1980s when I was a young member of parliament, looking at our tax havens – not only overseas tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands but also domestic ones such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – and the problems that they create for us. I accept that point.
We have a bit of a problem with the media. We do not get the right kind of coverage, and we wonder why, but then we look at who controls the media. Let us take one big British newspaper: the Daily Telegraph. It is owned by these two brothers – the Barclay brothers – who live on a little island called Sark, just off Guernsey, which is a tax haven. They are part of it, as are all the other media owners. It is no wonder that some of the British newspapers do not give the issue good coverage.
My good friend Phil Wilson mentioned Google, Amazon and Starbucks, and others have spoken about the unequal divisions between the poor and the rich in all our countries. Although the poor are being pulled up, the rich are going up much faster and the divide is getting greater, which is causing great resentment among many people.
I emphasise that Mr van de Ven, is right to say – others have said this, too – that it is really important to get an international agreement. There is no point in one country, such as Britain, clamping down on our tax havens if they then move to Switzerland, Luxembourg or elsewhere. It all has to be done internationally. The Council of Europe cannot do it on its own, so we need to work together with the European Union and other international bodies to try to get international action.
We need to do that because this world is so unfair now. Philip Green, one of our entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom, salts his money away in his wife’s name on a huge yacht in Monaco, while his employees at British Home Stores are paid off and lose their jobs without any prospect of a pension. That is the sort of result that is happening, and we have a responsibility to do something about it. Thank you, Mr Schennach, for setting us off in the right direction, but, as Pieter and others have said, there is still a long way to go.
The PRESIDENT – I cannot see Mr Gopp, so I call Mr Shahgeldyan.
Mr SHAHGELDYAN (Armenia)* – I thank Mr Schennach for his excellent work. The report’s title, “Lessons from the ‘Panama Papers’ to ensure fiscal and social justice”, makes a strong point. It also allows us to talk about political and international justice.
I shall concentrate on three broad subjects, the first being the decline of secrecy. The WikiLeaks and Snowden cases and the Panama papers all show that the worlds of diplomacy, politics and business are more open and transparent. The Panama papers provide not only a concrete case, but a symbol of change. Citizens of different democratic countries are no longer prepared to live in a situation where they do not know what is going on. They want to know more about the relationships between politics and big businesses, including in other countries, because we have information about managers and politicians in different countries. It is clear that there are people who work in diplomatic, public and financial institutions who are prepared to unveil the secrets of those institutions to the public. This is the beginning of a new mentality; it is the beginning of the end of the era of secrecy. The Panama papers are the first, but not the last, step along that path.
The second subject is offshore financing and its relationship with regional military conflicts. With the Panama papers, the whole world has seen that the enormous financial resources of the President of Azerbaijan are managed by Mossack Fonseca in Panama. Twenty years ago, Azerbaijan told the whole world the “history” of people living in refugee camps because they did not have homes or anywhere else to live. Armenia’s entire budget is the size of Azerbaijan’s military budget – in other words, it is a fifth of the size – but it has solved the problem of homes without refugee camps, whereas Azerbaijan’s money is in offshore accounts. Azerbaijan also finances activities elsewhere in the world, including caviar diplomacy and many other things.
My third subject is open to discussion, but we need to start thinking about it. Information about any given politician or civil servant who keeps their finances in offshore areas should have a negative influence on their future career. That should be set in legislation.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – Given the existence of the Panama papers, I assume that there are also Swiss and Dutch papers – who knows? Perhaps Mr Schennach will continue his work. I think it is only a matter of time until we have another Snowden or IT system administrator with access to data. There are dozens of safe havens in which not only politicians but respectable businessmen hide money, thereby evading tax. Dozens of countries and individuals pour billions into those safe havens. In the case of politicians, greed is behind such behaviour, whereas the motive of entrepreneurs, who create jobs and pay taxes in their native countries, is to save assets from those same greedy, corrupt politicians. Those two motives have the same outcome, with billions of dollars flowing outside the country. International action is too weak and there are enormous economic problems and social constraints. Those who accept the funds must also bear their share of the responsibility. They should track fraud and return the money to the source country.
The problem is twofold: why do we allow such offshore areas to exist in the first place, and how can we protect public money from being drained from source countries through profit control and regulation? Are those the genuine root causes, and do they provide a sufficient explanation? What about our own countries and the efficiency and accountability of our governments? Let us assess how efficiently they work. Do they work hard on tax reform and law enforcement? Are they participating in the relevant supranational bodies, such as the Financial Action Task Force, and in programmes such as Moneyval? Even if they are doing so, like my country of Ukraine, how often do they use the instruments, which in many instances are voluntary and enforced only on request?
I do not think that resolutions, by their mere passage, will ever change this situation. We as parliamentarians, both in the recipient countries, including Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, and in the source countries, should execute one of our two main functions – control – and support and empower investigative journalists, specialists and non-governmental organisations, and make sure that the outcome of their work receives a proper response, including criminal investigation and court cases, if the system does not do that automatically or if it is blocked.
I commend the rapporteur and urge everyone to do our work.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I thank the rapporteur for this very important report.
Let me dwell on some characteristics of the Norwegian welfare society. A core value behind the development of the so-called Norwegian model is that everyone should contribute to society according to their ability. In return, everyone receives according to their needs, including education, health care, care for the elderly, kindergarten, retirement, disability pension, unemployment benefits, sick leave and decent work conditions, just to mention a few.
Through that welfare system, our society is one in which the effect of income on social disparity is relatively small. It is not perfect, but it is hard to find a better social model. Through education for all, we have a highly skilled work force, which is extremely important in our globalised world, given the challenging international competition.
Perhaps even more importantly, this society, with welfare for all, is the basis for trust between people. The level of conflict is low, which is a prerequisite for democracy and the ability to solve difficult challenges, such as the refugee crisis and the fight against hate speech and radicalisation.
Revelations of systematic and large-scale tax evasion and money laundering, such as those in the Panama papers, are examples of disgusting greed and grave organised crime. At the end of the day, they undermine trust between people and in the whole welfare system and in democracy itself.
Internationally, economic growth saves millions of people from poverty. It is outrageous to note that in some developing countries, illicit financial flows and tax evasion through the transfer of funds to tax havens represent more than aid and foreign investments put together. That undermines inclusive growth for millions of poor people, and they deserve better. I am therefore pleased that the Nordic countries have taken the lead in placing illicit financial flows on the World Bank agenda. In 2014, Norway was the first European country to introduce country-by-country reporting requirements for extractive industries, and we are now preparing to expand that to other sectors, as recommended by the G20. In 2011, we were ready to ratify the Warsaw Convention, but we have not yet done so. As recommended in Mr Schennach’s report, the Norwegian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly will raise the issue with our government, and I hope more delegations will do the same.
THE PRESIDENT – Mr Hunko is not in his place, so I call Mr Don Davies.
Mr Don DAVIES (Canada, Observer) – I am honoured to speak today on fiscal and social justice and public trust in our democratic system. The release of the Panama papers has alarmed us all. It is yet another reminder that we must be vigilant to improve the integrity of our tax system to ensure that it is fair for all.
Every democratic society is based on a social contract. Citizens agree to pay taxes in return for vital government services, such as education and health care, as well as the general benefits of stability, security, opportunity and a good quality of life. Citizens’ willingness to pay their taxes in full and on time is based not only on the effectiveness of government in delivering services, but on the equity of the system – the principle that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes. That does not mean that everyone should pay the same amount or face the same tax rates. Those with lower incomes have reduced means to pay, while those who earn more pay higher taxes because they have a greater ability to do so. That is why Canada has a graduated system, with increasing tax rates for those with higher incomes.
As with most countries, voluntary compliance is essential for Canada’s tax system. We rely upon taxpayers to honestly report their domestic and foreign income and to pay the appropriate taxes owing. When individuals or corporations fail to do so and use complex structures to shift income between jurisdictions or hide their income in offshore accounts, the integrity of the tax system is undermined. If that is not prevented, citizens come to view their tax system as unjust, their trust in government is eroded and they will be less likely to pay their taxes in full and timely manner. If that failure becomes widespread, the ability of the State to fund important services is compromised. Black markets and underground economies can arise and do deep damage.
The unfortunate reality, however, is this: while most citizens pay their fair share of taxes, certain wealthy individuals and corporations are avoiding paying taxes by using aggressive tax planning and keeping their wealth in tax havens. It is estimated that Canadian corporations and individuals transferred $40 billion to tax havens in 2015. The total amount of Canadian wealth held in the 10 most popular tax havens is thought to be $270 billion. That represents billions of dollars in lost government revenue that could be used to create childcare spaces, improve health services or reduce poverty. It is time to end the secrecy and the attempts by some nations to create havens for tax evasion and avoidance. It is time for a worldwide central co-ordinating body with the power to impose strong sanctions on offending jurisdictions. It is time that all nations committed resources to aggressively audit and clamp down on tax evasion within their borders. Democracy and our social contract demand no less.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – One of the topics that has generated the broadest global debates in 2016 is the Panama papers. The primary and basic lesson from those papers is that global transparency and collaboration should be reinforced. With increased transparency, the opportunity to perpetrate such crimes secretly would be limited. Nevertheless, increased transparency can only happen if there is close co-operation, mutual assistance and support between countries, including the member States of our Organisation.
The Panama papers teach us not only to combine our efforts against similar crimes, but to increase international pressure. It is easy to use the Panama papers to make various political speculations, and Armenia is among those doing that. We have witnessed the negative manifestation of that in the Parliamentary Assembly both previously and today in the speeches of Armenian representatives, which are full of slander, deceit and falseness. There is a reason for it: Armenia knows itself better than anyone else, and it realises its infamy. For example, Major General Mihran Poghosyan is famous as a master of offshore trusts. According to the Panama papers, Poghosyan was connected to three companies registered in Panama.
There are horrible Armenian papers that overshadow the Panama papers, and they deserve much more to be read by everybody. Armenia suffers a hard economic life, and every year thousands of Armenians have to leave their homeland in the hope of reaching a more normal level of well-being. Inflation is increasing and production is zero. The country is approaching the precipice on all economic indicators, but hundreds of millions are spent purchasing arms. What is the source of that money? It is all dirty money. Armenia has benefited from the internationally uncontrolled state of the occupied Azerbaijani territories by turning that soil into a suitable place for drug cultivation and transit. Millions collected from drug trafficking are partly directed to the purchase of arms. The rest of the money flows into the pockets of the criminal Armenian authorities.
Tax evasion is a crime, so an organised collective fight against all these cases is vital. To turn a blind eye to the bitter realities arising in the Armenian papers and to avoid a resolute struggle against such cases is a deed that is close to a crime. Progressive forces in Armenia have long been protesting about all these matters in the streets. When will we hear a voice in the Council of Europe that will expose the Armenian papers, which appear more terrible and tragic than the Panama papers?
Mr MELKUMYAN (Armenia)* – May I say that I found what Mr Huseynov just said rather strange?
This phenomenon is nothing new, but in terms of its volume, it has become a real threat. The fight against this scourge is inadequate, if I can put it like that. There are different manifestations of the phenomenon. There are offshore companies, but other electronic and banking tools are also being used. The international community and governments must unite to tackle all the problems that have been raised. It is impossible to do that if some countries, such as Azerbaijan, have heads of State who are involved in illicit practices and who trigger wars to hide those illicit practices. That was the case with the war between 2 and 5 April on the frontline between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has been installed indefinitely as president as a result of a recent referendum.
It is not impossible to have democracy in our region. That is why we need to look more closely at this phenomenon. In the Panama papers, there is a whole chapter devoted to the family of the President of Azerbaijan that traces a complicated system of offshore companies. These documents show how Fazil Mammadov, the Azerbaijani minister for tax, set up at a holding – a conglomerate – that involves the Aliyev family. The holding has interests in the banking, mineral, telecommunications, construction, gas and oil sectors; of course, the country has a wealth of natural resources. Using Mossack Fonseca as an intermediary, Mr Mammadov created two companies, Financial Management Holdings and UF Universe Foundation. The second of those two companies is under the control of Mehriban Aliyeva. FM Holdings also has a company under its ownership in the United Kingdom, and 51% of the shares belong to AtaHolding. According to the Panama papers and the draft report on organised crime and corruption, President Aliyev is responsible for transferring operating rights for six gold mines in Azerbaijan to two offshore companies that belong to his daughters.
The PRESIDENT – Before we move on, let me say that I am going to have to call the last speaker at 8.10 p.m. At the present rate of progress, that means, I am afraid, that not everybody is going to get called. I only ask that if colleagues care to bear that in mind and curtail their remarks very slightly, we might still get through the whole list. I call Ms Huovinen.
Ms HUOVINEN (Finland) – I thank the rapporteur for this important report. In my view, we cannot emphasise this issue enough. I cannot help but ask myself whether we always need a scandal before being able to discuss these kinds of important issues on the proper scale. I therefore want to ask the rapporteur how we can keep this debate on the agenda when scandals and leaks are not at the centre of our everyday politics.
Many important aspects are mentioned in the report. I welcome the fact that the report clearly states that the release of the Panama papers has damaged people’s belief and trust in the functioning of the economic system, but also trust in how companies’ social responsibility works. When Finland was industrialised in the early 1900s, the leadership of the factories in, for example, my home town wanted to ensure the best possible living conditions for their workers. In Finland, many factory owners built churches and sports arenas. At the moment, it feels as though bonuses and dividends are the central focus for directors and owners. Consequently, I ask myself what has happened to our level of social responsibility. Behind many successful companies is society’s strong investment in education, welfare and financial support for business. That is why openness and transparency in company taxation, as well as reporting on assets, are key components in dealing with this problem.
During today’s OECD debate, we heard that less than 10% of the world’s population control close to 90% of the world’s wealth. According to Oxfam, 62 persons own the same amount as half of the population on earth, and their wealth is increasing. How is it possible that such people see it as their right to hide their money from the tax authorities in order to not participate in the very society that has created the conditions for them to acquire their wealth?
I agree with the conclusion in the report that we must have skilled professionals working in tax administration as well as in investigating economic crimes, in prosecution and in courts. It is noteworthy that tax experts are often headhunted to the private sector through offers of higher pay and better benefits. Luckily, this movement goes in both directions, as many professionals do not want to participate in finding loopholes for tax avoidance in the legislation. Let us also talk about tax havens when the scandals are not in the scope of the media.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – I congratulate the rapporteur on the great work that has been done. In April, I suggested having a parliamentary inquiry for our future work. Now I express my hope that having this topic of the Panama papers on the agenda will keep many politicians away from dirty money and offshore scandals.
In the draft resolution we say: “The Parliamentary Assembly is very much concerned about the scope of tax avoidance and evasion in modern societies, now even demonstrably involving well-known companies and public personalities, who should be role models of ethical behaviour. The Assembly considers that a higher standard of ethics in politics and in the business world is essential to uphold our economic, social and democratic systems.”
A few months ago, the world was shocked by the Panama papers, where the place of honour goes to the President of Azerbaijan with his family: his wife, his daughters, his sister, and so on. The billions of dollars in the offshore corporations owned or controlled by the female Aliyevs, and also those dollars that are spent on weaponry and the military, could have been spent on real reforms and democratisation of Azerbaijan. While the first family ladies have their nice leisurely life, with an income of billions of dollars that even 10 generations of the family will not be able to spend, Aliyev’s regime has prolonged his ruling era by adopting a new constitution that gives unlimited freedom to have Aliyev’s clan as a ruling regime for many further years. By the way, this so-called constitution was very strongly condemned by the Venice Commission. I should say it again and again: yes, dear colleagues, Azerbaijan is a land of fire, not the fire of life but the fire of war, horror and crime.
Today, we have learned that a corrupt high-ranking politician is a serious danger not only for the rule of law but for one of the main international human rights – the right to life. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has done great work, and in many countries adequate steps were taken. I would like to inform my Azeri colleague that until the investigation goes away, middle-ranking official Mihran Poghosyan has resigned from his work. It would be highly appreciated if we saw adequate action in all countries, or if they are failing to take action, at least not doing the opposite by having a new constitution with new rights for a politician known for the Panama papers scandal. In the text of the draft resolution we see the following: “The Assembly acknowledges the need to restore citizens’ trust in the European democratic system.”
The investigating journals have done big work. Today we, as the Parliamentary Assembly, should unite to cut the corruption and financial speculation. All we need is trust. This should be the best lesson learned.
Ms GOSSELIN-FLEURY* (France) – On 8 February 1893, Jean Jaurčs, who was at the time an MP in France, denounced corruption against the backdrop of another Panama scandal. He said: “This is not a closed trial against a few men within the closed walls of a courtroom – it is the trial of a social order which is coming to an end, and we are here to replace it with an order which is more fair.” These words are particularly poignant when we think about what the Panama papers have told us about the lack of transparency and fiscal justice in Europe but also elsewhere in the world. Without transparency, there can be no modern democracy. Even old democracies like France still have progress to make. Our citizens’ crises of confidence in their institutions and, more broadly, in the established social order and the economic and political systems are having dramatic consequences because they are opening the door to populism and extremists. In France, since 2013 we have been working to reform our practices with the aim of combating tax evasion and corruption. It has not been easy, but the controls that we have introduced are producing results. We have also adopted measures related to reporting and the control of financial markets, and we have created an anti-corruption agency that is working on our territory and beyond to combat this scourge.
On 28 September, we adopted an amendment granting France a universal competency for prosecuting fraudsters abroad as well as within the country. That measure will be particularly effective, making it possible for us to reach digital entities that often do not have branches in France. I am convinced that fiscal justice can be truly effective only if every citizen acknowledges that taxation, far from being a punishment, is at the heart of the democratic pact. Without tax, there is no freedom of choice for our country, nor is there any equality, because in many countries the right to education or healthcare can only be guaranteed through effective and properly funded public services. Without tax, there is no fraternity or solidarity with the most vulnerable.
This is a complex issue, as you underscore in your report. Nothing can be achieved without international collaboration – without the exchange of bank data, for example. The OECD convention is a model on this subject and we must act to guarantee that all our governments sign it. As you can see, the lessons of the Panama papers are not just economic, but a challenge for our democracies and values.
Ms ANTTILA (Finland) – I thank Mr Schennach for his good and timely report on this important issue. The Panama papers intensified public outrage that has been simmering for years. Citizens no longer wish to tolerate legal systems that allow taxation to be easily avoided by the wealthiest 1% and ill-gotten gains to be stashed away. At the same time, other people pay their taxes on stagnant or even falling incomes. European citizens look with increasing suspicion at the political and economic elites. We need effective action on combating international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.
The history of tax havens is as old as taxation itself. Some European countries were among the first to introduce the concept of holding companies. Panama is one of the oldest tax havens in the world. At the end of the last century, it was related to the cocaine trade. Panama facilitated money laundering for Latin American drug lords, offering a full range of financial services.
Until now, there has been no precise definition of a tax haven. The International Monetary Fund defined the following features of tax havens: the primary orientation of business towards non-residents, a favourable regulatory environment, and so on. We must make sure that banks and financial institutions apply the highest level of enhanced due diligence with regard to complex international business cases and potentially high-risk customers. We must strongly support the maintenance of a sound legal basis regarding such matters.
We must also strongly condemn tax havens and stop their ability to act. This is our main target. The kind of development they promote destroys people’s trust in democracy and poses a threat to the fundamental values of European society, including fiscal and social justice. According to this good report, the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance does not necessarily require new legal or technical standards. We must ensure the effective implementation of the existing ones; that is the most important thing.
The PRESIDENT – I cannot see Mr Lozovoy, so I call Percy Downe.
Mr DOWNE (Canada, Observer) – Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words on this very good report which has a series of excellent recommendations. The rapporteur talked about justice, and justice and fairness are very big issues in Canada. Our Canada Revenue Agency, which is responsible for collecting taxation, simply lacks the resources to fight the growing problem in Canada of overseas tax evasion. If you go to its website, you see all kinds of convictions for domestic tax evasion involving carpenters and fishers, among others. Working people who tried to avoid paying taxes in Canada were prosecuted, charged and convicted, but there is not one conviction on the website involving any overseas tax evasion, even though the Panama papers is one of many leaks showing Canadians hiding money overseas.
The first leak happened eight or nine years ago. In one country, there was a bank in which 102 Canadians were found to have accounts, and they had than $100 million in the one bank. After eight years, the Canada Revenue Agency determined that more than $20 million was due to the Canadian economy from tax evasion, but not one of those people was ever charged or convicted. That unfairness in the tax system concerns many Canadians. The question is, “Why are you paying taxes if many of your neighbours are hiding their money overseas and avoiding it?” The second leak came to Canada about seven years ago. It was from another bank in which 1 784 Canadians had accounts. Again, no one was charged or convicted, and that double standard is a serious problem.
The second problem in Canada is that the revenue agency not only lacks the resources but did not have much interest in, for example, assessing the tax gap – the difference between what the revenue agency should be collecting and what it is actually collecting. The good news is that in the recent budget, the government announced $440 million for the revenue agency to hire additional auditors and that it would work with others to estimate the tax gap in a series of areas in Canada. That is why this report is so important for Canada: we cannot do it alone. We need international information sharing, sanctions and the other recommendations in this report. I hope that they are adopted and implemented as soon as possible.
The PRESIDENT – I cannot see Ms Kerestecioğlu Demir, so I call Mr Wells.
Mr WELLS (Canada, Observer) – Thank you for this opportunity to speak about fiscal and social justice and public trust in our democratic system, specifically as it relates to the Panama papers. Canada is committed to a plan of action to combat international and domestic tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, and to ensuring that existing efforts at home and abroad are strengthened. You heard Senator Downe speak about some of the things that are happening, and I fully support his comments.
To date, efforts have included both enhanced reporting requirements and co-operation with the international community to exchange selected information. In order to collect information about funds moving into and out of Canada, some of which could be linked to tax evasion, in 2013 the federal government introduced measures requiring financial institutions and certain other entities to report electronic funds transfers of $10 000 or more to the Canada Revenue Agency. In that year, it also introduced the offshore tax informant programme, which offers a reward for information about major cases of international tax evasion. Canada also has a voluntary disclosures programme, through which Canadian taxpayers can correct mistakes on their tax returns – including in relation to income that they have failed to report – without facing additional penalties, provided that they do so before the Canada Revenue Agency takes any action against them regarding the mistake in question.
To date, Canada has signed 92 bilateral tax treaties, the main purposes of which include avoiding double taxation and preventing tax evasion. We have also signed 22 tax information exchange agreements that allow information to be exchanged, on request, when there is reason to suspect that a taxpayer may be under-reporting income or over-reporting expenses. So far, more than 100 jurisdictions, including Canada, have committed to implementing the common reporting standard in a time frame that will permit automatic information exchanges by 2018. Earlier this year, Canada confirmed that it will implement the standard by July 2017 and proposed legislation has been released for public comment.
In terms of aggressive tax avoidance, Canada has announced plans to implement the minimum standards agreed under a joint project by the G20 and the OECD in relation to what is known as base erosion and profit shifting by multinational enterprises. We have seen that worldwide. Those standards aim to ensure that international and domestic tax rules do not allow or encourage such enterprises to reduce taxes inappropriately by artificially shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions. Canada intends to implement country-by-country reporting by multinational enterprises of certain tax-related information in each of the jurisdictions in which they do business, beginning in 2016, and to apply the recommended monetary threshold of €750 million. Canada remains committed to working both domestically and internationally to reduce tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance with a view to improving fiscal and social justice, as well as trust in our democratic system.
The PRESIDENT – Finally, I call the patient Mr Jónasson.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland) – I commend the report and the rapporteur, Stefan Schennach, on his initiative and his work. I support the report’s comprehensive recommendations on transparency, the defence of whistle-blowers, the importance of an international exchange of investigative techniques, and the need for international harmonisation of legislation on access to financial information. I could mention more examples of the report’s important recommendations, but referring colleagues to the text will suffice.
We do not need to go to Panama or the Bahamas to find hiding places for rich people or centres of financial secrecy. We do not even have to leave Europe. Examples include the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and, of course, the City of London. The matter poses both moral and economic questions and queries the sustainability of what it funds.
Iceland is holding an early parliamentary election in a few weeks. The election was planned for spring next year, but after the Panama papers revelations, it emerged that politicians and businesspeople had private capital hidden away. That caused public uproar and people flocked to the streets in protest. The prime minister resigned and it was decided that the election would be held early. What does that tell us? There is public awareness of the issue and these socially harmful practices. It is imperative that that awareness is kept alive and burning, so this must be an ongoing debate. I reiterate my thanks to Mr Schennach for keeping the debate going by presenting us with a wealth of information and recommendations that are likely to pave the way for the tackling of this social ill.
The PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers. I call Mr Schennach to reply. You have four minutes.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I thank colleagues for their congratulations, suggestions and critical words. Unfortunately I cannot reply to everyone, but I want to provide a few answers.
The OECD, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the International Monetary Fund all have mechanisms and institutions that are responsible for such areas. Ms Günay of Turkey said that they need to check whether the money held in tax havens is legal in order to protect social and democratic States and to guarantee fairness.
Peter Omtzigt is right that the report is just the start and that we need to follow it up. The G20 and the European Union have made it clear that we need better resources, better judges, better policing and better prosecutors. We need politically independent organisations. We need a centralised register and new techniques. We must now call for all that and all member States have said that they will. It will not be business as usual. I have a list of companies that shows that Mossack Fonseca is not the only firm involved. I already have a list of banks working in Europe that are involved in this kind of activity and we must examine what is happening in our own countries. It is important that we continue this work. Money must be taxed where the wealth is held. We need to tax where services are provided and where products are manufactured. That is what is fair and we must guarantee that that fairness is maintained.
I want to do something that is a little unusual and call upon colleagues to vote for Amendment 2. The committee decided that the resolution was missing a declaration relating to multilateral agreements when bilateral agreements have been in place for a long time, so we should support Amendment 2.
I thank the Bureau and Alina Belova, who did incredible work on this dossier and provided us with all the material. If you support me with this new resolution, we can take this important issue forward and continue to work to ensure that our citizens feel that justice exists. Our social and education systems mean that citizens understand why they pay taxes, but they cannot understand why the super-rich do not pay taxes.
For those who referred to policy, politically exposed persons should be subject to special monitoring, including for five years after their status ends. The resolution refers to European Union regulation and the European Union must act where conflicts of interest exist.
The PRESIDENT – Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I thank our rapporteur, Mr Schennach, for all his work on this timely and pertinent report. It is a complex text that explores, among other things, the links between the economic sphere and the political world on taxation and redistribution policies. It touches on clean hands and transparency in politics. Upon reading it, we all understand the unprecedented urgency around addressing concerns about fiscal and social justice.
With that in mind, I want to say that the report was unanimously supported by the committee, as were several constructive amendments from our partner committees. I am convinced that the outcome meets all our expectations, and I invite colleagues to support this timely resolution, which is extremely important for reinstating trust in public affairs. I again thank our rapporteur and the members of the secretariat for all their hard work.
The PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution to which 15 amendments have been tabled.
They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the revised Compendium and the Organisation of Debates. I remind colleagues that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 8, 10, 11, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14 and 15 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.
I also understand that Amendments 12 and 13 are identical to Amendments 1 and 7, and that therefore it is proposed that Amendments 12 and 13 should also be agreed by the Assembly.
Is that so, Ms Kyriakides?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – That is so.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone object?
As there is no objection, I declare those amendments to the draft resolution agreed to.
Amendments 8, 10, 11, 1, 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 are adopted.
We will therefore now consider Amendment 9. I call Mr van de Ven to support the amendment on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. You have 30 seconds.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands) – The committee is in favour of the amendment.
The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Schennach.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – I want to speak against the amendment, because I wrote the exact words “public person”, and how is a politician different from a public person? The amendment would include “public person” and “politician”, but what is already written in the report is enough. We do not need an additional word, “politicians”, because they are public persons.
The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee was against the amendment by a large majority of 32 to one.
The PRESIDENT – I shall put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 9 is rejected.
We now move to Amendment 2. I call Mr Schennach to support the amendment.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – I said in committee that we should vote against the amendment, but I have changed my opinion. I appeal to everyone to vote in favour of the amendment, because in the end we need multilateral agreements, and bilateral agreements should work as long as multilateral ones are effective. Please vote in favour.
The PRESIDENT – As no one wishes to speak against the amendment, what is the opinion of the committee?
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – The committee was against the amendment with a majority of 26 to 1.
The PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment to the vote.
The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 14141, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14141, as amended, is adopted, with 47 votes for, 4 against and 2 abstentions.
8. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved on Monday morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 8.25 p.m.)
1. Election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
2. Credentials of the delegation of Serbia
3. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
Address by Mr Ligi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers
Questions: Mr Fischer, Ms Blondin, Ms Pashayeva, the Earl of Dundee, Mr Hunko, Mr Fournier, Mr R. Huseynov, Mr Omtzigt, Ms Bartos, Mr Billström, Mr O’Reilly and Mr G. Davies
4. Children’s rights related to surrogacy
Presentation by Ms De Sutter of report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Social Development in Doc. 14140.
Speakers: Ms Rodríguez Hernández, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Mr G. Davies, Mr Jónasson, Ms Centemero, Ms Bonet, Mr Ardelean, Mr Ghiletchi, Ms Maury Pasquier, Mr Reiss, Ms Bartos, Ms Le Dain, Mr Wilk, Mr Le Déaut, Ms Magradze, Mr Gyöngyösi, Ms Pecková, Ms Maij, Mr Eẞl, Ms Santerini, Mr Mullen, Baroness Massey, Mr Gunnarsson, Mr Pozzo di Borgo, Lord Foulkes, Ms Grecea, Ms Ĺberg, Mr De Bruyn, Mr Unhurian, Ms Roseta, Ms Strik, Mr Van der Maelen and Ms Cimbro
Replies: Ms De Sutter and Ms Kyriakides
Draft recommendation rejected
5. Election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and of “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
6. Lessons from the “Panama Papers” to ensure fiscal and social justice
Presentation by Mr Schennach of report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Social Justice in Doc. 14141 and Addendum
Presentation by Mr Van der Maelen of opinion of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy in Doc. 14156
Presentation by Mr van de Ven of oral opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Speakers: Ms Günay, Mr Loucaides, Mr Omtzigt, Ms Rodríguez Ramos, Mr Bildarratz, Ms Zimmermann, Mr Wilson, Lord Foulkes, Mr Shahgeldyan, Mr Kiral, Ms Christoffersen, Mr Don Davies, Mr R. Huseynov, Mr Melkumyan, Ms Huovinen, Ms Karapetyan, Ms Gosselin-Fleury, Ms Anttila, Mr Downe, Mr Wells and Mr Jónasson
Replies: Mr Schennach and Ms Kyriakides
Amendments 8, 10, 11, 1, 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15 adopted
Draft resolution, as amended, adopted
7. 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 ŕ l’article 12.2 du Rčglement Les noms des titulaires remplacés figurent (entre parenthčses) aprčs les noms des membres participants.
ĹBERG, Boriana [Ms] (GHASEMI, Tina [Ms])
ALIU, Imer [Mr] (MEHMETI DEVAJA, Ermira [Ms])
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARDELEAN, Ben-Oni [Mr]
BARILARO, Christian [M.] (ALLAVENA, Jean-Charles [M.])
BARNETT, Doris [Ms]
BARTOS, Mónika [Ms] (CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme])
BAYKAL, Deniz [Mr]
BERGAMINI, Deborah [Ms]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr]
BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr]
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BRUYN, Piet De [Mr]
BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
BUDNER, Margareta [Ms]
CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms]
CENTEMERO, Elena [Ms]
ČERNOCH, Marek [Mr] (MARKOVÁ, Soňa [Ms])
CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CIMBRO, Eleonora [Ms] (BERTUZZI, Maria Teresa [Ms])
CIMOSZEWICZ, Tomasz [Mr] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
CROZON, Pascale [Mme] (BAPT, Gérard [M.])
DAEMS, Hendrik [Mr] (MAHOUX, Philippe [M.])
DAVIES, Geraint [Mr]
DEBONO GRECH, Joseph [Mr]
DESKOSKA, Renata [Ms]
DI STEFANO, Manlio [Mr]
DİŞLİ, Şaban [Mr]
DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]
DJUROVIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
DOKLE, Namik [M.]
DONALDSON, Jeffrey [Sir]
DUNDEE, Alexander [The Earl of] [ ]
DURRIEU, Josette [Mme]
DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr]
EẞL, Franz Leonhard [Mr]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FARMANYAN, Samvel [Mr]
FAZZONE, Claudio [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
FEIST, Thomas [Mr] (WELLMANN, Karl-Georg [Mr])
FIALA, Doris [Mme]
FINCKH-KRÄMER, Ute [Ms]
FISCHER, Axel E. [Mr]
FISCHEROVÁ, Jana [Ms] (BENEŠIK, Ondřej [Mr])
FOULKES, George [Lord] (PRESCOTT, John [Mr])
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRÉCON, Jean-Claude [M.] (LE BORGN’, Pierre-Yves [M.])
FRESKO-ROLFO, Béatrice [Mme]
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GAMBARO, Adele [Ms]
GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ, José Ramón [Mr]
GERASHCHENKO, Iryna [Mme]
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GOPP, Rainer [Mr]
GOSSELIN-FLEURY, Genevičve [Mme] (ALLAIN, Brigitte [Mme])
GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme]
GRECEA, Maria [Ms] (STROE, Ionuț-Marian [Mr])
GÜNAY, Emine Nur [Ms]
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
GUZENINA, Maria [Ms]
GYÖNGYÖSI, Márton [Mr]
HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr]
HANŽEK, Matjaž [Mr] (KORENJAK KRAMAR, Ksenija [Ms])
HOFFMANN, Rózsa [Mme] (VEJKEY, Imre [Mr])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HÜBINGER, Anette [Ms]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
HUOVINEN, Susanna [Ms] (KALMARI, Anne [Ms])
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Vusal [Mr] (MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.])
JAKAVONIS, Gediminas [M.]
JENSEN, Mogens [Mr]
JOHNSEN, Kristin Řrmen [Ms] (JENSSEN, Frank J. [Mr])
JÓNASSON, Ögmundur [Mr]
JONICA, Snežana [Ms] (TUPONJA, Goran [Mr])
JORDANA, Carles [M.]
JOVANOVIĆ, Jovan [Mr]
KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms] (ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr])
KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr]
KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR, Filiz [Ms]
KESİCİ, İlhan [Mr]
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (SOTNYK, Olena [Ms])
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
KOÇ, Haluk [Mr]
KÖCK, Eduard [Mr] (AMON, Werner [Mr])
KORODI, Attila [Mr]
KORUN, Alev [Ms]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KRIŠTO, Borjana [Ms]
KÜÇÜKCAN, Talip [Mr]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LE DAIN, Anne-Yvonne [Mme] (MARIANI, Thierry [M.])
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]
LOZOVOY, Andriy [Mr] (VOVK, Viktor [Mr])
LUIS, Teófilo de [Mr] (BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr])
MAELEN, Dirk Van der [Mr] (DUMERY, Daphné [Ms])
MAGRADZE, Guguli [Ms] (JAPARIDZE, Tedo [Mr])
MAIJ, Marit [Ms]
MANNINGER, Jenő [Mr] (GULYÁS, Gergely [Mr])
MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]
MARTINS, Alberto [M.]
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness] (SHERRIFF, Paula [Ms])
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MEALE, Alan [Sir]
MELKUMYAN, Mikayel [M.] (NAGHDALYAN, Hermine [Ms])
MENDES, Ana Catarina [Mme]
MIGNON, Jean-Claude [M.]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MILTENBURG, Anouchka van [Ms]
MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (CROWE, Seán [Mr])
NENUTIL, Miroslav [Mr]
NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]
NIKOLOSKI, Aleksandar [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OBRADOVIĆ, Žarko [Mr]
OEHRI, Judith [Ms]
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
OMTZIGT, Pieter [Mr] (OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ria [Ms])
ÖNAL, Suat [Mr]
O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
OSUCH, Jacek [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])
PACKALÉN, Tom [Mr]
PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms] (NEGUTA, Andrei [M.])
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]
PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms]
PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms]
PECKOVÁ, Gabriela [Ms] (KOSTŘICA, Rom [Mr])
POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
POSTOICO, Maria [Mme] (VORONIN, Vladimir [M.])
POZZO DI BORGO, Yves [M.] (DURANTON, Nicole [Mme])
PREDA, Cezar Florin [M.]
PSYCHOGIOS, Georgios [Mr] (KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms])
QUÉRÉ, Catherine [Mme] (ROCHEBLOINE, François [M.])
QUINTANILLA, Carmen [Mme]
RADOMSKI, Kerstin [Ms]
RAWERT, Mechthild [Ms] (DROBINSKI-WEIß, Elvira [Ms])
REISS, Frédéric [M.] (JACQUAT, Denis [M.])
REPS, Mailis [Ms]
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms]
RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Soraya [Mme] (BATET, Meritxell [Ms])
ROSETA, Helena [Mme]
ROUQUET, René [M.]
SALMOND, Alex [Mr]
SAMMUT, Joseph [Mr] (SCHEMBRI, Deborah [Ms])
SANTANGELO, Vincenzo [Mr]
SANTERINI, Milena [Ms]
SAVCHENKO, Nadiia [Ms]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER, Elisabeth [Mme] (LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.])
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHRIJVER, Nico [Mr]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
SCULLY, Paul [Mr] (GALE, Roger [Sir])
SHAHGELDYAN, Mher [M.] (ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme])
SILVA, Adăo [M.]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
SPADONI, Maria Edera [Ms] (ASCANI, Anna [Ms])
STOILOV, Yanaki [Mr]
STRIK, Tineke [Ms] (SCHNABEL, Paul [Mr])
GRECEA Maria [Ms] (STROE Ionuț-Marian [Mr])
TORNARE, Manuel [M.] (HEER, Alfred [Mr])
TORUN, Cemalettin Kani [Mr]
TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
UNHURIAN, Pavlo [Mr] (YEMETS Leonid [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]
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
WALLINHEIMO, Sinuhe [Mr] (PELKONEN, Jaana [Ms])
WIECHEL, Markus [Mr] (NISSINEN, Johan [Mr])
WILK, Jacek [Mr]
WILSON, Phil [Mr] (CRAUSBY, David [Mr])
XUCLŔ, Jordi [Mr]
YAŞAR, Serap [Mme]
ZELIENKOVÁ, Kristýna [Ms]
ZIMMERMANN, Marie-Jo [Mme]
ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr]
Vacant Seat, Andorra/Sičge vacant, Andorre (JORDANA, Carles [M.])
Vacant Seat, Croatia/Sičge vacant, Croatie*
Vacant Seat,Cyprus/Sičge vacant, Chypre
Also present/Egalement présents
Représentants et Suppléants non autorisés ŕ voter/
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote
BONET Sílvia Eloďsa [Ms]
CORREIA, Telmo [M.]
GJORCHEV, Vladimir [Mr]
VARVITSIOTIS, Miltiadis [Mr]
DAVIES, Don [Mr]
DOWNE, Percy [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
WELLS, David M. [Mr]
WHALEN, Nick [Mr
Partners for democracy/Partenaires pour la démocratie
ABOULFATH, Hanane [Mme]
Representatives or Substitutes who took part in the ballot for the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Azerbaijan and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
Liste des représentants ou suppléants qui ont participé au vote pour les Elections de Juges ŕ la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme au titre de l’Azerbaďdjan et de «l’ex-République yougoslave de Macédonia»
AMTSBERG, Luise [Ms] A
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARENT, Iwona [Ms]
BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr]/LUIS, Teófilo de [Mr]
BATET, Meritxell [Ms]/RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Soraya [Mme]
BECK, Marieluise [Ms]/SCHMIDT, Frithjof [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr]
BUTLER, Dawn [Ms]/SHARMA, Virendra [Mr]
DAVIES, Geraint [Mr]
DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]
DJUROVIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
DONALDSON, Jeffrey [Sir]
DROBINSKI-WEIß, Elvira [Ms]/RAWERT, Mechthild [Ms]
DUNDEE, Alexander [The Earl of] [ ]
DURANTON, Nicole [Mme]/POZZO DI BORGO, Yves [M.]
DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr]
FENECH ADAMI, Joseph [Mr]
FRESKO-ROLFO, Béatrice [Mme]
GAMBARO, Adele [Ms]
GHASEMI, Tina [Ms]/ĹBERG, Boriana [Ms]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GOPP, Rainer [Mr]
GULYÁS, Gergely [Mr]/MANNINGER, Jenő [Mr]
GUZENINA, Maria [Ms]
HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr]/OSUCH, Jacek [Mr]
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HÜBINGER, Anette [Ms]
JÓNASSON, Ögmundur [Mr]
KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR, Filiz [Ms]
KLICH, Bogdan [Mr]/POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.]
LE DÉAUT, Jean-Yves [M.]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LONCLE, François [M.]
MARTINS, Alberto [M.]
MEALE, Alan [Sir]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MILTENBURG, Anouchka van [Ms]
MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr]/BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr]
NISSINEN, Johan [Mr]/WIECHEL, Markus [Mr]
OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ria [Ms]/OMTZIGT, Pieter [Mr]
O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
PRESCOTT, John [Mr]/FOULKES, George [Lord]
PRITCHARD, Mark [Mr]
QUINTANILLA, Carmen [Mme]
REPS, Mailis [Ms]
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
ROCHEBLOINE, François [M.]/QUÉRÉ, Catherine [Mme]
RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms] R
ROUQUET, René [M.]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
SILVA, Adăo [M.]
VEN, Mart van de [Mr]
VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.]/SUTTER, Petra De [Ms]
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
ZECH, Tobias [Mr]
ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme]/SHAHGELDYAN, Mher [M.]
ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr] /KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms]