AS (2016) CR 34
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Thursday 13 October 2016 at 10 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
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The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Current affairs debate: Situation in Turkey in the light of the attempted coup d’État
The PRESIDENT – The next item of business this morning is a current affairs debate on the “Situation in Turkey in the light of the attempted coup d’état”.
The speaking time is limited to three minutes for all members except the first speaker, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 10 minutes.
This debate will finish at about 12 p.m. so that we can move to the next item on the agenda.
In the debate I call Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, the first speaker chosen by the Bureau. Mr Liddell-Grainger, you have 10 minutes.
Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER (United Kingdom) – May I say what a privilege it is to start this debate and, I hope, to set the scene for why it matters to every single one of us? Every single person in this room is a democrat, because we believe in democracy. We believe that, ultimately, the best way to rule is to let the people decide. The three pillars of this place are democracy, the rule of law and order, and, if I may paraphrase in bad English, governance or government. Those three things make us the most important democratic organisation in the world. Since 1948, we have honoured those three pillars because we know that they are right and that it is our duty and responsibility to stand up and be counted as democrats. Therefore, when one of our friends in the Council of Europe – one of the 46 countries – has a problem, we have a moral responsibility not only to stand beside them, but to be constructive and help them with ideas, advice and thoughts that will make the lives of that country’s citizens better. Ultimately, that is what this is about: improving the lives and well-being of our citizens so that they feel that they are included in, not excluded from, the process.
Some months ago, there was a coup in one of our countries, Turkey. It was orchestrated to undermine the very pillars of this Organisation and designed to make the country ungovernable. The orchestrators went out to destroy people’s lives, because they did not like the answer they got. What right do any of us have to do that? There are countries represented in this august gathering that have had coups in the past, but they have all returned to democracy – they have all come back to the family. Turkey has not left our family, but it is going through a period of immense struggles, not because it wants to go through them, but because it finds itself in that position.
Turkey is, and has been for millennia, a unique country in Europe. It is the country that bulwarks between the west and the east. It was the end of the spice road and the beginning of the western trading area, and it still is. Turkey is important not only because we have moral responsibility, but because it is a vital country in what we do. Many years ago, I was a soldier. I remember standing in West Germany looking over the wall at a lot of people who are here today. One of the bulwarks ensuring no one did anything stupid was Turkey. For that, we should always be grateful. It is a formidable member of NATO.
You cannot have democracy without working at it, and what I mean by that is that the President of Turkey has every right to clamp down. Yes, as a democrat I think the time has come perhaps to ease off those restrictions and to start getting justice working slightly quicker, but you have to defend the rights of your nation. You only have to look at the people who have been killed and injured in what has happened to realise how wrong it was. Just south of the Turkish border, we are witnessing genocide in Aleppo. We are witnessing untold destruction and havoc, with no governance, no government and no democracy. Turkey is that bulwark. It has more refugees than almost anywhere, and they are handling it. They are dealing with problems on their own fair borders, and I have such sympathy. At the end of the day, that is what this is about: giving Turkey the ability and tools to come back so that we can ensure it does not happen again.
I saw in The Financial Times, an English newspaper, that President Erdoğan has asked for more powers. Do I have a problem with that as a democrat? I may or may not, but I read the article closely. He wants to ensure that he can drive the possibility of this happening again further back. Should any head of State be able to do that? Yes, I think they should, and many heads of State have and will continue to do it. He wants the power to be able to ensure the stability of the judiciary, which is one arm of this, of democracy – their Parliament – and of governance. Two of those nearly broke down and the third was under threat. They are now stable again, so let him have his powers. Yes, there are colleagues here who will worry. I am not one of them. I believe that he needs to take that decision.
I have touched on some things that we would like, and I will come back to them. When you have a state of emergency, one of the things that you want to do is pull that back as fast as you can. You want people to return to normality as quickly as possible. I urge the president to do that. Secondly, where you have interned people for reasons that you feel are absolutely vital, justice needs to be done as quickly as the judicial system can handle it, fairly and openly. You should welcome people to come and see you. I have the report from the Commissioner for Human Rights. It makes for good reading and talks about openness and unfettered access. He said, “I want to listen. I want to learn”, and he was given that opportunity.
When it comes to the things we hold dear, we need to ensure that we can understand what is going on in that country. Once we can understand and embrace that, we can know that the job they are doing is right for us all. I am therefore delighted when I talk to my Turkish colleagues in the European Conservatives Group. They are the most open people. They have just invited the Presidential Committee to come to Ankara to see what is going on for themselves. I hope we can accept that. Talip Küçükcan, the leader of the Turkish delegation, has done a wondrous job. This debate is about what we stand for, what this place was set up for and what it holds most dear. The three pillars are being administered in Turkey. The three pillars are working in Turkey, because Turkey has to make them work to ensure a secure future. I feel that they are doing a good job.
I want to make one final point. We have many organisations that say that they encompass the world, such as the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but there is only one organisation in this world that has the legitimacy to look at anything, and that is ours. Why? It is because every one of us, including our President, is a parliamentarian. We are elected by our people and selected to be here by our governments, by whatever means. We are the one Organisation of this sheer size that can look any country in the eye and say, “We understand what you are going through, because we are parliamentarians as well.” That is why I say to you that we have the legitimacy and the right to be able to say to our Turkish colleagues, “We will help you. We will stand by you, because we know what this is about.”
I listen, and I sometimes say to my government, “You have a lot of civil servants. You have a lot of people who tell you what you want to hear, and sometimes what you don’t want to hear.” When we speak as parliamentarians to Ankara or any part of Turkey, we understand. I therefore open this debate with great pride and great hope – hope that this Assembly will do what it has always done best for the past 60 years, which is to stand up for democracy, governance and the rule of law and order, which we have done brilliantly, and to embrace what is going on in Turkey to help our Turkish colleagues, the Turkish people and the international community. As democrats and people, we understand this, and we will be able to say proudly that we helped when a friend needed it most. We were there, and we stood up for them.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – I think that hopes were running high, not only among liberals, when President Erdoğan spoke out in favour of progress and support for our common values. For more than 60 years, hopes in relation to democracy and human rights have characterised relations between the Council of Europe and Turkey, and we have common interests in so many fields: geopolitical, geostrategic, economic, and, more recently, coping with flows of migrants and refugees. However, that does not mean that we are taken hostage by the interests that we have in common. Given the way that it has handled the refugee crisis, Turkey deserves our respect. No country could just take in 3.5 million refugees without any hitches or problems. The fact that a number of countries in Europe are dodging their responsibilities in accepting refugees is a scandal. It is despicable that they do not want to honour their commitments in terms of resettlement agreements.
We need to voice our concern that, under the autocratic rule of President Erdoğan, we are seeing Turkey drift further away from our common values. We need to respond to Turkish sensitivities, but we also need to make it clear to our Turkish friends that a putsch cannot lead to peaceful structures or prosperity. We believe that democracy has to be strengthened through democracy rather than having recourse to dictatorial means. We vehemently oppose the approach of President Erdoğan and his allies following the putsch, governing through emergency legislation and decrees, and extending the state of emergency until 15 January 2017. It fills us with concern that Turkey is evolving more and more in the direction of an authoritarian State, even become something of an exporter by intimidating Turkish citizens living abroad – in so doing violating the sovereignty of other countries – and trying to earn respect for itself by carrying out a purge of its own civil servants.
We have to wish our Turkish friends strength, courage and wisdom, and hope that they will stand up for our common values. You need to convey to your government that of course we accept diversity, but we want a Turkey that is in favour of an open vision of the future – a country that renounces national and religious populism, and returns to non-negotiable common values, which are those of a State based on the rule of law.
Mr ÖNAL (Turkey, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group)* – Following the coup attempt on 15 July, we are gathered here to discuss the situation in Turkey. A few minutes ago, I listened to my colleague, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger. I thank him for expressing his honest and frank views on Turkey.
As I stand here to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group, I do not want to be too emotional. I experienced 15 July myself. I was right there, 30 m away from where the bomb dropped in the Turkish Parliament. I survived the event just by chance. Perhaps if I had died on 15 July, you would be commemorating me because I would not be here anymore. I know what happened on 15 July in Ankara; I have first-hand experience of it. I would therefore like to underline a few aspects.
A group had formed in the army that was attached – robotically tied – to a cleric, Fethullah Gülen. They attempted the coup, wanting to destroy democracy in Turkey. The Turkish Government was voted in by 50% of the Turkish people, and that is what they wanted to get rid of. They wanted to get rid of Mr Erdoğan, who was supposed to be killed by a group of assassins. This group intervened in the rights of humans. They killed people – 241 people died that night, and more than 2 500 were injured. We talk about freedom of the media, the press. On that night, they wanted to curb the freedom of the press completely. TRT, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, was raided. They declared a state of emergency in Turkey and imposed a curfew. People went on to the streets to try to stop this happening, but they were attacked by tanks.
So what do we need to do here, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe? We need to support the Turkish people. We need to support the Turkish Government and the opposition, who stood firm against this coup attempt. We need to stand for the rule of law and democracy. A state of emergency has been initiated, but it is not a state of emergency against the people. It is a state of emergency for the people, to ensure that this will not be repeated. In fact, the Turkish people are happy that there is a state of emergency.
Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey, Spokesman for the Group of the Unified European Left) – The question is not whether Turkey has the right to struggle against the coup attempt, but how that struggle should be waged. Initially, there was consensus among the four political parties in the parliament: we all took a clear stance against the coup. I am a member of the HDP. The coup attempt could have been used as an opportunity to democratise Turkey’s society and politics in a pluralistic and inclusive way, but the government chose otherwise and put into practice what we view as a counter-coup to reshape Turkey according to the ambitious wishes of President Erdoğan. On Monday, Commissioner Muižnieks shared his findings about Turkey, detailing grave violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. I urge Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, who introduced the debate, to have a brief look at Commissioner Muižnieks’ memorandum about violated rights and freedoms.
Yesterday, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs talked about the situation and painted a totally different picture of post-coup attempt developments in the country. The government declared emergency rule with the promise of purging the Gülen community from State institutions. Yesterday the Turkish Minister said in this very Chamber that no other citizen was negatively impacted, but that is simply not true. Universities, the courts, the media, local government, civil society, commercial firms and companies, and opposition political parties are under tremendous repression, as documented by various independent observers, European Union authorities, and Council of Europe authorities. There is absolutely no separation of powers, no rule of law, no impartiality of the courts, and no constitutional rule in the country.
I am not going to give you a lot of numbers, but at least 130 000 civil servants and 3 000 judges and prosecutors were dismissed overnight. Many Kurdish TV channels were closed down, even Zarok TV, a Kurdish cartoon TV channel for children, in the name of fighting terror and the coup. More than 60 elected Kurdish mayors were dismissed, and trusties were appointed by the central government. Yesterday and the day before, 180 HDP executives were taken into custody, and all our offices are regularly raided by the police.
The reality is that in the name of fighting terror and the coup, the government is terrorising society, producing a climate of fear, chaos and insecurity with which to rule the country and consolidate Erdoğan’s one-man rule.
Mr NÉMETH (Hungary, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – The European People’s Party is strongly behind Turkey, and I express our condolences in respect of the 241 victims of the coup d’état. Turkey is exceptional in Europe. It is a role model for a political system of democratic Islam, which is a major global challenge of our times. It is exceptional because of its role in the migration process through fulfilling the European Union-Turkey agreement. It is also exceptional because it is a key country in war and peace in Syria and the Middle East.
The Council of Europe is the voice of Europe at present. Other organisations are also on board, but we are the Organisation that suggests solidarity is needed rather than artificial pressure. There should be no suspension of credentials or monitoring threat towards Turkey. There are problems, as has just been said, but we feel that dialogue is the way in which to proceed, and I compliment Secretary General Jagland in that regard. Human rights and the rule of law are basic values, and they also relate to emergency law. We have our institutions, such as the Venice Commission, which is doing a good job in the field, and there is the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
On terrorism legislation, I underline how important our contribution might be to the visa liberalisation process of Turkey vis-ŕ-vis the European Union. As we say, it takes two to tango. Europe should also fulfil its promises. It is legitimate to have expectations of Turkey, but we have to see that we have our own role in the Council of Europe and in the European Union. Are we satisfied with our attitude towards Turkey in the past? Have we carried out our tasks regarding the visa liberalisation process, for example? If we cannot fulfil what we promise, that brings into question all the targets we speak about vis-ŕ-vis Turkey. The European perspective has always been a key driver in our region in the democratisation process, but if we cannot do what we promise, that might undermine the process in Turkey. We should look at our own responsibilities. I believe that is what we can do for this country, its people, its entire region, for their values and for the common future of Europe and Turkey.
Ms RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS (Spain, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – No one in this Assembly can doubt that our need to express concerns about the situation of democracy in Turkey means that we have to start by condemning the military coup that recently took place there. On behalf of the Assembly, I underline our solidarity with and sympathy for the people of Turkey and note their courage in fighting the coup on 15 July.
At the same time, the Assembly must express its reservations about the way in which emergency laws are being applied in Turkey. The situation is simply not compatible with the rule of law in other countries. It undermines all constitutional rights and affects the Kurdish people as a whole, as became clear in our meeting yesterday with members of the government. Parliamentarians have lost their immunity and there are Turks and Kurds who can be fired without their labour rights being respected. A people as a whole is being cast under suspicion following this coup d’état. We have a clear duty to express doubts and reservations. Some rights simply cannot be suspended, such as the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and to personal responsibility. In other words, sanctions can never be applied to families and friends of suspects, as is happening.
The fullest proof of friendship for the Turkish Government, for which we have enormous respect, would be for us to help them. If we help them, we sincerely hope that they can return as quickly as possible to the rule of law – and to the fullest guarantee of people’s rights under the Convention on Human Rights – by investigating the coup d’état and finding out as quickly as possible what needs to be done to limit the threat of a military coup against the State.
It is unacceptable for us in our work defending the Convention not to cast a critical eye over what has been happening. Even in a state of emergency, a State cannot be allowed to suspend the rule of law. That is why we have a duty to work to defend democracy. Turkey cannot be allowed to use the situation as an excuse for suspending democracy’s fundamental values, one of which is the Convention on Human Rights, which we are representative of and the mouthpiece for today.
Mr MIGNON (France)* – I fully agree with what was just said by our excellent colleague, Ms Rodríguez Ramos. It is great that in this house of democracy we can have a current affairs debate on what is happening in Turkey. I was not necessarily convinced by everything that was said yesterday by Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was one of my predecessors as President of the Parliamentary Assembly. Like other countries, France has been confronted with horrific events over the last few months – you know all that. We declared a state of emergency and the French Parliament has accepted an extension of that, but under certain conditions. A question was put yesterday to Mr Çavuşoğlu about Mr Erdoğan’s will – Turkey’s will – to reinstate the death sentence. For God’s sake, do not reinstate the death sentence in a country such as Turkey. Do not regress. Let us continue to apply the European Convention on Human Rights. We have the necessary tools to ensure that law is fully applied and enforced, but one of the greatest mistakes that Turkey – one of the oldest members of the Council of Europe – could make is to reinstate the death sentence.
Of course, we are all subject to pressure because of horrific events that occur in the streets, but our responsibility, as politicians, is to resist those pressures. There can be no justification for any country to reinstate the death sentence. We have enough difficulty with some member States of the Council of Europe – or at least, observer States – in trying to convince them to abolish the death sentence. Thirty-five years ago, France did so. I was not yet a parliamentarian, but Mr Badinter, one of our great politicians, spoke to the National Assembly of France and convinced French politicians that we should abolish the death sentence.
I say to our Turkish friends that it is wonderful that you can come here and we can engage in dialogue – for a real dialogue, you always need two sides at least. You know how this Assembly functions and that we are available to you. You know that we can make available to you all the tools, instruments and mechanisms that the Council of Europe has to make sure that the rule of law is respected. Nothing can explain or justify a coup d’état in a democratic State. You have democracy and the rule of law on your side. But do not fall into a trap – please, for God’s sake, do not reinstate the death sentence in your country.
Mr RUSTAMYAN (Armenia)* – The Council of Europe has been responding to the attempted coup in Turkey since 16 July, describing what has happened since as an attack on our values. Was the reaction to the failed coup appropriate, proportionate and in accordance with our standards? The Turkish Government’s response was repressive. Tens of thousands of governors, civil servants, judges and soldiers were either arrested or removed from office without investigation or right of appeal. The scale of the repression was unprecedented and has never been seen in any member State of the Council of Europe.
There is reliable evidence of serious violence and torture in Turkish prisons. Turkey has said that it can derogate itself from the European Convention on Human Rights, but that approach goes beyond the measures necessary to counter the threat and cannot be tolerated in a member State of the Council of Europe. In taking advantage of the attempted coup, Mr Erdoğan is clearly organising a witch-hunt to eliminate his political enemies and to strengthen his authoritarian regime. Events in Turkey prove that there is a systemic threat to human rights and that democratic standards are no longer being applied. As a result, it is necessary to restart the monitoring procedure.
Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – Turkish democracy was again challenged on 15 July. The military coup failed and much has been said about that bloody night in Turkey. The overthrowing of a democratically elected government through a military coup would be a problem for any country and the Turkish people were wise enough to save the seeds of democracy. However, what has happened since suggests a clear withdrawal from its democratic track and can be termed a counter-coup: widespread arrests, illegal punishment, extended detentions, the mistreatment of thousands of suspects, including journalists and intellectuals, a crackdown on the media and civil society, a witch-hunt in all State institutions, and a prolonged state of emergency. The voices calling for the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey are another strong signal to Strasbourg and Brussels.
It can be argued that there is not much difference between the actions of the perpetrators of the military coup in 1980 and what Erdoğan has done recently. News from Turkey reminds me of the horror and nightmare of the Stalin era. Millions of people living even in remote villages of the Soviet Union were officially accused of being agents of so-called western imperialism and were jailed or killed. Erdoğan is trying to emulate Stalin but now it is the Gülen movement instead of western imperialism. Thousands of people are accused of being followers of the so-called movement, but no one has explained what the movement is about or how hundreds of thousands of people became engaged with it in a country where almost everything is controlled by State institutions.
Whatever Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said here yesterday, the situation behind the scenes in Turkey is obvious: Erdoğan is trying to consolidate power and build an unprecedentedly autocratic regime. The suggested changes to the constitution are yet more proof of that intention. Moreover, increasing engagement in Syria, manipulation regarding the fight against terrorist organisations within and outside Turkey, challenging the Lausanne Treaty, an unwillingness to de-blockade the illegally closed border with Armenia, and powerful support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process are clear signs of Erdoğan’s increasing neo-Ottoman ambitions, meaning that millions of Syrian refugees are now political hostages in his hands with which to blackmail Europe.
A discussion of Turkish democracy today means the discussion of security in tomorrow’s Europe and neighbouring regions. We are a political body and our response should be political. What else does Erdoğan need to do to make us start monitoring Turkey again?
The PRESIDENT – Before I call the next speaker, I ask the public in the gallery to remain silent or I will call the huissiers to remove them from the Chamber.
Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom) – The Turks are a proud people and Turkey is a haven of stability in a turbulent region. Our Turkish colleagues rallied together after the attempted coup on 15 July and now ask for our understanding, and they should get it. They provide harrowing tales of their experiences during the attempted coup. Had it succeeded, our Turkish colleagues – government and opposition – would not be in the Assembly today. We have an obligation to understand and to put ourselves in their shoes. Equally, our Turkish colleagues have an obligation to understand our concerns about certain trends in the aftermath of the attempted coup, such as the increasingly authoritarian president and the erosion of checks and balances.
We all understand that those in the military who were involved in this attack against democracy should be punished, but as a lawyer let me raise my concerns about the judiciary. Within 24 hours after the attempted coup, 2 700 judges were dismissed. It is alleged that they were part of a Gülenist conspiracy, but it is difficult to know who is influenced by Gülen – they do not have membership cards stating “I am a Gülenist.” Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how being sympathetic to Gülen affected the decisions of those judges. Additionally, schools were closed, teachers were dismissed and family members were targeted.
Most of the questions that now arise were posed by our Commissioner for Human Rights in an excellent report. Was the net too wide? Did it catch innocent people? What remedies are available to those who were unjustly caught? When the Turkish Foreign Minister, our former President, appeared before us, he admitted that the Turkish Government had committed many mistakes in the aftermath of the attempted coup. Let us see how those mistakes are remedied. I look forward to another report from our Commissioner for Human Rights to see how the Turkish Government has responded. If it does not respond democratically, there is a danger that much of the sympathy that we had at the time of the attempted coup will evaporate.
Mr Michael JENSEN (Denmark) – So far, many of our colleagues have spent a lot of time talking about the coup attempt. No one has stated that they were in favour of the coup attempt, because everyone here is a democrat, and we therefore deplore the coup attempt. What we should spend time on, however, is talking about the present situation of democracy, or the lack thereof, in Turkey
We have seen a crackdown of unusual proportions: thousands upon thousands of civil servants, judges, lawyers and many others have been arrested and detained, with about 2 700 judges arrested and detained the day after the coup attempt. Perhaps the investigators in Turkey have some kind of special powers, because they knew only a few hours after the coup attempt that all those judges should be arrested for being involved in it. Moreover, as we heard yesterday, the Foreign Minister did not rule out the death penalty.
We are therefore seeing numerous cases of Turkey going over what are red lines for this body. We should be the voice of democracy, of the freedom of the press and against the death penalty. Instead, we are talking geopolitically. We are all saying that Turkey is so important because of the agreement with the European Union on refugees, or the fight against ISIS, and all the other important subjects. However, are they more important than what this Organisation stands for, which is democracy? I say no.
I have therefore tabled a motion calling for Turkey again to become a country under monitoring, not as a punishment of the Government of Turkey, but because we want to stand up for the citizens of Turkey. We believe that it is important that we get Turkey on the right track again. It is not okay to close down numerous TV stations and newspapers. It is not okay to go out and arrest thousands of people because they are on a list of people against the government. That is not okay, and it should never be okay for the Council of Europe. It is important, therefore, that we send a strong signal today that we want to help the people of Turkey. That is why we want Turkey to become a country in monitoring again.
Mr SILVA (Portugal) – First of all, I deeply deplore and condemn the coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July. It was a coup against the rule of law and against institutions that had been democratically elected, as I had observed in 2014 and 2015 as a member of the Portuguese Parliament. It was a coup against the people. We simply cannot tolerate that. I therefore express my personal solidarity with the Turkish people who were targeted and who largely suffered the consequences of the coup attempt. Moreover, I express my admiration for the courage of the brave people who risked their lives resisting the coup plotters.
Now, quite understandably, a state of emergency has been declared. I recognise the dire situation that Turkey finds itself in. The coup plotters must be arrested, out of respect for the rule of law, and people must be protected, as well as democratic institutions. However, there must be transparency in the procedures, without deviation from the procedural guarantees in the context of both administrative and criminal laws. The response to the coup attempt must be proportionate, with independent scrutiny of the procedures. We hope that the steps undertaken by Turkey now and in future are careful, wise, prudent and never affect the lives of ordinary people as far as freedom and the rule of law are concerned.
Yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister said that no country is safe unless all are safe. I am very well aware of that, which is why I say that Turkey and the Turkish people are playing an important role not only in the Middle East, but in Europe and worldwide. As members of the Council of Europe, we must therefore help Turkey and the Turkish people in their current situation, helping institutions to restore normal life and creating a stronger democracy for the sake of everybody.
Mr KÜÇÜKCAN (Turkey) – We are talking about a failed coup in Turkey, but what would have happened had the coup succeeded? As a number of colleagues have said, we would not then have been here, because parliament was bombed – the jets flew over, because parliament was about to be moved against. That is what happened in Turkey.
We want you to understand that there was a serious threat to Turkish democracy, a direct attack on it, and democracy is a value not only of Turkey, but of the Council of Europe. We must therefore stand together against such attacks. I again assure you that you should not be concerned about the future of democracy in Turkey or what will happen there, because we have again seen – though for the first time in Turkey – that the guardian of democracy is the people themselves.
My colleague Ms Kürkçü and I are here at the Council of Europe because on that night of 15 July people went out on to the streets – Turks, Kurds, Muslims, non-Muslims, Sunnis, Alevis, everyone was on the street, and what for? To protect democracy, the constitution and elected government in Turkey – so do not worry about the future of Turkey.
We understand your concerns, of course, but when it comes to the future of democracy in Turkey, we have great faith in the people – in Turkey, that was proven on 15 July. So 240 people lost their lives and 2 000 were injured – by our own soldiers, unfortunately. Many left their loved ones behind and lost their lives, leaving many children without fathers and mothers. That is a tragedy. Some people took part in the bloody attack on Turkish democracy in the streets, and our duty as a government and as politicians is to bring those people to justice.
We believe that Fethullah Gülen’s terrorist organisation was behind the coup, and the mastermind of that organisation now lives in Pennsylvania. It is our duty to bring such people to justice. That is what we have promised the Turkish people. Moreover, bringing them to justice is not a violation of democracy, human rights or the rule of law in Turkey – it is our duty. We will chase them wherever they are, whether inside or outside Turkey, whether they are called intellectuals, or this or that. This is an existential matter for us, and we will chase them.
We also assure you, however, that all the channels between the Council of Europe and Turkey are open, and we invite the Presidential Committee or the Bureau to Turkey, so you can see the transparency. I will also underline just one more thing before I stop. It seems that there is a growing Erdoğan-phobia in Europe. That is a sad thing, because Erdoğan is an elected leader of Turkey, and we are proud of having him as President of Turkey.
Mr GUTIÉRREZ (Spain)* – I thank the people of Turkey for what has been done. On 15 July, the country suffered an attempted coup. Turkey has some of the most difficult neighbours in the world, and most of them are at war. It is among the countries that have suffered most from Islamic terror attacks in recent years, most recently on Sunday. It is also among the countries that have taken in the most refugees, largely because of a lack of responsibility on the part of the European Union when it comes to sharing the burden of refugees. I pay tribute to Turkey for the great courage that it has shown in this difficult situation. It is hard for a country to face so many problems at once.
I underline my recognition of the work that Turkey has done to improve peace in the world. Turkey has fought constantly to improve the global security situation. However, countries must respect public order, the rules of democracy and individual rights in a state of emergency such as the one that was declared in Turkey after the attempted coup. It is our duty to observe the situation carefully, and to denounce some of what has happened. At the same time, we must recognise that Turkey is a fundamental part of Europe, and Europe cannot exist without Turkey. Any solution must involve more democracy in Turkey, and far more Europe. We are all following events in Turkey closely to see whether fundamental rights and the rule of law are respected. We have a duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey to help to build a better and safer Europe. I thank the President of the Assembly, who invited the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, and the Turkish Foreign Minister to join us this week. Their presence gave us all a better understanding of the situation.
I would also like to talk about Syria. When the Turkish Foreign Minister talked about Syria yesterday, he referred to the fact that Russia, France and the United States play a role and mentioned the need to bring about a truce. But what plan do we have? Once a truce is established, what do we intend to do? Can we annex part of the territory? Do we have a plan for the return of Syrian refugees? How will Syria work with neighbouring countries, which have a role to play in the solution? The current situation severely undermines the credibility of the international community, of Europe and of the Council of Europe.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Seeking change through a coup is deplorable. The attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July was an attack on democracy, and I commend our Secretary General, Thorbjřrn Jagland, for reacting quickly and stating that attempting to overthrow the elected leadership in Turkey was unacceptable. A chorus of condemnation has since been heard, and we all stand by Turkey in this difficult time. In the current situation, it is important to recall that being a democracy brings with it commitments, as does being a member of the Council of Europe. It is very important to ensure that democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law are respected.
I am concerned about the developments after the attempted coup. The number of suspensions and arrests is conspicuously high. Might it be disproportionate? Since 15 July, I have sought information from various sources. I understand that the Turkish authorities have been monitoring the Gülen network for a long time, and I have been told that that was why it was possible to make so many suspensions and arrests immediately. To me, however, some questions remain unanswered. Is mere affiliation with the Gülen network a good enough reason for suspension or arrest? Is any affiliation with the network seen as involvement in the attempted coup? Was each individual’s involvement examined ahead of the suspensions and arrests? How will each individual’s right to a fair trial be guaranteed in the judicial processes to come? It is particularly important to be vigilant about the rights of each individual and to avoid collective punishments.
On 15 July, the Turkish people showed great courage. They rallied behind their elected leaders and fought off the orchestrators of the coup. Nearly 250 people lost their lives and many more were injured. I strongly encourage the Turkish elected leadership to show their people that they the leaders are worthy of the efforts made by the Turkish people on 15 July. I urge the Turkish leadership to treat people as individuals and not to try them collectively. They need to show the Turkish people, and us, that democracy and the rule of law prevail.
(Ms Guzenina, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey) – I thank all my friends in this Chamber who have extended their support to me since the night of the coup on 15 July. I was in the same situation as everyone else; I thought that the era of military coups in Turkey was behind us. The attempted putsch was completely unexpected and irrational. We barely managed to save ourselves from the total destruction of democracy, and all political parties united to combat the putschists.
The coup was averted thanks to strong democratic will. From the very start, civilians risked their lives by going out into the streets to demonstrate. The media immediately transmitted the president’s appeal to our citizens to resist. That courageous gesture came first and foremost from channels that are supposedly in the hands of the opposition. Social media, which has been so criticised by the leaders of the country, also contributed greatly to turning the situation around. There is a major lesson to be learned from that about the role that media can play in a democracy.
Three months after the events, we face three major questions. How did we reach this situation? My political party, which is the main opposition party, has always been very concerned about the infiltration of the Gülen brotherhood into Turkey’s administration, education system, judiciary and army. Our parliamentary questions and requests for commissions of inquiry on the subject have been either ignored or rejected by the majority. Our leaders made a mistake when they chose their allies.
A state of emergency was legitimate, but the second question is: are we experiencing a counter-coup? Even President Erdoğan has stated that he is concerned about a possible witch hunt and unjust decisions. The state of emergency has lasted for three months, making it possible for the government to run the country by decree without the support or control of parliament.
The third question that arises is: how do we put this behind us? Turkey is a founding member of the Council of Europe, and I have no doubt that we will overcome our difficulties in full respect of our fundamental values and in close co-operation with European democratic institutions.
The Turkish delegation of 18 members is quite special, because we have the political independence to express our own opinions in this Chamber. As long as that remains possible, there is still some hope that we will not lose Turkey. Let us hope that this transition period will be as short as possible.
Mr FISCHER (Germany)* – If we to be are honest with ourselves in this debate, we must be clear about the fact that we have had to deal intensively with the human rights situation in Turkey. I shall make a few key points to remind us of this. We have discussed at great length to what extent there is media freedom in Turkey. We have also had several discussions in which we have pointed out that more than 100 MPs lost their immunity overnight. We all know that immunity is a very important principle for parliamentarians.
I am very grateful to our President and our Secretary General for speaking out very strongly against the failed coup in Turkey. If the coup had succeeded – we need to be clear about this – it goes without saying that Turkey would have been suspended from the Council of Europe. It would not be the first time that such a thing has happened; it happened with Greece. This is clear to us all.
I am delighted that a number of European heads of State also made it clear that we, as democrats, should support a democratically elected government. We are in the house of democracy here but we are also in the house of human rights and the rule of law. I referred earlier to the issues we have had to contend with and will continue to address with our friends and colleagues from Turkey. We must also continue to discuss these issues with the Turkish Government. We have expressed our concerns and will continue to do so.
The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, a former President of the Assembly, was here yesterday. We have to look at how we can work together. Joint working parties can be created and we can point out exactly what our concerns are. It an important part of the work of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. We need to make very clear what our expectations of our colleagues and friends from the Turkish delegation are. We want them to comply with the principles and values of the Council of Europe and ensure that they are fully applied and implemented in Turkey. We can then look at exactly what is happening in Turkey in terms of the legal proceedings that are instituted against people.
Of course, it would be wrong if thousands of cases from Turkey were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. I hope that most of these cases can be resolved in Turkey. For the time being, I am completely against opening a monitoring procedure with Turkey or talking about it. However, in January we should take stock of the situation in Turkey and make a new decision.
Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg)* – I have been a member of this distinguished Assembly for two years but the initial enthusiasm with which I embarked on this office has given way to a more sober attitude. I am sorry, colleagues, but I fail to understand why this week we are not adopting a resolution, report or recommendation on the current critical situation in Turkey. Rather than taking problems by the scruff of the neck and talking about the importance of maintaining the rule of law in Turkey using the scant resources available to us, what are we doing today? We are having a current affairs debate – a debate that is hardly more significant than a late-night TV chat show – and we diminish ourselves by so doing. We are turning this Chamber into a debating society that is afraid of taking decisions. We should take ourselves seriously. If we, as champions of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, say nothing about such serious violations of human rights as are occurring in Turkey today, we are not taking ourselves seriously.
Let us be clear: the attempted coup by the Turkish military should be condemned in the severest terms, including by this Parliamentary Assembly. The Turkish people deserve our recognition, respect and gratitude because they were the ones who put their lives on the line by standing up to the military. We owe them our admiration and mourn with those who have lost their loved ones. Turkey can afford to be proud but, just as we condemn the attempted military putsch, we should also be severe in our condemnation of what has happened in its aftermath. There is talk of reintroducing the death penalty. More than 100 000 teachers, professors, judges, police officials and civil servants have been suspended or imprisoned, as have 125 independent journalists. This is all on the basis not of evidence or proof but rather of suspicion and lists; they are people who are merely suspected of having some kind of tie to the Gülen group. One wonders what will happen to all these people.
He is no longer here, but I am surprised that our President, in his words of welcome to Mr Çavuşoğlu, said not a single word about all this. Even before July’s events, we have been critical of the approach to the opposition HDP party, many members of which have been silenced, locked up or removed. One suspects that Turkey is drifting even further away from democracy and moving in the direction of absolutism.
What about us, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, champions of democracy? We deal with these issues under “current affairs” – in other words, business as usual. Is this just a banal or trivial issue to the Council of Europe? We must sit down with our colleagues from Turkey. The gloves need to come off so that we can talk about Turkey remaining a State based on both democracy and the rule of law.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey)* – Having listened to the initial speeches, I should like to mention some aspects of this Assembly. This is a forum of representatives of people from across Europe but it is not an intergovernmental coalition for defence and security based on geopolitical and strategic concerns like NATO. It is a people’s forum, based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As the people’s representatives from Turkey, we expect the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to regard the situation in Turkey from the point of view of the prospects of democracy and human rights. The Council of Europe is not the place to barter rights and freedoms for profits and benefits, as implied in the opening speech.
As for the failed coup of 15 July, there is an alternative narrative. Who was responsible for the coup? One thing is absolutely true: there was an attempted coup on 15 July. But who was behind it? They say it was the Fethullah Gülen terrorist organisation. And who placed members of the Fethullah Gülen terrorist organisation in very influential posts? The Turkish National Security Council’s 2004 report declared the Gülen sect a domestic threat and said that measures should be taken against it. When this document leaked in the press in 2013, the responsible ministers in the AKP government said that they had never put that document into practice. This means that for nine successive years the AKP government collaborated with the Gülen movement to occupy very influential posts in the administration, the judiciary, the military, universities and so on. Then, on 15 July, came the so-called Gülen coup but it is the people of Turkey who are now paying the price in terms of their rights and freedoms. This point should be considered.
Secondly, when the attempted coup occurred, there was not a full-scale working democracy in Turkey. Domestic colonial war was being waged on the Kurdish provinces, according to a so-called crackdown plan that was leaked to the press in 2015. According to this plan, the Turkish Government aimed for a crackdown that would end with 15 000 killings. Turkey is not heading towards democracy. A state of emergency will be a permanent way of ruling Turkey. When we look at the recent preparations for the Ministry of Justice –
The PRESIDENT – Mr Kürkçü, I need to interrupt you; you are over your time.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ – May I finish?
The PRESIDENT – No, I am sorry; we need to stay on time. You may leave your speech with the Table Office. Mr Divina, the floor is yours.
Mr DIVINA (Italy*) – The situation regarding the attempted coup is confused. The response to it was a sudden repression that we feel was excessively rapid. Presumably, the lists of those to be purged were prepared beforehand. The number of those to be purged is impressive, including teachers, policemen, journalists and magistrates. The response to the coup has been an administrative purge with no parallel in the modern world. One might say that this is a matter of Turkish internal affairs, but are all these people to be identified as terrorists? We in western democracies are all under the threat of true terrorism – international terrorism.
The current proliferation of terrorist movements depends on the strength that can be harnessed by terrorists as a result of proselytising. ISIS is of course a reference point for all these terrorist movements. As westerners, we need to ask ourselves this: why did Turkey, which has turned to the West and looks to the West, not take a more resolute stand on the expansion of ISIS right from the beginning? Was that because ISIS was targeting the Kurdish people? The Kurdish Peshmerga were the first to stem the expansion of ISIS. Turkey’s position has been most ambiguous, by allowing things to proceed and putting a spoke in the wheels of the Kurdish people.
What has happened within Turkey is far more serious than what has happened outside Turkey. We should not forget that a Russian Sukhoi was shot down while bombing ISIS and fighting against terrorists in support of the legitimate government of Assad. Fortunately, nothing compromising happened, but that incident could have affected the lives and peace of all our countries. As well as solidarity with the Kurdish people, we need clarity from the Turkish government.
Mr TILSON (Canada, Observer) – I thank you for allowing me to address the Assembly on this important matter.
As an ally of Turkey, Canada responded quickly after the 15 July attempted coup to reaffirm its support for the democratically elected government and to condemn any effort to overthrow the government by force. It is important to remember that, on 15 July, opposition parties in Turkey mobilised with the government to preserve democracy and that thousands of citizens flooded the streets to show their support for democracy. Canadians also understand and respect the necessity of thorough investigation and prosecutions against the perpetrators of the recent attempted coup, in accordance with Turkish and international law.
On the other hand, Canadians are deeply concerned to learn that 70 000 government workers, judges, military officers and journalists have been dismissed from their positions by the Turkish Government, and that 18 000 people have been detained or arrested, including civil servants, teachers, academics, and members of the judiciary, of the civil society, media, and the intelligence services
We are especially concerned by President Erdoğan’s statements regarding the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey. Pursuing that direction would keep Turkey from complying fully with its obligations under international human rights law, and it would keep Turkish parliamentarians from addressing this Assembly.
The rule of law, respect for due process in the conduct of investigations and prosecutions, and the guarantee of fair trials reinforce the democracy that was threatened on 15 July. While the Turkish Government has the right, and the responsibility, to re-establish stability and order in its country, it also has the responsibility to respect the rule of law and to protect human rights.
It is important to understand that the manner in which the Turkish authorities conduct their investigations, prosecutions and sentencing will have a determining impact on how Canada, and Turkey’s allies, perceive the country as a democracy and as an ally.
In dealing with the situation in Turkey, every country represented in this Assembly has the responsibility to remember the fundamental values of the Council of Europe, which Canada shares, and to make sure that they are respected among its members: the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Mr BÜCHEL (Switzerland)* – Colleagues here have roundly condemned the attempted coup in mid-July, and I want to express my solidarity with the victims and their families, and the democratically elected institutions of Turkey.
The Council of Europe is now an essential partner for constructive co-operation and dialogue with Turkey on the basis of our values, and I have taken careful note of the Turkish announcement and its stated will to tackle the aftermath of the coup with full respect for the standards of the Council of Europe and the fundamental rights of those affected. We must have proportionality in fighting terrorism. These principles are the basis for the rule of law and democracy in the member States of the Council of Europe. That is why I welcome close co-operation between Turkey and the Council of Europe at the expert level.
I feel a growing sense of unease, however, as I hear the information coming out of Turkey about mass dismissals and the detention of judges, policemen, teachers, academics and journalists. The laws in the state of emergency are disproportionate. They are applied to people who merely might have a vague link to those responsible for the attempted coup.
I have two questions. Is the extension of the state of emergency vital for protecting institutions? Do we believe these broadly defined decrees are proportionate? Any definitive assessment of these measures depends on the reports of independent institutions of the Council of Europe. We must wait for their assessment to get a clear picture of what is happening on the ground. I call on Turkey to retain a sense of proportion when tackling the aftermath of the coup and fighting terrorism and to ensure the fundamental human rights and legal guarantees in the European Convention on Human Rights are properly respected.
Thousands of complaints have been lodged with Turkish courts, and it is in the interests of both Turkey and the Council of Europe to prevent an avalanche of such applications being made to the European Court of Human Rights. The best way of doing that is by ensuring there is full compliance with the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – I prepared something in Turkish but much of what I wanted to say has already been said, so I will address other aspects.
I start by thanking our President Agramunt. When I found out about the coup attempt, I was at the wedding ceremony of my nephew in my constituency. Of course, I took my family and two of my grandchildren and went immediately to my house. Our governor of the area sent me four heavily armed bodyguards. They told me that they would take me to a safe place. Of course, I knew that there were Gülenists within the police as well, so I was very scared. From my experience at the Council of Europe, I knew I should inform somebody, so I immediately phoned Mr Agramunt. I thank him once more for answering the phone on my first try. I told him what was happening, asked him to inform whoever he could and said he might not see us again in the Chamber of this Parliamentary Assembly.
Why are these people terrorists? For almost two days, we have been hearing that Gülenists should not be considered terrorists, but first of all, they have terrorised my religious belief. We thought that they were moderate Muslims representing moderate Islam, meaning that they could not kill anybody, because in Islam, if you kill one person, you kill all of humanity. But they did: they have killed 240 people and wounded many others.
Secondly, they have terrorised our belief in our army. We consider our army the house of the Prophet. We call our soldiers “Mehmetçik”, which means “little Mohammeds”; they also cannot kill their own people, from whom they receive their arms through taxes. Thirdly, they have terrorised our economy. The morale of the Turkish economy has been terrorised. For almost 26 consecutive quarters, the Turkish economy has grown by an average of 4%, but now the dollar is sky-high, growth is slowing down and the morale of the people, which represents the Turkish economy, is totally down.
I will say one more thing before I finish. People are asking, “Why have so many people been put in prison?” This is not the first time that a coup has been attempted. It has already been tried in other forms, so we know who is involved. We just did not expect that they would make this attempt.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Let me be frank: any of the countries present at the Council of Europe could be faced with the terrible events faced by Turkey during this attempted coup d’état. Any other country could face bombardment or tanks on the street killing civilians. We should take into account the fact that Turkey is not only fighting terrorist groups within its country but fighting for democracy all over the world.
Colleagues and friends here are criticising Turkey, and I think it is because of a lack of information about what is really going on in Turkey. Nobody in Turkey let the FETÖ movement come to power or to very important positions. This terrorist movement took advantage of democratic society in Turkey in order to take power. When they saw that that was impossible, they started a military coup d’état. The current reaction against it is a very special one, and we should take into account the fact that the Government of Turkey and the Parliament of Turkey are doing their best to restore democracy. My friends and colleagues from Turkey are absolutely right when they say that the Turkish people are fighting for democracy, and that this is a guarantee of democracy in Turkey.
Turkey now faces three major threats. The first is that terrorist movements within Turkey will try to take advantage of the democratic environment in Turkey, and we should understand that. The second is the threat not only from the FETÖ movement but from the PKK, Daesh and other terrorist organisations fighting against democracy and freedom in Turkey. The third very important threat, which is not within Turkey, comes from this Organisation, where we can see double standards. A country that has occupied another country – my country – has criticised Turkey for taking undemocratic steps. That is a cynical approach, and it is unacceptable.
Mr ROUQUET (France)* – Turkey was the victim of an unacceptable attempted coup d’état. Obviously, any democrat would condemn that strongly and without reservation. Fortunately, arms did not win the day, and of course we are all delighted by that. We may even be able to hope, based on the strong reaction of the Turkish people and on the fact that the coup had only limited support in the armed forces, that this is the last manifestation of a tradition of military coups d’état profoundly rooted in the history of 20th-century Turkey.
It is legitimate and appropriate for the perpetrators of this criminal attempt to be prosecuted with the full force of the law, and I can understand why a state of emergency was proclaimed. I also understand that emotions are running high among the Turkish people and their leaders, but like many colleagues, I am somewhat concerned by the scope of the repression, particularly the dismissals within the apparatus of the State. The scope and the rapid imposition of sanctions could lead one to question whether the measures taken are proportionate, even if we consider the violence of this attempt to return to another age and the emotion that it has provoked. All of us can imagine how difficult it must be to have one’s national parliament bombarded by the very forces that are supposed to protect the country, so we can understand why emotions are high, but the suspicion is that this is all within the context of an authoritarian drift by President Erdoğan that began even before the attempted coup.
What should we do? Some, understandably concerned, are tempted to challenge the credentials of the Turkish delegation or put Turkey under monitoring, but that approach would be too hasty and inopportune. We must wait to find out more. The Turkish authorities have promised to correct any errors or abuses that may have occurred and to co-operate with the relevant bodies of the Council of Europe; let us give them an opportunity to give those commitments concrete form. I believe that we must therefore follow with great vigilance all developments in the situation in Turkey while affording the Turkish people any assistance and support we are in a position to provide.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – I have been listening to this debate, and I feel like a naďve boy with my questions. What are we talking about? We are supposed to be the Organisation of democracy and human rights. My first question, to myself and to everybody else, is this: does every wish that a person might have count as a democratic and human right? Sometimes, we are discussing very stupid wishes and trying to make them human rights. Is mounting a coup d’état a human right? Some people here are defending the people who mounted the coup, saying that they have human rights. I say that the Turkish authorities are right. A coup d’état is not a part of democracy and its orchestrators are not exercising their human rights. Like many people present, I support the Turkish authorities’ suppression of the coup and establishing the rule of law, which is a part of democracy.
Secondly, is a state of emergency a part of democracy or of dictatorship? In some cases, a state of emergency is a part of democracy, so the country has a right to establish a state of emergency. If a state of emergency is established, the next question is, how should it be exercised?
Many people of my generation and older generations fought wars, and some countries are fighting wars even now. Many people think that the main goal of war is to win and to be the victorious side. The Turkish Government is fighting those who orchestrated the attempted coup d’état and it wants to be victorious. One of the best theoreticians of war, Carl von Clausewitz, said that the best outcome of war is not victory, but peace. The main goal for the Turkish authorities should be not to celebrate their tremendous victory, but to make peace. They need to make peace with all of Turkish society, not create an Erdoğan or Gülen society. My ultimate wish is for our Turkish friends to work for peace now. You have a chance to establish real democracy in your country.
Ms JANSSON (Sweden) – Events over the past year have been, and still are, a tough challenge for Turkey. They have included terrorist attacks, the collapse of peace talks with the PKK, millions of refugees and, of course, the attempted coup in July. They are real security threats that Turkey has the right to counter. That right, however, cannot justify the imprisonment, arrest and removal of journalists, political opponents, human rights activists, teachers, academics, judges and civil servants by the thousands. Neither can it justify the disproportionate military force against the Kurdish population in the south-east.
We must condemn the serious backsliding on freedom of speech, expression and opinion, both online and offline, in Turkey over the past two years. The number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey is among the highest in the world. The number of verbal and physical attacks on them has also increased, as has the use of defamation and anti-terror legislation against them.
A few days ago, the Kurdish news channel, Newroz, which is based in Sweden, was turned down by the French satellite company after suspected pressure from Turkish authorities. In May, the Turkish Parliament approved stripping 138 members of immunity from prosecution. The HDP has said that the overwhelming majority of its deputies could be jailed, mostly for the views that they have expressed. That is unacceptable. It allows President Erdoğan to change the electoral outcome in his favour and to push the pro-Kurdish HDP out of the parliament, thereby removing one of its critical voices. On the local level, the removal of elected politicians in the south-east is totally unacceptable.
Turkey is obliged to allow journalists and the media to be free to review the government and to guarantee to minorities their human rights and its respect for the rule of law. We can never stop pushing Turkey in a democratic direction. The country is so much more than its current leadership.
Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – After the failed coup in Turkey, the country has been criticised, including here, unfortunately. I believe that such criticism stems from an unclear understanding of Turkey’s realities and the feelings of the Turkish people.
I will not talk about that terrible night of killings, tanks and helicopters in the city, when the administrative buildings of democratic institutions were bombed. I want to mention one fact: that night, millions of people were out on the streets, including right after the attempted coup. They took part in rallies with other political parties and organisations, and they had one clear message: “We are for a strong and democratic Turkey, and we are with the Turkish Government and the president.” That is very important.
During this part-session, we have heard from Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, who addressed us yesterday. He made it very clear that Turkey is committed to its obligations to this and other organisations, and that it will intensify the dialogue in that respect. Those messages from the people and the authorities are a clear indication of a strong foundation to eliminate any potential concerns or difficulties with regard to Turkey. That is a good message.
Another important factor that we have to consider while judging Turkey is the regional process. As my colleagues have said, there are many terror threats, with not just one, but numerous terrorist organisations in Turkey. It is clear – we have had many resolutions on this – that many people living in border countries look at Turkey’s border as a border of hope, because it deals with millions of migrants.
I join colleagues in saying that we should support and assist Turkey in this difficult process. As a member of this esteemed Organisation, I support the Turkish people. I wish them prosperity and democratic development.
Mr ESEYAN (Turkey)* – As a Turkish delegate, I thank President Agramunt and the Secretary General for their support. We have been through a very difficult time. When the attempted coup d’état took place, I was sitting at home, thinking that people were going to come to take me away. I thought about what would happen in Turkey if the coup were successful. It was a horrible day for the people of Turkey.
There were 250 people who died, and 2 000 people were injured. We are sharing our experiences with you, esteemed colleagues, and telling you about the difficulties that we are going through. Please listen and pay attention to us. When we fight against the Fethullah movement, we do not disregard other issues. It is a hard job. Over the course of 40 years, that organisation has used very different methods. It goes unseen. It infiltrated the administration and acted as though it was a normal part of things while waiting for the message from Pennsylvania. It has also infiltrated non-governmental organisations and the media, and it continues to exploit those institutions.
It is very difficult to fight the Fethullah movement. It has great strength and exists in 170 countries, so it is not only a problem for Turkey or the United States. It is very strong in central Asia. We will still face problems, so perhaps the Council of Europe member States will ask Turkey to help in the fight against similar threats in their own countries. We are serious about trying to fight this exceptional movement. We are trying to remain within the framework of the rule of law and democracy in fighting against it. We must get rid of this phobia of Erdoğan and other similar attitudes. The situation is not how some members have described it. Four members of the AKP have been killed by the PKK, including Ahmet Budak, Aydin Muştu, and Deryan Aktert. That is another difficulty that the Assembly needs to take into account.
The PRESIDENT – Ms Centemero is not here. I call Ms Gafarova.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – It is significant that we are debating the situation in Turkey after the failed coup d’état of 15 July. The coup failed and was thwarted by the glorious nation of Turkey. The country resolutely showed how the notions of democracy, rule of law and statehood have been embraced. There will be no retreat from democracy by Turkey.
On the evening of 15 July, the Turkish people lived through an ordeal that was unprecedented in Turkish history. I watched the tragic developments, which mainly took place in Istanbul and Ankara, on Turkish television with my own eyes. The Bosphorus bridge was closed by tanks, and unarmed protesters were shot and killed on the spot. Tanks rolled down the streets, running over people. Attack helicopters fired at civilians protesting the coup attempt. The terrorist plotters also raided major media outlets, whether private or State, either to force them to broadcast their messages or to silence them.
The Turkish Government faces an unprecedented challenge with Fethullah terrorist organisation. The Turkish authorities will take all necessary measures while keeping within the limits of the rule of law and respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, in full observance of their international obligations to counter FETÖ. I urge the international community to do its part in supporting Turkey in that work.
Nor can we forget another important challenge for Turkey: the migration crisis, which has created turmoil in Europe as well. Turkey continues to pursue an open-door policy towards Syrians, without any form of discrimination. The total number of Syrians living in Turkey is about 3 million. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world. Unaccompanied minors, about whom we will have a separate debate later today in this Assembly, are also given special care and attention by the Turkish ministry of family and social policies. Unaccompanied children who are handicapped receive support and services according to their needs. Turkey has spent more than $12 billion on the needs of Syrians, whereas the total contribution of the international community has been limited to just €500 million. The migration crisis is a global problem that requires a global response. We have to spare no effort in handling this global crisis properly so that we can have a lasting solution.
Mr KOÇ (Turkey) – This is the third coup d’état that I have lived through in Turkey. There were coups in 1971, 1980 and 2016. This time it was completely different. The CHP, the largest opposition party, quickly condemned the perpetrators of the coup d’état. It was a bloody attack on the regime, as I said from the very start, and it was condemned by all. Under bombing from F-16s, parliamentarians went to parliament to protect that symbol of democratic legitimacy.
Our parliament has gravely suffered under previous coups, but the CHP is not prepared to accept the authoritarian drift of Mr Erdoğan. He has been running the country for 14 years. The AKP appointed all the judges, prosecutors, police officers and military men who are now being accused of being responsible for the coup. The debate on democracy must continue so that we can preserve the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and the secular nature of our country.
On 20 July, the government announced that Turkey would declare a state of emergency for three months under Article 120 of the constitution. On that basis, a number of decrees with the force of law have been promulgated. That has resulted in the dismissal of thousands of civil servants in the military, the judiciary and education. Private housing for students has been closed down, and various groups associated with the Gülen movement have been closed down. Various press dailies, television channels and radio stations have also been closed. The state of emergency was recently extended for another three months. The situation is continuing to evolve and we in the CHP have received 30 000 complaints of unfair treatment. It is very important that Turkey does not descend into a vicious circle of witch hunting. Turkish society needs compromise and needs to be cured. It does not need ever more repression. That is why constant pressure from European institutions and in particular from the Council of Europe is essential.
Mr BILLSTRÖM (Sweden) – The situation in Turkey following the attempted coup d’état in July is grave and constantly escalating. I start by stating the obvious: any attempt to overthrow an elected government by undemocratic means must be condemned in the strongest possible language. The Council of Europe is the foremost guardian of the fundamental right for any people or nation to have an elected government of their own, and no one has the right to try to circumvent that right.
However, in the aftermath of the coup attempt, we have witnessed a virtual purge of many civil servants from the Turkish State. That has been done in an arbitrary fashion that runs contrary to the principles cherished by this Assembly and provided for in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. How could anyone be sure that the civil servants and the more than 20 000 teachers who have so far been dismissed have committed the crimes that they have been charged with? Yesterday, the Foreign Minister of Turkey addressed the Assembly and said that his government possessed plenty of evidence. If that is so, that material should be presented and duly examined, but so far nothing of substance has been forthcoming from the Government of Turkey.
The current developments give rise to great concern. The alleged suggestions by the Turkish Government that it may reintroduce the death penalty are deeply disturbing and would constitute an unacceptable breach of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
It is of course up to the Turkish Government, and ultimately the Turkish people, to decide on their future. However, we in this Assembly have a responsibility to ask questions, give advice, and ultimately take the necessary decisions, based on how we perceive our duty regarding the rules and regulations that govern the work of our Assembly.
The PRESIDENT – I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.
I remind you that at the end of a current affairs debate, the Assembly is not asked to decide upon a text, but the matter may be referred by the Bureau to the responsible committee for a report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Guzenina.)
2. Address by Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany
The PRESIDENT – We will now hear an address by Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany. After his speech, Mr Steinmeier will take questions from the floor.
Minister, let me welcome you warmly to the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Germany has been one of the key actors in the process of European construction. Today, Germany is playing a leading role in shaping Europe’s common policy in response to the challenges we are facing: in particular, the refugee crisis and the migration phenomenon, instability on Europe’s southern borders, and the global threat of international terrorism, as well as the search for a solution to frozen and burning conflicts on our continent, particularly in Ukraine. I am confident that our members will want to ask you a lot of questions about these complex and important matters.
Minister, we are also welcoming you today as the Chairman-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The multi-faceted challenges I have just mentioned are so complex that no country and no organisation can address them effectively alone. Therefore, your visit to Strasbourg today will help us to better co-ordinate efforts between two major European organisations.
Minister, allow me to highlight one more point before I give you the floor. The process of European reconciliation started with the courageous and visionary efforts of European politicians, particularly from France and Germany, who decided to focus their action on our common future and on issues that unite us. As we face a growing lack of cohesion in Europe, I have the impression that the spirit of reconciliation, unity and co-operation is somewhat fading away. We need a new political impetus for our common action so as to preserve our unity, enhance our co-operation, and prevent the emergence of new dividing lines. You are well aware of the idea of convening a 4th Summit of heads of State and government of our member States. This Assembly supports this idea. We are therefore extremely interested to hear your views on this subject.
Minister, I now give you the floor.
Mr STEINMEIER (Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany)* – Mr President, fellow members of parliament, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for inviting me here to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I assure you that it is not only an honour but a pleasure for me to be able to address you here today.
As the German Foreign Minister, I am particularly happy to come to Strasbourg, because in Strasbourg you can get a tangible sense of what it means to contain war through law, through understanding, and through the protection of individual freedoms. Travelling through the streets of Strasbourg, as I did this morning, one thought that sprang to mind is that it is quite amazing to imagine that once upon a time Strasbourg was at the very heart of Franco-German conflicts in the 19th century, and at the heart of the terrible world wars of the 20th century. It is, and remains, a miracle that a German Foreign Minister is here today in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg as a partner among partners in the house of common values.
Please do not worry, colleagues: that is the end of the history lesson. We have enough problems to deal with today, and we need to discuss them today. If you look at what has happened in the past, including in Strasbourg, you can understand more easily the reasons for the development of these structures that have had decisive importance in creating peace over the past seven decades. This is even more important because we are living in an era in which the world seems to be falling apart – in which the world order fought for so hard is under threat, with wars and conflicts all around Europe.
Peace in Europe is at risk because of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. Centrifugal forces are putting huge pressure on the togetherness of the European Union, emboldened recently by the vote for Brexit in the British referendum. Last but not least, there are growing tensions – even divisions – within our societies and in a number of countries, including Germany.
What answers can we come up with to ensure we have lasting, sustainable peace? Part of an answer can be found in the words “peace and order” – in other words, peace through order. We need peace in which the world lays down rules and in which we place emphasis on the strength of law and not on the law of the strongest. We need to develop a multilateral system based on international law. I do not mean one in which relations between States are settled, as that does not go far enough. If we want to develop structures that are robust and internally stable, so that tensions can be defused peacefully and solutions can be found through pluralist, open discussions, we cannot avoid the issue of the internal make-up of our societies.
To put that in more concrete terms, this is about human rights. Human rights violations are not only a consequence of war and conflict. Violations and restrictions on fundamental rights are far too often not the consequence of war and conflict, but the cause of it. Let there be no doubt that human rights, as far as we concerned, are not an instrument that can be used when desired on the path to peace. Far more than that, they are the bedrock on which an effective international system is predicated. The advances of human rights achieved together by Council of Europe States should be non-negotiable for us and all members of the Council of Europe, and they should remain non-negotiable.
In any conflict throughout the world that calls for difficult diplomatic work and unceasing negotiations, it is always very important for us to say loud and clear that defending human rights is not incompatible with the aim of securing external stability and reconciling interests between States. On the contrary, they are mutually dependent. That is why we need to look at that closely and give ourselves the instruments to enable us to gauge the human rights situation in a State and within a society. That should be done as early and as permanently as possible. That is why the Council of Europe has such an important role to play: it provides the 47 member States – and the 800 million people, believe it or not, that they represent – with a human rights bedrock and common binding principles. It sheds light on the human rights situation in our countries and looks, if you like, behind the scenes.
The message I have for you today is this: the Council of Europe is not simply a watchdog for standards. It is also an Organisation that has a key role to play in times of crisis by providing an instrument for implementing those standards. An example is Turkey, which I will discuss later, and the Council of Europe has clearly demonstrated that important function in that respect. I would really like to commend this Organisation for doing so and I encourage it to carry on.
As my German colleagues know well, I am a lawyer. Perhaps for that reason, but not for that reason alone, I am a realist. If there are rules and laws, there will always be transgressions, which is why I am really not surprised when rules are broken. However, I confess that the fact there are 76 000 pending applications to the European Court of Human Rights has really struck me. Violations need to be dealt with legally as quickly as possible, of course, but they do not call into question the regulatory joint framework, the Council of Europe or the European Convention on Human Rights. Rather, it is due to the fact that we have those common standards that violations become apparent and can be clearly identified.
Let me be clear with you: in Europe, we need to ask ourselves self-critically as partners in the Council of Europe whether we are doing enough to foster and strengthen this unique, binding system of protection based on international law. Are we doing enough to prevent irreparable harm from being done to the system? Put simply, in the cold light of day, there are parts of Europe in which the values and standards of the Council of Europe – human rights and the rule of law – are under severe pressure.
Several months ago, Secretary General Thorbjřrn Jagland published his annual report on the collective situation in respect of human rights in Europe. It was very helpful but significant, unfortunately, in flagging up structural shortcomings and saying exactly what they are. These shortcomings can undermine the common bedrock of the Council of Europe. For example, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are subject to huge curbs in member States. Civil society critics are subject to smears or intimidation. Minorities are finding huge curbs being placed on their rights. Critics and opponents are regularly subject to questionable charges and, without an independent judiciary, would be unable to rely on having a fair trial. In some countries, democratic rules, particularly when elections are held, continue to be insufficiently respected. To add to that list, I am very concerned that a whole series of member States, for some years now, have been failing to execute or not sufficiently executing judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. A large number of existing problems would have been solved some time ago if judgments handed down by the Court had been effectively enforced, as is provided for by Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
As I am talking about crises that we face today, I want to mention the conflict in Ukraine. Who among us could have imagined that at the beginning of the 21st century, a European country would have had part of its territory illegally annexed by another State? Who could have imagined that the question of war and peace is returning to our continent’s agenda, due to the Ukraine conflict? In the European Union and NATO, we have taken decisive action following the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military involvement in the east Ukraine conflict. In these turbulent times, Germany has taken over the OSCE chairmanship. As I am sure you know, we are working through the Normandy format with France, Russia and Ukraine with a view to finding a political solution for east Ukraine, as laid down in the Minsk agreements.
I am aware that the Council of Europe is not designed to be a rapid response unit for operational crisis management. That said, when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine, it is clear that the Council of Europe cannot stand helplessly by in the face of the violations that are taking place. The Council of Europe has effective and efficient instruments, such as the Venice Commission, which is carrying out excellent work. There is the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, whose work I pay special tribute to.
I welcome the Council of Europe’s strong, active role in Ukraine. The advice provided by the Venice Commission has proved incredibly important and the Council of Europe “Action Plan for Ukraine” is playing a part in driving forward Ukraine’s democratic transformation. I support all the Council of Europe’s efforts to secure regular access to Crimea for its monitoring bodies to observe the human rights situation. This is about not only Crimea, but South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. There should be no blank areas on our continent where human rights are not observed.
The Parliamentary Assembly has always been the forum of the Council of Europe where political debates are held on the most important issues of our time. The subjects discussed are sometimes very controversial, but that is right in an era marked by major conflict and significant tension. In the context of our efforts to secure a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian conflict, I hope that we will be able to create in the medium term the conditions for the Russian delegation to return and take part in the meetings and work of the Parliamentary Assembly, but Russia clearly has its part to play for that to be possible. The Parliamentary Assembly has set rules to which we must adhere – all members must stick to them. Any breaking of the rules cannot be ignored and the Parliamentary Assembly stripped the Russian delegation of their voting rights as a result. Following the Duma elections in Russia, we clearly cannot accept Russian MPs representing the illegally annexed territory of Crimea. I assume that the European Union will come up with unambiguous rules about that. Dialogue and parliamentary understanding are important and useful but only if they remain faithful to the fundamental values and statutes of the Council of Europe.
We were all horrified and shaken by the bloody attempted coup in Turkey. Fortunately, it failed rapidly, but it was an unacceptable attack on Turkey’s democratically elected institutions. I express my condolences to those who lost loved ones and fully respect the courage shown by civil society in the face of the attack. It is not only legitimate but necessary for the attempted coup to be thoroughly investigated in compliance with the rule of law and with the values to which all members of the Council of Europe subscribe, and Turkish members of parliament here have confirmed that. I commend the Council of Europe on its constructive role in this difficult situation in Turkey and it should continue to play that role. Secretary General Jagland was one of the first people to travel to Turkey to condemn the attempted coup. He initiated dialogue and offered support for the post-coup investigation. I am also thinking of the ad hoc visit by the CPT. I welcome Turkey’s acceptance of the offer of help, which was confirmed by the Turkish Foreign Minister when he spoke to the Parliamentary Assembly yesterday. It is important that the Council of Europe continues to work with Turkey to ensure that the investigation is implemented effectively. Turkey must co-operate in compliance with its commitments.
In these troubled times of upheaval, the Parliamentary Assembly has an important role to play, so this Organisation needs a smart and committed new generation of parliamentarians. International policy plays such a key role and is higher up the agenda than in previous years, so it is vital that we attract the most promising parliamentarians from the different national parliaments. I say that because I was the head of a parliamentary group for four years – my SPD colleagues will remember – and I committed myself to the next generation, so the issue remains close to my heart, particularly in today’s world with all its risks and dangers. Please have in mind the next generation of those who will shape foreign policy in our democracy. Do not forget them. Draw their attention to the work of this Organisation. This crisis-ridden world needs this new generation and this invaluable Organisation has earned them.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you for your most interesting address, Mr Steinmeier. Members of the Assembly now have questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and must not be speeches. I will now allow one question from each of the political groups. I call Mr Ariev.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – The Assembly adopted a resolution yesterday recognising that elections in Donbass are impossible for security reasons. Do you agree with the Assembly’s position? Secondly, following Aleppo, the results of the MH17 investigation, and the ban on the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, is it logical to lift sanctions on the Russian Federation?
Mr STEINMEIER* – Thank you for your questions, in which you touch on different aspects of Russia’s role. I will start by addressing Ukraine. We are at present unable to talk about elections being conducted under normal circumstances. As I said in my address, we currently have no real alternative to the Minsk agreement. As a member of the German Government and chairman-in-office of the OSCE, I am doing my utmost to ensure that, despite the difficulties, we continue to try to ensure that the individual components of the Minsk agreement can be delivered. That includes a negotiated cease-fire, which has been violated frequently, so we have to stabilise it. A couple of weeks ago, we managed to conclude a disengagement agreement, initially in three areas along the border. If that is fully implemented, we hope that it will take us a step closer to a full cease-fire.
Work on the political strand of the agreement is more difficult. It involves three different proposals for legislation: the amnesty law, the local elections law and the state of emergency law. We are doing our utmost to bring together the different positions, although so far we have not succeeded. We have to continue working on this, and have already spent a great deal of time and effort on it. I hope that we are now in a position to do the groundwork, which will enable us to move towards agreement on legislation. Once the legislation is agreed, we must then ensure the necessary security conditions to allow elections to proceed. Again, that will require a great deal of work to convince the different parties to support it. For the time being, as you point out, those conditions are not in place, so we have to ensure that they are in future.
As for the situation in Syria and, specifically, Aleppo, the Assembly should not draw a distinction in any condemnation of attacks and bombing raids in which the civilian population of eastern Aleppo have paid a heavy price. A few days ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations ended its sitting. During its meetings there was some hope that a cease-fire would be signed, but, unfortunately, we were not able to achieve one. On the contrary, the basis for a common understanding leading to a truce or cease-fire has been further eroded over the past few days.
A new round of talks is scheduled for the weekend in Lausanne. I can only reiterate the hope that we will continue to build on the initial progress secured in New York. The question is not only one of bringing that war to an end – clearly, as politicians we are duty-bound to do our utmost to achieve that – but one of the moral credibility of politicians. It is essential for us to bring to an end the bloodshed in Aleppo and Syria as quickly as possible.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – Germany’s policy towards the East in the 1970s brought peace, enabling us to put the Cold War behind us, with avoidance of boycott, counter-boycott, and so on. How important do you think it is for the Russian Government to participate in the work of the Committee of Ministers, playing its full part to ensure Russia’s full return, signing up to all the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights?
Mr STEINMEIER* – In my statement, I said that we need to do what we can to ensure that the conditions can be met, so that the Russian delegation may resume the rights that were suspended. That depends not so much on us, but on the contribution to be made by the Russian side. In my answer to the first question, we talked about the conflict in Ukraine, where Russia has a major contribution to make, not only to pacify the situation, but in the medium term to ensure a solution to the conflict.
I am someone who looks with realism at the world as it is. As a result, we cannot overlook the fact that the divide between the East and the West, in the case of Russia, has grown. What conclusions should we draw from that? In German political circles, there are different views on the subject. We need to speak out clearly when violations are committed, but we also do not want to end up with a policy of containment and isolation of Russia, so the challenges we now face are not that straightforward. In our chairmanship of the OSCE and throughout the year, when we have found ourselves in situations in which dialogue has been broken off, we have always striven to ensure that dialogue is maintained, in spite of the difficulties.
A look back to the tension of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s is a good reminder, but the world has changed – certainly our own position and relations with Russia have. We no longer live in a world in which countries are orientated in the direction of either Moscow or Washington. Instead, the modern world has seen a number of protagonists emerging, which renders the situation far more complex, certainly when we think of Syria.
We need to ensure that all the parties involved are brought around the table. Once, those protagonists would have been found in one of the two major capitals, but that is no longer the situation today. Many people say that we are reverting to a Cold War, or that things are reminiscent of the Cold War period, but I do not think that that is correct. That division of the world into two parts, with two capitals dominating world events, can help to pacify conflict, but the world of today is not the same as the world of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)* – In many member States, the rule of law has been suspended. You referred to decisions handed down by the European Court of Human Rights being disregarded by many States; human rights are also disregarded. There is growing populism, which is characterised by hate and fear. Against such a backdrop, the Council of Europe is more important than ever, as you said. Will you be able to convince your ministerial colleagues of the importance of the Council of Europe, that its role should be emphasised, and that greater resources should be allocated to it?
Mr STEINMEIER* – I can but agree with you. The very foundation of the Council of Europe is that all member States must recognise its fundamental ground rules. That cannot be conditional, and applies in particular when members are involved in conflicts, which includes cases being examined by the Court. As I tried to stress in my address, that includes recognition by member States of the need to implement decisions on the basis of common agreement here in the Council of Europe. It goes without saying that we will do our utmost to ensure that all governments represented in the Council of Europe comply with the rules.
Mr PRITCHARD (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Foreign Minister, if a NATO member State were attacked, would Germany be weak or strong? Under Article 5, would Germany agree to military action against an aggressor, such as Russia, or would it vote against a response? On Georgia, given the fact that an anti-European Union party has just been elected for the first time, will Germany do more to encourage those who want reform in Georgia and who support the Schengen visa liberalisation scheme, not only for Georgia but for Ukraine and Kosovo?
Mr STEINMEIER* – I can answer your first question very briefly by saying that Germany’s response would be a strong one.
If you put your second question to your Georgian colleagues in the Assembly or in Georgia, I am sure that you would hear about the extent to which we have supported their path towards reform. I spent some time in Georgia four weeks before the election, and we did everything in our power to promote the visa liberalisation system. In the European Union Foreign Ministers’ Council, we have had discussions with the interior ministers of countries in the region and we arrived at a compromise on the Schengen visa liberalisation scheme. Our relations with Georgia are most constructive. I spoke to the Georgian Prime Minister recently, and I think that that is recognised and acknowledged in Georgia.
Mr VILLUMSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – On Tuesday, the President of France called for a new summit of the heads of State and government of the Council of Europe. Do you support that call? Do you agree that especially in a time of crisis for the European Union, the Council of Europe could play an important role in Europe’s future?
Mr STEINMEIER* – My answer to both questions is yes. In my conversations with the President and the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly, I have stressed that I support the proposal to organise a summit in 2017. I am delighted that in this Assembly, President Hollande not only supported such a proposal but suggested it himself.
That takes me to your second question about the role of the Council of Europe, and specifically the Parliamentary Assembly. As you know, this is my second stint as Foreign Minister – the first time was between 2005 and 2009 – so I can look back quite a long way, and never in the last 10 or 15 years have I experienced such close and effective co-operation between member States of the European Union and the Council of Europe. That co-operation underlines a point I made in my address about the critical situation in Turkey, and I express my gratitude to the Council of Europe for having stepped up to the plate and acted so appropriately in that crisis.
The PRESIDENT – We will now take three questions, and the Minister will answer them together.
Ms CERİTOĞLU KURT (Turkey)* – Germany has experienced a worrying increase in xenophobia and several attacks on mosques, including some 11 attacks on DİTİB mosques in the last few months. What measures are the German authorities taking to deal with the situation? We look forward to your support in preventing these attacks.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – We are all very pleased that the coup d’état in the democratic State of Turkey failed, but many of us are concerned about the growing authoritarianism in the country. I would be pleased to hear your assessment of the situation in Turkey, and particularly your assessment of its future relations with the rest of Europe.
Mr MULARCZYK (Poland) – Aggressive Russian policy is a threat to law and order and international security, so international society has imposed sanctions against Russia. That is why NATO is reinforcing its eastern flank. However, Germany supports the Russian energy project Nord Stream 2, which undermines the energy security of Ukraine and of eastern and central Europe as a whole. Do you not think, Minister, that that undermines Germany’s position in reinforcing international security?
Mr STEINMEIER* – The first question was about a possible increase in xenophobia in Germany and attacks on mosques. Wherever foreigners or mosques are attacked, we will respond using all the options available to us under the rule of law, and prosecutors are keeping a close eye on the situation. It is in nobody’s interest for such attacks to go unpunished, or for the number of such attacks to increase.
As in many other European countries, there has been an ongoing debate about migration for the past year, but that must not be confused with the debate on the criminal actions that I have just mentioned. In Germany, we have shown that we will shoulder our part of the burden when it comes to migration, and during the past year we have taken in 1 million people, many of whom will remain in Germany for a considerable time. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that they have educational provision, language teaching and integration into the German labour market.
As I am sure you have observed, those migratory flows have also led to discussion about the political landscape in Germany. Populist parties seek to gain mileage from the situation and have met with a degree of support in regional elections. All parties in the German Parliament reject such nationalist and populist attacks on migrants. We have a commitment to those who have joined us in Germany. Beyond that, together with other countries in the European Union, we are attempting to arrive at a greater degree of co-ordination in policies relating to migrants. That includes providing assistance to the countries of origin of migrants and refugees.
In my address, I spoke about the authoritarian turn that events have taken in Turkey and said that following the attempted coup, in which people lost their lives and the parliament was shelled, you cannot just move on with business as usual. It requires a response. You have to cope with the aftermath from a legal point of view in terms of criminal justice. We hope that Turkey will conform to legal standards in coping with the aftermath of the attempted coup. We also hope that, through the work of the Council of Europe and its institutions, working together with Turkey, the response to the aftermath of the coup can be fully grounded in the rule of law so that we are not met with an authoritarian response.
Thirdly, on the German stance on Russia, I do not know if there is a country or government in Europe that has been more resolute than Germany over the aggression towards Ukraine and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. I do not know of any country or government that has done more to try to contain the conflict, but we need to learn that politics is not just about statements – you have to act. When you act you are open to criticism, but it is better and more responsible to attempt to appease the situation of conflict in eastern Ukraine and attempt to find a solution than to repeat or rehearse a certain number of statements each day. In that, we do not differ from other countries in Europe that have roundly condemned the annexation of Crimea and Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine. However, as I say, we cannot leave it at the level of statements. There comes a point when you must act, and that is what we are doing. On the basis of the Minsk agreement, there is no alternative, as I have said.
I fail to see the reason for the other part of the question, on whether Germany in one way or another would be undermining its own reputation in this respect. We are doing all we can to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine does not escalate. We are doing all we can with a view to finding solutions and I hope we will be supported in that.
On the last part of your question, on the Nord Stream pipeline, you know, as I do, that this involves six private undertakings or enterprises and a number of countries in Europe. It has been looked at with a very fine-toothed comb by all the legal experts in the European Union. Reading between the lines, I find in your comments reproach or criticism of the Federal German Government that is totally unjustified.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – Foreign Minister, the Council of Europe is an Organisation based on conventions. In addition to the European Convention on Human Rights, the other most important convention is the Social Charter, particularly at a time when so many people are turning their backs on Europe, primarily for social reasons. The revised Social Charter has been ratified by 33 Council of Europe member States but Germany does not figure among them. Can you announce ratification by Germany before the end of this term of office?
Mr HONKONEN (Finland) – After Brexit, the European Union will not be as powerful an actor in foreign policy as it used to be. However, Europe needs dialogue because dialogue is the only way to produce solutions, so what is the future of Eastern relations in the European Union and how do you see the role of the Council of Europe from this perspective?
Mr MARQUES (Portugal) – We all know that European countries have taken different positions on the migration crisis, which also happens here. Today the election is taking place of Mr Guterres as the new United Nations Secretary-General. He has done a great job with migrants and refugees. I would like to see him in this plenary in the future. On this topic, the European Union has done a very bad job and his election shows that our values have the wrong image. Do you think all these problems show that the European Union needs a stronger position in the balance of the world to avoid these problems for Mr Guterres?
Mr STEINMEIER* – First, on ratification of the revised European Social Charter, I remind my colleague of the position reiterated by the German Government in the most recent talks. We have not yet decided to move forward quickly with ratification of the instrument. We are still observing the process and we need to ascertain properly what the implications of the Charter’s considerably broadened scope are. In particular, we need to examine the various implications of these changes in the light of German law, to ensure that they are carefully weighed and examined.
Secondly, Brexit was the keyword in your question, but the main thrust of your comments pertained to the role of the European Union in relations between the East and the West, and you went on to ask what role the Council of Europe could play in these relations. I refer back to what I said on Turkey. Now, against a backdrop of growing tensions, the role of the Council of Europe is more important than ever. I am profoundly convinced that in difficult times we should not cut off the channels of communication. It is important that we keep all these channels open, including parliamentary channels. The Council of Europe must not limit itself simply to describing the instruments of the rule of law in Russia. The Council of Europe also has a role to play as a long-standing partner in dialogue between East and West, and that role continues.
On the next question, I extend my warmest congratulations to Portugal on the excellent result in the election, which will be approved by the United Nations General Assembly. I am an old acquaintance of Mr Guterres, and I am very much aware of the enormous personal commitment he has shown and the great success he has achieved in his role. He is a long-standing observer of, and expert in, the multinational system and I am sure he will be an excellent United Nations Secretary-General.
As to whether the European Union should play a stronger role in the United Nations, that depends on two factors. As many of you will know, I am a strong advocate of United Nations reform. Proposals have been on the table for almost 50 years, but until now there has been only marginal implementation. The European Union must also ensure that it is in a position to play a stronger role. Following the British decision to leave the European Union and the irritation that referendum result triggered in the rest of Europe, all of us must work hard to ensure the European Union as a whole has a positive future. We must try to find the answers to the questions and doubts the peoples of Europe have increasingly been expressing, including a response to migration policy. If the European Union can perform on the world stage with greater self-confidence, that will automatically lead to a far stronger role for it.
The PRESIDENT – We must now conclude the questions to Mr Steinmeier.
On behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his address and for the answers given to questions.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.)
1. Current affairs debate: Situation in Turkey in the light of the attempted coup d’État
Speakers: Mr Liddell-Grainger, Ms Fiala, Mr Önal, Mr Özsoy, Mr Németh, Ms Rodríguez Ramos, Mr Mignon, Mr Rustamyan, Mr Farmanyan, Lord Anderson, Mr Michael Jensen, Mr Silva, Mr Küçükcan, Mr Gutiérrez, Ms Schou, Ms Bilgehan, Mr Fischer, Mr Cruchten, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Divina, Mr Tilson, Mr Büchel, Mr Dişli, Mr Seyidov, Mr Rouquet, Mr Vareikis, Ms Jansson, Mr V. Huseynov, Mr Eseyan, Ms Gafarova, Mr Koç and Mr Billström
2. Address by Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany
Questions: Mr Ariev, Mr Schennach, Ms Brasseur, Mr Pritchard, Mr Villumsen, Ms Ceritoğlu Kurt, Ms Blondin, Mr Mularczyk, Mr Hunko, Mr Honkonen and Mr Marques
3. Next public sitting
Appendix / Annexe
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.Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthčses.
ANDERSON, Donald [Lord]
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr]
ARNAUT, Damir [Mr]
BADEA, Viorel Riceard [Mr] (TUDOSE, Mihai [Mr])
BARILARO, Christian [M.] (ALLAVENA, Jean-Charles [M.])
BARNETT, Doris [Ms]
BARTOS, Mónika [Ms] (CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme])
BAYKAL, Deniz [Mr]
BECK, Marieluise [Ms]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr]
BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr]
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BOJIĆ, Milovan [Mr]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BRUYN, Piet De [Mr]
BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
BUDNER, Margareta [Ms]
BULIGA, Valentina [Mme]
CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms]
CENTEMERO, Elena [Ms]
CERİTOĞLU KURT, Lütfiye İlksen [Ms] (MİROĞLU, Orhan [Mr])
ČERNOCH, Marek [Mr] (BENEŠIK, Ondřej [Mr])
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.])
CIMOSZEWICZ, Tomasz [Mr] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
CROZON, Pascale [Mme] (BAPT, Gérard [M.])
CRUCHTEN, Yves [M.]
CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr]
DAVIES, Geraint [Mr]
DESTEXHE, Alain [M.]
DI STEFANO, Manlio [Mr]
DİŞLİ, Şaban [Mr]
DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]
DJUROVIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr]
ECCLES, Diana [Lady]
ESEYAN, Markar [Mr]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FARMANYAN, Samvel [Mr]
FATALIYEVA, Sevinj [Ms] (HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr])
FAZZONE, Claudio [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
FIALA, Doris [Mme]
FILIPIOVÁ, Daniela [Mme]
FINCKH-KRÄMER, Ute [Ms]
FISCHER, Axel E. [Mr]
FISCHEROVÁ, Jana [Ms] (ZELIENKOVÁ, Kristýna [Ms])
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRÉCON, Jean-Claude [M.] (DURRIEU, Josette [Mme])
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GALE, Roger [Sir]
GARCÍA ALBIOL, Xavier [Mr]
GHASEMI, Tina [Ms]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GOPP, Rainer [Mr]
GORROTXATEGUI, Miren Edurne [Mme] (DOMENECH, Francesc Xavier [Mr])
GOSSELIN-FLEURY, Genevičve [Mme] (LONCLE, François [M.])
GRECEA, Maria [Ms] (STROE, Ionuț-Marian [Mr])
GÜNAY, Emine Nur [Ms]
GUTIÉRREZ, Antonio [Mr]
GUZENINA, Maria [Ms]
HAMID, Hamid [Mr]
HEER, Alfred [Mr]
HEINRICH, Gabriela [Ms]
HETTO-GAASCH, Françoise [Mme]
HIGGINS, Alice-Mary [Ms] (CROWE, Seán [Mr])
HOLÍK, Pavel [Mr] (MARKOVÁ, Soňa [Ms])
HONKONEN, Petri [Mr] (KALMARI, Anne [Ms])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HÜBINGER, Anette [Ms]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Vusal [Mr] (HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr])
JAKAVONIS, Gediminas [M.]
JANSSON, Eva-Lena [Ms] (KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr])
JENSEN, Michael Aastrup [Mr]
JENSEN, Mogens [Mr]
JOHNSEN, Kristin Řrmen [Ms] (JENSSEN, Frank J. [Mr])
JOHNSSON FORNARVE, Lotta [Ms] (GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr])
JÓNASSON, Ögmundur [Mr]
JORDANA, Carles [M.] (ZZ...)
JORDANA, Carles [M.] (ZZ...)
JOVANOVIĆ, Jovan [Mr]
KANDEMIR, Erkan [Mr]
KARAMANLI, Marietta [Mme]
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])
KOSTŘICA, Rom [Mr]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KÜÇÜKCAN, Talip [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
KVATCHANTIRADZE, Zviad [Mr] (JAPARIDZE, Tedo [Mr])
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LE BORGN’, Pierre-Yves [M.]
LE DÉAUT, Jean-Yves [M.]
LEYDEN, Terry [Mr] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])
LIDDELL-GRAINGER, Ian [Mr]
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.]
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LOUHELAINEN, Anne [Ms] (PELKONEN, Jaana [Ms])
LUIS, Teófilo de [Mr] (BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr])
MARKOVIĆ, Milica [Mme]
MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness] (SHERRIFF, Paula [Ms])
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MEIMARAKIS, Evangelos [Mr]
MIGNON, Jean-Claude [M.]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MILEWSKI, Daniel [Mr]
MILTENBURG, Anouchka van [Ms]
MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]
MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])
NAGHDALYAN, Hermine [Ms]
NÉMETH, Zsolt [Mr]
NENUTIL, Miroslav [Mr]
NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]
NIKOLOSKI, Aleksandar [Mr]
NISSINEN, Johan [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OBRADOVIĆ, Žarko [Mr]
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
ÖNAL, Suat [Mr]
O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
PACKALÉN, Tom [Mr]
PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms] (NEGUTA, Andrei [M.])
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]
PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms]
PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms]
POPA, Ion [Mr] (GORGHIU, Alina Ștefania [Ms])
POSTOICO, Maria [Mme] (VORONIN, Vladimir [M.])
PREDA, Cezar Florin [M.]
PRITCHARD, Mark [Mr]
QUÉRÉ, Catherine [Mme] (ALLAIN, Brigitte [Mme])
RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms]
RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Soraya [Mme] (BATET, Meritxell [Ms])
ROSETA, Helena [Mme]
ROUQUET, René [M.]
RUSTAMYAN, Armen [M.] (ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr])
RZAYEV, Rovshan [Mr] (MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.])
SANDBĆK, Ulla [Ms] (BORK, Tilde [Ms])
SAVCHENKO, Nadiia [Ms]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHNEIDER, André [M.] (MARIANI, Thierry [M.])
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHRIJVER, Nico [Mr]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
ŠEPIĆ, Senad [Mr]
SEYIDOV, Samad [Mr]
SIEBERT, Bernd [Mr]
SILVA, Adăo [M.]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
SPADONI, Maria Edera [Ms] (ASCANI, Anna [Ms])
SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.])
TARCZYŃSKI, Dominik [Mr]
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
TILKI, Attila [Mr] (GULYÁS, Gergely [Mr])
TORNARE, Manuel [M.] (FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.])
TORUN, Cemalettin Kani [Mr]
TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
TZAVARAS, Konstantinos [M.]
UYSAL, Burhanettin [Mr] (BABAOĞLU, Mehmet [Mr])
VÁHALOVÁ, Dana [Ms]
VALEN, Snorre Serigstad [Mr]
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr] (SKARDŽIUS, Arturas [Mr])
VARVITSIOTIS, Miltiadis [Mr] (CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms])
VEN, Mart van de [Mr]
VĖSAITĖ, Birutė [Ms]
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
WILK, Jacek [Mr]
WURM, Gisela [Ms]
XUCLŔ, Jordi [Mr]
YEMETS, Leonid [Mr]
ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme]
Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés ŕ voter
ĹBERG, Boriana [Ms]
BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr]
CORREIA, Telmo [M.]
EATON, Margaret [Baroness]
EFSTATHIOU, Constantinos [M.]
EROTOKRITOU, Christiana [Ms]
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms]
MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.]
MELKUMYAN, Mikayel [M.]
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr]
ÖZSOY, Hişyar [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
DAVIES, Don [Mr]
DOWNE, Percy [Mr]
LARIOS CÓRDOVA, Héctor [Mr]
LUNA CANALES, Armando [Mr]
RAMÍREZ NÚŃEZ, Ulises [Mr]
SIMMS, Scott [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
WELLS, David M. [Mr]
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)/ Représentants de la communauté chypriote turque (Conformément ŕ la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
ABUSHAHLA, Mohammedfaisal [Mr]
SABELLA, Bernard [Mr]