AS (2017) CR 02
2017 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 23 January 2017 at 3.00 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.05 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, presented by Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. After his address, Mr Kasoulides has kindly agreed to take questions from the floor.
Dear Minister, dear Chairperson, I am honoured to welcome you to Strasbourg at a time when your country, Cyprus, holds the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. At the Assembly’s Standing Committee meeting in Cyprus in November, we heard about your chairmanship priorities and were able to exchange views with you on how the Assembly could do its part to implement them. On that occasion, we highlighted the contribution that the Assembly can make to the reinforcement of democratic security in Europe, to the promotion of social rights and to the prevention of radicalisation. Let me assure you once again of our total commitment to supporting such actions.
Your chairmanship comes at a crucial moment in the history of your country. On behalf of the Assembly, I express the wish that the ongoing talks on the reconciliation of the island will reach a positive outcome very soon. That would certainly convey a strong message of hope for the resolution of other conflicts in Europe.
Dear Minister, we look forward to hearing your views. It is a pleasure to give you the floor.
Mr KASOULIDES (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) – Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, Madam President of the Congress, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, last November I had the pleasure of addressing the members of your Standing Committee in Nicosia. Today, for the first time, I have the honour of addressing your plenary Assembly. I am honoured, and my country is particularly proud, that we hold the chairmanship for the fifth time, 55 years after joining this Organisation.
The Cypriot chairmanship is already well under way. Since I have already had the opportunity to make a detailed presentation of our priorities before your Standing Committee, I will not repeat them here today. I will, however, refer to them in connection with my presentation of the developments that have taken place in the Committee of Ministers since your last session.
The main theme we have chosen for our chairmanship is the strengthening of democratic security in Europe. Recent events that have been marked by a series of bloody terrorist attacks give particular resonance to our choice. Those attacks caused the deaths of thousands of people and resulted in a very large number of wounded in Europe and other parts of the world. In my statements on 20 December and 5 January, I expressed our condolences to the families of victims and our sympathy to those wounded in such attacks. I also expressed our solidarity with the authorities of the member States affected.
These repeated attacks require us to act with even greater determination against terrorism, including within the framework of the Council of Europe. Over the years, the Organisation has developed several tools for strengthening international co-operation in the fight against terrorism. The most recent was the protocol on foreign terrorist fighters, which was open for signatures in October 2015 in Riga. That protocol is important because it defines a number of acts, including travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism, and the funding of such travel, as criminal offences. It also provides for the establishment of a network of contacts to enable member States to share information concerning people travelling abroad for the purposes of terrorism. That network came into operation on 1 December, and I welcome that. However, the protocol as such has still not come into force as only three States have ratified it. We must further the process and do our utmost to ensure that it comes into force as soon as possible.
The Committee of Ministers has always stressed the need to act in full compliance with the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in dealing with terrorism. Those principles, which unite the 47 member States of the Council of Europe, must continue to guide us when we are faced with terrorists, who seek to destroy the values to which we attach most importance and to breed hatred and intolerance. In their ideological blindness, they also attack the culture and history of our humanity. The destruction perpetrated by Daesh in Palmyra, Mosul and Raqqa, and that by other groups in Mali, Libya and Afghanistan, has been the tragic illustration of that. The aim of such destruction is twofold: to raise funds for their terrorist actions – indeed, the illicit trafficking of artefacts is a major source of terrorist financing – and to uproot the cultural and ethnological connection of the local population with their land. That is, they pursue a cultural cleansing. Such actions, however, are directed against not only the people of the country in which they are perpetrated but our shared history and the cultural identity of humanity as a whole.
The increase in the scale and frequency of the destruction of cultural heritage renders the need for our collective and unified response even more compelling. The Council of Europe has played and intends to play an active role, in co-operation with other international partners, towards that end. In that respect, I welcome the fact that a new convention on offences relating to cultural property is being prepared. The convention will be the first international treaty on criminal measures and sanctions against unlawful activities in the field of cultural heritage.
The Cypriot chairmanship attaches great importance to the protection of cultural heritage and will do its utmost to ensure that the new convention is finalised as quickly as possible. With that in mind, on the chairmanship’s initiative and in co-operation with the Secretary General, we held a colloquy on 3 January with the aim of stepping up co-operation in the protection of cultural heritage. The participants showed particular interest in illicit excavations and in the sale and purchase of cultural assets: lucrative activities that are, as I said, often linked to transnational organised crime and the funding of terrorism. I welcome the outcome of the colloquy, which was attended by Ms Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO; Ms Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; Professor Anna Venezino, deputy secretary-general of UNIDROIT; and Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, director-general of antiquities and museums in Syria.
The Cypriot chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers also considered it important to establish the conditions that will enable everyone, without discrimination, to have full access to fundamental rights and freedoms. We are particularly concerned about helping to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities and increasing the possibilities for them to take an active part in community life. I am therefore pleased that on 30 November 2016 the Committee of Ministers adopted a new Council of Europe disability strategy to cover the period 2017-23. In March, we will hold a high-level conference to launch the strategy. I trust that the representatives of your Assembly will be able to attend the event. In order to be fully effective, it must have the broadest possible support.
In view of the increase in high-profile cases relating to human rights in the biomedical field, on 5 December the Committee on Bioethics, under the auspices of the Cypriot chairmanship, organised a high-level seminar on international case law in bioethics. The seminar aimed at strengthening understanding of human rights in biomedicine. A thorough analysis of the existing case law, as carried out so successfully at the seminar, will allow for forward thinking on the future of this ever-changing field.
Let me move to a number of political matters that have featured prominently on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers since Cyprus took over the chairmanship. Among those is the situation in Turkey in the aftermath of the coup d’état of 15 July, which we have all strongly condemned. The Secretary General, through his weekly communications with the Ministers’ deputies, keeps delegations informed on developments regarding co-operation between the Council of Europe and the Turkish authorities. We must help them overcome the difficulties their country currently faces while ensuring compliance with our common standards with regard to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. I think in particular about respect for fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and freedom of media as well as freedom of association. In these troubled times, the European Convention on Human Rights must remain the compass. The Committee of Ministers will continue to follow closely the situation on the ground. That is also the case for your Assembly. I think the Secretary General will inform you of further communication from Turkey regarding a number of issues that I consider to be positive and welcome developments.
In Azerbaijan, the situation of Ilgar Mammadov has also continued to engage the committee’s attention over the past few months. It has called on several occasions for Mr Mammadov’s immediate and unconditional release. I reiterate that appeal and would recall that the unconditional execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights is a fundamental obligation for all member States. In this regard, I would like to express my satisfaction at the recent meeting between senior officials of the Secretariat and the authorities of Azerbaijan in Baku. I encourage the continuation of this dialogue. I wish also to reiterate the willingness of the Council of Europe to assist Azerbaijan in meeting its obligations as a member of the Organisation. It was with this aim in mind that the Committee of Ministers recently decided to extend the current action plan for Azerbaijan until the end of 2017.
With regard to the conflict in Georgia, the committee continues to closely monitor the situation on the ground, in particular through the valuable information provided by the Secretary General in his twice-yearly reports. Last November, the committee held a discussion on the basis of the Secretary General’s latest report. I hope that 2017 will be a year of progress in the settlement of the conflict in Georgia, as well as the other geographical areas of the Council of Europe where there are conflicts and tensions. Of course, I am thinking first and foremost of Ukraine, but also of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.
Going beyond the geographical area covered by the Council of Europe, I would like to refer briefly to the situation in Belarus. Like your Assembly, the Committee of Ministers has on several occasions called on Belarus to put an end to the death penalty and to establish a moratorium as the first step towards its abolition. This is a vital step for Belarus if it aspires to become a member of our Organisation. Notwithstanding these repeated calls on Belarus to abolish the death penalty, four people have unfortunately been executed over the past year and a further death sentence was handed down in late December. This most regrettable development can but further delay the prospect of the country possibly becoming a member of the Council of Europe. I earnestly hope that the Belarusian authorities will take advantage of the new action plan for this country, which the Committee of Ministers approved in October 2016, to make significant progress in 2017, in this as in other fields.
Finally, I would like to mention the Council of Europe’s neighbourhood policy. This co-operation is more necessary than ever, at a time when the numerous challenges facing our continent require an international response, reaching beyond our borders. Because of its geographical position and its historical links with the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, my country has long realised the importance of such co-operation and has actively promoted it. We intend to take advantage of our chairmanship to enhance the Organisation’s neighbourhood policy in the interests of security for all. To that end, we have decided to invite the North-South Centre and the States covered by the neighbourhood policy to participate in events organised by our chairmanship, including the ministerial conference of ministers of education, to be organised in Nicosia.
The Council of Europe needs to step up its co-operation with the other international organisations in all the fields that I have mentioned, so as to combine efforts and consequently ensure that the action taken is more effective. From this point of view, 2017 is an important year for relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union, as it marks the 10th anniversary of the enhanced co-operation established between the two organisations on the basis of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2007. Cyprus will take advantage of this anniversary to organise various events during its chairmanship.
Our relations with the European Union are numerous and fruitful, from both a political and a technical standpoint. The European Union is undeniably the Council of Europe’s closest partner, including with regard to the funding of co-operation activities run by the Council of Europe both in Europe and in neighbouring regions. In this context, I welcome the fact that Mr Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, has been invited to address your Assembly tomorrow. For their part, the Ministers’ Deputies held an exchange of views with Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, at their last meeting in 2016. Nor do I underestimate the importance of closer co-operation with the other international organisations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), where I will be presenting the priorities of our chairmanship at the end of the week. We of course attach equal importance to our co-operation with the United Nations.
Ladies and gentlemen, before closing my address, I would like to say how much I welcome the excellent relations between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly and how important I consider them to be. Mr President, your regular visits to the Ministers’ Deputies to present the outcome of the Assembly sessions is greatly appreciated. These presentations strengthen our ties and help to ensure better synergy between the committee and the Parliamentary Assembly, with all due respect for their individual competences. I thank you very much for your attention.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mr Kasoulides, for your interesting address. Members of the Assembly now have questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions, not making speeches. After giving Mr Kasoulides the opportunity to answer questions from the representatives of the political groups, I will give him the opportunity to answer questions in groups of three, before then taking a further three questions.
Mr VILLUMSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – Today there was a vote on an urgent procedure debate on Turkey, which was unfortunately was rejected, even though there was a majority in this plenary in favour, albeit not the two-thirds majority needed. I would therefore like to hear whether you agree that it is important to put pressure on Turkey to secure fundamental human rights and what your proposals are for doing so.
Mr KASOULIDES – First, I fully respect the decision taken by the Parliamentary Assembly. As Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, I do not wish to interfere in the work or responsibilities of the Parliamentary Assembly. It is essential that each institution in the Council of Europe fully respects each other and stays away from those areas that fall within the remit of another institution. However, if you would like a general comment about the state of emergency in Turkey, I would say that the Committee of Ministers has been closely following the situation since the coup attempt in July.
As was pointed out, from the beginning we have condemned strongly the attempted coup d’état. It is legitimate that those who have organised and taken part in the attempted coup are brought to justice, but at the same time extreme care must be taken to respect the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the right to a fair trial, and to avoid any indiscriminate action that would target people who had nothing to do with the coup. A transparent, independent and impartial judicial process is essential. It is also particularly important that effective domestic remedies for possible violations of human rights standards are in place and that the decisions taken in Ankara – as I expect you will hear in the news from the Secretary General – go in the right direction. Respect for freedom of expression and of the media, as well as freedom of association and assembly, is another core principle. Finally, securing effective political pluralism is vital, and democratically elected representatives must be able to perform their functions freely at both national and local levels.
This message has been conveyed a number of times to the Turkish authorities. The first opportunity was the exchange of views that the Ministers’ Deputies had with Minister Çavuşoğlu last September. The message was reiterated again recently. It is essential that Turkey abides by its commitments, and the Council of Europe should continue to provide its valuable assistance to this end. I trust that the Turkish authorities will pay due attention to the concerns expressed by the Venice Commission in its opinion of last December on the emergency decree laws.
As far as the issue of the death penalty is concerned, a major achievement of our Organisation has been the establishment of a death penalty-free zone in Europe. Re-establishing the death penalty would be a major setback. In the case that such a step were taken, I cannot prejudge the reaction of the Committee of Ministers, but this is indeed a cause for grave concern.
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I thank the Minister for his support for this Organisation. Two and a half years ago, MH17 was downed over Donbass in Ukraine. Although everyone searched, it was the first accident in Europe in more than 10 years for which no primary radar images were made available to the investigators. Russia said that it deleted them; Ukraine changed its story from “They were under maintenance” to “They were broken”; and the United States, somehow, did not have anything either. In a written question to the Committee of Ministers, I pointed out that the relatives of the deceased wrote to Mr Putin and to Mr Poroshenko for an explanation but did not get an answer, and I asked the Committee of Ministers to ask these Governments to have the decency to provide an answer to the bereaved families. Will you answer that and make sure that they send an answer to those families?
Mr KASOULIDES – The Committee of Ministers has taken a clear and firm stand on this issue through several decisions. First, in September 2014, it condemned the downing of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft and called for immediate safe and unrestricted access to the crash site to enable independent experts to continue their investigations. It reiterated this appeal one month later, in October, asking for such access in order that the bodily remains could be retrieved and to enable independent experts to continue their investigations. Finally, in April 2015, the Committee underlined that those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 must be held to account and brought to justice, and it called upon all States in the region to co-operate fully with the on-going international investigations into the cause of the crash and the identity of those responsible. My predecessor as chair of the Committee of Ministers, the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, repeated this appeal on the occasion of the second anniversary of the downing last year. There was also a discussion on the joint investigation team’s report by the Ministers’ Deputies. To answer your question directly, however, I would like to explain that the Committee of Ministers, not having reached consensus, was unable to reply. As soon as we can achieve a consensus in the Committee of Ministers, rest assured that we will reply.
Mr CORLĂŢEAN (Romania, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – As it happens, Cyprus’s presidency of the Committee of Ministers coincides with Romania’s presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance during a period of serious democratic challenges in Europe, including extremism, populism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. By the way, tomorrow a special event dedicated to the commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day will take place within the Council of Europe. Minister, will you present your vision and project for continuing the promotion of the position of the Council of Europe in combating anti-Semitism and keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust?
Mr KASOULIDES – My former colleague asks a question that is of particular interest. With regard to International Holocaust Remembrance Day I will be issuing a statement on behalf of the chairmanship. I should also add that anti-Semitism is a form of racism that has been utterly condemned by the Council of Europe. There is no difference between this and other forms of racism, discrimination and derogatory speech aimed at others. Therefore, particular attention should be paid to this issue, having in mind the rise of extremism, populism and extremist forms of politics. In Nicosia in May, the ministerial meeting will be devoted to examining these and other issues that may lead to and feed populist expressions that are contrary to the reasons why this Organisation was founded at the end of the Second World War, following the defeat of Nazism.
Mr TARCZYŃSKI (Poland, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Minister, I have a question about the presence of Russia within this community. As we all know, Russia did not submit its credentials, but there are still a lot of Russian staffing and media here. Why is Russia still present in this way when it is not present in this community? Are there any other decisions based on financial participation with Russia within this community, and is that why we have Russian staff and media here? Basically, the question is: are they with us, or are they outwith us and the European Union?
Mr KASOULIDES – The question is about relations between your Parliamentary Assembly and one of its national delegations, and I do not feel that it would be appropriate for me to interfere in this matter. The only comment I want to make is to encourage ongoing dialogue between your Assembly and the Russian delegation. I believe that only through dialogue can difficulties be overcome. That is the purpose of this Assembly: to assemble people of differing opinions and to try, through dialogue, to resolve them.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Certain democracies have announced that 2017 is an international year of the family. To some degree, the Council of Europe itself is a big family that unites its 47 members, but this family of ours can in no way be accepted as exemplary, given that a number of its member States have engaged in conflict with one another. In response to the noble appeals in this year of the family, what concrete measures can be taken by the Council of Europe to resolve conflicts between its member States so that we can finally become a normal family?
Mr KASOULIDES – Honourable members, the mandate of the Council of Europe is not to resolve conflict. That is a matter for other international organisations. That being so, we must ensure that all people living in Europe can benefit from the protection granted by the Council of Europe’s instruments, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights. This Organisation is here to promote dialogue and understanding between members. In that regard, there was the Secretary General’s initiative last year to send a fact-finding mission to Crimea. I hope that it will be the first step towards re-opening access to Crimea for the Council of Europe’s monitoring structures. However, as we know, Crimea is not the only conflict area in Europe. The same issue concerns in other places and was discussed at the ministerial session in Sofia last May. The Secretary General has been asked to follow up the discussion and he has my full support in his endeavours.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. We will now have groups of three questions, and the first will be asked by Ms Duranton.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – My question pertains to a country that is close to all of our hearts, Poland, and certain acts of parliament that have either been passed or are being considered that are of great concern to us. What is the evaluation of the Committee of Ministers as regards three important matters: the freedom of assembly and demonstration, the status of public media and the reform of the constitutional court?
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – Mr Minister, we appreciate and welcome the inclusion of such an important topic as the protection of cultural heritage and property among the priorities of the Cypriot chairmanship of the Council of Europe. Armenians know first hand the sorrow of the destruction of our cultural heritage. For example, some of our recent cultural losses included that of the Armenian medieval cemetery in Nakhichevan, the bombing of an Armenian church in Der Zor in Syria by ISIS, and the case of the Magaravank monastery in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. Will you please elaborate on the Cypriot chairmanship’s plans in this area, particularly as regards impunity for such crimes at a regional and international level?
Ms CSÖBÖR* (Hungary) – The programme of the Cyprus presidency of the Committee of Ministers underlines that your country supports the reforms launched by the Secretary General with a view to improving the efficiency of the Council of Europe, but your agenda picks up on a series of difficulties that Europe faces. In your view, what are the areas in which major changes to the functioning or organisational structures of the Council are necessary to ensure that it can continue to spearhead efforts to face up to new challenges?
Mr KASOULIDES – First, on the question about Poland, by joining the Council of Europe all member States undertake a number of obligations, particularly under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Committee of Ministers expects those obligations to be fulfilled and the independence of the judiciary is a fundamental principle of a democratic society governed by the rule of law. Free and independent media are also a cornerstone of our democracies. The Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to those principles. I support the dialogue between the Secretary General and the Polish authorities and trust that the Polish authorities will pay due attention to the opinion on the act of the constitutional tribunal that the Venice Commission adopted last October.
I thank Ms Karapetyan for agreeing with the importance that the chairmanship attaches to the protection of cultural heritage in areas of conflict, and the legal instruments – the convention – that need to be agreed so that there are legal consequences for those who, in my view, are aiding and abetting the destruction of cultural heritage. They claim to have bona fides and they go to markets and buy these artefacts. I cannot imagine a case in which there would be no buyers, because if that were the case there would be no looters. Looters loot because they know that it is lucrative, apart from those with an ideological point of view that aims to deracinate home populations and to proceed with cultural cleansing. They not only want to chase away populations but do not want them to come back. That is why it is important to have in our arsenal in the fight against terrorism a convention that brings legal consequences for the destruction of cultural property and the looting of artefacts.
As for the third question about the effectiveness of the Council of Europe, the strengthening of co-operation and dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, are evident characteristics of how we can become more efficient together. Secondly, reforms that make our procedures more effective and efficient help us to target that goal. I highlight the reforms that have been undertaken by those three bodies in observing the taking and implementation of decisions in the Court of Human Rights, which is the cornerstone of the Convention and the raison d’être of the Council of Europe. Those are: taking decisions at the level of the Court as to how we are going to speed up the examination of cases; differentiating cases that are inadmissible and therefore can be examined quickly and removed from the backlog; differentiating cases of a repetitive nature, where one of the responsibilities lies with the member State, which has to observe the decisions of the Court, in line with its obligation by joining the Convention. Should the decisions be observed, we will not need to follow many others.
Thirdly, the Committee of Ministers has taken a number of decisions, among them how to observe the implementation of cases that appear to be easily implemented and need less frequent monitoring and those to which there is resistance. That needs closer monitoring by the committee.
I add that avoiding duplication, while on the other hand enhancing co-operation with other international organisations – the United Nations, the European Union and the OSCE – will, as I mentioned in my presentation, enhance the effectiveness of the Council of Europe.
Mr GUTIÉRREZ (Spain)* – Many enormous challenges face humanity. Economic and social crises, wars, climate change and, above all, enormous migratory flows, have caught institutions and governments on the wrong foot. That has led many governments to move towards protectionism and isolationism. Two excellent examples are the United Kingdom and the United States. I believe in the opposite. We need more democracy, more internationalism and more Council of Europe. I would like to know what you and the Committee of Ministers think about that.
Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – As the Assembly’s rapporteur on the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, I would like to hear your reaction as Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers to the judgment of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation of 19 January, which dismissed the 2014 ECHR judgment that Russia should reimburse the shareholders of Yukos.
Mr KYRITSIS (Greece)* – I would like to wish you every success, Minister, in your role. The Council of Europe is the guardian of fundamental freedoms and human rights, and it must continue its work, but we have seen a great deal of pressure and controversy aimed at it. What are you planning to do to resist that?
Mr KASOULIDES – On the first question, although I am speaking on my behalf and not on behalf of the Committee of Ministers – the Committee of Ministers has not debated this exact issue – I cannot disagree that the Council of Europe, the European Union and so on show that in front of all the challenges the world is facing, we need more Europe, not less Europe. That will mean that we must face most challenges united. We cannot do it alone, country by country. For instance, we cannot face climate change and implement the international commitments decided by the United Nations without joining forces. We cannot fight terrorism without joining forces. We cannot enhance democracy without joining forces. That is all I would like to say at present.
Mr Le Borgn’ asked about the Yukos case. The case has been examined six times by the Committee of Ministers since the delivery of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on just satisfaction at the end of 2014. During the last examination, last December, the Committee noted with concern that on 12 October, the Russian Ministry of Justice had seized the constitutional court with a request concerning the possibility of executing the European Court’s judgment. The committee has not yet had the opportunity to discuss the ruling issued by the Russian Constitutional Court last week, as it was only an executive summary, so I cannot at this stage take a stand on the matter. However, I promise that I will do so next time.
As the committee underlined in its December decision, on joining the Convention system the Russian Federation, like all member States, assumed an unconditional obligation to abide by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, including paying just satisfaction awarded by it. That is central to the effectiveness of the human rights protection afforded by the Convention system. The committee will resume its examination of the case at its human rights meeting in March at the latest.
Regarding Mr Kyritsis’s question on the manifest deterioration of human rights in the countries of the Council of Europe and in the world, in view of the numerous challenges before us, we need more human rights, not less. What are we going to do? First, on conflicts – particularly frozen conflicts – there is not much to do, because the Council of Europe does not interfere with them. They are treated with other bodies, and most are within the responsibility of the OSCE. Many of its members that have joined the Council of Europe have promised that the settlement of dispute will take place through peaceful means. Secondly, the Council of Europe can offer expertise, advice and suggestions for confidence-building measures in order to aid societies facing these current problems.
There is something to add. The particular issue of the deterioration of the level of democracy and human rights in our area will be the subject of the ministerial meeting taking place in Nicosia. Social issues such as unemployment, poverty and social exclusion; issues pertaining to extremism, radicalisation of youth and racism; and issues pertaining to immigration and asylum seeking and its results will be dealt with during that conference, along with the political consequences of those phenomena. Democratic education and education for democratic security will also be the subject of the chairmanship once more, as a continuation from the Belgian chairmanship, at the meeting of the ministers of education in Nicosia next month.
Ms ALQAWASMI (Palestine, Partner for Democracy) – In the light of paragraph 16 of the communication and the reference in respect of the main results of the 71st session of the United Nations, may I draw your attention to the United Nations Security Council resolution on illegal Israeli settlements? May I thank the States of Europe and members of the United Nations Security Council for their vote? My question is: will these European States, together with other States in the Council of Europe, follow up on the United Nations Security Council resolution and, in the face of Israeli defiance, take that necessary step of recognising the State of Palestine?
Ms OOMEN-RUIJTEN (Netherlands) – As always, I am happy to see you here, Mr Kasoulides, and I appreciate your clear answers. In a former capacity when we saw each other, you gave the answer on Turkey and said that we have to solve the issue with dialogue, and I would have asked you what we do when dialogue fails. I come to my real question now. I recognise the historical period that Cyprus is in, entering into new negotiations after 12 years, but members of the Council of Europe are also involved, so how can we be helpful?
Mr ÇAĞLAR (Representative of the Turkish Cypriot Community) – In Cyprus, the talks are ongoing between leaders of the two communities. The Turkish Cypriots will support this process, in preparing us for the European Union. What initiatives have you taken vis-à-vis the European Commission and preparing Cyprus as a whole for European Union membership, and European Union harmonisation efforts? What sort of measures are you taking in that respect? As a Cypriot Turk, I would like to congratulate the Greek Cypriots on their presidency of the Council of Europe. I hope that the next time Cyprus takes over the presidency, it will be a united Cyprus.
Mr KASOULIDES – Thank you for giving me the time to answer these questions, Mr President. I will answer them quickly, because the allotted time for these questions and answers is over. First, I wish to say to the Palestinian member that of course the chairmanship and the Committee of Ministers are well aware of the Security Council resolution on settlements. The Committee of Ministers abides by international law and decisions of the Security Council – that applies to any case and on all issues. This is the answer to this question, because I want you to realise that the Council of Europe does not extend its remit outside the area of its members. But we do not underestimate the decision of the Security Council of the United Nations.
I am very glad that my former colleague from the European Parliament and dear friend Ms Oomen-Ruijten is in this chamber. I know that she has devoted a lot of time to being a rapporteur on Turkey, and therefore on Cyprus. The dialogue now is at the level of an international conference with the presidents of the guarantor powers. The last thing that needs to be radically resolved is the issue of security, whereby the united Cyprus is offered the right to live as an independent and sovereign country without facing unilateral military intervention from abroad.
I wish particularly to welcome my compatriot Mr Çağlar to this august Assembly and join in his wish that we together will present the presidency next time. The representation here is not exactly equal between the two sides, but I am afraid that many things are unfair in the composition of the Cyprus problem. Therefore, let us hurry up and resolve it, and thus remove all the barriers and unfairness. He made a particular request on helping the Turkish Cypriot community to be prepared for and familiarised with the acquis communautaire. As he knows, there is an ongoing special committee in Cyprus, with the participation of the European Commission and the two communities, which is examining, chapter by chapter, all the issues that will bring the Turkish Cypriot community up to date so that by the time of the reunification of Cyprus it will be able to function according to the acquis communautaire. Thank you very much, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Minister, for our full exchange of views. I wish to highlight one point. As you know, counteracting terrorism is one of my priorities and the Assembly’s, so I strongly welcome your efforts to promote the Riga additional protocol. During my recent visit to the United Nations in New York, I noticed real interest among interlocutors in this unique international legal instrument. I can assure you of our support on this front, and I hope our joint efforts will lead to a rapid entry into force of this important legal instrument.
(Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
2. Debate (continued): Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee; Observation of the presidential election in Bulgaria (6 and 13 November 2016); and Observation of the early parliamentary elections in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (11 December 2016)
The PRESIDENT – We will now continue with the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, Document 14231 and Addenda 1 and 2, and the observations on the presidential election in Bulgaria, Document 14237, and early parliamentary elections in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Document 14238.
In our general debate now, it is my pleasure to call Ms Duranton.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – Our Assembly was invited to observe the recent presidential elections in Bulgaria through which Mr Rumen Radev was elected. The report of our colleague, Mr Joseph O’Reilly, who participated in the observation of the elections, indicates that they were held in accordance with democratic standards. The high turnout shows that the people of Bulgaria were interested in the election, and that gives strong legitimacy to the elected president. Nevertheless, the report regrets the lack of reliability or certainty in electoral lists, which can result in some mistrust in the electoral process. That should be looked at closely when it comes to subsequent elections. Furthermore, changes were made to the electoral code less than one year before the vote, which does not correspond with our Organisation’s code of good practice. The Venice Commission will have an opportunity to express its views on the changes, which do not seem to have introduced any disorder in the electoral process.
Democracy is well entrenched in Bulgaria today but, as in all democracies, reforms are necessary given rising populism. First and foremost, the issue of migration must not become an electoral game that serves as a springboard for populist parties. Bulgaria must ensure that the fundamental rights of asylum seekers are respected. Similarly, each State must contribute to the resolution of the migration crisis, possibly in different forms depending on each country. Likewise, Bulgaria must promote the integration of the Roma. Means must be made available for that mission, and hate speech must be prosecuted. Furthermore, Bulgaria must strengthen the confidence of its citizens in its institutions. Combating corruption is particularly important to that. Reform of the judiciary will allow for greater independence of the prosecution service, which is necessary.
Reports published within the framework of the European Union’s co-operation and verification mechanism to monitor Bulgaria’s progress in combating corruption and reforming the judiciary indicate that progress is not sufficient. Bulgaria would like the co-operation and verification mechanism to be brought to an end before the beginning of its presidency of the European Union in July 2018. It is therefore necessary that significant progress is made right away. The Council of Europe must assist Bulgaria in that regard. I am sure that President Radev will want to promote the implementation of the reforms. Bulgaria must remain faithful to its commitments to human rights and the rule of law.
Ms GOSSELIN-FLEURY (France)* – I was able to take part in the mission to observe the Bulgarian presidential elections in November. The elections were pretty well organised and fundamental freedoms were quite clearly respected. I saw for myself in the polling stations that a referendum on the reform of the electoral law was being organised at the same time, following an appeal by television presenter, Slavi Trifonov. That created some problems because there were two ballot boxes in the polling stations and, even though voting in the referendum was not mandatory, some officers were strongly encouraging voters to take part in the referendum vote.
Above and beyond logistics, I will flag up a few important points. First, there was a relatively high turnout, notwithstanding a rather one-note electoral campaign. There was no television debate, for example, between the candidates. One major innovation was the reform of the electoral law adopted by the parliament just a few months before the election that made – or should have made – voting compulsory. However, the spokesperson of the electoral commission declared on Nova TV, one of the TV stations, that there would be no sanctions for failing to turn out to vote. Compulsory voting, therefore, did not really have much effect on turnout. Some 60% of votes went to the socialist candidate, so Bulgarians made their choice crystal clear. A lot of people translate that as an appeal for change, a hope for an improvement in living standards and, above all, an end to a corruption that permeates the country.
The commotion that the result caused in western Europe and in certain countries of eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, by Mr Radev’s statement that he would throw Bulgaria into the arms of Russia seems a little bit over the top, because the president only has formal functions in Bulgaria. Mr Radev has confirmed that the country will continue to belong to the European Union and to NATO. Upcoming parliamentary elections will be important for Bulgaria’s future, and we will keep a very close eye on the situation.
Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – At the heart of our discussion is the issue of attacks against journalists. Let me express my deep concern about any attempt against journalists doing their work. Their hard work should be much respected, as civil society and the media make up the main chain for pluralism and democracy in States. Freedom of expression is the value of which we are proud.
I draw delegates’ attention to the fact that 19 January marks the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink, the prominent Armenian-Turkish intellectual and chief editor of the Armenian newspaper, Agos. Dink was assassinated in Istanbul in 2007 by a 17-year-old Turkish nationalist shortly after the premiere of a genocide documentary in which he was interviewed about the Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the case against him. The trial of the assassin did not identify the masterminds behind the murder and bring them to justice. Throughout the long years of investigation, there has been an impression that certain revelations happened among a shifting political landscape, yet the clear-cut questions of who and why remained unanswered.
We remember that Hrant Dink was repeatedly stigmatised and even tried for his position and statements regarding the Armenian genocide. Unfortunately, the same environment of silencing voices that seek truth and justice prevails in Turkey a decade after his murder. The suspension from parliamentary sessions of member of parliament, Garo Paylan, as a punishment for his reference to the historical persecutions of the religious groups is the most recent example. There are reports that certain political parties are even attempting to initiate a criminal case against him, comparing his reference to the Armenian genocide to a hate speech.
I strongly believe that failure to address violence and the killing of journalists, community leaders and intellectuals creates a climate of impunity, encouraging intolerance towards any idea that runs counter to official narratives. Today, we have refused to discuss the topic of Turkey in the frame of an urgent debate but, believe me, we give more time for new violations, attacks, arrests and repressions – God let me be mistaken. Member States of the Council of Europe should certainly honour their obligations, and examples of silencing journalists, MPs and anyone else who has the opposite point of view to the government is extremely unacceptable.
Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – I would like to speak on the report on the observation of the election of 11 December in Macedonia submitted by our colleague, Mr Stefan Schennach. I am delighted to note that the report stresses that the vote was organised rigorously, and that significant progress has been made, compared with previous elections. That should be welcomed. Electoral fraud is disappearing, which is good for Macedonia and democracy as a whole.
However, democracy is not limited to the organisation of a vote. It is a whole corpus of values and principles based on liberty and freedom. It is something to be practised daily, not just on the day of elections. Can a vote be fair if freedom of the press is curtailed and public debate constrained? Without a free, independent and impertinent press, there can be no democracy. Macedonia has lots of media organisations, but most of them are controlled by the party in power, and the government is referred to more than any other party. As a result, there is a biased presentation of debates, which is favourable to the party in power and unfavourable to the opposition. That results in a lack of audaciousness in the media’s analysis and even self-censorship.
Macedonia is slipping in the world index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders. It was 34th in 2009 and 118th in 2016. Free journalists risk a lot in Macedonia because defamation procedures are used systematically to bring dissident voices to their knees, starting with the free press. That is not acceptable. The elections of 16 December resulted in a virtual equality between the majority and the opposition. That is one more reason for the two to come together, reach a mutual understanding and make advances. The Macedonian Government must urgently deal with government funding of the media, the functioning of the national television stations and the criminalisation of defamation.
No movement towards Europe and, a fortiori, towards the union can be meaningful or successful if journalists are attacked, placed in detention or wiretapped. The 2016 Freedom House report ranks Macedonia with countries such as Russia and Belarus as countries with media that are “not free”. What does a well-organised election really mean given such a situation? Macedonia has a long road to travel to create a society of freedom and accountability. The role of the Council of Europe and our Assembly must be to encourage it to take that path.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia)* – In the past two years, there have been remarkable and vibrant political developments in Armenia. We have stepped up a process of vital constitutional reforms, which were adopted by referendum in December 2015, to create a more stable and democratic system, to improve our constitutional mechanisms and to ensure an appropriate balance of powers and the rule of law.
It is very important for us that the Venice Commission commended the proposed changes, and that they were deemed to correspond to modern European standards. Almost all of the commission’s recommendations were accepted by the Armenian authorities. After the referendum, we embarked on a large-scale process of changing and adjusting the legal system to the new realities. Changes will be made to hundreds of laws and acts. New constitutional laws will be adopted, including laws on ombudsmen and local self-government, and rules of procedure for parliament. A large package of legislative changes is also foreseen for 2017, which will be carried out in close co-operation with the Venice Commission and other international stakeholders.
The most debated document was the one on the electoral court, but it is worth noting that there was a spirit of co-operation among all interested political forces. The authorities, the opposition and the civil society sector collaborated and participated equally. The new electoral court will create a reliable base for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Holding free and fair elections is the top priority for our authorities. As a representative of the ruling coalition, I assure you that legitimacy is much more important than the result for us. Our commitment is to hold democratic and transparent elections, based on competitive ideas and programmes.
The people of Armenia have chosen the path of democracy, and no external obstacles can divert us from that route. Despite provocations and the aggression in April last year along the border with Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the recent incursions on the border with Armenia, which were condemned by the international community, we have not departed from our democratic path. We remain committed to the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Despite the security situation in the region, our resolve to implement a wide range of judicial reforms, human rights reforms and reforms in other essential areas, in compliance with our international obligations, has not been shaken. Our commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law will never be weakened by any external factors, be they geopolitical, economic or otherwise.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – As we are again analysing the events and the progress of the recent period, I would like to draw your attention to some developments that deserve to be considered a success for both Azerbaijan and this organisation. The year 2016 was remarkable for Azerbaijan. In October, my country celebrated the 25th anniversary of the restoration of its independence, following a 70-year struggle. For 15 of those 25 years, Azerbaijan has been in the family of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe undeniably shares credit for enabling democratic institutions to prevail, creating a State based on the rule of law, ensuring human rights and the other achievements in Azerbaijan in this period. It is gratifying that Azerbaijan has also enjoyed significant advances, in the context of the Council of Europe’s activities in this period. Some of those advances are reflected in the reports that we are discussing. For example, I progress has been made in the country’s media. However, that is not all. Other clear indicators of progress are the organisation of work relating to NGOs and the activities to improve the legislative basis in that field, against a background of Council of Europe appeals.
The recently issued statement by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the easing of tension in the front areas should be considered a step forward. Our Organisation’s concrete position is the expression of its intention to increase its activities towards conflict resolution.
The Parliamentary Assembly has an initiative for setting up an ad-hoc committee on frozen conflicts within a timeframe currently being debated by us, which will be a solid basis for progress. I hope that that rhythm is not loosened. We can witness in the progress reports of the Bureau and the Standing Committee the solution for conflicts between member States.
Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – I, too, thank the rapporteurs for their excellent report. I was a member of the election observation missions to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, and I would like to share my experience of and insights into the election.
Before going to Macedonia, I was aware of the complicated political situation, which my colleague, Mr Schennach, touched on in his remarks. I was curious about what its impact would be on the election, but I must say that I observed a very calm election day with moderate tension among the political parties and civil society organisations. The fact that 67% of registered voters took part in the election – the highest turnout in a recent election in Macedonia – indicates that there was high public engagement in the process. The new democratic institutions of Macedonia should take the maximum benefit from this situation and compromise their political goals for stability in the country. It is therefore very important at this point that the Council of Europe assists Macedonia and provides the support to ensure its prosperity and stability.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – I pay tribute to Mr Schennach. He was a terrific leader of our mission, as was Ian Liddell-Grainger when I went with him to Morocco. I know he would join me in paying particular thanks to the staff who organised everything for us. They did a great job and organised it really well.
I have been on three Council of Europe missions, but I have also been on previous missions for the Socialist International, the Carter Center, the Commonwealth and others. In my experience, in technical terms elections are becoming much better organised and the opportunities for fraud, as we have just heard, are decreasing. However, what we saw in Macedonia – as Mr Le Borgn’ and others were pointing out – was that the power and strength of the media and incumbency were perhaps the factors that started the election and its result.
I note that the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy is looking at the features of electoral systems. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Council of Europe, perhaps with the Venice Commission and others, to look at the possibility of a template or blueprint for elections, picking up various points, including: the need for, and the composition of, an electoral commission; the setting of thresholds for minor parties; how to ensure gender balance; how minorities can be protected in particular circumstances; the financing of electoral campaigns; the question of the media and other factors; voting procedures; and electoral observation becoming a standard procedure. Indeed, it might have been nice if we had been able to observe the presidential elections in the United States – I think we would have had quite a few things to say about them. It would be really useful if we looked at the possibility of a template or a blueprint for elections. Doing so would take our observation of elections and our concern for the conduct of democratic elections to a new level.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I want to comment on the report from the early parliamentary elections in Macedonia. First of all, let me thank Mr Schennach for his work as head of our parliamentary delegation to observe the early elections. Prior to that, he chaired the pre-electoral mission, doing so not only once but twice last year, because the early parliamentary elections have been really difficult to implement. The quality of the voters’ lists has consistently been one of the most crucial issues. It is therefore gratifying that the early elections finally took place on 11 December 2016, after having been postponed from June.
Even more gratifying is the fact that all stakeholders seem to accept the final result. Let us all hope that the outcome of these elections will contribute to bringing Macedonia out of the political crisis that has lasted for far too long and to providing a more stable basis for renewed trust in the country’s political institutions. The relatively high turnout in the elections indicates clearly that the electorate has legitimate expectations in that respect.
What is a bit worrying, however, is that no parties have been able to agree on forming the new government. Both sides – the ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, and the opposition party, SDSM – need the support of at least one of the parties representing Albanian society. According to the website “BalkanInsight”, former Prime Minister Gruevski has until 29 January – this coming Sunday – to try to persuade the Albanian parties to join him in a new government. If he fails, the opposition SDSM leader, Zoran Zaev, will be given the opportunity to try to form a government. If they both fail, we might be back to the start. Let us hope that that does not happen.
Macedonia has been a member of the Council of Europe since 9 November 1995. Its monitoring procedure was closed five years later. Thus, the country has been under post-monitoring since 2000. Seventeen years is quite a long period – too long, to be honest. The last full report on Macedonia was presented to the Assembly in 2013. As newly appointed co-rapporteurs, Mr Ghiletchi and I had the ambition to present to you a new report this year. The country’s political crises and the postponed early elections made this impossible. Let us hope that the Macedonian people now get a viable government and parliament that will be able to take the country forwards, starting trust-building, fighting corruption and securing an independent judiciary system, just to mention some pressing issues.
Ms GROZDANOVA (Bulgaria) – I rise to speak to first express my gratitude to the ad hoc committee of the Bureau for observing the presidential elections in Bulgaria, and in particular to its chairman, Mr Joseph O’Reilly.
As Mr O’Reilly was fair in pointing out, our elections were technically well administrated and fundamental freedoms were respected. Although personally I was not satisfied with the outcome of these elections because our candidate lost, we at GERB recognise the victory of our opponent, Mr Rumen Radev, and hope he will maintain continuity with regard to the European and Euro-Atlantic future of Bulgaria. We appreciate highly the Ad hoc committee’s opinion of the election administration, working in a professional and transparent manner. It is a real compliment to the Bulgarian achievement in this respect.
We ask the Venice Commission to provide an opinion on the newly adopted amendments to the electoral code. It has our full co-operation. I would like to emphasise that Bulgaria has co-operated with the Venice Commission since it was established and we are truly grateful for its assistance in our democratic development. We accept its remarks on the accuracy of the voting lists, which has been a problem since the first democratic elections were held back in 1990. With the introduction of the obligatory voting system in Bulgaria, we believe the problem will, for the most part, be eliminated.
On the recent negative phenomenon – the bank vaults – the newly introduced sanctions are, in my view, working well. For example, the supreme prosecutor tabled a motion to parliament to waive the immunity of a particular MP due to such allegations. An investigation is in progress, which is a sign that there is no so-called “political umbrella” and no tolerance for such crimes.
Finally, I would like to thank the Assembly for its co-operation, which is helping us to improve our electoral system. I believe that such co-operation will be pursued further.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – First, let me express my gratitude to the rapporteur and congratulate our friends on an excellent report. At each part-session, we debate progress reports, and analyse our work and the positive and negative tendencies in our Organisation. This report has its pluses and minuses. The time has come to understand who we are – not only who are with, but who we are. That may be a rhetorical question, but it is very important in understanding that the time has come to understand that this Organisation, which promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law, is changing into an Organisation where we can see some forces trying to pursue their own agenda.
From that point of view, I think it is very important that the Organisation should return to its primary values. What do I mean by primary values? We are members of parliament and representatives of our Organisation. We should take that responsibility seriously and not work under the influence of different NGOs or other organisations. Of course we should take their views into account, but we should not be working under pressure from them.
I refer to the statement of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly earlier this morning that unfortunately some organisations and institutions are trying to target this Parliamentary Assembly and use it to show who is master in Europe. We should show that Europe is a place where we can find compromises. I am so happy that the majority of members sitting here today understand that it is only with our friends from different countries – all 47 countries together – that we can achieve positive results. The decision not to have an urgent debate on Turkey but to help Turkey is a great achievement of this Parliamentary Assembly, because Turkey needs support today.
At the same time, I have to say that today we should acknowledge and understand that progress is going on within our countries. The Parliamentary Assembly can see the progress made in my country, Azerbaijan, despite attempts to undermine the role of Azerbaijan, among other things. That is a very positive development.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – Mr President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am deeply disappointed and worried by the decisions taken this morning by the Bureau and by the Assembly. Obviously I will respect the vote and the decision taken by the majority; nevertheless, I wish to say how disappointed I am.
I believe that in this Organisation we are failing to respond to events. If Turkey does not warrant an urgent debate, I do not know what does. Thousands of people have lost their jobs; judges, journalists and opposition politicians have been put in prison; parliamentary immunity has been lifted. That did not all start with the coup – it began way before then. We talked about it then, which is why I thought we really needed that urgent debate, and yet we have decided not to have it.
I am also worried by the reports of undue influence exerted during the Strasser vote. I support the decision to refer the matter to the Rules Committee and inquire further into it. I join Ms Durrieu in saying that we need outside expertise, because it will simply not be credible if we stand in judgment over our peers. Our credibility is at stake here, ladies and gentlemen.
The Northern Caucasus was also on the agenda, but it disappeared. I asked for it to be reinstated, but that has not happened. Our credibility is at stake, as I say, but human rights in the 47 member countries are also on the line. We simply cannot sweep things under the carpet and turn a blind eye. That would not help anyone, particularly not those whose human rights are being trampled underfoot in certain countries.
People do not take any account of what we say anyway, but if we continue down this road we will be adding fuel to the fire. It should come as no surprise to us when people say that the Council of Europe is a waste of time and that it is useless. I still believe in this Organisation. We must make sure that we do what we can to defend our values, the rule of law and human rights across all our member States.
Mr DOKLE (Albania)* – Dear colleagues, I begin by congratulating and thanking President Agramunt, Mr Nicoletti and all members of the Bureau for their hard work in promoting the values that underpin this Assembly. One of the Bureau’s concerns was the relationship between Kosovo and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We have been debating this for years now. Resolution 2094 states: “The Assembly resolves to step up dialogue with the Assembly of Kosovo and recommends that its Bureau modify the current format for co-operation with the political forces elected to the Assembly of Kosovo, with a view to inviting the Assembly of Kosovo to designate a delegation which would ensure the representation also of minority communities, in addition to the majority and the opposition.” A whole year has elapsed since that resolution and I am sorry to say that we are still awaiting a clear-cut decision on the matter, notwithstanding that the Secretary General of the Assembly has prepared a memorandum on the rules of the Assembly and, more importantly, on the basis of our European values.
I really struggle to understand the approach of representatives who compare Kosovo with Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is part of a member State; the independent State of Kosovo, on the other hand, has already been recognised by 114 United Nations countries, as well as 23 member States of the European Union. Indeed, it is recognised by 82.14% of all the countries in the world: 24 member countries of NATO, 34 member States – 72.34% – of the Council of Europe, as well as many members of the G7.
I am therefore optimistic. I know that the Bureau wishes to step up dialogue and give the green light to the Kosovo delegation. I am optimistic because I believe in the diplomatic values that the Bureau represents. I firmly believe that our President, as a European democrat and as someone who promotes dialogues and wants to see initiatives, not sow fear, will shoulder this responsibility and ensure that we give a voice in this Assembly to a people who have suffered so much, who have been massacred and who have seen Milošević’s army lay waste to thousands of lives. That is why we must give a voice to Kosovo and make sure that its government and parliament shoulder their responsibility for development, for the full respect of human rights, for peace and good neighbourly relations with other States and for fruitful dialogue between two independent States – in other words, Kosovo and Serbia.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – On reading the report, I came across dozens of instances of the words “values and standards”. I felt somewhat encouraged to see those words, which have been quite rare in recent times. The report also draws attention to a point that the President has been trying to stress. We are an Assembly of 47, not of 46, but who says that being 47 is more important than our commitment to values and standards? That is the fundamental thing.
My encouragement lasted until I reached the paragraphs that described the President’s experiences with the Russian Federation and trips to Russia. At that point, the words “values and standards” were suddenly replaced by the word “regrettable”. I have a problem with it being said that it was regrettable that the Russian delegation did not present its credentials. That is not the right instance to use that word. There are other facts, such as the undermining of the European Court of Human Rights and of the human rights of the Crimean Tatars. Aggression is continuing, as is meddling in EU affairs. That is regrettable, as it is that Russia is trying to destroy the international order that we have lived in since World War Two. Also, more than 2 million internally displaced persons are currently suffering in Ukraine, but we do not see a single word about that in the report. I wonder whether the President has ever met or had any meetings with Ukrainian civil society organisations or visited Ukraine and whether Ukraine still being treated as the victim in this case.
Those facts explicitly testify in favour of Russia’s abuse of our values and standards. That is not mentioned in the report, and that is really bad. That also demonstrates to some extent a one-sided approach and a kind of appeasement policy, which has not proved successful in history. Is this Ukraine fatigue, as many say? I think it is not. It is all about values and standards, and the situation reflects the deterioration of those fundamentals in Europe as we now see it. I think that is all part of the hybrid warfare that Russia is taking towards us. We need to be stronger and, as Mr Seyidov and other colleagues have said, stick to our values.
The PRESIDENT* – I cannot see Mr Abushahla, so I call Mr Goncharenko.
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – Several times today we have heard that it is a pity that there is no Russian delegation here. Why is there no Russian delegation? Because they do not want to come here when they are under sanctions. Why are they under sanctions? I remind you that after the Russian Federation started the war against Ukraine in 2014, a number of resolutions were adopted by our Assembly to stop the annexation of Crimea, to stop the violation of human rights in Crimea and to stop Russian aggression against Ukraine in the eastern part of our country. What was Russia’s reaction? Absolute zero. Moreover, after that, Russia provided a weapon, which Russian militants used to down flight MH17, and almost 300 innocent people died. We asked the Russian Federation one more time, “Please, co-operate with the investigation.” What was the reaction? Absolute zero.
Moreover, after that Russia started to bomb civilians in Syria, so there was the humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo. Once more we addressed the Russian Federation with, “Please, stop it.” What was its reaction? Absolute zero. And, after all of that, the Russian Parliament says, “We will come back if you change your rules and procedures.” So one country that violated all possible values, standards and rules of the Council of Europe is demanding something from us – it is absolutely unbelievable! We can see it now: they are blackmailing our Parliamentary Assembly. That is why I am unhappy and why I do not like the Nicosia declaration. The declaration does not say clearly, “No blackmailing of the Assembly.” We will not change our procedures and rules on the demand of the Russian Federation.
One more thing. Today, I heard on the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy that the Commonwealth of Independent States, the office of which is in Moscow, is inviting our members to St Petersburg on 27 and 28 March for some forum. I remind you that today many members of our Assembly, our colleagues, are forbidden from entering the territory of the Russian Federation. That is not just Ukrainians but those from the United Kingdom and other countries. They are inviting us to come to the Russian Federation, but, at the same time, they are forbidding our colleagues from going to the Russian Federation. Is that normal? I ask you to boycott any invitations from the Russian Federation until they lift restrictions on our colleagues, because it is simply unfair. Do not give Russia the possibility to blackmail us.
Ms ZOURABIAN (Armenia)* – We really need to discuss an unprecedented phenomenon in this part-session, especially since a major theme of it is the protection of journalists and other media representatives. That phenomenon is seen in the arrest of Belarus of the blogger Alexander Lapshin, who has dual Russian-Israeli citizenship, and his possible extradition to Azerbaijan at its request for having visited Nagorno-Karabakh in 2011 and 2012. I stress that again we are confronted with the so-called Azerbaijan blacklist, which today includes more than 600 names of persona non grata, including some 180 journalists who visited Nagorno-Karabakh in the course of their work as journalists.
A natural question arises: how many thousands of people are still to be listed on Azerbaijan’s shameful blacklists? How many other journalists and media representatives will be sought by Interpol with a view to being sanctioned for exercising their profession and freedom of the press? When will our Organisation finally wake up from its lethargic slumber and react to such scandalous practice in the name of the protection of journalists and media representatives? The Council of Europe has a platform for the safety of journalists, which warns the public at large about violations of journalists’ rights, but here, for completely unacceptable reasons, and in a shameful way, it has remained silent on Lapshin.
Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are absolute values that we have committed ourselves to protect, convinced that no one has the right to prohibit a journalist or blogger from exercising her or his profession. I call on our Assembly and the Commissioner for Human Rights to cry out loudly and express our profound preoccupation in our disagreement vis-à-vis the authorities of Belarus to ensure that the transfer to Azerbaijan of the blogger Lapshin is suspended.
The PRESIDENT* – That concludes the list of speakers. Mr Nicoletti, do you wish to reply? You have one minute remaining.
Mr NICOLETTI (Italy)* – I thank all of the speakers in the debate for their contributions. In particular, I very much appreciated the attention the Assembly has paid to the Balkans – at a time at which the European Union is neglecting the region, we need to increase our attention on it – and to corruption. This morning the Bureau took a decision, and this afternoon’s debate has enriched its future approach to that issue. It is poised to take some concrete steps, and I think all of us have said how concerned we are about the possible irrelevance of this Organisation at a time of great crisis. That is why it is important that we return to our values and ensure that our voice is heard.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Nicoletti. The debate is closed.
Before we approve the progress report, we need to decide on the Bureau’s proposals. The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees, which are set out in Document 14231 and Addendum 1.
There are no objections, so the references are approved.
I invite the Assembly now to consider the Bureau’s other proposals in the progress report, in Document 14231 and Addendum 1.
There are no objections, so the progress report is adopted.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public meeting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5 p.m.)
1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
Presentation by Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers.
Questions: Mr Villumsen, Mr Omtzigt, Mr Corlăţean, Mr Tarczyński, Mr R. Huseynov, Ms Duranton, Ms Karapetyan, Ms Csöbör, Mr Gutiérrez, Mr Le Borgn’, Mr Kyritsis, Ms Alqawasmi, Ms Oomen-Ruijten, Mr Çağlar.
2. Debate (continued): Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee; Observation of the presidential election in Bulgaria (6 and 13 November 2016); and Observation of the early parliamentary elections in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (11 December 2016)
Speakers: Ms Duranton, Ms Gosselin-Fleury, Ms Karapetyan, Mr Le Borgn’, Ms Naghdalyan, Mr R. Huseynov, Mr V. Huseynov, Lord Foulkes, Ms Christoffersen, Ms Grozdanova, Mr Seyidov, Ms Brasseur, Mr Dokle, Mr Kiral, Mr Goncharenko, Ms Zohrabyan
3. Next public business
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 à l’article 12.2 du Règlement.Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthèses.
ÅBERG, Boriana [Ms] (BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr])
ANDERSON, Donald [Lord]
ARDELEAN, Ben-Oni [Mr]
ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr]
ARNAUT, Damir [Mr]
AST, Marek [Mr] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
BAKOYANNIS, Theodora [Ms]
BALFE, Richard [Lord] (DUNDEE, Alexander [The Earl of] [ ])
BALIĆ, Marijana [Ms]
BAYDAR, Metin Lütfi [Mr] (KOÇ, Haluk [M.])
BAYKAL, Deniz [Mr]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.]
BEUS RICHEMBERGH, Goran [Mr]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BROPHY, Colm [Mr] (CROWE, Seán [Mr])
BRUYN, Piet De [Mr]
BUDNER, Margareta [Ms]
BULIGA, Valentina [Mme]
BUTKEVIČIUS, Algirdas [Mr]
CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms]
CEPEDA, José [Mr]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CHUGOSHVILI, Tamar [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
CORLĂŢEAN, Titus [Mr] (TUDOSE, Mihai [Mr])
COWEN, Barry [Mr]
COZMANCIUC, Corneliu Mugurel [Mr] (ZZ...)
CRUCHTEN, Yves [M.]
CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme]
DALLOZ, Marie-Christine [Mme] (MARIANI, Thierry [M.])
D’AMBROSIO, Vanessa [Ms]
DEBONO GRECH, Joseph [Mr]
DESTEXHE, Alain [M.]
DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]
DJUROVIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
DOKLE, Namik [M.]
DURANTON, Nicole [Mme]
DURRIEU, Josette [Mme]
EẞL, Franz Leonhard [Mr]
FAZZONE, Claudio [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
FEIST, Thomas [Mr] (WELLMANN, Karl-Georg [Mr])
FENECH ADAMI, Joseph [Mr]
FIALA, Doris [Mme]
FOULKES, George [Lord] (CRAUSBY, David [Mr])
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRANKOVIĆ, Mato [Mr]
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GALE, Roger [Sir]
GATTI, Marco [M.]
GERMANN, Hannes [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GILLAN, Cheryl [Ms]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GODSKESEN, Ingebjørg [Ms] (WOLD, Morten [Mr])
GOGA, Pavol [M.] (PAŠKA, Jaroslav [M.])
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GORGHIU, Alina Ștefania [Ms]
GORROTXATEGUI, Miren Edurne [Mme] (BALLESTER, Ángela [Ms])
GOSSELIN-FLEURY, Geneviève [Mme] (KARAMANLI, Marietta [Mme])
GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme]
GROZDANOVA, Dzhema [Ms]
GUTIÉRREZ, Antonio [Mr]
HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr]
HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr]
HARANGOZÓ, Gábor [Mr] (MESTERHÁZY, Attila [Mr])
HEER, Alfred [Mr]
HENRIKSEN, Martin [Mr]
HOLÍK, Pavel [Mr] (MARKOVÁ, Soňa [Ms])
HONKONEN, Petri [Mr] (ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HOWELL, John [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Vusal [Mr] (MAMMADOV, Muslum [M.])
IBRAHIMOVIĆ, Ervin [Mr] (ĆATOVIĆ, Marija Maja [Ms])
JANSSON, Eva-Lena [Ms] (GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr])
JENIŠTA, Luděk [Mr]
JENSSEN, Frank J. [Mr]
JOHNSEN, Kristin Ørmen [Ms] (VALEN, Snorre Serigstad [Mr])
JOHNSSON FORNARVE, Lotta [Ms] (OHLSSON, Carina [Ms])
JORDANA, Carles [M.]
JOVANOVIĆ, Jovan [Mr]
KALMARI, Anne [Ms]
KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms] (ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr])
KASIMATI, Nina [Ms]
KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (LABAZIUK, Serhiy [Mr])
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms])
KORODI, Attila [Mr]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KÜÇÜKCAN, Talip [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
KYRITSIS, Georgios [Mr]
LANGBALLE, Christian [Mr] (BORK, Tilde [Ms])
LE BORGN’, Pierre-Yves [M.]
LE DÉAUT, Jean-Yves [M.]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LESKAJ, Valentina [Ms]
LEŚNIAK, Józef [M.] (ARENT, Iwona [Ms])
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LUCHERINI, Carlo [Mr] (CHITI, Vannino [Mr])
LUNDGREN, Kerstin [Ms] (GHASEMI, Tina [Ms])
MADEJ, Róbert [Mr]
MAHOUX, Philippe [M.]
MAROSZ, Ján [Mr]
MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]
MARTINS, Alberto [M.]
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness] (EVANS, Nigel [Mr])
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MEALE, Alan [Sir]
MENDES, Ana Catarina [Mme]
MIGNON, Jean-Claude [M.]
MILEWSKI, Daniel [Mr]
MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]
MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
NAGHDALYAN, Hermine [Ms]
NENUTIL, Miroslav [Mr]
NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]
NOVIKOV, Andrei [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OBRADOVIĆ, Žarko [Mr]
OEHRI, Judith [Ms]
OMTZIGT, Pieter [Mr] (SCHNABEL, Paul [Mr])
OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ria [Ms]
O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
ORELLANA, Luis Alberto [Mr] (CORSINI, Paolo [Mr])
PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms] (NEGUTA, Andrei [M.])
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]
PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms]
PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms]
PECKOVÁ, Gabriela [Ms] (KOSTŘICA, Rom [Mr])
POLIAČIK, Martin [Mr]
POPA, Ion [Mr] (ZZ...)
POSTOICO, Maria [Mme] (VORONIN, Vladimir [M.])
POZZO DI BORGO, Yves [M.] (LONCLE, François [M.])
PREDA, Cezar Florin [M.]
REISS, Frédéric [M.] (ROCHEBLOINE, François [M.])
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
ROCA, Jordi [Mr] (BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr])
ROSENKRANZ, Barbara [Ms] (AMON, Werner [Mr])
ROSETA, Helena [Mme]
ROUQUET, René [M.]
SAMMUT, Joseph [Mr] (SCHEMBRI, Deborah [Ms])
SANTANGELO, Vincenzo [Mr]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHIEDER, Andreas [Mr] (KORUN, Alev [Ms])
SCHNEIDER, André [M.] (JACQUAT, Denis [M.])
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
ŠEPIĆ, Senad [Mr]
SEYIDOV, Samad [Mr]
SHARMA, Virendra [Mr]
SILVA, Adão [M.]
ŠIRCELJ, Andrej [Mr]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
SOTNYK, Olena [Ms]
SPADONI, Maria Edera [Ms] (DI STEFANO, Manlio [Mr])
STOILOV, Yanaki [Mr]
STROE, Ionuț-Marian [Mr]
SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (DUMERY, Daphné [Ms])
TARCZYŃSKI, Dominik [Mr]
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
TZAVARAS, Konstantinos [M.]
VÁHALOVÁ, Dana [Ms]
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]
VEJKEY, Imre [Mr]
VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.]
VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.]
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
VOVK, Viktor [Mr]
WOJTYŁA, Andrzej [Mr]
WURM, Gisela [Ms]
XUCLÀ, Jordi [Mr] (RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms])
YEMETS, Leonid [Mr]
ZELIENKOVÁ, Kristýna [Ms]
ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr]
ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme]
ZOTEA, Alina [Ms] (GHIMPU, Mihai [Mr])
Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés à voter
EFSTATHIOU, Constantinos [M.]
GENTVILAS, Simonas [Mr]
GOGUADZE, Nino [Ms]
JACQUAT, Denis [M.]
MAGAZINOVIĆ, Saša [Mr]
MASIULIS, Kęstutis [Mr]
OVERBEEK, Henk [Mr]
RUSTAMYAN, Armen [M.]
SANDBÆK, Ulla [Ms]
TAMAŠUNIENĖ, Rita [Ms]
TSKITISHVILI, Dimitri [Mr]
ZAVOLI, Roger [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
ABUSHAHLA, Mohammedfaisal [Mr]
ALQAWASMI, Sahar [Ms]
SABELLA, Bernard [Mr]
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of
the Parliamentary Assembly)/ Représentants de la communauté chypriote turque
(Conformément à la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)