AS (2018) CR 11
2018 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 23 April 2018 at 3 p.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
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 Nicoletti, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.10 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee – resumed debate
The PRESIDENT – The first item on the agenda is the continuation of the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee (Document 14529 and Addenda 1 and 2, and Document 14533).
I remind members that speaking time in this debate will be limited to three minutes.
The debate must conclude at 4 p.m., so I propose to interrupt the list of speakers at about 3.45 p.m.
I call next Mr Rafael Huseynov.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Traditionally, we have entitled the Council of Europe “the school of democracy” and “the family”. The school and the family signify constant values and principles that work without disruption. However, when reviewing the progress report in the light of the signs of crisis that have recently been observed in the Parliamentary Assembly, we need to think about our principles and damaged values.
At the time of almost every part-session, elections are held in a member State and we observe those processes and prepare reports. Our Organisation has often been sent to observe elections, but unfortunately, in contrast to previous periods, the experience in recent years has been unsatisfactory. The right to draft a final document on the assessment of elections has been granted to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Why do we entrust our independence and credibility to a different organisation? That practice should end and the Parliamentary Assembly observation mission should henceforth sign and present its reports independently, as it did in the past.
Presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan and I was officially one of the election observers for the whole country. It was one of the most transparent, democratic and best organised elections in Azerbaijan in recent years. I have also observed elections in several other member States with the Parliamentary Assembly observation missions, and the comparison made clear the extent to which Azerbaijan has progressed. Observers from many different countries made positive pre- and post-election statements to the press, as well as in their official reports. It is therefore strange that the preliminary conclusion of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights reflected word for word the slanderous writings that radical opposition parties circulated before the election. What is this – working in co-ordination or being governed from the same centre? I underline that a successful presidential election was held in Azerbaijan on 11 April, and all eight candidates participated under the necessary democratic and equal conditions.
The report on corruption in the Council of Europe is alarming. However, the most alarming aspect is that the report is not objective, but partial. Its main purpose is not to solve the problem, but to hit a group of members and countries. If similar investigations were carried out in many other countries, a more voluminous report than the one we are debating could be prepared. On the other hand, the legal aspects of the problem should be taken seriously. Every word of the report should be based on fully proven data and documents.
Mr NÉMETH (Hungary) – First, we have had a few important elections recently, one of which was the Hungarian election. As members will know, Fidesz and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán achieved a two-thirds majority, primarily because of the economic and political stability in our country and, obviously, the protection of the values that underline European integration and our Judeo-Christian civilisation. I reiterate our readiness for continued and close co-operation with the Council of Europe.
Secondly, I wish to touch on the report on corruption which, as one of the initiative’s signatories, I welcome. However, we have to see that we have produced a weapon and are now considering how to use it. The open question is what procedure follows the adoption of the text. Our target must be to have a clear procedure that is differentiated, as many people have asked for. We have to start from the assumption of innocence. The procedure should generate appropriate national procedure. Your role in this is vital, Mr President.
Thirdly, I wish to refer briefly to wars – not to the Syrian war that you spoke about, Mr President, but to the war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. We have a war inside Europe. We should reiterate our support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which is a must. At the same time, we have to pay continuous attention to the disturbing signs in respect of human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine, including the education Act and the language Act, which are being debated in Ukraine’s constitutional court and Parliament, and the recent action on double citizenship. The rule of law and respect for human rights, including respect for minority rights, is not a bilateral issue between Ukraine and any of its neighbours; it is of multilateral concern, and the Council of Europe plays a major role in that respect. Ukraine needs peace, internal democratic stability and a friendly international neighbourhood.
Mr MOLLAZADE (Azerbaijan) – After the collapse of the Soviet Union, new independent States became the targets of military attacks, including the territory of Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. Now, Ukraine has joined the club of targets. Our new independent States are being targeted by a new type of war: the information war, the goal of which is to create problems between Western European organisations and countries that would like to be really independent, with their own independent policies.
Azerbaijan now plays an important role in European energy security, and that is used in the struggle against Azerbaijan’s goal to create a new silk road and an energy and transport hub. Many issues are used. Look at the discussions in the Council of Europe. I understand that there is an attempt to create a problem for Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe and many other European organisations. If we are seriously to investigate corruption, perhaps we will have to enlarge the system and see who is behind the scenes. In whose interest is it to make Azerbaijan a target of such pressure? I believe that the Council of Europe and many other European organisations will conduct a serious, deep investigation.
We think that perhaps for the first time after the collapse of the communist system, we have the restoration of a specific network that tries to exert all its force in an information war and that uses political technologies with the goal of creating a problem for the mutual co-operation of the new independent States – first of all, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova – and European and Western structures. For our goal to be part of a civilised community, we were punished with the occupation of our territory, which resulted in 1 million refugees and included the brutal killing of women and children. Now, with this new, sophisticated political technology, we are again the targets of attacks. Please, dear colleagues, look more deeply at the problem through a serious, professional investigation that tries to understand why it is happening in Europe and why independent States are becoming the target of attack.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – The period before the previous report on the work of the Bureau and the Standing Committee was not the best for democracy, our values, the rule of law or our standards. The only way to deal with the questions involved is to have the current affairs debates that would answer them. The decisions by the Bureau yesterday and by the majority of the Council of Europe today also were not the best, because they refused to discuss the full and complicated question of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Syria.
Important though the question of Syria is, we have to analyse the whole situation, including, for example, the so-called election of the President of the Russian Federation in Crimea, occupied by Russians. However, there will be no reaction to that from the Chamber. We cannot analyse the situation without discussing the chemical attack in Salisbury against Skripal and his daughter, yet we keep silent. We are not analysing the situation if we do not consider the Russian troops in Transnistria still occupying a part of the Republic of Moldova, a sovereign State and a member of the Council of Europe, and the fact that 20% of Georgia’s territory is occupied. We cannot analyse the situation in Syria without considering that.
We must react quickly and concretely to all those things, but we hear Mr Jagland congratulate Mr Putin on free elections without one word about elections in occupied Crimea. I do not think that is the position of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We have to make our own declaration, but that is impossible. For the future, we need first to discuss what a current affairs debate is and the main questions that we need to debate.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – It is not easy to speak in the Assembly today because of the attempts to present my country in an unfair way. I am among those who this morning were presented as having violated something in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I had decided not to come, but then I saw things going in a different direction. I ask my colleagues and friends to read paragraph 43 of the investigation body’s report, which mentions that Mr Seyidov has no connection to the corruption case.
In that report – it is available to you and on the Internet site – you can see that I co-operated fully with the investigation body; I was with them for two or three hours. I then saw my name, in emails sent to me, in the list of those who had broken the code of conduct. In my 18 years here, I have always followed the Assembly’s instructions, and I am prepared to await the decision of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, but at the Bureau today it was decided to have an urgent debate before that has happened. That is another vivid example that something is going wrong.
This is not about Samad Seyidov. Nobody can accuse me of corruption in my 18 years here, and even the investigation body said there was no case against me. This is a question about my country; a country that tries to come together with the rest of the civilised world and which has done a lot for it. I am afraid that a hunt is taking place, and so I ask my friends, my colleagues and those who have the responsibility to look into the details, to be objective and to understand that this is not a question of personalities but of a newly independent country that wants to create a normal democratic society. I hope that will be understood.
Mr BEREZA (Ukraine)* – I have been attending the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for three years now, and in that time I have been waiting for a reaction from the Assembly. For the first time, I have felt disappointed. What is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, after all – is it just a consultative body, or do we want to influence processes and take decisions? In the past three years, we have taken quite a few decisions condemning the action of the Russian Federation in Donbass and Crimea, and in that time there have been three reports, with decisions taken that the Russian Federation must implement. There has also been an investigation into the MH17 crash, but what have we seen? No reaction from the Russian Federation.
Where is the reaction from the Russian Federation that confirms that it takes the Parliamentary Assembly seriously as an institution that upholds democracy and the rule of law in Europe and influences processes rather than just talking about them? I do not see it. Furthermore, we see Russian support for separatists, and the Parliamentary Assembly has no influence on that at all. We see Russian activities sparking war throughout the world, and even the use of Novichok in Salisbury in the United Kingdom, yet the Russian Federation ignores any recommendations, demands or resolutions issued by the Parliamentary Assembly.
Even now, the citizens of Ukraine who are in the Russian Federation are like hostages, because the Russian Federation is ignoring European law by both not allowing them to return to Ukraine and using torture. What does the Parliamentary Assembly do and what do the European Court of Human Rights and other institutions in Europe say? Nothing; they just note the facts. We are not looking at this issue today, even though it is far more than just topical: there is even discussion about allowing the Russian Federation – a country that is ignoring all our resolutions, demands and reports – to return to the Parliamentary Assembly. It is trying to return at all costs. Why? Again, to confirm that the opinion of European society counts for nothing at all in the Russian Federation. Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Assembly has absolutely zero influence and cannot achieve any results in the Russian Federation, but why does that country want its members to return here if it ignores everything adopted by this House?
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – Thank you, Mr President, for all the work you have done to restore a certain atmosphere of serenity to this Assembly, despite all our differences. Unfortunately, you cannot continue in office, but I want to thank you most sincerely for all you have achieved. I also congratulate Liliane Maury Pasquier on being designated to succeed you as President. I am convinced that the position she will assume is going to be a very challenging one for the future of the Council of Europe and of our Assembly.
This is going to be my last ever speech to the Assembly. After 42 years in active political life, I have decided not to stand for further parliamentary elections back home, and I have resigned from the Luxembourg Parliament. Let me take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues in the Assembly and the members of my political group. I also extend my thanks to the Assembly staff. I very much thank the Secretary General and his team for their professionalism and commitment, and for all their kindness. I hope everyone has people as competent as them in their national parliaments.
When I leave the Assembly on 31 May, I will do so very much in two minds. I am full of sadness because, after years of hope, the rule of law is coming under increasing stresses, with the most elementary rights, the right to freedom of expression and the rights of journalists all being flouted. However, the European Convention on Human Rights brings us together, and we need to abide by it not just in the Chamber but back home to ensure that all our citizens – the 820 million inhabitants of our member States – can enjoy the protection that the convention affords them. Alas, we are now seeing our principles and fundamental values under attack in our countries. However, I feel optimistic in leaving with a great many friendships, and I thank all my friends most sincerely.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Brasseur. I thank you for your kind words, but much more so for your commitment as a member and as President of this Assembly. When you were President, I had the opportunity to visit centres for migrants and refugees in Turkey, Greece and southern Italy, and was able to appreciate your commitment and your true passion for our mission to defend human rights, especially for the most vulnerable people. Thank you for all you have done for our Organisation and for us personally.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Yesterday was marked by deep gravity: the findings of the Independent External Investigation Body to look into Allegations of Corruption are shattering. The report reveals extensive and systematic breaches of our code of conduct, and even a strong suspicion of corruption. In an Organisation working for human rights, democracy and the rule of law – values that today are under pressure in Europe – we cannot afford such undermining practices. More than ever, we need a strong Council of Europe that has integrity and credibility, and this is now at stake.
I therefore welcome the actions that the Bureau has decided to take. We should show zero tolerance of behaviour in violation of the Assembly’s code of conduct, and the members who have acted in such a way should suspend all their activities in the Assembly with immediate effect. Clearly, there is also a need for systematic changes, as recommended in the report. The report of the Independent Investigation Body does not mark the end of this process, but the beginning. In the time to come, I expect the Bureau, together with the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, to commit itself to follow up the conclusions and recommendations in the report.
We need an overarching action plan for the way forward, in which the objectives should be no less than complete transparency, accountability and integrity, with zero tolerance for corruption and breaches of the code of conduct. As you said earlier, Mr President, national parliaments should also be involved. They should be invited to examine their procedures for appointing members to the Assembly to make sure that all members hold high ethical standards. In addition, the party political groups, both nationally and in the Council of Europe, must take the necessary action to ensure that they have proper standards and procedures when it comes to nomination, exclusion and ethics.
Lastly, if we are to combat the illness of corruption, we must not be naive, as we have been for a long time. We must all commit ourselves to fight continually against corruption and unethical behaviour. We have to develop a culture of consciousness and transparency.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – Like many colleagues in the Assembly today, I am happy that we can now openly discuss the many issues of corruption, particularly political corruption, that some of us knew were happening but which we did not have a proper opportunity to elaborate on. I thank you, Mr President, because I know that a lot of this is due to your input, including in your national parliament. I remember that when we both attended an anti-corruption seminar in Rome in Italy, organised by the Council of Europe and the Group of States against Corruption, this particular issue was discussed and such an initiative was proposed.
One of the main shortcomings of the report is that many people are asking what will come next and whether the people who have been accused are going to be punished or sanctioned. We are all of course covered by our national immunity, and we sometimes complain about the deficiencies of some national anti-corruption bodies in neglecting their own areas. Now may be the time for some form of cross-border action, perhaps based on a new international convention under which we could mandate GRECO or another body to have access to information and to interrogate people and witnesses who might otherwise refuse to provide such information.
That is another problem I have with the report, and it raises the question of the report’s credibility to some extent. A number of colleagues refused to provide information based on a written or oral request from the Independent Investigation Body. We have ended up in a situation where the report is targeting, or is focused on, some countries and people just because they co-operated and provided information, which is why there was material to put in the report, while there are other people who did not provide anything. Does that mean they are innocent? I have a big problem with that. During my service in this Assembly in the past three years, many of the people on that list have been defending a very clear, pro-Russian position. They have delayed the adoption of very important resolutions on Russian aggression, were always interfering with lots of amendments and were trying to divert us from our key course based on international law and our true values.
Those are the questions we will now have to review in the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. I hope that the Sub-Committee on Ethics, which we do have, will finally start to operate. I look forward to participating actively in this work.
The PRESIDENT – Thanks, next is Mr Šešelj from Serbia. He is not here, so the next speaker is Mr Goncharenko from Ukraine.
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – I had a plan for this speech, but I want to change it because I was deeply touched by Ms Anne Brasseur’s words. We should all say a very big thank you to her. After 20 years of working here in the Parliamentary Assembly, she is a real example of how we can serve our people and the European values that we defend here. That is the main reason we get together here four times a year: to defend those values. That is the main thing. The reason is not to spend the budget or to say hello to one another, but to defend the values.
I have a personal reason to thank Ms Brasseur. Three years ago, as a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly’s Ukrainian delegation, I went to Moscow to say goodbye to Mr Boris Nemtsov. He was killed 100 m from the Kremlin. I knew him personally; I could not have not gone to say goodbye to him. When I entered Moscow I was beaten by the Moscow police and put into prison. My lawyers and doctors were not allowed to visit me. It was only after the intervention of people, such as Ms Brasseur, who was the President of the Assembly at that time and did a lot to help, the Foreign Minister of Great Britain and others, that the Russian authorities decided to let me go. That was after some time spent in a Moscow prison. That is why I want to say thank you to Ms Brasseur one more time.
I ask us all not to forget about the values, which are the main thing we defend here. During recent times, there have been huge challenges to those values: the chemical attack in Salisbury; Syria; and elections in Crimea, annexed by the Russian Federation. Our colleague in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Dzhemiliev, who was head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, spent 15 years in Soviet prisons for his political views. He is not here now, but he asked me to say to you that that was happening in Crimea during Putin’s so-called elections. It was awful. It was a huge violation of every right. People were forced to go to polling stations because they would be fired – Muslims, Baptists, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, everybody. After that do we want to say, “Okay. the Russian Federation come back and be between us”? What is our Organisation here for if we allow such things? Please, do not forget about the values.
(The speaker continued in French.)
Ms Brasseur, thank you so much for your work.
Mr HASANOV (Azerbaijan) – I would like to talk about the recent presidential election in Azerbaijan, and its assessment.
The early presidential election in Azerbaijan took place within a full political environment, and under laws that ensure fundamental rights and freedoms. The 11 April presidential election reflected the will of the Azerbaijani people. The presidential election was fair and transparent. The results of the pre-election polls conducted by international and local organisations, as well as the results of the exit polls held by international and local organisations, overlap with the official results of the election. That once again shows that the election reflects our voters’ will.
The eight candidates who took part in the election had free TV access and regular meetings with constituents. As required by law, the public broadcaster allocated free airtime to all candidates, so the campaign generated full public engagement. As international observers acknowledged, the election administration in the pre-election period and during the election appeared highly organised and well-resourced at all levels. The Central Election Commission held regular public sessions at which members were fully engaged in debates. The CEC reported registering a total of 58 175 domestic observers, including 4 041 accredited by non-governmental organisations. Azerbaijan’s election code is detailed and well-structured, and has played an important role in recent elections. The elections were freely monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other international observers.
Taking all those points into account, it is impossible to understand a preliminary statement made by international observers about the poll. Their assessment is completely biased. We found them to be unbalanced and unfair. At the same time, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and other officials recently congratulated the President of Azerbaijan on his victory. Those congratulations show that the international observers’ preliminary statement was biased and unfair.
We should now continue to develop our co-operation, explore new opportunities in the best interests of our common values and principles, and advance our shared objective of stability and prosperity in the region. Thank you for your attention.
Mr RIGONI (Italy)* – As we have been reminded, many elections have happened recently in the countries of our Organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As you know, we have also had a general election in Italy. In that respect, I would like to submit some thoughts on the latest elections in one of the countries of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Montenegro. I was co-rapporteur for the Monitoring Committee and was present during the presidential elections there.
I believe that, when compared to the major problems and big countries that have been mentioned today – the Russian Federation, the war with Ukraine, problems in Azerbaijan and Armenia – even small countries, such as Montenegro, have to have a voice within our Assembly. I say that because Montenegro is part of a very delicate, sensitive area, the Western Balkans, which we almost consider to be a small enclave within the European Union. It is surrounded by all the European Union countries, and it is a little enclave but it needs stability. In that area, Montenegro – a small country bordering Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Croatia – is playing a stabilising role.
Of course, as always, there is more progress to be made, but we need to listen to the needs of this little country of only 600 000 inhabitants, half of whom live in the capital. It has had many difficulties in emerging from the old Soviet regime, but it is making strides. We should look at that progress, and the European Union should listen to the voice of Montenegro so that the enlargement process does not just grind to a halt. These countries need prospects ahead of them.
Recently, the Commission approved the annual enlargement package. As well as rigorous conditions, there has to be a time frame because in countries such as Montenegro the European Union is seen as a finishing line. If there is no date, no process and no confirmation of a political will to enlarge the Union, the danger is that the whole process of democratisation and the fight against corruption, bureaucracy and the economic potentates and criminals in such countries will be jeopardised. We need to raise our voices in support of these countries.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Dear colleagues, presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan on 11 April. The voting process took place in free conditions for elected subjects and voters, and in accordance with the requirements of the law. Both the election campaign and the entire election process were fair and fully transparent, in line with democratic norms. Statistics about the election were officially recorded by the central election commission of Azerbaijan; everyone can read and become acquainted with them. Among the international observers were the mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, but its report invoked surprise and regret. It turns out that the mission could not avoid having double standards and slandering the presidential election, as was highly appreciated by all, including international observers.
The claim that the election took place in a limited political environment is totally groundless. All the necessary conditions had been created for candidates to conduct free election campaigns registered in the free election process; the report is based more on subjective claims than on any methodological or technical approach to election observation. The observation mission demonstrated disrespect for millions of Azerbaijani voters, who freely exercised their right to vote. According to the laws of Azerbaijan, the elections held in the country are organised primarily for the citizens of Azerbaijan, who once again expressed their political will in a presidential election held in a free, democratic and transparent atmosphere.
I fully agree with colleagues who spoke about the report on corruption at the Council of Europe. The report is not objective, having been prepared partially. I strongly believe that every word in such a sensitive political report should be based on proven data and documentation. The report is based on subjective claims and there are no legal aspects to it.
Mr HEER (Switzerland)* – Mr President and dear colleagues, Anne Brasseur was my first group president when I arrived here in 2012. I thank her so much for everything she has done.
I want to comment on the report of the Independent Investigation body, which the Swiss had pushed for but came a bit late in the day. The report is not about pointing the finger at any particular country such as Azerbaijan; we should use it to achieve improvements in our Parliamentary Assembly. I also emphasise that those who take money to do bad things undermine everybody else. There is a fundamental crisis at the Council of Europe: the only coverage we get now is about corruption. We have no influence on human rights, democracy or freedom of speech any more. We need to concentrate on the 800 million Europeans whom we speak for. We should be speaking not just for the Swiss, the Azeris or any other national group; we should fight for the rights of the 800 million. That important point is sometimes forgotten. If we push only nationalistic policies, no one will hear us.
The report also comes up with improvements that we need to introduce. At the Council of Europe, probably a couple of dozen people have been controlling the chairs of committees and the people who write the monitoring reports. We need to spread the work load more, which might possibly make the reports more balanced and less likely to go wrong. We would be less likely to have to exert influence on this or that person if the power were not concentrated among so few people. We should promote that good democratic principle as a Parliamentary Assembly. I am confident that the report will improve things without our having to point the finger at certain people.
The PRESIDENT – As Mr Kiliç is not here, the list of speakers is finished. Ms Maury Pasquier, do you wish to reply? You have five minutes and 40 seconds remaining.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland)* – I thank all colleagues who have participated in this substantial debate, which we will be following up. I start by responding to those who discussed the elections observed in Montenegro and Azerbaijan. Those two election observation missions are not included in the progress report that I have presented for the simple reason that they happened too close to the opening of this session. The conclusions of those observation missions will be discussed on 1 June at the next Standing Committee meeting in Zagreb.
As has been said, the findings of the Parliamentary Assembly’s observation mission of the Azerbaijan elections – and of the missions of the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, for that matter – do not reflect what has been stated in this Chamber, because that is not the subject of discussion today.
When discussing the main item, which is the report of the independent body, various speakers have talked about this being a sad day. They have said that there is a crisis and that the situation was going on for too long before we reacted. A useful comparison is often drawn between corruption and cancer: the two phenomena develop in similar ways. They begin insidiously. Symptoms appear discreetly while the diagnosis is not settled, and it is difficult to identify the cause of the disease. The symptoms might become more acute and obvious, which makes it easier to diagnose the illness. Before that happens, however, it is difficult to identify the sickness and cure it. The report of the independent investigative body is an important contribution to that diagnosis, therefore, but it is not the only one and perhaps some additional tests will be required to confirm a comprehensive diagnosis and above all find the best treatment for this cancer, or sickness, of democracy, which is also affecting this Assembly. We need to move ahead with a robust and committed approach, and that was the premise of the work done by the independent investigative body. It needs to be looked at in a positive light, so this crisis should be seen as an opportunity as well.
I wish to pick out one comment in particular that emerged from our debate: this report does not incriminate Azerbaijan; it has simply identified certain concerted attempts, if I may put it that way, to influence the various activities of the Assembly, which might have led to infringements of the Assembly’s code of conduct, and might have gone as far as actual attempts to corrupt. We clearly cannot simply disregard this; it is not just pointing a finger at a country, but is rather singling out actions that are not acceptable to the Assembly.
The people listed in the report might be involved in cases of misconduct or violation of the code of conduct. All who have been accused are of course entitled to plead their case before the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs; I am sure it will do its utmost to clarify individual circumstances, and, where necessary, sanctions might have to be meted out. There are various recommendations from the investigative body concerning the election of rapporteurs and election observation missions, and it will be up to the committee to evaluate them and make its own recommendations in a future report as to how they might be put into effect.
As for certain national cases, the expert group has taken up a whole page in the annexe to pinpoint the responsibilities of national authorities, and we also need to push our inquiry further on that to identify as best as possible the members of this Assembly who might be concerned by this.
To conclude, I point out that the urgent debate scheduled for Thursday will not be the final word on this matter; as I have said, there are various components and chapters to our work on this matter. Finally, I extend my thanks to Anne Brasseur; she is, and always will be, an exemplary model for the members of this Assembly and for the Council.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you.
The debate is closed.
I invite the Assembly to approve the decisions of the Bureau, as set out in the Progress report (Document 14529 and Addendum 1).
The Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is approved.
(Mr Nick, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Nicoletti.)
2. Free Debate
Mr PRESIDENT – We now come to the free debate.
I remind members that this debate is for topics not already on the agenda agreed this morning. Speaking time is limited to three minutes.
The free debate will finish at 5 p.m.
Ms SMITH (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.) – I wish to make a few comments about the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
No one over the age of 30 needs reminding of the tragic history of the troubles. Spanning three decades, it scarred the streets of Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and Great Britain. No one, of my age certainly, can ever forget the relentless cycle of violence that dominated our lives from the late ’60s through to the late ’90s.
During the troubled years leading up to the agreement over 3 700 lives were lost, and violence became an everyday reality for many people. Its signing marked a huge step in bringing to an end that horror, and marks the triumph of politics over violence. It is a crucially important document, which has as its overarching principle the principle of power sharing that has enabled progress in so many ways since 1998. It led to a devolution of power, for example, with a power-sharing executive and a 108-seat assembly, although, sadly, this arrangement is currently suspended of course, but work goes on to resurrect it.
The agreement also enabled the border between the Province and the Republic to become virtually invisible, and long may it do so. It allowed, too, for the reform of policing in the Province and the establishment of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, an initiative that provided a framework for reform and progress towards peace, consistent, of course, with the values of the Council of Europe.
I shall conclude with some remarks about the future of the agreement. It must be supported and sustained. If it is not, that risks the peace that the agreement has made possible. There is a role for the whole of the European family in securing the strengthening of this peace. I know that the Council of Europe will continue to support the peace process, and conclude by asking all Assembly members to take a look at the exhibition we are staging this week to commemorate the 20th anniversary, and to attend our launch on Wednesday lunchtime. The exhibition contains statements from four of the senior politicians principally involved in the negotiation: Senator George Mitchell, Sir John Major, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.
This anniversary is, however, just a staging post in the progress we all need to make towards long-term peace in Northern Ireland; it is a peace that we can never be complacent about or take for granted.
Lord BLENCATHRA (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group.) – I wish to discuss the threat to democracy in Europe.
Democracy has been threatened in Europe in ways unimaginable since the fall of the Soviet Union. In Italy in 2011, the elected Prime Minister was forced out at the insistence of the European Union, and Mario Monti was appointed. He then formed a government without a single elected politician in it; this was obeying the diktat of the European Union Commission. Now we see the legitimate, democratically elected governments of Hungary and Poland threatened with European Union action, not because they have broken any international law, but because they are obeying the wishes of their electorates. The European Union says they are not following European values, but cannot tell us what these so-called values are. It is European Union Commission dictatorship-speak, which means it does not like the governments people have voted for and will find them guilty of the offence of breaking European values, which only the Commission will define.
Perhaps I can help identify some of these European values that the Commission is so proud of. One would be financial integrity, but of course the European Union is so corrupt that its accounts have not been signed off in 20 years. Or perhaps it is the integrity that bent all the rules to admit Greece to the euro and then inflicted the most ruthless financial regime on that poor country, which now has record numbers in absolute poverty; and this is the same European Union that will do nothing to help Greece with the migration problems on most of its beautiful islands. I love Greece and weep at the brutal treatment of it by the European Union, driving millions into absolute poverty.
Or perhaps it is the value of our 500 years of Judeo-Christian heritage, which has given us the Renaissance and all our European liberal values. Why should Hungary be punished for seeking to protect those values, just because the European Union has failed to protect its borders from mass migration which would undermine those values? I suggest that the values of Prime Minister Orbán are the ones which have made Europe great. He articulated them in a speech to the Visegrád Four recently. Those values are sovereignty, independence, freedom, God, homeland, family, work, honour, security and common sense. Mr Guy Verhofstadt, however, has criticised the United Kingdom for not supporting the value of European solidarity by backing a European Union army. That is priceless coming from a man whose country contributes a mere 0.9% to NATO. The United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia and Greece pay the full 2%. Luxembourg pays only a derisory 0.4%, so I do not think we should take lectures from free riders on defending European values.
The legitimate Government of Poland does not deserve criticism from an unelected and undemocratic European Union Commission. Poland, like the United Kingdom, is defending the most vital human rights of all in Europe: the right to live in peace, free from foreign invasion. Those in the European Union who talk the loudest about European values should put their money where their mouth is and stop hypocritical free riding on the backs of the few countries that pay their proper share to defend Europe and its real values.
Mr van de VEN (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) – This week, our attention is focused primarily on the corruption allegations and the work of the investigation committee, which ALDE welcomes. However, we should not forget that our primary task, our raison d’ętre, is to make sure that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are upheld in our member States. That is why, on behalf of ALDE, I would like to draw to the attention of the Chamber the situation in Armenia.
Armenia has been in political turmoil since the appointment of former president Serzh Sargsyan as prime minister, as part of Armenia’s transition to a system of government that reduces the powers of the presidency and bolsters that of the prime minister. This was the latest stage in an ongoing process of constitutional reform. The constitutional amendments in Armenia are said to transform the country’s political system from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. Yesterday, however, three parliamentarians were arrested shortly after the prime minister walked out on talks with the opposition on the 10th day of mass protests against his rule. They were released earlier today. During the past week of protests, a number of human rights violations have been reported, including: random arrests of demonstrators, mass detentions, and police violence against journalists and protesters. We call on the Armenian authorities to refrain from violence and to de-escalate the situation.
ALDE’s position is that any constitutional reform should focus on the reinforcement of the rule of law, strengthening of democracy and the rights of the citizens. I cannot help but notice a tendency in several countries to use constitutional reform to keep power, rather than going for more democracy. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law should be our beacon.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – I would like to draw the attention of Members to the snap general election called by the ruling AKP-MHP coalition for 24 June, following repeated oaths and promises by the president that the elections would be held as scheduled by law, which were accompanied by gross charges against politicians and analysts who pointed out the possibility of early elections. The snap election called by coalition leaders was justified by immediate and urgent security concerns, but a legal framework for them has yet to be legislated on.
Turkey’s democratic public opinion has already dubbed these elections an ambush against the CHP opposition. Given the fait accompli, Turkey’s democratic and social opposition forces have decided to reverse the ambush and transform the elections into an arena to fight for democratic change. Whatever the results, the 24 June elections will have a tremendous impact on Turkey’s future. Turkey’s electorate, following the controversial constitutional amendments on 16 April 2017, are being called to go to polls to decide whether the country will be ruled by a disproportionately empowered presidential system, which will bring the functioning of the divisional powers to an end and hand Turkey over to one-man rule, or whether the country will reclaim parliamentary rule and refute the illiberal and anti-democratic ambitions that are turning Turkey away from the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
The Assembly cannot – we hope it will not – remain indifferent to a possible rift that may follow the 24 June elections, depending on the results. With its historic progress from a religious empire to a secular republic in the last century; with its geographical position, a country channelling Asia and Eurasia to Europe, the Middle East to the Caucasus and the Balkans; the Black Sea to the Mediterranean; with its 80 million multi-ethnic population comprising 28 different languages, many forms of beliefs and religions; and with its age-old problems as well as enormous potential for change, a major shift in Turkey’s political system and social and political preferences would exercise an enormous impact on the function and realignment of political forces across Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
I would like to raise the call, on behalf of the UEL, for the Assembly to follow the 24 June snap elections with a well-formed observation mission and with its utmost attention. I inform the Assembly that all the flaws, unevenness and inequalities mentioned in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe observation mission report on 16 April 2017 referendum have been forged into election laws while the government has, for the seventh time, prolonged the emergency period to cover the election period. The Assembly should immediately and very attentively follow what is happening and what will happen in Turkey before it is too late. Thank you for your attention.
Mr AMORUSO (Italy, Spokesperson for the Free Democrats Group)* – I would like to thank the group for giving me the opportunity to share with you today a few ideas regarding the specific characteristics of our international Parliamentary Assembly. We represent a unique forum that brings together parliamentarians. It also helps us to provide guarantees on achieving results when traditional diplomacy finds it difficult to secure progress. I will refer in particular to issues facing the Mediterranean region.
I am lucky enough to be the honorary president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. Our current problems – the Israeli-Arab conflict, international terrorism and migration – are enormous phenomena which require broad-based solutions supported by all affected countries. Building on the results we have achieved within that dialogue forum, issues that were initially national and addressed by national parliamentarians – tourism, culture, economic and social issues – are now being dealt with internationally. This is why it is so important for us to continue to ensure that our Assembly remains open and inclusive, bringing together all parliamentarians and all parliaments, including those countries in which there are problems with governance. This House is an enormous sounding chamber that enables us to draw on the diversity of parliamentarians.
Parliamentary democracy is essential, in particular following conflict. Libya, for example, requires parliamentary support as it goes through a process of democratic consolidation, setting up solid and sustainable democratic institutions. The same comments would apply to Syria. Given the growing role of parliamentary democracy on the international stage, we have to do our best to maximise co-operation between the various different regional assemblies, in particular between those which focus on specific issues and interests. I am convinced that the challenges we all face require a holistic approach that will enable all stakeholders to make their own specific contribution.
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Mr President, I thank you for organising this free debate. However, this debate is a little uncomfortable for me because although I talk, no one replies. That happens a bit too often in this Organisation: we make comments – some of which are entirely valid; for example, about Greece or the problems in Armenia – but no one has to answer. Oh yes, and we always have a nice dinner afterwards. That is exactly the problem that we should discuss: what we do after the report has been written.
This report on corruption is a very serious one. It hits at the heart of what we should be doing. It was kind of the President to reply to my question during this morning’s debate. However, my question was not about whether the report should be sent to the parliaments. It undoubtedly should be sent to the parliaments, and I encourage all of them to study it to determine whether procedures should be strengthened or action taken against individuals. My question was about whether the report should be sent directly to the public prosecutors.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Omtzigt, perhaps I may remind you that speakers in a free debate may not raise a subject that appears on the agenda of the part-session. I am not sure where you are heading, but perhaps you can take account of that regulation.
Mr OMTZIGT – I will finish this sentence and then move on to another matter.
I believe it is important that we clean up the situation and ensure that public prosecutors get all these files. I hope that we decide to do so on Thursday.
As I said, I would like to get some answers. However, I noticed that in the previous debate on the progress report, my two colleagues from Azerbaijan strongly criticised the election observation mission but did not say a word about the text of the report. I therefore ask Ms Gafarova, who will speak shortly, whether she will not only read her text but be willing to reflect on both the report and the very critical comments of the election observation mission to Azerbaijan. Mr Mammadov, a candidate in the election, is still in prison. The European Court of Human Rights has asked that he be released but I have never heard any comments about that from my Azeri colleagues. Perhaps Mr Rustamyan could also reflect on the comments of my colleague Mr van de Ven. If they were to do so, then we might be able to have a debate and get some progress on human rights.
Lastly, I thank Ms Brasseur for everything that she has done for this Assembly.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Omtzigt. I now continue with the general speakers’ list. I call Mr Reiss.
Mr REISS (France)* – Thank you, Mr President. Colleagues, 10 years ago we saw the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The convention focuses on human rights and the protection of victims, and defines trafficking as the violation of human rights and also as a violation of the dignity and integrity of human rights. Among all the heinous aspects of this trafficking, sexual exploitation is one that we should pay particular attention to, because it is happening on our continent and it violates several core principles of our States governed by the rule of law: the fact that the body is not property, and the fact that there should be equality between men and women.
Some European countries, including France, have decided to adopt abolitionist law, in order to stop this commodification of the body, as well as to fight against violence in trafficking and to better help victims of trafficking. Trafficking in human beings affects the most vulnerable populations, who are already the victims of discrimination. In my country, migrant women are very often the victims. I recently heard the testimony of a young Nigerian woman who had been “recruited”, so to speak, and made a victim of the worst forms of sexual violence, particularly as she was travelling through Libya. However, this trafficking is also occurring here, in our common house. We have young women from eastern Europe who are trapped – tricked – by pimps who promise them a better life. All these women are in debt; they are exploited; they live in fear.
The fuel for this whole form of trafficking is profit. That is why we need abolitionist laws. That is the only way of pulling the rug from under the feet of the traffickers. We, as European countries, should not consider prostitution as a normal, lawful activity. In reality, it is sexual slavery. It is against all our values and against human dignity. As member States of the Council of Europe, we should be taking initiatives to provide more effective protection for these women and guarantee their access to rights. We also need to ensure that we have exit strategies to bring them out of prostitution. I know that it is complex but it is fundamental. I pay tribute to associations and non-governmental organisations that are helping former prostitutes, making their transition into society easier.
There is also the issue of procurement on the Internet and how we should punish and organise a crackdown on that. It is a truly important phenomenon, representing 60% of prostitution today. We also have to remember that trafficking is a criminal market used for money-laundering purposes. Sweden’s action on the issue has been particularly laudable. On 22 May, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of our convention here in Strasbourg. I hope that, as parliamentarians, we will be able to say to these women: never again.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Reiss. The next speaker, Mr Rustamyan, has withdrawn from the speakers’ list. Mr Stroe is also not in his place. I therefore call Ms Gafarova.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Thank you, Mr President. Dear colleagues, the aim of the Council of Europe and its organisations is to protect and support the development of democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms, and to promote the acceptance and application of international legal standards by the member countries of the Organisation. Upon entering this Organisation, member countries accept the obligations in these spheres and take practical steps to perform those obligations and to adapt their governance system and legislation to accord with European standards.
Unfortunately, one member of the Council of Europe, Armenia, has not fulfilled any of its commitments in the 17 years since it joined the Council of Europe. Instead, it has ignored all calls to do so. Armenia is the only member State that has occupied the territory of another State for 25 years and continues its policy of occupation. Moreover, Armenia has committed mass murder of the civilian population in a genocide of Azerbaijanis, as well as destroying cultural monuments and the environment.
International double standards have undoubtedly contributed to the Armenian State’s illegal activities and the maintenance of its authoritarian government. I have not even touched on various aspects of Armenia’s occupation policy, including violations of human rights and democratic principles. Despite the crimes committed by the military junta, the failure of international bodies to impose sanctions on Armenia has led its field commander, Serzh Sargsyan, and his criminal government to believe that they can act with impunity. The attack on the Armenian Parliament some years ago, the murder of politicians and the Armenian police’s inhuman treatment in recent protests have again shown the criminal nature of Sargsyan’s regime. It is proof of the essentially anti-democratic and despotic nature of the governmental institutions in Armenia.
As colleagues will know, the protests in Armenia have reached a peak after Sargsyan’s appointment to the post of prime minister. Perhaps the unrest will take some by surprise. However, we believe that, at the root of all these events is the systematic, anti-democratic actions of the current regime. Sargsyan’s regime has established unbearable conditions in Armenia. Its economy has totally collapsed. Political rights have been suppressed and the pressures on civil society and the mass media have become intolerable. The current situation in Armenia could be described with words such as starvation, poverty and increasing mass emigration.
We can responsibly say that the occupying State, Armenia, and its terrorist regime, which has participated in genocide, is a black stain on the European community. It is the responsibility of the European community to clean the stain and to react to the events in Armenia.
Lord TOUHIG (United Kingdom) – I look around this Chamber and see so many distinguished and hard-working colleagues. Each of us has been privileged to work, and to contribute to making a better world, but think for a moment, “What if?” What if we had been denied the opportunities that we enjoy? For many of our fellow citizens across our continent – those who are autistic or have learning difficulties – no such opportunities exist.
In Britain, over 80% of autistic people never work; their lives end at the age of 16 with the end of full-time education. One in 100 people in Europe is on the autistic spectrum, and disabled people represent one sixth of the work force in the European Union. The truth is that humankind never stops learning, yet there remain barriers to education if you are disabled or autistic. Without the basic step of education, what hope is there of employment? An unbelievable number of obstacles are put in the way of our fellow citizens with learning difficulties. Across Europe, our economy is wasting the talents of so many people who simply need to be given a chance.
People with learning difficulties want to work, but the types of work that they want vary greatly; like anybody else, they want to work across a huge number of sectors of society. What can we do? This Assembly should press for national government programmes to develop and raise awareness among employers, so that they can identify skills gaps in the economy that could be filled by people with autism or learning difficulties.
One of the key challenges that those with learning difficulties and autism face in getting into work is preparing for work. Work experience, internships and apprenticeship programmes, alongside training, can be particularly beneficial. I recently visited the Camden Society in London, which runs a training café that offers apprenticeships. Through its Unity Kitchen, it has enrolled 78 apprentices since 2011. The café was abuzz with the enthusiasm of staff and customers. The charity is building self-confidence and a pathway to helping fellow citizens with learning difficulties. I also spent time at Sovereign Housing Association in Newbury, which employs people with autism and learning difficulties. Every time it has a vacancy, it asks: “Can this be filled by an apprentice?” Every apprentice is guaranteed a job.
Our fellow citizens across this continent face challenges daily because of their disability. They are truly amazing people. They are able, talented, and could make a contribution to our society, our economy and our way of life. All they ask is to be treated as equals, and to be given the same chances and opportunities that you and I enjoy and take for granted. All they want is a full and happy life. That is not too much to ask, is it?
Mr BECHT (France)* – Next year, the Council of Europe will celebrate its 70th anniversary – perhaps against a backdrop of total indifference, at this time of conflict, collapse and division in Europe, and given the cloud of corruption hanging above the Assembly. However, it could be a chance to relaunch the European project. The European Union has promised to contribute to relaunching the European project in the run-up to the European elections planned for May 2019.
The Council of Europe and the European Union are born of the same idea, spirit and ambition: to end the divisions that led to war and suffering, and to replace that suffering with a path of unity leading to peace and prosperity. The relaunch of the European project, pushed forward by the European Union, will take on far greater meaning if it is paralleled by an effort to relaunch the greater Europe that our institution represents. I call on all members from all States to help us go beyond divisions, and to encourage heads of State and government in the run-up to 2019. This is not simply a project based on the rule of law; it can mobilise and enthuse our peoples, giving us new hope for this new century.
We have less than a year to convince the heads of State and government who will meet here in 2019 that the meeting is not in the context of an institution in crisis, but to help stimulate the emergence of a new project that brings us together – a source of economic, scientific and social progress for all. To do that, we have to find once again the faith shown by the founding fathers, and come up with a project commensurate with the dream that they had 70 years ago, in 1949. We face an enormous challenge, but we can meet it; it is up to each and every one of us to do so. Thank you.
Mr KORODI (Romania) – We need a continuous re-examination and actualisation of the decisions that need to be made to protect human and national minority rights. That is because the member States of the Council of Europe face new challenges and situations every day in trying to create tools for the protection of human and national minority rights in a permanently changing world.
In the last few months, Romania has repeatedly found that the autonomy that local authorities and universities are guaranteed under education legislation is being set against provisions for education in minority languages and the education of minorities in general – provisions guaranteed by the very same law. The outcome has not been favourable to minorities. Although the protection of minority rights is among the basic rights defined by the Romanian constitution, the institutions responsible for checking whether the law is respected say that the autonomy of universities and local authorities is superior to the need to guarantee minority rights. They consider legal all the actions of those institutions – even those that do not respect minority rights.
I will give two examples. Local authorities decided not to allow a Roman Catholic high school in Târgu Mureș – a decision that robbed many students of the opportunity to study in their native language, Hungarian. That was mentioned in a report of the Committee of Ministers in February. Last week, the multicultural University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Târgu Mureș absorbed Petru Maior University, and that changed the proportion of teaching departments using minority, as opposed to majority, languages.
These kinds of situation require the institutions of the Council of Europe to do a deep analysis. Following that analysis, new decisions should be reached about the obligations on member States that have ratified the Council of Europe’s various charters. It needs to be made more than obvious that charters relating to the protection of minorities must be translated into law, and that that law cannot be overridden, either by a narrow-minded usage of them, or because of the autonomy of universities.
Colleagues, I ask you to find a way, here in the Assembly, to start an analysis, and then to make decisions favourable to national minorities. We cannot let there be no consequences when there are abnormalities in member states. Thank you.
Baroness MASSEY (United Kingdom) – I wish to speak about the importance of women in public life and their impact on societies. This is not about excluding men; it is about acknowledging the importance of encouraging and supporting women who wish to enter public life in doing so. Too many find barriers that do not exist for men – in politics, sport, the arts and industry.
I am inspired to take part in this debate by the fact that 100 years ago, women succeeded in winning the vote in the United Kingdom. That was partly due to the energy, commitment and bravery of a group of women called the suffragettes. It has often been said that women were not given the vote; they fought for it – and so they did. I am inspired by the Council of Europe’s commitment to gender equality.
Women who succeed often stand on the shoulders of the women who went before them and are inspired by female role models – perhaps a mother or another relative; a teacher; a successful sportswoman, actor, writer or politician; or a woman who has succeeded in business. Or they have been tapped on the shoulder by another woman and told, “You can do it.” Things have improved, but slowly. We now, certainly in the United Kingdom, have more women doctors, lawyers, politicians, and women in sport and the arts than ever before. We have a woman on the throne and have had two female Prime Ministers, but these are exceptions.
There are many inspiring women around. Last week, I was amazed by the skill and calmness of an American woman pilot, formerly a fighter pilot, who safely landed a plane after a window in the aircraft shattered and a woman was half sucked out. Not only did the pilot land the plane, saving many lives, but she then walked through the aircraft thanking people for their co-operation. Thanking people under such stress was important and remarkable. In today’s America, where some politicians unfortunately denigrate women, this was a headline story. Most stories are less dramatic, but this was also important for the visibility of women who have burst or struggled through the glass ceiling.
It is recognised that having women in top jobs and on the boards of companies increases productivity and profits. Progress has been made, but it is slow. For example, in the United Kingdom, we have had the Equal Pay Act and other rights for women such as maternity leave, pension rights and childcare. However, prejudice dies slowly and we have some way to go to reach true equality. Only 34% of our MPs and 26% of Members of the House of Lords are women, and 60% of FTSE companies have not met the 25% target to have women on their boards. The gender pay gap is still widening.
What can we do to increase the number of women in public life? Laws and policies are important, as well as the culture of organisations. Women sometimes say that they are put off by harassment and prejudice. Today, in this political forum, we can all, men and women, encourage women to succeed in order to encourage more equality and a better society.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Baroness Massey. The next speaker, Ms Kasimati, has withdrawn. I therefore call Mr Sobolev.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – I want to discuss a question that is important not only to Ukraine, Hungary, Romania or Slovenia, but to the whole of Europe: the building of Nord Stream II. I want to consider it as an economic matter because every economy that can count dollars or euros can see the profit in the project. It means spending billions of dollars or euros on building a new pipeline at the bottom of the Baltic Sea; rejecting the cheapest – three or four times cheaper – method of transporting gas, which is through the Ukrainian system, and having only one way to get gas: from the Russian Federation, because Nord Stream II is 55 billion cubic metres bigger than Nord Stream I. What are the economic profits for European countries? The excellent debates in the European Parliament in recent months answer that question. It is not an economic, but a political question involving Gazprom and the Russian Federation. They use the gas question to put pressure on European democracy. Even in the most difficult times, in the winter 2008-09, when the temperature was minus 10⁰ to minus 15⁰, and the Russian Federation decided to stop transporting gas to Ukraine, we fulfilled all our obligations to European countries. That is a good example of the Russian Federation trying to use the gas question to exert geopolitical influence on European countries. There is a violation of principle in an energy package that prohibits all but one company, Gazprom, from providing, selling and transporting gas. Even here, we hear the words of those who supply the project. It will not give Europe energy independence. It will simply make it more dependent on the Russian Federation.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – We often hear in the Council of Europe that the attitudes and values of the Organisation are changing, and we can see the proof of that. On this occasion, it is indifference or perhaps blindness to the situation in one of the member States. I am from Azerbaijan, a neighbouring country to Armenia, and we are not indifferent to the situation there. For about a week, there have been demonstrations demanding the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan as head of the government. Every day, the numbers of protesters, as well as their determination to remove Serzh Sargsyan, is growing. Unfortunately, due to the Armenian authorities’ short-sighted policy, the country found itself not only in regional isolation and difficult socio-economic conditions, but on the verge of civil war. What is the difference between Sargsyan and politicians in other countries, including the Middle East region, where people have risen against them?
Today, many people’s attention is on Yerevan, but there is no information about what is happening in the Armenian provinces. Armenian human rights activists who share information on social media report numerous arrests. Moreover, if those arrested in Yerevan are mainly people who blockade government buildings, in other cities ordinary demonstrators are detained and serious forms of influence are applied to them. Of course, the Armenian authorities do not publicise that, but human rights defenders in Armenia are sounding an alarm. Yerevan is the capital, so everything that happens there is in the spotlight, but what happens in other cities remains out of international organisations’ sight.
It should be noted that this is not the first large-scale protest in Armenia. However, the protests of hundreds of thousands of people are always brutally suppressed. International organisations and developed democracies react superficially and, given the indifference of the rest of the world, the Armenian Government has for decades been reforming powers to please the ruling clan that usurped political power. Even mass rallies to draw international attention to the lawlessness in Armenia receive highly streamlined assessments. It is time to make a clear assessment of the situation in Armenia and the action of the Armenian authorities, which occupy Azerbaijani territories with impunity as well as fighting their own people.
Mr COAKER (United Kingdom) – I want to raise an issue that I have raised several times since I had the privilege of becoming a member of the Assembly a few months ago. This afternoon, we have heard some fantastic contributions from many colleagues about the different challenges that face the Council of Europe. I want us always to consider how we are heard across the whole continent of Europe. Although we all believe that our debates here are very worthy, how many of our citizens have heard about them? How many people in our member States have heard of the Council of Europe and the things that we stand for? They are crucial principles for the 800 million Europeans we represent: human rights, democracy, defending the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Those founding principles are as important now as they ever were, and I want us to consider how we convey that message to people across the continent so that it is heard loud and clear.
On many occasions, young people and children have come to the Council of Europe. At our last part-session, children sang beautifully to us. I apologise because I cannot remember which nation they were from, but it was fantastic and they were tremendous. They moved us all and we thought, “How wonderful they are!” Would it not be phenomenal if we brought young people from throughout the continent to the Council of Europe? I know that there would be logistical difficulties and it would be hard to do, but would it not be phenomenal to hear the young people, the future of this continent, talking about the very issues that we discuss – what young people feel and think, and what they would say about democracy, freedom of expression and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights? Would it not be great to hear them?
Why could those young people not sit in this very Chamber and discuss those things? Would that not make Europe stand up and think, “This is the future of the democracies across our whole continent”? We need to wake up and think about how we involve our young people. How do we speak to the young people at home? Why do we not have youth members of the Council of Europe, who could shadow people like me and others here and be more a part of this Assembly? In my own area, one of the great things for me as a politician is when young people come to see me, and I say, “This is very difficult”, and they turn around to me and say, “Why?” Sometimes, I have trouble answering them and sometimes I do not know, but all I say is that our young people – our children – are the future of Europe and we should do what we can to involve them in the decisions and policy making of the Council of Europe.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Coaker. The next speaker on the list, Mr Badea, is not here, and the following speaker, Mr Marukyan, has withdrawn, so I call Mr Yeneroğlu.
Mr YENEROĞLU (Turkey) – First, I wish to make clear my protest against the appearance of an official from a terrorist organisation, Salih Muslim of the PYD, under the roof of this honourable Assembly. His organisation is responsible for the deaths of countless people in Turkey.
Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is based on historical facts and legal norms. There is no judgment in which a competent court has made such an assessment with regard to the 1915 events. In order to incriminate a person with the crime of genocide, a competent court must ascertain that the crime has been committed exactly as defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Genocide is a very narrow legal concept that is required to be proven. The established jurisprudence in European law and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights affirm our rightfulness. Parliaments should not assume the role of the competent courts and take a stand on historical controversies. In this regard, we strongly condemn the decision of the Dutch House of Representatives to recognise the events of 1915 as genocide. It is not legally binding and has no validity. Even so, we take note of the Dutch Government’s statement that “it will not follow the House in its assessment recognising the 1915 events as genocide”.
The final years of the Ottoman empire were a tragic period for all its people – Turks, Armenians and many others suffered immensely. We oppose the presentation of the tragic events of 1915 as genocide. The reality is more complex. By stating this fact, we are not running away from facing up to history; on the contrary, the truth should come out in its entirety, not based only on the views of one side. This is exactly what we wanted to do with our proposal – a response to which we have not received from the Armenian side since 2005 – to form a joint historical commission with Armenia. The protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and the development of relations with Armenia, which were signed in 2009, were a culmination of Turkey’s sincerity in its wish to normalise its relations with its neighbour. The Armenian side first suspended the protocols’ ratification process, then cancelled the protocols all together.
Propaganda uses history to cover contemporary events. During the Karabakh war, on 26 February 1992, in the town of Khojaly, Armenian forces massacred 613 Azerbaijani residents. In addition, 487 Azerbaijanis were heavily wounded and 150 went missing. We have to take a constructive approach and to focus on the current invasion of Azerbaijan by Armenia.
Mr WHITFIELD (United Kingdom) – This continent and the world are in a time of great turmoil and stress, with countries struggling with conflict both within and without their own borders. As always, it is the human beings who are the victims. The people who suffer are the children, the old, women, men – all of us. However, we also live in a time when the globe is our witness. The globe sees the acts of individuals and the decisions and actions of Governments. Through social media and technological advances, diaspora communities feel the hurt and terror of their communities at home and they demand and cry out for help.
We are living in a time when the weapons of violence have become not only the so-called conventional weapons, but the weapons of food, medicine, abhorrent chemical and nerve agents, identity and citizenship. There is also the use of sexual violence, calculated and ordered, aimed at girls and women and men. I echo the statements that Mr Reiss made earlier about sexual violence, which is used to harm, coerce and strip individuals and communities of their dignity, self-respect and identity. Sexual violence frequently leaves the victim with lifelong physical and psychological injuries. Such actions are frequently wrongly justified by the perpetrator, allegedly on the grounds of religion.
We see the result of this turmoil and stress in the huge increase in refugees, who seek safety from war, hatred, persecution and sexual violence. They are refugees not by their own choice but because of the circumstances forced on them by others. Many of those who seek refuge hope to find it within the borders of countries represented here in the Assembly – countries that have signed up to the principles enshrined in the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights, which convention was built on the horrors of war and conflict.
As Baroness Anelay of St Johns said on 16 July 2015: “Freedom of religion or belief is not just an optional extra, or nice to have; it is the key human right. It allows each citizen to follow their conscience in the way they see fit.” This most profound of rights allows the individual not only to hold to a faith but to subscribe to their own view of a faith, or to a different theological school within a faith. Let us always remember this right, so that at a time when the globe is witness, we here present in this Chamber and the countries that we represent will vow to protect the people of the world from physical violence and sexual violence, and to give everybody the freedom of religion or none. The globe is now witness to our actions.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The last speaker today will be Mr Kandelaki.
Mr KANDELAKI (Georgia) – At one o’clock today, we opened an exhibition outside the Chamber about the centenary of the first Georgian democratic republic, the Democratic Republic of Georgia. In this tumultuous week I urge you to look at the exhibition, because Georgia’s story can help us to put the questions we are debating this week into some kind of perspective.
At that time, Georgia was an internationally recognised functioning democracy and a country where equality was guaranteed. There were women MPs and probably the world’s first democratically elected Muslim women. That was destroyed by the Bolshevik invasion. Of the 130 MPs – all very decent people and democrats, from four different parties – 51 were executed and 42 were sent to Siberia. Therefore when people like me make the case for our country to succeed as a democracy and to have the right to determine our fate, we also honour the memory of good Europeans who perished in that fight, which we carry on today.
It is therefore distressing that for the last few years that I have been a member of the Assembly, I have witnessed a slow but steady erosion of an institution that is supposed to defend those values and ensure that there would never be a reversal of them. The erosion has been clear, and the report we are discussing this week is just one episode – not the only one – in that.
This episode was caused by the policies of the leadership of this institution and by Secretary General Jagland exempting one member State from the rules. Whatever actions the report describes, they happened only after space for such actions was created. Many of the members implicated in the report were first corrupted by the Russian Federation, and the whole thing exploded when some of them took a trip to Syria on a Russian military aeroplane, right before one of the chemical weapons attacks. In reality, the issues are one package and we need to go step by step and sort this thing out. If we do not tackle the enormous Russian influence in the Council of Europe – in its leadership, its bureaucracy and every unit of it – nothing will happen.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who were present during the debate but were not 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. That means 9 p.m. tonight.
The debate is closed.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5 p.m.)
1. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee – resumed debate
Speakers: Mr R. Huseynov, Mr Németh, Mr Mollazade, Mr Sobolev, Mr Seyidov, Mr Bereza, Ms Brasseur, Ms Schou, Mr Kiral, Mr Goncharenko, Mr Hasanov, Mr Rigoni, Ms Gafarova and Mr Heer
Reply: Ms Maury Pasquier
2. Free debate
Speakers: Ms Smith, Lord Blencathra, Mr van de Ven, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Amoruso, Mr Omtzigt, Mr Reiss, Ms Gafarova, Lord Touhig, Mr Becht, Mr Korodi, Baroness Massey, Mr Sobolev, Ms Fataliyeva, Mr Coaker, Mr Yeneroğlu, Mr Whitfield and Mr Kandelaki
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 ŕ l’article 12.2 du Rčglement. Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthčses.
AMON, Werner [Mr]
AMORUSO, Francesco Maria [Mr] (BERNINI, Anna Maria [Ms])
ARENT, Iwona [Ms]
ARNAUT, Damir [Mr]
BADEA, Viorel Riceard [M.] (BRĂILOIU, Tit-Liviu [Mr])
BAYR, Petra [Ms] (HAIDER, Roman [Mr])
BECHT, Olivier [M.]
BENEŠIK, Ondřej [Mr]
BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr]
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BERNHARD, Marc [Mr]
BEYER, Peter [Mr]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr]
BLAZINA, Tamara [Ms] (QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO, Lia [Ms])
BLENCATHRA, David [Lord] (ECCLES, Diana [Lady])
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
BUSHATI, Ervin [Mr]
BUSHKA, Klotilda [Ms]
BUTKEVIČIUS, Algirdas [Mr]
BYRNE, Liam [Mr]
CEPEDA, José [Mr]
CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
COAKER, Vernon [Mr] (BARDELL, Hannah [Ms])
CORLĂŢEAN, Titus [Mr]
CORREIA, Telmo [M.] (MARQUES, Duarte [Mr])
CORSINI, Paolo [Mr]
COURSON, Yolaine de [Mme] (MAIRE, Jacques [M.])
DALLOZ, Marie-Christine [Mme]
DAMYANOVA, Milena [Mme]
DE PIETRO, Cristina [Ms] (CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms])
DE TEMMERMAN, Jennifer [Mme]
DONALDSON, Jeffrey [Sir]
DUMERY, Daphné [Ms]
EBERLE-STRUB, Susanne [Ms]
EIDE, Espen Barth [Mr]
ESTRELA, Edite [Mme]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FATALIYEVA, Sevinj [Ms] (PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms])
FIALA, Doris [Mme]
FILIPOVSKI, Dubravka [Ms] (PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms])
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GALE, Roger [Sir]
GAMBARO, Adele [Ms]
GATTI, Marco [M.]
GAVAN, Paul [Mr]
GENTVILAS, Simonas [Mr] (TAMAŠUNIENĖ, Rita [Ms])
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GILLAN, Cheryl [Dame]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GLASOVAC, Sabina [Ms] (BALIĆ, Marijana [Ms])
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GORGHIU, Alina Ștefania [Ms]
GRAF, Martin [Mr]
GRECH, Etienne [Mr] (CUTAJAR, Rosianne [Ms])
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
HASANOV, Elshad [Mr] (AGHAYEVA, Ulviyye [Ms])
HEBNER, Martin [Mr] (KLEINWAECHTER, Norbert [Mr])
HEER, Alfred [Mr]
HEINRICH, Frank [Mr] (MARSCHALL, Matern von [Mr])
HONKONEN, Petri [Mr] (KALMARI, Anne [Ms])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HOWELL, John [Mr]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
HUOVINEN, Susanna [Ms] (GUZENINA, Maria [Ms])
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
JABLIANOV, Valeri [Mr]
JANSSON, Eva-Lena [Ms] (KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr])
JENIŠTA, Luděk [Mr]
JOHNSSON FORNARVE, Lotta [Ms] (OHLSSON, Carina [Ms])
JONES, Susan Elan [Ms]
KANDELAKI, Giorgi [Mr] (BAKRADZE, David [Mr])
KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]
KERN, Claude [M.] (GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme])
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr])
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.])
KOBZA, Jiři [Mr] (NĚMCOVÁ, Miroslava [Ms])
KOPŘIVA, František [Mr]
KORODI, Attila [Mr]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LACROIX, Christophe [M.]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LEŚNIAK, Józef [M.] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms]
LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.]
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LUCHERINI, Carlo [Mr] (ZAMPA, Sandra [Ms])
LUPU, Marian [Mr]
MADISON, Jaak [Mr] (KROSS, Eerik-Niiles [Mr])
MANNINGER, Jenő [Mr] (GULYÁS, Gergely [Mr])
MARKOVIĆ, Milica [Mme]
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness]
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MOLLAZADE, Asim [Mr] (HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr])
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])
MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])
NÉMETH, Zsolt [Mr]
NENUTIL, Miroslav [Mr]
NICK, Andreas [Mr]
NICOLINI, Marco [Mr] (D’AMBROSIO, Vanessa [Ms])
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OBRADOVIĆ, Žarko [Mr]
ÓLASON, Bergţór [Mr]
OMTZIGT, Pieter [Mr] (MAEIJER, Vicky [Ms])
OSUCH, Jacek [Mr] (MILEWSKI, Daniel [Mr])
POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
POLETTI, Bérengčre [Mme] (DURANTON, Nicole [Mme])
POPA, Ion [M.] (PRUNĂ, Cristina-Mădălina [Ms])
PRESCOTT, John [Mr]
REISS, Frédéric [M.] (GROSDIDIER, François [M.])
RIBERAYGUA, Patrícia [Mme]
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
RÖSSNER, Tabea [Ms] (AMTSBERG, Luise [Ms])
SANTA ANA, María Concepción de [Ms]
SCHÄFER, Axel [Mr]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHIEDER, Andreas [Mr] (ESSL, Franz Leonhard [Mr])
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
SEKULIĆ, Predrag [Mr]
SEYIDOV, Samad [Mr]
SILVA, Adăo [M.]
SMITH, Angela [Ms]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
SOLEIM, Vetle Wang [Mr] (MEHL, Emilie Enger [Ms])
SOTNYK, Olena [Ms]
ȘTEFAN, Corneliu [Mr]
STEVANOVIĆ, Aleksandar [Mr]
STIER, Davor Ivo [Mr]
STRIK, Tineke [Ms]
ŞUPAC, Inna [Ms]
SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.])
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
TOMIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
TOUHIG, Don [Lord] (SHARMA, Virendra [Mr])
TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
TUȘA, Adriana Diana [Ms]
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]
VEN, Mart van de [Mr]
VERDIER-JOUCLAS, Marie-Christine [Mme] (GAILLOT, Albane [Mme])
VLASENKO, Sergiy [Mr] (GERASHCHENKO, Iryna [Mme])
VOGT, Ute [Ms] (JENSEN, Gyde [Ms])
VOVK, Viktor [Mr] (LIASHKO, Oleh [Mr])
WENAWESER, Christoph [Mr]
WHITFIELD, Martin [Mr] (McCARTHY, Kerry [Ms])
WILSON, Phil [Mr]
WOLD, Morten [Mr]
XHEMBULLA, Almira [Ms] (SHALSI, Eduard [Mr])
YEMETS, Leonid [Mr]
YENEROĞLU, Mustafa [Mr]
ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr]
Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés ŕ voter
AGHAYEVA, Ulviyye [Ms]
ANTL, Miroslav [M.]
BALFE, Richard [Lord]
EIDE, Petter [Mr]
HAMOUSOVÁ, Zdeňka [Ms]
KELLEHER, Colette [Ms]
RUSSELL, Simon [Lord]
SHEPPARD, Tommy [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
DOWNE, Percy [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
CHAGAF, Aziza [Mme]
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)
SANER Hamza Ersan