AS (2018) CR 23
2018 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday 27 June 2018 at 10 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website.
Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.
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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.
(Ms Trisse, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. New restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States
The PRESIDENT* – The first item of business this morning is the debate on the report by Mr Yves Cruchten on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, entitled “New restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States”, Document 14570.
I remind members that at its Monday session the Assembly decided to limit speaking time to three minutes in this debate and we will have to finish by 12 noon. Therefore, I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 11.35 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.
I call Mr Yves Cruchten, the rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide as you see fit between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.
Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – This is already the second report that I have produced on the issue of restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States. In December 2015, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights approved my previous report on this subject. On the basis of that report, in January 2016 the Assembly adopted Recommendation 2086, and decided to remain seized of the matter. This was indeed a good decision, as the situation has not improved since. On the contrary, the situation has worsened in some of our member countries.
Almost two years after the adoption of Resolution 2096 (2016), the developments concerning the situation of civil society in Council of Europe member States are worrying. My report of 2015 focused on the situation of civil society in the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Hungary. Consequently, for my new report I have first examined the situation in those countries.
Concerning the Russian Federation, the controversial “foreign agents” law, obliging NGOs receiving foreign donations to register as “foreign agents”, has been applied, and so far over 150 NGOs have been registered as “foreign agents”. Currently, there are “only” 76 NGOs registered as such. This is due to the fact that a number of NGOs have decided to close down operations in the Russian Federation or have ceased to receive foreign funding. Moreover, there is a register of “undesirable organisations”, which currently includes 14 foreign organisations.
As for Azerbaijan, in October the Assembly critically assessed the situation there in its Resolutions 2184 (2017) and 2185 (2017), due to reprisals against numerous activists and restrictive legislation on NGOs. Despite the fact that some rules have been simplified, NGOs and their donors are still subject to the obligation of receiving authorisations from the authorities, and the procedures involved are still very cumbersome. The crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan continues.
In Turkey, following the failed coup of July 2016, more than 1 400 associations and over 140 foundations have been permanently dissolved on the basis of an emergency decree, and their assets have been confiscated and transferred to the State treasury. I had the opportunity to discuss this issue at length with the Turkish authorities during my visit to Ankara at the beginning of April. I also met numerous representatives of NGOs and trade unions. They complained to me about the shrinking space for civil society, due to an increasing number of restrictions on the freedom of association, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression.
The authorities often invoke the argument of combating terrorist organisations, but I have the impression that these arguments are used against any critic of the authorities. I find this counterproductive for the good functioning of a democratic society and in addition it is it not helpful in our common fight against terrorism.
In Hungary, in June 2017 the Parliament adopted a law that forces NGOs receiving foreign donations of €24 000 or more to register as organisations “receiving foreign funding”. This law has been criticised by the Venice Commission. Moreover, smear campaigns against certain NGOs have been launched in the media and some of them have been orchestrated by the authorities themselves, apparently in order to prevent the influence of the “Soros network”.
In February, the Government presented a legislative package called “Stop Soros”, aimed at restricting the activities of NGOs working for the rights of refugees and migrants. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights asked the Venice Commission to scrutinise this draft in light of international human rights standards. Despite this, a week ago – on 20 June – the Hungarian Parliament adopted a more restrictive version of the “Stop Soros” package.
That happened on World Refugee Day, two days before the Venice Commission adopted its opinion on the draft law. In its opinion, the Venice Commission has clearly stated that criminalising certain activities of NGOs aimed at helping irregular migrants is a disproportionate restriction on freedom of association. Furthermore, criminalising NGOs’ advocacy and campaigning activities constitutes an interference with freedom of expression. I find the Hungarian Parliament’s step very worrying and even provocative.
Today our Assembly has to give a strong message to our colleagues in Budapest and we must ask them to follow the Venice Commission in its opinions and recommendations. Furthermore, we should send another message today to all those involved in helping and assisting migrants all over Europe that their efforts – their hard daily work – is welcomed and appreciated by the Assembly and its members. Attempts to take care of migrants and asylum seekers, and to integrate them, would not be possible if there were not private initiatives and organisations to lend a hand, and by doing so they contribute to the good functioning of our societies. We are very grateful for the valuable contribution that NGOs make in this field and it is time to say that out loud.
Some other member States have also taken steps to “reframe” the activities of civil society. For example, the Parliaments in Romania and Ukraine are currently working on draft legislation imposing additional reporting obligations on NGOs, and these legislative proposals have also been criticised by the Venice Commission.
My conclusion is that there have been many worrying developments and that new restrictions have been imposed on NGOs’ activities. I am particularly concerned about two trends: first, the adoption of laws aimed at imposing new obligations on NGOs, especially in terms of declaring their assets and donations that come from abroad; and, secondly, judicial or administrative harassment and smear campaigns organised against certain NGOs and their leaders and members by the media, and sometimes even by the government of a country. The second issue has already been addressed by our colleague Mr Vareikis in his report “Protecting human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States”, which the Assembly approved yesterday.
There is no doubt that a vibrant civil society is crucial for the good functioning of a democratic State. The Assembly should therefore remain seized of this matter, in view of the new restrictions imposed on NGO activities in many Council of Europe member States.
There are ongoing discussions about NGO funding. For example, to what extent can NGOs receive public funding and remain independent, and what are the permissible restrictions on foreign funding? According to international standards, including a recommendation from the Committee of Ministers, NGOs should be free to solicit and receive any funding. Nevertheless, questions relating to foreign and public funding deserve closer scrutiny by the Assembly.
My report proposes a number of measures that the Council of Europe could take to protect civil society from disproportionate restrictions on its activities. The draft resolution therefore calls on a few of the member States mentioned in my report to repeal restrictive laws and comply with the recommendations included in the relevant opinions of the Venice Commission. It also calls on all member States to take various measures to ensure full observance of the freedom of association.
The draft recommendation proposes a number of concrete measures that the Council of Europe could take to reinforce its dialogue with NGOs and promote co-operation with them. For example, the Conference of INGOs is currently working on a mechanism for receiving and reacting to alerts about new restrictions on NGO activities. That initiative should be welcomed by the Assembly and implemented by the Committee of Ministers as soon as possible. I hope that the Assembly will back my proposals.
I am also concerned that our Assembly is not reactive enough. When the space for civil society shrinks, often we are too slow to react. That might give one government or another the impression that it can get its restrictive policies through or even find imitators in other member States. It takes us a long time to react, so often the damage is already done and NGO’s and their activists have stopped their activities. I really think that we should work on that and find ways of reacting more rapidly.
Thank you for your attention.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Cruchten. You have three minutes and eight seconds remaining. We will now hear from the spokespersons for the political groups.
Ms JOHNSSON FORNARVE (Sweden, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left.) – I thank Mr Cruchten for his excellent report on the important role that NGOs play in our societies. We are concerned that several European countries have restricted the functioning of NGOs. The situation is particularly serious in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, the Russian Federation, Romania, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. It is much more than an assault on NGOs; it is an attack on democracy and basic human rights. NGOs, in their plurality, ensure that numerous voices can be heard and a range of opinions explored in our public debates, for example in relation to women’s issues and human rights.
In the Russian Federation, a large number of NGOs have been forced to close down because they are no longer entitled to receive financial support from abroad. Similar laws have been established in Hungary. Just a few months ago, this Assembly discussed Resolutions 2184 and 2185, which concerned the degradation of conditions for NGOs and human rights activists in Azerbaijan, but we have since seen no improvement. Independent groups still have difficulty carrying out their work, while activists and journalists are imprisoned. In Poland, we see the funding of NGOs being centralised and distributed by a politicised government agency, which allows the governing Law and Justice Party to decide what civil society voices can be heard. That party is simultaneously trying to undermine the independence of the Supreme Court.
The situation is particularly serious in Turkey, where nearly 1 600 NGOs – many of them Kurdish organisations – have been closed down on the basis of a state of emergency. The assault on civil society is clearly an attempt to silence opposition. We saw that quite publicly last week when a court failed to release Taner Kılıç, the chair of Amnesty International in Turkey. It speaks for itself when a human rights defender is put in prison. He has become a symbol of the many human rights defenders and activists who have been targeted as part of the human rights crackdown that has gripped Turkey since the failed coup.
I urge all member States of the Council of Europe to review and repeal or amend legislation that impedes the free and independent work of NGOs, and to respect the European Convention and other humanitarian bodies concerned with the rights of NGOs.
Mr MULLEN (Ireland, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party.) – When we come to this Assembly to speak about human rights, the importance of supporting NGOs and so on, it is important that we do so with clean hands. The Council of Europe has a group of accredited NGOs called the Conference of INGOs, but ADF International, which works with persecuted Christians and is based here in Strasbourg, has been denied that accreditation for what it believes are explicitly ideological reasons, and even hostility to its Christian beliefs. I have asked this question before, and I ask it again: are our hands clean in this Organisation? Are we fully in a position to criticise other countries? I have raised the issue in the Chamber with the Secretary General before, but thus far he has chosen to ignore it – perhaps we will have an opportunity to discuss it again tonight at his reception.
So many serious things are going on in the world that I think we have to start from a presumption that what NGOs do is good and very important. When I think of Hungary, for example, I see immediately a problem. I would be very concerned, as others are, about any restrictions on individuals or organisations that wish to provide lawful assistance to migrants and asylum seekers. There are legitimate concerns in that area, and the rapporteur was right to advert to them. But it is a different situation when it comes to restricting foreign donations to NGOs or having important rules of transparency so that people know where an NGO’s money comes from. The rapporteur says, “Let us be honest: without access to funding, no serious NGO work is possible.” Well, in response to that, I would say, “Let us be honest: restricting funds from foreign billionaires might mean that NGOs cannot pay huge salaries, but it hardly stops them working.”
Hungary and Ireland both have laws that restrict foreign funding for political activities, but these restrictions are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society. They are really about protecting the vulnerable ordinary person who does not have huge means at their disposal from being conditioned, over time but inevitably, by powerful interests from abroad, sometimes involving private vested interests. There needs to be much more balance as we consider the transparency of foreign funding.
There is also the question of what is a human rights defender and what are legitimate human rights. There is the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of us believe that advocating for abortion or euthanasia, or for the legalisation of drug use or prostitution, constitutes not so much the defence of human rights but a perversion of human rights. Whatever view one takes, it is important to say that merely invoking the term “human rights” should not give someone an automatic right to expect special protection. I think that the report needs to be more balanced. More profound issues and contradictions remain to be considered.
Ms BUSHKA (Albania, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group) – I congratulate our colleague Mr Cruchten on this incredibly important report.
I cannot imagine a society with restrictions on NGO work other than those provided for under the European Convention on Human Rights. NGOs are a crucial factor of democracy. NGOs promote and protect human rights, and hold the government accountable for citizens’ needs. This is a human right and, as such, a matter of human dignity – the obligation on all States to create an enabling environment for NGOs to act according to certain standards has to be seen as a positive right.
All rights, including this one, have restrictions necessary in a democracy. However, such restrictions should be for legitimate reasons, as provided for under the public safety convention, such as preventing crime or protecting public morality or health, and should be based on the principle of proportionality. In cases cited in the report, States went beyond the criteria set by the convention, which concerns me, because if injustice exists somewhere, it might happen anywhere.
I come from Albania, which is a country with a young democracy, similar to other States in the Balkans. For our people, it took years to create civil society and to understand the force of public voices. I cannot imagine a mechanism that imposes heavy fiscal burdens, such as taxation, or that, even worse, marks NGOs as undesirable in a society, specifically as undesirable donors in areas of legitimate NGO activity. That is harmful to the rule of law and democracy. Unfair restrictions can be made in law, appropriating the language of the law, so that States look like they rule by law because they uphold the rule of law. That will damage democracy, however, because the idea behind the rule of law is that it is a means to protect the human rights of the people and to help them against State abuses.
Since the Socialist Group is in favour of NGOs and their legitimate activity in the organisation of States – subject to some restrictions allowed under the standards and objectives in the European Convention on Human Rights – we strongly support the report, and the draft recommendation and resolution. We invite everyone to vote in favour.
Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – I follow my colleague from Ireland, Mr Mullen, in questioning whether this report is entirely balanced and fair.
This body is about human rights, but also about duties, and so it is about treating NGOs, whether from the left or right, in an equal way. Again I follow my colleague Mr Mullen in wondering why a Christian NGO, an activist group such as the ADF, is not registered here – perhaps that is because its views are not particularly fashionable at the moment – whereas others, with a different agenda, find it easy to register.
I am also worried about how the report deals with Hungary, although I do not seek to involve myself in Hungarian politics. The Hungarian law does not seem to be cracking down on a particular NGO, or preventing it from expressing a point of view or engaging in activities, so much as saying that if an NGO receives a certain amount of money and receives it from abroad then the people of Hungary should know about that.
That is precisely the case with George Soros. He has a particular point of view and he is entitled to that point of view. He believes strongly in open borders. For what it is worth, actually, he sent a caravan around my constituency attacking me for my support for Brexit, at vast expense. In fact, the caravan drove so fast that most people could not read it, and they thought I had paid for it. Anyway, such campaigns do not worry me at all – I am happy for Mr George Soros to have his point of view. Nevertheless, if he or anyone engages in such activities, any source of funding should be transparent.
By all means, as an Assembly, let us look at countries such as the Russian Federation where there are without doubt abuses, and where independent NGOs critical of the government are being prevented from operating. If we produce a report, let us be fair and balanced.
Ms SOTNYJ (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – I congratulate our rapporteur on this report. Over the past year, many of you, including me, have received plenty of different letters from different NGOs to tell us about their suffering at the hands of State authorities. The Council of Europe is one of the main organisations that should follow and protect the interests of NGOs as a main pillar of democratic societies.
The problem of restrictions on NGO activities, however, is more global even than described in this report. Human rights organisations and campaign groups are facing the biggest crackdown in a generation, as countries pass restrictive laws and act against crucial NGO activity. Almost half of the world’s States have implemented controls that affect tens of thousands of organisations throughout the world. Over the past five years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws to restrict the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations.
The rapporteur mentioned my country, Ukraine, and I need to update the Assembly. Even against the advice of the Venice Commission, Ukraine passed a law about restrictions on and reporting of NGO finances and assets. That is not the first time this has happened, and we are not the only member State of our Council of Europe to pass a law against a recommendation of the Venice Commission. The Council of Europe – perhaps with the Venice Commission – needs to find more efficient tools to implement recommendations and to oppose the behaviour of countries acting against our standards.
James Savage of Amnesty International said: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before.” We should be naming and shaming, but even if different authorities in different countries do not like that, we as liberals need to remind everyone that in a democracy it is crucial to give space to different opinions. As a group, we will continue to use all legal and political tools to protect the right of NGOs to be part of the democratic world and to enrich that world with standards and values.
The PRESIDENT* – Does the rapporteur wish to respond immediately to the group spokespersons, or to wait until the end of the debate?
You wish to respond later, so we now come to the speakers list. I call Mr Nick.
Mr NICK (Germany)* – In recent years, we have all become familiar with the term “NGO”. People may have different ideas about what it means, but I think we can say two things quite safely. First, NGOs are not above the law – they must abide by the rules of the country in which they operate – and, secondly, they are not immune to criticism. They cannot be exempted from criticism; there are good lobbyists and bad lobbyists. At the same time, however, functioning NGOs are part and parcel of a functioning civil society and of clean political debate.
There are many provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights that should serve as a benchmark for what is admissible in a democratic society, and in the Venice Commission we have an excellent body that is highly regarded worldwide and offers States counsel and assistance with difficult legislative decisions. The report expressly thanks the Venice Commission for its assistance, as Mr Németh did in his contribution on Monday. Unfortunately, his remarks are not representative of the way the government of his country has dealt with the commission in recent weeks. We have to be open about that. The commission offered a very objective and balanced assessment – an expert evaluation – of Hungary’s new law. Despite the urgent requests of its partners, the Hungarian Government decided to go ahead and pass that law without waiting for the commission’s opinion. Representatives of the Hungarian Government from the foreign minister downwards have criticised and attacked the commission.
The Parliamentary Assembly should stand four-square behind the Venice Commission and its work, because it provided a factual and objective assessment of the legislation and of how the situation should be dealt with, but I regret very much that our Hungarian partners have not done so. I make a heartfelt plea to them to revisit their attitude. We in the Council of Europe, and indeed in the European Union, have instruments available to us that make it possible for us to abide by the fundamental values governing this organisation.
Ms JUHÁSZ (Hungary) – I agree that civil society organisations play an important role in democratic life and shaping public opinion, and that they contribute to the cultural life and social wellbeing of democratic societies. However, there is a fundamental public interest in ensuring that both society as a whole and individual citizens are aware of the interests that those organisations represent. Furthermore, there is a legitimate expectation that there should be transparency about the donors who influence such organisations.
The report refers to Hungary. The Hungarian legislature passed an act on the transparency of organisations receiving funding from abroad. Before adopting that law, the legislature considered the recommendations of the Venice Commission and adopted a modified version of the law in line with those recommendations. The commission itself has previously acknowledged that ensuring that NGOs are transparent can be considered “necessary in a democratic society”.
The legislation obliges NGOs that receive more than approximately €24 000 of funding from foreign donors to register as “foreign-funded” organisations. The act does not place any restrictions on the founding of new NGOs and does not restrict freedom of association. It should be emphasised that Hungarian civil society is flourishing. There are more than 60 000 NGOs in Hungary. The act affects only a couple dozen of them, and concerns have been expressed by only a few.
The Hungarian Parliament also accepted a legislative package – the so-called “Stop Soros” package – that introduces a criminal offence of facilitating illegal migration. It is important to note that the proposed laws are directed not at NGOs but at persons who wilfully and intentionally commit a crime. The amendment of the criminal code makes clear that illegal migration and its promotion constitute criminal offences. Hungary will continue to fulfil its international obligations and will provide protection to those who legally ask for it and are entitled to it under international law, in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
As noted by the Venice Commission in the opinion it adopted on 25 June on the “Stop Soros” draft legislative package, which directly affects NGOs, “The introduction of a criminal offence establishing criminal liability for intentionally assisting irregular migrants to circumvent immigration rules is not in and by itself contrary to international human rights standards”. Much more balance is indispensible for a fair report.
Ms JONES (United Kingdom) – I thank the rapporteur, Mr Cruchten, for his thoughtful report and his moving speech, in which he made reference to the shrinking space for civil society. It is important also to express thanks for some of the divergent opinions, which demonstrate the ethos of civil society – an ethos of diversity and pluralism of views.
As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on charities and volunteering in the British Parliament, I believe that this is a very important debate. It is vital that we in this Assembly raise issues of concern relating to non-governmental organisations, registered charities and community groups. It is my conviction that, wherever we are on the political spectrum, if we consider ourselves democrats we must stand in favour of pluralism and a free and diverse body of NGOs, and in favour of civil society. Many specific examples of restrictions have been given. I will take a slightly different approach and speak a little about the all-party group and about the importance of all-party groups for charities and civil society at national level.
The all-party group includes members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords from across the political spectrum. Our secretariat is the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. My co-chairs are a Labour peer and a Conservative peer. Crucially, more than 750 NGOs are affiliate members of the all-party group. Affiliate membership is free, and those affiliate members include some of the largest charities and some of the smallest community groups in Britain. All such groups can take part and question our speakers, who have included government ministers and the charity commissioner. It is important to me as a parliamentarian that someone who runs a small charity has the same opportunity as I do to question those people. That is the best of civic society. It is also important to me that the officers of the group come from all four of the largest political parties in the British Parliament, as well as from the cross benches.
I know that other parliaments have similar groups, although I am not sure whether they have affiliate membership. Such groups are a positive thing, which we can promote in our national parliaments and in civic society, and they make an important contribution to this important debate.
Lord BLENCATHRA (United Kingdom) – I congratulate the rapporteur on a report that is, in general, very good. However, like Mr Mullen and Sir Edward Leigh, I have slight concerns about the criticism of Hungary. Not all NGOs are created equal, and not all of them do morally good work. Médecins Sans Frontičres is an incredible organisation in what it does for people around the world. However, some NGOs that receive foreign funding may attach to themselves the label “human rights”, but we should not necessarily take that at face value. Even if an organisation claims to be defending human rights, we must probe further to see whether it is genuinely doing good.
My concern about the criticism of Hungary relates to Mr Soros. If Mr Bill Gates was pouring some of his billions into an organisation, I would be more relaxed, because he seems to have a record of doing good things with his money. Mr Soros does not have such a good track record. He has used his billions and his hedge funds to damage countries and governments around the world. He is pouring money into organisations in Britain to try to reverse the democratic vote of the British people to leave the European Union. There was a record turnout for that vote, and the people made a decision. Mr Soros has said that the decision of the British people was utterly wrong and that the Brexit thing must be destroyed. He is using some of his millions to fund organisations to bring that about.
That is my experience in the United Kingdom, so when I look at Hungary and see Mr Soros again pouring money into an organisation to try to change the laws of the Hungarian people and their Parliament, I immediately become suspicious about what he is up to. In fact, some of his activity – his abuse of his power and his millions – almost drives me to become a socialist. If an NGO in Hungary was composed of local people and funded by local people or by more honest international organisations, I would accept the criticism, but I feel that the report is slightly damaged by the criticism of Hungary for cracking down on an NGO funded by Mr Soros. He does not believe in States or governments and he is part of the Davos elite, which would like the world to be run by multi-billionaires such as him. I think, therefore, that that part of the report needs to be amended slightly.
Ms HEINRICH (Germany)* – I thank the rapporteur for the report, which accurately describes the systematic restriction of rights and freedoms over the last few years, including in some Council of Europe member States. We see that clearly in the recent Hungarian legislation. I support all the report’s recommendations and proposals.
Societies are made up of individuals, who live in different circumstances and have different interests, experiences and opinions. Civil society should reflect that diversity. Critics are not enemies, and criticism is not a crime. On the contrary, it helps governments by making them reflect on their actions and steering them towards governing for all citizens, rather than for the parts of society that they favour. Governing for all should be their highest ambition.
Even restrictive legislation cannot change the diversity of our societies. We must not allow those who speak up for diverse interests to be silenced. All sorts of reasons are advanced for curtailing freedom of opinion. In Turkey, for example, a state of emergency has been declared. In Hungary, a billionaire supporter of human rights has been demonised. Anyone who diverges from the official line is deemed a terrorist; there is no lack of imagination when it comes to such labels.
The States that are mentioned in the report are in breach of our Convention, even though they have signed up to it. The Venice Commission’s recommendations on education and help for refugees have been ignored. After years of conflict, our ancestors decided to put their heads together and think about how we could all live together in Europe. They reduced everything to a common denominator, namely human rights. Those rights are applicable to all, and we cannot renege on that. Although I know that some member States would like to restrict freedom of opinion in their own countries, I hope that they will all implement every one of the recommendations in the report.
Mr Aleksandar STEVANOVIĆ (Serbia)* – NGOs are part and parcel of a democratic society, and they are crucial to the upholding of human rights in the face of repression. The developments in certain parts of Europe are of great concern, and the Council of Europe will become meaningless if it does not respond to such attacks on democracy.
(The speaker continued in English.)
This report emphasises some of the key U-turns in Council of Europe member States, and it makes some precise and reasonable recommendations. We are, unfortunately, talking about the A, B, C of human rights – all the things that make up democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We are talking about the dangerous effects of focusing on individual cases rather than general principles in making law. As a liberal, I am terrified by the developments in some Council of Europe and European Union member States. I am disappointed to see that countries that have suffered greatly from a lack of democracy are prepared to place limits on NGO activities, as well as on democracy. I am particularly disappointed to see such countries, which struggled in serfdom for decades, trying to limit freedom of speech. It is not good. Perhaps they consider it politically expedient to do so.
I do not believe that the Council of Europe is the place for close encounters between democracy and autocracy; between the rule of law and the rule of the rulers; or between human rights and permission to enjoy only some rights. If we allow that to happen, we will soon end up looking like the United Nations Human Rights Council. We must send a clear message on this issue, and the report does a good job of that.
Mr MARQUES (Portugal) – The report is quite important, and it comes at the right time. NGOs are a strong pillar of our civil society, and we should be as committed to protecting them as we are to fighting fake NGOs. An NGO can be in a bit of an offshore situation, without rules or control, but closing NGOs is not the right way to silence annoying voices. It is as bad for an NGO to manipulate public opinion as it is for a State to use an NGO to create fake news. There must be transparency about NGOs’ activities, but it is not a crime to have foreign funding. Have we forgotten that it is thanks to NGOs – many of them funded by foreign countries – that many violations and crimes against humanity have been denounced? It is thanks to NGOs that many of our countries achieved freedom and respect for human rights. We must not be so naďve as to listen to everything that NGOs say, but we must equally recognise when a State is using a foreign funder to silence an annoying voice.
Mr WHITFIELD (United Kingdom) – Non-governmental organisations, from Médecins Sans Frontičres, the International Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council to smaller but none the less effective NGOs – such as the refugee council of East Lothian, a non-partisan, non-denominational voluntary group supporting and welcoming refugees to East Lothian – bring a level of experience and local knowledge that gives them invaluable insights into the challenges that they seek to solve. The fact that so many are embedded in the communities that they are seeking to help, playing a role of liaison, communication and facilitation, gives them a voice that needs to be listened to because they bring knowledge. In doing so, NGOs from small to large form important wheels in the democratic machinery. They should be able to work with local elected officials, councils, area governments and country governments.
NGOs are a crucial bellwether for the health of the European Convention on Human Rights. All member States of the Council of Europe have agreed to ensure, without discrimination, respect for freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of expression, which are inextricably linked to one another and are vital to the proper functioning of civil society. Any restriction of the above rights should be prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and, most of all, proportionate to the envisaged legitimate aim.
So why are NGOs being targeted? Why are those groups being silenced, criticised and attacked on social media? Why are laws like the “Stop Soros” package in Hungary being used? First, by doing so, those responsible attempt to personify a problem; in identifying and demonising an individual such as George Soros, they centre a message of distrust, anger and vilification against an individual and then draw in NGOs by association. This undermines the work that NGOs do to protect vulnerable men, women, boys and girls.
I suggest that demonising NGOs reflects more badly on those that seek to do so than on the NGOs themselves. In reality, NGOs are people, individuals who are brave, imaginative and strong enough to stand up for others. These brave people are the ones that suffer from such demonization. As described by the United Nations, NGOs are frequently made up of individuals who, by their actions, are defenders of human rights, and this week we have already agreed a valuable report on that matter. It should be for this place and for the organs of the Council of Europe to stand up, speak for and protect the NGOs all around the world, but most especially here in Europe. I commend the report and the work of the rapporteur.
Mr ESSL (Austria)* – Ladies and gentlemen, reading the title of the report leads me to assume that we are talking not only about human rights organisations but about all organisations that describe themselves as non-governmental. I am a bit sceptical because, while some of the participants in the debate have already mentioned the fact that there are attacks on democracy, one can also infer from the report that we seem to be operating in a lawless area. NGOs cannot operate in some kind of vacuum where they are not subject to rules and regulations, and I could not agree to that.
Having said that, there is a lot in the report that I support and agree with. It goes without saying that NGOs are significant players, and certainly we pay tribute to all those organisations that are fighting to support the cause of democracy and the rule of law across the member States of the Council of Europe. That is something to be welcomed. It is also good to stress that the right to association and assembly is important, and of course we must always see to it that member States guarantee freedom of opinion.
However, I think it is going too far for paragraphs 10.2 to call on member States to repeal laws preventing the free and untrammelled or unrestricted work of NGOs. What is that supposed to mean? We need rules for NGOs. I know some NGOs that would prefer, if at all possible, not to heed any laws at all, such as the VGD, which decides to enter illegally and occupy buildings. Do we really want to have this kind of lawless NGO activity? Absolutely not. We are here to defend the civil rights of ordinary citizens, and that is something that we do with great conviction as their elected representatives. However, rules have to apply to everyone across the board without exception.
The things that I have heard in the debate this morning have been directed to certain member States of the Council of Europe. If you are making certain allegations, you should make clear that the report is targeted at those countries, not all.
Ms ANTTILA (Finland) – Dear colleagues, I thank the rapporteur, Mr Cruchten, for his excellent report. From my perspective, we are standing at a crossroads. Many powerful leaders regard non-governmental organisations that speak out against corruption and for democracy and women’s rights as the enemy. For example, the Arab Spring frightened many regimes and caused several of them to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, in order to avoid being thrown out themselves. Instead of showing strength, resilience and stable governance, that merely showed the weakness and fragile state of those regimes. I believe that a strong and stable society gives voice to marginalised people and empowers civil society instead of silencing them. Non-governmental organisations play an essential role in their civic duty, functioning in the space between government and citizens. Without active and freely functioning civil society and NGO actors, governments would drift apart from the citizens that they are supposed to be representing.
I agree with the report that Council of Europe member States should strengthen their interaction with civil society representatives through a more developed framework for dialogue, as well as exchanging good practice in this area. I also agree with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights about the five essential recommendations that are recalled in the report. We need to create a safe environment for civil society and a robust legal framework and human rights protection system. Above all, we need to support a change in the political environment in order to support the work of civil society. It is equally vital for NGO actors to have free access to information and avenues for participation in decision-making. There is also a vast need for long-term support and resources for civil society. In this respect, we truly need to continue to strengthen synergies in the Council of Europe between the Secretary-General, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Conference of INGOs and the Assembly.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Ladies and gentlemen, non-governmental organisations play a great role in pushing sustainable development in all countries. The establishment of civil society in my own country, Azerbaijan, has a specific historical development that has passed through democratic improvement. Objectives, targets and priorities that are considered to be important for the development of the public sector have been determined and enriched as a result of sustainable discussions and international practice. Non-governmental organisations are involved in the implementation of programmes and projects that are important for the State and society. In 2007, the Council on State Support to NGOs was established, under the auspices of the President of Azerbaijan, and in 2014 a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Parliament of Azerbaijan and the council. The purpose of the memorandum was to strengthen co-operation between parliament and civil society. In 26 years of independence, we have allocated about 306 million manat to the activities of the sector. Over 10 years, more than 30 000 people have been employed in the NGO sector.
Azerbaijan is constantly improving its law on NGOs, introducing new forms of reporting that are fully transparent and simplified. Such actions are carried out as the e-government project develops. Organisations, including the Ministries of Justice, Finance and Tax, have their own web portals, through which reports on the activities of certain NGOs are filed online. The President of Azerbaijan has signed a decree on applying the principle of a single window in the process of issuing grants from foreign donors in the territory of Azerbaijan. The decree is intended to support the activities of civil society organisations, to simplify the procedure for granting grants from foreign donors in the territory of Azerbaijan, and to ensure both transparency in this area and the purposeful expenditure of allocated funds. In particular, the introduction of the single window principle in the procedure for NGOs in Azerbaijan obtaining grants removes a number of obstacles to the financing of the activities of the civil sector by foreign donors. Over time, the principle has been developed and widely applied. We live in a world in which every effort to make our life better is appreciated, and protecting the rights of women, children and minorities is still a great challenge for all of us. Faced with that situation, we must appreciate and support the work of NGOs.
Ms GURMAI (Hungary) – I thank the rapporteur for his great job. We live in very turbulent times, so it is absolutely important to listen to civil society and NGOs very carefully. We have to underline that the space for civil society in the Council of Europe geographical area has been shrinking over the past two years. The worst situation is in Turkey, where there have just been elections, and I am not very pleased with the situation in my homeland of Hungary either.
In Hungary, the law on the transparency of organisations receiving support from abroad, which was adopted in June 2017, has entered into force despite the fact that it was criticised by the Venice Commission and the legal actions brought against it at both the domestic and European levels. Moreover, the right-wing majority accepted in parliament the “Stop Soros” package of laws aimed at restricting the activities of NGOs assisting migrants. In Turkey, nearly 1 600 associations and foundations have been closed down on the basis of state of emergency decrees, or of administrative measures taken on the basis of the latter. Some other member States, such as Romania and Ukraine, have been trying to take legislative measures that impose financial reporting obligations.
The campaigns in the media are very dangerous and prejudicial, as is the use of terminology delegitimising civil society actors by referring to them, in the Russian Federation, as foreign agents or undesirable organisations, in Turkey as terrorists or Gülenists, and as anti-Soros in speeches and on posters in Hungary, because this leads to an increased negative public opinion of civil society and discourages the latter from exercising their fundamental freedoms. Also, laws curtailing civil society activities and funding have been proposed and enacted in several member States of the Council of Europe.
I fully agree with the draft recommendation. The Committee of Ministers needs to strengthen its interaction with civil society representatives through a more developed framework for dialogue with them, including the holding of regular meetings that are open to the public. The committee also needs to continue to promote European and international standards relevant to the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, as well as the exchange of good practice in this area. The most important recommendation is the last one, which is to “establish a mechanism aimed at receiving, analysing and reacting to alerts on possible new restrictions on the right to freedom of association in Council of Europe member States.” I recommend the report.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – I thank Mr Cruchten for his excellent report. This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and restrictions on NGOs’ work are proliferating. The report we are discussing describes a situation that is becoming ever more grim throughout the Parliamentary Assembly region.
Only last week, Hungary announced the adoption of its “Stop Soros” legislative package, which erects a fresh array of obstacles to the work of NGOs, with assistance to migrants becoming subject to a one-year prison sentence, and under which anyone suspected of assisting asylum seekers may be banned from coming within 8 km of the country’s external border. For the next phase, Hungary has announced a tax of 25% on NGOs that assist migrants and are funded from abroad. Such excesses must be denounced. The idea of a platform, or an abuse alert mechanism, should be supported so that it may quickly materialise. It is high time to re-equip our institution with the keys to its success, thereby fully playing our role as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Each and every one of us, at our own level, can help replicate such initiatives at the national level.
In France, the National Advisory Human Rights Commission and more recently the ombudsman, are independent administrative authorities that have shown their mettle in their role of protecting rights and freedoms. The commission acts at the behest of a member of the government or of itself. It advises the public authorities and monitors France’s international commitments. The ombudsman, or the defender of rights as he is known, meaningfully defends citizens’ rights vis-ŕ-vis national institutions. Last year he received 140 000 requests and dealt with some 89 000 cases, with 78% being favourably settled through amicable agreements. He addressed 138 recommendations and 48 proposals for reform to the public authorities, with a view to gradually advancing the protection of rights and freedoms. The work of the NGOs is essential in budgeting for that work. As conventional protagonists of the defence and promotion of human rights, they weave a rich dense fabric of partnership and often inspire increased confidence in those who cannot use official remedies. Creating a new instrument would echo their work in the same way as the platform for strengthening journalism and the security of journalists would.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Kürkçü and Mr Farmanyan are not here, so I call Mr Ghiletchi.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – I, too, thank Mr Cruchten for presenting this report and for bringing to our attention the new restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States. I believe that some of the developments are troublesome, especially because these things are happening in countries and regions that were once the embodiment of democracy, freedom of speech and association, and government transparency. Having experienced at first hand the lack of civic freedoms during the time of the Soviet Union and the awful resulting consequences, I call on member States to evaluate very carefully all interventions to make sure that they do not result in a reduction of space for NGO activities.
The increasingly repressive political and legal environment in which many NGOs must operate is very worrisome. As a true believer in free speech, free assembly and freedom of association, I argue that restrictive legal mechanisms should be applied only in extraordinary circumstances, such as when there is a threat to national security or public order. Lately, several countries have identified reasons to curtail these vital civic features of a vibrant democracy all too easily, but that trend could be a reaction to the perceived bias of some western European countries, especially when it comes to way of life, culture, local customs or Christian traditions.
In one of his speeches, Mr Orbán said that in today’s Europe it is forbidden to speak the truth. European political elites have shied away from a deeper discussion about national values and the importance of a shared history and culture. Without engaging in meaningful discussions and by scoffing at socially conservative agendas, we will not be able to convince these countries to improve the conditions for NGOs. It is easy to point the finger at Romania, Hungary, Ukraine or even the Republic of Moldova when it comes to their dealings with NGOs, but how many western countries would sit idly by if foreign-funded NGOs started to promote policies that were in stark contrast to government priorities or the cultural context?
If we want really to improve the situation of NGOs on the European continent, we should stop treating each other as bogeymen. Trust is a two-way street. If we want fewer restrictions on NGO activities in countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus or the Russian Federation, we must lead by example and advocate for less restrictive mechanisms when it comes to punishing free speech that we happen to disagree in France or Germany. Otherwise, it seems that the political elites are cherry-picking, advocating freedoms of association and of speech only for the views and groups that they agree with while labelling others as populists or haters. Freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly should and must be guaranteed for everyone and everywhere.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur for his work on an important topic, which is a continuation of yesterday’s debate on human rights defenders, because there is a close connection between NGOs and human rights defenders. A new era has come not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world: the era of non-governmental organisations. The public activists who represent NGOs are sometimes so active that we trust them more than we do governmental structures. That is not so bad but, as I said yesterday, there are two special things that we should take into account: trust and responsibility. They are twin sisters. NGOs should take into account the people’s trust in them and their responsibility to the people.
We can unfortunately see that foreign financing has become a tool in the hands of some organisations and people for governmental change or to change the mentality of the people. We can see that in Hungary, in Azerbaijan and in other member States of the Council of Europe. Efforts by NGOs to change traditions, mentalities and other things have caused many problems. They need trust and responsibility. They must be responsible, but we are not able to trust them. That is why this is a golden opportunity for the Parliamentary Assembly not to eliminate governmental institutions or NGO representatives, but to find a balance between NGOs and States and to define the role of a NGO within in the State. That is a major problem facing Europe, and it leads to further problems within Europe – not just the countries in the report, but within the so-called old democracies, too. We can see it in the United Kingdom, in Austria, in Germany and in other well-known democracies. As I said, there is a golden opportunity to organise meetings and exchanges of views between NGO and State representatives, so that they can discuss what they should do, in which direction they should go and the things that favour both NGOs and States.
Mr HASANOV (Azerbaijan) – Non-governmental organisations began to emerge in Azerbaijan in large numbers immediately after the country gained independence in the early 1990s, and a huge number of non-governmental organisations now operate in various areas of public life. Azerbaijan’s NGOs have become the foundation for local civil society, and they have effectively taken on the role of public monitoring. The Azerbaijani authorities play a significant role in supporting the non-governmental sector. The Council on State Support to Non-Governmental Organisations was established in 2008 under the auspices of the President of Azerbaijan. In recent years, the government has provided huge support to thousands of NGOs and various projects. As a result, the standards and quality of NGOs have improved drastically.
Despite all that, however, questions have been raised about the alleged restrictions on activities of NGOs in Azerbaijan. The presentation by Mr Yves Cruchten describes the changes to local legislation as imposing restrictions on NGOs activities with foreign funding, but I emphasise that the purpose of the changes was to ensure NGO transparency and accountability. Ensuring transparency and accountability has become a necessary condition for the further activities of NGOs, helping to combat corruption and ensuring the effectiveness of law, and that legislative requirements in that area meet international standards. In 2015, a European country passed a law to restrict foreign funding that covers ethnic minority organisations that receive money from abroad. The officials argued that this legislation “should become a model for the rest of Europe”, so it is unclear why Azerbaijan’s legislative reforms caused a different reaction.
Finally, I stress that the NGOs in Azerbaijan do not face restrictions in their activities and fundraising. Ensuring that NGOs are transparent and accountable should not be interpreted as a restriction, because the legislative changes aim to raise NGO standards.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr González Taboada is not here, so I call Mr Mollazade.
Mr MOLLAZADE (Azerbaijan) – I express my gratitude to the rapporteur for raising an important issue. The freedoms of assembly and of speech are the basic parts of a democracy, and the Council of Europe should always pay attention to such issues.
Azerbaijan became the first secular State in the Islamic world. It also gave women the vote in 1918 – before many European countries – and that is of great value to us. There is a big problem, however, because we are very close to an axis of evil, and many Islamic fundamentalist countries are taking this opportunity to try to create NGOs – Islamic groups financed by Salafi or Wahhabi funds. At the same time, a Hezbollah-type network has been created in Azerbaijan. We face a serious problem when the presence of refugees, who live in difficult conditions, could lead to the creation of so-called Islamic NGOs. In addition, some young people have been to Iraq and to Syria to participate in the battle. That is a big problem for a new independent State, in which democratic institutions have just been created and are growing. In such a situation, we must pay serious attention to these issues.
The other problem we face is the idea of the restoration of the Soviet Union in our neighbouring empire. They, too, try to use the freedoms of speech and of assembly to create specific radical leftist centres and NGOs – there is the Che Guevara club, Lenin’s revolution club, and so on. We won the battle against the communist system, but by using the opportunities afforded by NGOs, people are trying to gain influence. We now have a generation that has never heard the words “Lenin”, “Stalin” and “Brezhnev”, but people are using the revolutionary romanticism of Che Guevara to try to influence our youth. I believe there should be some accountability and some serious control over ideologies that go against our national statehood and values. I think that a similar problem is also facing Hungary, and that type of information should be included in all types of report.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Sabella is not here, so I call Ms Pomaska.
Ms POMASKA (Poland) – First, I wish to remind the Assembly about the definition of a non-governmental organisation. NGOs are organisations that try to achieve social or political goals, but that are not controlled by the government. That is crucial, and that is why we are discussing this report. Some governments want to control non-governmental organisations, and by “control” I mean that they want to influence their activities, mainly to stop them criticising the government. They have different tools with which to do that, including financial, legal and procedural tools. In some countries, governments also threaten NGOs or blacken their names, and they even use hate speech about them. We must stop that, which is why we are holding this debate. We are obliged to control and monitor the situation in different countries.
Today I call on the Venice Commission to monitor the situation in different countries, and I am afraid that some of the countries mentioned in the report are not the only countries that are trying to enrich their governments or to control non-governmental organisations. Last but not least, I call on all countries to respect the recommendations of the Venice Commission. That is crucial because otherwise our debate, and the work of the Venice Commission, does not make sense.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Gentvilas is not here, so I call Mr Eide.
Mr EIDE (Norway) – I thank the rapporteur for an excellent report, which I fully support. I come from the NGO sector. In Norway I was head of a couple of large international organisations, so I have seen these tendencies in many countries, not only in Europe but also in Africa, Asia and America. The pattern of shrinking spaces for NGOs increased hugely after 9/11/2001, based on new legal measures to control terrorism. The Assembly’s position should be clear: although we require NGOs to be transparent about their funding and democratic structures, we will also do whatever we can to protect their existence and activities. If we fail to do so, we fail in our mandate to protect human rights and democracies.
There are many reasons for the sad development of targeting and demonising NGOs, and there are some patterns that we find in many countries throughout the world. An increasing number of governments perceive the activities of NGOs, particularly those that deal with human rights and democracy, as an attack on their own possibilities for control. There is a new tendency for politicians in a growing number of countries to look upon binding international conventions of democracy and human rights as an obstacle to national control, or to the monopolisation of power. Adhering to binding conventions, which many NGOs are arguing for, will limit the space for the political and economic elite to take control of a country’s resources. That is why sometimes those authorities declare that attacks on NGOs are necessary to protect a country’s sovereignty – an argument that often receives widespread support in many countries.
While supporting this report, I wish to warn the Assembly that some of the tendencies described in the report as taking place mostly in eastern European countries also happen in several western European countries. That is basically because governments in many western European countries want more national control over immigration policy and anti-terrorism measures. When human rights NGOs argue that immigration policies and anti-terrorism measures must be within the framework of human rights legislation, several politicians try to undermine their legitimacy. In Norway, for example, no legal measures have been introduced, but there has been a tendency to target NGOs quite aggressively. Few strategies are available to NGOs in such a situation, but recommendation 1.3 in the report is vital. It is very important that the Council of Europe acts as a host and a meeting place for international NGOs, because the best way for them to have protection is through the creation of a huge, good and sound international network.
Mr YENEROĞLU (Turkey) – Dear President, dear colleagues, I thank the rapporteur for addressing this important issue. During his fact-finding visit to Turkey, we had the chance to discuss the developments regarding the situation of NGOs after the attempted coup. Unfortunately, however, I see that certain parts of the report do not reflect the overall situation.
Turkey attaches the utmost importance to the maintenance of the vibrant and pluralistic nature of Turkish civil society, as well as to the work of human rights defenders. The comprehensive reform process achieved over the past 16 years has greatly contributed to the realisation of a more suitable environment for civil society. After the attempted coup, nearly 1 600 associations and foundations were closed, since they were found to be linked to terrorist organisations such as FETÖ, the PKK, DHKP-C, and Daesh. On the other hand, as a result of remedial actions taken by the relevant authorities, around 350 private entities have been allowed to function again. Those numbers could be perceived as extremely high, but we must consider the overall scale of this issue. In Turkey, around 110 000 associations and 50 000 foundations are currently operational. Turkey conducts its fight against terrorist threats in compliance with its national legislation and international obligations.
With respect to the measures taken, legal remedies are available. The supervision of the European Court of Human Rights naturally continues as usual, and the establishment of the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission was also an important step. The commission is entitled to take binding decisions with due process, and its decisions are open to judicial control. The effective functioning of the independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial in Turkey are assured.
Dear colleagues, I understand that it is quite trendy – and, equally, prejudicial – among certain Council of Europe bodies, including INGOs, to make comments while legal proceedings are still under way in Turkey. I therefore remind members that no one is in a position to assume the role of a judge beyond the limits of criticism.
Mr KLEINWAECHTER (Germany) – There is a presumption in the draft resolution and draft recommendation that is wrong – that is, that NGOs are always good. They are not.
I cite the draft resolution: “The Assembly reiterates the importance of non-governmental organisations…for the development and realisation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, in particular through the promotion of public awareness, participation in public life and by securing the transparency and accountability of public authorities and contributing to the cultural life and social well-being of democratic societies.” On the first page, the report states that “a ‘Stop Soros’ package of laws aimed at restricting the activities of NGOs assisting migrants” hindered their contribution to the rule of law.
However, especially in these times, we see that some NGO activities serve to undermine the law, not to strengthen it. We have had this debate a lot in Germany. As you know, the completely failed migration policy of Chancellor Merkel is being criticised within her own coalition. We have had the problem of migrants using NGOs to go to lawyers, who have then corrupted the authorities to give them asylum. Right now, we have the problem of NGOs’ ships contributing to the smuggling of migrants from Libya, over the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. They are contributing to that. They are not just there randomly and they are not just helping people; they are there to contribute to the smuggling of migrants. That is a huge problem.
The draft resolution does not reflect the two-sided nature of NGOs. Of course we have to protect freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and a certain freedom to act politically and control the government – that is very, very important – but we also have to bear it in mind that governments need to have the ability to control NGOs if they aim to undermine the law or act contrary to the law. Therefore, some of the things that the Assembly is calling on member States to do are too far-reaching, for example to “refrain from adopting new laws” which would actually give them more freedom, or to completely involve NGOs in legislation processes. I think that most of the governments of our member States have a very good approach to dealing with NGOs and involving them in the decision-making process, but we should not simply pass a resolution that declares that NGOs are generally good, because some of them are clearly not.
Mr GATTOLIN (France)* – I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Cruchten, on his important work.
I find it concerning and symbolic that just two years after the first report on the degradation of something that is basic to fundamental freedoms in the Council of Europe, we find ourselves obligated to come up with a new report on new restrictions being imposed on NGOs. I am always a bit surprised to see the reaction of some colleagues. All of a sudden, they claim that our rapporteur has changed and become more ideological. No, it is the reality that has worsened. He refers to judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. It states in the Convention that NGOs, together with the press, are the bulwark or guardians of our democracy. Now, they have become fair game for some of the illiberal regimes that are coming to power in Europe.
I became committed to public life a long time ago, but have been a member of the Parliamentary Assembly for only a few years. I became involved in public life through work with NGOs, in particular environmental NGOs. In 1988, a certain Viktor Orbán set up a group called Fidesz, which was illegal. I was one of those who went hungry to defend the right of Mr Orbán to express himself freely. I am still proud of that, even if I am not necessarily proud of what that individual and his party have become. Mr Orbán did not expect at the time to be defended by a national or international NGO. He did not ask who was funding us or where we got our money, but was happy to have our support and defence.
I feel consternation when I hear colleagues talk about the difference between national NGOs, which are somehow automatically good, and international ones, which are therefore evil. People make distinctions between humanitarian NGOs that try to do good work and those that have a political dimension; those that are transparent and those that are not transparent. Most major NGOs publish their accounts in an open and transparent manner. Of course, there are organisations in any system that are at fault, but what about political parties? Are they fully transparent about their sources of funding? I rather doubt it.
We should strongly support the recommendations that have been made by the rapporteur.
Mr OEHME (Germany)* – Today’s report on the restriction of NGO activities enables us to have a debate about principles in this Assembly. So far, we have talked about the European Convention, to what extent NGOs can rely on that Convention, to what extent NGOs can call for the rule of law and democracy on that basis, and what the rights of a State are to restrict that freedom. This debate is essentially about the ability to guarantee social peace within a society, but it is also about curbing certain rights.
Of course, in this debate we talk about the Governments of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Hungary and the Russian Federation, but the list could be extended because we are talking about problematic cases. Although the comments that are made are perfectly justified, we must make a distinction between NGOs that do proper humanitarian work and that work for democracy, and those that pursue a political agenda behind that excuse.
Perhaps we could look at the role of NGOs in the so-called Arab Spring. Instead of bringing democracy to those countries, in practice it has meant chaos, conflict, many casualties, war and the displacement of millions of people from their homes and countries.
Of course, we need to talk about the protection of the right to life at sea. Again, the role of NGOs is somewhat ambiguous in that regard. On the question of rescue operations at sea, traffickers use them as a loophole. They want to bring people to Europe, so they abandon refugees on the open seas just a few miles from their own coast. We have to look at what the legislation says and at what happens to the refugees who then arrive at European ports. The NGOs refer to human rights legislation, but we need to look at the facts.
There has been a negative public debate on those points and this all has to be taken into consideration. We need to be careful about our democratic principles and must not act in violation of them. I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot support what is in the report.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Oehme. You were the last speaker on the list. The list is now concluded and I would like to hear the reply from the rapporteur. You have a little more than three minutes.
Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – I thank all of you who have taken the floor. Of course I am not able to agree with all the speakers, even if a few interesting points have been made, but that is, I guess, a normal thing. Here today we could express our various opinions. Unfortunately, not everyone in our member States can fully enjoy that freedom any more, and that is what this report is about.
I will not answer each speaker individually, but I will just give a few impressions. For instance, I will remind everyone that of course NGOs need not only a stable environment but a legal framework, and that we also need transparency to some extent. I also remind you that NGOs have a legal status and this resolution strongly insists on that.
I heard in some of the speeches that to some people Mr Soros is the source of all evil, but this report is not in favour of Mr Soros and nor is it against Mr Soros. This report and its resolution are meant to ensure that civil society can work freely and independently, even if sometimes we politicians do not like what it is telling us. Actually, that is the essence of a democratic society.
Some of us might wonder sometimes what the purpose of our Assembly is. We have no military power or economic leverage; we hardly have any functioning sanctions towards member States that are not fulfilling their obligations. I remind us all that nevertheless we are looked upon by many people in our member States and many people, whether they are organised in associations or individual human rights defenders, put all their hopes in us to defend their rights and their freedoms. They expect us to raise our voice when theirs cannot be heard any more. The good functioning of our democracy is not possible without a free and active civil society, without NGOs, without trade unions and without all those who care about others. We have an obligation to protect them. Let us not disappoint them and let us make them know that we stand by them.
Thank you very much for your support for this resolution.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Cruchten.
Madam Chairperson of the committee, please go ahead.
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – I first congratulate the rapporteur on his excellent report and express my support for the report on behalf of the committee.
Yesterday the Assembly accepted a resolution and a recommendation on protecting human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States and it was also noted that it would be an excellent idea to establish a general rapporteur on the protection of human rights defenders; listening to the speeches today, it might be necessary. Moreover, I emphasise that the work of NGOs is crucial for the good functioning of a democracy and that disproportionate restrictions on their activities should be avoided.
It is cause for great concern that more and more restrictions are being imposed on the activities of NGOs by new pieces of legislation in many countries. Furthermore, I strongly believe that Europe should do more to react quickly to new restrictions on NGOs’ activities and to promote an enabling environment for them. I hope this report will serve as a step in that direction.
Finally, let us recall that NGOs have been an essential mobiliser of human progress, the protection of human rights, and the engagement of the public in furthering democracy and the rule of law. For that reason, all of us here owe them our allegiance and support.
The PRESIDENT* – The debate is now at an end. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution, to which six amendments have been tabled.
The committee has also presented a draft recommendation, to which one amendment has been tabled.
As usual, we will start with our consideration of the resolution. I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 7 and 5 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that the case, Madam?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – Yes.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.
As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments 7 and 5 to the draft resolution have been agreed. The remaining amendments will be taken individually in the order in which they appear in the Organisation of Debates and the revised Compendium issued today. We will therefore now consider Amendment 3. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
I call Mr Cilevičs to support Amendment 3.
Mr CILEVIČS (Latvia) – This is actually a factual amendment, because since the committee adopted the draft resolution the “Stop Soros” package has unfortunately been adopted by the Hungarian Parliament. So we should reflect this and refer to this package as being adopted and not proposed.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom) – I oppose the amendment. I spoke on this issue earlier. There is an obsession with Mr Soros. All the Hungarian Parliament is doing is exercising its rights to try to get people to declare that they are foreign-owned and how much they are spending. There is no attempt by the Hungarian Government to stop the activities of NGOs and this amendment goes far too far.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Sir Edward. What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – It was approved by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 3 is adopted.
I call Mr Yeneroğlu to support Amendment 1.
Mr YENEROĞLU (Turkey)* – May I suggest that we delete paragraph 8, because that is the one that “calls on Turkey to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible” and it talks about the assistance that would be provided, as well as the whole question, of course, of the closure of NGOs? What is actually true is the opposite of what the report says. The State itself, recognising the conditions, can make a decision regarding the state of emergency and, over and beyond that, the investigation body should be respecting these principles in the country.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?
I call Mr Cruchten, the rapporteur.
Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg)* – I am afraid that I have to express my disagreement with what my esteemed colleague has just said, because if that paragraph were removed it would mean that the very core of the statement that we are making on Turkey would be removed from the text, and I absolutely cannot endorse that.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – The committee rejected the amendment by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We come to amendment 2. I call Mr Yeneroğlu to support the amendment.
Mr YENEROĞLU (Turkey)* – We propose incorporating a new paragraph after paragraph 8, in order to show the whole picture. We must note the establishment of the Inquiry Commission on State of Emergency Measures in Turkey. We must also acknowledge that NGOs are being reopened.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Cruchten.
Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – The report does mention that inquiry commission, but the amendment would give the impression that everything is fine and that all those organisations will soon enjoy their freedom again, their assets will be returned and so on. That is not the case, so I ask the Assembly to reject the amendment.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – The amendment was rejected by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 2 is rejected.
We come to amendment 4. I call Mr Schennach to support the amendment.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The amendment would oblige all member States to sign and/or ratify the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations. Having member States implement this in their books of law will lead to more security and their legislation will have to favour NGOs. They should be obliged to do that because it is a European convention.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – The amendment was approved by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 4 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 14570, as amended. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 14570, as amended, is adopted, with 97 votes for, 21 against and 3 abstentions.
We now come to consideration of the recommendation, to which one amendment has been tabled. I call Mr Schennach to support amendment 6.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The amendment invites the Committee of Ministers to develop and adopt guidelines on foreign funding of NGOs in member States, on the basis of a study being finalised by the Venice Commission. We have seen in our work in several former Soviet countries how afraid they are of foreign funding of NGOs. If we develop the guidelines together, no one will fear foreign funding.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms ĆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – The amendment was approved by a large majority.
The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.
Amendment 6 is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 14570, as amended. A two-thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 14570, as amended, is adopted, with 98 votes for, 17 against and 6 abstentions.
I congratulate the rapporteur.
Colleagues, please remain seated for the address by Mr Peter Pellegrini, the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.
(Ms Maury Pasquier, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Trisse.)
2. Address by Mr Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic
The PRESIDENT* – Dear colleagues, our next item of business is an address by Mr Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.
Prime Minister, it is an honour to welcome you to this Assembly, which you know well from your own experience, because you had a seat in this Chamber between 2009 and 2012. It is a real pleasure to see you here once again.
I am particularly delighted to welcome you when your country is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its membership of our Organisation. Throughout that quarter century, the Slovak Republic has been a reliable and committed partner of the Council of Europe, and a promoter and defender of democratic principles on our continent. Your presence here today is witness to the fact that your country and you personally hold our common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law very dear.
Earlier in my office, I was very pleased to discuss in a frank, open and constructive manner the various challenges with which Europe is confronted, including your country in particular. You will no doubt speak to that more amply in your address. You have the floor, sir.
Mr PELLEGRINI (Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic) – Madam President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, honourable members, ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is a great honour for me to address you today. In three days’ time, on 30 June 2018, we shall commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Slovak Republic’s accession to the Council of Europe, the oldest international Organisation on the European continent.
I am delighted to say that I am very familiar with this place, having worked here for several years as a member of the permanent delegation of the Slovak Republic to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I am therefore all the more pleased that I can be here with you again, now as Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, to share with you the successes that my country has achieved in the past 25 years. I will also be glad to discuss with you outstanding matters and challenges that the Council of Europe and Europe itself face today. The importance of our debate taking place here is clear, because the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a permanent platform for dialogue at the parliamentary level, inspiring all policies of the Council of Europe. Moreover, the Assembly defends our common values, which are deeply enshrined in the principles of human rights and democracy.
Let me draw your attention to the very purpose for which the Council of Europe was founded – to protect human rights, peace and democracy. We must not lose respect for those values, which now tend to be taken for granted instead of being seen as privileges that we gained when the Council of Europe was founded and that European society continues to benefit from. The Slovak Republic values that privilege. In the course of fulfilling the often challenging obligations arising from our membership of the Council of Europe, we have been able to reach a high level of democracy in a relatively short period of time since our independence in 1993. The Council of Europe helped young European democracies substantially at that time, on occasion even by asking for strict measures to be implemented – as it turns out, we now have more problems with those countries with which the Council of Europe chose to be more lenient.
Let us not forget, however, that the new members proved to be a breath of fresh air after the Council of Europe had started to lose momentum, just before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Young blood is simply an asset for every organisation, even though it bears some aspects of wildness. When those new members joined the Council of Europe, it was a win-win situation, and we should strive to maintain such an approach now and in the future.
Slovakia appeared on the map of Europe a quarter of a century ago. Like all young democracies, we had to cope with a fundamental change of circumstances, be they political, economic, social or related to fundamental values. That was not an easy period, for much of what had been considered stable suddenly lost its relevance, and new beacons of stability had yet to be found. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Slovakia also had to do its utmost to build its own statehood – in the full complexity of this word. We had to create our own institutions, and develop our own foreign policy and diplomacy, among other things, as well as engaging in the international community and in various forms of international co-operation. I am deeply honoured to claim that we have succeeded in that mission.
Today, 25 years after independence, I can proudly say that Slovakia is a fully fledged and recognised member of the international community. Slovakia fulfils its commitments and contributes to maintaining peace, stability, security and prosperity in the world. That is also proved by various positions on the international stage, such as the successful Slovak presidency of the Council of Europe in 2007-08 and the Slovak presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2016. The post of President of the General Assembly of the United Nations has been held by the Slovak Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Miroslav Lajčák, for several months. Slovakia is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2018 to 2020, following its previous successful involvement in that body in 2008 to 2011. In a few days, literally, Slovakia will succeed Hungary to hold the presidency of the Visegrád Group for the fifth time, and the OSCE chairmanship next year is no doubt one of the major challenges ahead of us. Those examples serve as a testimony to the confidence of the international community in our young democracy and to the firm footing it has established on the international stage through the years.
As I have said, a quarter of a century ago the Council of Europe helped us lay the foundations of our statehood and parliamentary democracy in accordance with the principles of the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. Today, Slovakia offers the Organisation and its members our own experience and knowledge acquired in the course of transition from a totalitarian to a democratic society. We are actively involved in the process of the Organisation’s creation of norms and standards to strengthen international co-operation and to deal jointly with the challenges present in today’s Europe.
I have mentioned the role of the Council of Europe in increasing the level of democracy on the European continent, but let me highlight the role of its flagship, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. History shows us that no State is perfect when it comes to respecting human rights. Shortcomings related to human rights occur in every country from time to time, and it is necessary to identify them and call for a remedy. States must be relentless in the field of human rights, and must continuously strengthen and improve legislative, institutional and application frameworks for protecting and promoting human rights.
It should be a common interest of all member States to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights is not confronted with long-term difficulties that have a significantly negative effect on its functioning and effectiveness. I therefore believe that effective implementation of the Convention and full compliance with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights at national level is the most natural path to follow. We learned from application practice in the Slovak Republic just how positively the Strasbourg Court’s case law affects the development and formation of legislation and decision making by judicial authorities, thus increasing the protection of human rights in member States.
I would also like to focus on the work of the European Commission for Democracy through Law – the Venice Commission. That highly respected institution has outstripped the geographic reach of the Council of Europe in terms of its members and importance. The Slovak Republic is grateful for the excellent co-operation and expert assistance provided by the Venice Commission, including its opinion of last year that helped to address the issue of appointing judges to the constitutional court of the Slovak Republic. In recognition of the value of our dialogue with expert bodies, I would also like to highlight the importance of GRECO and Moneyval. The Slovak Republic tries not only to implement the recommendations of monitoring bodies at national level but to help the proper functioning of those bodies.
Let me draw your attention to another two important pillars of this Organisation. The first is the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who oversees adherence to human rights standards in member States. I am grateful to the former Commissioner, Nils Muižnieks, for his inspiring co-operation with the Slovak authorities, and I look forward to working with the new Commissioner, Dunja Mijatović. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is another important anchor of the Organisation. Without democracy at local and regional level, there would not be democracy at national level. The voices of our citizens, who ask for solutions to their everyday problems and demonstrate their active engagement in the life of the country, should be among the priorities of all politicians. I therefore welcome the contribution of the Congress to enhancing democracy and good governance.
The protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities is a topic of particular importance for Slovakia. The Council of Europe has done vital work in that regard. I appreciated the event hosted by the Croatian presidency of the Committee of Ministers last week, at which we commemorated the 20th anniversary of two unique Council of Europe legal instruments – the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – entering into force. Slovakia, with its diverse population in terms of national minorities and ethnic groups, takes full advantage of the expertise and assistance provided by the Advisory Committee and the Committee of Experts in its efforts to improve the protection of persons belonging to national minorities.
I am also thankful to the Council of Europe for helping to improve the social status of the Roma in both Slovakia and Europe, including their social inclusion. Addressing the problems of Roma communities is a long-term priority of the Government of the Slovak Republic, which welcomes any suggestions from the international community that may have a positive impact on that target group. I consider education fundamental to the integration of Roma into majority society and therefore wish to highlight the joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Union on inclusive education for Roma children.
The basic pillar of the rule of law is an independent and properly functioning judiciary. I am glad that the European Union justice scoreboard ranked the Slovak Republic much higher in 2018 than in previous years. I appreciate the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, with which the Slovak Republic works closely and intensively, as a particularly useful Council of Europe tool. One of the results of that co-operation is an in-depth analysis of the state of the Slovak justice system. I believe that the measures proposed by CEPEJ will contribute to further optimisation of the functioning of the justice system in Slovakia. Having a high-quality, efficient, cost-effective and independent justice system will ultimately restore and reinforce our citizens’ confidence.
I appreciate the excellent co-operation between the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Slovak Republic. This month, we organised a joint meeting of the bank – the oldest European multilateral development bank – in Bratislava. During its 20-year membership, Slovakia has made use of both the finances provided by the bank and its experience and values, and we are an active contributor to its funds and social cohesion tools.
Ladies and gentlemen, like other member States, the Slovak Republic needs the Council of Europe in these turbulent times. Populism and extremism are on the rise in Europe and around the world, along with fake news and hate speech. Terrorism, the migration crisis, growing scepticism and the public’s mistrust of institutions undermine the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Multilateralism is threatened by a lack of dialogue and tolerance, an inability to listen to one another and a lack of political will. However, only by taking a joint approach and co-operating will we be able to cope with the challenges that we face.
The Council of Europe is no exception. The political and financial crisis undermines the Organisation’s mandate and ability to act, and impedes its proper functioning. The upcoming 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Europe is therefore an opportunity to self-reflect, to recognise our strengths and weaknesses, and to outline the Council of Europe’s strategic direction, rather than to celebrate. The basic premise of that process is that all member States should realise that the Council of Europe is not an ŕ la carte menu from which we choose only what we want. We should not merely enjoy the benefits of membership. On the contrary, it is necessary to honour and respect the obligations imposed on us by membership of the Council of Europe, and to implement consistently the decisions made by the Organisation in accordance with the rules agreed by all member States. I therefore greatly appreciate the initiative by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to continue the reforms that it so urgently needs.
Secretary General Jagland, on behalf of the Slovak Republic, I am grateful to you for all you have done in favour of the Organisation as a whole. I firmly believe that in the future there will be the political will among all actors to undertake a complex reform of the Organisation that will make the Council of Europe stronger and more clearly defined within the framework of modern multilateral architecture.
Effective multilateralism has been much debated lately – alas, from both an enthusiastic and a sceptical point of view. Promoting effective multilateralism is one of the main pillars of Slovakia’s foreign policy. We apply all aspects of it to the Council of Europe. But let me point out one aspect of effective multilateralism which is so simple that it is often forgotten. The Council of Europe is a type of international organisation that cannot be equally useful for all of its members at the same time. Sometimes a particular State needs it more, and sometimes less. Put differently, the Council of Europe can sometimes offer the State more, and sometimes less. Therefore, a member of an international organisation should approach it not in terms of whether it now meets its short-term expectations or demands, but in terms of whether it serves the whole community of member States from a long-term perspective.
The Council of Europe’s mission is to promote and protect human rights in Europe. I find it rather worrying that this mission is undermined in areas affected by armed and frozen conflicts. We cannot accept that the human rights of citizens living in such territories are systematically suppressed. This is the case for Slovakia’s neighbour, Ukraine. I reiterate that Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders have the Slovak Republic’s full support. We appreciate the results of previous reforms in Ukraine, to which the Council of Europe also contributes a great deal through the action plan. At the same time, I stress the need to continue this reform effort, to effectively implement new legislation and to ensure the reforms are sustainable. Slovakia reaffirms its commitment to assist and support Ukraine actively in its reform process, including its gradual progress towards the standards of the European Union.
The unrelenting violence in the eastern part of Ukraine and the frozen conflicts in Georgia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, in contravention of international law, demonstrate the lack of political will to solve them. At this point, I would like to commend Council of Europe programmes such as the confidence building measures, which we consider to be an important contribution to the peaceful settlement of disputes and the coexistence of the inhabitants of the territories concerned. Europe’s security has been directly linked with the Western Balkans for centuries. It is therefore not a coincidence that the term “Western Balkans” occurs repeatedly in key European Union documents, and the enlargement policy is seen as a strategic investment in European security and prosperity.
Seventy years ago, when memories of wartime were present in every corner of our continent, we had a dream. The grand idea at the time was to have a Europe without borders, where people could live freely and happily and where the rule of law was a fundamental imperative. Today we can say that we have come considerably closer to that idea. The European family has become a reality, and 28 countries, including central European countries, sit together at the same table to discuss a wide range of issues and decide on their own future. However, the vision has not yet been accomplished, so Slovakia will continue to support the reform efforts of the Western Balkan region and enhance the credibility of the accession process. We believe that new dynamics of expansion will help the countries in the region to meet the conditions for European Union membership. A stable, secure and prosperous Western Balkans is the shared vision not only of the European Union, but of the Council of Europe, which makes a significant contribution to this vision.
Before I conclude my speech, I should draw your attention to something that you have heard here again and again. Corruption is one of the greatest threats to democracy in Europe. It has cast its shadow over this Organisation and many of its member States. I believe that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe will find the inner strength to deal with this problem in a dignified manner. Corruption is often referred to as the cancer of society, and we saw during the recent events in my country that none of us is immune to this disease. In the struggle to preserve and restore citizens’ trust in the rule of law, we see independent and functioning institutions, an active civil society and free media as our partners. We envisage the Council of Europe, with its experience and know-how, playing a major role in this process.
I would like express my support for the vital role that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe play in protecting democracy throughout the pan-European area. Your work and new ideas are essential in the process of overcoming the challenges we face together. This objective can only be achieved through co-operation at parliamentary and governmental levels, as well as through co-operation with civil society and other stakeholders. This vision of mutual respect and tolerance was shared by Alexander Dubček, a prominent Czechoslovak and Slovak political figure in the 20th century, who is known as the face of the Prague Spring and who is a Sakharov prize laureate. I will present his bust as a gift on behalf of the Slovak Republic to the Council of Europe after the end of our discussion.
Thank you for your attention, and I will be pleased to answer questions from the members of the Parliamentary Assembly. It is a great honour to be here with you today. [Applause.]
The PRESIDENT* – Prime Minister, thank you for that most interesting address. A substantial number of colleagues wish to ask you questions. I remind colleagues that questions should be limited to 30 seconds, and you are requested to ask questions and not to make speeches. The list of speakers starts with those who will speak on behalf of the political groups.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Prime Minister, I want to ask you about the Visegrád countries, because you will soon have the chairmanship of the Visegrád 4. Unfortunately, the Visegrád countries have recently taken decisions and expressed opinions that are not very similar to those of the majority of European Union countries in Brussels. Does the Visegrád group look to you like an alternative to European integration, or is it simply nice regional co-operation?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – Slovakia takes over the presidency of the V4 countries on 1 July. Our main ambition is to bring the V4 closer to the European Union, and that means opening up new, positive pro-European topics. We have never thought of the V4 as an alternative to the European space; rather, we have thought of it as an integral part of that space. However, I appreciate that, logically, it may be possible for the V4 countries to achieve a consensus of opinion that represents the entire group. Our presidency’s slogan will be “Dynamic Visegrád for Europe”. We will focus on three pillars: secure Europe, economically strong Europe and innovative solutions. We want to organise many meetings in the V4 plus format. I would like to announce here that in the autumn we are going to have meetings of the V4 plus Germany and the V4 plus France and meetings with some other countries so that we are able to respond to the challenges at hand.
I do not think that in our current situation the V4 countries are an isolated island that would have absolutely different opinions from the rest of Europe. On the contrary, in recent months we have witnessed that in certain specific areas some other countries are moving closer to the opinions of the V4 countries. That is why we believe we are not alone in having these opinions. So I ask you to respect that the V4 countries, including Slovakia, are part of the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO. We all have a full right to listen to the opinions of others but also to raise our own opinions and present our way of seeing the future of Europe.
Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom, Spokesman for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group) – Mr Prime Minister, welcome home to the Assembly. We shall treasure the bust of the great Alexander Dubček. You will recall that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, concluded that Slovakia had not addressed the recommendations that it had issued in 2014 on racism and intolerance, including political discourse. What steps have been taken by your government to ensure that the 2019 evaluation report is more positive?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – Thank you. I am glad to see you as well. I remember you from the times when I was part of the permanent delegation from the Slovak Republic.
In Slovakia we are fully aware of some shortcomings or discrepancies in the areas that you mention, and we are trying to eliminate all the shortcomings that were mentioned in that report. We are co-operating closely with the ECRI secretariat, and we are doing our utmost to see that the evaluation in 2019 is much more positive and the report can state that many of the problems from the past have been eliminated. I assure you that the Slovak Republic is going to do its utmost to correct that. I firmly believe that, once we read the 2019 evaluation, we will not have to discuss this again. We are also adopting many measures to eliminate the shortcomings described in the previous report.
Lord RUSSELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Mr Prime Minister, I congratulate you on your ability to navigate through pronouncing some very difficult words in the English language. Congratulations.
Most democracies have extreme and unpleasant fringe political parties. Do you think the presence in the Slovak Republic of a party described by some as neo-Nazi, the “people’s party” Our Slovakia, headed by Mr Marian Kotleba, currently the third party in the opinion polls, is a sign of a healthy and balanced democracy, or should your friends and allies be concerned? Are you concerned, and how do you explain its level of support?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – Dear MP, this is unfortunately not only a problem for Slovakia. Similar trends are arising in other countries in Europe. We have to be aware of that so that these trends do not continue further. You are right: in Slovakia we have the party that you mentioned and its leader, whose name you pronounced so very well. He has no shame in claiming values that have nothing to do with the values of the Council of Europe. He offers simple solutions. He is just a populist who, through his populism, has gained popularity among some citizens. However, I draw your attention to the fact that this gentleman used to be part of a self-governing region in Slovakia; he stood for election and people voted for him. After four years of us working to explain things, within the last year he failed to win another election and someone else won.
That is a good sign that Slovaks understood that this was not the way forward. They have done everything that they could to elect a democratic candidate, who is now the governor of that self-governing region. We will do the same at the central level to reduce Mr Kotleba’s power and get him out of that space. However, this requires us and the other main political parties to deliver on promises to the people, and we also have to talk about things that people are troubled by today. We have to deliver results. That is the only way that we can fight populism. Unless we are able to deliver results, we create the space for simplified solutions that are used by populists and fascists, whether in Slovakia or elsewhere. This is our responsibility. We have to work, work, work to deliver results and convince people that it is actually worth trusting the main political parties and institutions and defending democratic values.
Mr JŘRGENSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Prime Minister Pellegrini, four months ago a Slovak journalist, a young man called Ján Kuciak, and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were brutally murdered and killed in their apartment. He had been writing articles about the personal and financial connections between members of the government and the Italian Mafia. We are strongly concerned about the lack of progress in both murder investigations, so I would like you to assure us that you are doing everything possible to solve these crimes. What are you and the Government of Slovakia doing in order to guarantee freedom of the press and the safety of all journalists in Slovakia?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – First, I remind you that before this tragic event, Slovakia was evaluated as the 17th country in the world in terms of support for journalists and freedom of speech, and many older democracies and States scored worse in that evaluation. I would like to guarantee that the government, under my management, will not enact any measures that would in any way limit or hamper freedom of speech and of journalism in Slovakia. Yes, this was a tragic event. A journalist and his fiancée were murdered, but it is very difficult to prevent such an event. If someone plans a premeditated murder, it is extremely difficult to prevent it, and the State has no means of doing so. However, the government, under my management, really tries to calm down situations in which there are threats to journalists or where journalists themselves feel threatened, and the police are now much more active. Of course, we have no censorship. We do not censor the web or any articles by journalists, so there is considerable freedom of speech and of journalism in Slovakia.
At the moment, we have one of the largest investigation teams working in Slovakia. Even though for me, as prime minister, the priority is to investigate every crime and every murder, we understand that we must pay special attention to this particular crime. If someone somehow wanted to impede the progress of the investigation, that would not be possible. I stress that we want to investigate and to find out who is behind the murder – who ordered it. It could be a matter of weeks but, equally, it could take years. You never know in advance. We have an international investigation team. The Italian police, Europol, the FBI and police from the Netherlands are all involved and we have involved a number of our greatest available experts. I hope that both you and I, and all the citizens of Europe, will learn what the reason for the murder was.
I stress once more that Slovakia continues to be one of the most secure countries in the world and that journalists there have one of the greatest freedoms. Slovakia continues to be a standard democratic country that is proud to be a member of the European Union and of the European continent.
Mr PSYCHOGIOS (Greece, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – Welcome, Prime Minister, to our Assembly. As of 12 June 2018, Slovakia had received only 16 refugees out of a total of 902 allocated to the country, which is clearly not compatible with European Union and European Court of Human Rights decisions and Council of Europe resolutions on the implementation of relocation programmes. Bearing in mind that sharing rights and obligations, as you said, as well as common solutions based on solidarity is at the core of European values and principles, how do you comment on that situation?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – Slovakia has standard legislation relating to asylum procedures, which must be, and is, in compliance with European law. The small number of refugees that you mentioned is probably the result of the fact that even though Slovakia is an amazing and prosperous country, migrants do not choose it as their destination country. They do not wish to spend the rest of their lives in Slovakia. To use that number as a proxy for the level of solidarity would be incorrect. Slovakia has been involved in many other activities through which we show our solidarity. I refer to things such as helping Syrian Christians. We have brought entire families to Slovakia, some of whom have chosen to stay while others returned to Syria when the situation calmed down. We help our neighbours in technical, financial and human terms. We have also offered the use of our asylum facilities, and we helped our Austrian colleagues by taking care of 200 asylum seekers whom Austria was unable to house at the time. Slovakia is a country that shows solidary but we have our own idea of how to do that. I do not think that solidarity should be measured only in terms of how many asylum seekers we accept or how many come to our country.
Ms GAMBARO (Italy, Spokesperson for the Free Democrats Group) – Prime Minister, Slovakia is taking over the presidency of the Visegrád Group. What will one of your priorities be, given that the experiences of the V4 countries and the enlargement policy are crucial for the Western Balkan countries in the process of European Union accession? The integration of the Western Balkan countries represents not only an economic but an important political and security interest, both for them and the entire European Union.
Mr PELLEGRINI* – I would like to confirm that the presidency under the leadership of the Slovak Republic will include the continuation of the integration of the countries of the Western Balkans. We firmly believe that these countries’ future should be within the European Union, as that would show them the way to prosperity and to a shared future. However, we, the V4 countries, must outline a clear vision for the Western Balkan countries and show them what they have to do to become a member, because unless we do that, we risk the citizens of those countries ceasing to believe in that dream. They might not want to suffer the sometimes painful reforms, unless they felt they would bring them tangible results. That is why, in the summit in Sofia, the V4 countries stated very clearly that we do not believe it to be correct to exclude the year 2025 from the originally proposed document – the document was adopted without that date. If a country complies with all the criteria requested in the individual chapters, they should receive from the European Union the clear answer that yes, they can become a fully-fledged member of the organisation. I cannot agree with some countries that are sending signals towards the Western Balkans that, for example, the European Union has enough struggles and problems of its own, without further enlargement. We cannot afford to speak to the Western Balkan countries like that, which is why the V4 countries will continue to promote the integration of the Western Balkan countries into the European Union.
The PRESIDENT* – We will now take questions in groups of three, with the prime minister responding to three or four questions at a time. I call Ms Duranton.
Ms DURANTON (France)* – Mr Jřrgensen has already asked my question, so I have already had an answer.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Over the past two months, an alarming number of reporters have been dismissed from RTVS, the Slovak Republic’s TV and radio broadcaster. Some left of their own accord, but many of them have spoken out against undue political influence over their outlet’s news reporting. Prime minister, how do you assess the current situation, which has alarmed many civil society organisations?
Mr HAJDUKOVIĆ (Croatia) – Prime minister, you said in your speech that you will continue to encourage Western Balkan countries in their reforms and preparation for European membership and that you will continue to promote the European way. However, the question at the moment should be about whether the Union is ready for them, not the other way around, and as you said, if there is no clear European perspective, they will look for other perspectives. What specific things will you do? You say that you will promote things, but that is too general. What steps will you take as a member country to support the Western Balkans into the European Union?
Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom) – Slovakia recently faced a corruption scandal involving tax and promissory notes. Is that an isolated example, or is the problem widespread?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – As for the situation in Slovak TV and radio, I am sure that the Slovak TV team who are with me were happy to hear the question. The broadcaster is a public organisation paid for by the citizens themselves, and the State only subsidises when necessary. That is how the organisation’s independence is guaranteed. Political rulings have no control over public TV and radio, although the head of the broadcaster is voted for in the parliament. The organisation has thousands of employees and, as you mentioned, perhaps a dozen of them have left or were let go, so there will be no impact on the running of the TV and radio. Those who have stayed have said that no one has prevented them from publishing whatever they want – there was no censorship. The situation is stable, and the broadcaster continues to be the most credible news outlet.
Turning to the question about tax fraud, Slovakia has implemented a tremendous number of measures to combat such fraud, especially with regard to VAT. The new legislation included some technical measures that eliminate the possibility of missing trader fraud and carousel fraud, because many parasites were draining the system. We can also see an effect in our finances, because many more millions of euros are flowing into our budget than before. I am happy that we are successful in this fight, and many neighbouring countries are adopting similar measures because they have proven to be so efficient.
I want to say one thing in response to the question about the Western Balkans. We should support Croatia, along with Bulgaria and Romania, to become a member of the Schengen zone, because Croatia is technically ready. From a strategic point of view, it would be more convenient if our southern external border was further south, because that would help us to tackle the challenges we face. We support Croatia’s ambition, and what I said about the Western Balkans also applies to Croatia. If a country complies with the requirements, it should not be prevented from becoming a member.
Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova) – Prime minister, I thank you and your country for supporting the Republic of Moldova in the United Nations General Assembly when a resolution was passed concerning the presence of Russian troops in our territory. You mentioned Transnistria in your speech, so what do you think can be done to get the Russian Federation to implement its international obligations to withdraw their military presence from the territory of the Republic of Moldova?
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – Several NGOs, including Amnesty International, are denouncing the discrimination and police violence to which the Roma are being subjected in the Slovak Republic. How is the Slovak Government reacting to that situation?
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – My question is about the Russian sanctions. At the meeting this week, it is likely that the European Union Council will extend those sanctions. Voices in my country that want the sanctions to end are getting increasingly loud. What is your position? What is the debate in the Slovak Republic?
Mr PELLEGRINI* – I thank the MP from the Republic of Moldova for his words, and I can again confirm Slovakia’s willingness to continue helping the Republic of Moldova in its process towards Europe and the European Union. The answer to the question is very complex, but I can assure you that we will always prefer peace organisations and dialogue, which is the only way to resolve such long-term issues. Accepting more pressure could only worsen the situation. That is why I believe that in the Council of Europe, and in other organisations, we should influence countries and try to resolve issues through diplomatic means.
Slovakia has a Roma community who live in their own specific way, and in some areas there are Roma settlements where the Roma are concentrated. If any crimes are committed and there are any perpetrators, we must act regardless of whether that crime was committed by a Slovak, German or Roma. I understand that some communities are concerned if we also fight crime there, but in terms of combating crime, we cannot distinguish between the Roma and other communities. I do not feel, and no statistics can show, that we are especially hostile towards the Roma, or that repression is higher than with any other community. Sometimes, something happens on one occasion, and it is then discussed for a year or two or three, but on the contrary, I assure the Assembly that we are taking a number of measures to incorporate the Roma community into the majority of the population, focusing especially on children. We take children out of the vicious circle and away from an environment in which they have such a low stimulus, so that they can get an education and later on a good paid job. Nothing critical is happening in Slovakia but, as I said, if a crime is committed, we will act regardless of whether the perpetrator is Roma or non-Roma.
The third question was about sanctions against the Russian Federation. Slovakia has been saying for a long time that sanctions have not brought any positive effects, and nothing has improved in relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union. Indeed on the contrary, we have seen some political and economic damage, and some companies lost their markets because they cannot trade with the Russian Federation. We have not seen a positive outcome from sanctions, which is why we believe that they are to the detriment of the situation, rather than bringing a positive value. We believe it worthwhile to reconsider whether to return to a constructive dialogue with the Russian Federation, rather than prolonging sanctions that are meaningless and damaging to the economies of our countries and of the Russian Federation.
The PRESIDENT – We must now conclude the questions to Mr Pellegrini.
Dear Prime Minister, thank you very much for your most interesting speech. I particularly appreciated what you said about the impossibility of so-called ŕ la carte membership, and about the importance of the effective implementation of conventions, and full respect for the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. I wish the Slovak Republic another 25 years of successful membership in our Organisation.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda that was approved on Monday.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.)
1. New restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States
Presentation by Mr Cruchten of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Document 14570
Speakers: Ms Johnsson Fornarve, Mr Mullen, Ms Bushka, Sir Edward Leigh, Ms Sotnyk, Mr Nick, Ms Juhász, Ms Jones, Lord Blencathra, Ms Heinrich, Mr Aleksandar Stevanović, Mr Marques, Mr Whitfield, Mr Essl, Ms Anttila, Ms Fataliyeva, Ms Gurmai, Ms Duranton, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Seyidov, Mr Hasanov, Mr Mollazade, Ms Pomaska, Mr Eide, Mr Yeneroğlu, Mr Kleinwaechter, Mr Gattolin, Mr Oehme
Draft resolution in Document 14570, as amended, adopted
Draft recommendation in Document 14570, as amended, adopted
2. Address by Mr Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic
Questions: Mr Vareikis, Lord Anderson, Lord Russell, Mr Jřrgensen, Mr Psychogios, Ms Gambaro, Ms Duranton, Ms Schou, Mr Hajduković, Mr Howell, Mr Ghiletchi, Mr Fournier, Mr Hunko
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.
ABAD, Damien [M.]
ĹBERG, Boriana [Ms]
AČIENĖ, Vida [Ms] (TAMAŠUNIENĖ, Rita [Ms])
AMON, Werner [Mr]
ANDERSON, Donald [Lord] (SHARMA, Virendra [Mr])
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr]
BADIA, José [M.]
BAKUN, Wojciech [Mr]
BALÁŽ, Radovan [Mr] (PAŠKA, Jaroslav [M.])
BALIĆ, Marijana [Ms]
BATRINCEA, Vlad [Mr]
BERGAMINI, Deborah [Ms]
BEUS RICHEMBERGH, Goran [Mr]
BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]
BLAHA, Ľuboš [Mr]
BLENCATHRA, David [Lord] (GALE, Roger [Sir])
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BUSHKA, Klotilda [Ms]
CEPEDA, José [Mr]
CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.])
CORSINI, Paolo [Mr]
COURSON, Yolaine de [Mme] (SORRE, Bertrand [M.])
COWEN, Barry [Mr]
CREASY, Stella [Ms] (SMITH, Angela [Ms])
CRUCHTEN, Yves [M.]
CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme]
DALLOZ, Marie-Christine [Mme]
D’AMBROSIO, Vanessa [Ms]
DAMYANOVA, Milena [Mme]
DE TEMMERMAN, Jennifer [Mme]
DONALDSON, Jeffrey [Sir]
DONCHEV, Andon [Mr] (HRISTOV, Plamen [Mr])
DURANTON, Nicole [Mme]
EBERLE-STRUB, Susanne [Ms]
EIDE, Petter [Mr] (EIDE, Espen Barth [Mr])
ESSL, Franz Leonhard [Mr]
ESTRELA, Edite [Mme]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FATALIYEVA, Sevinj [Ms] (GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms])
FIALA, Doris [Mme]
FOURNIER, Bernard [M.]
FRESKO-ROLFO, Béatrice [Mme]
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAILLOT, Albane [Mme]
GAMBARO, Adele [Ms]
GATTI, Marco [M.]
GATTOLIN, André [M.] (GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme])
GAVAN, Paul [Mr]
GERASHCHENKO, Iryna [Mme]
GERMANN, Hannes [Mr] (HEER, Alfred [Mr])
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GOGA, Pavol [M.] (KRESÁK, Peter [Mr])
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GRAF, Martin [Mr]
GRECH, Etienne [Mr] (CUTAJAR, Rosianne [Ms])
GRIN, Jean-Pierre [M.] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
GROZDANOVA, Dzhema [Ms]
GÜNAY, Emine Nur [Ms]
GURMAI, Zita [Mme]
GYÖNGYÖSI, Márton [Mr]
HAIDER, Roman [Mr]
HAJDUKOVIĆ, Domagoj [Mr]
HASANOV, Elshad [Mr] (AGHAYEVA, Ulviyye [Ms])
HEINRICH, Gabriela [Ms]
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HOWELL, John [Mr]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
IONOVA, Mariia [Ms] (BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr])
JENIŠTA, Luděk [Mr]
JENSEN, Michael Aastrup [Mr]
JENSEN, Mogens [Mr]
JOHNSSON FORNARVE, Lotta [Ms] (GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr])
JONES, Susan Elan [Ms]
JŘRGENSEN, Jan E. [Mr] (HENRIKSEN, Martin [Mr])
JUHÁSZ, Hajnalka [Ms] (VEJKEY, Imre [Mr])
KALMARI, Anne [Ms]
KANDELAKI, Giorgi [Mr] (BAKRADZE, David [Mr])
KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr]
KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]
KILIÇ, Akif Çağatay [Mr]
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
KLEINWAECHTER, Norbert [Mr]
KOPŘIVA, František [Mr]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KRIŠTO, Borjana [Ms]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LACROIX, Christophe [M.]
LEIGH, Edward [Sir]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms]
LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]
LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.]
LOPUSHANSKYI, Andrii [Mr] (DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr])
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LOUHELAINEN, Anne [Ms] (GUZENINA, Maria [Ms])
LOUIS, Alexandra [Mme]
MALLIA, Emanuel [Mr]
MARKOVIĆ, Milica [Mme]
MAROSZ, Ján [Mr]
MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness]
McCARTHY, Kerry [Ms]
MEHL, Emilie Enger [Ms]
MENDES, Ana Catarina [Mme]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MOLLAZADE, Asim [Mr] (HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr])
MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr])
MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr])
MURRAY, Ian [Mr]
NAUDI ZAMORA, Víctor [M.]
NÉMETH, Zsolt [Mr]
NENUTIL, Miroslav [Mr]
NICK, Andreas [Mr]
NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]
OEHME, Ulrich [Mr] (BERNHARD, Marc [Mr])
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ria [Ms]
OVERBEEK, Henk [Mr] (STIENEN, Petra [Ms])
PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms]
PELKONEN, Jaana Maarit [Ms]
POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
POLETTI, Bérengčre [Mme] (GROSDIDIER, François [M.])
POLIAČIK, Martin [Mr] (KAŠČÁKOVÁ, Renáta [Ms])
POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms]
PSYCHOGIOS, Georgios [Mr] (KASIMATI, Nina [Ms])
PUPPATO, Laura [Ms] (BERTUZZI, Maria Teresa [Ms])
RIBERAYGUA, Patrícia [Mme]
RUSTAMYAN, Armen [M.]
SANDBĆK, Ulla [Ms] (KRARUP, Marie [Ms])
SCHÄFER, Axel [Mr]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
SEYIDOV, Samad [Mr]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
SOTNYK, Olena [Ms]
STELLINI, David [Mr]
STEVANOVIĆ, Aleksandar [Mr]
STIER, Davor Ivo [Mr]
ŞUPAC, Inna [Ms]
TERIK, Tiit [Mr]
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
THÓRARINSSON, Birgir [Mr] (ÓLASON, Bergţór [Mr])
TILKI, Attila [Mr] (CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr])
TOUHIG, Don [Lord] (WILSON, Phil [Mr])
TRISSE, Nicole [Mme]
UNHURIAN, Pavlo [Mr] (YEMETS, Leonid [Mr])
VALENTA, Jiři [Mr] (NĚMCOVÁ, Miroslava [Ms])
VALLINI, André [M.] (LAMBERT, Jérôme [M.])
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]
VARVITSIOTIS, Miltiadis [Mr] (BAKOYANNIS, Theodora [Ms])
VEN, Mart van de [Mr]
VERDIER-JOUCLAS, Marie-Christine [Mme] (WASERMAN, Sylvain [M.])
VITANOV, Petar [Mr] (JABLIANOV, Valeri [Mr])
VOGT, Ute [Ms] (BARNETT, Doris [Ms])
WENAWESER, Christoph [Mr]
WHITFIELD, Martin [Mr] (PRESCOTT, John [Mr])
WOLD, Morten [Mr]
YENEROĞLU, Mustafa [Mr]
ZSIGMOND, Barna Pál [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]
ATSHEMYAN, Karine [Ms]
BARTOS, Mónika [Ms]
BAYR, Petra [Ms]
BOCCONE-PAGES, Brigitte [Mme]
BRENNER, Koloman [Mr]
CANNEY, Seán [Mr]
CORREIA, Telmo [M.]
CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr]
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
MAELEN, Dirk Van der [Mr]
MAKHMUDYAN, Rustam [Mr]
MARUKYAN, Edmon [Mr]
MASŁOWSKI, Maciej [Mr]
PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]
RUSSELL, Simon [Lord]
SHEPPARD, Tommy [Mr]
SMITH, Angela [Ms]
TROY, Robert [Mr]
VEJKEY, Imre [Mr]
ZAVOLI, Roger [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
LARIOS CÓRDOVA, Héctor [Mr]
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
ALQAWASMI, Sahar [Ms]
AMRAOUI, Allal [M.]
BOUANOU, Abdellah [M.]
CHAGAF, Aziza [Mme]
LABLAK, Aicha [Mme]
LEBBAR, Abdesselam [M.]
MUFLIH, Haya [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 ŕ la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)
SANER Hamza Ersan