AS (2007) CR 19


DVD edition



(Third part)


Nineteenth sitting

Monday 25 June 2007 at 11.30 a.m.


In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are summarised.

3.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

4.       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 verbatim report.

Mr van der Linden, President of the Assembly, took the chair at 11.35 a.m.

1. Resumption of the 2007 Ordinary Session

THE PRESIDENT. – I declare the third part-session of the 2007 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe open.

May I remind all members – including any non-voting Substitutes and Observers – to sign the attendance lists outside the doors of the Chamber at the beginning of every sitting?

May I also remind all Representatives and duly designated Substitutes to place their voting cards in the slot so as to ensure that the electronic system will work properly?

Thirdly, I remind you to switch off mobile phones during sittings of the Assembly and during committee meetings.

2. Examination of credentials

THE PRESIDENT. – The first order of the day is the examination of credentials of members of the Assembly, which have been submitted to the President in accordance with Rule 6.

The names of the Representatives and Substitutes are in Document 11314. If no credentials are contested, the credentials will be ratified.

Are any credentials contested?

The credentials are ratified.

3. Election of a Vice-President

THE PRESIDENT. – The next order of the day is the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of Slovakia. The chairperson of the national delegation of Slovakia has proposed Mr Boris Zala.

If there is no request for a vote, I declare Mr Boris Zala elected as a Vice-President of the Assembly.

Is that agreed?

I congratulate Mr Boris Zala on his election. He will take precedence following the Vice-Presidents already elected.

4. Changes in the membership of committees

THE PRESIDENT. – Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in document Commissions (2007) 6 and addenda 1 and 2.

Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?

The proposal is agreed to.

I must inform the Assembly that, as a result of the accession of Montenegro to the Council of Europe, an extra seat has been added to each of the committees including the Monitoring Committee, as set out in the update to the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure (June 2007) which is available in the Document Centre.

5. Request for debate under urgent procedure

THE PRESIDENT. – Before we examine the draft order of business, the Assembly needs to consider a request for a debate under urgent procedure which has been made in accordance with Rule 50 of the Rules of Procedure. The proposed subject is “How to prevent cybercrime against state institutions in member and observer states”.

At its meeting this morning the Bureau decided to support this request for an urgent debate.

Does the Assembly agree to the recommendation of the Bureau that this debate should be placed on the order of business for this part-session?

The Bureau's recommendation is accepted.

The request for urgent procedure is approved.

We will first decide on a reference to a committee for report, and then decide on the committees for opinion.

I propose that the matter of “How to prevent cybercrime against state institutions in member and observer states” be referred to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report.

Is this agreed?

The reference is agreed to.

I propose that the matter of “How to prevent cybercrime against state institutions in member and observer states” be referred to the Political Affairs Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee for opinion.

Is this agreed?

The reference is agreed to.

6. Request for a current affairs debate

THE PRESIDENT. – A request for a current affairs debate on “The political dimension of the Council of Europe budget” was submitted to me under Rule 52 by Mr Wille and supported by at least 20 members of the Assembly. It was considered by the Bureau at its meeting this morning.

The Bureau is not in favour of holding this current affairs debate. Instead, it proposes to refer this question to the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development for report, if possible to be debated during the October 2007 part-session.

Does the Assembly agree to the proposal of the Bureau?

The proposal is agreed to.

No current affairs debate will be held at this part-session.

7. Adoption of the order of business for the third part of the 2007 Ordinary Session

THE PRESIDENT. – The next order of the day is the adoption of the order of business for the third part of the 2007 Ordinary Session.

The draft order of business as drawn up by the Bureau which is submitted for the Assembly’s approval has been distributed to members. It includes provision for the urgent debate on which the Assembly has decided this morning.

Is the order of business agreed to?

Mr RIESTER (Germany) said that the Council of Europe’s work on social matters was among its most important and respected. The debate on his report had to be moved from Friday to ensure that enough Representatives were present to debate it fully and properly. That would send to those outside the Assembly the right message on the importance of the matters in the report. He therefore asked for the debate to be moved from Friday to Tuesday.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Lengagne.

Mr LENGAGNE (France) said that it was important that the report on creationism was debated in its own right and dissociated from themes of blasphemy. Much research was being carried out into avian bird flu and other diseases involving cell mutations, and evolution was an important part of that. It was essential to challenge those fundamentalist groups whose views on creationism threatened such work. Creationism was a religious insult against science. The report was not against religions but was for the progress of science.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Van den Brande.

Mr VAN DEN BRANDE (Belgium). – Thank you, Mr President. When we looked at the draft resolution, we thought that it would be better to refer it back to the committee, because we think that the issue is not to deny the scientific evolution theory. But our group is convinced that the proposal is unbalanced. We are open to discussing it, but there is in fact a preliminary question: are we a scientific academy, or are we a political body? Is this item appropriate? In any case, I ask that the draft resolution be referred back to the committee. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. There are now three proposals. Are there any further proposals to change the order of business? I call Mr Hancock.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – I think that Mr Van den Brande has posed an interesting question. One wonders why Tuesday’s business is necessary at all, because I share his view that this is a political Assembly, dealing with political items that affect the core values of the Council of Europe. We are not here to discuss religious matters. I look at Friday’s agenda –

THE PRESIDENT. – I am sorry, but you are entering into a discussion.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – No, I am talking about another proposal to change the agenda. On Friday, we are to discuss the image of women in advertising and women’s involvement in the issue of poverty, and the importance of labour regulations and the minimum wage. Those issues are worthy of debate on Tuesday. My proposal is to transfer them to Tuesday and replace those items on the agenda for Tuesday that cover religious matters, which are not relevant to the core values of the Council of Europe. Perhaps, in the meantime, if you were to accept my proposal to shift Friday’s business to Tuesday, it would give the Bureau time to think about whether it wants to proceed with any of the debates on issues that relate to religion, which, I believe, are non-core values of the Council of Europe, and deal with them at another time and in another place – preferably on a Sunday before the next part of the session, for those members who might care to turn up then.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. We now have four proposals to change the agenda. Are there any more such proposals, not discussions?

Mr KESKIN (Germany) said that the Group of the Unified European Left supported the position of the Socialist Group.

THE PRESIDENT. – I am sorry, but this is not a discussion. If you have a proposal for the order of business, please tell us; if not, there is no discussion.

We have four proposals, the first of which is the far-reaching proposal of Mr Hancock to change the order of business by moving those items that are on the order of business for Friday to Tuesday and those that are on the order of business for Tuesday to Friday.

I call Mr Eörsi to speak against the proposal. You have one minute.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary). – I would like to speak against this proposal, which received huge applause, to move Friday’s business to Tuesday because people go home on Friday. I wonder whether we could say in our home parliaments, “Please don’t do it, because we want to go home.” We are here on taxpayers’ money and every day is equal, so everyone who applauded should stay here on Friday, take part in the business and vote as they wish. We should not contribute to the devaluation of Friday business. Please reject this proposal.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mrs Durrieu on a point of order.

Mrs DURRIEU (France) asked the President to set out the proposals again regarding the order of business.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – We are going to vote on the proposal to move Friday’s items to Tuesday and to discuss Tuesday’s items on Friday.

Mrs DURRIEU (France) (Translation). – What are the other proposals? We need to be aware of all four proposals before we can vote.

THE PRESIDENT. – The proposal of Mr Van den Brande is the next far-reaching proposal, and it is to send back the report on the danger of creationism to the committee. We then have the proposal to change the order of business so that the Social Charter is dealt with at another date, not on Friday. The next proposal relates to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue – the report of Mr de Puig – and to adding creationism to that discussion.

We have heard someone speak in favour and someone speak against. We shall now vote on changing the order of business and moving Friday’s business to Tuesday.

The vote is open.

The proposed alteration in the order of business is agreed to, with 64 votes in favour, 46 against and 8 abstentions.

Therefore, everything on Tuesday morning goes to Friday.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – My proposal was to move only Tuesday’s three items on religious matters to Friday, and that was clear when I made it.

THE PRESIDENT. – We will now deal with the proposal of Mr Van den Brande to send the report on creationism back to the committee.

Does anyone want to speak against?

I call Mr Hancock. You have one minute.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – I am at a loss to understand how this report came to be warranted in the first place, but it has been produced and I think that it is a balanced report which addresses the issue at hand. It would be wrong to refer it back or for it to be influenced in any way. Those members who want to change the report will have ample opportunity to do so by tabling amendments during the debate on it. Members who propose that it must be referred back to be rewritten because it is not balanced need to say in what areas it is unbalanced, because I have read it and I cannot see where it is unbalanced.

THE PRESIDENT. – Those who are in favour of Mr Van den Brande’s proposal should vote in favour, and those who are against it should vote against.

The vote is open.

The proposed alteration in the order of business is agreed to, with 63 votes in favour, 46 against and 10 abstentions.

Mr LENGAGNE (France) (Translation). – This is my last Assembly session.

THE PRESIDENT. – It is not possible to have a debate now, as the decision has been taken. There was a proposal for a debate on the Social Charter on Friday, but it will now be held on Tuesday morning. We do not need to discuss a return to the original situation.

I call Mr Hancock, on a point of order.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom). – If we are an organisation that believes in transparency, how can we have a vote on this issue, given that Mr Van den Brande gave no indication of the reason for the reference back when he proposed it? That does not send out a good message.

THE PRESIDENT. – Order. I am sorry, but we now have a decision on a new order of business for the week, in accordance with the results of this vote, and we shall now continue this morning’s debate.

Is the draft order of business, as amended, agreed to?

The draft order of business, as amended, is agreed to.

8. Time limit on speeches

THE PRESIDENT. – Because it is clear already that there will be a large number of speakers for the debates, the Bureau proposes that speeches in all debates this afternoon and tomorrow should be limited to four minutes.

Is that agreed to?

The proposal is agreed to.

9. Adoption of the minutes of the Standing Committee

THE PRESIDENT. – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee in Belgrade on 24 May 2007 have been distributed.

I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.

10. Written declaration

THE PRESIDENT. – I wish to announce to the Assembly that, in accordance with Rule 53 of the Rules of Procedure, a written declaration, No. 396, on the “Non-renewal of the transmission license of the private audiovisual company Radio Caracas Television”, Document 11291, has been printed, signed by 20 members of the Assembly.

Representatives or Substitutes who wish to add their signatures to this declaration can do so in the Table Office. If any names are added, the declaration will be distributed again two weeks after the end of the part-session with all the accumulated signatures.

11. Address by the President to the Assembly

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Strasbourg for our June part-session. In April, our inaugural annual report showcased the strengths of the Council of Europe and the key role played by our Assembly. This week, by concentrating on our core activities in a variety of ways, we will once again underline the importance of the Council of Europe as a pan-European Organisation with a strong and independent parliamentary dimension.

I must begin, of course, by mentioning Mr Marty’s second report on secret detentions and unlawful interstate transfers; they are no longer just allegations. Mr Marty’s report shows the Assembly in its best light, making use of our members’ double mandate and the added value of our unique role, combining national and European levels. Thanks to this, and our Organisation’s unrivalled experience and expertise in human rights and the rule of law, Mr Marty has exposed the misdeeds of European governments in unprecedented detail. I extend my full support and congratulations to Mr Marty, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and its small, but top-quality, team of staff for their remarkable and courageous work in the face of often crude and shameful obstruction and attacks.

I would also like to express once again my profound appreciation of the role played by civil society, including non-governmental organisations and journalists, as well as individuals such as the “plane-spotters”, and in particular Human Rights Watch, to which I will award a Presidential Distinction on Wednesday morning in recognition of its outstanding contribution.

It is essential that Europe now takes the lead in promoting our common values around the world. First, however, all European governments and parliaments must closely and honestly scrutinise their own actions and correct their own mistakes. Our report is clear proof that the Council of Europe has an essential, central role to play in encouraging and supporting this process.

The outcome of last week’s summit in Brussels showed that the European Union is also becoming a community of values. I sincerely congratulate Mrs Merkel on her success in breaking through the deadlock, since a strong EU is important for all of Europe.

The new status to be given to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights makes it even more important for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible. Europe as a whole cannot risk double standards for human rights, as they would only lead to new dividing lines. The Council of Europe must continue to set Europe’s human rights standards, just as it did when achieving de facto abolition of the death penalty throughout its member states, thanks, in particular, to this Assembly. Our debate on the Italian initiative for a global moratorium can also help prepare the Council of Europe’s contribution to the conference on 9 October that will establish a European day against the death penalty, each 10 October. It should go without saying that the contributions of the Assembly and the European Parliament must be fully recognised, with both playing a central role in the Lisbon Conference.

The Assembly has also taken a lead among international organisations in promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, as can be seen from the brochure prepared for Tuesday’s debate. This, of course, is also entirely natural, given our pan-European scope and the fact that we have members from all of Europe’s cultures and religions. Just as important, the fact that we are inspired by Europe’s common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law ensures an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect.

Without dialogue, we risk growing intolerance – a threat which is already materialising throughout Europe. Anti-Semitism may be one of the oldest forms of racism and xenophobia, but it has never gone away and in many places is once again increasing. Our debate on Wednesday, to be addressed by Rabbi Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, will be an opportunity once again to confront this scourge and reassert our unwavering opposition and condemnation.

I have also agreed with representatives of the European Jewish community that the Assembly should consider co-organising a joint conference on anti-Semitism next year.

(The speaker continued in English)

The Council of Europe does not just have a negative role, fighting against injustice, intolerance and inhumanity; it also has a positive role, promoting European unity through a shared commitment to our common values. It is no coincidence that, just as Serbia took on the chairmanship, it finally resolved its problems in forming a government, and what is more formed a government with a clearly pro-European orientation.

The new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Jeremić, made his first speech abroad at the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Stockholm, where I held a long and very positive bilateral meeting with him. This week, he will be addressing our Assembly, and I am sure that he will confirm his country’s determination to maintain its European course and implement our common values.

Our debates this week on sensitive matters, such as co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – for which we will be joined by Mrs del Ponte – and displaced persons, will involve the parties as equals, sharing principles and the free acceptance of obligations and commitments. This inclusiveness and equality is something that the European Union does not enjoy in its dealings with European non-member states. For this reason, I fear that the EU’s approach to Russia risks creating new dividing lines in Europe, at a time when Europe must become more united.

Within the Council of Europe, we can more easily deal with Russia as an equal partner for strategic co-operation on issues of common interest. When it comes to domestic issues, we can and have to call Russia to account on the basis of obligations and commitments that were freely entered into as an equal member of our Organisation. The EU, however, is not a pan-European organisation, but its sometimes arrogant approach risks giving the impression that it does not consider Russia to be truly European.

There is nothing to be gained by pointless or misguided confrontations between Russia and the rest of Europe, and I am glad that this Assembly has helped to maintain good relations through parliamentary diplomacy. The European Union should make much better use of Council of Europe instruments and mechanisms when dealing with those non-member states that are members of the Council of Europe. The memorandum of understanding between our two organisations did at least partly respond to many of the Assembly’s concerns, and if properly applied has the potential to improve working relations.

The Assembly and the European Parliament must now conclude their own co-operation agreement, as foreseen in the memorandum. Of course, in practical terms, our co-operation is already excellent. On election observation, for example, we have long worked hand in hand, and we will continue to do so for the important forthcoming elections in Turkey, Russia and Ukraine: elections that must be free and fair, without interference from the military or business interests or interventions by outside forces.

More immediately, I very much look forward to the address of President Pöttering later this afternoon. This will be followed by a joint meeting of our Presidential Committee and the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents at the end of August. Whatever the basis of co-operation, however, the Council of Europe and this Assembly will always have something to offer to Europe: above all, our statutory foundation as a value community; our years of experience and unrivalled expertise in promoting and protecting these common values; our character as a pan-European Organisation that will soon, I hope, unite every European country around these values; and our proud credentials as a democratic organisation with a pioneering, inspirational parliamentary dimension.

I very much look forward to our work this week and wish you all a productive and enjoyable part-session. Thank you.

12. Address by Mr Alfred Gusenbauer, Federal Chancellor of Austria

THE PRESIDENT. – We now have the honour of hearing an address by Mr Alfred Gusenbauer, Federal Chancellor of Austria. After his address Mr Gusenbauer has agreed to take questions from the floor. A list of members wishing to ask a question has been circulated.

(The speaker continued in German)

(Translation). – Dear Chancellor, you were a member of this Assembly until this year, and today I have the great honour of welcoming you in your capacity of Chancellor of Austria. To my mind, the impressive list of Assembly members who have occupied, or are occupying, the highest political positions in their countries is no coincidence. The principles and values that we are defending in this Assembly are those that should dominate the agenda of any democratic country. Your own 16-year experience in the Assembly is a perfect illustration of this, as you have contributed to our common efforts to build a more social, humane and fairer Europe, especially as a Chairman of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Assembly and as a member of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.

Looking at the main lines of action of your government – social fairness, the fight against poverty and unemployment, better education, climate protection – we see a logical continuation and practical implementation of the themes that you developed in your reports to the Assembly. The priorities of your government in the field of foreign policy also go along the same lines as those of the Assembly. I would particularly praise your commitment to human rights everywhere in the world and a pro-active European policy. There is, hence, no need to convince you of the added value of the Council of Europe with regard to the European Union.

Now that the European process is back on track, thanks to the agreement on the revised treaty, I hope that you will contribute to the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible. The synergy between action at national level and our action is the best guarantee for our ideals to become reality in all countries of Europe.

Dear Chancellor, welcome back home. The floor is yours. It is a great honour that you are here among us.

Mr GUSENBAUER (Federal Chancellor of Austria) said that it was a privilege to address the Assembly. He had been a member of the Assembly for more than 16 years, and had even had the opportunity to shape the activities of the Assembly. That experience, and the practice of concluding agreements across political divides, was a great advantage in his current role as the head of a major coalition government.

His role was now to support the Council of Europe in the best possible manner. This year was the 50th anniversary of Austria’s membership of the Council of Europe, and Austria’s very significant contribution to the Council of Europe was illustrated by the fact that there had been three Austrian Secretaries-General and two Austrian Presidents of the Assembly. Those figures were a clear demonstration of the Austrian commitment to the Council of Europe. Austria had played an important role in the early process of European integration through the Council of Europe.

Austria had acceded to the Council of Europe one year after the treaty of state sovereignty. Austria had influenced the Council of Europe since the beginning and it should continue to play a role in the political integration of Europe. Austria’s work on legal instruments at the Council of Europe had had a positive impact on Austrian society.

The Council of Europe had been founded in 1949 after the Second World War and was based on common European values – promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe consolidated democratic stability and preserved cultural diversity. Europe had changed much since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There were currently 47 members of the Council of Europe, while the European Union had 27 member states, all of which were members of the Council of Europe. Last Saturday at the European Union summit members had agreed a new constitutional basis. That represented progress, but it had been necessary to make painful compromises on the Constitutional Treaty, a treaty which had already been approved by a majority in the Austrian Parliament.

A number of issues at the summit were important for the Parliamentary Assembly. The first positive from the summit was on human rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was legally binding and was one of the most important contributions of the Council of Europe. European Union integration had to be tangible and to mean something to its citizens. The Charter therefore talked of integrated values. The second positive from the summit was the social treaty, a clear statement on social protection, transport, health, education and competition. In particular, free competition was a means to an end, leading to full employment, growth and social cohesion in Europe. The value of the European social model should be developed: there had to be a social dimension to a free market. The third positive was on climate change, which was moving up the political agenda – economic thinking would not provide all the solutions: citizens’ concerns had to be given priority.

There was a new generation of heads of state who were aware of the values that needed to be drawn on for the future. At a time of globalisation there were both new opportunities and new imbalances – social values were again important. Traditional sectors were now experiencing problems which meant that the Social Charter of 1961 was again gaining prominence. In 1961 Austria had played a key role at the Council of Europe in the drafting the Social Charter. When read today it was still topical and at the cutting edge of social issues. Awareness of social cohesion and rights to benefits and social protection should be increased – those were the values on which the Council of Europe and the European Union were built. He himself had been the chairman of the Social Affairs Committee when he was a member of the Council of Europe and he still remained true to its values.

The Council of Europe and the European Union had different structures and different remits, but the same values. The Council of Europe played a key role in human rights issues, a role from which the European Union could benefit. The two organisations had to be closely co-ordinated and the new memorandum of understanding was a very positive move. Those countries that were not members of the European Union should use the forum of the Council of Europe, the only truly European forum.

It was two years since heads of state and government had met in Warsaw to plot a new course for the Council of Europe. While some decisions had been put into practice, others had not. The protection of human rights was the most important role of the Council of Europe and the system had to remain viable for the future. It was vital to keep a European Court in which European citizens had confidence and which remained efficient. The Russian Federation was the only country that had not signed the 14th protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Russian Federation had to ratify the protocol – only then could all the reforms be implemented.

Around the world countries were forming new regional and economic alliances. The model for those alliances should be Europe, where, in addition to economic considerations, protection of human rights, the rule of law and social justice were fundamental. A decade after the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights there had been clear violations around the world. Europe had to look at its own doorstep. The Council of Europe had to remind its members to act on the principles of the declaration and implement them. Notably in Austria the issue of bilingual place names was being resolved between the Slovenian minority and the German-speaking majority. Austria was moving towards a satisfactory solution which abided by the standards of minority rights.

The Council of Europe had its own role and did not need to be afraid of other institutions involved in human rights. Rather, those other institutions complemented and strengthened the role of the Council of Europe. The Fundamental Rights Agency was fighting on a common front with the Council of Europe and could only be a help to the Council of Europe in that regard.

THE PRESIDENT said that he would not say too much. The Assembly was proud to see a former member, committed to its values, speaking in other fora with such conviction. He called Mr Ager.

Mr AGER (Austria) welcomed the Chancellor. He noted that the Chancellor had been a former member of the Assembly and noted his work in guiding Austria. He hoped that the Chancellor would promote the Council of Europe where possible.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer to reply.

Mr GUSENBAUER noted that budgetary problems threatened elements of the Council of Europe’s work. Heads of state should take up their responsibilities to give the Council of Europe the means to function effectively.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Mota Amaral.

Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal). – You mentioned the importance of this Parliamentary Assembly in shaping and putting dynamics into the Council of Europe. Do you not think that, within the framework of the European Union, an interparliamentary Assembly to carry out democratic scrutiny of matters relating to intergovernmental co-operation such as federal affairs and defence would be greatly improved if there were a similar interparliamentary Assembly consisting of representatives of national parliaments?

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer to respond.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – That it s a very interesting proposal. Security should not be limited to defence. It is becoming increasingly important to international relations for us to emphasise the value of political conflict resolution mechanisms. As we know, many conflicts in and around Europe originate from humiliation of human rights, lack of democracy and lack of respect for minority rights. The Council of Europe has enormous expertise in all those issues. I think that bringing together members of national parliaments and members of the European Parliament here in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to gain a broader view of security issues, in particular, could benefit both organisations.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mrs Durrieu.

Mrs DURRIEU (France) congratulated the Federal Chancellor on his work. Europe was an important focus of social rights and a place of peace. Why, therefore, did it appear that the United States, and not Europe, was taking the lead on the questions of Kosovo and the Balkans?

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer to respond.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – The report by Marti Ahtisaari, in close collaboration with Ambassador Graf, is an excellent basis for resolution of the conflict. That is a matter for debate in the Security Council, but we in the European Union strongly support the report’s intentions. Of course negotiations must also take place with friends in Serbia to embed the overall plan in a more comprehensive programme, but any study of the alternatives will make it clear that none of them is really any better, especially the suggestion that some parties to the conflict should embark on unilateral action. I think that that would aggravate the situation rather than make it better.

The report is a solid basis for debate in the Security Council, and the European Union strongly supports it.

THE PRESIDENT. – Do you wish to ask another question, Mrs Durrieu?

Mrs DURRIEU (France) said that she did not.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Eörsi.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary). – Austria has been perceived as a country full of commitment to the environment. Recently it has seemed that that could be true, but only as far as the border. To the east, towards Hungary, you are erecting plants that pollute our waters. The River Raab looks like shaving foam, and the smell from buildings is being carried into Hungary. What message is Austria sending to Hungary and others about responsibility for the environment if such pollution affects not just your own country but others? That is my humble question.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – As you might have recognised, this is a bilateral issue. I can assure you that the ecological standards in Austria are as well developed as those in Hungary and all the other countries of Europe. Therefore, everything that takes place – all the industrial activities – is of course within the limits of the law. I have had a look at the situation there. There is indeed a leather factory, which is to a certain extent polluting the water, but to an extent that is within the law. We are now in a dialogue with this company to improve the situation. The problem is that we as a government are not allowed to support it financially, because that would be in conflict with the regulations of the European Union, as you know. Therefore, we have to find another way to improve the situation without violating competition laws.

The second issue in the border area with Hungary is a plant where we are going to burn garbage to produce electricity. Of course, this is another concern for the people on the Hungarian side, but I can assure you that the biggest such power station can be found in the centre of Vienna, and that might enlighten you about the ecological standard of those plants, where we try to get energy and reduce the garbage problem at the same time. We would not put such an installation in the centre of Vienna if we were not 100% convinced that that is ecologically sustainable.

On both issues, we are in a dialogue with the Government of Hungary. The prime minister approached me again just last week on the two issues. Government experts are working on that, and I can assure you that Austria will maintain its unique character as one of the avant-garde countries as far as environmental protection is concerned.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Eörsi to ask a supplementary question.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary). – I am sure that the Chancellor would agree that the environment is not a unilateral issue. I am sure that the legal norms are fine, but there can be no excuse for spoiling the air and water of a foreign country. Thank you for making those points. Please accelerate your efforts, so that Hungarians will continue to perceive Austria as a nation that takes its responsibility for the environment seriously, not only for Austria’s sake but for Hungary’s. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer to reply.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – Of course, all the people who live in the area, both on the Austrian and on the Hungarian sides, are equally affected. Therefore, you can understand why on the Austrian side there would be some kind of popular initiative if things were really that bad, because we have a long history of protests against different types of plants, even water power plants. There is a broad variety and the Austrians are very sensitive. It is not an issue of polluting the Hungarian side and not the Austrian side. The factory and the plant that will be built are clearly on the Austrian side. I can guarantee that we will follow this issue in the proper way. I would warn against making this a symbol of a bilateral dispute, because that would help neither Hungary nor Austria. Until now, the development in the area on both sides has been very successful economically, culturally and politically. People are always getting closer to one another there. We should also bear it in mind that the entire situation of the people living together should not be endangered by any conflict. As long as things are done on a rational basis, they are okay and such things should not become symbolic.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I call Mr Laakso.

Mr LAAKSO (Finland). – As we all know, one of the most important reports of this session is that on the secret detention centres. As a long-time member of the Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to get your advice, Mr Chancellor, on how we can get our governments to co-operate. This naturally also concerns NATO. We have asked questions of NATO, which seems to carry the main responsibility on the secret detention centres. How can we get them to co-operate a little bit better?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – You are now being asked to become our adviser. I call Mr Gusenbauer.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – As you know, Austria is not a member of NATO, so by definition our influence will be limited on that issue, but of course we all follow what is going on with great concern. It is very important that the Parliamentary Assembly has taken up that issue, because our people, not only in Austria but in the other member states of the Council of Europe, always feel a little bit insecure if they get the impression that secret activities are going on behind their backs. This is therefore also a question of transparency and of political responsibility, and I very much look forward to the debate on the report in the Parliamentary Assembly and to the recommendations that the Assembly will make.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gross.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) said that the best discussions took place in Europe when the market was civilised. That happened when global institutions were set up with a more humane ethos.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer.

Mr GUSENBAUER said that the point about humane institutions was an important one to make. In his experience, he had noted differences between those international institutions that dealt with governments and those that dealt with parliaments and parliamentarians.

He wondered about the idea of having a parliamentary assembly for the United Nations. Generally, he was in favour. However, at present there was perhaps more to be said for setting up parliamentary assemblies for the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Those institutions made very important decisions. In Austria he had spoken in favour of assigning parliamentary assemblies to those bodies. Parliamentary assemblies made decisions and processes more democratic and transparent. They opened them up to public scrutiny and, in addition, tended to allow global institutions to give a human face to globalisation. He therefore suggested that the process should start with the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF and then focus on the United Nations.

THE PRESIDENT. – Do you want to ask a supplementary question, Mr Gross?

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) asked the Federal Chancellor to expand on his reply.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Gross. I call Mr Pangalos.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece). – It is a pleasure, Mr Gusenbauer, to see you among us. Yesterday, there was a strange phenomenon in European capitals. The press and independent observers were sceptical about the European summit, but it seemed that all the European leaders, including Mr Blair, the Polish twins, Mr Sarkozy and even the Greek leader, returned to their capitals victorious and satisfied. The decision on the new system for the European Community will finally be implemented in 2014 – seven years from now. Many members of this Assembly will not be members of their national parliaments at that time – some of us might not even be alive. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the summit, Mr Gusenbauer? Is Austria victorious following its conclusion? I ask that because your country was among the majority group that ratified the previous treaty.

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Gusenbauer to reply.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – First, let me say that I am happy to see that my friend, Mr Pangalos, is present. It should be noted that the Parliamentary Assembly was, in earlier years, also the site of the European Parliament. For many years, I supported Austrian entry into the European Union and I was present in the gallery here when the European Parliament decided on Austrian entry into the EU. One of our strongest supporters in those days was the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr Pangalos. I remember very well that, when that vote was held, the first thing that Mr Pangalos did was to come up to the gallery and offer congratulations on Austria’s entry into the EU. I will always connect with my friend, Mr Pangalos, especially when we are here in this room.

To answer the question, Austria would have preferred to have the treaty as it was, because we ratified it in the Austrian Parliament with 182 votes in favour out of a total of 183. However, the problem is that the Constitutional Treaty was decided when the pro-integrationist movement in Europe was at its peak, especially after the frustration of the Nice Treaty. Since then, things have gone, and are continuing to go, in the other direction. National states are trying to become more important and stronger in the EU. Therefore, I asked myself a question: should we wait, and will the situation get better or worse? My judgment was that it would get worse, so we had to save the utmost from the original Constitutional Treaty. That is why I fought until the morning so that we could reach a compromise.

You are right, Mr Pangalos, that in some respects the final outcome is far from spectacular. On the other hand, there is a certain logic in choosing the year 2014, because in that year the Commission will change – it will get smaller as only two thirds of member states will be represented, and the rotation system will start. It is not fundamentally illogical for there to be both a change in the Commission and, in parallel, a new voting system for the European Council. Of course, I would have preferred to have this in place earlier, but we have reached a useful compromise.

If we draw comparisons not with the hypothetical treaty that is not in place but with the current situation, we must ask ourselves whether the compromise of last week is better or worse than the Nice Treaty. In my judgment, the compromise is far better than the Nice Treaty, if we consider matters such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the legal personality, the social rights that are in place and the extension of the majority decision-making process. Therefore, many elements of the compromise will make Europe better than it was under the Nice regime. That is why this compromise is acceptable. You, Mr Pangalos, and I both know that the history of Europe in peaceful times is one of compromise.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you, Mr Chancellor. I could not agree more that the Eighteen had a very good position, but a compromise was necessary, and I hope that we can now break the deadlock in the EU. That would also be in the interests of the Council of Europe.

I call Mr Margelov.

Mr MARGELOV (Russian Federation). – I wish to ask Mr Gusenbauer a brief and simple question. In this Assembly, we often debate relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union. Sometimes we are happy with those relations; more often, we are not. How do you envisage relations being between the two institutions in 10 years’ time?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Mr Chancellor, now you are being asked to gaze into the crystal ball.

Mr GUSENBAUER. – As Chancellor, I must sometimes impress in a wide range of activities, but sometimes I am asked to deliver more than I can.

The question that I have been asked could be reformulated: how do we intend the relations between the two institutions to be in 10 years? Given recent EU decisions, there is a good basis for co-operation. The EU will never be able to extend its activities into the human rights sector to the same extent as the Council of Europe. I am talking about the entire system in Strasbourg that ends in the Court. It is an excellent system, and the European Union will never be able to set up a similar one. There is also no necessity for it to do so, because human rights issues must extend far beyond the EU and be embraced by Europe as a whole. Therefore, there are no grounds to fear that the Council of Europe will not have a fundamental right to exist.

I am more concerned about whether the institution has the financial resources it needs to carry out its duties. We must work on that. It is not good that everyone talks about fundamental rights and human rights – and they are now legally binding within the EU – when the institutions that have to implement them do not have the necessary resources.

I invite all colleagues to get together with their governments at home to press for the necessary economic resources. If the Council of Europe is strong in the human rights field, co-operation with the European Union will be much more balanced than it is perhaps today.

THE PRESIDENT. – I underline the necessity of investing in the best system, which is an excellent system. The budget of the Council of Europe Assembly is more or less the same as that to build a 4 km or 5 km highway in Austria or the Netherlands. It is worth investing much more in human rights than governments are doing today. To our mind, the biggest danger is if they put the money to one side, but still ask for the implementation and the monitoring of those standards. That is a kind of friction. In Mr Gusenbauer, we have an excellent defender and promoter of the Council of Europe.

I give the floor to Mrs Barnett.

Mrs BARNETT (Germany) welcomed the fact that Mr Gusenbauer had spoken in favour of the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. Was it not the case that the European Union had no legal personality of its own, and that that would pose a problem? Was it not also true that the devil was in the detail, and that it would make sense to follow the example of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna?

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – That was an important question. I call Mr Gusenbauer to reply.

Mr GUSENBAUER said in answer to the first question that the fact that the European Union had no legal personality was of no relevance to the United Kingdom’s opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Union would eventually acquire a legal personality. It should also be noted that the United Kingdom had taken on a significant number of the fundamental rights despite its opt-out.

Turning to the second question, he noted that the Court of Human Rights should indeed be given the appropriate resources to function. It would also be a great help if Russia were to ratify the 14th protocol. Anyone dealing with issues of human rights and the rule of law would understand that institutions administering the rule of law had to be given appropriate resources to do so. The issue was primarily political.

THE PRESIDENT expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Chancellor, and noted that the Assembly had received the Chancellor with warm applause and gratitude. He was now representing the interests of the Council of Europe at the Council of Ministers in Brussels and worldwide. One would hope that the recent European Union summit would live up to expectations.

13. Date, time and orders of the day of the next sitting

THE PRESIDENT. – I propose that the Assembly hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the orders of the day which were approved this morning.

Are there any objections? That is not the case.

The orders of the day of the next sitting are therefore agreed.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.)


1.       Resumption of the 2007 Ordinary Session

2.       Examination of credentials

3.       Election of a Vice-President

4.       Changes in the membership of committees

5.       Request for a debate under urgent procedure

6.       Request for a current affairs debate

7.       Adoption of the order of business for the third part of the 2007 Ordinary Session


Mr Riester (Germany)

Mr Lengagne (France)

Mr Van den Brande (Belgium)

Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

Mr Keskin (Germany)

Mr Eörsi (Hungary)

Mrs Durrieu (France)

Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

Draft order of business, as amended, agreed to.

8.       Time limit on speeches

9.       Adoption of the minutes of the Standing Committee

10.       Written declaration

11.       Address by the President to the Assembly

12.       Address by Mr Alfred Gusenbauer, Federal Chancellor of Austria


      Mr Ager (Austria)

      Mr Mota Amaral (Portugal)

      Mrs Durrieu (France)

      Mr Eörsi (Hungary)

      Mr Laakso (Finland)

      Mr Gross (Switzerland)

      Mr Pangalos (Greece)

      Mr Margelov (Russian Federation)

      Mrs Barnett (Germany)

13.       Date, time and orders of the day of the next sitting