AS (2010) CR 11
2010 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 26 April 2010 at 3 p.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 Çavuşoğlu, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.05 p.m.
THE PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly
THE PRESIDENT – We now have the honour of hearing an address by Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. After her address the Minister has kindly agreed to take questions from the floor.
The fifth chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is drawing near to a close. Your address to us today is an opportunity that I take with great pleasure in order to express the Assembly’s appreciation of and gratitude for all the work done. In this respect, I wish to make a special mention of the conference in Interlaken last February, which helped to reach important and much-needed decisions regarding the future of the European Court of Human Rights. Your presidency also addressed another key issue that is dear to us as parliamentarians – the strengthening of democratic institutions through participation in a conference on democracy and decentralisation in St Gallen.
I would also like to convey our warm thanks for your efforts to strengthen co-operation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. The meetings that you convened between you, the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers and the Presidential Committee set a new pattern of pragmatic and constructive dialogue on all issues of common importance. We all have reasons to believe that, thanks to you, this approach will become the norm in the future running of our Organisation.
Thank you again; you have the floor.
Ms CALMY-REY (Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) (Translation) – Mr President, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be addressing you again in my capacity as Chair of the Committee of Ministers before the Swiss chairmanship draws to a close at the ministerial session on 11 May, here in Strasbourg.
Please rest assured that I continue to relish and, most importantly, treat with the utmost respect the challenges presented by this chairmanship. I spend a great deal of time on these challenges and I do so gladly and willingly because of the close connection I feel to the Council of Europe and my belief that I can help to move it forward.
Since my first report last January, there has been significant progress on a number of important fronts, which I would now like to share with you. As usual, you will find a full report on the activities of the Committee of Ministers since last January in my written communication, copies of which have been distributed.
I would like to begin with a few words about the excellent working relations established between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers as regards enhanced dialogue and co-operation between the two bodies. Thanks to the joint efforts of your Assembly and of the Committee of Ministers, we have managed to adopt, well ahead of schedule, the joint interpretative statement on rules and procedures for the future elections of the Secretary General, which is clear proof that the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers have become genuinely closer and that working relations have improved.
In my view, the format of the meetings between the Presidential Committee and the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers has been a major factor in fostering better understanding, allowing informal dialogue to take place in a frank and constructive atmosphere; that, at any rate, was my feeling after the meeting I convened on 18 March in Paris. We will be holding a second meeting in the same format this very afternoon after I finish addressing you, ladies and gentlemen.
My intention today is to draw your attention to a number of highlights of our chairmanship, as we have sought to implement our priorities and prepare for the 120th ministerial session.
Our top priority, as you know, is to promote the protection of human rights and the rule of law. In this respect, the Interlaken conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights on 18 and 19 February this year was an important milestone. It was undoubtedly the high point of our chairmanship and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Parliamentary Assembly, which was represented at senior level at the conference, for the invaluable contribution it made to the event and which, I am sure, it will continue to make to future work.
The unanimous adoption of the Interlaken Declaration amounts to a firm political commitment to effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Our member states can be proud of how in Interlaken they once again helped to anchor human rights more firmly in European public life.
The measures adopted in the action plan are aimed first and foremost at securing more effective implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court’s judgments by member states. These measures were unanimously approved by the 47 member states, most of which were represented by ministers or deputy ministers.
Another major achievement for the Council was the filing, during the conference, of the instruments of ratification of Protocol No. 14 by Russia’s Justice Minister. Russia has thus joined the other 46 member states which have already ratified the protocol, paving the way for its entry into force on 1 June this year. Thanks to that reform, we believe we can reduce the number of pending applications by some 10%.
The Interlaken conference was not of course an end in itself. Far from it. It was intended to mark the start of a more lengthy process of reform. Its aim is to make the protection mechanism provided by the European Convention on Human Rights as effective as possible and to support the Court’s efforts to improve its efficiency in the short term and on the basis of established law.
I think we can safely say we have fulfilled the first part of our plan, with the unanimous adoption of the Interlaken Declaration and its action plan for achieving the goals set.
The next stage in the process is now in the hands of the Committee of Ministers, which has decided to steer the Interlaken process as a whole, in order to sustain the momentum provided by the conference, and which has set up an ad hoc working group, answerable to it, to see this task through. The group has already met twice. The Parliamentary Assembly, the Court, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary General and other Council of Europe bodies are invited to contribute to the work of this group.
We hope we will finalise in time for the 120th session of the Committee of Ministers decisions on measures to be taken that do not require amendments to the Convention and also on those set out in the Interlaken Declaration.
You were aware of my country’s determination to make efforts to establish closer ties with Belarus on the basis of the values of our Organisation. You are also aware, of course, that this rapprochement with Belarus is a protracted process. The following is a summary of the key points of my activities concerning Belarus.
On 5 February, at an informal meeting I had in Munich with my then Ukrainian counterpart, Mr Poroshenko, and my Belarusian counterpart, Mr Martynov, discussion took place about what the Council of Europe expected from Belarus and vice versa.
On 25 February, on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony for the new Ukrainian President in Kiev, I had a meeting with President Lukashenko of Belarus. I explained to him that, in the context of my chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we were continuing to make determined efforts to encourage Belarus to establish closer ties with our Organisation, and again set out the conditions that had to be met in this connection, including the fact that the agreement on the Council of Europe information point in Minsk had to be extended by 15 March 2010 so that the office could remain open. This has indeed been done.
With regard to the main condition laid down by the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly – the abolition of the death penalty or, at least, a moratorium on its application – I said that I expected to receive positive signals in the near future. I also pointed out that when the Parliamentary Assembly had decided in June 2009 to restore the Belarusian parliamentary delegation’s special guest status, it had laid down two conditions: first, a moratorium on the application of the death penalty and, secondly, the inclusion of members of the opposition, or at least independent parliamentarians, in the delegation.
Unfortunately, the dialogue suffered serious setbacks the following month, as all the signs are that the Belarusian authorities had two condemned prisoners executed around 18 March. So there is currently a major obstacle to closer relations. I strongly condemn these executions and urge the Belarusian authorities to order an immediate end to the application of the death penalty. I also joined your President and the Secretary General in issuing a joint declaration on this issue. We all know that this is a tricky issue which requires particularly close and effective co-ordination between the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretariat. We are therefore continuing to make efforts to get the process of bringing Belarus closer to the Council of Europe moving again.
Until the end of my chairmanship, I will continue to expect the country’s authorities to provide concrete signs of their political will to respect our values. Once again, I would make it clear that the announcement of the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty, to be followed by its abolition, is the step that we still expect from Belarus.
In this respect, however, we are still faced with conflicting signs. On the one hand, we have seen the execution of two people who had been sentenced to death in 2009 and, on the other, the positive reply by the National Assembly of Belarus last month to a proposal by your Assembly on the organisation of a seminar on the death penalty in Minsk, plus the renewal of the agreement on the Council of Europe information point.
Naturally, the Committee of Ministers is continuing its efforts to support Belarusian civil society, in particular through the Council of Europe information point in Minsk. As I already said, we were pleased that the agreement setting it up, which was concluded for an initial one-year period ending in March 2010, was recently renewed for a further one-year period. These signals indicate that the possibilities of dialogue with Belarus are not closed. During a ministerial meeting on 11 May I will be able to pass on to the incoming presidency my recommendations about the new line to be followed with regard to Belarus.
The Swiss chairmanship’s priority is to help make sure that the Council of Europe’s fundamental objectives are achieved. Its efforts are also focusing on strengthening democratic institutions in Council of Europe member states.
This issue was one aspect of the latest report on the honouring of commitments by Georgia, which the Ministers’ Deputies discussed in March. The situation in this country is very close to our hearts and I am pleased to be able to tell you that progress has been recorded in the implementation of reforms aimed at the protection of human rights, the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions.
However, efforts still need to be made in promoting political dialogue between the government and the opposition and in areas such as electoral and constitutional reform, justice, prison reform and policies concerning national minorities. In addition, as you are aware, the human rights consequences of the conflict in Georgia are among the Committee of Ministers’ priority concerns. The matter is on the agenda of all meetings of the Ministers’ Deputies. Along with the question of the Council of Europe’s action, it will also be among the points to be discussed at the ministerial session on 11 May.
I visited Georgia on 16 and 17 January. The aim was to support the efforts of the Commissioner for Human Rights. I also said that the Council of Europe should have access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and I underlined in the course of this visit the key role that the Council of Europe can play in protecting and promoting human rights and humanitarian law following the conflict. In March 2010, the Secretary General presented the Ministers’ Deputies with a new approach designed to raise the profile of the Council of Europe’s action. I welcome this and support it wholeheartedly, just as I support the outstanding work done by the Commissioner for Human Rights. On the basis of the new plan he has drawn up, the Secretary General will shortly submit a report taking stock of the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict and suggesting possible additional measures to be taken by the Organisation.
For several years, there have been difficulties concerning the commitments that Bosnia and Herzegovina made upon joining the Council of Europe in 2002. The necessary reforms to the constitutional and legal framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina have still not been completed. The European Court of Human Rights’ judgment of 22 December 2009 in the case of Sejdic and Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed that some key provisions in the country’s constitution are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgment comes on top of the assessment by the Committee of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s honouring of its commitments and the steps taken to help it implement those that are still outstanding, as well as the many efforts made by your Assembly.
Particularly great efforts must therefore be made to bring the country’s constitution and electoral legislation into line with the European Convention on Human Rights. I therefore visited Sarajevo, in view of all this, last week to remind the authorities and political leaders of the importance we attach to resolving the problems identified at the earliest possible opportunity. The Committee of Ministers is in a very difficult situation as this issue is very important with regard to the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. I regret to say it is very unlikely that it will be possible to bring the constitution and legislation into line with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights before the elections of this autumn are actually held. I hope that the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international bodies will continue their efforts to this end.
I have suggested to the Committee of Ministers, in agreement with the Secretary General, that we discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the informal meeting of the member countries’ foreign ministers on the occasion of the ministerial session on 11 May. I also believe we should adopt a declaration on Bosnia and Herzegovina to express our joint determination to support the country in the current situation, while urging it finally to carry out the long-awaited reforms.
In a somewhat different vein, albeit still in connection with promoting human rights and strengthening democracy, the Swiss chairmanship has organised several events that I would like to mention here. The first is the conference on “Learning and living democracy”, which reviewed activities in 2006-2009 and established future activities, and was held here in Strasbourg only a few days ago. This event was part of the Council of Europe’s programmes on education for democratic citizenship and human rights. It highlighted the role of education in furthering democracy and promoting human rights in our societies. Next month, the Committee of Ministers is due to discuss a new Council of Europe Charter on education for democratic citizenship and human rights. This non-binding text should become a reference point on the subject for the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
In Tbilisi in mid-April, we held a conference attended by a very wide range of representatives of public authorities, parliamentarians, media professionals and NGO representatives on the theme of “Safeguarding media freedom in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine”. Our aim was to promote freedom of expression and information in these countries in accordance with Council of Europe standards and recommendations.
We are only a few days away now from the conference that the Swiss chairmanship is holding jointly with the Venice Commission and the University of St Gallen on 3 and 4 May 2010. It is on the subject of “democracy and decentralisation” and I hope that it will make an important and stimulating contribution to the realisation of the second goal of the Swiss chairmanship - strengthening democratic institutions.
In St Gallen, the aim will be to pool the views and shared experience of representatives of government and civil society from all the member states and beyond, regardless of their degree of decentralisation. Accordingly, I look forward to your joining the discussions that will take place in 10 days’ time. It will be motivated by a desire to get citizens more involved in the affairs of public authorities throughout member states, despite the fact that not all member states have a long tradition of participatory democracy giving precedence to a democracy close to the citizen, based on good governance at all levels of the state.
The third main focus of the Swiss chairmanship’s priorities has been reform of the Council of Europe. The watchwords here are political relevance, impact and visibility. This issue will also be addressed at the 120th session of the Committee of Ministers in connection with the reform process launched by the Secretary General, Mr Jagland.
Just recently, on 21 April, the Secretary General submitted his proposals for priorities in 2011 to the Ministers’ Deputies, based on a plan he presented in January. As enhancing the transparency and efficiency of the Council of Europe has been one of the Swiss chairmanship’s priorities, I entirely support the Secretary General’s proposals, which will help to achieve this key objective.
During the chairmanship, I have also continued the work of consultation in common spheres between the Council of Europe and its international partners, including, first, the EU, the United Nations and, in particular, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In this connection, I have placed particular emphasis on the institutional links between the OSCE and the Council of Europe. On 5 March 2010, a “2 + 2” meeting was held in my home town, Geneva, involving the chairmanships and the Secretaries General of both the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Our discussions with Mr Saudabayev of Kazakhstan, with the much appreciated contribution of the Council of Europe Secretary General and his colleague from the OSCE, Mr Perrin de Brichambaut, focused on current and future co-operation between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, their respective priorities and co-operation in the field.
The 120th session of the Committee of Ministers will be an opportunity to review the main aspects of co-operation with the European Union. The crucial issue is, of course, the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. I hope that the discussions currently under way in Brussels on the terms of reference to be given to the European Commission to negotiate this accession will rapidly yield results so that these negotiations and, ultimately, the accession of the Union to the Convention will very soon become a reality.
On 20 April 2010, the Ministers’ Deputies held an exchange of views with Mr Diego López Garrido, the Spanish Secretary of State for the European Union, representing the Spanish presidency of the European Union. As a result of this discussion, the already well established links between the Council of Europe and the European Union were further strengthened.
In conclusion, I would like to say how honoured Switzerland has been to contribute over this intense and eventful period to the Council of Europe’s political repositioning in the European architecture. I believe I can say that a revival of the Council of Europe has begun and, of course, I welcome this. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Parliamentary Assembly for its co-operation in the work of the Swiss chairmanship over recent months. I would particularly like to highlight the constructive and convivial working relationship with you, Mr President, for which I would like to thank you most sincerely. Please be assured that Switzerland will keep up its commitment to the Council of Europe and that it will support the countries that take over from it in the Chair of the Committee of Ministers. I thank you for your attention and I am now ready to answer any questions from the floor.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Ms Calmy-Rey, for your most interesting address.
No written questions have been tabled. Members of the Assembly have oral questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches. The first question is from Mr Santini, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr SANTINI (Italy) asked about Switzerland’s respect for human rights, particularly for foreign workers. A declaration guaranteeing Italian workers’ social security rights was due to expire and he asked whether the Swiss Government accepted a proposal to maintain the agreement.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Calmy-Rey, you have the floor.
Ms CALMY-REY said that the agreement was between Switzerland and the European Union concerning the free circulation of persons and social security payments. The matter was being looked at by the European Union and the countries bordering Switzerland and was not a matter for the Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT – I now call Mrs Blondin, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mrs BLONDIN (France) asked about the discrimination against the 10 million Roma in Europe and the effectiveness of a Council of Europe campaign to break down prejudices.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY said there were milestones to be met this year that encouraged governments to set up national strategies and take initiatives to help Roma such as educational initiatives, measures to combat prejudice against Roma, action to promote Roma day and training NGOs to deal with prejudice against Roma.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much. The next question is from Mr Badré, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr BADRÉ (France) asked what the Council of Europe should do to ensure progress was made towards a moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY said the Council of Europe should continue its work. The Parliamentary Assembly laid down that the death penalty should be abolished or that there should at least be a moratorium. The Council of Europe should continue efforts to win over authorities and take positive steps, but executions had taken place and that affected progress. The Council remained open to dialogue with Belarus; the worst thing it could do was to close the door.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next question is from Mr John Greenway, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr GREENWAY (United Kingdom) – The EDG probably has more members from non-EU member states than other groups, and migration remains an important issue in these countries, particularly in eastern Europe, Russia and your country, Mr President, Turkey. Do you agree, Minister, that we should emerge from the reform process with an approach that puts the human rights of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons at the heart of our policy? Do you also agree that dealing with these issues will require the continuation of some intergovernmental machinery?
THE PRESIDENT – Ms Calmy-Rey, you have the floor.
Ms CALMY-REY said the Council of Europe was interested in questions pertaining to migration as the Warsaw Summit had recognised its challenges for Europe. The Council of Europe should continue its work to improve the human rights and integration of migrants. This was also part of the Council of Europe’s action to combat discrimination. The Council of Europe’s work should have maximum visibility and impact and be sure not to duplicate the work of other organisations.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Kox, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – In the light of eternity, everything else in life happens soon, but will you explain what you mean when you say that you hope and expect that the European Union will accede very soon to the European Convention on Human Rights? As we know, there is a threat that bureaucrats will take over the work of politicians and create a problem for each solution in the accession process.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY reiterated what she had said in her speech. She hoped that the discussion started at EU level would bear fruit by June.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mrs Zohrabyan.
Mrs ZOHRABYAN (Armenia) said that the Turkish Government had recently announced that it intended to expel Armenians and asked whether this violated the Armenians’ human rights.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Calmy-Rey, would you like to answer the question?
Ms CALMY-REY said that any developments between Turkey and Armenia should be viewed in the context of attempts to normalise relations between the two countries, both of which had shown enormous political will in recent years. She paid tribute to the work of her predecessor, Mr Samuel Žbogar, who had worked with both countries to move towards rapprochement.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Rafael Huseynov. He is not here. I therefore call Ms Pashayeva.
Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – As you know, for more than 15 years, about 1 million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons have been unable to return to their homes because 20% of Azerbaijani territory is still under Armenian occupation. These Azerbaijani refugees and displaced persons want and need your support. What are you planning to do to help them?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY said that a solution to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh would depend on the outcome of the discussions held by the Minsk Group.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next question is from Mr Harutyunyan.
Mr HARUTYUNYAN (Armenia) – After electing a new Secretary General, who often speaks about increasing the Council of Europe’s political relevance and its visibility in Europe, this Organisation is dominated by 27 EU member states that have been developing their own human rights and rule of law agenda, independent of the Council of Europe. Are you not concerned that if we do not achieve our objectives, the Council of Europe will be relevant to only a few countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and some non-EU members, and could thus effectively push itself into oblivion? What is to be done to avoid that danger?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey
Ms CALMY-REY said that she had referred to human rights in her address. The European Union needed to become a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. She had had the opportunity in Georgia to see how important the work of the Council of Europe was in the protection of human rights. It was recognised as being neutral and as having expertise in legal matters.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mrs Hajibayli.
Mrs HAJIBAYLI (Azerbaijan) – More than five years ago, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Resolution 1416 on solution to conflict by the Minsk Group of the OSCE. The resolution repeated the call of the full resolution of the United Nations Security Council for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian military forces from occupied Azerbaijani lands. Why is not the Council of Europe resolute and consistent in implementing the resolution? In your personal opinion, how can we increase the effectiveness of the Council of Europe?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY said that the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute was being actively pursued by the Minsk Group. It was important to encourage meetings that would build confidence between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The last question is from Mr Xuclŕ i Costa.
Mr XUCLŔ i COSTA (Spain) noted that in August 2008, part of one member state had been occupied by another. The French presidency had, at the time, formulated a response to the crisis. He was interested to hear how the current President intended to continue that good work.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Calmy-Rey.
Ms CALMY-REY said that discussion on the Georgian question would continue in the Committee of Ministers next week and at the ministerial session on 11 May. The position of the Council of Europe with respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia had not changed.
THE PRESIDENT – That brings to an end the questions to Ms Calmy-Rey. I thank her most warmly on behalf of the Assembly for her address and for the remarks that she has made in the course of questions.
(Mrs Hurskainen, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Çavuşoğlu.)
2. Lobbying in a democratic society
THE PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report on lobbying in a democratic society, presented by Mr Mendes Bota on behalf of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, Document 11937.
Three amendments have been tabled. To allow sufficient time for responses to the debate, for the replies on behalf of the committees and for voting, we will have to interrupt the list of speakers in the debate at about 4.45 p.m.
Is that agreed?
It is agreed.
I first call Mr Mendes Bota, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Dear colleagues, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has a good record on the fight against corruption, on the financing of political parties, on business ethics and on conflicts of interest. However, we are now witnessing a dramatic decline in confidence among the public in the political class. One of the causes of this phenomenon is the lack of transparency in lobbying activities relating to political decision makers, representatives or even public servants. Very often, the dividing line between the act of influencing and the act of corrupting is too narrow.
The overwhelming majority of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe make no legal provision to discipline and control lobbying activity – hence the urgent status given to this project and recommendation.
In my country, Portugal, the political situation is characterised by several controversies to do with the approval of real-estate projects in environmentally protected areas, public adjudications and the purchase of submarines. In all these areas, there is suspicion of lobbies acting illegally.
In Russia, a study promoted by the International Association of Business Communicators, which was made public last December, concluded that “uncivilised lobbying” – a synonym for corruption – is a predominant factor. It also concluded that this situation could be improved by forcing legal regulation on lobbying activities, although that could put at risk the present balance between interests and powers.
We claim that the existence of regulation must mean transparency, clarity of procedures and intentions, and the exposure of legitimate conflicts of standpoints and interests to the scrutiny of the public, who in the past few years have ceased to believe in the political class and public services, whether administrative or jurisdictional. We also know to whom this regulation should be addressed: politicians, civil servants, members of pressure groups and business corporations.
In our draft recommendation, the Parliamentary Assembly urges the Committee of Ministers to draft and approve a code of ethics on lobbying activity within the territory of the 47 member states. We are aware that defining “lobbying” is not an easy task, but that must not discourage us in reaching our goal of providing more fairness, transparency and justice in our democratic societies.
“Lobbying” can be defined as a concerted effort to influence policy formulation and decision making, with the aim of obtaining a designated result from government authorities and elected representatives. In a broader sense, lobbying could refer to public actions such as demonstrations or to public affairs activities as undertaken by various institutions – associations, consultancies, advocacy, think-tanks, NGOs, lawyers and so on. In a restricted sense, lobbying would mean the protection of economic interests by the corporate sector. This definition is reflected in paragraph 10 of our explanatory memorandum.
It is not our responsibility to draft in detail a code of conduct and ethics for the lobbying activity. Our role is to call on the Committee of Ministers to elaborate such a code, in accordance with a set of principles, both in ethics and in conduct.
It is my conviction that, in a general way, lobbying activity is positive – democratic and acceptable – provided it is duly regulated and framed within the boundaries of the fundamental principle of transparency. As in many other professions and activities around the world, there are good professionals – those who live by the rules of competitiveness with ethics – and there are other professionals who act in the underground and clandestine reality of favouritism and corruption.
Nevertheless, the existence of such a minority does not imply that all those who make it their line of business to influence political or managerial decision makers necessarily have to share the burdensome image of being obscure corruptors who, with money or other gifts, try to corrupt representatives, government members or high-ranking public staff.
The bottom line is that lobbying is an activator of democracy – an instrument at the service of civil society. Ever since the beginning of time, someone, somewhere, has always intended to influence the powerful in their decision making, for their own profit, using family pressure, political favouritism, secret societies, blackmail or plain and simple corruption. However, in modern societies today, the actions of these interest groups go far beyond economic issues. They are also related to causes and convictions and to associative, corporate and union interests. Lobbying provides the decider with important information, as well as the various standpoints on any issue. This is not only done by direct engagement, through conversations and closed-door meetings: you can lobby through the newspapers, the television, the internet, presentations and petitions to national parliaments, and publicity on the street, with no direct contact involved whatsoever. Who pays for this? Corporations, regions, cities, countries, sporting associations, cultural interests, and non-governmental organisations pay.
It was not by chance that President Barack Obama made one of his top priorities at the beginning of his term the reduction of the outrageous traffic between the political class and lobbying activity within the same interest sectors, avoiding a period of several years of disgust. There are some who say that Washington is the world’s capital of corruption. However, it is also true that things happen at an increasingly transparent level there. When a lobbyist first arrives there, he must get registered, and he is asked to declare whom he is representing, with whom he wants to get into contact, to what effect – regarding a certain law, for instance – to what purpose, to whose benefit, and how much he will be paid for that service. Two days later, the essentials of that information are made available and accessible online to any citizen. It is within this spirit that lobbying must be faced, as a strong contributor to a more democratic society. Transparent and organised lobbying does not exist in dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. Who knows what goes on in North Korea? But we know what goes on in Canada.
On 24 January 2010, a United States Supreme Court decision lifted the restrictions on corporately funded publicity on behalf of or against any political candidate in the weeks preceding an election. That was a bonus for the super-powerful oil industry lobbyists and lobbyists for Wall Street finance, insurance companies, Coca-Cola and so on. From now on, any one of them can approach a politician and say: “Look! We have US$1 million to spend on advertising for or against you. It is up to you to decide!” It was a tough blow to Obama’s uplifting campaign.
The margins of influence in Brussels are incredibly wide. The more the system is fragmented, the more the capacity to influence grows. There are more than 2 000 committees and diverse groups assisting the European Union in the decision making process – it is so-called comitology, a hidden power. There are 15 000 active interest groups in Brussels alone, 2 500 with permanent cabinets, acting over the European Commission. The European Parliament has created a register for lobbying which already numbers 4 200 credentials. However, at the time of the last inquiry, only 14 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe had dealth with, or were discussing, regulatory legislation on lobbying activity.
There are signs of a society in which money has replaced honour. Citizens simply assume that politicians act not honourably but with profit in mind. The old language of trust has been replaced by the words “responsibility” and “transparency”, hence the need for regulation and a code of good conduct. Politicians are undoubtedly the main victims of the electorate’s mistrust. Many respectable bankers and financial institutions have been publicly exposed for their moral and material wrongdoings, but a low level of confidence in politicians and political institutions is a much more dangerous thing since it undermines the foundations of a free society. It is an enemy of freedom itself. None of this is good for democracy, and we have to do something about it.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Mendes Bota. You have three minutes remaining for your reply to the debate.
I call first Mrs Barnett from Germany, who speaks on behalf of the Socialist Group. You have five minutes.
Mrs BARNETT (Germany) said that lobbying was a sensitive problem that affected everyone. It was not a new problem, but its intensity had increased. It was not wrong for third parties to report their opinion and politicians needed to listen, but politicians needed to be independent so as not to lose the public’s trust. Some negative incidents had justified the sentiment of the report. Politicians must be seen as transparent and therefore she supported a European code of conduct.
The implementation of the recommendations would be hard. The definition, which drew a distinction between civil society and lobbyists receiving compensation, was one example of this. It would also be difficult to apply transparency of the lobbying system to all participants.
There needed to be consultation of lobbyists when drafting legislation. Public hearings were needed to show who argued what. She said that the report was right to encourage “honest lobbying”, which could be achieved through a code of conduct.
She asked whether a system for recording who participated in lobbying was required; if so, debate on this would have to start soon.
She concluded that the Council should not end relations with civil society. This was not the end but the beginning of the debate on lobbying.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Pleskachevskiy, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr PLESKACHEVSKIY (Russian Federation) said lobbying was useful, but a lack of transparency and accountability meant it could be the basis of corruption. The experiences of the United States and Canada in legislating on lobbying had shown that adopting national law did not remove all problems associated with lobbying.
Self-regulated business entities could act as mediators between interest groups and authorities. Civil society was visible, often regulated and expert opinions were invoked. In contrast, self-regulated businesses conducting paid lobbying were not transparent.
Governments should continue to analyse the experience of other countries in the regulation of lobbying. The Russian Federation had adopted regulation of lobbying involving communal responsibility, best practice, registration and standards for lobbyists.
He concluded that the Assembly should support the report and adopt the recommendations.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Giaretta, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr GIARETTA (Italy) said that he was in favour of the recommendations. The question, however, was whether regulation of lobbyists was either useful or possible. There was a need to produce good laws, which should ensure that access to goods was guaranteed, regardless of income.
As interest in regulations had increased, lobbying had increased to represent these interests. To some extent, the party system had provided channels for lobbying. In addition, legitimate lobbying activities helped to strengthen the link between institutions and civil society and therefore increased law makers’ awareness of pubic opinion.
In Brussels, 65% of lobbyists defended economic interests, 25% represented civil society and 10% local bodies. Without transparency, lobbying could put illicit pressure on law makers and lead to corruption. This arose when lobbyists were not just providing information, but trying to influence politicians. He noted that the code of conduct would make links between lobbying and the legislative process more transparent.
Previous experience had shown that regulation was not enough. In the United States, where lobbying is regulated, 30% of funding for political candidates came from lobby groups. The legislator then became dependent on economic interests. President Obama had highlighted this problem when he had argued that his campaign would not be financed by lobbyists and his administration would not be defined by lobbyists.
He concluded in support of the proposal.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Elzinga, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr ELZINGA (Netherlands) – Thank you, Mr Mendes Bota, for your excellent report. It took a while, huh?
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the report is very timely, with its call for more transparency. It is timely too in its recommendation to the Committee of Ministers to come up with a European code of good conduct on lobbying, as we adopted the draft report almost a year ago in the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development. I know it was not the choice of the rapporteur that we should have the plenary discussion only today, but the political environment has changed a little so we should be able to go a bit further in the recommendations.
The content of the report is none the less adequate. Since February this year we have had the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recommendation to all its member states on 10 principles of transparency and integrity in lobbying. They include, more or less, all the principles in paragraph 11 of the report about what a European code of conduct should adhere to. Such a European code of good conduct should be fairly easy to elaborate.
To make its recommendations, the OECD conducted a large-scale consultation with more than 100 stakeholders, including lobbyists. As most lobbyists just do their jobs and have nothing to hide, the OECD found consensus among lobbyists about the need for transparency in their profession. But, perhaps more surprisingly, the OECD also found that a clear majority of the lobbyists surveyed support mandatory disclosure of information. They do not like free riders and prefer clear regulation rather than voluntary codes. Clear regulation should now be preferable for everyone – for all parties – over voluntary options.
As our rapporteur, Mr Mendes Bota, clearly explained, there is growing public awareness of lobbying; in the public’s opinion, lobbying often tends to have a negative connotation and is frequently perceived as a form of corruption; and in recent decades, we have seen a dramatic decline in public confidence in politics in Council of Europe member states. So Mr Mendes Bota is convinced that in a democratic society, citizens are entitled to know the identity of the lobbying organisations that influence political decision making and for whom they do it, and I agree with him. Greater transparency in lobbying activities can make political players more accountable and prevent further loss of public confidence in politics. I therefore fully agree that good governance and democratic principles should not be further undermined by Council of Europe member states not having sound regulation of lobbying in place.
I conclude by congratulating the rapporteur on finally debating this draft recommendation in the Assembly, and I am convinced that we will now approve it. However, as I said, I would like to go a bit further: like the rapporteur, I still want a European code of conduct, but I do not think we should stop there. We should take this recommendation home directly and demand action from our governments. I know that I, at least, will use this document to advocate sound regulation at home – I will start lobbying right away!
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Kaźmierczak from Poland, who is speaking on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr KAŹMIERCZAK (Poland) – On behalf of the EPP and the Christian Democrats, I say that members of our political group fully agree with the main thesis of Mr Mendes Bota’s report. First, we believe that the freedom to express needs as well as expectations, or even demands, by particular groups or individuals in society is a fundamental value of democracy. In fact, thanks to the report, we are discussing both a principle and some particular solutions.
Lobbying is defined as a form of advocacy, with the intention of influencing legislators and other decision-making bodies in government and the public sector, conducted by individuals or interest groups. For some years, a constant increase in such activities has been noted. While lobbying is regarded as an important feature of democracy – representing pluralism and allowing all citizens to organise and argue for their interests with law-making bodies – it can threaten democracy when it is unregulated and non-transparent. This is the second key aspect of the issue as mentioned in the report.
The lack of transparency and of clear information about lobbyists’ identity, position, connections, subjects of activity and financing is an important factor in the mistrust and decline in public confidence observed in contemporary democratic societies. Therefore, the implementation of clear regulations concerning possible forms of influence on decision-making bodies is necessary to restore public confidence in government authorities’ democratic functions.
Only in a few Council of Europe member states have laws on lobbying activities been passed until now. I believe that today’s debate will play a very important role in discussions about intended legal frameworks for lobbying in member states’ national parliaments. Perhaps we can also recommend some solutions for Council of Europe members based on developed and applied measures. For instance, at the level of European institutions the European Parliament was the first body to regulate lobbying of its members. A lobbyists’ register has been created and a code of ethics for lobbyists has been introduced. However, this last measure is rather general and does not allow measurement and supervision of compliance with the standards it sets.
In democratic society, another aspect of the problem has to be taken into consideration. Citizens have an evident right to be informed about identity and about ways of influencing political decision making and voting. Unregulated lobbying appears to be an increasing problem in Council of Europe member states. It is therefore important to discuss the matter urgently and to make an effort to enhance regulation.
I congratulate Mr Mendes Bota on his excellent work and thank him for addressing the problem and preparing this report. The problem of lobbying in a democratic society is always real and always important. I hope that our debate will lead us and the countries we represent in this Chamber to find optimal ways of solving the problem. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Gross.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – I, too, want to thank the rapporteur for this great work. Perhaps we should show our appreciation of it by proposing that it be sent directly to the chairs and speakers of our parliaments. Perhaps we should take this issue up in the Bureau and make such a suggestion to Mr Sorinas when he concludes what has to be done as a follow-up to our report during the Friday meeting.
If the Swiss Parliament, for example, were to take this matter seriously, the quality of democracy at the parliamentary level would improve enormously. We have not only no rules but bad salaries and bad equipment for staff that does not compare with that in other, similar parliaments. In our country, special interests even buy parliamentarians. Those who vote for these people do not know that they get a salary from special interest groups. This is a shame. We have not yet secured a majority to change this situation, but such work will help us enormously. That is why we should not only do what Mr Elzinga said – take the recommendation back home ourselves – but send it to the speakers of the parliaments, so they can see that we care about the quality of our work.
I want to try to deepen two reflections that demonstrate the pertinence of this report. Lobbying is so dominant in our society that I sometimes have the impression that people think that politics is lobbying – that political action can be seen only as lobbying. This is totally destructive of the republican notion of democracy, in the sense that freedom means acting together with other people to influence our existence and convince others to act in a similar way, thereby developing our power to do things from our own capacity. This republican democratic notion has been totally forgotten because lobbying structures dominate, so that people cannot exert their influence or act themselves. In this sense, when you go home with the report, Mr Elzinga, you are not lobbying; you are acting. Indeed, when you say that you are lobbying, you are a victim of the same discourse.
The second, and most important, point is that even we are victims of the domination of lobbying, because it is changing our notion of what politics is. As for how we can overcome this domination, I return to the point that every citizen has power when he acts with others. Politics is much more than influencing those who represent us. The other point is that the domination of private interests and special interests means that those who act in the common interest are forgotten. The sum of private interests does not represent the general interest. We must differentiate the two sharply. Indeed, I would not use the term “lobbying” for those who argue for the general interest and who try to define what the general interest is. “Lobbying” is a term reserved for those acting on behalf of special interests. This is of course legitimate in a democracy, but it should not be mistaken for the general interest, which has a completely different quality. The forces of special interests are the most visible in our democracies, while those who try to defend the general interest are becoming weaker and weaker. We will return to that point in June, when we discuss the crisis of democracy, because it is one of the deepest roots of that crisis. The report is a contribution to overcoming that crisis, and I thank the rapporteur for it.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mrs Pejčinović-Burić.
Mrs PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ (Croatia) congratulated the rapporteur on his excellent work. It was useful to be reminded that lobbying had many different guises and names. In the past 10 years or so there had been attempts to codify lobbying by legislation, codes of conduct or registers. The report highlighted the fact that more needed to be done in member states and other institutions. Transparency was key to avoiding and preventing corruption. Some form of codification was required despite opposition from some countries. The common denominator connecting countries with these problems should be combating corruption.
Croatia recently has made steps to codifying lobbying. It had an association of lobbyists with a code of good conduct. The government had adopted a code in consultation with interested groups, and draft legislation was expected to be examined this year.
The recommendation tabled provided a useful contribution to assist the Council of Europe in its work and that of other countries. She stressed the importance of transparency in all aspects of life.
Despite the efforts in some countries, lobbying was still seen as obscure. The Council of Europe needed to honour the report and promote people’s confidence in politics.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Ivanji.
Mr IVANJI (Serbia) – One consequence of the misuse of the term “lobbying” is the negative connotations that are still associated with this practice. Nevertheless, the practice of lobbying represents one of the most significant features of the democratic process.
Lobbying does not represent the corrupting influence of interest groups; rather, it is a practice that brings to light all the facts relating to a particular matter, leading to a better understanding of the issue. Today, the practice of lobbying represents not only the right but the obligation of each member of a democratic community to influence the political decisions that should encompass all citizens’ interests and that should be made solely in their best interest. Whether lobbying is practised through a sole person or a group depends entirely on the nature of the issue and the circumstances.
It is essential to point out that each government and parliament must define and regulate the practice of lobbying within its legal framework, and control each participant at all times. Lobbyists must be treated as equal participants in the legislative process in a democratic society – a society in which all participants play an equally important role. The most powerful weapon of every lobbyist is, of course, the argument.
If no legislative framework exists, lobbying may be subject to corruption. The activities of future professional lobbyists – as well as the areas in which lobbying will or will not be allowed – should be defined by law. The law should also define the manner in which lobbyists are to be registered and how licences are to be issued, and determine which interests will be allowed to be represented, after which the profession of lobbyist can be considered equal to other professions.
I do not argue that, at certain points in the practice of lobbying, the lobbyist may diverge from what is considered legal and enter the sphere of corruption, but there is simply no argument to support those who say that lobbying represents nothing more than another form of corruption. When corruption is born, lobbying ends. Then we have a situation in which the general interest gives way to personal interest, which is realised by committing the criminal offence of bribery and misuse of office.
Various lobbying groups, which are registered in member states, have taken part in lobbying for passing a legislative framework. Again, we witness how the leaders of change in society are those who manage to recognise the problem better than we do, despite the fact that we – not they – are directly involved in policy making. However, that is the best response to the question: why do we need lobbying? When a citizen defines a problem, too often we are not eager enough to solve it, choosing to close our eyes to it instead. Too often, we do not understand a problem when it is separated from the citizen, and too often, we address the citizen only during election campaigns. An individual problem can be solved if it is communicated in a message that is sufficiently clear and legitimate, encompassing several individual interests, which then become the general interest. It is up to us to hear that message and show an interest in the community to which we belong and which we represent in parliament. We should be led not by our personal interests, but solely and exclusively by the interests of that community.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Zernovski.
Mr ZERNOVSKI (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – First, I congratulate the rapporteur on an excellent report. I fully agree with him that plurality of interests is an important element of democracy. However, at the same time there is a need to improve transparency.
Lobbying is present in all areas of life. Every day, we meet more and more people who are engaged in lobbying or belong to certain lobby groups. Special interest groups, from representatives of the business sector to non-governmental organisations, are active in the European institutions in Brussels as well as in national governmental and parliamentary circles.
The rapporteur correctly concludes that the dramatic decline in public confidence in politics is largely the result of a lack of transparency in political lobbying activities. Citizens are entitled to know the identity of lobbying organisations that influence political decision making and voting by members of parliament. I fully support the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers for an elaboration of an exceptionally important instrument, such as the European code of good conduct.
As the report states, practice among European countries is different, and while some have regulated lobbying in their parliaments, few have adopted laws on lobbying activities. Macedonia is among the few countries that have adopted a law on lobbying. The need to define who lobbies, for what and where led us to consider regulating that activity by law.
The dynamic development of society requires new rules for groups and citizens who lobby for their interests before executives and local authorities, which are in the process of making decisions that are within their competence. Citizens have a democratic right to influence the decision makers, but, at the same time, lobbying activities must be standardised.
Regulating lobbying by law has more objectives, but two are most important. The first is to determine the rules of lobbying; the second is to remove the fear that lobbying is based on certain secret activities and is conducted behind closed doors. By adopting a law, those two objectives were fulfilled and the conditions for transparency were created. In addition, the law prevents illegal activities to obtain information from the state, including local authorities, which could be further used in legal procedures, but could also be abused.
By adopting the law, my government defined and regulated lobbying by rules that apply to all who want to engage in lobbying, and we have thus overcome the different interpretations of lobbying and its conduct. We have created a legal framework for lobbying and provided the public with an insight into the process of lobbying because there are rules that everyone engaged in lobbying must observe.
I believe that all that will strengthen democracy and increase confidence in politics. That is why we are here. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mrs Vučković.
Mrs VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – I join all those who have congratulated the rapporteur on this important report. The data that he collected and the analysis that he provided are of the utmost importance for all those countries that have not yet regulated the activities of lobbying organisations. However, even in countries with rooted democracies and well-developed democratic institutions, experience shows the difficulty of regulating lobbying. Registers of lobbyists and a code of conduct for lobbyists can help, but the weak enforcement of regulations is experienced even in the United States, which has the most extensive regulation of lobbying.
The problem of lobbying is a democratic one. It is a serious challenge to the democratic decision making process. Pluralist society means a plurality of interests, in which governments are entitled to take all interests into account and develop policies in accordance with the priorities determined by the political programme that obtained the support of voters in elections.
The problem is that interests are not equally represented and, more important, not equally organised. Interest groups organise themselves in such a way as to exert significant pressure on governments and parliaments in order to obtain legal regulations and mechanisms whereby their interests will be fully or partially realised. In most cases, businesses and some professional organisations are the best organised. Of course, I am not criticising that; we should talk to such groups and hear what they have to say. However, what about citizens? How are they represented when there are conflicts of interest with organised interest groups and their lobbyists? That is one reason why regulating lobbying is a necessity for all democracies.
Lobbying is a democratic problem particularly for countries that do not have rooted democratic traditions, developed institutions and systems of political accountability. In those countries, including Serbia, where I come from, citizens have not yet learned to organise themselves to approach decision makers, even members of parliament. Generally, they find politicians distant, alienated and linked to big companies and big interests. Often when you ask citizens why they do not contact their MPs or other public officers, they reply, “It’s not worth it.” That shows that citizens do not believe that any of their actions can be useful or that anyone is willing to listen to them.
Debating lobbying therefore requires us to discuss how to improve trust in politicians and the political process and how to make the links between citizens and decision makers more efficient. We must also consider how to make weaker parties to this process stronger. One way is to make the activities of organised interest groups and their lobbyists more transparent. The report shows some mechanisms for achieving that. Another method is making the decision-making process itself more transparent. That is important for parliamentarians. Often our governments negotiate with interest groups and agree solutions that are later incorporated in draft laws that are sent to parliament. Those draft laws are presented as well negotiated with all relevant interest groups. However, they have often been negotiated with the most powerful and influential interest groups, while citizens and civic organisations rarely make a real impact on the process of drafting legislation or defining policies.
Naturally, big and powerful interest groups prefer to present their case to the government – they find that easier and more effective. Those that are less powerful often approach parliamentarians during the phase when the draft legislation is debated in parliament.
This is a chance for parliamentarians to become more active in the legislative process and to involve different interest groups and citizens in that process. It can also be a chance for parliaments to improve their public image in this era of undermined confidence in their reputation. In such a way, checks and balances between governments and parliaments can be improved, but differences between well-organised interest groups and those that are not organised so well can be diminished.
The recommendations suggested by the rapporteur are helpful and important in drafting legislation in this area, but the real difference may be made if we implement various other measures in our political systems, reiterate the importance of political presentation and find ways of recovering the public image of politics and fostering accountability to our citizens. The fight against corruption and the clear regulation of the financing of political parties are in line with these efforts. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.
I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers’ list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report.
I call Mr Mendes Bota, the rapporteur, to reply. You have three minutes.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – Thank you. I thank all speakers for their words of support for the report and the draft recommendation. I must confess that I started this week feeling that there was lobbying against this report on lobbying. I remind the Assembly that the report was approved by the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development on 18 May last year. Three times the report was put on the agenda, but the debate was postponed each time. There seemed to be some kind of secret lobbying that was not interested in discussing this report on lobbying. However, having listened to all the speakers, I believe that we share the same views, concerns and will to act.
It is clear that we have to make some distinctions. There is honest lobbying and there is dishonest lobbying. There is professional, compensated activity and there are the voluntary organisations of civil society – we know exactly who they are and how they act. We should remember that if lobbying is not always for the general interest, its purpose is to defend special interests in civil society. Lobbying is also an approach; politics is lobbying. We should have the freedom of decision while taking care to take account of all sources of information. That is the positive aspect of lobbying. Lobbying activities, if done properly, are a great help to decision makers, even if we do not agree with a point of view or the actions that lobbyists promote, with all the publicity. We are not obliged to follow lobbyists either on the right or the left. We have only to follow our conscience and what we think is fair. To make a fair judgment on whatever subject, we need all the available information.
To conclude this debate, I repeat that at the beginning I thought that there was lobbying against the report on lobbying but now I am convinced that we will all lobby for the report on lobbying and the draft recommendation. We can call this “lobbying” or we can call it “action”; it does not matter. I fully agree that the Bureau should tell all the national parliaments what has happened here. It should send the link not only to the draft recommendation, which I am sure will be approved, but to the record of the debate, as everything that was said by people from many different countries and by many different personalities is important outside this Assembly. It is important that people understand that we all share this point of view and these principles. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – Does the chairperson of the committee, Mr Wille, wish to speak? You have two minutes.
Mr WILLE (Belgium) – Thank you. I do not need more time than that. I have started to believe that miracles exist, as we are now having this debate. The fact that that took time has been useful, because we have not weakened but strengthened the report. Mr Mendes Bota is a politician with experience and has convinced people about the issues that we have been discussing. Let this good work by the Assembly be a win-win situation for all of us here and for the federal and national parliaments.
THE PRESIDENT – The debate is closed.
The Committee on Economic Affairs and Development has presented a draft recommendation, to which three amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in the following order: 2, 3 and 1. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.
We come to Amendment No. 2, tabled by Mr Viktor Pleskachevskiy, Mr Vladimir Zhidkikh, Mr Ziyad Sabsabi, Mr Vyacheslav Timchenko and Mr Alexander Pochinok, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 8, after the word “political”, to insert the following words: “and economical”.
I call Mr Pleskachevskiy to support Amendment No. 2.
Mr PLESKACHEVSKIY (Russian Federation) explained that Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 were purely technical, and intended only to reflect the fact that discussion of lobbying should refer to both political and economic lobbying.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WILLE (Belgium) – We are in favour.
THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 2 is adopted.
We come to Amendment No. 3, tabled by Mr Viktor Pleskachevskiy, Mr Vladimir Zhidkikh, Mr Ziyad Sabsabi, Mr Vyacheslav Timchenko and Mr Alexander Pochinok, which is, in the draft recommendation, paragraph 9, after the word “political”, to insert the following words: “and economical”.
I call Mr Pleskachevskiy to support Amendment No. 3.
Mr PLESKACHEVSKIY (Russian Federation) explained that, as before, the amendment was purely technical and designed to include economic lobbying within the scope of the report.
THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Mr WILLE (Belgium) – We are in favour.
THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment No. 3 is adopted.
THE PRESIDENT – We come to Amendment No. 1, tabled by Mr Viktor Pleskachevskiy, Mr Ivan Savvidi, Mr Sergey Markov, Mr Igor Chernyshenko and Mr Vladimir Zhidkikh, which is, in the draft recommendation, at the end of paragraph 11.1, to add the following words: “, primarily self-regulating entities in different economic sectors”.
I call Mr Pleskachevskiy to support Amendment No. 1.
Mr PLESKACHEVSKIY (Russian Federation) said that this amendment was intended to include professional bodies within the report.
THE PRESIDENT – I understand that Mr Mendes Bota, on behalf of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment: in amendment No. 1, in the first line to delete the word “primarily” and replace it with “not forgetting”.
In my opinion the oral sub-amendment meets the criteria in Rule 33.6, and can be considered unless 10 or more members of the Assembly object. Is there any objection to the oral sub-amendment being debated?
That is not the case. I therefore call Mr Mendes Bota to move the oral sub-amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal) – I do not really have anything against the amendment, but the word “primarily” was not the best wording, as “not forgetting” is correct. I draw your attention to the fact that, in the French version, there must be the wording, “sans oublier”, instead of “surtout”.
THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?
That is not the case.
The mover of the main amendment, Mr Pleskachevskiy, is in favour.
The committee is in favour.
I will now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.
The oral sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended?
That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee on the amendment?
Mr WILLE (Belgium) – The committee is in favour.
THE PRESIDENT – I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.
Amendment No. 1, as amended, is adopted.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 11937, as amended.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 11937, as amended, is adopted, with 78 votes for, 1 against and no abstentions.
3. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting
THE PRESIDENT – I propose that the Assembly hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved today.
Are there any objections? That is not the case.
The agenda for the next sitting is therefore agreed.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5.05 p.m.)
Contents page – Monday PM
1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly presented by Ms Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers
Mr Santini (Italy) [EPP/CD]
Mme Blondin (France) [SOC]
M. Badré (France) [ALDE]
Mr Greenway (United Kingdom) [EDG]
Mr Kox (Netherlands) [UEL]
Mme Zohrabyan (Armenia)
Ms Pashayeva (Azerbaijan)
Mr Harutyunyan (Armenia)
Mrs Hajibayli (Azerbaijan)
Mr Xuclŕ i Costa (Spain)
Mrs Hurskainen, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Çavuşoğlu.
2. Lobbying in a democratic society
Mr Mendes Bota (Portugal, EPP/CD), Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development
Mrs Barnett (Germany) [SOC]
Mr Pleskachevskiy (Russian Federation) [EDG]
Mr Giaretta (Italy) [ALDE]
Mr Elzinga (Netherlands) [UEL]
Mr Kaźmierczak (Poland) [EPP/CD]
Mr Gross (Switzerland)
Mrs Pejčinović-Burić (Croatia)
Mr Ivanji (Serbia)
Mr Zernovski ("the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia")
Mrs Vučković (Serbia)
Mr José Mendes Bota (Portugal) [Rapporteur]
Mr Wille (Belgium) [Chair of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development]
Amendments 2 and 3 adopted.
Amendment 1 proposed
Oral sub-amendment proposed by the rapporteur and adopted
Amendment 1, as amended, adopted.
Draft recommendation, as amended, adopted.
3. Date and time of next sitting
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk.
AGIUS, Francis/Falzon, Joseph
AGRAMUNT FONT DE MORA, Pedro
ANGHEL, Florin Serghei*
ANTONIONE, Roberto/Farina, Renato
ARIAS CAŃETE, Miguel/Robles Orozco, Gonzalo
ARRIGO, Robert/Fenech Adami, Joseph
ASKO-SELJAVAARA, Sirpa/Korkeaoja, Juha
ASSIS , Francisco*
BADEA, Viorel Riceard*
BARTOŠ, Walter/Jacques, Kateřina
BATET LAMAŃA, Meritxell/Fernández-Capel Bańos, Blanca
BELLEN, Alexander van der/Kühnel, Franz Eduard
BENDER, Ryszard/Korfanty, Bronisław
BLANCO TERÁN, Rosa Delia*
BRICOLO, Federico/Boldi, Rossana
BROEKE, HanTEN/Franken, Hans
CEBECİ, Erol Aslan*
CESA, Lorenzo/Volontč, Luca
CHERNYSHENKO, Igor/Zelenskiy, Yury
CHOPE, Christopher/Dundee, Alexander Earl Of
CHUKOLOV, Desislav/Dimitrov, Kirtcho
CONDE BAJÉN, Agustín
COSTELLO, Joseph/O'reilly, Joseph
DEBONO GRECH, Joseph*
DÍAZ TEJERA, Arcadio
DOZZO, Gianpaolo/Stucchi, Giacomo
DURRIEU, Josette/Blondin, Maryvonne
FERIĆ-VAC, Mirjana/Pejčinović-Burić, Marija
FILIPIOVÁ, Daniela/Lebeda, Pavel
FISCHER, Axel E.
FRANCESCHINI, Dario/Farina, Gianni
FRITZ, Erich Georg
GATTI, Marco/Mularoni, Pier Marino
GLOS, Michael/Wellmann, Karl-Georg
GROSSKOST, Arlette/Marin, Christine
GROZDANOVA, Dzhema/Petrov, Petar
HUSEYNOV, Ali/Abbasov, Aydin
JENSEN, Michael Aastrup*
JOHANSSON, Morgan/Hagberg, Michael
JONKER, Corien W.A.
JÓNSSON, Birkir Jón*
KALEMBA, Stanisła/Nykiel, Mirosława
KNIGHT OF COLLINGTREE, Jill Baroness/Boswell, Tim
KUCHEIDA, Jean-Pierre/Schneider, André
KUODYTĖ, Dalia/Vareikis, Egidijus
LONCLE, François/Rouquet, René
MATUŠIĆ, Frano/Caparin, Karmela
MEHMETI DEVAJA, Ermira/Zernovski, Andrej
MELO, Maria Manuela de
MENDES BOTA, José
MOLCHANOV, Andrey/Zhidkikh, Vladimir
MOSCOSO DEL PRADO HERNÁNDEZ, Juan*
MOTA AMARAL, Joăo Bosco*
MUŃOZ ALONSO, Alejandro
NIKOLIĆ, Tomislav/Kovács, Elvira
ÓSKARSDÓTTIR, Steinunn Valdís*
OSTROVSKY, Alexey/Vyatkin, Dmitry
PODLESOV, Alexander Minovitch
POURBAIX-LUNDIN, Marietta de
PREDA, Cezar Florin
PRESCOTT, John/Anderson, Donald Lord
PUCHE RODRÍGUEZ-ACOSTA, Gabino
PUIG i OLIVE, Lluís Maria de
QUINTANILLA BARBA, Carmen
RIBA FONT, Maria Pilar
ROSEIRA, Maria de Belém*
ROSSELL TARRADELLAS, Amadeu
RUGĀTE, Anta/Cilevičs, Boriss
RUŽIĆ, Branko/Vučković, Nataša
RYBAK, Volodymyr *
SOBKO, Sergey/Volozhinskaya, Tatiana
STRENZ, Karin/Röring, Johannes
SYDOW, Björn von
SYMONENKO, Petro/Marmazov, Yevhen
TODOROV, Zhivko/Minchev, Krasimir
TOMLINSON, John E. Lord
UMAKHANOV, Ilyas/Sabsabi, Ziyad
VANDENBERGHE, Hugo/Tindemans, Elke
VERA JARDIM, José*
VERLIČ, Peter/Rihter, Andreja
VIS, Rudi/Williams, Betty
VRIES, Klaas De*
WAALKENS, Harm Evert/Elzinga, Tuur
WADEPHUL, Johann/Haibach, Holger
WOLDSETH, Karin S.*
XUCLŔ i COSTA, Jordi
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Moldova*
Vacant Seat, Poland/Rotnicka, Jadwiga
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote:
CARTES IVERN, Joan
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane
TORRES PUIG, Joan
VAN OVERMEIRE, Karim
CORREA José Luis Jaime