AS (2012) CR 10
2012 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 23 April 2012 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 Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.
1. Opening of the second part of the 2012 Ordinary Session
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – I declare open the second part-session of the 2012 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
2. Statement by the President
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you here to Strasbourg today.
The agenda for this part-session faithfully reflects current events on the international political stage, with developments in the European vicinity taking pride of place. Our aim, as ever, is to ensure that the democratic changes in the southern Mediterranean go off as peacefully as possible, with full respect for fundamental human rights. This has not always been the case in Syria, where confrontations between the forces of Bashir Al-Assad and those opposing his regime are continuing, still this morning causing mass violations of human rights. There have been more than 10 000 deaths since the beginning of the protests. Thousands of refugees have fled the massacres committed by the armed forces – this is a genuine humanitarian disaster. We cannot remain silent in the face of such atrocities, which are taking place practically before our eyes.
During my recent visit to the United Nations in New York, I discussed the situation in Syria with the Secretary General of the United Nations. I assured him of our full support for the work of the UN and Arab League Special Envoy, Mr Kofi Annan, whom I have invited to address our Assembly in the near future. However, the cease-fire negotiated by Mr Annan is still not being fully respected and we have serious doubts about the credibility of the commitments entered into by President Assad’s regime.
That said, I remain optimistic: UN Security Council Resolution 2042, which was unanimously adopted recently, authorising the sending of an unarmed observer mission, and Mr Annan’s six-point peace plan, highlight the basic conditions for settling the conflict. The debate under urgent procedure on the situation in Syria, scheduled for next Thursday, will provide an excellent opportunity for supporting the international efforts to solve this major crisis.
Moreover, a great deal of work still lies ahead in ensuring the full implementation of our values and standards, even among our partners. Two weeks ago, we were all shocked by the execution of three prisoners by the authorities in Gaza. I remind our colleagues from the Palestinian National Council that the death penalty has no place in the Council of Europe. It is your duty to do everything you can to ensure respect for the standards and values to which you subscribed on accepting Partnership for Democracy status. We are, of course, at your disposal to support you in these efforts.
However, we should not forget that, generally, the Arab Spring has given rise to an impressive dynamic for democratic change in your southern neighbourhood, and Partnership for Democracy status provides enormous potential for expanding our co-operation with the region. During this part-session we shall have the honour of welcoming Mr Saad Dine El Otmani, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco – our former colleague as a member of the Moroccan delegation to the Assembly – who will report on the progress achieved in his country since Morocco was granted Partnership for Democracy status.
We shall also consider the “gender equality” dimension of the Arab Spring, as part of the debate on Ms Saďdi’s report, with the participation of Ms Bassima Hakkaoui, the Moroccan Minister for Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. I am convinced that this debate will provide us with new ideas for our activities in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, the busy international political agenda should not make us forget the major “European” projects in hand. Doubt has been cast on the effectiveness of the system of protection provided by the European Convention on Human Rights. One important aspect of the problem is the reform of the Strasbourg Court. During the current affairs debate on the future of the European Court of Human Rights, scheduled for this part-session, we shall carefully analyse the Brighton Declaration, which was adopted only last week.
The reform of the Court is just one part of the process, however. I personally attended the Brighton Conference, where I pointed out in my address that it was a matter for all of us national parliamentarians to ensure that national legislation was in line with the standards of the Convention and that national human rights mechanisms were genuinely effective.
During this session we shall celebrate an important event: exactly 10 years ago Bosnia and Herzegovina became a member of our Organisation. In 2002, this sent out a strong message for Europe and the whole world, and was an opportunity for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance along the road to European integration. Today, however, a number of major reforms are still in abeyance, as noted by our Monitoring Committee. I remain optimistic: the only way for us to advance is through co-operation, and I am glad that Mr Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will be addressing our Assembly on Wednesday, with an exchange of views that I hope will be frank and constructive.
This leads me on to another topical issue in Europe – our “frozen” conflicts. As you know, I have taken this subject as one of the priorities for my term of office, and I would like to share with you some preliminary results of my work. I recently visited Moldova in order to congratulate Mr Timofti on his recent election as President of the Republic, following three years of institutional deadlock. I also visited the Transnistrian region, where I noted that there is now a genuine openness in seeking a solution to the Transnistrian conflict. Our Assembly has a useful contribution to make in consolidating the climate of trust among the various players on both sides of the Dniester, and parliamentary diplomacy is the optimum tool to achieve this. After consultations within our Assembly and with our partners in the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, I now intend to propose establishing dialogue between the members of the Moldovan Parliament and of the Supreme Soviet of the Transnistrian region.
Since my election as President, I have been heavily involved in reinforcing our relations with EU institutions: over the past three months I have visited Strasbourg and Brussels three times during European Parliament sessions. In my talks with various parties I advocated complementarity between the actions of both institutions. I also underlined the need to prevent duplication in the activities of the Council of Europe and the EU, particularly in connection with the Agency for Fundamental Rights, which is already operating, and the EU plans to establish a European Fund for Democracy and a Special Human Rights Representative. All those I spoke to were highly receptive to my arguments, and I sense an enormous potential for co-operation and new synergies. Furthermore, I invited the President of the European Parliament, Mr Martin Schulz, to address our Assembly, and he promised that he would visit us in the very near future.
As you can see, we have a lot on our plate in Strasbourg, although getting to the city could be made a little easier. Improving the accessibility of Strasbourg is one of the priorities for my presidency. Since my election I have organised a series of interviews with the main people responsible for this issue in an attempt to pinpoint solutions. I can assure you today that local councillors, the French Government and Air France are determined to find solutions as quickly as possible. We shall have an opportunity to discuss this matter during an exchange of views with the members of the Bas-Rhin department council – conseil général – this Wednesday 25 April, after the sitting. I would urge you all to attend this encounter. New direct lines are currently being introduced between Strasbourg and various European cities. This is one initial practical outcome of our discussions, and I am sure that there will soon be further developments in this direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that you will have an interesting, lively part-session replete with fruitful debates, and wish you an excellent stay in Strasbourg. Thank you for your attention.
3. Register of attendance and written declarations
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – 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, pursuant to Article 53 of the Rules?
I also remind members that a number of written declarations that were tabled in the January part-session will remain open for signature until the end of this part-session. They are listed in this morning’s Organisation of Debates document. To add your name to a written declaration, please go to the Table Office, Room 1083.
4. Examination of credentials
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The first item of business is the examination of credentials of new members.
The names of the members and substitutes are in Document 12901. If no credentials are contested, the credentials will be ratified.
Are any credentials challenged?
The credentials are ratified.
I welcome our new colleagues.
5. Election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item on the agenda is the elections of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly in respect of Luxembourg and Spain.
In accordance with Rule 15, the chairpersons of the national delegations have proposed the following candidates – Luxembourg: Mr Fernand Boden; Spain: José María Beneyto.
If there is no request for a vote they will be declared elected.
Since there has been no request for a vote, I declare these Members elected as Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.
I congratulate them on their election.
6. Changes in the membership of committees
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Our next item of business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees, as set out in document Commissions (2012) 04 and Addendum 1.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
7. Proposals under urgent procedure and for debate on current affairs
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Before we examine the draft agenda, the Assembly needs to consider requests for debates under urgent procedure and on current affairs. The Bureau has received one request for an urgent debate, from the Political Affairs Committee on the situation in Syria, submitted by the Political Affairs Committee.
The Bureau has also received two requests for debates on current affairs from the Group of the Unified European Left on the future of the European Court of Human Rights and the Brighton Declaration, and from the Spanish delegation on the rule of law and legal certainty: their protection at international level.
At its meeting this morning, the Bureau agreed to propose to the Assembly that it hold an urgent debate on the situation in Syria.
The Bureau also proposes that the Assembly hold a current affairs debate on the future of the European Court of Human Rights and the Brighton Declaration.
Does the Assembly agree to this proposal from the Bureau?
It is agreed to.
8. Adoption of the agenda
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item of business is the adoption of the agenda for the second part of the 2012 Ordinary Session.
The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly's approval was brought up to date by the Bureau on 8 March and this morning. The urgent debate on Syria will be held on Thursday morning and the current affairs debate on the European Court of Human Rights and the Brighton Declaration will be held as the second item of business on Thursday afternoon.
Is the draft agenda agreed to?
It is agreed to.
Arrangements for the organisation of debates, speakers’ lists, tabling of amendments, and the timing of speeches are set out in each sitting’s Organisation of Debates document.
9. Adoption of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee in Paris on 9 March 2012 have been distributed, Document AS/Per (2012) PV 01.
I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.
10. Time limits on speeches
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – It is clear already that there will be a large number of speakers and amendments for certain debates. To enable as many members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that speaking time be limited to three minutes from Monday to Wednesday, for both the morning and afternoon sittings.
Is this agreed?
It is agreed.
I may make further proposals on these matters if changes to the numbers of speakers and amendments for particular debates require it.
11. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – The next item on the agenda is the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, Document 12902 part I and part II and addendum. With this, the Assembly will also consider the report from the Ad hoc committee on the presidential election in the Russian Federation, Document 12903, submitted by Mr Tiny Kox.
Let me remind members that the sitting must suspend at 1 p.m.
In the debate, I call Ms Maury Pasquier to present the progress report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Ms Maury Pasquier, you have the floor.
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) thanked the French delegation and the President for their kind invitation to the chairs of committees to meet the Bureau in Paris on 8 March. She welcomed the Bureau’s adoption of a “Declaration for International Women’s Day 2012: democracy and gender equality one and the same struggle”. It was a topic which delegates should bear in mind on a daily basis.
She drew the Assembly’s attention to three points in the progress report. First, the Bureau approved the terms of reference for general rapporteurs, five of whom had been appointed: on violence against women, on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, on science and technology impact assessment, on children, and on local and regional authorities. The general rapporteurs would make the work of the Assembly more visible outside the Assembly. They would need time to develop their roles, and the terms of reference proposed to the Bureau had suggested three year terms, but to bring the general rapporteurs in line with other Council of Europe positions, the Bureau had approved terms of two years.
Secondly, the Bureau had considered the precedence of vice-chairpersons of committees. The Bureau agreed in January to ask the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and International Affairs to provide an interpretation of the procedure for the establishment of the order of precedence of vice-chairpersons of committees. On 8 March that committee decided that there was no need to change the rules.
Thirdly, post-electoral missions had been sent to Tunisia and the Russian Federation. This had been the second post-electoral mission to the Russian Federation this year, and it was to be hoped that post-electoral missions would remain the exception rather than the rule, since there was no formal procedure for them to report back to the Assembly. Should post-electoral missions become more common, a formal reporting procedure would need to be established.
The Bureau had established a new system whereby members of ad hoc committees to observe elections had to declare any conflicts of interest before they were confirmed as members. This new procedure had already been used for observation missions to Armenia and Serbia. The procedure was not intended to discourage candidates with special knowledge of the countries concerned or contacts within them, but to improve transparency.
The Standing Committee had met in Paris on 9 March and adopted two statements, on political prisoners in Ukraine and on the situation in Syria. The adoption of resolutions on topical matters remained important, and the Assembly should follow and respond to topical issues more frequently.
Delegates were invited to agree the progress report.
The meeting held between the heads of committees and the Bureau on 8 March had been most helpful, and it was to be hoped that such meetings would again occur in the future.
THE PRESIDENT thanked Ms Pasquier and said that he would try to arrange future meetings between the chairpersons of committees and the Bureau. It was important that as many parliamentarians as possible should be involved in the work of the Assembly. A meeting had been arranged for Wednesday evening with the heads of delegations to discuss the expected level of participation by delegates.
He called Mr Kox to speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Thank you, Mr President. The presidential elections in Russia, which were observed by representatives from this Assembly, had a clear winner, but the electoral process lacked broad trust among citizens. According to some opinion polls, almost half the voters did not consider the elections to be fair, although the majority are now more or less satisfied with the result. Most parties accept the outcome, except for the Communist Party and some other parliamentary parties. Many of the interlocutors we met suspected there was substantial manipulation of votes. On the negative side of the process, the abuse of administrative resources and biased media coverage in favour of one candidate should be mentioned. On the positive side, we should mention improved media access, more political debate, broad respect for the freedom of assembly and more transparency on election day through webcams, transparent ballot boxes, more electronic voting machines and more active domestic observers than ever. It is important that the Central Election Commission recognises that a considerable number of polling stations did not follow the protocol properly during the counting of votes.
In our opinion, structural reform of the election commissions at all levels is needed. Without a truly impartial referee, any election result can and probably will be questioned. Russia is now changing its electoral legislation quickly. That sends an important signal to us all. A new law to modify and simplify the registration of political parties has already come into force, and a draft law to improve the function of the election commissions is being prepared. We now have more than 130 parties applying to be recognised as political parties. Nevertheless, further legal reforms are very much needed. Proposals made by President Medvedev include measures for the modification and simplification of the rules on candidates in presidential elections, for the direct elections of governors and for the creation of an independent broadcast channel. Implementation of the recommendations of the Venice Commission would also improve the electoral process.
I pay tribute to the citizens of the Russian Federation for their increased and active involvement in the elections, and I compliment the Russian authorities in the State Duma for their prompt response to the demands of civil society for fair elections and political reform. Only if the reforms become substantial and sustainable and only if they are developed through a serious dialogue including political parties and civil society will they lead to free and fair elections in the Russian Federation in future.
I sincerely thank the Speaker of the State Duma, its Foreign Affairs Committee and the Russian delegation to this Assembly for their excellent assistance to our missions. I thank also the OSCE and ODIHR, with whom we have co-operated intensively in the past six months. I also thank all my colleagues who participated in the six missions, especially the members of the secretariat who made it possible for us to bring to a conclusion this difficult but interesting mission. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Kox. On behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, I thank the members of the committee that you have conducted and chaired for the quality of its work on the elections.
We now come to the general debate. I call Mr Vareikis, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – Thank you, Mr President. Russia is the biggest country in the Council of Europe and the biggest country still under monitoring procedure. We always expect to have something to declare, but the election was a step towards greater democracy and transparency. So what can we say now? We can say that the Russian presidential election was a step in the right direction. The elections were more transparent, clearer and easier for people to understand – not only for observers, but for Russian voters. But does Russia still need to move towards democracy so slowly – step by step at each stage? I think it has the potential to be a strong country that can move towards democracy more quickly, and I wish we could do that rather than slowly at each step. We need to make elections more transparent and clearer, so that there are no doubts about whether things were done in the right manner. At the moment, everything is not done in the right way and people are not satisfied. They do not trust the media coverage, the counting or the protocols.
My impression as an observer is that the people – the voters – do not believe that their voting can change Russia. They are voting, but they are saying, “The government will not change because of our votes. It will change sometime, somehow, but not because we are voting here.” So I wonder whether the transition is finished. Many people say that now Mr Putin has come in for a long time, there will be no steps to make Russia more transparent. I want to suggest to the new Russian delegation that they should not think that everything is okay in Russia. They should realise that Russia is still in transition, that it still needs to do many things and that having video coverage and transparent ballot boxes is not enough to make a country democratic. You have to change the feeling among people, and they have to believe that they are voting for their own country and its destiny. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Vareikis. I call Mr Gross, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) – Thank you, Mr President. I want to make three points, the first of which is, perhaps, an answer to what Ms Maury Pasquier said. It is true that the visibility of post-electoral missions is not very good, but this one was an exception. We wanted to enrich the work that Ms Brasseur is doing in Tunisia and that the Monitoring Committee is doing in Russia, particularly because we did not want a great lapse of time between the elections in Russia and this debate.
The second point is more important and is linked indirectly to the progress report. As we and the Secretary General heard this morning for the first time in history, perhaps, the European Union has said that it is not competent to deal with a central issue in Europe concerning Hungary and the crisis of democracy there. The European Union has referred that issue to the Council of Europe. This is a very important point, and the Secretary General is engaged with the issue in Hungary. I would like to ask the Secretary General not to make a statement this afternoon or tomorrow that will pre-empt the monitoring process and the evaluation we are undertaking. We do not want our work to be thwarted beforehand as a result of the statement that the Secretary General makes this afternoon. It is important that the European Union respects our competence.
I would like to take up what Mr Vareikis said about Russia. We should not forget our discussions at the end of January: the Russia of today is not the Russia of half a year ago. Then we would never have imagined that in hundreds of towns in Russia 100 000 people would be on the streets calling for fairer, more correct and freer elections. That created a change that the new authorities can build on. That should be the message.
It is true that the transition process will never finish but it can go further and faster. The positive political energy those people created in Russia cannot be stopped and we can build on it in the future. That is the message the Council of Europe should send to the new president and the old president. This should be seen as an opportunity not a danger.
The president should take this opportunity to strengthen the development of democracy and respect for human rights in Russia. He should do nothing to stop his people. Seeing this as an opportunity for the enrichment of Russia is the best way to respect what Russian people have done over the past half year, in the interests not only of Russia but of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT thanked Mr Gross for his comments on the European Union, which supported his own conviction that greater contact with the EU was necessary. He had discussed the matter with Martin Schultz and was happy that the Council of Europe could now be more greatly relied upon.
He called Mr Vaksdal to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr VAKSDAL (Norway) – Thank you, Mr President. Dear colleagues, first I thank Mr Tiny Kox, the rapporteur, for his report on the presidential election in the Russian Federation, and for his excellent chairing of six different missions in the past six months.
I had the opportunity to follow closely the election process as a member of the pre-electoral mission as well as of the election observation and post-electoral mission just a few days ago. This is the fourth election I have observed in the Russian Federation, so I naturally compared it to previous ones. On the positive side, there is better access to media for all presidential candidates, and there are more political debates. Web cameras, transparent ballot boxes and electronic voting machines in polling stations are significant improvements. Together with more active domestic observers than ever, that contributed to more transparency in the election process.
On the negative side, the registration process for candidates was not only difficult but for some quite impossible. Some interlocutors told us about the use of administrative resources to favour one of the candidates.
On election day, voting generally took place in a calm and relaxed atmosphere and was assessed as “good” and “very good” in 95% of polling stations visited.
I am sorry to say that the closing and counting process in many polling stations was not performed according to the rules. I visited a polling station where counting was delayed while we were present. The Central Election Commission recognised that a considerable number of polling stations did not follow the protocol properly during the count; we found procedural irregularities in approximately one third of polling stations.
The presidential election had a clear winner, and the results were similar to those in opinion polls published before the election, so I am convinced that they reflect the opinion of the Russian people. One of the questions we asked many of our interlocutors was why there were irregularities, as according to most opinion polls one candidate would win in the first round anyway. Perhaps the best answer we received was that it was a bad habit.
Many Russian voters did not consider the election fair, although a majority, according to opinion polls, are now more or less satisfied with the result. I very much welcome recent political initiatives to improve the electoral process in the Russian Federation and I hope they will contribute to an increase in citizens’ trust in the process and its outcome.
I underline the fact that despite the many improvements I have mentioned, there is still some way to go before the Russian Federation fulfils European standards for elections. I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in co-operation with our Russian friends and colleagues, can contribute to further improvements in the years to come.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you very much, Mr Vaksdal. I call Ms Brasseur, who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg) congratulated the rapporteur. She thanked Mr Kox for his important work, which showed that it was possible to collaborate properly with the EU and other institutions.
The election in the Russian Federation had been marked by inequality. Access to the media in particular had disproportionately favoured one candidate with privileged access. Excessively stringent rules had meant that others had had no access at all.
Progress had been observed with regard to citizen engagement, as displayed in widespread protests. Reforms had been introduced to the Russian political system, which were necessary and positive, but it was worth asking why these had occurred only after the election. It had been claimed previously that Russia was not ready for reform, but this was not the case as the demonstrations and the wider engagement of civil society had shown the people prepared and willing to decide their own fate. There was a clear distance between the authorities and the people in Russia, and a means had to be found to introduce genuine reforms. Reassurances had been given that change would occur. This was a positive factor, but changes would have to be monitored, as breaches of human and other rights were still occurring and disillusionment growing among the people of Russia.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Ms Brasseur. I call Mr Ziuganov, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr ZIUGANOV (Russian Federation) thanked the President. He was an interested party in the Russian Federation election but would do his best to remain impartial. Russia, in terms of its economy, was currently at the bottom of the G20, and at the bottom of the BRIC group, too. In a country enjoying truly free and fair elections, no governing party would survive such a position. Russia had seen a 22% drop in its industrial production, and only Latvia had seen a worse fall. Russia was also top of the list for deaths relating to drugs, alcohol and suicide, among both young and older groups. In this context, the election had been nowhere near fair, nor equitable. Mr Kox was to be thanked for his work in monitoring 100 000 voting stations, which had ensured that defects in the election process were known and publicised. His own party, for example, should have received 25% of the vote.
The previous two worldwide economic crises had led to two world wars, and there was a danger that the current crisis would also lead to conflict. Events had occurred in what had been Yugoslavia, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. Events were now occurring in Syria and Iran. It was clear that there were those who felt that confrontation was the right response to such events, but it was imperative to ensure that world wars were not repeated. A revolution in science and engineering was necessary to address disillusionment and negativity among citizens. The ongoing election in France showed that the French people were also dissatisfied; it was to be hoped that patriotic movements would take the lead.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Ziuganov. The next speaker is Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin.
Ms DE POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – On 24 September 2011 Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev declared that they will change the position. Many Russians felt that that was very arrogant and they were offended. We all know what happened after the elections to the Duma in December. There were mass demonstrations, not only in Moscow. Middle-class, well-educated protesters said that their vote was stolen. President Medvedev promised changes, but we do not know if there will be any; only time will tell.
We know that it was difficult for candidates to register for the presidential election, but some progress was made. The media coverage for candidates was more equal, but we noticed that Mr Putin did not take part in any debates with the other candidates. My election day was marked by snow. It took place 200 km north-east of Moscow in Vladimir Oblast, and it was a good day. I was impressed by the webcams which had been installed in a very short time. Now there are almost 200 000 webcams all around Russia.
However, when it came to the count, everything that could go wrong went wrong in my polling station. This excellent report states that everything went wrong in one third of the polling stations during the count. No ballot papers were shown and no figures were given in the protocol. The chair and the secretary went off to one side for an hour, after which they came back with the result, but I would say that they actually made it up themselves.
We all knew that Putin would win, but he got only 63% of the vote whereas he used to secure more than 80%. However, in Moscow he got only 47%, which shows that his status has been weakened. It is therefore not business as usual that Putin will become president on 7 May this year. Indeed, the fact that there is discussion over whether Putin will remain in power for the coming six years shows that there has been a change in Russia. The country is not what it used to be.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin. The next speaker is Mr Pozzo di Borgo.
Mr POZZO DI BORGO (France) believed that the press had not reported the Russian election properly. For a third of the ballot boxes, details of the election had not been properly recorded. TV and daily newspapers had provided the basis for public information but had not reported impartially.
As a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, he, like many parliamentarians, had been disappointed that they were not observers. American observers had been appointed by the Secretary General, and it was felt that the campaign in Russia had been characterised by “Putin versus the Americans”, particularly given the controversy over missiles.
Europeans had a duty to assist the Russian people who had known freedom for only 20 years. There should not be too great a focus on minor difficulties when the challenges faced by Russia were considered. Priorities should be to try to find peace in the Middle East; to use universities and academic programmes to increase integration; and to relax requirements for Russians to carry visas within Europe.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Mr Pozzo di Borgo. The next speaker is Ms Durrieu.
Ms DURRIEU (France) had been an observer of the legislative and the presidential elections in Russia. She supported the comments of those who had already spoken. During the first round of the general election there had been clear illegality. However, there had been improvements during the presidential elections. It was important to be objective: political processes were not perfect anywhere. Mr Putin had received 64% of the vote, which compared to 72% in the previous election. This figure to a certain extent reflected resignation among the population, but Mr Putin had still been elected. The opposition had achieved 20% to 30 % of the vote and its voice was heard on the streets and on the Internet. It was a broad church, however, with no clear leader, and other opposition figures had been unable to stand. The population had expressed its views and expressed its repulsion at fraud and corruption. The world would watch to see what would change.
It was important to acknowledge that Vladimir Putin was still a “dyed in the wool” KGB man. The Russian Federation’s relationship with Europe was crucial, especially with regard to the current situation in Syria, which needed further analysis. President Putin’s absence from the Chicago summit should be noted.
THE PRESIDENT (Translation) – Thank you, Ms Durrieu. The next speaker is Mr Seyidov.
(Ms Woldseth, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Mignon.)
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Thank you very much, Madam President. I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteurs for this excellent report, which covers different issues, including elections in Russia.
I want to touch on two problematic issues that are very important to me. First of all, of course, is the issue of elections in Russia. Dear colleagues and friends, we should take into account the fact that Russia is the biggest member state of the Council of Europe. For my country, and for other countries in the Council of Europe, the elections and situation in Russia are really important because they influence different countries.
We see great developments within Russia. A new period has come to Russia, and we can see real democratic developments and a desire from the top and the bottom to establish new relationships between political parties, different levels of society and ordinary citizens. That is a very promising confirmation and development that we can see within the Russian Federation.
Dear friends and colleagues, the second very important issue for us Azeris is that of Nagorno-Karabakh. I want to express my gratitude to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly because just recently he announced his initiative to organise meetings between Azeris and Armenians within the Council of Europe.
The Azeri delegation, as members of the Council of Europe, are always in favour of having such meetings to discuss the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh and in favour of having contacts with the Armenian delegation. Unfortunately, however, for more than two years the Armenian delegation has refused to establish contacts with the Azeri delegation to discuss this very important issue. Following the initiative announced by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, we will be able to establish this format because it is in favour of Azeris, Armenians and the Council of Europe. We have to find a decision for this painful conflict. We have to do our best and we have only one tool in our hands: that of negotiations, discussions and dialogue. I invite the Armenians to take part in these discussions. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Seyidov. The next speaker is Mr Hancock.
Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – I thank Mr Kox for producing his report on Russia. I hope that the Assembly will welcome the new delegation from the Duma and work with it to suggest ways forward. It would be a foolish person who suggested that, on the day after the elections, the Russian people had not got the result they wanted. Mr Putin was elected and he would be a wise politician, and a statesman, if he listened to what is being said here today and reacted accordingly, working with his colleagues in the Duma and this Assembly to bring about a change in the whole climate in which elections and the democratic process work in Russia.
We in this Assembly have to rationalise our perception of Russia. We cannot have one side always being negative and the other side trying to find some positives. We have to be clear whether we want Russia in this Assembly or not. For far too long, we have played around with that issue. We either want to make our relationship work or we do not. Let us make a proper decision about that. I hope that we will co-operate with the new Russian delegation to make it work.
Mr Gross made an important point about Hungary. I hope that the Council of Europe is prepared to deal with the issue in an appropriate manner because that would set a precedent for how we deal with other issues in other countries that have problems similar to those being experienced in Hungary. We have to be sure that we deal with the issue fairly and properly and, most importantly, quickly.
I would like the Bureau to engage on the issue of the Court. It is a nonsense that we are having a debate lasting only one hour about something as important as the future of the European Court of Human Rights. I hope that in the very near future the Bureau will find a way for us to have a full-scale, half-day debate on the future of the Court and the ramifications and issues arising out of the Brighton conference. If we do not do that, we will be failing miserably to address one of the most important issues affecting all 800 million citizens in Europe.
My last point is about how we treat election monitoring. I urge that the rapporteur should go as of right on any election mission to any country undergoing monitoring – not as part of any delegation from the groups, but as of right on behalf of the Assembly, to enable them to be fully involved and not to have to risk not being selected by their groups to go. They should be there as of right and I ask the Bureau to consider making that a possibility.
I suggest to the Russian opposition that one thing that will not help is the establishment of 130 political parties. If I have learned anything from my time at the Council of Europe, or during 40-odd years in politics, it is that when you divide an opposition you will always win. To be creative and positive, an opposition has to be drawn together and 130 political parties will not help the situation in Russia.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Hancock. The next speaker is Mr Slutsky.
Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) had first spoken at the Assembly 12 years ago in April 2000. At that time, the majority of delegates did not fully understand the situation in the Russian Federation, particularly with regard to Chechnya. Indeed, there had even been attempts to prevent Russian delegates from speaking. It had taken a number of years for the human rights situation in Chechnya to normalise, although the Assembly had been faster to close its file on that episode than had other European institutions.
Earlier speakers had correctly identified clear progress in the recent presidential elections, and Russia had demonstrated its willingness to co-operate to improve its electoral conduct. Tiny Kox had produced an objective account of the recent elections, which showed that the country had turned a new page in the political history of its elections. Even as a member of the opposition in the Russian Duma, Mr Slutsky felt that the reforms implemented under President Medvedev should be highlighted. They included simplification of the process for regional elections and procedures surrounding the election of governors and changes to the threshold for signatures for non-government parties. Although there was still much to do, that was because there had not yet been time rather than an absence of ambition. Real reform was under way, and it was to be hoped that the Russian Federation would be able to work closely and effectively with the Council of Europe in the future.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Herkel.
Mr HERKEL (Estonia) – The essence of Mr Kox’s report is well expressed in paragraph 56 – yes, there was a clear winner, but the voters’ choice was too limited and the electoral competition lacked fairness. I agree that we must consider electoral legislation in the Parliamentary Assembly in future.
I would like to make some comments that have not been expressed by previous speakers. The increased number of voters in the Russian Federation in comparison with December’s Duma elections is very interesting and strange. An independent analyst says that the number of voters who asked for the option of voting at home increased by 35%. The figure in relation to absentee voters was 25% and the figure for those who voted abroad was about 30%. There were more than 600 000 new voters. That raises a lot of questions. Absentee voting and home voting are the most sensitive issues, and they are not creating much trust.
I want to make a few remarks about my personal experiences in the city of Krasnodar. The most interesting thing was the tabulation of the polling stations’ results by the territorial electoral committees. Mr Putin’s average result was 55%. In the polling stations where I observed the counting, some had 53% and some had under 50%, but there was one exception, which had 85%, and it was a closed psychiatric hospital. Similarly, there were relatively high results in other closed medical facilities, and not only in Krasnodar. We must ask why the winner had the best results in closed medical facilities or in closed republics such as Chechnya under Kadyrov’s rule.
I should also like to draw attention to paragraph 20 of Mr Kox’s report, which is about voting in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Herkel. I call Mr Iwiński.
Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland) – I cordially welcome the essential and balanced report by Mr Kox, who spared no efforts in making our mission’s objective mutually profitable. In recent months, I have visited Russia four times in connection with the election process, including distant destinations such as Yekaterinburg and Kamchatka. The main message of our pre-electoral delegation in February was about the need for a fair presidential election, and that was partly the result of many critical remarks following the state Duma elections in December. We have all seen the large, peaceful rallies in Moscow and elsewhere in the country, as well as vibrant online debate and greater grass-roots activism, which many analysts describe as a revival of real politics in Russia. The Kremlin authorities learned from these events many positive lessons of an organisational and a legislative character. Web cameras were installed in practically all 96 000 polling stations, and they worked, as I saw even in Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky. Transparent ballot boxes and widespread electoral voting machines undoubtedly created a new level of quality. There were 1 billion hits by Internet users on election day.
President Medvedev’s initiatives radically to simplify the registration of political parties and presidential candidates have been of great importance. Of course, speaking frankly, it would be more convenient to have had them before the elections, but better late than never. It is important and interesting to analyse the opinions of the Venice Commission on the new laws. Many of the changes, such as the lowering of the electoral threshold for the Duma, have been in line with long-standing critical proposals. Some, however, remain bizarre, such as the ban on future pre-electoral coalitions in the situation where the Russian Federation will soon have dozens of liberal, conservative, communist and social democratic parties. By and large, the changes should be irreversible, and many further legal reforms are much needed.
I look forward to seeing in this Assembly in the foreseeable future Mr Naryshkin, the new Speaker of the Duma, and the new and old President, Vladimir Putin. That has not happened so far, and it is of great importance to hear from them and to have an open exchange of opinions.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call the new head of the Russian delegation, Mr Pushkov.
Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation) thanked Mr Kox and the members of the pre- and post-electoral missions to the Russian Federation for their hard work. They had been greatly supported by the Russian Duma, which had worked in close co-operation with them. The balanced nature of the report demonstrated the significant progress made during the recent parliamentary elections. There were 152 000 polling stations in the Russian Federation and the vast majority had reported no infringements. Any assessment needed to consider ongoing democratic progress. It was important to look forward, not back. The implementation of political reforms by President Medvedev had, among other things, made easier the creation of new political parties, and a recent decree in respect of television coverage demonstrated clear progress in the political system. An important indicator of the Russian Federation’s willingness to co-operate and work with the Council of Europe was the fact that the Speaker of the Duma had accepted an invitation to speak at a future plenary sitting of the Assembly.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Kandelaki.
Mr KANDELAKI (Georgia) – When Russia joined this Organisation some years ago, one of our former Estonian colleagues asked in the Chamber, “Will the Council of Europe change Russia or will Russia change the Council of Europe?” The consistency with which this Organisation has shied away from its values and standards in relation to its largest member makes few doubt that the latter is the case.
The Council of Europe is now facing and failing the third test on Russia. The first test was failed when its response to the massacre of civilians in Chechnya was inadequate. The second test was failed when the reaction to Russia’s invasion of a neighbour was not serious enough to concern Mr Putin. Now we have had an election that, as the report itself concedes, 50% of Russians believe to be unfair. It has been six years since we have had a monitoring report on Russia.
The rapporteurs and to some extent the report try hard to convince us that Russia, for all its flaws, is somehow moving in the right direction. It is very hard to subscribe to that view. Indeed, as Stalin said – by the way, Mr Putin does not think that he was such a bad guy – it is not the people who vote who count; it is the people who count the votes.
However, I thank Mr Kox because his report adequately assesses the holding of illegal elections in the occupied territories.
In the previous debate, I drew members’ attention to statistical studies, about which I am sure you have heard, that illustrate the fraud, based on official data. They established that there was a pattern whereby Mr Putin’s party and Mr Putin himself enjoyed very high support only at polling stations where the turnout significantly exceeded the average. Thus, in the Duma elections, just 30 of the 11 567 precincts in which the ruling party took more than 80% of the votes had an average turnout. As I have already said, that is statistically impossible. The studies put the number of votes at 14 million and Mr Gross himself admitted in the previous debate that the number might be 10 million.
Many people had hopes that the election of President Medvedev marked a new page in western relations with Russia and that Mr Medvedev represented forces that wanted not only to modernise but to democratise Russia so that it would become a responsible member of the international community. It is time to face the reality that not only did he not represent such forces, but that Mr Putin’s “comeback” means that Russia is moving away from rather than towards Europe.
One thing that the post-election protests in Russia signified was that we have signs of genuine civil society in Russia. If we do not recognise that and do not stick to our standards, we will send the opposite signals to what we stand for to people in Russia. Mr Gross and Mr Frunda, please do not do that.
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, in typescript only, to the Table Office for publication in the official report.
Ms Maury Pasquier, do you wish to reply?
Ms MAURY PASQUIER (Switzerland) noted that most of the questions posed by delegates had been directed to her colleague Mr Kox and gave her remaining speaking time to him.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Kox. You have three minutes.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Thank you, Liliane, for giving me this opportunity. I also thank you for your excellent report. After two elections, which did not meet many of our criteria, we must emphasise that Russia is now changing, as Andy Gross said. Leonid Slutsky and Alexei Pushkov, the new head of the Russian delegation, whom I greatly welcome, also referred to that. It is important to stress that change. Leonid Slutsky says that reform is on the way and we have to realise that that is thanks to the citizens’ involvement. The citizens of Russia said, “We want free and fair elections”. In the biggest member state of the Council of Europe, that should not be in question. The matter should be taken very seriously. Fortunately, after things went wrong in the Duma elections and the recent presidential election, change is on the way, as our colleague Mr Slutsky said. However, we must be vigilant and try to ensure that electoral reform is sustainable. Things are changing quickly, and that is good, but we must ensure that that continues. As Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin says, there must be no return to business as usual. Russia cannot afford that and neither can we. It is very important that Leonid Slutsky is right and that there is a change in the relationship between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe. Let us wait and see, and hope that he is right.
In October, we will have an excellent opportunity to see whether the Russian Government and Russian political parties are delivering. Our colleagues, Mr Gross and Mr Frunda, will probably present their long-awaited monitoring report. We will have a very important debate then.
Many proposals have been made in Russia by the President, the Prime Minister, political parties and civil society. It is now up to the Government, the State Duma and the Council of Federation to deliver. I wish the Russian delegation strength for its efforts to develop a new electoral code and a new electoral climate, as one colleague said. It is now up to the new President and the new Parliament to listen and to act upon what has been said here today.
I thank all our colleagues for accepting our report as an observation committee. I hope that the Russian Government and the Russian Parliament take note of what was said.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Kox.
The debate is closed.
The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees. They are set out in the progress report. Are there any objections to these references?
There are no objections.
The references are approved.
I invite the Assembly to approve the remainder of the progress report, Document 12902 part I and part II and addendum.
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is approved.
12. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting
THE PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.)
1. Opening of the second part of the 2012 part-session
2. Statement by the President
3. Register of attendance and written declarations
4. Examination of credentials
5. Election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly
6. Changes in the membership of committees
7. Proposal under urgent procedure and for debate on current affairs
8. Adoption of the agenda
9. Adoption of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee
10. Time limits on speeches
11. Progress report
Presentation by Mrs Maury Pasquier of report, Document 12902 part 1, part II and addendum
Presentation by Mr Koxo of report, on behalf of the Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau, Document 12903
Mr Gross (Switzerland)
Mr Vaksdal (Norway)
Ms Brasseur (Luxembourg)
Mr Ziuganov (Russian Federation)
Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden)
Mr Pozzo di Borgo (France)
Ms Durrieu (France)
Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan)
Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)
Mr Herkel (Estonia)
Mr Iwiński (Poland)
Mr Pushkov (Russian Federation)
Mr Kandelaki (Georgia)
Progress report adopted
12. Date, time and agenda of the 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.
Alexey Ivanovich ALEKSANDROV/Yury Solonin
José Antonio ALONSO
Florin Serghei ANGHEL*
Daniel BACQUELAINE/Ludo Sannen
Viorel Riceard BADEA*
Pelin Gündeş BAKIR
Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA
José Manuel BARREIRO/Carmen Quintanilla
Alexander van der BELLEN*
José María BENEYTO
Grzegorz BIERECKI/Marek Borowski
Roland BLUM/Frédéric Reiss
Eric BOCQUET/Jean-Pierre Michel
Piet DE BRUYN*
Mikael CEDERBRATT/Tina Acketoft
Vannino CHITI/Paolo Corsini
Ms Deirdre CLUNE*
M. Georges COLOMBIER
Carlos COSTA NEVES*
Joseph DEBONO GRECH
Giovanna DEBONO/Joseph Falzon
Armand De DECKER/Dirk Van Der Maelen
Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA
Peter van DIJK
Klaas DIJKHOFF/Tineke Strik
Alexander (The Earl of) DUNDEE*
Baroness Diana ECCLES
Tülin ERKAL KARA*
Vyacheslav FETISOV/Vladimir Zhidkikh
Axel E. FISCHER*
Jana FISCHEROVÁ/Tomáš Jirsa
Gvozden Srećko FLEGO
Erich Georg FRITZ*
Giorgi GABASHVILI/Giorgi Kandelaki
Sir Roger GALE
Tamás GAUDI NAGY*
Paolo GIARETTA/Vladimiro Crisafulli
Obrad GOJKOVIĆ/Snežana Jonica
Svetlana GORYACHEVA/Anton Belyakov
Sylvi GRAHAM/Ingjerd Schou
Davit HARUTYUNYAN/Hermine Naghdalyan
Alfred HEER/Eric Voruz
Jim HOOD/Michael Connarty
Denis JACQUAT/Marie-Jo Zimmermann
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Birkir Jón JÓNSSON/Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson
Antti KAIKKONEN/Jaana Pelkonen
Bogdan KLICH/Mirosława Nykiel
Henrik Sass LARSEN*
Igor LEBEDEV/Sergey Kalashnikov
Meritxell MATEU PI
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA/Sonja Mirakovska
José MENDES BOTA
Federica MOGHERINI REBESANI*
Andrey MOLCHANOV/Alexander Ter-Avanesov
Joăo Bosco MOTA AMARAL
Mr Gebhard NEGELE
Fritz NEUGEBAUER/Martina Schenk
Baroness Emma NICHOLSON*
Lisbeth Bech POULSEN/Nikolaj Villumsen
Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN
Cezar Florin PREDA*
Lord John PRESCOTT/Jim Dobbin
Jakob PRESEČNIK/Andreja Crnak Meglič
Valeriy PYSARENKO/Volodymyr Pylypenko
François ROCHEBLOINE/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo
Maria de Belém ROSEIRA
Džavid ŠABOVIĆ/Ervin Spahić
Urs SCHWALLER/Raphaël Comte
Mykola SHERSHUN/Oleksiy Plotnikov
Adalbi SHKHAGOVEV/Alexey Knyshov
Björn von SYDOW
Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey
Lord John E. TOMLINSON
Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ
Ilyas UMAKHANOV/Boris Shpigel
Giuseppe VALENTINO/Renato Farina
Tanja VRBAT/ Ivan Račan
Klaas de VRIES
Katrin WERNER/Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel
Renate WOHLWEND/ Doris Frommelt
Karin S. WOLDSETH/Řyvind Vaksdal
Emanuelis ZINGERIS/Egidijus Vareikis
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote:
Ms Rosario GREEN MACÍAS
Hervé Pierre GUILLOT
Partners for democracy: