When adopting its final agenda at the opening of the Winter Session 2013, PACE decided to hold two urgent debates: on “Recent developments in Mali and Algeria and the threat to security and human rights in the Mediterranean region” and on “Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean”.

Addresses by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle, and Italian Justice Minister Paola Severino are among highlights of the Session.

Other highlights include debates on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan and the follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in this country, the situation in Kosovo,* the state of media freedom in Europe and the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas of Georgia and Russia.

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Agenda (HTML, PDF)
Working documents
Adopted texts by session parts
 
 
Tuesday 22 January
Doc 13088

The situation in Kosovo* and the role of the Council of Europe

Doc 13089

The activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Doc 13087

Ensuring the viability of the Strasbourg Court: structural deficiencies in States Parties

Doc 13085

Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria

Wednesday 23 January
Doc 13083

Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas

Doc 13084

The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan

Doc 13079

The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

Doc 13082

Towards a Council of Europe convention to combat trafficking in organs, tissues and cells of human origin

Thursday 24 January
Doc 13078

The state of media freedom in Europe

Friday 25 January
Doc 13080

Gender equality, reconciliation of personal and working life and shared responsibility

Doc 13086

Trafficking of migrant workers for forced labour

 
Monday 21 January 2013 : 1, 2, 3
Tuesday 22 January 2013 : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Wednesday 23 January 2013 : 1, 2, 3, 4
Thursday 24 January 2013 : 1, 2, 3 , 4
Friday 25 January 2013 : 1, 2
 
Meetings during the Session
Side events list
 
Verbatim records in English
Redebeiträge in Deutsch
Discorsi pronunciati in italiano
 
Voting results and participation in votes (statistics)
 
Plenary live transmission
Press conferences and other live transmissions
 
Session news, day by day
Monday 21 January 2013
Tuesday 22 January 2013
Wednesday 23 January 2013
Thursday 24 January 2013
Friday 25 January 2013
 
 
 

The situation in Kosovo* and the role of the Council of Europe

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Doc. 13088

Report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Rapporteur: Björn von Sydow (Sweden, SOC)

Irrespective of the status of Kosovo, all people living in Kosovo should enjoy good governance, democracy, rule of law and the same legal and human rights as other people in Europe. The main challenge faced by Kosovo* lies in the implementation of existing human rights and rule of law standards, in particular the fight against corruption and organised crime.

The current phase of the European Union-mediated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, at Prime Minister level, creates a window of opportunity for solving fundamental political problems along with technical matters.

The report calls on the Council of Europe to enhance its action regarding the promotion of democracy, human rights and rule of law standards, by expanding co-operation programmes and allowing the competent authorities in Kosovo* to be directly involved in the implementation of Council of Europe activities and programmes. It also proposes that the Assembly intensifies and expands its own dialogue with representatives of the political forces elected to the Assembly of Kosovo and invites the Bureau of the Assembly to define the modalities thereof with full respect for the policy of status neutrality.

* All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

 

The activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

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Doc. 13089

Report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Rapporteur: Tuur Elzinga (Netherlands, UEL)

The Parliamentary Assembly is once again considering the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Assembly has sought to make the debate more focused on a political assessment of the work of the Bank.

This year the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy is therefore presenting a report which gives particular attention to the new methodology adopted by the EBRD to assess the compliance of its countries of operations with the political aspects of the Bank’s mandate, notably on the basis of four criteria: representative and accountable government; civil society, media and participation; rule of law and access to justice; and civil and political rights.

The Assembly should show its readiness to co-operate with the Bank in making and monitoring its assessments.

 

Ensuring the viability of the Strasbourg Court: structural deficiencies in States Parties

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Doc. 13087

Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Serhii Kivalov (Ukraine, EDG)

States Parties bear the “primary responsibility” for ensuring the European Convention on Human Rights is applied effectively at national level, alongside the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights deplores the fact that the Court is “still overloaded with a large number of repetitive cases revealing widespread dysfunctions in national legal orders”. It lists nine States (Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine) which continue to have “major structural problems” - adding that countries with a high proportion of complaints in relation to their population should also face scrutiny.

The committee calls on States Parties to the Convention to create strategies and action plans to deal with their structural problems, and amend their laws in line with the Court’s case law. States Parties should also consider establishing a national body responsible solely for the execution of the Court’s judgments. Moreover, national parliaments should be actively involved in the implementation of these judgments, and in particular of those revealing structural deficiencies.

The Council of Europe governments are also called on to “increase pressure and take firmer measures” in cases of dilatory and continuous non-compliance with the Court’s judgments.

 

Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas

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Doc. 13083

Report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

Rapporteur: Tina Acketoft (Sweden, ALDE)

The urgent humanitarian needs following the conflict between Georgia and Russia in 2008 have largely been dealt with, but there exist important long term humanitarian challenges which cannot be solved if the conflict remains frozen and politics is given priority over the people.

With the exception of limited returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the Gali and Akhalgori areas, the prospects for return of displaced persons are dim. As a result, durable housing solutions and provision of livelihoods for displaced persons will be a continuing challenge for the Georgian authorities.

The security situation continues to be tense but not at the level which led to the 2008 war. Without a strong non-partisan international peacekeeping or monitoring presence across both sides of the administrative boundary line, it is difficult to see security concerns abating.

Even with this gloomy outlook, with small changes, the lives of the persons affected by the conflict could be improved. Allowing freer access across the administrative boundary line, increasing dialogue at all levels (students, civil society, political level) to tackle ingrained distrust, are just two examples of steps that could be taken.

Four practical recommendations are made to the Committee of Ministers. The first is to use the Council of Europe’s educational expertise to guarantee mother tongue education, in particular for those with Georgian mother tongue in the area of Gali. The second is to provide assistance for the successful integration of resettled IDPs. The third is to offer assistance in combating domestic violence which has been aggravated as a consequence of the war. Finally, greater freedom of movement should be encouraged across the administrative boundary line.

 

The honouring of obligations and commitments by Azerbaijan

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Doc. 13084

Report of the Monitoring Committee

Co-rapporteurs: Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC)

The Monitoring Committee recognises the progress made by Azerbaijan with regard to the establishment of the legislative framework in some areas crucial for the functioning of democratic institutions since its accession to the Council of Europe. However, restrictive application or violations of some laws are resulting in growing concern with regard to the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The lack of independence of the judiciary is a concern. The situation with regard to basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association is preoccupying. The committee expresses its alarm at reports by human rights defenders and domestic and international NGOs about the alleged use of so-called fabricated charges against activists and journalists. The combination of the restrictive implementation of freedoms with unfair trials and the undue influence of the executive results in the systemic detention of people who may be considered prisoners of conscience. Alleged cases of torture and other forms of ill-treatment at police stations, as well as the impunity of perpetrators, raise major concern.

Despite the progress achieved in the introduction of a legislative framework aimed at fighting corruption and organised crime, the main challenge lies in the effective application of that legislation.

 

The follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

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Doc. 13079

Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur: Christoph Strässer (Germany, SOC)

The issue of political prisoners is still not resolved in Azerbaijan, despite the continuous efforts of the Parliamentary Assembly. In addition to several unresolved cases dating back to the accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe, a number of new cases of political prisoners have arisen including politicians and activists linked to the opposition, as well as journalists, bloggers and peaceful protesters sentenced to heavy prison terms.

In several cases, humanitarian grounds, including the age of some prisoners and their deteriorating state of health, require their immediate release from prison, independently of any other criteria.

In a number of such cases, the European Court of Human Rights has already found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The cases of other alleged political prisoners are still pending before this jurisdiction, whilst yet other prisoners were induced to refrain from applying to the Court in good time by promises of an amnesty which then did not materialise.

The Azerbaijani authorities are invited to speedily resolve the cases of those persons included on the consolidated list of presumed political prisoners who are still in prison, without demanding admissions of guilt or public repentance as preconditions for release, and to take appropriate measures in order to ensure that there are no new cases of presumed political prisoners, in particular by refraining from arresting and prosecuting participants in peaceful demonstrations, by refraining from criminalising the expression of political and religious views in the media, by eliminating torture and other forms of ill-treatment of suspects in police custody and pre-trial detention, by allowing all suspects to be assisted by a freely chosen lawyer and by ensuring that all searches and seizures are performed in the presence of truly independent witnesses.

 

Towards a Council of Europe convention to combat trafficking in organs, tissues and cells of human origin

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Doc. 13082

Report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

Rapporteur: Bernard Marquet  (Monaco, ALDE)

The Council of Europe convention against trafficking in human organs, once it has been adopted by the Committee of Ministers, will be the first legally binding international instrument devoted solely to organ trafficking. This is why it must be as complete as possible in order to prevent and combat this worldwide phenomenon which contravenes the most basic standards in terms of human rights and human dignity.

The recommendations made in this report are mainly intended to elaborate the provisions of the preliminary draft convention relating to measures for the prevention of organ trafficking, the protection of victims and national and international co-operation against such trafficking, as well as to combat “transplant tourism”. it is especially necessary to consider the particular vulnerability of organ donors and recipients, to accord special protection to certain categories of people, and to take into account the importance of having the widest possible geographical scope and a stringent and effective implementation for the convention. Finally, it is suggested that a road map be elaborated for the additional protocol against trafficking in human tissues and cells.

 

The state of media freedom in Europe

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Doc. 13078

Report of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media

Rapporteur: Mats Johansson (Sweden, EPP/CD)

Freedom of expression and information constitutes a cornerstone of good governance and thriving democracy. The state of media freedom in Europe is marked by the numerous murders of and serious physical attacks against journalists, especially in Russia. In Turkey, the high number of journalists imprisoned, detained or prosecuted has a paralysing effect on its media environment. As regards Belarus, the persistent and systematic violation of media freedom is to be condemned. Relevant organisations should regularly report serious violations of media freedom to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

 

Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria

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Doc. 13085

Report of the Monitoring Committee

Rapporteur: Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD)

The Monitoring Committee welcomes the substantial progress made by Bulgaria towards the fulfilment of its remaining obligations. It also notes with satisfaction that the Bulgarian authorities have shown and continue to demonstrate a sustained political will and commitment to achieve the full accomplishment of their obligations and commitments resulting from membership of the Council of Europe and compliance with democratic standards, as confirmed by their extensive co-operation with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).

However, despite important progress in terms of the legislative framework and the crucial reforms put in place, some steps still need to be taken, in particular aimed at full implementation of laws in a number of key areas with regard to the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and organised crime. In conclusion, the committee proposes to continue the post-monitoring dialogue with the Bulgarian authorities.

 

Gender equality, reconciliation of personal and working life and shared responsibility

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Doc. 13080

Report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

Rapporteur: Carmen Quintanilla (Spain, EPP/CD)

Despite progress on the path to gender equality, a traditional division of roles between women and men is still widespread. Men enjoy a privileged position on the labour market, while women find themselves with a large share of the household responsibilities.

Reconciliation of personal life represents a challenge both for women and men. A legislative framework and appropriate policies are needed to achieve equality between spouses but also to facilitate women's access to the world of work. In addition, this would contribute to the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

Beyond the action of public authorities, a profound change of mentality is needed. Indeed, the organisation of work should allow all those who so wish to engage in paid activity and be able to reconcile their work with their personal lives. Moreover, the principle of shared responsibility, which means that women and men go beyond the traditional division of roles and share responsibilities in the home, should be the benchmark for the development and implementation of effective reconciliation policies.

 

Trafficking of migrant workers for forced labour

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Doc. 13086

Report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

Rapporteur: Annette Groth (Germany, UEL)

Human trafficking continues to grow on a massive scale. It can be seen as the fastest growing form of organised crime and the largest source of transnational crime profit. Virtually all countries are believed to be affected, as countries of origin, transit and/or destination.

It is important to not only focus on human trafficking for sexual exploitation, but also to look at the much broader dimension of the problem which is trafficking for forced labour. This includes the “sex industry”, the agricultural sector, the construction industry, the textile industry, the hotel and catering sector, the manufacturing sector, domestic slavery and servitude (including in diplomatic households) and forced begging. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) global estimates, at least 20.9 million people in the world - three in every thousand - are trapped in forced labour and 44% of these people (9.1 million) are victims of trafficking.

Interpol estimates that only 5% to 10% of cases become known to the authorities and an even smaller proportion of the victims of human trafficking are identified. Women and girls are the most numerous and 90% of these victims are exploited in the private sector.
Despite the authorities’ growing awareness of the problem, this criminal activity remains a low risk business which can bring in high profits. It attracts criminal networks and individuals, and it is rare that the perpetrators and end-users are identified and convicted.

Cases of trafficking for forced labour, where migrants have been trafficked, are generally dealt with by the authorities primarily as smuggling issues and as violations of national immigration or labour law. This is a flawed approach, which puts victims in the position of criminals; it focuses on the wrong target and is an obstacle to effectively fighting traffickers and trafficking. Therefore, member States are encouraged to tackle the phenomenon from the angle of trafficking, while taking into account the particular vulnerability of the people concerned. They are also invited to review their immigration and return policies so as to ensure that persons trafficked for forced labour are treated primarily as victims in need of protection rather than violators of migration control.