A decision on a request for the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary and a debate on tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity – to be addressed by the Women’s Rights Minister of France Najat Vallaud-Belkacem – are among the highlights of the summer plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 24-28 June 2013.

The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz will also address the Assembly. Other topics on the agenda include the situation in the Middle East, corruption as a threat to the rule of law, and putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian will present the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly and answer questions.

The parliamentarians will also debate a report evaluating the Parliament of Morocco’s ‘Partnership for democracy’ with the Assembly – the first evaluation since it acquired this status in 2011 – and are scheduled to discuss keeping political and criminal responsibility separate.

The Assembly is also due to elect judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Iceland, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic.

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Agenda and reports (HTML, PDF)
Working documents
Adopted texts by session parts
 
 
Tuesday 25 June
Doc 13231

The situation in the Middle East

Doc 13229

Request for the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary

Doc 13230

Evaluation of the partnership for democracy in respect of the Parliament of Morocco

Wednesday 26 June
Doc 13228

Corruption as a threat to the rule of law

Doc 13215

Putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations

Doc 13225

Equal access to health care

Thursday 27 June
Doc 13223

Tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity

Doc 13227

Post-monitoring dialogue with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Friday 28 June
Doc 13220

Draft Protocol No. 16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Doc 13214

Keeping political and criminal responsibility separate

 
Monday 24 June 2013: 1, 2, 3
Tuesday 25 June 2013: 1, 2, 3
Wednesday 26 June 2013: 1, 2, 3, 4
Thursday 27 June 2013: 1, 2, 3, 4
Friday 28 June 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 24 June 2013
Tuesday 25 June 2013
Wednesday 26 June 2013
Thursday 27 June 2013
Friday 28 June 2013
 
 
 

The situation in the Middle East

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Doc. 13231

Report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Rapporteur : Mr Pietro MARCENARO, Italy, SOC

The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy reiterates its support for the “two States for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the 1967 borders, with limited and mutually agreed land swaps. Regretting the lack of progress in the peace process since 2010, the committee welcomes the newly intensified efforts of the American administration for a rapid resumption of the negotiations with a view to a long-lasting and just solution. Pending such a permanent settlement, interim arrangements could be made.

In parallel to status issues, those of standards should also be addressed so that, ultimately, whether in territories under Israeli or Palestinian control, all people, Arabs and Jews, Israeli and Palestinian citizens, can equally enjoy respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Therefore, the committee proposes that the requirement of “two States for two peoples” be further qualified as a requirement for “two democratic and pluralist States”. It calls on the Israeli authorities and on all Palestinian forces – including Hamas – to take the appropriate measures to reach this goal.

Finally the committee proposes that the Assembly continue to promote dialogue and confidence building between representatives of the Knesset and of the Palestinian National Council, in particular in the framework of its Sub-Committee on the Middle East, and pursue efforts to establish relations with other parliaments in the region, notably in Egypt and Jordan, in particular in the light of the prospects for co-operation offered by the partner for democracy status.

 

Request for the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary

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Doc. 13229

Report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Co-rapporteur : Ms Kerstin LUNDGREN, Sweden, ALDE Co-rapporteur : Ms Jana FISCHEROVÁ, Czech Republic, EDG

On 25 January 2011, a motion for a resolution on “Serious setbacks in the fields of the rule of law and human rights in Hungary” was tabled which contained a request to open a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary. In its draft resolution on this subject, the Monitoring Committee outlines a number of worrisome developments with regard to the constitutional reform process in Hungary that raise serious questions with regard to the authorities’ compliance with the fundamental principles of democracy, the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law.

The erosion of democratic checks and balances as a result of the new constitutional framework in Hungary raises serious concerns. This new framework has excessively concentrated powers, increased discretion and reduced the accountability and legal oversight of numerous government institutions and regulatory bodies in Hungary. In addition, the committee expresses serious concerns about the curtailing of the powers and competences of the Constitutional Court and the willingness of the authorities to use the two-thirds majority in the parliament to circumvent Constitutional Court decisions. This also raises questions with regard to the respect for the principle of the rule of law.

When acceding to the Council of Europe, Hungary voluntarily committed itself to upholding the highest possible standards in relation to the functioning of democratic institutions, the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law. Regrettably, the developments outlined in the report raise serious and sustained concerns about the extent to which the country is still complying with these obligations. The Monitoring Committee therefore recommends opening a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary until such time as the concerns mentioned, inter alia, in the draft resolution and accompanying report, have been satisfactorily addressed.

 

Evaluation of the partnership for democracy in respect of the Parliament of Morocco

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Doc. 13230

Report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Rapporteur: Mr Luca VOLONTÈ, Italy, EPP/CD

The report takes stock of political reforms in the country and of the implementation of political commitments undertaken by the Parliament of Morocco in June 2011, when it became the first to be granted partner for democracy status with the Parliamentary Assembly. It welcomes the adoption of the new constitution, the holding of early parliamentary elections and the formation of a government based on the results of those elections. It further notes the increased role of democratic institutions, including the parliament and political parties, and a livelier political process.

At the same time, the report calls on the parliament to intensify legislative work on the reform agenda and to take the lead in addressing issues of concern with regard to human rights and the rule of law.

The report concludes that the partnership has created new dynamics in the co-operation between the Council of Europe and Morocco, both at parliamentary and government level, and thus contributed to achieving its primary aim.

It is proposed to continue to review the implementation of political reforms in Morocco and to make a new assessment of the partnership within two years.

 

Corruption as a threat to the rule of law

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Doc. 13228

Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur : Ms Mailis REPS, Estonia, ALDE

Corruption remains a major problem, posing a serious threat to the rule of law. In the public sector, it can take many forms: ministers who abuse their powers, police or other officials who take bribes, elections that are “bought”, crooked judges, money laundering, parliamentarians claiming false expenses, and illegal lobbying. Five member States of the Council of Europe are placed beyond the hundredth position out of 174 States listed in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and many recent cases of corruption or alleged corruption clearly demonstrate that Europe is no exception to this observation.

Corruption subverts public institutions, undermines the law and saps citizens' trust in their governments. It also has a devastating effect on human rights. States should enact sharper laws against corruption and push for greater transparency in the financial sector, assisting each other to follow “money trails” and going after banks who hide or launder dirty money. Judges should be appointed and promoted transparently, and be subject to non-political disciplinary measures. There should be sound rules on declaring interests, strict codes of conduct for public officials and better regulation of lobbying. Meanwhile, parliaments could do more to scrutinise how far governments implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe's anti-corruption bodies, GRECO and MONEYVAL.

 

Putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations

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Doc. 13215

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

Rapporteur : Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, Switzerland, SOC

Coerced, non-reversible sterilisations and castrations constitute grave violations of human rights and human dignity, and cannot be accepted in Council of Europe member States.

There have been rare cases of forced sterilisations in member States in the most recent past: they mostly concern persons with disabilities, as well as a small, but significant number of both sterilisations and castrations which would fall under the definition of “coerced”, mainly directed against transgender persons, Roma women and convicted sex offenders. They must stop.

The Parliamentary Assembly should thus urge member States to revise their laws and policies as necessary to ensure that no one can be coerced into sterilisation or castration in any way for any reason; to ensure that adequate redress is available to victims of recent (and future) coerced sterilisation or castration; to issue official apologies and offer at least symbolic financial compensation to surviving victims of coerced sterilisation or castration programmes; and to work towards eliminating prejudice, stereotypes, ignorance and paternalistic attitudes which have a negative influence on the capacity of medical providers to provide vulnerable persons with evidence-based health care respectful of free and informed consent.

 

Equal access to health care

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Doc. 13225

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

Rapporteur : Mr Jean-Louis LORRAIN, France, EPP/CD

Access to care is a key aspect of the fundamental right to health. Inequalities in access to health care are growing in the Council of Europe member States due to financial, geographical and language barriers, corruption, socio-economic inequalities, certain migration and security policies and the economic crisis which had repercussions on health systems. These inequalities particularly affect vulnerable groups and lead to a phenomenon of non-recourse or delayed recourse to care, which could have disastrous implications for both individual and public health and lead in the long term to an increase in health expenditure.

With a view to reducing inequalities in access, States should, inter alia, reduce the proportion of health-care expenditure payable by the most disadvantaged patients, ensure that health professionals are accessible throughout the territory as well as access to information on the health system. They should dissociate their security and immigration policies from health policies. Having regard to the importance of continuing to protect the right to health enshrined in Article 11 of the revised European Social Charter, the Committee of Ministers should enhance the role of the European Committee of Social Rights.

 

Tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity

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Doc. 13223

Report of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

Rapporteur : Mr Håkon HAUGLI, Norway, SOC

Since 2010, when both the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers adopted far-reaching texts on how to tackle discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, important positive developments have occurred in some Council of Europe member States, including the introduction of specific legislative measures, action plans and strategies.

Despite this progress, however, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (LGBTs) is widespread in society. Discrimination against LGBTs remains a serious problem, as indicated by repeated infringements of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the authorities’ failure to provide protection against homophobic and transphobic violence. The introduction of legislation or draft legislation on the prohibition of so-called homosexual propaganda in countries such as Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine is at variance with these countries’ legal obligations. It would also legitimise the prejudice against LGBTs which all too often is fuelled by inconsiderate discourse by politicians and other authoritative figures.

Council of Europe member States should take measures to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, promote equality and tackle homophobia and transphobia. The Republic of Moldova, Poland and the Russian Federation should give full execution to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Committee of Ministers should continue to strengthen its activities in this area with a view to ensuring the full implementation of its Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5.

 

Post-monitoring dialogue with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

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Doc. 13227

Report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Rapporteur : Mr Robert WALTER, United Kingdom, EDG

When the Assembly ended its monitoring of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in 2000, it decided to continue dialogue with the authorities on a number of outstanding issues. In its first full report since then, the Monitoring Committee notes that the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement – which aimed at improving the rights of non-majority communities after the interethnic conflict – has brought overall peace and stability to the country over the last decade, though relations between the Macedonian and Albanian communities remain fragile.

Public life remains highly divided along political and ethnic lines. The authorities should thus continue to implement the Ohrid agreement, launch new inclusive policies, pursue decentralisation, and further promote the cultural and linguistic rights of minorities. Political parties should also try to hold a more constructive dialogue, grievances arising from parliamentary procedure and the Electoral Code need to be rectified, and a commission of enquiry should look into the serious incidents in the parliament in December 2012 which sparked a political crisis.

The committee welcomes the legal reforms in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, but urges more work to ensure impartiality and independence of the judicial system so that it inspires public confidence, and expresses concern at the highly controversial Lustration Law. It also calls for improved freedom of the media. Meanwhile, the country’s efforts to reduce corruption, combat discrimination, end ill-treatment and integrate refugees should continue.

Finally, the committee regrets that the name issue continues to delay the opening of accession negotiations with the European Union, as well as the attempts of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to join NATO, and hopes Greece will adopt a more flexible approach.

“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” faces multi-level challenges to its political stability and social cohesion, the committee concludes, but serious doubts remain as to whether the country has sufficient political stability to carry out the required reforms at a regular pace. In the meantime, the Council of Europe should do all it can to support “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and expand co-operation – including by opening an office in Skopje. For its part, the Assembly should pursue its post-monitoring dialogue on the issues raised.

 

Draft Protocol No. 16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

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Doc. 13220

Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur : Mr Christopher CHOPE, United Kingdom, EDG

Draft Protocol No. 16 to the European Convention on Human Rights – an additional protocol that will enter into force only after 10 Parties to Convention have ratified it – provides for the possibility for States’ highest courts to obtain, from the European Court of Human Rights, opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of rights and freedoms defined in the Convention and its protocols.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights supports the adoption of the text, as presently drafted. When in force, this text will strengthen the link between the Strasbourg Court and States’ highest courts by creating a platform for judicial dialogue, facilitating the application of the Court’s case law by national courts. It will also help shift, from ex post to ex ante, the resolution of questions of interpretation to the domestic forum, saving valuable Court resources, and will permit a speedier resolution of similar cases at the national level, thereby reinforcing the principle of subsidiarity.

 

Keeping political and criminal responsibility separate

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Doc. 13214

Report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Rapporteur : Mr Pieter OMTZIGT, Netherlands, EPP/CD

The committee considers that democracy and the rule of law require that politicians shall be effectively protected from criminal prosecutions based on their political decisions. Political decisions shall be subject to political responsibility, the ultimate judges being the voters.

In line with its opposition to all forms of impunity, the committee considers that politicians shall be held to account for criminal acts or omissions they commit both in their private capacity and in the exercise of their public office.

The distinction between political decision-making and criminal acts or omissions must be based on national constitutional and criminal law, which in turn should respect certain principles, in line with the conclusions of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).

In particular, wide and vague national criminal law provisions on “abuse of office” can be problematic, both with regard to Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other basic requirements under the rule of law, and they can also be particularly vulnerable to political abuse. As regards procedure, to the extent that charges brought against politicians are of a “criminal” nature according to Article 6 of the Convention, the same fair trial requirements must apply both to ordinary criminal procedures and special impeachment procedures which exist in a number of Council of Europe member States and which call for extra caution and restraint as to the manner in which they are interpreted and applied.

Concerning Ukraine, the criminal cases brought against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko have given rise to severe criticism by the international community. The committee is deeply troubled by the manner in which the country’s criminal justice system is abused for the persecution of political opponents. It considers that in both these cases the principles on the separation of political and criminal responsibility have been violated.