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Opening of the sitting No. 29

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:00:06

Print intervention

The sitting is open.

My dear colleagues, as announced this morning, I invite you to rise and observe a minute of silence, as is currently taking place throughout France, in memory of Jacques CHIRAC, former President of the French Republic, deceased Thursday, September 26 in Paris.

The next item is the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, to be presented by Ms Amélie de Montchalin, Secretary of State to the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, in charge of European Affairs, and representing the French Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

After her communication, Ms Amélie de Montchalin will answer questions from members of the Assembly.

Madam Secretary of State,

I welcome you to our hemicycle, which you now know very well. It is a great pleasure for us all to be able to exchange with you again.

The French chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers continues, and will lead us during the next two months through important stages, such as – to name just a few – the Conference of Ministers of Justice, regarding numerous challenges for justice; the mid-term evaluation conference of the Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child, or the 2019 edition of the World Forum for Democracy, which will focus on the theme "Information and democracy ".

Nevertheless, today will be the last time that you speak on behalf of the French presidency before our Assembly, meeting in plenary session. So, let me take this opportunity to thank you, on behalf of all your colleagues, for your commitment to our organization and for the excellent cooperation you have always had with the Assembly.

It is also thanks to your personal commitment that we have succeeded in recent months in further strengthening the dialogue and collaboration between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, as well as making progress on important issues such as the establishment of a joint procedure to strengthen the capacity of our organization to act more effectively when a Member State fails to fulfil its statutory obligations.

Madam Secretary of State, I reiterate my thanks for your commitment. I give you the floor.

Address by Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN, Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:03:13

Print intervention

Madame President, Madam Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, ambassadors,

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to meet you again for this new session of the Parliamentary Assembly, after our June exchanges.

I think it is necessary to underline today that we are beginning this session at a moment of sadness because we have all lost a great European, a great humanist: Jacques Chirac. All his life, he fought for human rights, for openness to others, for tolerance and, especially, for the fight against anti-Semitism.

I think about his speech at the Vel d'Hiv in July 1995, where he was able to speak the unspeakable and to make people in France think more about their past.

I am also thinking about his commitment to the Council of Europe: he was an advocate, a friend and a protector of this institution. Twenty-two years ago, almost to the day, in October 1997, President Jacques Chirac was here at the Palais de l'Europe to open the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government within the Council of Europe. It was an important, a key moment, for our organisation, which opened up to new members at a time when Europe regained its freedom and unity.

I am thinking in particular of Ukraine and Russia, who joined us at the time. Jacques Chirac, in his opening speech, said something that I think could rightly inspire our dialogue today. He said: "Now freed from the confrontations and mistrust of yesterday, our entire European family is gathering around common values: respect for the human person, the sanctity and inviolability of their dignity, and the rule of law."

So since our last meeting -- and thank you, Madam President, for your kind words -- I think we have worked a lot. You have done a lot and we have done a lot together to defend the unity of this European family, to preserve this unique place in the world of protection of the human being and their inherent dignity. I will come back to this issue of collective responsibility that shows that we can do the best possible job to serve our fellow citizens.

I would like -- as is customary -- to inform you of the work our Presidency has achieved, and in particular I will focus on the implementation of the joint reaction procedure. This is a topic for which -- as you know, and I repeat it firmly here -- we want to make rapid progress. Furthermore, it is now time for us to report to your Assembly the concrete achievements of our Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

Before I begin, I wish to acknowledge the presence on this rostrum of our new Secretary General, Marija BURIC. Her experience and commitment will be - and I believe already - a valuable asset. I repeat on this occasion our gratitude for the work done by Thorbjorn JAGLAND during these last years.

I would also like to congratulate your Assembly on the awarding of the Vaclav Havel 2019 Prize at the Young Human Rights Initiative to Ilham Tohti a few minutes ago. This decision recognises, in essence, the importance of dialogue between communities, the work of the youth initiative and for reconciliation for the benefit of the youth of the Western Balkans, which is essential for the future of the region where young people in these countries must be able to overcome the conflicts of previous generations. I will come back to it.

We must learn from history, and it must not be repeated. I'd also to salute the work of Ilham Tohti, who for twenty years has been helping interethnic understanding in China. He was arrested in 2014, sentenced to life imprisonment, and France wishes that he can be released immediately and that, in the meantime, his conditions of imprisonment can be improved, and the rights of his defense fully guaranteed. I'm sure I speak for all of us here in reiterating our deep commitment to freedom of expression, everywhere in the world.

Last June, your Assembly made an important decision, that of preserving our European family and enabling hundreds of millions of citizens to maintain effective protection of their rights under the Convention. You decided to welcome here two delegations who were not able to join you at the beginning of the 2019 session. I know that this decision was difficult and that it was taken in full cognisance of that. It has remained difficult for a number of you. And I know that the sense of responsibility and humanity has been yours, elected as I have been in my country, to put aside geopolitics and privilege the interest of citizens: I think that, above all, here, we are in charge of protecting the rights of citizens.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the raison d'être of the Council of Europe is to ensure the protection of fundamental rights, on a daily basis and wherever they live, of more than 800 million Europeans.

This protection translates into a very strong legal commitment by our states to their peoples because they can be condemned by the Court for national policies or individual decisions.

It is, fundamentally, the essence, the bedrock of what we have built for the last 70 years, the most advanced human rights protection system in the world and whose very nature we must never forget just how unique that is.

Looking around this room, I think about the debates and the exchanges that we have, I have the feeling that we have here the crucible of a real European public space. It's not a geopolitical arena, where points are awarded to winners and losers, and where everyone at the end of the session looks at a scoreboard: who won, who lost. The Council of Europe is the opposite. It is primarily a place where Europeans find themselves around a shared base of values. A place of dialogue -- demanding -- but a place of dialogue always.

It is above all a place where citizens can find a refuge, protection, an ultimate court of appeal which guarantees their rights so that on our continent we do not leave room for arbitrariness.

The return of the Russian delegation to this Assembly commits Russia. As mentioned by the President of the Republic during his meeting with President Putin on 19 August, it is because of the commitment entered into by Russia as a member of the Council of Europe that Russia has been called this summer to respect the freedom to demonstrate, of expression, opinion and the freedom to be elected. I know that you will have an exchange on these major topics in this hemicycle on Thursday.

I would like to say this, very solemnly, that the French Presidency will ensure that Russia respects all its statutory obligations, that it continues to implement, more and more every day, all the decisions of this institution, and we will systematically recall that, not only here in PACE, but also in the Committee of Ministers.

I welcome the prisoner exchange that took place between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, including the release of Ukrainian seamen and Oleg SENTSOV. We hope that this release will restore confidence and foster a vital dialogue for the political settlement of the conflict in Ukraine.

I am also here, just as firmly, to recall and reaffirm France's unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within the framework of its internationally recognised borders. This is the position of France, within all bodies of the UN Security Council, within the European Union, and it is also the position expressed many times in the Committee of Ministers.

We must never lose sight of these principles. We must remain firm. And I know that the Georgian presidency, after November, will take the same approach. I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate our equal support for Georgia's integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This crisis could not have been overcome without you.

Without the convergent work of our countries and our parliamentarians to move together towards a return to normal the functioning of the Council of Europe. And we did that with the ongoing concern to do so in the interest of our peoples, and the protection of their rights.

The dialogue between your Assembly and the Committee of Ministers stepped up in the attempt to solve this crisis. I think that's a good thing, we need to work together. It's up to us collectively to maintain this dynamic of exchange and common work.

I would like to thank the Finnish Presidency, Madam President here in your Assembly, for initiating this process. I would particularly like to welcome your decisive and tireless action in favor of dialogue, in favor of the Council of Europe.

This relationship is essential. We must keep going in terms of this joint work, initiated in Helsinki, to a successful conclusion so that the Council of Europe can defend its principles even better in the future. This includes putting in place the new joint reaction procedure, which will enable us to react together, in an effective and coordinated way, when a Member State fails to meet its commitments.

Our goal is for this procedure to be operational in January 2020. I myself, Madame Chairman, was able to go to Bern earlier this year to discuss some of these matters with your presidential committee, and here I would like to go over again some principles that I raised in Bern that I consider particularly important for the implementation of this procedure.

Predictability: we need a clear path forward. This is key for building trust in our institutions, for a State that is targeted by the procedure, and for the State to be perceived as legitimate and not arbitrary.

Reactivity: when events occur, we need to be able to act quickly, to show citizens that challenging these fundamental principles does not go unanswered. Of course, there will need to be sufficient time to engage in a dialogue with the state concerned, but it is not time to bury the issues when, as we know, they are complex but essential.

Responsiveness is also a factor of credibility. This procedure must be able to be applied in practice. As a former parliamentarian, I know that we often have the opportunity to create texts that no one can then apply. Here we're doing quite the opposite: we need to move forward in a way that we give a real credible response to violations of our statutes.

We must, therefore, Assembly, Committee of Ministers, Secretary General, be able to decide, jointly and operationally, even to impose sanctions if necessary. But this logic must be an incentive, not punitive; the goal is that the rights of citizens are protected. We're not just trying to get entangled in purely intergovernmental procedures. That's why I think it's useful to have intermediate, progressive measures -- a gradual response framework -- so that we can be credible.

Finally, reversibility: the ultimate goal is not to impose sanctions against a Member State just for the sake of imposing sanctions, but to bring about compliance with the obligations and principles of the organisation. It is therefore important to include a well-defined exit strategy.

France will do its best to advance the work under its presidency, and I hope I can continue to count on the mobilisation and spirit of consensus of your assembly.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world is undergoing turbulence that is creating new challenges for fundamental rights. The Council of Europe must continue to have, as it has had for 70 years, a pioneering role, so that citizens find benchmarks, a base of values, during this time of transformation.

This is the ambition of the French presidency, whose program I presented to you in June.

Our first priority is to strengthen the respect and the protection of the law developed by the Council of Europe, by the Convention as well as by the Court.

We wanted to emphasize, in particular, the dialogue of the judges following the entry into force of Protocol 16. On 13 September, in Paris, the Heads of Supreme Courts of the Member States and the Court of Justice came together. This dialogue is the way forward, and it has to allow us to ensure that the Convention trickles down to national level, and is applied in the same way in all the Member States. In fact, the idea would be to make the European Court itself obsolete, because the convention would be fully and properly applied at national level in all States. That's our goal. 

Another important goals is the abolition of the death penalty. In June, the Committee of Ministers deplored a new execution in Belarus. Another death sentence was handed down in July by a Belarusian court. If the objective of the Council of Europe remains the rapprochement with this country, the abolition of the death penalty is an essential prerequisite.

When we speak of the heart of the Council of Europe's mission, the subject of the rule of law also seems to be unavoidable. I think all of us here must emphasise that we are trying to ensure that the rule of law is respected as fully as possible. And I would recall that, quite recently, we were thinking about how to enhance respect for the rule of law and what your assembly might do. And I went and I talked about your institutions, especially Greco, and about how they, for instance, could feed into the work being done by the European Union.

It's not just a question of division of labor. It's not a question of who does what, or where we make savings -- a little bit more here and a little bit less there -- that's not what it's about. It's about cooperation. The cooperation between the two organizations is essential because it will bring about a common legal culture of the rule of law and fill out a coherent space for the protection of rights on our continent and the states that surround it. This, of course, also implies the accession of the European Union to the Convention: you know our deep commitment in France to make this project a success. We fully hope that the initiatives taken by the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be successful.

The work done by the Council of Europe in the field of the rule of law is an asset that can be applied in a very concrete way. I am thinking of the Republic of Moldova, where I went on 13 September to support France and, I believe, your support here for the reforms led by the new Moldovan government. It has made the strengthening of the rule of law a priority. We all have to support the government here. The Council of Europe has a key role to play in supporting Moldova today. I welcome the fact that the Moldovan government has submitted a request to the Venice Commission for its justice reform bill.

The strength of our protection system, which is still relevant today, is also the scope of the rights it covers. This is why our Presidency has also emphasized social rights, promoting the ratification of the revised European Social Charter and its additional protocol. We have also worked on children's rights in this year of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on children's rights.

Another of our priorities is that of promoting equality and living together.

Our societies are experiencing new phenomena of intolerance, a rise in hate speech, especially online. These discriminations are the opposite of the values that have united us for 70 years. The European idea, our identity, is humanist, it's egalitarian, based on every individual's dignity.

I was very happy to open the conference for the 25th anniversary of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) last week in Paris. I believe that the work to achieve effective equality will set an ambitious roadmap for us to move forward.

At the center of the fight to live together, there is the fight against violence against women, 50% of humanity that all too often become targets, victims.

Too many women, hundreds, thousands every year on our continent, are killed by their ex-spouse or husband. France is far from being irreproachable and I will not give lessons to anyone. But I want to tell you that we cannot talk about progress, values, humanism and progression, unless we deal with this situation. I believe that for many of our fellow citizens, being progressive will pay off with words, if we fail to ensure that all women in Europe feel safe and live their daily lives serenely. Otherwise, we will have slogans, speeches, but nothing has really changed.

That is why we are actively working with the Secretary General, with all the organisations attached to the Council of Europe, to make the ratification and universalisation of the Istanbul Convention a reality. We must also dispel the misunderstandings as to what that convention is about. I discovered just last weekend, that when I was talking about the Convention of Istanbul, some people thought I was talking about an earthquake in Turkey. Now, in fact, I simply can tell you that I'm very proud of the fact that Turkey was the first country to ratify the convention.

This is a subject that I always discuss with my counterparts. I know the political and legal difficulties that sometimes hinder goodwill in each of the countries that have not yet ratified. This implies a real commitment, real transparency about what's actually going on, and real political will. I know that it needs all of that, but as parliamentarians, in each of your assemblies, you can do something about that. You are men and women who can advance your political systems, your public opinions. We are all counting on you because 50% of our continent needs it.

I do not want to forget the rights of LGBTI people. The decision to organise a seminar dedicated to this subject is fully justified, especially given the numerous attacks and homophobic attacks that occurred this summer in several Member States -- including members of the European Union -- and that we condemn without reserve. France attaches the utmost importance to this issue because each of us must be able to live without fear.

Finally, I wanted to mention a project that is particularly close to my heart: the creation of an observatory for the teaching of history. I told you about it last June. Our goal is not to write a unique history textbook for 47 countries. The idea, in a very pragmatic way, is to build on the existing networks and on the 1954 Convention to establish a neutral inventory and allow specialists to talk to each other, to work together on how our past is taught. in schools. The challenge, however modest but decisive, is to form a generation of peace that can take over to carry our collective humanist project.

We are organising a meeting of the ministers of education in Paris on 26 November 26, during which I hope that the principle of the creation of this observatory can be established. This assumes that at least 16 countries are voluntary. The support of your Assembly for this project is essential. I am glad that a motion for a resolution is already in circulation, a motion that can be studied by the Bureau of your Assembly on 4 October, and I hope you will all be able to sign it so that we can move forward.

I believe that we have to adapt more than ever the Council of Europe to the challenges posed by new technologies.

That is why, following the Finnish presidency of this organisation, we decided to further advance the work in the field of information society, algorithms and artificial intelligence. This will be the subject of the Conference of Ministers of Justice, to be held in Strasbourg in October. It will also be one of the fundamental themes of the World Forum for Democracy, which will meet on the relationship between information and democracy. These issues are at the heart of the concerns of European citizens who all have a phone and look at their small machine things happen to them, information, facts: are they targeted, are they true? I believe that this is a huge challenge for our democracies and the Council of Europe must be up to the task of anticipating technological developments.

It is a reflection that concerns us all, which also concerns our children, and I would like to reiterate to you that I consider it essential that the Parliamentary Assembly be fully associated with it.

We will continue to advance these various projects until the end of our presidency. We will put willpower, energy, seriousness, and also material support: I am proud to announce to this House that France will make an exceptional voluntary contribution of €900 000 for some of these projects that I talked about moving forward.

This contribution will help to support the activity of the European Court of Human Rights, the actions to combat violence against women and to finance the launch of the Observatory on the teaching of history.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Seventy years after its creation, which we will celebrate tomorrow, the Council of Europe can be proud of its record. We all here can be proud of our action to continually defend the achievement it represents, the road traveled, for our fellow citizens, to effectively protect their dignity and their rights.

We will have the opportunity tomorrow to commemorate the importance of this achievement, by celebrating with the President of the French Republic this 70th anniversary.

Together, we share the noble mission of advancing the rights of 800 million Europeans. I want to thank you once again for humanity, for the responsibility you have shown. They are a credit to our family and our European civilisation.

Thank you for your attention. I am now listening to your questions, which I know are demanding and benevolent in the service of European citizens.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:29:28

Print intervention

Thank you, Secretary of State.

In your speech, you reminded us of the priorities of the French presidency, and you also outlined the principles that guide the joint response procedure when a State fails to fulfill its statutory obligations, and you reminded us of the collective responsibility -- which is ours -- to ensure the protection of the fundamental rights of the 830 million Europeans. Thank you very much.

We will now address the issues.

My dear colleagues, I remind you that the questions should not exceed 30 seconds and that you must, therefore, be asking a question, not making a speech.

The first speaker on my list is Mr VAREIKIS on behalf of the EPP Group.

Questions to Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN, Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

15:30:18

Print intervention

Thank you, thank you, Madam Chairperson.

A few months ago we had the so-called Helsinki Agreement about the decision to take Russia back to the hemicycle and to invent -- to establish -- a procedure for how to deal with the countries that are not following the rules. Now you are saying that Russia is back and you are saying what we will think, what to do with these rules, how they will work.

So my question is simple, not how, but when will it be implemented?

 

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:30:52

Print intervention

Thank you for your question.

You are basically asking me about the timetable and the process for implementing the joint reaction procedure that was outlined in the Helsinki agreement.

I believe that we will have many opportunities to discuss exactly how we plan to do that. As I have just said, we know it needs to be predictable, responsive, credible and reversible. We held talks in May in Paris and in Bern on the 2nd of September. I am – if you agree, Madam President – ready to make the commitment to have a new exchange session, in any case, between now and mid-November.

It was a format that brought together both the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers and the Presidential Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly, and I believe that we will have the opportunity to work on it again.

France's goal, under its chairmanship, is for us to have a political agreement for the next session in January 2020. It is a question of obtaining an agreement between the Secretary General, the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. In order to define, firstly, who initiates and how to initiate this procedure, how and at what pace it will take place, in order to allow us to move forward; secondly, what decisions can be taken; and finally, if necessary, if we can go backwards when the Member State in question adapts its legislation and practices.

It is also important that, we have a group of people working together, but all the Member States' delegations have access to the information, and I believe that you will have a meeting of the Joint Committee on Thursday so that each of the parties can be informed of the work, the exchanges and the content of the proposals that are made. The Secretary-General is, I believe, an essential catalyst in this process since it is at the heart of our Organization to enable us, indeed, to make concrete progress. Our commitment is that, by January 2020, we have something on the table with a view to a political agreement, and that we can fully dedicate the work of this Organization to the essentials. The main thing is to protect the citizens, the women, the men, the children who live on our continent.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:33:09

Print intervention

Thank you.

Ms SAYEK BÖKE has the floor for the Socialist Group.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

15:33:15

Print intervention

Thank you very much, Madam Chairperson.

Dear Madam Secretary of State,

On the 17th anniversary of our institution, we continue to seek means of strengthening our mandate, ensuring that fundamental principles and values that bring us together are respected through dialogue and inclusivity. So, as such, this procedure that is agreed upon is extremely critical and valuable. What are the steps that the Committee of Ministers foresees to take to convince skeptical members of the value of this joint procedure, to ensure that we continue to grow as an institution and do not lose any of our parts?

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:33:53

Print intervention

Thank you for your question.

What we plan to do in the Committee of Ministers is to say that, essentially, the credibility of the Council of Europe as a whole is now being questioned.

This credibility is not being questioned symbolically, but rather because certain events have occurred. Some have felt that we do not have today – and, I believe they may be right in saying this – all the means to enforce the decisions that are made in Council of Europe bodies.

A lot of extremely useful, pragmatic, essential decisions are made, but we do not have the leverage to make sure that they are properly implemented. The European Court of Human Rights has legal levers, but I believe that in the work of both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly we must arm ourselves better. The arguments we use are arguments of credibility: we must go beyond the crisis of mistrust between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, which has been going on for too long now. I believe that in Helsinki, we were able to take a real step forward, with the recognition that we had to work together in a reinforced way, and that we have to do everything in our power to implement those decisions. So I think with the ambassador – and here I welcome your work – we will work every week in our bilateral exchanges to make sure there is no misunderstanding.

We are not reinventing a system of sanctions like that of the United Nations, we are giving ourselves very concrete levers so that the work that is done here can reach the European citizens, by ensuring its proper implementation. And so, we work together.

I am sure that the President of the French Republic will not tell you anything different tomorrow.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:35:34

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr HOWELL, for the group of European Conservatives.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

15:35:42

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Thank you, Madam President, Madam Secretary of State.

It was a pleasure to hear you say that you are not interested in intergovernmental measures for their own sake. When you look at the relationships between countries in this Assembly, there is a need to build greater trust and respect between those countries. What are you doing to encourage that trust and respect to develop properly?

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:36:15

Print intervention

Thank you for your question.

I think that we've just had three questions on fairly similar topics. Trust or confidence, after all, is about an ability to talk to one another. We've got the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers who are now joining forces in their collective efforts.

And in Helsinki, we decided on the process we would like to implement. But I think it's important not to talk about winners and losers, because people think there will be some who will win in power and others who will lose.

I believe that what we are really talking about here is our collective credibility. We, in the 21st century, face huge challenges, and that's why we here this Council have to look at how we can work together to deal with these challenges.

The Parliamentary Assembly, through its presidential office, is working to bring out collective proposals. The Joint Committee that you will be holding on Thursday is a new stage.

On the side of the Committee of Ministers, we welcome your amendments, your proposals. I have said to a number of you that I have met before, who have doubts, legitimate questions, that we will not be able to work without those who have the most doubts and questions.

So all we can do is to come up with concrete proposals, not just speeches, but really concrete proposals on how we can put in place this joint reaction procedure and ensure a political vote in January.

I believe that will do more to create trust than anything we say today.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:37:50

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr POLIAČIK for the ALDE Group.

Mr Martin POLIAČIK

Slovak Republic, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

15:37:57

Print intervention

I wanted to ask you about the joint mechanism as well but probably you've already said everything that that we need to hear, so I'm going to ask about something else, Madame Secretary of State. According to the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union as such should become a member and a strong member of this organisation. Are we getting closer? Thank you.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:38:23

Print intervention

Thank you for your questions.

I believe that the accession of the European Union to the Convention on Human Rights is essential to our credibility.

The Council of Europe has a larger perimeter than the European Union, but it seems a little strange that the European Union has not already adhered to this Convention. It is indeed at the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, it is also on France's side, a commitment, a wish, I would say an ambition, that the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron had posed when he went to the European Court of Human Rights in October 2017, two years ago. And I think it is very important to pay tribute to the reports that the European Commission published last June to chart a course towards this accession.

I believe that there is some work going on, in particular that the Finnish presidency –which was fortunate to chair the Council of Europe and now the Council of the European Union– is putting on the table in Brussels. You can count on the unwavering support of France. I believe it is essential, before that happens, because we know that it is legally quite complex, that the Strasbourg judges and the Luxembourg judges can have a fruitful dialogue. It is also important that the Strasbourg judges can have a dialogue with all the supreme courts in all the countries of the European Union. This is what we were encouraged by the dialogue held on 12 and 13 September in Paris with all the supreme courts. President Sicilianos saw the value of enforcing this famous protocol sixteen so that in the end there would be fewer decisions going back to Strasbourg. Not because the European Court would have lapsed, but because European law –this convention– would already be applied much more daily by all jurisdictions.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:40:07

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr HUNKO from the UEL Group.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

15:40:12

Print intervention

Thank you, Mrs de Montchalin.

My question is also directed to the EU's accession to the Human Rights Convention. On the 1st of December we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, which enshrines that commitment.

It is a shame that this has not been done. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has set high obstacles which I think cannot be accepted. But i think that there is some movement, on the 7th of November the EU Ministers of Justice will meet.

If you could perhaps describe in more concrete terms how we come out of the impasse on this accession.

Thank you very much.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:41:00

Print intervention

Thank you, Sir.

I think the question is pretty close to the one that I was asked by the previous speaker. Specifically the report of the Committee, in June, allows us to find a way forward. Now, of course, we will have to have the European Council of Ministers to give us the green light to move ahead.

Know that France will fully support this action. I believe that the President of the Republic will have the opportunity tomorrow to show our commitment as well. I believe that, for the citizens, it is important that our systems work together. They would not understand why two European institutions that now have longevity, credibility -- such as the European Union and the Council of Europe -- do not work together to protect their rights in a convergent way and so very concretely. I believe that today, it is the Council of Ministers of the European Union that must be able to take up this issue and move it forward.

I also believe that, very specifically, the judges of the Luxembourg Court should already be able to activate Protocol 16 with this in mind and to ask the Court of Strasbourg to make sure that their decisions are convergent.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:42:13

Print intervention

Thank you, Madame Secretary of State.

If you agree, I propose that you now take three questions together in the list of speakers, even if they do not necessarily have a link, but to allow you to group the answers together.

I give the floor to Ms DE TEMMERMAN.

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE 

15:42:33

Print intervention

Thank you, Madame President.

Madame Secretary of State, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 27 November. Baroness Doreen Massey, Chairperson of the Sub-Commission on the Rights of the Child, highlighted in two reports the importance of creating child rights commissions in national parliaments.

In the National Assembly, we have an active study group, and I salute the two co-chairs, Ms Maud Petit, Ms Alexandra Louis, present today. We had the opportunity, Minister, to discuss the importance and influence of the Council of Europe. I believe that "inspiration" is a key word. Lets not hesitate to be inspired by the quality work presented here to bring it back to our meetings. I would like your opinion on that.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:43:15

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr MURRAY.

Mr Ian MURRAY

United Kingdom, SOC 

15:43:20

Print intervention

Thank you, Madame Secretary of State, and thank you for that inspirational speech. You talked about the Rule of the Law. The UK Parliament passed the Safeguarding Act on 9 September, which compels the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to seek an extension to the Brexit Article 50 to 31 January 2020. Given one of the key pillars of the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers is abiding by the Rule of Law and the UK Prime Minister says he will not abide by that law, what can the Committee of Ministers do? Has it been discussed at the Committee of Ministers and if not, can it be discussed?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:43:54

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is that of Mr HUSEYNOV.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE 

15:43:59

Print intervention

Dear State Secretary,

An important number of Europeans is enduring life as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their respective countries. I am very curious to know what really stops the Council of Europe –more precisely the Committee of Ministers– to demand of its Member States, namely Armenia, to put an end to the violation of rights of Azerbaijan IDPs by letting them return in dignity and security to their homelands. When was the last time the Committee of Ministers raised this matter with Armenian authorities by reminding them of their commitments, undertaken upon accession to the Council of Europe?

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:44:38

Print intervention

Madame Secretary of State.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:44:41

Print intervention

Thank you, Madam President.

On the first question about the rights children, yes, I think children are entitled to the same rights as adults. Just because they are small, their rights shouldn't be reduced.

So, we have to do all we can to protect their physical integrity, their moral well-being, their access to health care and their access to education. It is essential to build a continent of enlightened citizens, educated and, above all, protected in their dignity.

We are organizing a conference in Strasbourg on November 13th, as you know, on the rights of children. Adrien Taquet, who is the French Secretary of State for Child Protection, will be there. I believe that there are good practices in some of our Member States that perhaps we should know more about, in order to answer them on where they could actually report developments.

I believe that the Children's Parliament is a good initiative, but we need not only to involve children, but above all, to ensure that in our legislation we take steps forward to protect them. All the advances that this House could define here for the future, I believe, are very valuable in guiding the work of the various governments.

The second question was about Brexit. I believe this assembly cannot look at this issue specifically, the membership of the United Kingdom to the European Union. On the other hand, I know that it is extremely important that decisions in a democracy should be made by sovereign States. By my voice, and the work that I do in the European Union, I would make a very short incise here. It is essential in our eyes that this question, that stems from a British sovereign choice, should also be solved by the British people, with no interference or pressure.

It is not in Brussels or in Paris that we will basically resolve internal issues of the United Kingdom. So I understand the expectation, the anxiety, the legitimate concerns of a number of British and European citizens, as well as decision-makers, about this decisive issue. But I think the bottom line is that people and democracies are sovereign, and we should not be tempted to interfere in any way, as that would hurt the very heart of the state of law that we defend.

Finally, the third question concerns internally displaced people and, in particular, the situation in Azerbaijan, in connection with Armenia.

The European Court of Human Rights has judged important cases and I believe that the Committee of Ministers is following the precise implementation of these Court decisions, so that the situation can evolve favourably. I would like to remind you that the commitment of Azerbaijan and Armenia, when they joined the Council of Europe, was to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict that you have mentioned. The OSCE Minsk Group is, of course, following the progress made in this regard and informing us about it. The Committee of Ministers here is particularly vigilant, and has repeatedly encouraged the continuation of negotiations in this framework, which is the one recognized by the international community to achieve advances for the rights of displaced persons. This is, the right to a dignified life, serene and safe.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:48:29

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is to Mr Kitev.

Mr Betian KITEV

North Macedonia, SOC 

15:48:38

Print intervention

Thank you.

Madam Secretary of State,

The last couple of years have been challenging for the Republic of North Macedonia, but we have managed to reach a compromise on the name with Greece and we have made progress in the reforms in key areas. Keeping in mind the huge transformative effect of the European perspective, can we expect France's support in receiving a date to start new membership talks this autumn?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:49:07

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is by Mr OMTZIGT.

Mr Pieter OMTZIGT

Netherlands, EPP/CD 

15:49:13

Print intervention

Thank you Madame Chair.

Thank you Madame Minister for your clear views on this organisation.

Five years ago, flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine and 298 innocent people died.

No justice has been served. This is still a black stain in the history of Europe in its search for justice.

The families of these victims will come to this organisation this week. I have two questions for you. First question, will you discuss justice for the MH17 victims and the cooperation of all Member States in the Ministerial Council? Second, is the French Government prepared to meet these families, and to talk to them and assure them that they will do anything to bring justice and not allow people like Mr. Tsemakh, to be sent from Ukraine to Russia, for him to be able to elude standing trial?

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:50:14

Print intervention

The next speaker is Mr CSENGER-ZALÁN.

Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN

Hungary, EPP/CD 

15:50:20

Print intervention

Merci, Madam, Excellency.

In recent months we learnt about the French initiative to create an observatory on the teaching of history. In what way could this new initiative help raise awareness of historical facts in order to reduce ignorance about the history of Europe? And in what way could it enable understanding among the different nations, ethnic groups, and national minorities in Europe?

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:50:56

Print intervention

Thank you.

Madam Secretary of State.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:50:59

Print intervention

Thank you, Madame Speaker.

On the situation in North Macedonia, I believe that it is necessary, very solemnly, to salute the historic stage that has been the agreement of Prespa.

I am not sure that there are many governments in our modern world who are so brave about an issue of regional reconciliation, even changing the name of a country. I believe that we must really be very firm and really welcome the political courage that was needed to reach this agreement.

I will not preempt the decisions that will take place on 15 October in Luxembourg. However, last July, in a meeting that ultimately has little to do with this institution where we are today, the General Affairs Council, and then the European Council, committed to a clear and substantial decision in October. So, since then, I have had many exchanges with leaders of North Macedonia, and I can assure you that we are working to make a clear and substantial decision.

On your question, Mr deputy, on the MH17 flight tragically shot down on 17 July 2014 and which caused the deaths of nearly 300 people, we are, with the Committee of Ministers, quite willing to meet the families if they come here. And we are quite willing to see how the Council of Europe could further advance this international and independent inquiry, which I believe we all need, for the families themselves, but also for the sake of good order.

I believe it is essential that the convictions of the Dutch judicial authorities or in any case, the ongoing prosecution can be completed. I see it as an important step for the facts to be made clear and for families to have a greater truth. Our commitment is that we are, of course, willing to discuss the subject with the Dutch government. This is a subject that comes up very often in the exchanges I have personally with the ministers, my Dutch counterparts. I thank you for your monitoring on this issue, which should not be ignored, because time will do its work.

Last question, on the Observatory, it is not a question of writing a unique book of history. History has a political part; it is also very political. We will not write for you what Hungarian children should learn at school. On the other hand, we have a common requirement. If our children learn the history of the war, learn the history of the tensions, learn the history of the scorn of the other because it is different, well their adult life, their life of citizen, will be carried with this reality in mind.

If our children learn the history of reconciliation, of peace, the history that makes it possible today for 47 Member States to meet –sometimes demanding, sometimes lively, but in a democratic way with respect of the Rule of Law– well they will continue what our parents and grandparents and ourselves here are trying to do. This Observatory aims first to see what we learn in history classes in our different countries. If one only learns about medieval history, I am not sure that one learns how to become citizens in today's world. If we learn the history of wars and stop things before peace was achieved, I also believe that we are not teaching our children as we should.

So, it is firstly about knowing how to make a balance sheet. Some Member States do not make history teaching compulsory in high school. For some it stops at the primary, for others in college. At what age do we think we need to start to learn the common history?

This Observatory also aims to have those who define the programs, perhaps on good practices, on good examples, on things that work, in order to, precisely, create this generation, and these future generations, who will be able to take our relay.

I believe Nicole TRISSE, a French parliamentarian, has moved a motion. I encourage you to support it. Stefan Zweig already in the 1930s encouraged us to morally detoxify –as he said– Europe, by teaching our children, through history and culture, to make peace.

I believe after almost a century we still have some progress to make. I urge you, therefore, to sign the motion so that we can get to the point.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:55:44

Print intervention

Thank you.

I do not see Ms OZOLA.

I give the floor to Mr. SABELLA.

Mr Bernard SABELLA

Palestine 

15:55:54

Print intervention

Madame President, Madame Secretary of State. 

Your passionate conviction for the need of a common judicial culture in Europe to promote and ensure Human Rights is indeed laudable and could serve as a model elsewhere. In particular, PACE has supported, just a couple of years back, a resolution for the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. How do you see the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers promoting this resolution that would ensure also the Human Rights of Palestinians? Thank you. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:56:40

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is from Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN.

Ms Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN

Norway, SOC 

15:56:47

Print intervention

Madame Secretary of State, my question is in line with the question from Mr Kitev. You pay tribute to the positive development in North Macedonia. As a co-rapporteur, I see EU accession talks as crucial to substantiate the positive developments in this part of the Balkans. On Thursday the Bundestag voted in favour to set a start date. So I wonder, do you also see the EU accession talks as crucial to substantiate the positive development in North Macedonia, and when will you set the date.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:57:27

Print intervention

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr KISLYAK.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR 

15:57:35

Print intervention

Thank you Madame President.

Madame State Secretary, I have to be quite honest. When I was listening to you, I decided to change the question I wanted to ask you. You talked about the return of Russia to this forum and you talked about what that involved and about the fact that on Thursday this week Russia might be asked to do even more. I can tell you that we can answer for what is happening in Russia today. We can be accountable for that. I can give you that assurance already.

But what I commend in you is your commitment to calling on all delegations, and I emphasize all delegations here, to recognise the importance of what we're doing here. The fact is that this new kind of procedure we're talking about, this new kind of sanction regime, has to ensure that all of us in this room treat one another with respect and recognise that we all have equal rights in terms of our participation in this organisation. Of course we thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:58:57

Print intervention

Madame Secretary of State, I must give you the floor.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers 

15:59:12

Print intervention

Thank you, Madame President.

I do not speak Russian fully, so I will answer on the part that was translated to me.

To begin with, the question that concerned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think everyone here will agree that our institution does not have the jurisdiction to resolve. I do not think anyone else, for that matter, has the jurisdiction to resolve this conflict.

On the other hand, I believe that the texts adopted by your Assembly are carefully examined each time by the Committee of Ministers and we attach the utmost importance to the work you are doing. I believe that we need to strengthen our cooperation on this subject so that we can look more closely at how can we support cooperation in consolidating democratic institutions in Palestine. There is, I believe, a common and shared objective and therefore the support of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly is, of course, full and complete.

On North Macedonia, I will answer in the same spirit as my first answer. We will have, in Luxembourg, on 15 October, a clear and substantial discussion. These are the commitments we made last July. I think it is also important to take a step back: enlargement and accession negotiations must not hide the deep reality of the challenge facing us in the Western Balkans. There are, of course, legal issues, rule of law issues, public procurement, public services, but the key for me is how we ensure the youth of the Western Balkan countries economic, cultural, human, social, development as they remain in the countries that saw them born.

Today, the primary concern, beyond legal questions, which are valid questions, which are questions of politicians, diplomats, is how we organize ourselves, how we act politically so that the youth of these countries find in their countries the means to found a family, to develop a business, to study, and, in the end, to grow and bear fruit in those countries where they were born.

The brain drain, mass emigration from the different countries of the Balkans is for me a major challenge, a democratic challenge, a challenge, moreover, of equality between men and women, a social challenge. Your Assembly probably has a lot to do to help us find ways to move forward.

Mr deputy, you are questioning me. You are basically commenting on what I said about the return of the Russian delegation. If there is one thing that I totally agree with you is that being a member of this Assembly, being a member of this institution, is having rights and duties. I believe that there is perfect equality between all the members here represented and all the Member States on the fact that they have rights and duties and the position I had was to recall that there would be no different interpretation for this or that Member State, and sitting here is both an honor –to protect the citizens who elected us when we are parliamentarians– but it is also a duty. The duty to ensure that in our country the decisions taken in Strasbourg can be applied, throughout the continent.

My commitment is that the joint reaction procedure is a procedure that applies to all Member States. It is also a commitment that, since it will apply to all the Member States, once we have put in place this mechanism, we do not have any obstruction or procrastination about its implementation if we have decided on the principles and mechanisms to activate it.

I believe that this institution has been honored for 70 years to lay down rights, to lay down duties and in particular through the work of the Committee of Ministers of this Assembly and of the European Court of Human Rights to ensure that it becomes effective, and as the President of the Republic likes to say, that we are not in formal rights and duties, but in real rights and duties.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:03:26

Print intervention

My dear colleagues,

We must now conclude the questions to Ms Amelie de MONTCHALIN, whom I thank again very warmly for her participation and for the answers she has given to the questions that may have been put to her.

Thank you very much.

Debate (continued): Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:07:11

Print intervention

Dear Colleagues, the next item on the agenda is the continuation of the debate on the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee.

I remind Members that the speaking time is limited to three minutes. I call, as the next speaker, Mr Andreas NICK. You have the floor please.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

16:07:35

Print intervention

Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

Let me return to a point in this agenda item, called the Progress Report, which the rapporteur also mentioned this morning and which played a role in the discussion.

In January, during an urgent debate, where I was also the rapporteur in charge, we discussed the events in the Sea of ​​Azov along the Kerch Strait. We passed Resolution 2259, which specifically called for the release of the 24 Ukrainian marines who were captured during these incidents. As you all know, on 7 September there was a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, in which 35 people were exchanged on both sides. Among them were the 24 marines, whose release we demanded in January. This is a success; that is what we were calling for.

I will remind you that Oleg Sentzov was among the men freed, a filmmaker from Ukraine. We also demanded his release several times in this Assembly -- in July 2018 -- in a report by our colleague [Singeris] and Oleg Sentsov, who was in Berlin last week. He is also in Strasbourg this week and he is available for us to talk to him.

So, I think, that's something that deserves to be celebrated in a progress report. That is not to say that we are not concerned about the fact that the key suspect in the case of the shooting downing of MH17 over Ukraine was also exchanged as part of the prisoner exchange. In this connection, let me remind you that we continue to demand that full and unconditional information be coordinated with the Joint Investigation Team and the Dutch authorities. My colleague OMTZIG mentioned it earlier, but I also want to put that in the broader context.

I would like to point out once again that, through our decisions here in April and in June, we contributed to shaping the context which made this prisoner exchange possible. I also hope that this will give a boost to the further de-escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, the exchange of the remaining prisoners on both sides, and a revival of the Minsk Process. Perhaps we can expect a summit this year, also in the so-called Normandie format.

I would also like to hope that, with the opportunities we have as a parliamentary assembly, now also after the return of our colleagues from the Russian Federation -- that we are also constructively involved in this process -- use the opportunities for exchange. It is regrettable that the Ukrainian delegation did not appear here this week, but I will also encourage the political committee to consider how we can continue to advance this process in the future.

Thank you very much.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:10:56

Print intervention

Thank you, Mr NICK.

And I now call Ms HAYRAPETYAN -- if that's the correct pronunciation. And I have been informed that it is your birthday today, so happy birthday to you! 

Ms Tatevik HAYRAPETYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD 

16:11:10

Print intervention

Thank you very much.

Dear Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to bring to your attention two very important topics which are core values of the Council of Europe.

First, the issue of minorities and human rights. As you might have already heard, a very well-known Talysh activist, Fahraddin Abbasov, who is in prison in Azerbaijan for his activities, announced a hunger strike a few days ago as a sign of protest against torture and psychological pressure. Talysh people are one of the native minority nations in Azerbaijan and I think we cannot stay indifferent to this case, and that we should keep an eye on and take requested measures to prevent abuse towards national minorities in Council of Europe member states. This is also a very serious matter as a human rights issue.

The second important topic I would like to tackle is the already repeated cases of hatred in sport. Unfortunately, the last time we tried to show the obvious discriminatory attitude in Azerbaijan -- towards the famous Armenian football player Henrikh Mkhitaryan and his fans -- is quite a vivid example of hatred in sport, which is unacceptable in the Council of Europe.

But the Council of Europe secretariat decided to address the topic only by a written declaration. As a result, we received another case of hatred when the Armenian chess champion Maria Gevorgyan, at the behest of the Azerbaijani delegation, was removed from the tournament in Turkey. In accordance with the explanation of the Turkish organiser, they had to withdraw the invitation because Azerbaijani chess players had asserted that if there was an Armenian in the tournament, they would refuse to participate.

I am more than convinced that despite conflicts, disagreements, and arguments that Council of Europe member states can have, sport is one of those special areas where discrimination has no place. These kinds of cases should be voiced and prevented immediately.  Let's not close our eyes and take the requested action to exclude abuses of hatred in sport.

Thank you for your attention and thank you for your congratulations.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:13:23

Print intervention

Thank you, and the next speaker on the list is Ms ZOHRABYAN.

You have the floor, Madame. 

Ms Naira ZOHRABYAN

Armenia, EC 

16:13:30

Print intervention

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Today, I wish to speak to you about the municipal elections held in the Republic of Artsakh on 8 September. Why? Quite simply because these elections in Artsakh were exceptional due to their legitimate and democratic nature. On 8 September, in all 228 municipalities of the Republic of Artsakh, municipal elections were held. What makes these elections all the more resounding is that the elections of municipal councilors and mayors took place at the same time in all municipalities.

The assessment of election observers was clear and explicit. Some Member States of the Council of Europe could learn a lot from these elections and their democratic, transparent and competitive process.

I would especially like to point out that among the mayors of the municipalities, 16 were women. This is not yet a significant number, but this is mainly due to the fact that, recently, women have been actively engaged in a national and local election in Artsakh.

Colleagues, several national and local elections have been held in Artsakh since its independence. These elections bear testimony to the fact that the people of Artsakh fully respect human rights and pursue the democratic development of their country. I am obliged once again to use the lexicons of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to remind all of us that no one should be subject to discrimination based on the political, legal or international status of the country or territories from which a person comes. I would like our organisation to stay away from this lexicon and appreciate the fair and competitive elections held in Artsakh.

While not a member of the Council of Europe, Artsakh has nevertheless voluntarily committed to the fulfillment of several obligations that the Council of Europe imposes on its legitimate members, such as unilateral membership the many conventions of our organisation and the alignment of its legislation with the European criteria.

Why am I talking about it today? Because I want our organisation to ask a simple question: If there is a conflict concerning the International status of Artsakh, is there a conflict for the Council of Europe concerning the human rights of the people residing in Artsakh? I'm sure not.

My call to the Assembly is simple: Do not neglect the democratic processes in Artsakh. Please help the people of Artsakh to improve laws and institutions, as well as to strengthen human rights in Artsakh. It is the human beings who will benefit from it, and their value is superior to all documents or status.

Thank you.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:16:40

Print intervention

I now call Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV from the ALDE group.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE 

16:16:43

Print intervention

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Initially, I'd like to underline that the Council of Europe is not a place to make hate speeches full of slander and lies, as our Armenian colleague did. I reject all these aggressive statements.

We live historical moments. A 70-year journey has come to an end and the Council of Europe is determined to enter a new decade of its long life.

Therefore, today it becomes necessary to evaluate the past of the organisation as a whole, and not just its recent past and the work done since the last session. The title of the report has a keyword that defines its essence: progress. What practices should we continue with and what should we abandon to further develop the organisation?

Early on the eve of the session, the Parliamentary Assembly's President Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER was involved and upheld with important meetings. At one of these meetings, the chairperson's speech was wonderful. I believe that if every member of this Assembly and every State relied on this principle when arranging its activities, we would always be close to success.

We all have the same duties and responsibilities, but there are always subjective factors and conditions that accompany us. In line with the fact emphasised by the chairperson, most objectionable or even objective reasons can be considered as justifications for failure to fulfil basic obligations.

However, these are the utmost conditions that the Council of Europe must -- without failure -- appear to abide by. After all, pacts and responsibilities are mutual and not one-sided. If both parties are completely disciplined, there will be no need to talk about any shortcomings and exceptions as well as obligations.

Only the Member State is responsible for fulfilling its obligations. The Assembly is similarly responsible for the implementation of its resolutions and not for them to remain on paper. There is a scale: If one eye is bent, the other will necessarily be bent. Without double standards and, in terms of consistent and mutual adherence to its principles, no Member State will be able to leave any of its obligations without implementation.

Over the past 15 years, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1416, which reflects the occupation of one Member State by another, as well as the implemented ethnic cleansing towards the later. There was even a separate sub-committee to monitor the implementation of the Resolution. There was no result since there were no real attempts to achieve results.

Therefore, Resolution 2085 on the Sarsang reservoir in 2016 remains on paper without implementation. For the same reason, the number of such resolutions that have fallen in the knot, and the Assembly for years has been steadily growing. If the Council of Europe itself cannot manifest proper resolution to fulfil its commitments and obligations, it will be much easier to demand the same resolution from its Member States. In this case, the word progress, as in the beginning of our report, will no longer be symbolic and will become an expression of our true achievements.

Thank you.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:20:12

Print intervention

Thank you.

I now call on Ms CORCORAN KENNEDY.

Ms Marcella CORCORAN KENNEDY

Ireland, EPP/CD 

16:20:21

Print intervention

Thank you and good afternoon, colleagues.

May I firstly extend a warm congratulations to Maria BURIĆ in her new role as Secretary General of PACE and wish her the best of luck in the years ahead. It is wonderful to have two women in such senior roles. Both Liliane MAURY PASQUIER President and Ms BURIĆ will be wonderful role models for many young women across Europe to follow.

I want to acknowledge the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee as presented by Ms TRISSE and to recognise her for her work as rapporteur.  As Vice-Chair of the Irish Parliamentary Women's Caucus, I'm particularly interested in the follow-up proposal to Resolution 2290 towards an ambitious Council of Europe agenda for gender equality in relation to the requirement for gender balance in expert panels and other bodies with two or more members. I welcome this approval and look forward to its execution in the future.

Can I take this opportunity to propose that the Bureau urgently consider placing the impact of actions taken to decarbonise our economies on their work programme? As we know, our climate is changing faster than many scientists predicted. In Ireland, electricity has been generated for decades fuelled by peat harvested by Bord na Móna workers in rural Ireland.

As the pace of change accelerates, I believe that the impact on workers, their families and communities has the potential to have a devastating impact on these rural workers in an area where we must focus on ensuring sustainable development, and where we want our people to enjoy their human right to a job, to a fair wage and to join a trade union. The Midlands area and my county, in particular, will be disproportionately impacted by the transition to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity generated by fossil fuel.

Additionally, other rural workers will be devastated by the halting of peat harvesting for use in the horticultural sector, and I know that many other European countries are grappling with employment challenges of this kind and so I believe that it requires urgent attention by the Bureau and Standing Committee.

Thank you. 

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:22:26

Print intervention

Ms de TEMMERMAN you had wanted to speak? Because I was informed that you had withdrawn.

Please, you now have the floor.

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE 

16:22:35

Print intervention

Thank you, President.

First of all, I would like to congratulate Nicole TRISSE on her first and excellent report on the work of the Bureau.

Just a week ago, at the UN, we were looking at the environmental agenda for 2030 and there was a lot of media attention for this. And again here, we're made reference to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

You have said that it's important for us to work more closely together with the United Nations. I personally believe that our Assembly will regain its luster and take its place on the international stage if it is more open to other major international institutions. Our 2030 Agenda promotes the advancement of human rights in all its forms, and it is an opportunity for this. I therefore, wish to reiterate a point that was made in the spring, that our assembly needs to be a part of the 2030 agenda. We need to maintain our consensus, which is sometimes threatened.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:23:41

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Thank you.

I now call on Mr SEYIDOV. You have the floor, sir.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC 

16:23:46

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Thank you very much Mr President.

I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur for this very important report –the progress report– about the activities which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has carried out in the period after the last session.

It is really very strange that two of my Armenian colleagues presented their remarks that are absolutely external to the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That is really strange. With Madame ZOHRABYAN, everything is clear, she just hates us, but it is really a pity. My congratulations for your birthday today, but your mind has already been poisoned with this propaganda.

Nobody in Azerbaijan is now on hunger strike. We just came from the Legal Affairs Committee where we discussed Human Rights issues in Azerbaijan and nobody has this kind of problem.

Vice versa, three representatives of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, including the President of the Parliamentary Assembly Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, have just recently been in Azerbaijan. Rapporteurs from the Legal Affairs Committee have been in Azerbaijan. Rapporteurs from the monitoring committee have been in Azerbaijan. And all the three very important representatives expressed a constructive approach to Azerbaijan, because in the very near future we are going to ratify the so-called Child Abuse Convention. We are going to put our signature under the Istanbul Convention. We have sent letters to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe about things which the Azerbaijani Parliament has done in order to fight corruption. We are doing our best in order to have everything open in Azerbaijan because we have nothing to hide in Azerbaijan.

But instead of the constructive approach we can see this very strange opinion –if I may say like that– from the representative of our neighbouring country, and this is not in line with the values which we share here and I hope that this Assembly is able to understand that constructive approach and dialogue and a mutually beneficial attitude could lead us to progress, not hate speech, because we have our attitudes, nor hate speech in this Assembly. I ask my colleagues from the neighbouring country to follow the values which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has. Only in this case can we find dialogue, only in this case could the Council of Europe go in the right direction. What I say is that otherwise we can find trouble and I do not want to see that at the next session, our colleagues and friends will be in a very shameful position.

Thank you.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:26:57

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Thank you.

I would like now to invite Mr HUNKO. You have the floor, Sir.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL 

16:27:03

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Thank you, Mr President.

On the progress report, I would first like to thank Ms Nicole TRISSE for the presentation.

You have also addressed many important issues. It is always the case when we discuss the progress report here every three months, that we see developments that are actually progress. In other areas you can put question marks there. I would also like to reiterate the points you have raised that there has been some progress in Russian-Ukrainian relations since the last session, e.g. this prisoner exchange. It is certainly very positive, including the 24 so-called sailors who have been exchanged, the Ukrainian sailors. The fact that our colleague Frank Mr Frank SCHWABE was recently able to visit Grozny after many years for the first time is certainly positive. However, one has to say –you have heard the report of my fellow group member Mr Marco NICOLINI this morning– that, of course, the cancellation of the Council of Europe Election Observation Mission in Ukraine and also the non-participation of the Ukrainian delegation are not really acceptable.

Let me just say that, as a German Member with an Ukrainian background, I am deeply convinced that it is precisely Ukraine, and the countries that are also between Russia and the EU Member States, that would benefit the most in the end if it comes to an improvement of the relationship.

Let me briefly address a few points that have not been mentioned yet and that are worrying. I am talking about the removal of the mayors who had just been elected in the spring in several major cities in Turkey –Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van– and their replacement by governors; and also the continuous abuse of Interpol in the context of political persecution by various states, including by Turkey, and in particular the case of Ismet Kilic, a German who is currently in Slovenian extradition detention. That would be the first extradition with a political background based on the European extradition Treaty. I think that should not be.

Finally, let me mention that three elected Spanish MEPs still can not attend the European Parliament because they are accused of being in the Catalan independence movement. I think elected members should work in parliaments and not in jail. Thank you for your attention.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:30:26

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The last speaker on the list is Mr MELKUMYAN. However, I don't see him in his place. I think he's not... If I could ask for the future references to be in your assigned seat, it would be much easier for us. Thank you. You have the floor, Sir.

Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN

Armenia, EC 

16:30:43

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At the present moment, as in the future, the different countries must implement minimum conditions for peaceful coexistence with their immediate neighbors -- even if a certain level of integration is impossible -- in order to ensure the security and life of their inhabitants: the people.

Dear colleagues, unfortunately, for well-known reasons, the Republic of Armenia does not maintain good neighborly relations with two of its four neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey. This has been the case for more than 30 years. If the main reason in this relationship with the last is slightly different, then, with Azerbaijan, it is obvious.

However, in the second case, the problem is indirectly conditioned by the de facto independence status of the Artsakh Republic at the present time. At the same time, the peaceful settlement of the conflict may be delayed for a very long time. During this time, the people of Artsakh should be able to enjoy all their human rights, the guarantee of a good standard of living and security. And these are standards that are internationally recognised.

We are talking as well about providing the population with access to transport, in particular, the guarantee of the peaceful sky of Artsakh. In this case, it is civil aviation. The Stepanakert airport, in the capital of Artsakh, has been ready for operation, but for a long time now Azerbaijan has been threatening the air rights of Artsakh, its visitors, and its peaceful population. This is a specific issue and, in my opinion, it should be the subject of a legal and political assessment by our Parliamentary Assembly.

Azerbaijan has refused for years to comply with the requirements of the CSTO correspondents (the Collective Security Treaty Organsation), in Minsk, to install a system to register cease-fire violations along the line of contact. This provides us with further proof of its true goals.

And, of course, we will be monitoring future developments.

One final point: Azerbaijan has expressed its wish to exchange two terrorists who crossed the border between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, with two civilians who were misdirected at this border and kidnapped by Azeri terrorists. It's up to you to judge what is going on here.

Finally, please, pay attention to the presentation of Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV and Mr Samad SEYIDOV. I want to say that they do not have the right to estimate the activity and the presentation of another colleague. Why? Because Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV and Mr Samad SEYIDOV have consistently stood up and not presented new information to us. They are spreading disinformation and it is important for you to know that.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:34:03

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That brings us to the close of the list.

Ms Trisse do you wish to reply?

You have four minutes.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Rapporteure 

16:34:16

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Thank you, President.

I would like, first of all, to thank all the colleagues who have contributed their comments and contributions -- even though some of the comments are slightly removed from the main substance of the progress report, which was, in fact, at the subject of my address to you earlier.

I have two, three things to say. Compared to the commentary this morning, where there was more fear of the fourth point I mentioned, namely the problem between the Russian Federation and Ukraine -- a point that was rather watermarked. What I'd like to point out is that the return of the Russian Federation should not be seen as a renunciation of the values on which the Council of Europe is founded. On the contrary, we need to be very demanding with all the members -- and I mean all the Member States, whoever they are. So that's the first thing I want to point out: it's really through this that we will achieve something.

Compared to the commentary this afternoon, I would simply say that visibly my activity report inspires many issues. We heard about human rights, the rule of law, the fight against hatred, the fight against discrimination, the goals of sustainable development, zero carbon emissions. All of these, you will agree, are topics that we deal with in the Council of Europe, and that's good. This proves that we have to continue to work together, all the Member States. And, indeed, we need to try to improve the conditions of all states and the conditions of our fellow citizens. I remind you that we still represent more than 800 million -- in fact, 840 million inhabitants.

So, I wanted to thank you for your comments. I tell myself that there is still work and that's good. This proves how useful we are. Thank you.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly 

16:36:23

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Thank you very much, Madame Trisse, and the debate is now closed.

Which brings us to... The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, set out in document 14 968 and addendum one. Is there any objection to the proposed references to the committees? Is there none? There is no objection, so the references are approved.

I now invite the Assembly to approve the remainder of the progress report.

So the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee is approved.

Your report has been approved so congratulations on that.

This brings us to the close of the Assembly's meetings today, the assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.

The sitting is adjourned.

Thank you.

The sitting was closed at 4.40pm