AS (2014) CR 28
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 29 September 2014 at 11.30 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
4. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the verbatim report.
(Ms Brasseur, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.33 a.m.)
1. Opening of the fourth part of the 2014 ordinary session
THE PRESIDENT – I declare open the fourth part of the 2014 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
2. Statement by the President of the Assembly
THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, I have to start with the sad news that our colleague, Mr Jim Dobbin, a member of the British delegation, passed away on 6 September, while on an Assembly mission to Poland. He was a highly committed Assembly member and a strong believer in Europe.
I also need to inform you that Mr Vladimir Dronov, a long-standing member of the Secretariat of the Assembly election observation unit, died on 5 August, after a long and brave struggle. Furthermore, Mr Bernard Freiss, one of our ushers, passed away a week ago, on 21 September, and on 25 September we lost Héléna de Assis, Secretary General of the Group of the Unified European Left. We will remember their professionalism and commitment to defend our common values.
I would also like to recall the many persons who died in this summer’s tragic events, particularly those who lost their lives in Ukraine, including the passengers of flight MH17; the many lives lost in the Mediterranean; and those who have died in conflict, not just in Europe, but worldwide, including in the middle east, Syria and Iraq, among them the hostages savagely murdered by terrorists. Let us observe a moment’s silence.
(A moment’s silence was observed.)
Dear colleagues, I would like to highlight, as a theme of my communication, the need to put human rights at the centre of our work and above political agendas and national specificities. I would like to say a few words about the Conference of Presidents of Parliament that took place in Oslo on 11-12 September, bringing together about 60 Presidents of Parliament. I will have the opportunity to thank the host of that conference, Mr Thommessen, President of the Storting, tomorrow, when he addresses the Assembly on the report on counteracting the manifestations of neo-Nazism.
During the conference, the Presidents of Parliament and their high-level representatives affirmed their commitment to upholding our common values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy as the basis of democratic security on our continent and as a guarantee of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. Today, 65 years after the establishment of the Council of Europe, more than ever we must continue to defend and promote these values. As always, we can live up to our responsibilities and duties only if we focus on what unites us, not what divides us.
It is important not to forget our common commitments, since we see today that human rights in Europe face numerous challenges on different fronts. We are getting used to hearing about unprecedented crises in Europe, but we should keep it in mind that Europe has seen worse. It is for exactly that reason that the post-Second World War European human rights architecture is so precious. That architecture seeks to create a human rights culture, and with it a respectful dialogue, inclusive cooperation and mutual confidence – it is the best remedy we have found against hatred, oppression and fear. The crisis in Ukraine is a flagrant example of the threat to human rights in times of violence and conflict. It is also a reminder of the role of the Council of Europe and our Assembly in establishing long-lasting democratic peace through respectful dialogue and cooperation – the mission that the founding fathers of our Organisation foresaw and a mission that is even more relevant in today’s Europe.
In my communication, colleagues will see that, along with the presidential committee, I met with Mr Naryshkin, Speaker of the Russian State Duma, in Paris on 2 September. I also met Mr Turchynov, the President of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, a week later, while I was in Oslo. The purpose of these meetings was to keep open avenues of communication. This is what our founding fathers would have expected. The ceasefire agreement concluded recently is a glimmer of hope, but there is an urgent need to address the humanitarian and human rights consequences of the tragic events in Ukraine. There should be no impunity for human rights violations. Effective, transparent and impartial investigations into these violations are imperative for reconciliation. It is a debt to all those who died and suffered during the recent past and to those who unfortunately continue to suffer in Ukraine.
We will discuss the draft resolution on counteraction to manifestations of neo-Nazism tomorrow. As it rightly points out, the rise of extremism and xenophobia is not an isolated phenomenon but a problem of pan-European dimensions. Today, we must admit that deplorable fact and unite to combat that evil before this slow killer of our common values does more harm. We must admit it and fight together despite all our political differences.
Hatred, intolerance and racism cannot be part of today’s or tomorrow’s Europe. I therefore hope that you will wholeheartedly support the initiative of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to establish a no-hate parliamentary alliance and that you will contribute to the No Hate Speech campaign of the Council of Europe. On 10 September, the president of the Norwegian Storting and I invited the presidents of parliaments and senates across Europe to support youth activists’ idea to establish a European day of remembrance for victims of hate crime. The proposed day for the commemoration is 22 July, which marks the horrendous massacre in Utøya and the bombing in Oslo. It is our duty as parliamentarians to raise awareness of the awfulness of such acts and prevent such tragedies in future.
(The speaker continued in French.)
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, the Council of Europe is what it is today thanks to the work of ambitious women and men who believe in human rights and act every day wherever the rights and freedoms of individuals are under threat. Activists in non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders are our valuable partners. In that context, we shall have the honour at the end of this morning’s sitting of awarding the Václav Havel freedom prize.
A few days ago, I concluded my working visit to Azerbaijan. As well as meeting the authorities of that country, I met three human rights defenders and Azerbaijani journalists, long-standing partners of the Council of Europe, who are now in prison. I thank the Azerbaijani authorities for having made those meetings possible. Our visits to such prisoners are seen everywhere not only as a symbol but as a political message. All those who defend rights and freedoms must be able to count on our tangible support. One task of the Council of Europe and of this Assembly is to provide that support.
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, I welcome the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention on 1 August. As I said in Rome during the conference on that occasion, the Istanbul Convention has a soul. It is a project for a society of tomorrow in which violence against women will no longer be justified, pardoned or downplayed but will be prevented, fought, punished and rejected by all. We welcome the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention in record time thanks to joint and co-ordinated action by all the protagonists, especially because it is a legal instrument aimed at establishing universal vocation in States that are not members of the Council of Europe. The convention offers a vision of a better and much more egalitarian society, but that vision is far from being achieved, so we must work continuously to ensure that it comes into play. Human rights are never acquired once and for all; it is a daily fight and a permanent commitment. Whatever the differences between our societies, cultures and traditions, human rights are the same for all of us.
(The speaker continued in English.)
This week in Strasbourg, we will have the opportunity to benefit from numerous hearings in committees, networking and side events and exhibitions such as the Living Library, which add to the richness of our work. I end by welcoming the fact that the One in Five Campaign to stop sexual violence against children has been extended for a further year. To give you an idea of the impact that the campaign is having, a short video will now be shown which has already been seen by several million people. I encourage you to use it and the other materials available at the campaign desk outside the Chamber to raise awareness about Universal Children’s Day on 20 November. I wish you all a productive session, and I wish us all to work together with dignity and mutual respect, placing human rights at the centre of our work and above our political differences.
(A short video was shown.)
3. Examination of credentials
THE PRESIDENT* – The first item on the agenda is the examination of credentials of new members.
The names of the members and substitutes are in Document 13609. If no credentials are challenged, the credentials will be ratified.
Are any credentials challenged?
The credentials are ratified.
I welcome our new colleagues.
4. Election of a Vice-President of the Assembly with respect to Slovenia
THE PRESIDENT* – The next item on the agenda is the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of Slovenia.
The chairperson of the Slovenian delegation has proposed Ms Ksenija Korenjak Kramar. If there is no request for a vote, she will be declared elected.
Since there has been no request for a vote, I declare Ms Korenjak Kramar elected as a Vice-President of the Assembly. She takes precedence following the Vice-Presidents previously elected.
I congratulate Ms Korenjak Kramar on her election.
5. Changes in the membership of committees
THE PRESIDENT* – Our next item of business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in Commission documents (2014) 07.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are agreed to.
6. Requests for current affairs debate and debate under urgent procedure
THE PRESIDENT* – Before we examine the draft agenda, the Assembly must consider two requests for debates: a request from all five political groups for a current affairs debate entitled “The crisis in Ukraine” and a request from the Political Affairs Committee for an urgent debate entitled “Threats posed by the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) and violence against humanity”.
The Bureau has received a request for a current affairs debate entitled “The crisis in Ukraine”, submitted by the five political groups.
At its meeting this morning, the Bureau approved the request.
Does the Assembly agree to this proposal from the Bureau?
The Assembly agrees to these arrangements.
The current affairs debate will be opened by Mr Schennach and will take place on Wednesday afternoon as the first item of business. I can also inform you that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, and Mr Nils Muižnieks, who is the Human Rights Commissioner, will be speaking in that debate. I would also like to seize this opportunity, because I have not yet done so in this Chamber, to congratulate the Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, on his new term of office, because it has just begun. I therefore congratulate you, Mr Secretary General, on your re-election.
Now we come to the request on holding an urgent debate, which is presented by the Political Affairs Committee, on the subject “Threats posed by the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) and violence against humanity”. In the course of this morning the Bureau expressed its decision in favour of this request and suggests that this item be included in the present part-session.
Does the Assembly agree to this recommendation?
Mr MIGNON (France)* – I do not oppose that this debate takes place, but I challenge the fact that we are talking about an Islamic State, and I would like to ask who has recognised this terrorist organisation as a State. No one has recognised it as a State, so I do not see why the Council of Europe today should take the initiative of considering this organisation a State, and I personally object categorically to this terminology. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – I would like to say that this was a proposal from the Political Affairs Committee. Part of this subject has been changed, but the term “Islamic State” is in inverted commas. I would like to make that clear. But the Political Affairs Committee would perhaps be able to change the title if this request were to be submitted and if there was a majority in favour of it.
I see no objection to our holding this debate, so it will be put on the order of business as the first item on Thursday morning.
It is so decided.
The Assembly has to decide on the committee dealing with this, and the Political Affairs Committee suggests that it should be responsible for this question.
Do we agree?
The reference is agreed to.
7. Adoption of the agenda
THE PRESIDENT* – The draft agenda was established by the Bureau at the meeting on 2 September last, and it was adopted this morning. It has been circulated.
Do you all agree with it?
The topical debate on Ukraine will be held on Wednesday afternoon. It will be the first item on the agenda, and the urgent debate on the threats by Islamic State against humanity will be held on Thursday morning. It will be the first item on the agenda. There is no objection to that, I think.
8. Time limits on speeches
THE PRESIDENT* – I would also like to say that there are many speakers in many debates, which is why we suggest that we should restrict speaking time in the debates today, on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday morning, to three minutes.
There is no objection.
9. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
Observation of the presidential election in Turkey (10 August 2014)
THE PRESIDENT* – The next item on the agenda will be the presentation by Mr Tiny Kox of the activity report and the progress report of the Standing Committee. This is Doc. 13608, and to that will be added the ad hoc committee’s report on the observation of the presidential elections in Turkey on 10 August 2014, which will be presented by Ms Meritxell Mateu Pi on behalf of the ad hoc committee of the Bureau, Doc. 13611.
I remind you that the Assembly has just decided that it will restrict the speaking time of the speakers to three minutes and that we will have to break off the examination of this report at 12.30 p.m. in order to award a human rights prize, the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. The debate will be continued at the beginning of this afternoon’s sitting at 15.00.
Mr Kox, I remind you that you have 13 minutes’ speaking time, and you can allocate it as you wish. I now give you the floor.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Thank you very much, Madam President. Please allow me to start my introduction on a personal note. Our secretary, Helena de Assis, has sadly left us after a long struggle against cancer. It was an unwinnable battle, but nevertheless Helena fought a year-long struggle before she had to give in. I was happy that I could visit her shortly before she died, that the Secretary General of the Assembly was also able to do so, and that you also had contact with her. We will remember her as a great secretary, a good friend and a great person.
With regard to the contents of the progress report, the Bureau has approved it. It is in your files, and you have read it. I do not think I should restate what is stated there, as that is clear. It has in it the decisions taken by the Bureau since our last meeting here at the end of June, some of which are already dealt with because it is within the competence of the Bureau. Some of the decisions have to be approved by you. There are proposals on referring motions to committees. Two of them deal with the situation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is correct that I inform you that during the decision on the progress report you will also decide on that.
Now, Madam President, I will elaborate on the major developments that have taken place since the end of June. I begin by giving you a grand merci for everything that you did during the holidays this summer. You spent almost all your time on very complex and problematic issues which this Assembly has to deal with even in summer. I think that everyone who read your report on what you did this summer should recognise that we elected a very good President, and on behalf of the Assembly I thank you very much for what you did. You had to do so much because although we had a lot of nice weather this summer, it was a dark and dangerous summer in which so many things happened that we, as politicians, should all feel ashamed about.
I recall that in our last part-session we, you, the Secretary General, and the leaders of the political groups, commemorated the beginning of the First World War 100 years ago. We all spoke about the lessons learnt from that tragedy, which painted our continent in blood. Now, only three months later, we have seen three new wars emerge, if I can call them that: the civil war in Ukraine, the war on Gaza, and the explosion of violence in Iraq and Syria. To add to that there has been a deterioration in human rights in a country that now chairs the Committee of Ministers, Azerbaijan.
If you think about it, it is hard to imagine that after such a commemoration in June, we politicians in the world were able to let this happen. We should conclude at least that the international community was not able to prevent this, although we and other international organisations always proclaim that the goal of being together here, in the United Nations, in the European Union and in all these other Chambers is exactly to prevent from happening what has happened these past months.
Let me come to Ukraine. We will have a long current affairs debate, and I think it is good that we are going to debate it, because in this great member State of the Council of Europe during the summer, when we were lying on the beaches or elsewhere, more than 3 000 people were killed and more than 1 million people fled to Russia and to the western part of Ukraine. Cities were destroyed after being bombed and attacked. All the agreements made before — in February in Kiev and later in Geneva — and the other decisions that were taken meant nothing; so the war developed during this summer. That should give this Assembly pause for thought: we are there to prevent it, not to see it happen.
As you mentioned, President, part of this cruel violence in Ukraine was flight MH17, which probably was shot down by someone. The result was clear: about 300 people got killed, including almost 200 Dutch people. In my country it caused a national shock, because everybody knows at least someone who knows someone who was on the plane. A colleague who sat next to me in the Dutch Senate was on the plane with his wife and daughter, going for a dream holiday somewhere in Indonesia, but along with 300 other people he happened to fly above Donetsk and that was the end of the story, and the end of his life and of the lives of all those people. That should give this Assembly pause for thought: how is it possible that these things can happen? However, it is good that that investigation is going on. I have to thank the President again, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, for doing their utmost to get a quick and adequate repatriation of all the people who died there. The investigation into who did it is ongoing, but the fact that it happened is an enormous shame.
We also saw, with the development of the war in Ukraine, the development of a sort of new Cold War. We will come back to that matter later, but the fact that relations between Russia and the rest of the world are so disturbed is also a very dangerous development. Too many people say, “Okay, let’s continue on this track”. I belong to those who say, “If we do not overcome this new Cold War, we will end up with new hot wars.” The good news is that now in Ukraine there is at least a beginning of a truce: there is the Minsk Protocol. Let us hope that at least now we politicians in Europe stick to what our signatures said that they would do.
As you said in your statement, the Presidential Committee and you as President did your utmost to improve relations with the Russian Federation, which does not mean that we are saying to the Russian Federation, “Okay, do whatever you want and come back.” No, each member State has to deliver on its own commitments. To overcome that problem is more important than to continue with it.
The other situation is Gaza. I will not speak too much about it. This Assembly will probably send a fact-finding mission to Gaza to see what happened there. We know that over 2 300 people got killed and that once more Gaza was destroyed and now we have to rebuild it. Everybody should be aware that rebuilding Gaza without a sustainable solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not make sense.
The third war that happened after our last meeting was in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian civil war was already happening, as were all the atrocities in Iraq, and now there is a new war and the so-called — I agree with Jean-Claude Mignon — Islamic State is now in the picture. However, far more things are happening there now. It is also a war that could develop because politicians and international organisations failed.
I have said something about Azerbaijan. I think it is a shame that a country that has the honour to share membership of this Organisation uses its time in the chairmanship to deteriorate its human rights situation. To improve it would perhaps be to ask too much, but to let it deteriorate is a shame. I thank you, President, for going there and having clear talks about the situation and for the clear statements about what should be improved in the country that chairs the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
War happened and elections happened — my colleague will elaborate on what happened in Turkey — and new elections are upcoming in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Tunisia. It is good that our Assembly will observe these elections.
Soon, President, we will have a pleasant moment when you will tell us who is the winner of the Václav Havel human rights prize 2014. We do not know who the winner is, but we know that the three nominees all deserve this prize and we look forward to hearing you say what the final decision is. It is great that last year’s winner, who was then still in prison, now can be with us to hear who his successor is. That at least is a success, as is the fact that the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly was involved in what was happening in Belarus. That is the good news. I am sorry that all the rest was bad news. It was a dark and dangerous summer and if we do not learn from the First World War, perhaps we could learn from this summer. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT – Rapporteur, thank you for elaborating on difficult subjects. I personally thank you for the nice words you said about me as President.
(The speaker continued in French)
Mr Kox, you have two minutes and 30 seconds left to respond to the speakers at the end of the debate.
Ms Mateu Pi will present her report on the observation of the presidential election in Turkey. You have three minutes.
Ms MATEU PI (Andorra)* – Thank you very much, President. As you will be aware, in the summer, at the beginning of July, we went to Turkey for a pre-electoral mission. All political groups were represented on that pre-electoral mission, and then the election observation mission, in conjunction with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Distinguished colleagues, the presidential elections on 10 August constituted a new page in Turkey’s history: 53 million Turks were able, for the first time, to elect the president of their republic by direct universal suffrage, so this may well be the start of a re-tooling of the State machinery.
For the first time, campaigning was possible in languages other than Turkish — Kurdish, for example — which is to be welcomed. The Supreme Electoral Council and the election authorities were extremely professional and drew up high-quality electoral registers, despite there being no effective legal remedy in the case of shortcomings on the electoral register or in respect of appealing against any decisions; that situation is at variance with the standards laid down by the Venice Commission and it needs to be remedied.
Having said that, the ad hoc electoral commission does not only work on the day of the presidential election, so it was able to identify certain shortcomings that the Turkish authorities need to address. For example, although the legal framework was overall judged to be in the interests of democratic elections, there was a lack of direct responsibility, which gave rise to inconsistencies in the way that the law was applied, and this pertained equally to the administration as well as to media coverage. Inconsistencies arose from the difference between the 2012 Act and previous legislation governing elections in general. There were a few glitches at the start of the campaign, between the end of June and mid-July, depending on which part of the process we talk about.
The ad hoc committee also welcomes the first steps that have been taken to regulate campaign financing. For example, a ceiling was put on individual donations. Nevertheless, we believe that there should be a statutory limit on campaign spending overall, so as to try and ensure that there is a level playing field for all candidates.
I finish by saying that it is crucial that the system is overhauled to ensure that other candidates have the same opportunities as incumbents, because we saw that the candidate in post—the prime minister—obviously benefited from administrative resources and media coverage that unfortunately were not afforded to the other two candidates. It goes without saying that I would like to thank all the staff, all the people who hosted us in Turkey, our colleagues, representatives of civil society and the authorities.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Vučković, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms VUČKOVIĆ (Serbia) – Thank you, Madam President. I compliment you on your efforts over the past few months to make our Assembly more visible and to respond quickly to major challenges and problems. I also thank Tiny Kox for preparing the progress report.
A number of things in the progress report are particularly important to the Socialist Group. I stress the importance of a few meetings that the Bureau authorised in the period covered by the report. The first meeting was on a code of conduct for parliamentarians to prevent corruption. It was an ad hoc meeting of the rules committee as part of the anti-corruption platform that we launched last year, and the meeting was important to the work of this Assembly.
The second meeting was September’s conference in Rome to celebrate the enactment of the Istanbul convention. As parliamentarians, we now have to monitor the implementation of the convention. The third important meeting was the meeting of the sub-committee of the monitoring committee on Russia’s neighbourhood policy, which took place in Vienna last week. The meeting was an opportunity to exchange views with Russian colleagues on the participation of the Russian delegation to our Assembly. It is important to note that all rapporteurs from the Russian delegation were present, and it is important that that dialogue with Russian colleagues on our values and principles is maintained, as Russia is certainly part of Europe and an important member of this Organisation.
We may all anticipate the debate on credentials in January’s session, and the Assembly and its bodies should act responsibly and invest efforts to overcome the crisis through dialogue with the Russian delegation and Russian representatives. There can certainly be no validation of the breach of international law or the commitments that all member States should respect. The Assembly should clearly communicate that message while maintaining a dialogue with the Russian delegation. To that end, we should hope that the small positive developments in the Ukrainian crisis will be sustainable and provide space for further improvements. Dialogue is a pre-requisite for solutions to be found.
Additionally, there has been important work to prepare the ongoing election monitoring missions, which are of the highest importance to our work. I reiterate the importance of the Bureau’s statement of 27 June on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which we will discuss this week. Thank you, Mr Rapporteur.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Zingeris, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Thank you, Madam President. During the presidential election in Turkey, I visited 32 polling stations. I agree with the rapporteur’s remarks on the common findings. The election was, in general, free and fair, but in the pre-election period there were big questions about the time given to the three candidates. Some administrative resources were used before the election. The voting in the region that I visited was done perfectly, all parties were represented, and the process was absolutely based on the values of the Council of Europe.
One new element was that a Kurdish candidate received 10% of votes and was commonly supported not only by the Kurdish population but by the Turkish population, which means that the election was not based on ethnicity. The main opposition leader received 40% of the votes, but his pre-election time on TV and in the mass media was visibly smaller than that of President Erdoğan.
I stress the common sense that the Council of Europe’s framework of values and rules were more or less kept, and I congratulate Turkey on the election. Turkey is an important country for all of us. Immediately after the election, President Erdoğan declared that he will be president for all Turkish citizens, and I hope he will keep that line. It is important that Turkey goes in the direction of a modern society.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Fiala, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms FIALA (Switzerland) – Thank you for your important work, Madam President—it is appreciated. I had the honour of being involved in the Turkish presidential election of 10 August. Before addressing some points of criticism, I highlight my sympathy for Turkish colleagues. Turkey’s relatively low national debt and low unemployment, and still respectable growth, are very good. It is also positive that the Turkish population was able to vote directly for their president for the first time and that the prime minister accepted a Kurdish candidate, which seems a very good approach to minorities—for the quality of democracy also lies in the way in which a country treats its minorities. It is also positive that voters residing abroad could vote without presenting themselves at the border.
Nevertheless, the observation mission makes it clear that, if we are attesting free elections on an equal, level playing field, unfair preconditions are highly questionable. The media coverage of the campaign and the propaganda were scandalously biased in favour of the prime minister. The OSCE and the ODIHR monitored intolerable inequity. An important social democrat from Germany, Carl Schmitt, once said that we should be very courageous by not tolerating those who use democracy in a way that will degrade democracy. By observing elections, we should not legitimise unfairness. It is about having elections that are not only free but fair.
Last but not least, I want to inform you about an embarrassing propaganda demonstration in favour of President Erdoğan. About 80 000 people took part in the propaganda march, and women were separated from men. I would say that 90% of the women were veiled and separated from men. That might not be decisive for free and fair elections, but it completed the picture I had in my mind of a country that is still far from our common values.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Mrs Fiala. I call Mr Chope to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Mr CHOPE (United Kingdom) – Speaking as a member of the United Kingdom delegation, I begin by adding my condolences to the family of Jim Dobbin. He will be greatly missed. Jim, as everyone knows, was a good man and it is sad that he has been taken away from us so soon.
I turn to the progress report. In some respects there has been progress. What we have heard about the elections in Turkey shows that progress is being made towards the establishment of a fully fledged democracy in the country, and we welcome that. In other respects, however, things in the Council of Europe are going backwards. I do not see any progress being made in our relations with the Russian Federation or in the appalling behaviour of Russia towards our member State Ukraine. At the ad hoc meeting of the sub-committee that has been referred to in Austria last week, Mr Pushkov, the leader of the Russian delegation, said in terms that he did not accept the sovereignty of Ukraine. He said that he thought that Ukraine was not a sovereign State but a failed State. How can the leader of one of the delegations to this Parliamentary Assembly say such a thing of another country? We must put that on record.
We must also put on record the fact that during our meetings with Mr Naryshkin he denied, as did Mr Pushkov, that there had been any Russian troops in Ukraine, any equipment belonging to Russia in Ukraine or any invasion of Ukrainian territory. An amazing letter – a diatribe might be a better way to describe it – has been sent to members of the Presidential Committee. It has been translated into English, and I hope that it will receive a wider circulation because it shows the depth of division between most of us and the leader of the Russian delegation, who seems to be completely in denial about what Russia is doing in Ukraine. In that letter, he makes some intemperate threats. I hope that people will look at that when they consider whether we need to do more talking.
The leader of the Russian delegation talks about dialogue but refuses to participate. Members of the Russian delegation are free to participate in the discussions here today, although they cannot vote. They choose not to participate, however, and they want to blame us for their non-participation. That is a matter of great regret. While denying that the Russians had done anything wrong, Mr Naryshkin told the Presidential Committee that as far as Crimea is concerned, it is a done deal, there is no going back and they are not prepared even to discuss the matter. That demonstrates the gravity of the situation and explains why, in many respects, we are not making progress but going backwards.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Chope. I call Mr Symonenko to speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr SYMONENKO (Ukraine)* – I support the report put forward by Mr Tiny Kox. The Group of the Unified European Left is categorically opposed to resolving any issue or conflict through the use of force. We are against war, and we believe that even the most complex issues should be resolved only through a political approach and dialogue. All that we do should be in line with the declaration of human rights, which must be the basis of our work. Mr Kox’s report emphasised the tragic anniversary of the First World War, and we must draw lessons from the First and Second World Wars, which were both caused by global crises. We live in the era of another global economic crisis, as members of our Assembly have said repeatedly, so we must learn from the past and not allow the current crisis to develop into war.
The second lesson to draw from the report is that we must not only say that the consequences of war are tragic but consider how we got into the current situation and take steps to prevent the outbreak of further war. What could have been done to prevent war in Ukraine? Europe should have supported the statement made by the Ukrainian authorities in September last year that they intended to hold a referendum in Ukraine. Such a referendum would have allowed the people of Ukraine to decide on integration with either the European Union or the customs union, but it did not take place. If it had done, the war could have been avoided. In addition, war could have been prevented by the implementation of the agreement reached by Germany, Poland and France on 21 February this year, which was signed by all parties including Yanukovych and Klitschko. The same goes for the Geneva agreement, which was reached later in the year. A peaceful approach can resolve all the problems that we face, and it is the only approach that we should follow.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Symonenko. I now interrupt the list of speakers on this progress report. We will resume the debate this afternoon at 3 p.m.
10. Prize Award Ceremony: Václav Havel Human Rights Prize
The PRESIDENT* – The next item on the agenda is the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize ceremony. I ask the Assembly to welcome our guests.
I welcome the panel members, and thank them all for all their work. They are Mr František Janouch, the chairman of the board of the Charta 77 Foundation; Mr Martin Palouš, president of the Václav Havel Library Foundation in New York and board member of the Václav Havel Library; Mr Thomas Hammarberg, the former Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe; Ms Nuala Mole, founder of and senior lawyer at the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe Centre in London; Mr Marek Antoni Nowicki, a human rights lawyer and president of the United Nations Human Rights Advisory Panel in Kosovo: and Mr Christos Pourgourides, a former colleague at the Parliamentary Assembly from Cyprus.
In August in Prague, the panel members first had the difficult task of selecting the three nominees – I am sincerely glad to welcome the nominees’ representatives to this venerable Chamber – and last night, the panel members had the even more complicated job of selecting the one nominee who will leave the Chamber as the winner of the 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Before I announce the winner, we will watch a short film about the prize.
A film was shown, accompanied by the following narrative:
“On 10 May 1990, the President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic entered the Assembly Chamber of the Council of Europe. It was an emotional Parliamentary Assembly that welcomed the former political dissident, the figurehead of the Velvet Revolution who, in 1989, brought an end to the communist regime. In his welcoming address, the Assembly President paid tribute to the courage of someone who had been one of the key figures of the opposition in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic: ‘You, Mr President, are a symbol of the victory of freedom over totalitarianism.’ In his speech, the philosopher-president, an atypical politician, spoke of his years of opposition when dreams took the place of hope: ‘Everything seems to point to the fact that we should not be afraid of dreaming of what seems impossible if we want something impossible to become a fact and a reality. Without dreaming of a better Europe we shall never be able to build it.’Fo
Following the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which marked the end of the liberalisation process of the Prague Spring, Václav Havel remained faithful to his convictions. As chairperson of the Circle of Independent Writers, his commitment led to his plays being banned. The international community quickly became aware of this dissident. In 1977, Václav Havel co-founded Charta 77, an organisation defending human rights in Czechoslovakia. Because of his activities he was imprisoned on three occasions, for almost five years. In 1989, the crowd spontaneously placed Václav Havel at the head of the Civic Forum, as association uniting opposition movements. He became a key figure in the Velvet Revolution.
In March 2013, almost a quarter of a century later, the prize was launched in Prague to honour what Václav Havel was and what he did. The prize will be awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights. The first Václav Havel human rights prize was awarded last year to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, but the laureate – imprisoned since 2011 – was unable to attend the ceremony. PACE President, Anne Brasseur, met him in Strasbourg in July this year, following his release.
For the second edition of the prize, the three candidates shortlisted are B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; the Maltese Jesuit Refugee Service; and Azerbaijani human rights defender Anar Mammadli.
In 1990, Mr Havel spoke in Strasbourg of the immense strength embodied by the ideals of the Council of Europe. Referring to the Organisation’s emblem, he said that for him the 12 stars did not express the idea that the Council of Europe would succeed in building a heaven on earth, as there would never be a heaven on earth, but that ‘in my opinion these 12 stars are a reminder that the world can become a better place if we have the courage to raise our eyes to the stars’. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize pays tribute to this distinguished European, and pays tribute to all those who, through their determined and tireless work, bring us closer to the ideal of a better world.”
THE PRESIDENT* – I now welcome to the Assembly the representatives of the three nominees: Mr Muhammad Sabah, senior field researcher in Gaza, and Mr Hagai El-Ad, executive director, from B’Tselem; Ms Katrine Camilleri, executive director of the Jesuit Refugee Centre in Malta; and Mr Asaf Mammadov, father of Mr Anar Mammadli – he cannot attend the ceremony as he is in prison – accompanied by Mr Emin Mammadli from the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre. I also welcome last year’s prize winner, Mr Bialiatski.
Dear colleagues, honourable guests representing the nominees, ladies and gentlemen, today, for the second time, we will have the pleasure and the honour to award to an outstanding human rights defender or non-governmental organisation the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. At the outset, I thank our partners in awarding the prize, the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation.
The prize bears the name of one of the most illustrious fighters for human rights, who persistently pursued his struggle for our common values in different fields, be they in culture through the underground arts scene, theatre and literature, or in civic activism through dissidence and, later on, through mainstream politics. In all these fields, Václav Havel remained faithful to our values – he never chose an easy way out, and never gave up to the temptation either of opportunist populism or of pure art disconnected from the social tragedies faced by the oppressed.
This year, the jury had the difficult task of selecting one winner from among 56 strong candidates, all of whom I congratulate on their outstanding achievements. On behalf of the Assembly, I express our gratitude to the members of the selection panel, who have fulfilled their duty with commitment, competence, wisdom and intelligence.
I am glad to welcome to the Chamber today the winner of last year’s first Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, Mr Ales Bialiatski. Last year, Mr Bialiatski, you were unable to attend the ceremony because you were imprisoned in your country, Belarus. The very freedom you fought for was taken away from you because of your commitment to human rights. I hope and believe that our prize at least in a small way contributed to your pre-term release three months ago. I know that you will continue your human rights work, and we salute your persistence and commitment. I would like to congratulate and applaud you now in this Chamber, where you could not be last year.
As I mentioned, the selection of the candidates for this year’s prize was extremely difficult, but I think the shortlist we finally came up with reflects three different areas in which the energy and ardour of human rights defenders are particularly needed today. B’Tselem is a non-governmental organisation that brings together Israelis and Palestinians, who have joined forces to protect human rights in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. This objective is both valuable and precious, since the widespread violence and permanent risk of conflict makes individuals particularly vulnerable. But their commitment goes beyond that. In its work, B’Tselem contributes to reconciliation through the respect of human rights, which has always been one of the main missions of the Council of Europe.
I would like to highlight that nominations and the prize itself are not restricted to European individuals or organisations. B’Tselem is represented here by Mr Hagai El-Ad, executive director, and Mr Muhammad Sabah, senior field researcher in Gaza.
The Jesuit Refugee Service Malta is a branch of the global Jesuit Refugee Service. Its efforts are directed towards assisting those who probably need assistance most: refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants who come to Europe hoping to find a better life. Often, these people face humiliation, abuse or even risk to their lives in their countries of origin, transit and destination. They become easy targets and scapegoats for populists, but we often tend to forget that when migrants and refugees succeed, they make our society richer in political, cultural, scientific and economic terms. The Jesuit Refugee Service Malta helps such people to succeed, regardless of their religious or other background, during the period of their lives when they are most vulnerable, and Europe should be thankful for that. Dr Katrine Camilleri, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, represents her organisation today.
Mr Anar Mammadli is an Azerbaijani human rights defender, and founder and chairperson of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre. His commitment lies in the area of promoting democratic institutions and civil and political rights. Anar Mammadli is our long-standing partner who shared with our Assembly, but also with other bodies of the Council of Europe, including its Commissioner for Human Rights, his valuable expertise on the situation in his country. Regrettably, he cannot be with us today because in May 2014 he was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. Mr Mammadli is represented by his father, Mr Asaf Mammadov, whom I also welcome.
Dear colleagues, as you can see, the three nominees, their work and achievements embody three high priorities for the Parliamentary Assembly: democracy and political and civil rights; reconciliation through human rights; and solidarity with the most vulnerable groups. This shows that the Václav Havel prize is more than a symbol of the Assembly’s support to activists and NGOs. The Václav Havel prize is our common identity.
Some might say that the struggle of the three nominees is hopeless: that their objectives are impossible to achieve and their vision of the future is nothing but a dream. But I would like to recall what Václav Havel said more than 24 years ago, as we heard in the video: “Everything seems to indicate that we must not be afraid to dream of the seemingly impossible if we want the seemingly impossible to become a reality. Without dreaming of a better Europe we shall never build a better Europe.”
On behalf of the panel and on behalf of us all, I again congratulate the three nominees, all of whom merit our highest recognition. All three are going to receive a diploma, but a choice had to be made which was very, very difficult, considering their outstanding merits. After a long and detailed discussion yesterday, the jury reached a decision and I am pleased to announce that the 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize has been awarded to Mr Anar Mammadli.
Now, I would like to ask Mr Janouch and Mr Palouś, representatives of our partner organisation, to come up and join me. I also invite the members of the panel, Ms Mole, Mr Hammarberg, Mr Nowicki and Mr Pourgourides, to join me behind the rostrum. I also ask the Secretary General, and the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly, to join me for the ceremony.
I ask the father of Mr Mammadli to collect the trophy, which represents the profile and signature of Václav Havel. Mr Janouch will now have the honour and pleasure of giving you, as the father of the winner of this year’s prize, the trophy. Congratulations. I now have the honour of giving you the diploma, in recognition of all that your son has done, as well as a financial award of €60 000. Congratulations.
I ask the representatives of the two other nominees to join us. I have the great honour of giving them the diploma.
(The speaker continued in French.)
I would like to ask Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, my predecessor, to come up, because he was President of the Assembly when the Václav Havel prize was set up. He did everything he could to ensure its foundation. I invite him to join us for the family photograph and thank him for everything he did.
(The speaker continued in English.)
Our partners, Mr Janouch and Mr Palouš, would also like to deliver short statements.
Mr JANOUCH (Charta 77 Foundation) – Madam President, dear winner of the Václav Havel prize, the representatives from the two finalist organisations that did not receive the prize and esteemed and dear members of the Parliamentary Assembly, I am perhaps the oldest person here. I collaborated with Václav Havel over a long period. My correspondence with him started at the end of the 1970s, when I was in exile in Sweden and he was in Czechoslovakia, and it was intensive; a couple of years ago, it was published in a 600-page book. While in exile in Stockholm, I founded the Charta 77 Foundation. Václav Havel was one of the most diligent advisers on how to run it in the most effective way, and he did not just advise us. He received several prizes, including the Erasmus prize and the Olof Palme prize, and he donated the money from those prizes to the foundation.
In the early 1980s, we founded four prizes with Václav Havel. Three were literary—the Tom Stoppard prize, the Jaroslav Seifert prize and the Dominik Tatarka prize—and the other was for human rights. Those prizes, founded by me in Stockholm together with Václav Havel in Prague, still exist today. You will understand, then, that I am deeply moved by handing over the Václav Havel prize in this esteemed Assembly in Europe. Once again, I congratulate the winner of the 2014 Václav Havel prize.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.
Mr PALOUŠ (Václav Havel Library) – Madam President, we have here representatives from three distinguished human rights organisations. Václav Havel’s legacy should not only be seen as something connected with the past, but as something for the present and the future. If Václav Havel is observing us in his own way from somewhere, he will see that these three groups show his legacy. First, I congratulate the winner and express the hope that, as Mr Bialiatski was released after he won the prize, this year’s winner will not be sitting in jail for too long. This prize sends a message of hope to him and might make his life a little bit easier.
I also express my deep recognition of the achievements of the other two finalists. We all need to look at their example. They show the diversity of activity that all those involved in human rights can engage in. I also express hope for your particular causes. In that respect, we are all together with you. All three representatives are invited to address the Prague conference, “Human rights 25 years later”. We can have discussions in the next days, and those discussions will continue, because the struggle for human rights is unfinished. I thank everyone who has been involved in the prize. The difference is what we share. The solidarity among us prevails and is evident today.
THE PRESIDENT – I now invite Asaf Mammadov to take the floor on behalf of the prize winner.
Mr MAMMADOV (Father of Anar Mammadli)* – Ladies and gentlemen, I greet each and every one of you. I convey not only my best wishes, but those of my son, Anar Mammadli, the head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre. He is in detention—a prisoner of conscience. He is not in a position to write letters, so I will orally convey his thoughts. I express his deep gratitude to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the selection panel for awarding him the human rights prize named after Václav Havel. I also express his gratitude to the human rights organisations and individuals who nominated him.
Anar feels that the nomination for a prize named after the world-renowned writer and social and political luminary Václav Havel of a citizen of Azerbaijan, a country that was part of the former USSR, is an expression of powerful support for democracy during the current political clampdown. He states that this prize imparts moral strength to and demonstrates solidarity with not only him and the organisation of which he is a member, but to human rights defenders such as Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Ilham Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Bashir Suleymanov, Hasan Huseynli, Parviz Hashimli, Hilal Mammadov and, in general, all the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan. I too, as a father of a prisoner of conscience, express gratitude to you.
I consider my son and the other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience to have been unwarrantedly arrested for their endeavours to restore democracy in Azerbaijan. I hope that on this august path justice will prevail. He wishes to assure his colleagues from Europe that the recent political repression will not sap his or other political prisoners’ resolve and faith in the victory of human rights, and points out that even though the movement in defence of human rights in our country has indeed been weakened, this process is unremitting and it is not possible to thwart it.
THE PRESIDENT* – I thank Mr Mammadov for his speech and thank again our partners, the Charter 77 foundation, the Václav Havel library and the Czech Government for their moral and financial support in recognising outstanding personalities and organisations working to improve human rights all over the world. I also thank the people who gave recognition to Václav Havel’s legacy by putting forward the 56 outstanding candidates for this prize, who came from all continents and corners of the world – more, in fact, from outside Europe than from Europe. As chairperson of the selection panel, I felt impressed and humbled by the enormous work carried out by so many human rights defenders in so many differently difficult situations. I hope our prize is a small recognition of their work.
I would like to close the ceremony with the words of Vaclav Havel: “There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.” I wish everybody the courage to find his or her well to look up to the stars.
11. Next public business
THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.
1. Opening of the part-session
2. Statement by the President of the Assembly
3. Examination of credentials
4. Election of a Vice-President of the Assembly with respect to Slovenia
5. Changes in the membership of committees
6. Requests for current affairs debate and debate under urgent procedure
7. Adoption of the agenda
8. Limits on speaking time
9. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee and Observation of the presidential election in Turkey (10 August 2014)
Presentation by Mr Kox of report, Document 13608, and addendum, Doc. 13610
Presentation by Ms Mateu Pi of report of the ad hoc committee on the observation of presidential elections in Turkey, Document 13611
Speakers: Ms Vučković (Serbia), Mr Zingeris (Lithuania), Ms Fiala (Switzerland), Mr Chope (United Kingdom), Mr Symonenko (Ukraine)
10. Prize award ceremony: Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize
11. Next public business
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
ALEKSANDROV Alexey Ivanovich*
ALLAIN Brigitte/Bourzai Bernadette
AMON Werner /Mayer Edgar
AMTSBERG Luise/Schmidt Frithjof
ANDERSEN Liv Holm*
BAPT Gérard/LE BORGN' Pierre-Yves
BARCIA DUEDRA Gerard/Bonet Perot Sílvia Eloïsa
BARREIRO José Manuel/Pintado Ángel
BECK Marieluise/Groth Annette
BENEŠIK Ondřej/Pecková Gabriela
BENEYTO José María*
BERGAMINI Deborah/Galati Giuseppe
BERNINI Anna Maria*
BERTUZZI Maria Teresa*
BLAHA Ľuboš/Gabániová Darina
BOSIĆ Mladen *
BRASSEUR Anne/Spautz Marc
BÜCHEL Gerold/Gopp Rainer
BUGNON André/Comte Raphaël
COSTA NEVES Carlos*
DEBONO GRECH Joseph
DECKER Armand/Maelen Dirk
DI STEFANO Manlio
DÍAZ TEJERA Arcadio
DRAGASAKIS Ioannis/Katrivanou Vasiliki
ERKAL KARA Tülin
EßL Franz Leonhard*
FENECH ADAMI Joseph/Bonnici Charlò
FENECHIU Cătălin Daniel
FISCHER Axel E.
FLEGO Gvozden Srećko
GIRO Francesco Maria*
GÓRCZYŃSKI Jarosław/Guzowska Iwona
GORGHIU Alina Ştefania/Nicolescu Theodor-Cătălin
GOZI Sandro/ CIMBRO Eleonora
GÜLPINAR Mehmet Kasim
GULYÁS Gergely/Tuzson Bence
GUTIÉRREZ Antonio/Xuclà Jordi
GUZENINA Maria/Anttila Sirkka-Liisa
HALICKI Andrzej/Radziszewska Elżbieta
HUSEYNLI Ali/Gafarova Sahiba
JACQUAT Denis/Abad Damien
JENSEN Michael Aastrup*
JENSSEN Frank J.
JOVIČIĆ Aleksandar/Pantić Pilja Biljana
JURATOVIC Josip /Heinrich Gabriela
KAŹMIERCZAK Jan/Zbonikowski Łukasz
KLICH Bogdan/Borowski Marek
KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR Unnur Brá/Níelsson Brynjar
KORENJAK KRAMAR Ksenija
LE DÉAUT Jean-Yves*
MACH Trine Pertou*
MARKOVÁ Soňa /Holík Pavel
MATEU PI Meritxell
MAURY PASQUIER Liliane
MEHMETI DEVAJA Ermira*
MENDES BOTA José*
MENDONÇA Ana Catarina*
MORENO PALANQUES Rubén
MOTA AMARAL João Bosco
PALACIOS José Ignacio
PASHAYEVA Ganira /Fataliyeva Sevinj
PREDA Cezar Florin
ROCHEBLOINE François/Schneider André
ROSEIRA Maria de Belém*
RYABIKIN Pavlo/Gerashchenko Iryna
SANTANGELO Vincenzo/Spadoni Maria Edera
SCHWALLER Urs/Schneider-Schneiter Elisabeth
TOMLINSON John E.
TÜRKEŞ Ahmet Kutalmiş
VALAVANI Olga-Nantia/Giannakaki Maria
VALEN Snorre Serigstad/Godskesen Ingebjørg
VORONIN Vladimir/Petrenco Grigore
VUKSANOVIĆ Draginja/Šehović Damir
WELLMANN Karl-Georg/Benning Sybille
ZECH Tobias/WADEPHUL Johann
ZOURABIAN Levon/Hovhannisyan Vahe
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, ''The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia''*
Vacant Seat, United Kingdom*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Partners for democracy