AS (2014) CR 29
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 29 September 2014 at 3 p.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 no later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Ms Brasseur, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.04 p.m.)
THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
Observation of the presidential election in Turkey (10 August 2014) (continued)
THE PRESIDENT* – We now continue the debate on the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee and the observation of the presidential elections in Turkey. The debate must conclude at 4 p.m. in order to proceed to the free debate. I therefore propose to interrupt the list of speakers at about 3.55 p.m.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – Thank you, Madam President, although many people are still in Committee.
On the elections in Turkey, Erdoğan has definitely won at the first round, and has also won the local elections. In the first round, the AKP got less than 52%, which will not give him enough of a parliamentary majority to change the constitution or hold a referendum. The opposition got less than 40% and the popular Kurdish candidate did not get 10%, raising the issue of the 10% threshold. I welcome the new Prime Minister, who is chairman of the AKP, and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who used to be our colleague. Turkey has introduced many reforms and is a democracy, but there remains the recurrent problem of arrests, court cases and disrespect for human rights. The legislative elections in 2015 will be the last stage for President Erdoğan – and for us – because after 2013-14 we will take stock of the situation.
On the wider region, as we have just discussed in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, ISIS is not a State – it is definitely Islamist and a movement, but we have to be careful about using the word “State”; it is not a State. There is a dangerous game that has helped this movement to arise. We provided logistical assistance, and young people are going there from the west and central Asia. There were problems in France last week. Three suspected terrorists tried to fly from Istanbul to Paris, but the pilot did not want them on the plane, so they flew to Marseille, where no one was waiting for them. Why the confusion?
Of course people in the Middle East do not want a lay democracy. The Kurds are defending themselves and their land, but people do not want them to have their own State in Iraq and Syria. For Turkey, the Kurdish problem is a major one and is always on their minds. I hope this will not compromise the situation. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I remind those taking the floor that their time is limited to three minutes to allow the maximum number of colleagues to speak in this important debate. I also remind you that we must finish our debate at 4 p.m. for a vote, so I will interrupt the speakers’ list at 3.55 p.m. at the latest.
I call Mr Fournier.
Mr FOURNIER (France)* – Our colleague Ms Mateu Pi has put together a comprehensive and balanced report on the observation of the presidential elections in Turkey. The election, which resulted in victory at the very first round by the AKP candidate, Mr Erdoğan, was carried out in a specific political context, which the information report submitted by my compatriot, Josette Durrieu, on behalf of the post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey outlines clearly.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, Turkey has undergone significant political and economic changes which have brought it closer to western standards, but it still remains marked by authoritarian tendencies. Ms Mateu Pi’s conclusions are clear. Even though the legal framework in Turkey is conducive to democratic elections, the Prime Minister has had a clear advantage. From the electoral point of view, the report highlights the noteworthy reforms that have been carried out over the past few years, but also flags up the considerable improvements that need to be made in order to set up a fair electoral system in Turkey.
Turkey, a historical member of the Council of Europe, is clearly having to rise to numerous challenges with ramifications for its national political life. Externally, it must contend with the conflict in Syria and its consequences, which include welcoming more than 1 million refugees and the rise of jihadists in the “Islamic State”. Internally, the country is characterised by strong economic development and significant dynamism in its civil society, and Turkish authorities sometimes have difficulty responding in a considered way to flashpoints such as the Kurdish question, the role of the army and religious matters.
With that in mind, the police violence witnessed during the Gezi protests in June and July 2013, which clearly demonstrated the Turkish population’s response to an urbanisation project that was very obscure, revealed an unnecessarily brutal reaction. Similar behaviour was observed following the anti-corruption operation instigated in December last year, which affected high-ranking officials in the country: large-scale transfers of magistrates and police officers, censorship of media and social networks, arbitrary arrests and sentencing, the denunciation of so-called plots and so on. The Turkish authorities’ disproportionate response can only raise concerns about how long-lasting the fundamental freedoms in the country will be, especially if they are considered disruptive.
With that in mind, the election of a head of State by direct universal suffrage could change the Turkish political regime, all the more so because the winner of the recent vote indicated that he wants to maximise the use of his constitutional prerogatives. Our Assembly must remain vigilant with regard to changes in Turkey.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Díaz Tejera.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – I thank Ms Mateu Pi and Mr Kox for the excellent work that they have done. I will certainly be voting in favour of their report. I also thank the members of the Bureau and the various committees for all the work that they have done over the past few months.
I would like to express some thoughts about the electoral observation mission. When a country launches elections, it expects some kind of judgment on its electoral system. I have participated in electoral missions in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkey in my time; I paid out of my own pocket to do so. I hope that the next electoral mission in which I participate will involve more co-operation between the Council of Europe and other bodies.
My experience from those three missions is that there does not seem to be any ideal or perfect system. The last suggestion from Ms Mateu Pi says that all candidates should have the same amount of funding. What would happen if all 47 countries in this Organisation – including mine, of course – introduced a rule that all candidates should have the same amount of funding? Does such a rule exist in any country of the 47? I think not, which is why the problem arises that we must compare elections with previous elections held in the same country to see whether there has been any improvement or deterioration. Then we look to see whether election results are moving towards what we want to see.
I think that the work done is balanced. Turkey has managed to ensure that all candidates have had access to public and private media. The work done by the Bureau is good and positive, and we should welcome the process undergone by our Turkish colleagues. All countries in transition are learning all the time, and we should support them. Indeed, we must all learn, because no model is perfect, and we should compare the last election with the one before it to see whether we are moving towards the perfect model. We are all learning from each other all the time, without exception. I commend the report.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Ms Bakoyannis is not here, so I call Ms Zohrabyan.
Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia)* – I refer to the part of the report that concerns referrals to committees, particularly the recommendation to the Bureau concerning the proposed resolution submitted by Ms Bakoyannis. We fully understand why our colleagues have undertaken the initiative and what its objective is; it is Azerbaijan’s initiative to ensure that negotiations to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh fail. The purpose is to create a process parallel to that of the internationally agreed Minsk Group. Azerbaijan is spearheading this strategy in order to meet its aims.
Why has Azerbaijan decided to no longer use the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) format? Quite simply because it is preparing for war. You need only observe Azerbaijanis’ anti-Armenian discourse, the country’s increasing expenditure on its military budget and the large number of arms that have been bought in violation of arms control mechanisms and its obligations in order to familiarise yourselves with the objectives Azerbaijan is clearly pursuing. At the same time, it is trying to divert this Assembly’s attention from the increasing number of political prisoners being held in Azerbaijan and the violation of human rights in that country. Such initiatives are undermining the fragile stability that has existed since the recent border tensions.
The draft resolutions have been signed by people not fully aware of the aims behind them with regard to negotiations. Colleagues, let us please remind ourselves of the impact of the 2005 resolution on the same subject. Azerbaijan has pursued its Armeniophobic policy with newfound vigour. It no longer wishes to find a peaceful settlement, it has refused to accept the ceasefire measures proposed by the co-chair of the Minsk Group and deadly provocations have been carried out on the border. As a result, there is zero trust between both parties in this Assembly. I am afraid that that is how things are as a result of such initiatives.
Our Organisation has a clear remit to work to ensure that human rights and democracy are fully respected. If we all want to meet this objective, I call on you all to be watchful and vigilant and to share responsibility and wisdom, bearing in mind the fragile stability of the region and the people who live there.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I now give the floor to Bernadette Bourzai.
Ms BOURZAI (France)* – Thank you very much, Madam President. Colleagues, as I participated myself in the observation mission to the elections in Turkey, I believe that Ms Mateu Pi’s report is very interesting for many reasons, and I congratulate her on it.
First, the report sheds light on the political situation in Turkey. This large country has shown its capacity to bring in reforms, both political and economic. The elections were democratic in that the voters were freely able to choose their leaders, including their head of State, elected for the first time by universal suffrage, on 10 August.
Nevertheless, political life in Turkey is very much in a state of conflict, and there are many provocative statements that divide society. The fact that one party has dominated for 12 years is perhaps part of the cause of this. The report underlines the shortcomings of the legal system, particularly in the electoral law, which afflict Turkey still. The possibility of standing for president is bound by too many restrictions that limit electoral competition. There were only three candidates, yet there are 77 million inhabitants in Turkey. The campaign was run to the advantage of the Prime Minister, who had been a candidate from the government party since 2002, so he emerged as a kind of official candidate who was bound to win, and indeed he did.
The report highlights the misuse of administrative resources, major lacunae in the financing of electoral campaigns, and no ceiling on party funding. The very imbalanced media campaign was biased in favour of the Prime Minister who was standing, so it is not surprising that he won in the way he did.
The report also looks at the relations between Turkey and the Council of Europe, which should be based on co-operation, and despite the improvements that we have seen there is still a great deal to be done to bring fairness into Turkish electoral law. Our Organisation has an important role to play in helping the Turkish authorities to achieve this. Turkey aspires legitimately to becoming a major player on the international scene. The democratisation of its institutions must go hand in hand with the implementation of a genuine State based on the rule of law. This, indeed, is in line with the country’s objectives to have European aspirations. Ankara recently reaffirmed its political will to join the European Union and announced an action plan to that end. This requires a lot of legislative work to bring its laws into line with European standards.
According to a recent poll, 53% of people in Turkey are in favour of a European rapprochement—a figure that has gone up eight points in one year. It is up to the Turkish authorities to show their good will and move from words to deeds. The improvement of the electoral legislation, when we move towards the general election in 2015, will be an important litmus test in this regard.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Bourzai. I now give the floor to Ms Foteini Pipili.
Ms PIPILI (Greece)* – I want to point out to you that since the beginning of the elections, since the election results were announced and during the elections themselves, everything has gone fine. Apart from one voting bureau that did not give a very warm welcome, I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the way in which these elections were held. We were pleasantly surprised because we have all seen the shortcomings in the electoral reform of this country. I do not need to flag up these shortcomings. Of course, these can be overcome through change and reform in a number of different sectors. A number of hearings were held and articles appeared in the press, and these shortcomings are clearly highlighted in these articles.
Another thing that struck us was the advantage that Prime Minister Erdoğan had due to the very preferential coverage that was given to him in the press and in different media. The difficulties identified in Ms Mateu Pi’s report were very real, and I think we need to continue to examine them. Even though these elections were calm and did not give rise to any disorder, we do have to take note of the fact that a number of events have occurred, such as political unrest, censoring and corruption in Turkey.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I now give the floor to Ms Kyriakidou.
Ms KYRIAKIDOU (Cyprus)* – Thank you very much. First, I congratulate both rapporteurs most warmly and say that we will be voting in favour of both reports.
On 10 August, the presidential elections in Turkey gave 53 million voters in Turkey the opportunity for the first time to elect their president directly. This was also the first time that Turks living abroad could vote, and use a different language during their campaigning, such as Kurdish. I was part of the election observation mission in the İzmir district. On polling day, we were able to witness a very professionally run electoral procedure, and there were no major difficulties.
But of course the result of a poll is not necessarily dependent just on what happens on polling day. We are all very much aware that an election campaign is a very important factor leading up to the final result, so I would point out that during the elections there were various shortcomings in democracy and there was the blatant favouritism of one candidate, Erdoğan, the Prime Minister, as compared to the other two candidates, Demirtaş and İhsanoğlu.
The fact that the campaign lasted only a month of course gave the Prime Minister, Erdoğan, the opportunity to make the most of all the possibilities that he could draw on through the government and the State. The fact that he was Prime Minister meant that he was able to get a lot more coverage in the media; 50% to 70% of media coverage was devoted to him and was very glowing, of course. The rest of the time was shared, and often not in a positive way, between the other two candidates.
The lack of ceiling for electoral expenditure also meant that there was unequal coverage. Turkish citizens could also contribute up to €3 000 to help to finance any of those three candidates. The result of the funding was that €19 million went to Erdoğan, €3 million went to İhsanoğlu and even less to the third candidate.
Any complaints lodged with the Electoral Commission can be examined only after the end of the elections, which means that there is no point in lodging any complaints. We are all aware that democracy is also about fairness and justice, and I hope that these shortcomings and the lack of fairness in the democratic system will be changed before 2015 and the general election. I also hope that Turkey will be able to apply the rules of the Venice Commission and become a true democracy.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Naghdalyan from Armenia.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – Dear colleagues, President, I should like to mention briefly the motion on the resolution related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is in the Bureau’s report, and the situation in general. Armenia has always urged international organisations and our partners to exercise caution when addressing issues relating to Nagorno-Karabakh and has continually stressed the fundamental role and the unique nature of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. This body is the only one internationally mandated to deal with the conflict; it has the longstanding, clear support of the European Union and our Organisation and possesses the relevant mechanisms, necessary experience, appropriate mandate and professional capabilities to address the conflict resolution issue. Therefore we urge the Assembly to avoid any possible action that may have a negative effect on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
In this context, I draw your attention to the document titled, “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”, which speaks for itself and describes the essential issue. I have to remind you that each unbalanced document contributes widely to the abyss between the parties, and to greater mistrust and animosity. The situation is so fragile that any incautious action leads to tensions on the border, resulting in numerous casualties, as we have witnessed this summer.
It is our strong belief that this Assembly should take on board initiatives aimed at promoting confidence and trust-building between the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations. Rather than building new walls, we should have respectful discussions without accusatory and hostile rhetoric. Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that this Assembly should keep its attention primarily on its aim of the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as enshrined in its statutes.
We should avoid duplication of tasks of Assembly committees. Our colleagues and co-rapporteurs in the Monitoring Committee have been mandated by this Assembly to write a report following the implementation of the commitments, including those on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. So we should not challenge their wisdom, professionalism and dedication; instead, we should avoid repeating the work of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. Splitting the efforts of international committees to find a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is dangerous and could ruin everything that has been achieved by the only internationally mandated mediatory body in this field.
Dear colleagues, PACE has to take a constructive role in facilitating a meaningful process between the delegations. I call on Assembly members to be quite cautious when dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, which is something that must be reviewed and something that is crucial and vital for us. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much indeed. I now call Mr Huseynov.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Thank you, President.
These traditional reports which we periodically listen to at the beginning of a session can have an untraditional aspect. Each time the scope of the implemented activities appears different; each time the efforts towards making new steps are observed; each time the aspiration of the Assembly for better progress is noticeable. This proves that, despite the fact that the Council of Europe has stepped into its 66th year, having celebrated its 65th anniversary, it is still young, full of energy and resolute in respect of gaining new success. To gain new success and to speak more confidently about progress in such reports, one should get rid of certain shortcomings which have already been stereotyped.
It is undesirable that there is a differing approach towards members of the same family enjoying equal rights; that leads to an unequal attitude and double standards. Armenia has been in the Council of Europe for 14 years and when it joined the Organisation it was a State that was already contradicting the requirements of the Council of Europe. Armenia is the first country whose membership of the Council of Europe was accepted although it is an occupying State. Each time the issue of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories is on the agenda, some people here say from time to time, for example, that the OSCE Minsk group was established especially for dealing with this question. I believe that is not a correct approach.
Lately, in particular at recent Bureau meetings, various documents on Armenia have been the topic of debate. In this regard, the activities of the Bureau are positive, as the ice was broken — at least in one direction. As usual, the Bureau had previously directed the motions proposing the preparation of separate reports regarding various criminal activities perpetrated by Armenia to the rapporteurs conducting monitoring. However, this was just a formal approach, as the serious problems raised were touched upon merely in one paragraph within a general panorama; thus they were actually put aside.
However, the debate on draft resolutions on the problem of the Sarsang reservoir, the problem of escalating violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other Azerbaijani territories, Armenian occupation, as well as a positive attitude towards the appointment of a separate rapporteur for each problem, is to be welcomed.
Dear friends, we are waiting for another report. Today the issue does not relate only to defending Azerbaijan from Armenia. The situation that has emerged dictates the urgent necessity of protecting the Armenian nation from the Armenian State. Therefore, I hope that both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Committee of Minsters will in the near future take resolute measures against Armenia. I wish to be confident that, in the first progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, we will witness the reflection of separate texts regarding the sanctions imposed on Armenia.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now give the floor to Mr Frank Schwabe.
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – I should like once again to congratulate Ms Mateu Pi. I think we get a clear signal from the Council of Europe.
With regard to what was said last week in the European Parliament, this prize is an important symbol in our Parliamentary Assembly. It is certainly one example of how we react in such a case. We should note that last year’s prize winner has since been released from prison.
Mr Kox mentioned Azerbaijan in the report. I cannot understand how, when Azerbaijan holds the chair of the Council of Europe, a number of the Council’s values are not being fully respected. I cannot understand what the strategy is, because Azerbaijan really needs to take the very first steps to ensuring that human rights are properly respected.
With regard to the situation in Russia, I welcome any effort made to maintain dialogue over the past few weeks and to remain in liaison with Russian counterparts. Even though not all attempts have been successful, it is important that the Parliamentary Assembly seizes the initiative — indeed, it has done so — in this field. I emphasise that, at the end of the day, it is down to Russia to take the initiative. Russia has the keys to this and it is down to them to come back to the Parliamentary Assembly. It is clear what has to be done. The necessary steps need to be taken so that territorial sovereignty is no longer undermined.
I thank the rapporteur for the report on Turkey. What has been said makes perfect sense. The elections took place in a fair and free climate, but what was not fair was the situation surrounding the election campaign. If you want free and fair elections, it is important for the media coverage to be balanced and for there to be proper freedom so far as social networks are concerned, for example, and this was not the case in Turkey. There have been attempts to close down certain social media and there are a lot of attempts to undermine social networks and to make it difficult for democratic expressions to be made. This is one challenge that Turkey needs to rise to in the near future. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – I call Mr Nikolaj Villumsen from Denmark. I cannot see him in the Chamber, so I call Ms Gülsün Bilgehan from Turkey.
Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* — Thank you, President.
Colleagues, I congratulate the chair and members of the ad hoc committee, who have done a very professional job with regard to Turkey. The report reflects their care. The election was particularly important. The tradition since the founding of the republic of Turkey, which celebrates its 91st anniversary soon, was for the president of the republic to be elected by the parliament, yet the Turkish election on 10 August allowed the electorate for the first time to elect their president through direct universal suffrage. That will perhaps give the new president a stronger legitimacy, morally speaking, but it does not confer any new powers or prerogatives on him as there is not yet a new constitution. Indeed, the law on the presidential election adopted in 2012 was not aligned to the rest of Turkish law, which leads to some ambiguity in practice.
Finally, the 10 August presidential election was conducted in a rather Turkish way. The processes on polling day were considered to be free and fair according to the values of the Council of Europe. Some 53 million Turks voted in a relatively calm, normal atmosphere, but as the ad hoc committee underlines in its report, an election process is not just about polling day. The members of the committee clearly realised that there was inequality between the three candidates. The prime minister was very much advantaged compared with his two rivals. The funding of the campaign, and the lack of ceiling for that funding, the misuse of administrative resources and the prime minister’s job for electoral purposes, and unfair media coverage all lent grist to the mill of the prime minister, who conducted his campaign without having to leave his post. Whereas the media were supposed to be impartial and balanced in their coverage, the prime minister was omnipresent on all media. The air time given to the other candidates was most unfair. It is strange that the favourite never accepted an invitation to a live debate between the three candidates, despite the other candidates calling upon him to do so. Citizens who live abroad were entitled to vote for the first time, but because of problems that we have read about in the report, only about 10% of them did so. The election was also held right in the middle of the holiday, so the turnout, which is normally very high in Turkey, was lower than it was in many other years. Despite all the advantages that he had, and recognising the weakness of the opposition, the prime minister received only 52% of the vote and only just carried the day in the first round. Once again, I think that the result shows that the president needs to make a big effort to become the leader of all Turkey, which is now very polarised.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Vahe Hovhannisyan.
Mr Vahe HOVHANNISYAN (Armenia) – Turkey elected its president on 10 August. Any direct election is a great opportunity for a country to make a step towards democracy and human values. The result of the election could easily be foreseen long before August. The atmosphere created in the country during recent months made Erdoğan an evident favourite for the election. Nevertheless, some statements made during the election campaign by the main candidate, Erdoğan, provoked our concern and should not be ignored. The most important concerns relate to the Middle East conflicts and the Armenians. Those concerns have already been highlighted by the Turkish and international press. Discrimination based on national origin has never been a good partner for any leader or president. However, there are opinions in some Turkish social circles that the recent election will be a start for a new Turkey. Every nation has the right to a new page in history with new developments and new successes. The new Turkey of Erdoğan is still hard to judge. Will this new Erdoğan continue distinguishing between his voters and base his attitude towards people on their national origin? That is the idea that brought so much suffering to Europe decades ago: the old Erdoğan manifested the policy of zero problems with Turkey’s neighbours by closing the Armenia-Turkish border, which is destructive for the whole region. Will this new Erdoğan change his attitude towards those and many other important questions? The role of international and European structures could be truly important.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Xuclà.
Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – Thank you, Madam President. I am grateful for the reports submitted by our colleagues, Tiny Kox and Ms Mateu Pi. I have three comments. First, the President has reported our attempts to maintain dialogue with the Russian delegation. We want Russia to return not only to the Parliamentary Assembly but to the values of the Parliamentary Assembly. For that to be possible we need to foster dialogue, which is an instrument of the Parliamentary Assembly, but dialogue should not only be used to promote our principles. As the months go by, the Russian delegation needs to be aware that, if it wants to return to the Parliamentary Assembly, it needs to come back to our shared values. We will not give up on any of those values.
Secondly, I ask the Assembly to approve the report on the observation of the presidential election in Turkey. The report is important because it calls on us to give thought to theoretical democracy and real democracy. Democracy is not only about using one’s right to vote every four years; it is also about ensuring that the conditions for proper democracy are met. There should be access to training and resources should be made available so that people can campaign on a balanced footing. Turkey is a significant country with an Islamic population, and it has a significant role to play in the dialogue between the different countries of the Council of Europe, but it is also important that Turkey respects our commitments and values.
Finally, several references have been made in today’s debate to the fact that a report should be drafted on the conflict between two countries, and I will address our role as democrats. Regardless of the conflicts that may affect the borders of our member States, it is important that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe are not of the opinion that that conflict concerns only the United Nations or a group of experts—that is not the case. Any conflict that occurs within our borders is within our remit, and we need to be able to address those issues. Once we have legitimacy to do so we will have legitimacy to address human rights issues, especially where there are violations.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Iwiński.
Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland) – I welcome the report of Ms Mateu Pi, which allows me to dwell on the presidential election in Turkey, the third most populated member State after Russia and Germany. I have observed several Turkish elections. This time, apart from being a member of the pre-electoral delegation, I observed the election in Diyarbakır, which is in the centre of the Kurdish region.
After establishing the conservative Justice and Development party, which today has almost 9 million members, Mr Erdoğan has won nine elections in a row. During his rule as prime minister, the possibility of the recurrence of a military coup amounted to zero due to the so-called Ergenekon scandal. The first direct presidential election was conducted in uneasy circumstances—I only need to mention the protests in Istanbul’s Gezi park or the corruption investigations. Mr Erdoğan has come under fire for what critics see as increasingly authoritarian policies, including curbs on the judiciary and the internet. On the other hand, the Ankara government accuses the so-called Gülenists—supporters of a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric—of wire-tapping the encrypted phones of leading politicians, including the prime minister, for 21 months. The vote on election day was organised professionally and efficiently. Campaigning in languages other than Turkish, including Kurdish and Armenian, was a positive new element. Nearly 3 million citizens residing abroad were offered the opportunity to vote outside the country, which should be welcomed. The turnout was quite good at more than 74%.
On the other hand, among the shortcomings of the electoral process were unbalanced media coverage, misuse of administrative resources and campaign funding provisions. The election of a President by a direct vote for the first time ushers in a new era in Turkey. However, the country faces several new and old challenges including more than 1 million Syrian refugees, the threat from ISIS and the stopping of negotiations over European Union membership. Last but not least, the new constitution is expected to be back on Turkey’s agenda. Our Venice Commission is ready to assist in the process of preparation and to ensure that the text complies fully with European standards. The intention is to create a more democratic constitution that better protects individual rights. As Mr Gianni Buquicchio, the Chairman of the Venice Commission, has said, it should be a constitution with the individual, not the State, at its centre, and it should deal with the rights of citizens.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Iwiński. I call Mr Seyidov.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – Dear colleagues and friends, every time we come a little closer to understanding what is going on in the region, especially concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, our colleagues from Armenia try to present these matters as a question that only the Minsk Group can deal with. Where were you, my dear friends, when this Assembly created the Nagorno-Karabakh sub-committee? We invited you to discuss this question, but you refused. Where were you when the President of the Assembly invited both delegations to sit together and try to find an acceptable way out of this difficult situation? You refused. When the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided to listen not to Armenians or Azerbaijanis but to just one person from the Council of Europe who would present objective information about the escalation of the situation in the region, all we heard was, “No, no, no.” In this case, why discuss Crimea or Ukraine? The OSCE has also dealt with this conflict. We have to listen to the voice of the Council of Europe, and it is very important to have an objective report and information from the Council of Europe, not from Armenia or from the Azerbaijani side. That will send exactly the right signal to those who try to withdraw the question from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That is my first remark.
My second remark is about the rapporteur’s statement that the human rights situation in Azerbaijan is not acceptable. Mr Rapporteur, it is not acceptable that when the Council of Europe gave recommendations to Georgia and Georgia did everything that was asked of it, at the end of the story Georgia became a country without territories. It is unacceptable that Ukraine accepted everything that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended and at the end of the story, Ukraine ended up losing territory and thousands of lives. The same thing happened with Moldova. Perhaps we can ask why your recommendations will be so good in the case of Azerbaijan and make us a success story. Maybe something is going wrong in this Organisation rather than in the member States. You always think about the image of the Council of Europe, but please think, just for a second, about its image within the member States.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Seyidov. The next speaker is Ms Katrivanou.
Ms KATRIVANOU (Greece) – I will read a short statement from the Greek delegation belonging to Syriza and the Group of the Unified European Left, which we have already sent to the Secretary General.
“The Bureau of the Assembly at its 2 September 2014 meeting decided to refer a number of motions (Doc. 13535, 13546, 13549) to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for a joint report with the recommended title ‘Escalation of Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan’. When the Greek Syriza/UEL delegation co-signed Doc. 13549 entitled ‘The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’ we aimed at a more thorough and analytical report by the Monitoring Committee and not by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy. Moreover, our opinion is that the recommended title lacks the balanced approach of both Doc. 13549 and of our own stance and could fuel the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both member States of the Council of Europe, at the detriment of the diplomatic effort for a peaceful solution, led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Katrivanou. I now call the last speaker, Mr Denemeç.
Mr DENEMEÇ (Turkey) – Dear colleagues, on 10 August 2014, a presidential election was held in Turkey. That was the first time that the president of the republic was elected by popular vote. Candidates were able to campaign freely and the election was held under well regulated conditions. Mr Erdoğan won the election with 51.8% of the vote.
I would like to shed light on some findings that criticised the media coverage, the campaigning period and financing, and the use of administrative resources. It is claimed that media coverage of the campaign was biased in favour of Mr Erdoğan. Prime Minister Erdoğan pursued huge election rallies in more than 30 cities including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, addressing millions of people. On the other hand, 14 opposition parties – including the main opposition parties and the second-biggest opposition party in Turkey – jointly declared support for one of the candidates. However, the report completely ignores the fact that none of those parties, even the main opposition party, organised a rally for their candidate. Neither does the report take the 14 party leaders’ TV time into account. By the way, some private media organisations did not broadcast Mr Erdoğan’s rallies, in line with their policies.
On another allegation, I want to clarify that Mr Erdoğan did not have to resign from his post, so he continued to carry out his responsibilities as Prime Minister, during which time he did not campaign. The meetings held as part of his presidential campaign were announced. It is crucial to point out that the report unfortunately contains a factual mistake. The report underlines the official start of the campaign as 31 July, as decided by the Supreme Board of Elections. However, according to all the decisions of that board, the campaign period officially started on 11 June. The 10-day period is to do with the restrictions of campaign regulations in which Mr Erdoğan did not use any administrative source, in accordance with the law.
In terms of campaign financing, every detail of the invoices and vouchers for all expenditure has been checked by the SBE, which further increases the accountability of election expenditures. I would also like to point out that the coalition candidate was not drawn from among politicians and nobody knows him. However, Mr Erdoğan is known, and the ruling party has 9.5 million registered voters. If every one of them paid € 2, he might reach that kind of foundation.
The PRESIDENT – That concludes the list of speakers.
I call the rapporteur. You have two and a half minutes.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I congratulate Mr Mammadli on winning the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. I wish him well, and I would like the Government of Azerbaijan to show wisdom. I hope that Mr Seyidov will be kind enough to convey the Assembly’s clear signal to his parliament, president and government.
The first speaker, Ms Vučković, said that dialogue is a prerequisite for a sustainable solution to any of the great conflicts with which we are dealing. I totally agree. This Chamber should be used for such dialogue, however difficult it may be. That means inclusion and commitment, rather than exclusion and the neglect of obligations, and if we stick to that, we can do a lot.
Dialogue should be as open as possible, but confidentiality is sometimes needed. I cannot therefore respond to our colleague Mr Chope, who mentioned two in camera meetings – one of a sub-committee of the Monitoring Committee, and one of a meeting of the Presidential Committee with the Speaker of the State Duma.
I listened carefully to our colleague Mr Symonenko from Ukraine, which has great problems. He stipulated that even the most difficult problems can and should be solved in a peaceful negotiated way. That is wise advice for us all, but especially for those in Ukraine.
Lastly, I must inform the Assembly that the vast majority of the Bureau’s members were in favour of the motions for resolutions, so I advise the Assembly to follow their proposals. I would like to give my last 57 seconds to my colleague Ms Mateu Pi.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Kox. I call Ms Mateu Pi.
Ms MATEU PI (Andorra)* – I wholeheartedly thank all those who have spoken, but I want to disagree with two of the speakers. I do not think that Mr Díaz Tejera read the report quite correctly, but perhaps I did not express myself clearly. I have never spoken about having the same type of financing; I just said that there should be a ceiling. That comes not from me or members of the delegation, but from the Venice Commission. In 2001, the Venice Commission produced a report about the funding of political parties, including in campaigns. I have the same sort of observation for Mr Denemeç. For a campaign to be just and fair, there should be the same type of access to the means of campaigning.
The PRESIDENT* – That concludes the general debate.
Before we approve the report, we must decide on the Bureau’s proposals. The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, as set out in Document 13608. Are there any objections to the proposed references to committees? I call Ms Naghdalyan.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia)* – I object to the two motions for resolutions to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for a joint report on Nagorno-Karabakh. Instead, I propose to refer the motions to the Monitoring Committee for information to be taken into account in the preparation of ongoing reports on the honouring of obligations by Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Monitoring Committee is mandated by the Assembly to deal with that issue. Our delegation has already spoken about the inadmissibility of endangering the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process led by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. I ask for your support.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the proposal? I call Mr Seyidov.
Mr SEYIDOV (Azerbaijan) – The Monitoring Committee deals with member States’ obligations, but we need a political assessment of the conflict. An escalation of the conflict is before our eyes, and the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy deals with that kind of issue. I remind the Assembly that the last report concerning Nagorno-Karabakh was presented by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, and that the motions are referred to that committee by the Bureau. The Bureau has already given its approval, so I ask my colleagues and friends to support its decision.
The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the rapporteur on behalf of the Bureau?
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – The Bureau is against Ms Naghdalyan’s proposal.
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will now vote, by a simple majority, on Ms Naghdalyan’s objection. Those in favour of her request should vote yes, and those against should vote no. We will proceed to vote with a new system for the first time. The vote is open.
Some people seem to be having problems with the system. Have you been able to vote, Mr Iwiński? Yes.
The proposal is rejected.
Are there any other objections? I call Mr Fischer.
Mr FISCHER (Germany)* – On 26 June, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy unanimously decided that it wanted to do a report on parliamentary co-operation between the Council of Europe and Kazakhstan, so I do not understand why it has been referred to that committee only for information. I call on the Assembly to state clearly that it wants the committee to report on the evolution of relations between the Council of Europe and Kazakhstan, including whether everything we decided has been put in place and whether we can pursue this relationship.
The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the proposal? That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the Bureau? I call the rapporteur.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – As mentioned in the report, the Bureau is against Mr Fischer’s proposal. If other decisions have been made in the meantime, I am sure that the Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy will inform us about them. The Bureau has made its decision, so I am against the proposal.
The PRESIDENT* – We will now proceed to vote on Mr Fischer’s objection. Those in favour of his request should vote yes, and those against should vote no. The vote is open.
The proposal is rejected.
We now come to the Bureau’s other proposals in Document 13608. Are there any objections to the adoption of the report? It appears not.
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is adopted.
2. Free Debate
THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the next item on the agenda, the free debate. I call upon the speakers on the list to express themselves on the topic of their choice, but let me remind you that there is a three-minute limit on speeches and the debate should conclude at 5 p.m. The topics for discussion should not involve those on this session’s agenda.
I first call the speakers on behalf of the political groups, starting with Mr Zingeris on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – I would like to speak about something that relates to one of this week’s topics for debate. I want to express my opinion on the work done by our rapporteurs, including the excellent work done by our Swedish friend Ms Pourbaix-Lundin on tomorrow’s subject for debate, neo-Nazism.
THE PRESIDENT – Excuse me, Mr Zingeris. I have to interrupt you because during the free debate speakers can speak only about subjects that are not on our agenda. It is a free debate, but not on the points that are officially on our agenda. You were referring to the report by Ms Pourbaix-Lundin, but we are going to discuss that tomorrow, not today.
Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania) – Okay. I would therefore like to use the free debate simply to honour our Swedish friend Ms Pourbaix-Lundin for the great contribution she has made to our Chamber as a rapporteur over many years. These are her last days with us before she goes back to Sweden, and I pay tribute to this wonderful lady and the contribution she has made.
THE PRESIDENT – I think we all can agree on that and thank Ms Pourbaix-Lundin for all that she did for this Assembly as a rapporteur on numerous subjects. Thank you, Mr Zingeris, for taking this opportunity to thank her and congratulate her. We can applaud her; she really deserves it. [Applause.]
The next speaker is Mr Stroe, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr STROE (Romania) – Earlier this month, our President, Ms Anne Brasseur, paid an official visit to Romania, where she welcomed the Romanian authorities’ commitment to the European project and their support for the Council of Europe’s action and core values. She also stressed the progress made in fighting corruption, improving the functioning of justice and preventing exclusion.
Regarding our foreign policy, Madam President emphasised the fact that Romania is a pillar of stability in the region and everybody considers Romania a reliable partner in this regard. In our good tradition, she met the authorities as well as the parliamentary opposition. The visit also brought up the idea that respect for the application of the values, rules and recommendations of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission must be closely and continuously observed by our Assembly.
Unfortunately, the ongoing electoral campaign in Romania has raised some issues of concern. Although the Venice Commission recommended that the electoral laws should not be changed less than one year before the elections, a governmental emergency ordinance was adopted a few months ago that modified the electoral process and the organisation of voting. And this month – only two months before the election – an eight-year-old law forbidding local elected officials from moving to another party during their term was modified by a governmental emergency ordinance and suspended for 45 days.
As expected, especially by the governmental coalition, many local elected officials transferred to the party in power, whose president – also the current prime minister – is their candidate for the November presidential elections. These measures, taken by the government and the majority, are aimed at creating an unfair advantage for their candidate. Furthermore, it is very worrying that these measures have been adopted through governmental emergency ordinances, thereby bypassing parliament.
We reaffirm our good faith in, and full support for respecting the democratic standards and rules assumed by all member States.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is the Earl of Dundee, on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
EARL OF DUNDEE (United Kingdom) – I would like to discuss the subject of devolution within our Council of Europe States. This is an extremely useful intervention, one that can enhance well-being and stability in 21st century Europe. As we know, devolution means transferring powers from the centre to regions and communities. A great deal can be better managed when handled within the localities where people actually live. Not least is that so if the latter are held directly responsible for how they raise taxes and spend money.
Today, I will touch briefly on three aspects of devolution: how it evolves traditional political theory and practice; how there should nevertheless be certain checks and balances as it is pursued; and how our different Council of Europe States ought to compare notes and learn from one another as each might choose to carry out devolution.
Devolution would have stood against 19th and 20th-century European nationalism; now, in the 21st century, it no longer does. Thereby, it evolves political theory and practice. There are two reasons. First, devolution can help to prevent unhealthy extremes of nationalism by taking power away from the centre; yet secondly, it promotes agreed aims among Council of Europe States, including the support of human rights, the rule of law and the well-being of European citizens.
Checks and balances should certainly be applied nonetheless. Power should not just go indiscriminately from one centre to another, just as, within the United Kingdom arguably, powers have already been transferred rather too much from the centre of Westminster to the centre of Edinburgh. Thus, hopefully, in the next stage of devolving power to Scotland, power will go much more to the Scottish regions, bypassing Edinburgh wherever possible.
Also on checks and balances, it may be unnecessary to devolve powers at all where local government is already strong enough, as in many English regions. However, in others devolution can clearly improve local democracy.
In summary, the challenge for all our Council of Europe States is to advance devolution as a means of political balance, yet to deploy it discerningly and at all times use it to facilitate the enhanced well-being and stability of European citizens.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Mr Petrenco on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova)* – I want to talk about a subject that is somehow not deserving of being discussed within our walls, and I wonder why: oligarchy. Many politicians, for obvious reasons, remain silent about that. Many member States of the Council of Europe, particularly in eastern and southern parts of the continent, cannot be referred to as republics: they are oligarchies. In many of our countries, constitutional power that is supposedly in the hands of the people is in fact in the hands of the oligarchs – the few who run State institutions and the mass media, who control the judiciary and the politicians, and who oppose any attempt to counter that power.
Today, in Ukraine, Moldova and many other countries, capital is concentrated in the hands of the few, which is a threat to freedom of expression, stability and peace in the region. Why do we remain silent about that? Why do we in the Parliamentary Assembly pretend that the problem does not exist? I think the answer is obvious: the power of the oligarchs is often concealed behind a façade of parliamentary democracy, and many people in this Chamber are participating in the creation of that façade.
An oligarchy is not the power of the many. In Moldova, two families have turned the State institutions, the press and the judiciary into their tools and their playthings. That is not acceptable. Moldova must be helped to rid itself of that scourge and the socioeconomic cancer of oligarchs who control everything. When we look at these situations, we need to be objective. We need to ensure that we do not close our eyes to the various machinations and manipulations used by oligarchs to maintain and further their power.
Moving to post-monitoring dialogue is absolutely unthinkable so long as oligarchs are in power and a few individuals keep all the power in their hands, making themselves richer and richer while millions of their fellow citizens get poorer and poorer. In the parliamentary elections in November, the citizens of Moldova will have an opportunity to rid themselves of this cancer, and I hope they take advantage of it.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Triantafyllos, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr TRIANTAFYLLOS (Greece)* – My dear colleagues, today I would like to refer to the democratic movement in Hong Kong. This subject may appear to be far from those that preoccupy us, but in reality it is directly related.
It is not for us Europeans to get mixed up once again in events that take place beyond our continent. Besides, several member States of the Council of Europe are not yet democratic countries. However, because today we find ourselves in the home of the rights of man, I would like to send a message to Hong Kong – a message of understanding and hope. Something can change today at the other end of the planet.
Democracy cannot be a problem of economic or military power; it cannot be democracy à la carte. Democracy relies on the power of the people. In Europe, we think that we are an island of democracy, but that is not the case. We have eliminated distances through electronic means. The peoples of Asia and countries to the south-east are now very close to us. We have links with countries that have become totally reciprocal. Today the citizens of a country next to the People’s Republic of China are calling for free and democratic elections in 2017. It is true that when somebody cannot be a candidate in a free and democratic manner, the choice that citizens have is not democratic or free either. Hong Kong is in a very important part of our planet. We shall see whether, for once, economic development can go hand in hand with the rights of citizens, democracy and the protection of the environment. Some people in the small State of Hong Kong are resisting authoritarianism and from Strasbourg we should issue a message of support, solidarity and hope. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. This brings us to the list of speakers, the first of which will be Paul Flynn.
Mr FLYNN (United Kingdom) – It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. In my 17 years of membership of this Organisation, I do not think we have faced a bigger scandal than the one that faces us now. In that time, there have been some wonderful moments. I particularly treasure the times when small countries such as mine – Wales, whose people speak a unique language – have come to this body and made their presence felt in a very honourable way. I think particularly of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia. We are, however, in a position where one country presides over this Assembly and disgraces our name. The report last month from our Commissioner for Human Rights spoke in the strongest possible terms about how Azerbaijan has persecuted, chased and humiliated those who are protesting against an oppressive Government. The last time we met, groups of people complained and demonstrated. They were in the public gallery and most of them are now in jail.
We find ourselves as the mouthpiece of human rights throughout this continent, but the country that is presiding over us is the most disgraceful perpetrator of human rights abuses. We have to look to our reputation. More rapporteurs will be appointed to look at the situation in Azerbaijan in future, and we should ensure that they all have clean hands and that none of them has been accused of being sympathetic to the regime or spokespeople for Azerbaijan. When we appoint rapporteurs, we should choose those who we know have an honourable record of defending human rights.
There is a great danger that the whole reputation of the Council of Europe will deteriorate. We have had a marvellous record down the years of fighting for the rights of people in many countries. I remember the brave stand of one of my colleagues on Chechnya. There are difficult years behind us, but we have always been led by countries that have had an illuminating view on the best of human rights. That is not the situation now. The presidency is disgracing the name of the Council of Europe. We want honourable members of this body to ensure that the breaches of human rights taking place in Azerbaijan are condemned by us.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I note that when you referred to the presidency of this Organisation, you were referring to the presidency of the Committee of Ministers. It is not about the presidency of the Assembly. I do not want there to be misunderstanding. I now call Ms Arpine Hovhannisyan.
Ms A. HOVHANNISYAN (Armenia) – Today I will speak about the situation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, but first I want to say that the whole world is stunned by the atrocities committed by ISIS. It is impossible to imagine acts of such cruelty, ferocity and radicalism being carried out in the 21st century, but it is important to realise that it all started when we began to call evil a democracy. At this point, I want to say that this is our home, and we should speak freely about our problems.
On European values and standards, let me draw a comparison between those who are destroying those values from the outside and those doing the same from the inside – members of the Assembly who misrepresent European values for petro-dollars. The latter is more dangerous. At least ISIS does not hide its intentions, as opposed to those who do what their owners – and we all know who the sources and distributors of petro-dollars are – tell them and who are merely concealed under the veil of a false pseudo-European system of values.
Let me share an example with you. Recently the Bureau decided to forward the motion on the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to the Political Affairs Committee for a report. I will outline several factors that call into question the accuracy of this decision. It is important that the OSCE Minsk Group and the European Union itself continuously supports this international arrangement. I would like to disagree with, and correct anyone who thinks that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has a mandate on these issues. What exactly is the mandate of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe? Is it conflict resolution? Does it have the necessary mechanism and established competency for that?
Let me remind you about the serious debate within the European Union regarding the scope of rights and obligations in the sphere of the competences of the Council of Europe. This could be partly irrelevant if we were not sure that the fate of this motion and report is already decided; it is evident even from the title of the report – “Escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan”. That title reflects the approach and accepted wording neither of the OSCE nor of the Council of Europe. It does not even speak about the Republic of Armenia, but reflects the official position of Baku. Thus, the Council of Europe is going to Europeanise the official point of view of Baku and turn the Parliamentary Assembly into a form of subsidiary of the Milli Majlis.
What is the reason for this silence and the ignoring of the criticism expressed by each and every one of PACE? As a result, our work will become an end in itself, the outcome of which will be valued and discussed only in this building. I say this with a heavy heart as a young parliamentarian who until now had believed in European values.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Davies from the United Kingdom.
Mr Geraint DAVIES (United Kingdom) – Europe is fat and getting fatter – more obese and more diabetic. Although people are switching to so-called low-fat products, they are still getting fatter, even though some take more exercise. Why is this? It is because products that are labelled “low fat” generally make you fat because they are high-sugar products in disguise, but people do not know that because they cannot understand the labels. Politicians charged with defending the people stand by as obesity and diabetes send our health services hurtling into bankruptcy. In Europe, 60 million people have diabetes, and obesity has tripled since the 1980s. In Britain, one in four people is obese, two thirds of the population are overweight, and half the population will be obese by 2050, costing us some €60 billion a year.
The World Health Organisation says that added sugar should be no more than 5% of people’s daily healthy diet, yet it is twice that in Britain and three times that for teenagers. The maximum healthy intake of added sugar is just nine teaspoonfuls for a man, which equates to a can of Coke, or six teaspoonfuls for a woman, which equates to a light yogurt. That is why I presented a Bill in the UK Parliament and a resolution to the Council of Europe calling for added sugar to be expressed in teaspoonfuls on packaging, so that when people know that their daily limit is six to nine teaspoonfuls they will be empowered to choose lower-sugar products, and manufacturers would compete to reduce, not bid up, sugar content.
This would be a massive culture change for the food and drinks industry, which currently makes huge amounts of profit from added sugar in processed foods. It knows that teaspoonfuls are readily understood, as they have been used in recipes for generations; it knows that current food labelling is incomprehensible and misleading; and it knows that it is only a question of time before it must reverse the obesity epidemic that is upon us. Obesity is not linked only to calories but to the amount of calories consumed as sugar.
Consumers have the right to know how much sugar is put into their products. They should not be sold high-sugar products as low-fat products which masquerade as healthy. We have a democratic duty to defend their rights. I ask people in this Chamber to sign my motion, to raise the issue in your parliaments, and to help to turn the tide of obesity and diabetes that is sweeping across Europe before the small print of the transatlantic trade agreement partnership stops us taking that action.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much. I call Mr Rzayev from Azerbaijan.
Mr RZAYEV (Azerbaijan) – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is very active and timely in reacting to all the current problems in Europe. We have adopted some very effective decisions and resolutions on many issues that are important for stability and security in Europe. However, I am concerned by the lack of an effective mechanism to make sure that these decisions are actually implemented or that someone is accountable if they are not implemented.
The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is a case in point. A sub-committee was created with a view to providing international support for a peaceful solution of the problem, and yet nothing has been done in the meantime. The reason for the lack of a result in this respect is that the Armenian side does not want anything to be done and it is making sure that the activities of the sub-committee are brought to a halt. In fact, statements have been made to the effect that the sub-committee should not meet. Of course, the leadership of Azerbaijan takes a very different view of this.
It has been more than five years since we adopted Resolutions 1416 and 1690 in 2005, and yet the sub-committee has not even started its work to implement those decisions, even though it could contribute a lot to the efforts of the Minsk Group. We are waiting for a major agreement to be signed to ensure the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan so that it can have its occupied territories returned to it in a peaceful manner. Yet this initiative is blocked and other initiatives to have a dialogue with Armenians about Nagorno-Karabakh are also being blocked. We cannot even engage in confidence-building efforts. We hear criticism of our country – unjustified accusations that of course we reject.
Today people are dying. The cease-fire is being violated. I am speaking here while on the front line children and elderly people are dying, being taken hostage, and being taken prisoner. All this is because the very good decisions that we take are simply not implemented. It is very difficult for us to explain to our electorate – our voters – what is being done here in Strasbourg. They can read on the internet what is being said here. They know that Nagorno-Karabakh is occupied and that we have one million refugees in Azerbaijan, but what do we hear? We just hear accusations levelled at us even though they are completely unfounded.
THE PRESIDENT – The next speaker is Mr Kennedy. I do not see him in the Chamber, so I call Ms Spadoni from Italy.
Ms SPADONI (Italy) – During the last administrative elections that occurred in Italy on 25 May 2014, in my city there were some irregularities during the vote. The councillor of the group to which I belong, the Cinque Stelli movement, found that there were a number of bulletins with names written in the same handwriting. This was denounced, and the forensic police considered that the president of the city, according to a press release, was the person who apparently falsified the names. I raise this grave matter because the Assembly likes to talk about monitoring elections. We should pay close attention to countries like Italy where voting irregularity takes place, because what happened in my city and in my town is very serious, especially given that Italy is a democratic country where this sort of thing should never happen.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I give the floor to Ms Magradze from Georgia. I do not see her in the Chamber, so I call Ms Kovács.
Ms KOVÁCS (Serbia) – Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to speak about the growing importance of the Council of Europe for Serbia. Serbia is committed to pursuing EU integration, and the negotiation process is about to start.
The European Council acknowledges the considerable progress Serbia has made in meeting the political criteria for accession. In recent years, ever since joining the European Union became Serbia’s goal, it has pursued reforms in the field of the rule of law, democracy and human rights. I wish to focus on chapter 23 of the negotiations and, more precisely, national minority rights. Respect for, and the protection of minorities is an important element of the European Union accession criteria. European standards for the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities are primarily set by the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ratified this convention in 1998, and the Republic of Serbia, as its successor, is under the monitoring procedure of the Council of Europe.
The advisory committee on the convention has already approved three opinions about the implementation in Serbia of this international document – in 2003, 2009 and 2014. The third opinion, from June, contains 47 recommendations for improving the position of national minorities in the country. In July, European Union member States accepted the screening report on chapter 23 along with recommendations whose fulfilment is needed to open negotiations about this chapter. The European Council formulates problems in the form of recommendations. In line with this, in the field of general rights, the Republic of Serbia is expected to adopt a special action plan for the implementation of minority rights by the end of 2015, taking into account recommendations in the third opinion of the advisory committee.
The adoption of the action plan proves the growing importance to Serbia of the Council of Europe. It is important to stress that after the last elections in Serbia support for European integration among the parties in the national assembly was 100%. For us, representatives of national minorities living in Serbia, the issues of national minority protection and the realisation of their rights are exceptionally important, and they are of the utmost importance for Serbia in general. We, as members of our national delegation, are satisfied to see the connection between our work here and Serbia’s integration in Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now ask Mr Frécon to speak.
Mr FRÉCON (France)* – Madam President, dear colleagues, I would like to speak about a phenomenon that I consider to be rather bothersome – the growing gap between the elites and the new economic and social practices born of the internet.
The gap between elites and the rest of society – between those who govern and the governed – is a banal theme traditional in sociology, but that gap is reaching a peak, while the renewal of elites is at its nadir. Our period could be compared with the 15th century when printing had just been invented. Initially, it promoted legitimate power, but it was then appropriated uncontrollably by others, and a few decades later the social effects of broader access to reading and writing obliged the elites to adapt. However, today’s elites seem lost at sea in the digital period. Homo numericus is advancing much faster than those who govern and their institutions. The elites were quick to use the internet as a means of rapid and worldwide dissemination of information, but it took them some time to understand that the web can be manipulated. The Snowden affair played a crucial role in making American elites aware – a bit late in the day – of the growing disconnect between Washington and Silicon Valley.
Despites some abuses, particularly illegal surveillance, the web is a society of freedom – that is its driving engine – and in this world the elites are lost. The internet is resulting in new economic and social practices based on horizontal links between internauts and surfers. This is not the first time technology has changed society – it has always resulted in change – but it is an extremely interesting period. The internet is resulting in cyclical change, but democracy needs elites. We need elite groups that are legitimate and accepted as such, so training the elites of tomorrow is a challenge that the Council of Europe should take in hand.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Dişli, you have the floor.
Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – I want to talk about humanitarian assistance to Syria. The ongoing crisis in Syria and recent developments in Iraq have led to huge population movements from and within these countries. About 2.8 million Syrians took shelter in neighbouring countries, while almost 6.5 million have been internally displaced. In addition, the violence in Iraq opened a new chapter in the humanitarian tragedy in the region and caused further movements, which we will discuss on Thursday in an urgent debate.
We have opened our doors to Syrian people without discrimination. Turkey has been exerting great efforts to ease the sufferings of people fleeing the violence in Syria. There are more than 1.4 million Syrian guests in Turkey now, and we are working hard to provide them with better conditions and are maintaining an open border policy. There are more than 220 000 Syrians registered in 22 shelters in Turkey, and all their needs are being provided for by our government. The financial burden on the government has exceeded $3.5 billion. We are also assisting the Syrians living in towns outside the shelters by providing basic services, such as free health care, but these people, especially the children, are in a very difficult situation. Many are begging on the streets, but we cannot do much for them. They need to be taken into shelters and returned to their families.
Also, we are trying to extend humanitarian relief to the northern parts of Syria, even though the Syrian regime is restricting humanitarian action across the border with Turkey. We are ensuring that humanitarian relief reaches the northern part of Syria through the zero point of the border in conformity with international obligations and in support of the UN campaign. The total value of the aid channelled to Syria through this operation is about $300 million. The developments around the southern border of Turkey present great financial challenges. We remain committed to continuing our contributions, but this challenge entails solidarity and responsibility in burden sharing. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Naghdalyan.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – On 18 September, the people of Scotland voted on the future of their country. It was solely for the Scottish people to decide their destiny through the free expression of their will. The implicit execution of the will of the people has become an integral condition of the functioning of the State. It is the people who are the bearers of sovereignty and the only source of power. That is the fundamental principle of democracy and the establishment of a free, successful and prosperous country.
The referendum in Scotland is an important phenomenon in itself. The future of the people has been decided through their free expression of will. Great Britain — the cradle of democracy and an European Union member — once again became an example to all nations of how a democratic country should act. The Scottish referendum is of great importance for the whole international community, and I believe that it is already a model for the civilised world.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh also attempted to decide its destiny by peaceful means through a democratic referendum conducted in the presence of international observers, in compliance with the basic principles of international law and in accordance with the legislation at the time. However, Azerbaijan reacted most severely to the exercise. The authorities of that country implemented pogroms targeted at the Armenian population — mass deportations and ethnic cleansing — followed by full-scale aggression and, finally, war against Nagorno-Karabakh.
To this day, the Azerbaijani authorities operate a policy of animosity and xenophobia. A generation of young Azerbaijanis are growing up in an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance towards all Armenians. Not a single step has been made to prepare that society for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Any attempt within Azerbaijani society to establish contacts or create confidence faces strong resistance by the Azerbaijani leadership and is brutally suppressed.
It is obvious that referendums have gradually become one of the most important legal tools for resolving ethnic conflicts. It is not accidental that after 20 years, one of the basic principles behind the solutions to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict suggested by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs is the right to self-determination through a legally binding public expression of will via a referendum. International recognition of the will of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh will ensure the irreversibility of the peace process and help to focus effort on development of the necessary mechanisms conducive to the peaceful coexistence of societies.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Huseynov.
Mr HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – The major aspect uniting all 47 Council of Europe member States was, initially, State independence. However, along with genuinely independent States, there are unfortunately also nominally independent ones, such as Armenia, whose internal policy is dictated from outside. It is no secret that among our democratic family are some States trying to limit or grasp the independence of other member States. Certainly, every State perceives its own independence as valuable. Nevertheless, to countries such as Azerbaijan, which regained its independence years after having lost it, the notion of independence is much more valuable. Therefore, we are sensitive to any possible injury to the independence which was restored to us after such a long period.
During Azerbaijan’s 23 years on the path of new independence, various efforts have been made from near and far to discredit it. Nonetheless, possible consequences have been prevented due to the correct policy of State leadership and the nation’s unanimity. However, such tests have not yet terminated, and various political and economic pressures, influences and persecutions are still being attempted.
I would like to share my views on the undesirable process lately directed against Azerbaijan. Democratic reforms and freedom of expression and the media are our priorities, and that policy is continuously carried out. Nevertheless, an observed dangerous trend is to launch political speculation under cover of democracy.
The delicate issue needing particular focus is that, in line with the new tactics used by foreign special services against Azerbaijan, public persons well known as democrats outside Azerbaijan — for instance, representatives of certain non-governmental organisations and media bodies — are in most cases involved in intelligence networks. Long-term observations and investigations, as well as facts and proof collected by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Security, Ministry for the Interior and General Prosecutor’s Office, undeniably demonstrate the criminal deeds of such persons. In essence, there is no difference between those fighting against Azerbaijan’s independence under cover of democracy and those feeding military aggressive purposes with invasive intentions. One can easily instruct and consult another. Nevertheless, in some cases, you should be able to put yourself in the place of the one whom you instruct and consult.
All these issues are very sensitive and relate directly to independence, the most supreme value for States and nations, so there cannot be any talk of compromise in that regard. We cannot compromise, and you could not either if you were in the same situation.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Durrieu.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – I want to say something about Moldova. I was there last week, but I think that the rapporteurs were also present. I would like to put three problems to you. The first is that Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine signed an association agreement with Europe. They did so bravely, at the cost of many risks, pressures and sanctions. Now our respective States should ratify that agreement. Some have done so, but others have not. It is important that we politically accompany the first step made through the signing of that agreement.
Membership of the European Union remains a perspective. I remind you that Moldova’s application to join the European Union is supported by a coalition of all the parties except the Communist Party. It has been in precarious conditions for the past three years, but it is still holding fast. I underscore that because I think that stability in such conditions is to Moldova’s credit and testifies to its political stability. In a few days’ time, legislative elections will be held. That will be an important political moment, after which we might be able to re-examine the problem of monitoring Moldova, with which I have been concerned for more than 10 years.
My third observation is about the concern that Moldovans may feel about events in Ukraine. They are doubly concerned about the conflict in Transnistria, which has been frozen for 20 years. It is in the eastern part of Moldova. They know what it is to see the Russians installed and not leaving, whatever the pressures may be from the international community, including from us. That is the first problem: frozen conflict. I was in Transnistria last week, and everything was calm. It was nothing like it was 20 years ago.
However, I draw your attention to Gagauzia, in the south, where the legitimately established authorities are pro-Russian and pro-Transnistria. This is not fiction but anticipation. Russia might want to join things together in the west to consider connecting Transnistria or Gagauzia, or do things the other way around. That would be yet another danger. I put that problem to you for your consideration.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Madame Durrieu. I now ask Mr Sabella to take the floor.
Mr SABELLA (Palestine) – The lesson from the most recent Gaza war and its aftermath is that we cannot go back to the conditions that prevailed prior to the war, because they are not tenable. As a Palestinian people, we need our freedom and we need to live as normal people, free from occupation and enjoying our own State. The more than 20-plus years of negotiations have not produced results conducive to peace. On the contrary, they have seen successive Israeli Governments pursue policies of settlement, land expropriation, the security wall and the blockade of Gaza and its people. This cannot go on if we want to arrive at a situation where both our peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, live in peace and security. The atrocities committed in the recent Gaza war are a sad reminder that military solutions are not an option in the short or the long term. If Israel does not move along the path of peace-making, more of what we saw in Gaza recently will be repeated in the future.
The international community and your august Assembly have an obligation to work to see Israel adopt the ways of peace away from war, aggression, continued occupation and settlement expansion. If there is political failure, the alternative will be a growing BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement by civil society organisations here in Europe and across the world. If Israel wishes to avoid this, it should work for peace by ending its occupation of Palestinian lands, because neither the current situation nor the security arrangements are tenable without peace. This esteemed Council of Europe has a role to play in this, and I ask you to exercise it for the sake and the good of both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples in Palestine and Israel.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now ask Mr Kandelaki to take the floor.
Mr KANDELAKI (Georgia) – Thank you, Madame President. This week we are discussing both Georgia and Ukraine in this Chamber. Obviously, free debate is not meant for the discussion of subjects that are placed on the agenda for the week. However, for anyone who has followed these two countries there are some startling similarities that offer striking lessons and food for thought for the wider context and the wider region, so to speak.
One such point is that what Russia is doing now in Ukraine, it already did in Georgia before the war in 2008: that is, the de facto presence of its armed forces, special forces and so forth, on a neighbour’s territory, while claiming, “We’re not there. We’re not part of this”, and even pursuing the status of peacekeeper, or peace broker, so to speak. The international community, for all sorts of reasons, accepted this format in Georgia, and one lesson that Georgia’s experience offers is that this format is fraudulent and must not be accepted, in order to avoid another frozen conflict that bleeds and enables Mr Putin to keep this tool of destabilising Ukraine any time he chooses.
The second point is that if the aggressor is not stopped earlier on, the price which the civilised world, the international community, will have to pay later on will only grow. The price of stopping Putin in February was smaller, larger in May, larger later on, and now it is even larger. If he is not prevented now from launching this aggression, the price will increase further.
That brings me to my point about Russian credentials. We are not discussing Russian credentials this week, but we must start to think about them now, because not only has Russia not done anything that it was asked to do in April, it has done quite the opposite: it invaded Ukraine, the aeroplane was shot down, and thousands of people died.
The third lesson from Georgia and Ukraine is that the backsliding of democracy has geopolitical consequences and that cracking down on a democratic political system is the road to Putin. Remember when President Yanukovych was cracking down on his opponents. He said, “It’s the rule of law. I have nothing to do with this”. Being an opposition politician does not mean having immunity from justice. Exactly the same arguments are now being used by the new Georgian authorities, who are obsessed with the retribution agenda. Mr Ivanishvili, the oligarch who resigned from government but who nevertheless, while being outside the constitutional framework, continues to be the power holder, says exactly that, as do his regime supporters.
Some lessons can and should be drawn so that further destabilisation and the backsliding of democracy in our region can be prevented.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. And now the last speaker for today will be Mr Jean-Claude Mignon.
Mr MIGNON (France)* — Thank you very much, President.
I know that it is difficult to be punctual and to meet the timing requirements in a free debate, so I will be brief. I want to say a few words about the growing number of video games for sale that are played by very young children, pushing buttons to destroy many buildings, people, animals, or what have you.
When you see terrible images on television of people being decapitated — these violent images of people losing their lives — and you put that together with video games sold in an uncontrolled manner in department stores, you see that we need to give thought to that. I know that I am not going to win a lot of friends among the designers, producers and vendors of these games, but I believe that selling them without any restriction is not very responsible.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Mr Mignon.
I must now interrupt the list of speakers, because we have gone beyond our allotted meeting time. In accordance with the new rules adopted in Resolution 2002 in the June part-session, the speeches of colleagues on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. These rules include provisions which state that the texts are to be submitted, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.
3. Next public business
THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10.00 a.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5.10 p.m.)
1. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
Observation of the presidential election in Turkey (10 August 2014) (continued)
Speakers: Ms Durrieu (France), Mr Fournier (France), Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain), Ms Zohrabyan (Armenia), Ms Bourzai (France), Ms Pipili (Greece), Ms Kyriakidou (Cyprus), Ms Naghdalyan (Armenia), Mr Huseynov (Azerbaijan), Mr Schwabe (Germany), Ms Bïlgehan (Turkey), Mr Vahe Hovhannisyan (Armenia), Mr Xuclà (Spain), Mr Iwiński (Poland), Mr Seyidov (Azerbaijan), Ms Katrivanou (Greece), Mr Denemeç (Turkey)
Progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee adopted.
2. Free debate
Speakers: Mr Zingaris (Lithuania), Mr Stroe (Romania), Earl of Dundee (United Kingdom), Mr Petrenco (Republic of Moldova), Mr Triantafyllos (Greece), Mr Flynn (United Kingdom), Ms A Hovhannisyan (Armenia), Mr Geraint Davies (United Kingdom), Mr Ryazev (Azerbaijan), Ms Spadoni (Italy), Ms Kovács (Serbia), Mr Frécon (France), Mr Disli (Turkey), Ms Naghdalyan (Armenia), Mr Huseynov (Azerbaijan), Ms Durrieu (France), Mr Sabella (Palestine), Mr Kandelaki (Georgia), Mr Mignon (France)
3. 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
ANDERSEN Liv Holm*
BACQUELAINE Daniel/SAÏDI Fatiha
BAKRADZE David/Giorgi Kandelaki
BAPT Gérard/LE BORGN' Pierre-Yves
BARCIA DUEDRA Gerard*
BARREIRO José Manuel/ PINTADO Ángel
BENEŠIK Ondřej/PECKOVÁ Gabriela
BENEYTO José María
BERNINI Anna Maria/FAZZONE Claudio
BERTUZZI Maria Teresa*
BLAHA Ľuboš/GABÁNIOVÁ Darina
BOJANIĆ Mladen/JONICA Snežana
BOSIĆ Mladen/DERVOZ Ismeta
BRASSEUR Anne/SPAUTZ Marc
BÜCHEL Gerold/GOPP Rainer
BUGNON André/RECORDON Luc
COSTA NEVES Carlos*
CSÖBÖR Katalin/BARTOS Mónika
DEBONO GRECH Joseph*
DECKER Armand/MAELEN Dirk
DI STEFANO Manlio
DÍAZ TEJERA Arcadio
ERKAL KARA Tülin
EßL Franz Leonhard*
FENECH ADAMI Joseph/ BONNICI Charlò
FENECHIU Cătălin Daniel
FISCHER Axel E.
FLEGO Gvozden Srećko
GIRO Francesco Maria*
GORGHIU Alina Ştefania/ NICOLESCU Theodor-Cătălin
GÜLPINAR Mehmet Kasim
GUTIÉRREZ Antonio/XUCLÀ Jordi
GUZENINA Maria/ANTTILA Sirkka-Liisa
HAJIYEV Sabir/FATALIYEVA Sevinj
HALICKI Andrzej/ RADZISZEWSKA Elżbieta
HEER Alfred/VORUZ Eric
HUSEYNLI Ali/GAFAROVA Sahiba
JACQUAT Denis/ABAD Damien
JENSEN Michael Aastrup*
JENSSEN Frank J.
JOVIČIĆ Aleksandar/PANTIĆ PILJA Biljana
KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR Unnur Brá*
KORENJAK KRAMAR Ksenija
LE DÉAUT Jean-Yves
MACH Trine Pertou*
MARKOVÁ Soňa/HOLÍK Pavel
MATEU PI Meritxell*
MAURY PASQUIER Liliane
MEALE Alan/DAVIES Geraint
MEHMETI DEVAJA Ermira*
MENDES BOTA José*
MENDONÇA Ana Catarina*
MORENO PALANQUES Rubén
MOTA AMARAL João Bosco
O'REILLY Joseph/D'ARCY Jim
OROBETS Lesia/Olena Kondratiuk
OSBORNE Sandra/FLYNN Paul
PALACIOS José Ignacio
PREDA Cezar Florin
ROCHEBLOINE François/SCHNEIDER André
ROSEIRA Maria de Belém*
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
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
Héctor LARIOS CÓRDOVA
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)