AS (2014) CR 31
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Tuesday 30 September 2014 at 3.30 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 3.37 p.m.)
THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
I remind the Assembly that, as agreed at this morning’s meeting, given the large number of speakers who have signed up for this afternoon’s debates, and to enable as many as possible to take the floor, the speaking time this afternoon is limited to three minutes.
1. Women’s rights and prospects for Euro-Mediterranean co-operation
THE PRESIDENT* – The first item this afternoon is the presentation of and the debate on the report titled “Women’s rights and prospects for Euro-Mediterranean co-operation” (Document 13596), submitted by Ms Fatiha Saïdi on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
I remind you that we need to finish the examination of this text, including voting, by 5.30 p.m., which means we will have to interrupt the list of speakers at around 5.20 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the votes.
I call Ms Fatiha Saïdi, Rapporteur of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide as you see fit between presentation of your report and reply to the debate.
Ms SAÏDI (Belgium)* – President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, slightly more than two years ago I outlined to you the report titled “Equality Between Women and Men: A Condition for the Success of the Arab Spring” and emphasised that the rights of women – one of the main challenges of the Arab Spring – can, of course, have a significant impact on society. At the time, I deplored the fact that women played a key role with regard to the revolutions but had been sidelined from public life by the new regimes in place, and that sometimes their access was barred to decision-making bodies. I also noted that it only took a few months for there to be an erosion of the rights of women. This illustrates clearly how fragile and vulnerable the situation is concerning women’s rights and shows us clearly that, given the situation, we cannot take anything for granted.
In my report, I made a series of recommendations and called on the Council of Europe to use its experience for the benefit of those countries by bearing in mind their national characteristics and the advances they have made on women’s rights, and by liaising with other countries in the region. I thank the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Venice Commission and the North-South Centre, which followed the recommendations and gave them substance.
In September 2013 I was appointed by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to draft a report on women’s rights and the prospects for Euro-Mediterranean co-operation, which I am presenting today. The Committee wanted the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe not to drop its guard following the reports published in 2012. There is a real contrast in the report I am presenting today. Indeed, the political, social and cultural situation for women varies in the countries addressed by the report—Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Egypt. If I were to identify only one point in common, it would be that in all those countries women are living in societies that are strongly dominated by religion. That means that women are finding it hard to play a key role in public life, which has given rise to intolerable discrimination.
I do not have time to go into detail about the lives of women living in the countries covered by the report—people may refer to the report for that detail—but I will give a snapshot of the role that women play in public life, the violence to which they are subject, how women are portrayed in the media and the inequalities that still exist in a number of statutes and personal codes. The situation of women in Egypt and Libya is very serious, and the situation is the most serious of the countries under consideration due to the recent difficulties. Violence and harassment, including genital mutilation, are serious problems in Egypt, and the level of illiteracy among women is up to 60%.
The State structures in Libya are fragile, and against that backdrop, the difficulty of promoting women’s rights is self-evident. There is always a risk of a further erosion of rights. In 2013 the Libyan Supreme Court partially revoked the prohibition of polygamy, which is a significant step because polygamy had previously been completely forbidden. Women pay a high price, which sometimes means their life. The report is therefore dedicated to the memory of Salwa Bugaighis, a defender of Libyan human rights who was murdered on 25 June 2014. She was a brave woman who sacrificed her life for the democratic cause. She did not die in vain, because she has left behind millions of people, whom we must not forget.
There are some positive signs in Algeria, such as an improvement in the political representation of women and revitalisation in the activity of women’s organisations. Those organisations are lobbying the government to ensure the reform of the family code, which discriminates against women in a number of areas. I draw attention to Tunisia and Morocco because they both have close ties with the Council of Europe and have signed up to a number of its conventions.
I was able to visit only Tunisia and Morocco because of the level of insecurity in Egypt, Libya and Algeria. There was relief in Tunisia following the work of the Constituent Assembly and the adoption of a new constitution, which guarantees the rights of women. As has been stated, there is a threat of the possible erosion of rights in Tunisia. Trafficking and violence against women are both problems.
A number of legal provisions have been introduced in Morocco that go in the right direction towards installing equality. The code for civil status has been reformed. Constitutional reform has continued, and the new constitution guarantees gender equality. We commend that reform as a step in the right direction, but it is now important to create a comprehensive legislative framework to ensure that the new constitution is properly put into practice. We must ensure that means and funds are made available to do that. Ms Bassima Hakkaoui, the Minister for Solidarity, Women, Family Affairs and Social Development, points to a key improvement in women’s rights and to how women can participate in government work and civil society. She also states how equality of rights has been highlighted. She underlined the importance of continuing to liaise with civil society.
I also made sure that progress in the report was highlighted. I did not want only to focus on negative points. Of course, there is still a great deal to do, and the first positive steps should be seen as a model on which other countries in the region can draw. Those steps should be the beginning of a process that culminates in democratic development and equality between men and women. I pay tribute to the dynamism and perseverance of the associations and civil society, particularly the feminist movements whose claims, struggles and fights over the past decades have been a key vector for change. It is our duty to continue that struggle and to ensure that we provide our unstinting support.
I draw attention to civil society represented both in national and international institutions. There is also emphasis on the media’s role, which is crucial to ensuring that mindsets can evolve and to heightening awareness of gender issues and equality. Combating violence against women is also crucial as it is a scourge that affects so many women. I refer the Assembly to my report, which will familiarise you with other key issues. The report advocates strengthening co-operation with countries in the region by co-operating at inter-parliamentary level, such as through partnership for democracy status.
During the drafting of my report I went to Tunisia and Morocco, and I met many political players and associations. We held a number of hearings in Strasbourg and Paris. I thank all the associations and civil society protagonists, our colleagues from the Moroccan delegation and the Moroccan and Tunisian authorities that took the time and trouble to welcome us and enrich the report. I also thank the secretariat of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, particularly Mr Giorgio Loddo and Ms Sonia Sirtori. I thank members of the secretariat of the Belgian delegation, including Ms Langenhaeck. I express my most sincere gratitude to the chair of the Committee, too. I am also grateful for the presence of Ms Battaini-Dragoni, who has been a sincere activist in this area. I also thank you, Ms Brasseur, for your support and involvement in so many of our activities and for underlining this institution’s support for women in the historical processes over the past few years. I also thank each and every one of you who has played a part in making our duty of solidarity effective. We must be stronger and more determined in these times of crisis across the world and across Europe. Such crises can give rise to fear, exclusion and racism.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you for presenting the report. I call Ms Anttila, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, to begin the debate.
Ms ANTTILA (Finland) – I thank the rapporteur for her good and informative report on women’s rights and prospects for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. Three years after the uprisings that started the Arab Spring, women’s status on the southern shore of the Mediterranean has a mixed record. Morocco and Tunisia have achieved significant progress by creating or consolidating democratic institutions, but in Libya, Egypt and Algeria the situation is more difficult. Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1873 on equality between women and men provides a good basis for the countries that experienced the Arab Spring to succeed in improving the status of women and eliminating all forms of discrimination against them.
The adoption of the new Tunisian constitution represents the fulfilment of democratic aspirations. The Tunisian Constituent Assembly decided formally to establish parity on voting lists, which means that all lists must be gender balanced. Despite that, when the lists were submitted five months later, women represented only 5% of candidates. That shows a worrying lack of training for women candidates, elected representatives and the voters on equality issues. Our task is to encourage women to participate. Tunisia and Morocco have the potential to become good examples of modernisation despite the fact that both countries have a strong religious background. Both countries have been able to make progress in policies on equality between women and men without giving up their culture or their Muslim religion. A lot of work still needs to be done in both countries to achieve full gender equality, and the first aim should be to guarantee women full political rights. After that, it will be possible to increase women’s representation and participation in other areas.
The only way to achieve more progress in gender equality is to deal with the issue as part of all the projects going on in the Mediterranean area. Equality between men and women is a crucial part of full democracy. Tunisia and Egypt accepted gender equality as part of their constitution in 2014. Besides that, the implementation of the constitution requires more concrete decisions in every Mediterranean country. Women’s rights must also be guaranteed in the laws on family, inheritances and parental authority.
The Arab Spring made the soil fruitful for gender equality. Our task is to support that important work in every way we can. The women in Arab countries need our full support, as well as models of best practice to demonstrate how women can best manage in political life.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Anttila. I call Ms Katrivanou on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Ms KATRIVANOU (Greece) – I would like to thank Ms Fatiha Saïdi for her important work. One great gain from women’s involvement with the Arab Spring was the increase in political awareness and the widespread participation of women from poorer neighbourhoods and those who had not previously been politically active. Ordinary and illiterate women in the streets began to talk about women’s rights, a subject that had previously been discussed only by the intellectual elite. The explosion of new activism by women during the uprising and the political processes that followed is a valuable legacy. Even within Islamist groups, women are at work forging new roles and gaining influence.
Since the Arab Spring, some progress has been made on women’s rights at policy level. Some discriminatory laws have been changed and the participation of women in parliament has been increased. Those changes have been largely formal and superficial, however, and have failed to influence the deeply patriarchal nature of Arab society. To influence the old regime, feminists often had to rely on elite networking, and they paid less attention to building support at grass-roots level or addressing the everyday needs of ordinary women. Established women’s rights actors and the new youth activists are beset by age-based, ideological and class divides that stand in the way of their ability to work together. That needs to be addressed.
We would like to stress a few points. Different levels of participation and co-operation need to be strengthened: among civil society organisations including women’s groups, between civil society and religious organisations – where women’s roles are also changing – among the different countries in the region, in the media and with the Council of Europe. Gender equality is an indicator of a country’s degree of democratisation, and of its resolve and capacity to include all citizens without discrimination of any kind. Likewise, breaches of women’s rights often act as an alarm bell. In order to educate people in a new paradigm of leadership, we must provide a model that includes diversity rather than reproducing the old paradigm. When we include the different voices and styles of women and men, we broaden the spectrum of our awareness of various issues, enrich our discussions and make better and more integrated decisions.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Giannakaki on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms GIANNAKAKI (Greece) – I am proud that we are debating this excellent and most interesting report, which shows the depth of our concern. I am pleased to have followed the drafting of the report in the committee. There are two important issues: the parallel evolution of the sexes during the democratisation of a country, and the difficulties that Islam can cause for women. We cannot talk of democracy when half the population is under pressure. Fundamentalism is not simply the privilege of one religion; it is a feature of all religions and is used as an instrument of manoeuvre. Women have played an important role in the outbreaks of protest that we have seen in various countries. Protestors encountered problems because they availed themselves of their rights to self-expression, and three years later, the situation in the region is unfortunately worse than ever. According to international organisations, Egypt is the worst country in the world to be a woman.
In contrast, an interesting dialogue has developed in Morocco and Tunisia, which has been reflected in those countries’ constitutions. Of course, there is still much to be done on the rights not only of women but of homosexuals, and countries must place those issues on their agendas. We must also encourage activists and parliaments to provide the assistance that is required. There has always been a cultural dialogue between Europe and the Arab countries around the Mediterranean. Developments in the Mediterranean concern us directly, and we must follow such developments to ensure that they respect the principles of equality, diversity and human rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Giannakaki. I call Ms Quintanilla on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Ms QUINTANILLA (Spain)* – I want my first words to be ones of congratulation to Ms Saïdi on this important and timely report. I welcome the fact that today we are recalling the woman you mentioned, a social leader who championed human rights in Libya. The lawyer Salwa Bugaighis was murdered simply because she wanted to vote in a democracy and wished her country to recognise human rights. Now, more than ever, we should remember a woman who died in defence of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights.
In her report, Ms Saïdi has succeeded in demonstrating what has happened since the Arab Spring. We still hear the cries of the Arab Spring in this Parliamentary Assembly, and I am sure that they are heard in all international forums. The Arab Spring was supposed to open the gates to democracy, human rights and freedom, but you are realistic enough to state in the report that only two countries are taking the lead, Morocco and Tunisia, indicating the great changes taking place in their societies. Are they the only two countries that, due to the Arab Spring, can provide a leading role in the promotion of gender equality? At present, they are working on changes to the criminal code to penalise violence against women and sexual harassment. Morocco is also working on a future law on violence against women. But what has happened to Egypt, Yemen or Nigeria? Where are the girls who were abducted in Nigeria, about whom we still do not know anything? Why do we not continue to cry out for the protection of our children? The Parliamentary Assembly should hold dear, value and highlight the leadership of Morocco and Tunisia, which are showing the way to change mentalities. We should do everything possible to encourage such countries to sign the Assembly’s convention.
The fight must continue. We need to continue to work, and to shout the words “freedom”, “democracy” and “human rights” in relation to so many women around the world, but particularly those in the countries of the Council of Europe that at the moment, regrettably, are limiting their rights. I offer Ms Saïdi my congratulations, but we must continue along the road of democracy and human rights because many women are closely following the work we are doing in their defence.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Quintanilla. I call Ms Kountoura on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Ms KOUNTOURA (Greece)* – I, too, congratulate the rapporteur on her report. She has mentioned countries that are obviously more progressive, such as Tunisia and Morocco. They are examples for Libya, Egypt and other countries that now have very severe religious regimes and are experiencing economic and political instability to follow.
The rights of women may be limited in such countries because of fears about the destabilisation of society, but the opposite is the case. If we look at history, we can see that the role of women and the strengthening of their rights constitute a pillar of society. Women contribute, through the education of their children, in being fearless and in having roles and rights equal to those of men. If they can educate their children better, there will be progress, and therefore more democracy and economic development. They also contribute to strengthening the role of citizens, so we should really give women the place that belongs to them and cease to treat them as inferior beings. We should also refrain from referring to religions or religious practices and traditions that pertain to another epoch. We know that the first victims of “Islamic State” were women.
The role of women within families and within society is at least as important as the role of men, and we should respect the rights of men and women in the same way. The existing view of the role of women and of the education they provide perpetuates stereotypes and difficulties, including the non-respect of women’s rights in society. We must make progress on women’s rights because that will ensure progress in the economic and social development of societies.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Kountoura. I call Ms Crozon.
Ms CROZON (France)* – No social movement or revolution has ever succeeded without the participation of women. In France, it was the women’s march on Versailles on 5 October 1789 that brought the royal family back to Paris. In Russia, it was the demonstration of 8 March 1917, in which women called for men to return from the front, that was the trigger for the revolution.
Yet the involvement of women is in no way synonymous with the emergence of egalitarian democracies. The conquest of political, economic, social or family rights is a long march that very often begins with the rewriting of history and with the oblivion that slowly wipes out their role in school textbooks. To those who are surprised that women were so prominent in the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia or in Tahrir Square in Cairo and are so dynamic in blogs and social networks in bringing attention to the status of women in countries such as Nigeria or Morocco, I would say that it is crucial not to take women’s involvement for granted and vital to ensure that it endures. That is the main point of the report, which comes three years after the Arab Spring, and I thank the rapporteur for her work.
The situation varies in each of the countries, and there is no correlation between the nature of events that can trigger a democratic transition and the evolution of women’s rights. In different ways, the constitutions of Morocco and Tunisia enshrine the principles of equality and non-discrimination between men and women, and adopt mechanisms to foster women’s participation in public life. Conversely, the Egyptian revolution spawned a traditionalist regime that, even though swiftly overthrown by the army and a turnaround in public opinion, brought reforms there to a grinding halt.
I want to stress the role that we, as European women and men, must play. When I visited Tunisia in 2012 to represent the French National Assembly in deliberations about women’s participation in the then embryonic political system, the principle of gender equality was far from secure and seemed to have been undermined by the victory of the Ennahda Party.
It is indeed the outlet of a Euro-Mediterranean partnership, and a commitment that we expressed to implementing a policy for development that respects women’s participation in the modernisation of Tunisia, that convinced those involved of the need to seek the broadest possible political consensus. Of course, we are not talking about exporting European principles or pontificating to others; on the contrary, we are trying to convince people that this is in the very interest of the regimes that emerge from the Arab Spring themselves. Equality is a condition of their political stability and of economic development and social cohesion.
What is happening today in these countries is being closely watched by the rest of the Arab world, and should serve as a model of how respect for culture and the Muslim religion dovetail, and of a high level of human rights.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Erkal Kara.
Ms ERKAL KARA (Turkey)* – First, I would like to thank Ms Saïdi for the work she has put into producing this excellent report. One sometimes forgets this, but women were among the major actors in the Arab Spring. They started up this political wave and actively supported the ensuing democratic revolutions. The events that occurred in the countries of that region in 2011 showed that there is a new, very active model of female participation. Women of all categories and social conditions went down into the streets to combat not only tyranny and the injustices of States, but the conservative principles of the societies in which they live.
There is no doubt that certain States in the area must make further reforms at a legal level, but one should also totally rethink social relations in order to guarantee equality between the sexes in people’s minds. Women have to shed this image as a particular minority that was placed upon them in order to re-integrate their full role within peoples. One should not think that women represent a separate social category without any connection with national concerns. When problems are defined as concerning women alone, many men thus conclude that they have no reason to show concern, or that they have nothing to contribute or to obtain.
Be they veiled or not, be they conservative or liberal, be they active women or women at home, all women went down into the streets showing that such questions are not limited to just one group, to just a single ideology or to just a single point of view. I hope that these actors will remain united and that the countries of the region will not be deprived of the ways and the people that created them.
Finally, when talking about women’s rights, we should avoid adopting a language that associates Islam with retrograde ideas and with the submission of women.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Zimmermann.
Ms ZIMMERMANN (France)* – I would first like to congratulate you, rapporteur, on your work. You have justifiably underlined the progress accomplished by Morocco and Tunisia. Let us remind ourselves that Tunisia has always been a model in terms of women’s rights in the Arab world. We should be very pleased about the headway that has been made on equality and rights before the law. That said, we must also realise that legal reality does not always match the reality on the ground. We must be very vigilant when it comes to applying these rights.
The situation of women is often an indicator of the vitality of democracy and the situation of the society in question. The Arab Spring countries are no exception to this rule. It is clear that the two countries where the rights of women have made the most headway are the two in which the democratic headway is the greatest. That being said, the issue of gender equality will not really gain proper substance in this region until girls have better access to education, particularly in rural areas.
At a seminar organised by the Adenauer Foundation in Fez last year, several female speakers spoke of the importance of ensuring that patriarchal societies in the Arab world evolve and that women are given a proper role in various walks of life. Aware of the economic power of women, Yasmina El Kirat El Allame of the Mohammed V University, Agdal, and Manal El Attir, founder and director of the company Anaouz, outlined how developments regarding women and the economy can be allied by creating such a social development company, which promotes the local work carried out by women. Programmes carried out by the Union for the Mediterranean to improve women’s access to employment and vocational training and higher education are also ways of ensuring the effective application of rights enshrined in the constitution or in legislation.
Despite that, we cannot fail to notice one word that unfortunately appears time and again in your draft resolution and recommendation: violence. Such violence takes several forms and jeopardises the rights of women enshrined in texts. Of course, the conviction in past weeks of men who assaulted women on Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution should be welcomed, but how can we not mention the dramatic situation of women in Libya and particularly in Syria, where they are the very first victims of the civil war and the advances of the Islamists? How can we not vigorously support paragraph 8.3 of the draft resolution, which itself encapsulates the multiple forms of barbaric violence of which women in these countries are victims?
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will have a fundamental role to play in this issue. By creating the partnership for democracy status, it extended its hand to the south of the Mediterranean. It now needs to show that the rights of women are pivotal to this partnership and are a real challenge for democracy.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Mulić.
Ms MULIĆ (Croatia) – When discussing the southern shore of the Mediterranean, it is important not to sound, act or formulate conclusions or recommendations in a manner that could be perceived as exporting or imposing the principles and standards upheld in Europe. Our common aim in achieving the highest degree of democratisation, on both the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, should be based on international human rights standards. Nevertheless, the Council of Europe must strengthen friendship and co-operation activities with all countries of the southern shores of the Mediterranean, with the aim of creating societies that are more just, more democratic and more respectful of human rights.
The concept of gender equality is a concept of human rights and is one of the indicators of a country’s capacity to include all its citizens without discrimination of any kind. When we discuss the so-called Arab Spring countries, we should recognise that women have played a key role in the uprisings which started the processes of democratic transition. But we have also witnessed numerous cases of mass sexual violence during the protests and celebrations being used as a political weapon to exclude, stigmatise and intimidate women, and to prevent them from participating in the political transition processes and the shaping of their countries’ future.
After the uprisings, despite some positive changes in the legal framework, discrimination against women – particularly concerning personal status laws, penal codes and labour laws – remains widespread in the Mediterranean countries.
The level of involvement of women in economic life in the Euro-Mediterranean region is still the lowest across the globe. Less than 25% of women are in work, mostly in the public sector, and North Africa has the lowest participation rate at only 18.4%. I welcome the fact that the Council of Europe has developed action plans in joint co-operation with some south Mediterranean countries. Gender equality as a human right and the improved status of women has to be incorporated in a cross-sectoral way into all programmes. The action plans we have jointly developed cover four major topics: political participation, violence against women, the role of the media in combating gender stereotypes, and access to justice. I cannot but welcome this: still, we are missing one important aspect – the labour market and women’s participation in economic life. We should also create and promote programmes and projects in support of women, in particular those that empower women economically and foster an integrated approach to gender issues.
We should also increase the share of funding dedicated to training programmes for women, particularly for programmes for those who have been deprived of education. To conclude, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that gender equality on the northern shores of the Mediterranean is remarkably better. We need strong joint efforts to make societies more just and equal.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.
Ms CENTEMERO (Italy)* – I thank Ms Saïdi for exploring this issue and for the commitment she has shown in drafting this report on women’s rights and prospects for the Euro-Mediterranean area. The report is important, coming three years after the revolutions and changes that affected the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. It is especially important now, when we can see so many dangers for democracy and freedom in some of these countries.
I will focus on two aspects of this issue: the participation of women in political life and the need for a change in mentality and the perception of women through education and the media. Women are so important for democracy and for the processes of democratisation. Their participation in political life and institutions is crucial for all countries and especially for those States that are transitioning to democracy. In Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, conditions vary. It is not the same picture across the board, which makes it difficult to isolate trends, but we all need to be vigilant on this issue. Equality between men and women is the precondition for the success of democracy. No democracy can claim to be perfect if half the population is excluded from political life, and that is particularly significant for countries such as Egypt, where women played a key role in the processes that led to the move to democracy.
Gender equality is an indicator of democracy. We have seen that Tunisia and Morocco, which are interlocutors in the Council of Europe, have reformed their constitutions and embarked on a process of including women in political life, even though the basic laws are still not in place. Those two countries can play a leading role in guiding other countries, such as Libya and Egypt, in the right direction. In Libya and Egypt, the position of women is worrying.
International bodies such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation could play a leading role. It is important to reinforce inter-parliamentary co-operation with the Council of Europe, and to highlight best practice. The Council of Europe must be vigilant on enforcement. In other words, we must check that the rules and laws coming into constitutions will translate into laws in national parliaments and governments, and that they are enforced. We need to see such instruments as quotas, alternation in political lists and women-only lists used on the ground to help involve women in public life. We shoulder a great deal of responsibility, as do the political parties in these countries. They must promote the ability of women to participate in political life, as well as their presence in decision making.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I would ask Mr Hancock to take the floor, but he is not in the room. He is the first man on the speakers list. The speakers list is gender unbalanced. Mr Schennach will speak, but not now. He will have to wait, unless we start organising ourselves differently to have more gender balance. That way, a man could speak next, but I will stick to the rules. I give the floor to Ms Faber-Van De Klashorst.
Ms FABER-VAN DE KLASHORST (Netherlands) – To Europe’s great disappointment, the Arab Spring has not improved the position of women in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. As long as those countries remain members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation no improvement can be expected. The regimes of those countries try to create the image that they aim to improve the position of women. They tell Europe what Europe likes to hear, which causes the European elite to breathe a sigh of relief and to think that everything will be all right. In the meantime, violence against women continues and even increases. In 2013, 40 000 child marriages were conducted in Morocco. In 25% of those marriages, the girl was less than 15 years old. That is a growing trend. Until 2013, polygamy was prohibited in Tunisia and Libya, but in February 2013, polygamy was made legal again in Libya.
The Forward Organisation reports that some 97% of women in Egypt have been circumcised. That percentage can hardly become any higher. All five countries dealt with in the report have been members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation since 1969. The aim of that organisation is to Islamise society and to implement Sharia law gradually. Sharia law includes family law in which there is no gender equality. Calling on these countries, by means of a resolution, to change their family law to improve gender equality is a disastrous mission, because they will never reject Sharia law. That is why it is nonsense that countries such as Morocco and Tunisia could serve as role models in international organisations. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is the brainchild of the Muslim Brotherhood. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Germany, Ibrahim el-Zayat, said that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation can further a de facto caliphate that will not present itself as such. He said that that could start by applying a layer of varnish of UN legitimacy. With support from the United Nations, the world caliphate might well become a reality, without the world realising. The world caliphate would be a disaster, not only for women, but for every free and right-minded person.
(Ms Fila, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Brasseur.)
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Mitchell.
Ms MITCHELL (Ireland) – I am pleased to speak on this excellent report on the aftermath for women of the Arab Spring. The uprising was widely welcomed at the time as a triumph for democracy over dictatorship and was particularly welcomed as a new dawn for the women of these countries, given their apparent confident and forthright position in the vanguard of the protests and their clear desire for political inclusion in a new social order. The truth, however, is that for very few has that promise been realised and, worse, in Syria the modernising movement was captured by another agenda and international forces are now bombing those we thought and hoped would deliver gender equality. In fact, in the majority of countries, with the possible exceptions of Morocco and Tunisia, where there have at least been constitutional or legislative reforms, the position of women has deteriorated.
In 1937, the Irish constitution was written and adopted, and last year we held a constitutional convention with 100 randomly selected citizens to review some of the provisions and to make recommendations for change. We invited 17 parliamentarians from Arab Spring countries to visit Ireland and to witness the process of constitutional debate and change. While they welcomed exposure to a different democratic process, all of them, including the three women who came, maintained that their immediate concern was not gender equality or new rights for women or even democratisation, but basic physical safety. In short, in several countries unrest and instability following the uprising, as well as the absence or the arbitrary application of the rule of law, has left all citizens exposed to potential violence. As we know, in conflict situations, or even just in situations of ineffective government, it is always women who are most vulnerable and who suffer most.
In addition to the personal insecurity experienced by all citizens, some commentators maintain that there is actually a deliberate backlash against Arab women, attributing their search for egalitarian treatment as western-inspired or, bizarrely, as a legacy of the ousted autocratic regimes. The commentators instance the reinstatement in law of polygamy in Libya and the removal of election quotas for women in Egypt, as well as the unprecedented violence against women, which occurs in many of these countries with almost complete impunity.
I fully support the draft resolutions and recommendations, particularly the recommendation to the Committee of Ministers to promote, in their interactions with the southern neighbourhood countries, the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. We should also vigorously defend and promote CEDAW – the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – which is, after all, fundamental to the concept of the universality of rights.
In addition, right now we have a wonderful opportunity to influence the new sustainable development goals post-2015 through the participation of our governments in the open working groups. We need to set specific targets – not just the existing targets, which do not cover what is really gender equality – for which governments will in future be held accountable to the civilised world and which are far more likely to attract government attention and multilateral budgets, as well as national budgets.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I call Ms Bilgehan of Turkey.
Ms BİLGEHAN (Turkey)* – I too begin by congratulating our dear colleague, Ms Saïdi, on her constructive and optimistic report and the Secretariat on its painstaking work.
Three years ago, women played a major role during the uprisings that subsequently led to the Arab Spring. They were actively involved in protest movements. They used social networks and even financially supported the rebellion. There is the touching example of the Libyan women who sold their jewellery in order to help defray the costs of the battle against the regime. However, three years after so many sacrifices, this crucial question lies at the heart of our concerns: have women’s rights in the region gone backwards or have they been improved? According to Ms Saïdi’s report, it is a mixed bag and the situation varies between countries. The example of countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, which co-operate closely with the Council of Europe, is heartening, but there is a long way to go.
Let us look first at the situation in legislative terms. There have been significant advances in Tunisia in respect of the principle of gender equality following the adoption of the new constitution. Women are no longer viewed as complementary to men. Article 46 compels the Tunisian State to make this principle of equality effective. Here we need to stress the contribution of the Venice Commission, which broadly supported the democratic aspirations of the country. In Morocco, people have been talking of Moudawana for 10 years. I was in the Council at the time, and I remember the long debates that took place then. The family code was a major step forward for women’s rights, but enforcement leaves much to be desired. For example, there are a high number of child marriages. People can marry at the age of 13 or 15. None the less, the Moroccan constitution took an important step in enshrining the principle of gender equality in article 19. An authority was even set up for gender equality and combating all forms of discrimination.
We should recall, however, that Tunisia and Morocco have not yet withdrawn their reservations on CEDAW. In Algeria and in Libya, many changes have been made to the law, but inequalities persist. As in several countries in the region, polygamy is now legal in Libya whereas it was prohibited under the old regime. Moreover, the conditions for requesting divorce and parental authority are much more stringent for women than for men. In general terms, political participation of women is supported in the region. There are several systems of quotas. Likewise, it is interesting to note that many women pursue their studies, but paradoxically women’s participation in economic life remains weak. Similarly, there is still a great deal of violence against women but there has also been a great deal of progress.
We made similar legislative amendments in Turkey a few years ago. However, we know that it is easy to adopt laws but still very difficult to change mindsets. Ms Saïdi rightly points out that it is always possible to backslide on human rights, and these countries are still in the throes of transition. We should understand that imported solutions are unsuccessful and these countries need to find their own way. The Council of Europe will be alongside them, and the sharing of experience will benefit all parties.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. Of course, I fully understand that it is difficult to stick to the three-minute limit. I call Ms Virolainen of Finland.
Ms VIROLAINEN (Finland) – I congratulate Ms Saïdi on her excellent report, which very well describes the diversified picture of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
We probably all remember that the former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, once said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” This is still so true, but we need to see the whole picture on how to improve women’s rights in all countries. It is a broad issue, and I would like to take only one perspective – that of political representation. Finland had the first women parliamentarians in the world. In our last general election, our 200-seat parliament received 85 women MPs, and we are all members of active women’s organisations. This is the result of years of hard work to build a society based on gender equality and a long tradition within the political parties to enrol more female candidates. Female participation is essential to female representation. Equal opportunities are and should be enshrined in the values of all political parties. I would like to think that we all vote for the person who best represents our values and beliefs, regardless of whether that person is a woman or a man.
What is the secret behind our long tradition of inclusiveness? There are no easy answers, but the Nordic welfare model offers quite solid proof that inclusive societies do it better. Two successful elements of equality in Finland are high-quality education and a right to day care. All women, regardless of income or marital status, are able to participate fully in working life, as the municipalities have a legal obligation to organise day care for all children. However, our situation cannot be taken for granted. It is important to support women’s organisations within and outside political parties. I hope that the discussion in this Assembly will lead to concrete action in all member States to make our societies better for women and men. If we have wonderful laws from women’s perspective but do not implement them, our laws are worth nothing.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. I call Ms Bourzai of France.
Ms BOURZAI (France)* – I thank and congratulate our rapporteur, Ms Saïdi, for the excellent report that she has presented to us. This follows up on her excellent report submitted two years ago. I regret that this is the last report that she will be submitting to our Assembly.
In November 2013, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published its ranking of women’s rights in Arab countries. At the very bottom of this ranking one could find Egypt just after Saudi Arabia, where Saudi women are not allowed to drive and have to ask permission from a male authority to move around or to work. Three of the five countries that were involved in the Arab Spring – Egypt, Syria and Yemen – are among the five worst-ranked countries. Libya is ninth in the ranking and Tunisia sixth. The foundation therefore noted that, globally speaking, the condition of women had got worse in the countries marked by the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, the report shows that this is true, but we have to take action to rectify it. The figures in the report are of grave concern. It says that 47.6% of women in Tunisia aged between 18 and 64 have been a victim of violence. This figure is 91% in Egypt. Of course, the situation for women changes quite significantly depending on which country we are talking about. Similarly, not all countries are showing the same will to make progress in terms of gender equality.
With this in mind, I would like to highlight the work carried out by Morocco and Tunisia. Ms Saïdi has reported on this, and I have seen it with my own eyes. In September 2013 I was a member of a French Senate delegation that went to Morocco and Tunisia. Our task was to assess the impact of the neighbourhood policy between the European Union and these countries. I was able to gauge the importance of the dialogue that had been instigated between both our Assemblies. Having met the vice-president of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, I am delighted to note that the complementarity of women and men had been replaced by gender equality in the constitution that has been adopted. It is edifying to note the efficiency of that work.
The living conditions of women in several Arab countries require our determined and urgent support. The draft recommendation calls on the Committee of Ministers to promote the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – the so-called Istanbul Convention. I attended the international conference, “Safe from fear, safe from violence”, held in Rome on 18 and 19 September. The conference was designed to celebrate the coming into force of the convention on 1 August and culminated in a joint declaration by Ministers and Secretaries of State of several contracting parties to the convention underlining their political will to put in place the provisions and calling on other member States of the Council of Europe, as well as non-member bodies, including the European Union, to join and apply the convention. It is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which are so close to our hearts, are applied.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. It is with great pleasure that I call our first male speaker, Mr Schennach.
Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I congratulate Ms Saïdi on her excellent report, on behalf not just of myself and the Socialist Group, but of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, with which I have been involved for some time. I think she has hit the nail on the head.
Thirty five years ago, I interviewed Nawal El Saadawi, the Egyptian feminist who shook up the whole Arabian world with her writings and who was briefly Minister of Health. More recently, I interviewed a young feminist and politician from Morocco and asked for her angle on the Arab Spring. There were many years between those two interviews, and many revolutions, and wherever they took place – in Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Egypt and elsewhere – they tended to eat up women above all. Women can make a huge contribution to changing a whole system, yet after these revolutions, they lost their jobs and roles and were cast aside. The situation was particularly bad in Zimbabwe, but the same thing happened in Nicaragua and elsewhere. The losers are always the women.
As Ms Saïdi accurately describes, however, the Arab revolutions are different – and Tunisia is a good example. It had a strong women’s movement beforehand. We have a colleague, a Tunisian lawyer and a very strong person, who could contribute so much, but as the Moroccans said about the Arab Spring, over the next 10 years the rights of women could slide backwards, so Europe must show solidarity with these women. For example, the report talks about family codes. In Tunisia, there is no Islamic family code, and in Morocco families can chose which to opt for, but in Egypt the women have lost everything. It is terrible. I must also mention the Syrian refugees again. Thousands of women and young girls – some as young as 11 or 12 – are being trafficked and married off. It is appalling and it is happening in all these countries. We can only fight this through an alliance between European men and women and Arab men and women. We have to work together.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Schennach, for being brave enough to speak on behalf of men. I now call Mr Ameur, a partner for democracy from Morocco and another male speaker. That is great.
Mr AMEUR (Morocco)* – Madam President, over the past few decades, Arab women have played an outstanding role in the modernisation of Arab societies and taken an active part in revolutions and social movements calling for democracy, social justice, liberty, dignity and equality. They have waged a vigorous struggle in defence of their rights during the transition and reform processes and have asked to be better represented in political decision-making bodies.
The prospects for gender equality are promising, but slow implementation of constitutions and attempts to embark on a regressive road by conservative circles pose serious threats to the progress and freedom so painfully won by women. The situation in many Arab countries – Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere – and the attempts forcibly to establish totalitarian regimes and religious dictatorships compound the threat and are a major menace to the rights of women. We must unanimously denounce and vigorously condemn these totalitarian excesses and reaffirm our resolve to oppose even more strongly violence and discrimination against women.
In the 21st century, no State can claim to be democratic if women do not have their proper place in decision-making bodies and if their rights are not fully enshrined in countries’ constitutions and laws. In this climate of uncertainty and threat – but also of hope and optimism – we must support solidarity among women in the Arab world and Europe, first because the regions are interdependent and secondly because women are the first to suffer from marginalisation in the political process during economic crises and are the primary victims of totalitarian systems.
The draft resolution submitted by Ms Saïdi is a road map for promoting the economic, political and social rights of women and for combating all forms of violence. In this Assembly and among all democratic forces of progress, in the north and south of the Mediterranean, this programme deserves our unflagging support. I congratulate her on her work and germane conclusions.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Bonet Perot.
Ms BONET PEROT (Andorra)* – I congratulate Ms Saïdi on this splendid report, which analyses how things have evolved in the years since the Arab Spring. As has been mentioned, it leaves us feeling that while on the one hand, some countries have managed to make progress on reform to the rights of women, in other countries, due to the establishment of totalitarian regimes, the rights of women have been very much affected.
I would like to raise a concern about a subject that has not been talked about much. When we talk about women’s rights, it is generally women talking. Two men, Mr Schennach and Mr Ameur, have participated in this debate. It is important that men should be involved in such debates. This is a debate not just for women but for society, which is composed of men and women. We form equal shares of society, so we should do things equally. It is important that all participate to provide our views and opinions on the subject.
What happened through the Arab Spring? We placed much hope in that phenomenon. At the time, women, as well as many men, were fighting for equal rights in those societies. However, what was sought was not achieved, and conflicts and wars have further endangered women’s stability and well-being, with offences against women in refugee camps and women fleeing to more secure areas. Hostilities have also affected children, the most vulnerable in such conflicts.
It is important that countries such as Morocco and Tunisia have improved the education of women. Consequently, women there have more opportunity to access the labour market. By contrast, in other countries where the rights of women are in regression, unemployment levels are very high, especially in rural areas. Women should be able to fight for their right to economic independence. It is important that women have access to the labour market under equal conditions, with equal chances of promotion and access to posts of responsibility. It is essential that women obtain the rights that they deserve.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Al-Astal, a partner for democracy from Palestine.
Ms AL-ASTAL (Palestine) – I thank the rapporteur, Ms Saïdi, for this important and comprehensive report about women’s rights and the prospects in the Mediterranean region. I support the recommendations and resolutions in the report. Gender equality issues are an indicator of a country’s degree of democratisation and respect for human rights and freedoms. We must protect people from violence and neglect, and promote their full participation in public and political life. We should also strengthen inter-parliamentary co-operation within the Council of Europe by using tools such as Partner for Democracy status. I also call for countries in the Mediterranean region to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention as a tool to end violence against women and improve their status.
However, women’s status in most countries in the Mediterranean region is starting to deteriorate. Women are suffering from violence and becoming victims of armed conflict, civil war, occupation and dictatorship. Women and their families are suffering all kinds of violence, and are being displaced from their homes to live in very bad conditions in poverty, neglect and abuse, because of armed actions that do not respect international human rights law and the mandates of the Geneva Convention. I call on all parliamentarians and the Council of Europe to intensify co-operation with the Mediterranean region to stop all kinds of violence against women and protect them and their families from serious armed action and crisis. I also suggest that a special committee of European parliamentarians should visit to evaluate and monitor the situation of women and their families in those areas. It is an important issue.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Frenkel.
She is not here, so I call Ms El Ouafi, a partner for democracy from Morocco.
Ms EL OUAFI (Morocco)* – I congratulate Ms Saïdi on calling on our conscience to build bridges of dialogue to share expertise and good practice, rather than stigmatising the issue of women in the Arab and Muslim world. I do not think we should separate the issue of the promotion of women’s rights in the southern countries from the process towards democratisation in those countries. Respect for women and protection of their fundamental rights constitute genuine indicators that allow us to assess the state of rights in a country.
I would like to pose a pertinent question. Do we dare ask the right questions to get the right answers? The right questions involve progress towards democratisation of the southern countries. What has Europe done, and what is it doing, to help and accompany women who are claiming equality, parity and dignity? In that context, I evoke the modest experience of Morocco, a beautiful country that has tried to consolidate its process of democratisation and its opening out and interacting with the regional and international environment while retaining its specific national identity and Muslim, Arab, Berber and African influences alongside the universal human values of democracy and the preservation of human rights, particularly the rights of women.
Furthermore, a new generation of social, political, economic and legislative reforms are being made in Morocco, allowing it to distinguish itself in the region as one of the countries consolidating democracy in all its forms while remembering all the concerns and the challenge to convince. In the quest for a transition to a new phase for the nation and the institutionalisation of the new constitution, which includes equality, parity and the combating of all forms of discrimination that could affect women, the beautiful kingdom of Morocco also has the ambition to continue to distinguish itself by expressing its uniqueness in the Arab world, particularly the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and in the region.
I mention two initiatives at the legislative and sector level. One, mentioned by Ms Saïdi, is the national plan to strengthen women’s capacities. The second is the genderisation of public policies, which began in 2002. We are now in the process of assessing and evaluating the operational results in situ.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Mrs El Ouafi. We now come to our last speaker, Mr Yatim, who is a partner for democracy from Morocco. The floor is yours.
Mr YATIM (Morocco)* – Thank you very much, Madam President. Allow me to congratulate Ms Saïdi on the quality of her report. The summary that she has presented is very relevant. Equality between men and women is an indicator of the degree of democracy in a country, and any attacks on women’s rights are an alarm bell that shows that people’s rights are threatened.
The Saïdi report refers to Resolution 1873, which related to Tunisia and Morocco, which also pointed out that those countries could offer some lead within the OIC by showing that it is possible to make progress towards equality between men and women without necessarily throwing out traditional, religious and other values. In this respect, the major areas of work, legislative and institutional, have opened up in Morocco, and I must say that, when it comes to legislation, our parliament has just adopted a law to restrict the powers of magistrates in organising marriages for persons under the age of 18. That has already gone through, which is a great thing.
I draw your attention to the fact that, contrary to what has been said in this Chamber, the Moroccan Government has lifted all its reservations with regard to the CEDAW. From the government angle, as Mrs El Ouafi said, a government plan has been brought in to promote equality, and looks towards parity as well. This has been adopted by the government.
Another measure that is very important and which the United Nations congratulated us on was to do with gender mainstreaming for budgetising, and this is the first Arab country that has brought mainstreaming into our finance laws. Harmonisation with regard to gender budgetisation has also been brought in. This is now going to be used by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and we have had United Nations support on this.
The promotion of principles of fairness and equality between the two sexes is not just something that you can leave to the public authorities and legislators. It has to go much deeper than that. It is about the role of civil society, the media and political parties, who have to do everything they can to change their internal rules and their attitudes to promote these principles of gender equality. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much indeed. Before I give the floor back to the rapporteur, I would like to give a very warm welcome to our visitors and the public in the gallery upstairs. I thank you very much indeed for the interest that you have shown in this and in the Council of Europe.
This now brings the list of speakers to an end. I call on the committee to reply.
Madam Rapporteur, you have two minutes 30 seconds left. You have the floor.
Ms SAÏDI (Belgium) – Thank you very much indeed, Madam President. I thank everyone who has taken the floor and has enriched the debate by the words that they have expressed.
A number of people highlighted social cohesion, which is vital, and political decision makers need to be very much aware of this and very much take this dimension on board. Women are claiming rights that relate not only to political emancipation but to social rights, combating all forms of violence and taking part in all walks of decision-making life, as was very clearly underlined by our colleague Mr Ameur.
I refer, too, to what our colleague Ms Mulić referred to when she linked up with the recommendations: she mentioned the labour market and how that can have an impact on employment and social matters.
The effectiveness of rights is, of course, vital, as our colleagues Mr Bilgehan, Ms Zimmerman and Ms Virolainen have underlined, but we need to be realistic here. We are all well aware of the fact that introducing legal and political measures does not mean that individuals are going to take this mindset fully on board, because there can be invisible obstacles to women making advances in society.
Before I leave this Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, let me say this by way of concluding remarks. I do not want to repeat what was said just now, but there have not been many male speakers, and there certainly has been no parity in speakers. I would like to call on my male colleagues to take an active part in debates on gender equality. It is by working together, side by side, as women and men, that we can make an active contribution to making a free and fair society with gender equality, as Mr Schennach pointed out just now.
We have certainly not won the war yet, and this report is not exhaustive. I have not covered every issue of these multifaceted countries and societies, and I agree with what has been said: that we have to ensure that our voices are heard so that women suffering in dreadful situations in which their rights are being denied can be heard. I would like one thing to be guaranteed: I really hope that this report will cause us all, and our friends on the other side of the Mediterranean, to think of new forms of solidarity, to build common spaces together, to develop joint approaches and to bring us all closer together. Good bye, and thank you very much indeed.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. Wholehearted thanks, Madam Rapporteur, for the work that you did and for your involvement.
I ask the chair of the committee if she wishes to respond. You have two minutes.
Ms WURM (Austria) – Thank you very much, Madam President, Madam Rapporteur and ladies and gentlemen.
This report has been very useful, in three ways, for us in the committee and beyond. First, it has promoted dialogue with colleagues, male and female, from the southern Mediterranean. I remember a visit to Rabat, Morocco, where we got to know our various female colleagues in the Moroccan Parliament. It was very important to have an exchange that was so useful. It was also great to present the Istanbul Convention to them, and the various constitutions that we got to know.
It was also important to see what the legislation looked like. We were able to peruse the constitution in Morocco very closely, and the Venice Commission contributed to that. An expert was on site from them. It was completed there, and the question of equality of the sexes was enshrined in the Moroccan Constitution and the Tunisian Constitution.
Implementation is, of course, the next target that we are working towards. We do not want women to be the losers in democratisation or in any other of these processes, which should bring greater equality. We now have to make sure that we look at how we can support this and these women’s movements to ensure that democratisation really does happen. We need to carry on working on this. That is our duty, so we need to pursue this dialogue.
I thank most warmly once again our rapporteur, who has been a wonderful colleague. I am very sorry that the skills that she has used and presented to the committee will no longer be at our disposal, but I am sure there will be lots of opportunities to contribute in the future to questions of justice and equality in various fora. Thank you very much once again.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Gisela Wurm, for your kind words.
The general discussion is closed.
The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has submitted a draft resolution and a draft recommendation.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13596.
I am glad to see more people in the Chamber.
The vote is open.
We now come to the examination of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13596.
I have been told that Mr Mendes Bota wishes to propose an oral amendment to the draft recommendation. In paragraph 3 of the draft recommendation, after the words “activities of” he wishes to insert the words “the North-South Centre and”.
I rule that the oral amendment is not in order.
That is not challenged. I remind you that the required majority is two thirds of the votes.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13596 is adopted, with 89 votes for, 3 against and 2 abstention.
I congratulate and thank you.
2. Joint debate on Good governance and enhanced quality in education; and Raising the status of vocational education and training
THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. The first is entitled “Good governance and enhanced quality in education”, Document 13585, presented by Mr Paolo Corsini; and the second is entitled “Raising the status of vocational education and training”, Document 13590, presented by Mr Piotr Wach.
May I remind the Assembly that at this morning’s sitting it was agreed that speaking time in all debates this afternoon be limited to three minutes.
I call Mr Paolo Corsini, Rapporteur, to present the first report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.
Mr CORSINI (Italy)* – President, dear colleagues, the member States of the Council of Europe find themselves having to face considerable challenges, including general unemployment, economic crisis and millions of young people feeling abandoned. There are problems with migrant communities and there is a challenge to democratic institutions. Education plays a decisive role; it makes available important opportunities for the integral growth of our citizens and the achievement of their aspirations.
Quality education may make a difference for the future. I say “quality education” because this is where the main challenges lie. Quality of education constitutes a critical factor with regard to the capacity of our societies to prosper. The member States of the Council of Europe are deploying considerable efforts and resources for education. Yet the level of competencies – the skills – acquired by European pupils and the performance of our universities do not seem to improve, and indeed tend to go downwards in comparison with international classifications. It is therefore necessary to consider strategies in educational policies with a view to guaranteeing quality education, to be more competitive at world level.
Likewise, with regard to the European labour force, the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has launched an appeal for the promotion of inclusive and innovative educational policies that aim at promoting well-being, success for pupils and the common values of Europe, which are rooted in our humanistic and scientific traditions.
Such policies have to combat exclusion, promote equality between the sexes and develop the capacities of teachers to enhance the new technologies; they must also combat corruption; and they have to reinforce an ethical sense within the educational system, as well as democratic governance in educational institutions, through the active participation of pupils and their families.
My colleagues on the Committee and other experts have contributed to the drafting of the report and reflected on the draft resolution and draft recommendation. We all agree that it is necessary to have a holistic approach to promoting good governance in education. It is also important to establish procedures to assess the quality of education and to optimise the use of resources so that those with political responsibility have all the data at hand in order to propose convincing education policy and to guarantee the effectiveness of the results. It is now even more necessary for all the actors concerned to be better involved in the implementation of education policy. Education should promote professional and personal development so that people are prepared for active citizenship.
School is a privileged area for community cohesion, as it promotes communication with others. Critical thinking, sacrifice, dedication and merit offer support for pupils with difficulties, and consequently we recommend a number of measures that require your political support. I underscore the following recommendations: first, to guarantee non-discrimination in access to schools and positive measures to combat inequality and the underperformance of some pupils; secondly, to assume the challenges of inter-culturalism and the spasmodic rhythms of scientific and technological innovation; and finally, to make the teaching profession more attractive so that talented teachers are available to the most problematic schools and classes. The bureaucracy of education management should be addressed, and the transparency of education governance should be strengthened as an instrument to combat corruption. Conduct codes should be produced at every level of education, with the participation of all the actors concerned. In order to achieve those aims, member States should establish assessment mechanisms that guarantee quality and allow the consistency of educational objectives to be controlled alongside the needs of professional qualifications and democratic citizenship.
The Council of Europe should encourage and facilitate co-operation with international organisations and agencies that check quality, as well as with professional networks in higher education. The draft recommendation therefore proposes that the Assembly should submit to the Committee of Ministers an undertaking to get the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media to analyse the impact of the national and international instruments that are being proposed today in order to improve the quality of education with a view to identifying resources, strengthening co-operation and synergies between member States and increasing the competitiveness of European education at global level.
We must consider a global approach to education in Europe’s humanistic tradition—a fundamental approach with a view to reinforcing democratic citizenship and civil responsibility, and to promoting human rights, solidarity and social values, all of which are indispensible—taking into consideration the political tensions and conflicts both inside and outside our countries. I invite you, dear colleagues, to vote in favour of the two texts and to support the practices of our member States.
I thank you for your attention, and I am extremely grateful to my colleagues, the President and the secretariat, particularly Dr Fasino. It is my duty to acknowledge Ms Angela Garabagiu, whose competence I have much appreciated when producing this text.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. You still have almost six minutes for subsequent replies. The next speaker is Mr Wach, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.
Mr WACH (Poland) – Thank you, Madam President. Vocational education develops skills for specific tasks, and such education is as old as organised society. In the middle ages, for example, there were masters and apprentices and strict rules on how to conduct the numerous professions. So vocational education is nothing new, but nowadays vocational education and training involves three key areas of society: education, employment and economy.
At first glance, we do not see any serious problems with vocational education, but, as we have found, in many countries low social recognition stops young people from choosing such education. Vocational education is regarded as a second choice for people who cannot find anything better. On the other hand, some young people, after completing their general secondary education, or even university education, have to reduce their ambitions and undertake vocational courses to find a job.
What is the problem with VET—vocational education and training—if it is needed for healthy economic development and offers good employment prospects? The problems are analysed and highlighted in the report, but if I had to give a brief summary, the problems are: the low quality of vocational education in some countries; little connection to good practice in industry or services; and the closed system that provides few or no chances for promotion and personal development. We also recognise that member States have different systems for providing vocational education and training. The systems differ greatly but, generally speaking, good teachers and a high level of practical training seem to be most important. Some systems are mainly based on practical learning with some classroom teaching, and some systems are based in schools with workshops that are sometimes poorly equipped--there are also mixed systems. Having different systems is okay, because VET is deeply derived from practice and tradition, but the State has to have some overview of quality and the rules governing such systems.
We must also remember that vocational education and training is not only for young people aged 12-plus, 15-plus or 18-plus—that is called IVET, or initial VET—but for older people so that they can find employment after retraining. Vocational education and training is also aimed at disadvantaged people so that they may become more satisfied members of society. What does the report offer to improve the situation? The suggestions are also presented in the draft resolution as recommended duties for member States. The most formal step is to ratify the revised the European Social Charter and accept as binding article 9, which is devoted to vocational guidance, and article 10, which concerns the right to vocational training. On that legal basis, we will be able to introduce an obligatory system for all providers of such training – corporates as well as small services – and build a system that young people will find more attractive and friendly.
Paragraph 6 of the report contains several practical steps to make vocational education and training more attractive, effective and open for young people. We must bear in mind that the European Union introduced a system that provides quality assurance and some degree of international recognition – that is in its infancy – as well as allowing the exchange of young trainees between countries. Those are only initial steps, and there is not yet parity even between European Union countries, but the initiative is based on best practice from countries that have developed such systems to advanced levels. The recommendations in our report are based on the experience of those countries. We advise all member States to accept the report and implement our recommendations.
I hope that there will be a good discussion about the report and that the Assembly will accept the resolution, which is quite practical but difficult to introduce. Tradition and ambition have a place in young people’s future, and in some countries people find it difficult to accept that it may be better to start formally at a lower level and improve, rather than to reduce ambition and be pressed to go back with your education. The report gives some advice in that area, and it may help our societies.
(Mr Flego, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Fiala)
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Wach. You have five and a half minutes left. In the debate, I call Mr Jónasson on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland) – I congratulate the rapporteurs on the reports that we are discussing. The parties from the Group of the Unified European Left discussed the reports, and we wholeheartedly agree with them. We are told that both reports have a two-year history, but I believe that they are very timely. I listened to the debate this morning on the rise of fascism and how society should react, and I feel that the answer is here in the resolution. We should “promote the comprehensive approach to education in the European humanistic tradition, which is key to strengthening democratic citizenship, upholding the respect of human rights and promoting solidarity and social cohesion”.
The report “Good governance and enhanced quality in education” calls for extensive co-operation with institutions including the OECD, but I feel that the trade union side is missing and I would like the report to include Education International and Public Services International. Perhaps I have missed something there. In general, I commend the tone and the arguments in the report, which calls for fairness, gender equality and equality in general, and the responsibility of the State in education.
I turn to vocational education and training. Fifty years ago, we saw education as the filling of an empty bag. You went to school or university, and you were given information and education. Once the bag was full, you got your diploma or degree, and that was it. The report rightly points out that is how the world was – it probably should never have been that way – but it is certainly not so today. The labour market is far more dynamic than it used to be, and society is undergoing perpetual change in almost every field, so we must respond to that. I am glad that there is a call to make vocational training a binding obligation by signing up to the relevant parts of the revised European Social Charter. That is very important. I am also glad to see that there is a call for wider co-operation with the labour movement.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Jónasson. I call Mr Díaz Tejera on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain)* – This debate is being chaired by an educator, Mr Flego, and the rapporteurs are also educators. I, too, have been a student or a professor for my whole life. Education is the main lever for equality of opportunity. The question that most galvanises me is how to guarantee that no child in any of our 47 member States is denied the opportunity to develop their talent because their parents do not have enough money. A scholarship enabled me to study law even though my parents could not afford to pay for me to do so, and I believe that one of the worst disservices that we can do to our young people is to curtail their education by reducing grants and fellowships. Because education is such an important lever for equality of opportunity, the educational process must involve not only parents and teachers but the whole educational community. It is important to ensure that teachers have career stability and prestige, so that they can not only instruct pupils but help in the formation of their character and the development of democratic citizenship.
I was proud to read the report and listen to the presentation by Mr Paolo Corsini, and I believe that the report is a good cause and should be supported. In general, we should all be very attentive to the universal right to access to education. Public services must be universal, so that people can have opportunities whether or not they have money. Whether they are rich or poor, people should have access to justice and to treatment for illness, and the same goes for education. The only limit for education should be individual talent. As a group, we support the report, and we thank Mr Corsini as a parliamentarian for his report. Thank you for chairing this sitting, Mr President.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Díaz Tejera. I call Mr O’Reilly on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr O’REILLY (Ireland) – I welcome both reports, and I congratulate the rapporteurs, Mr Corsini and Mr Wach. The first report emphasises the need for quality assurance in education, with a particular emphasis on the university sector. In my view, there is a strong case for pedagogical training for university teachers, particularly those dealing with undergraduates. Needless to say, academic excellence and research are vital, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a need for more teaching skills and pastoral care training in our university sector.
Generally, there is a teacher evaluation process in primary and secondary education, with in-service training for teachers, which is of course necessary. In States within our Council of Europe sphere where that does not exist, I hope that we can encourage it to be started. Teacher education qualifications, pay and career paths are vital. The first report rightly emphasises the importance of childcare support for equality of access to third-level education. In the governance of our schools, we need truly democratic structures in which all stakeholders can be brought together. As has already been emphasised, all our schools require equality of access for everyone.
On the report on vocational education and training, many young people in their mid-teens – mostly males – are frustrated by academic education and by the academic orientation of their schools and courses. We therefore have a high dropout rate and a high level of underperformance. For continued economic development, it is crucial to continue to produce quality goods and services; hence the need for vocational training. That is also vital to fight unemployment and to deal with skills shortages. The recovery of the economy of my own country clearly demonstrates a skills shortage in construction.
There should be a very visible public awards system for vocational education and training, with high-profile graduations, good pay for graduates of such courses, and educational pathways to enhance their status and continuing opportunities to encourage them to remain in lifelong education. The German dual system of vocational education is a very good model to look at.
It is sometimes difficult to get apprenticeships, so there should be a stimulus for conditions in which apprenticeships can be done outside the traditional master-apprentice system. IT skills should be included in apprenticeships and vocational training. Where possible, if people have the necessary aptitude, there should be a continuing element of academic education, rather than a divergence between two systems. All in all, I welcome the two reports, which offer exciting potential for countries that adopt their contents.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr O’Reilly. I call Baroness Wilcox on behalf of the European Democrat Group.
Baroness WILCOX (United Kingdom) – I thank the rapporteur, Professor Wach, for his report, which we in our group found very stimulating. I support him and those who wrote the report in raising the status of vocational education and training.
I was a government minister for business, intellectual property, further education and skills for two years during very difficult times. Like many other countries, mine has gone through a really bad recession, but during that period we have been able to see where our problems lay. One such problem was that many children were encouraged to go to university but did not come out with degrees that got them into the careers they needed. The clever ones could still do so, but others went to university when that was not right for them.
We decided that we had to upgrade our skill base, and to ensure that it was very well funded to raise the status of such training. We took children out of school and into new buildings and new ways of thinking – not only into universities, but into industry – to see courses on how space rockets are made and all the other exciting things for which we hope they will apply. We now have over 150 different forms of apprenticeships, including higher level apprenticeships that last several years and lead to university degrees. The system is working. We want to get many more girls into careers that involve engineering and science, and we are working on that right now.
We have found that raising the status of vocational education and training benefits everybody. It also assists parents who felt unable to steer their children into careers that are relevant to the current century, and gives them a chance to participate in the process. I recommend everyone to make sure the whole family is talked to, not just one child. We lost our direction for a while, and going through the recession was a really bad thing, but it is amazing how it has focused our minds. I want to repeat that we are very happy to support the report.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Baroness Wilcox. I call on Mr Bardina Pau behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr BARDINA PAU (Andorra)* – I thank the two rapporteurs for their excellent reports and high-quality work. We are aware that education is a priority in most of our countries, and that indefatigable economic efforts are being made with regard to infrastructure and human resources. It should be noted, however, that such efforts are not always reflected, or are insufficiently reflected, in the quality of teaching in education and in the level of knowledge acquired by students.
In talking about education or training, the expression “more effort leads to better results” is far from automatic. We should therefore promote new strategies and educational policies to guarantee a good level and quality of education. Some member States already have innovative policies to produce a better quality of education, but others still have a long way to go. Improving the quality of education is synonymous with rising prosperity. Greater competitiveness will enable us successfully to overcome new challenges that may emerge.
We of course live in a context of grave economic crisis, but we should prohibit ourselves from not investing in education. That does not, however, authorise us to invest at any price. We should establish global strategies to provide us with results. To act in the right way, we must establish a detailed assessment of our educational systems, which will enable us to identify the weak and strong points and provide us with the necessary tools to rebuild our educational systems.
In our unstable Europe, it is important to be ready to face the new challenges that may arise. That is where professional training reveals its significance, although, unfortunately, it has always been seen as the poor parent or ugly sister of higher education. I note that some of our States have for a long time placed their bets on transforming vocational training by integrating it as a bridge or innovative curriculum that can lead to university education or training within companies, and that is the path to follow. There is still much work to be done, but I very much hope that that will become the reality so that our Europe can guarantee better competitiveness in this increasingly globalised world.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Bardina Pau. The rapporteurs will respond at the end of the debate, but they can speak again now if they so wish.
Mr CORSINI (Italy) – No, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Connarty.
Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – It is indeed a pleasure to speak in support of these excellent reports in this joint debate. Both rapporteurs deserve the highest praise for their work on the reports, which are stimulating intellectually, thoughtful, provocative and a challenge to many authorities throughout the Council of Europe area.
I feel that you and I have been on a journey together, Mr Flego. When I came to the Council of Europe, you were the chair of the culture committee responsible for education. We have travelled on a journey since then – including, for example, the consideration of the report on a generation betrayed. As has been said to me, the current generation is the first in the Council of Europe area that will be poorer than their parents, given the recession we have gone through. There was also the demand for a charter of fundamental rights for youth, and there can be no more fundamental right than to a quality education, delivered with the needs of the young person at its centre.
I want to thank Mr Corsini for studying the Scottish comprehensive system, which I came through, taught in and am very proud of. It rightly puts the child and the youth at the centre, showing them respect and taking account of their safety, health, achievements, nourishment and activities. All those elements are fundamental to the delivery of education.
One speaker talked earlier about education being the filling of an empty vessel with the knowledge of other people, but it is clearly not about that in the future. It is about giving people the tools with which they can find their own way in a fast-changing world.
On the report entitled “Raising the status of vocational education and training”, I have to say that the Scottish system does not come up to standard. We have the absurd situation in Scotland where the Scottish National Party Government has given everyone in university education free education – not paying for it from anywhere within the European Union. I support that, but how did they fund it? They took £67 million from the Scottish further education colleges, which provide a ladder for people who may have not had a chance to succeed in the first round of education. They took 650 staff out of post and took away 108 000 courses, many of them part-time courses that women used to get back into education.
My personal experience was one of not liking school, moving into work and then going back to college and finding my way to university. That path is not available to many people in Scotland. If you nurture children in formal education, you must give those who do not succeed in such education the chance to come back through the college system.
University is not everything: 60% of vacancies in my country are for non-vocational, non-university skills, and the people who need those skills are the people being denied them, sadly.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Reiss.
Mr REISS (France)* – Training and education are so important now in the economic crisis that our countries are going through, and the challenges facing us to enhance the quality of our education are many and varied. I have been working on this issue in my parliament for a long time, and there can be no real quality education or teaching without motivated and excellent teachers. That is obvious, yet a recent OECD report stressed the major disparities in not only the salaries but the status of teachers in Europe. That is because the most effective systems were generally those that offered the higher salaries to their teachers.
Apart from the salary, a teacher’s prestige is a central question. If not enough people are coming forward to become teachers and there is no respect for teachers – even some young teachers feel completely abandoned by the system – the whole education system is ailing. Better qualification of and higher prestige for teachers is so important for our children. Success should be possible, particularly for promising children, especially those who come from less advantaged backgrounds.
I very much regret the fact that in France, we have scrapped merit-based grants, which meant that those who already got grants for social reasons could have merit-based grants and have their work recompensed. It is also important to help students going into vocational areas. As has rightly been pointed out in the draft resolution, education policies should contribute to social and economic progress and to eliminating social inequality. That is why it is a good idea to adapt education and training to the world of work. That should be the norm. Vocational training and apprenticeships, especially in higher education, should be implemented more frequently, as they do in Germany. In France, apprenticeships tend to be looked down on and vocational training is very much a second-class option. Yet, this is a very effective way of getting a job, particularly in a trade, as a recent report from the national assembly pointed out.
Our countries, which are going through a crisis, need to make vocational training a quality option. We need a better careers guidance structure. In my country, vocational training is seen as a second-class option or a dead end. In many areas, the discovery of the world of business is also important, and there has to be better dovetailing between initial training and lifelong learning.
All these are major challenges for our education systems, yet they are the way to combat unemployment, overcome the crisis and allow us to train citizens who can find a place in society.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Le Borgn’.
Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – I congratulate Mr Wach on the quality of his report on vocational education and training. Vocational training, initial and lifelong alike, is a key element to the employability of Europeans. It is necessary for guaranteeing the competitiveness of our countries in the context of international competition. However, vocational training is too often still the poor relation of education policies, receiving more scant resources than secondary and university education and thus suffering from a recurring dearth of social recognition. This contradiction is not tenable in the light of the challenges of the labour market and the expectations of Europeans, particularly our youth.
An active life must go hand in hand with continuous development of knowledge, technologies and crafts. An active life may also need to take a different course – far from the initial one, or in a context of geographical mobility. We need to value vocational training differently and define programmes more in keeping with the needs of firms.
As a former manager in the manufacturing industry, I have been able to test from experience the usefulness of alternative training. Particularly in Germany, the school and the firm work hand in hand in training people in theory and practice. Everyone gains: young people discover a craft, become aware of their talents, gain the confidence which is sometimes lacking, and can build a future; while the firm endows itself with trained, robust, motivated and mobilised manpower. In many countries, such as mine, this linkage between school and the firm is insufficiently established or called upon. It needs to be strengthened. I regret the poor image of industry, which is considered dirty, polluting and alienating. Industry is in fact the future. In the eyes of a young person, that industry can give them their first job is neither a source of regret nor fear; rather, it is an expression of resolve and recognition.
The European Union has established a system of learning credits and a certification framework. It is a welcome initiative that will be all the more important if it serves the cause of vocational and geographical mobility. A special effort is needed to support the learning of foreign languages and to develop cross-border training networks. I am also committed to permeability of training, allowing access to university for education and vocational training, and facilitating the acquisition of the entrepreneurial skills that firms need.
These are just some of the important, imminent challenges for Europe, and it is vital that Europe address them. It is thanks to you, Mr Wach, that we are able to debate this issue and the proposals today.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Ms Schneider-Schneiter.
Ms SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER (Switzerland)* – A good vocational training system is the way to combat unemployment among young people. That is why I am pleased with the report and I thank the rapporteur for his efforts. Vocational training is valued in Switzerland and the system works well. I will describe it to you in the next three minutes. The system is one of the most important ways to gain a job and to enter the world of adults. It gives a vocational basis for lifelong learning and opens up many prospects. Training in the company is very much practice-related and involves a sandwich course, so there is academic as well as vocational training. There are many choices. The readiness of a company to provide such training is important, and companies are willing to do that because it means that they have up and coming people to place into jobs. The qualifications are in demand and the jobs are there. People are trained where there is demand from industry, and there is a close relationship with the jobs market. That is why, when compared internationally, our country is doing very well on employment.
It is important to have permeability. There are clear offers on vocational training at every age. Everyone who starts an apprenticeship can be sure that they will have a career. There is a ladder, where you get access to universities and the tertiary level if you take a further exam. That is important, because it means that you can pass on know-how at the university level. Politicians and industry are constantly in dialogue on how to extend vocational training. Vocational training is a major pillar in innovation in Switzerland. The practical courses that people start ensure the innovation that will lead to products being placed on the market. They are also an important way of integrating young people into the world of work. It is a successful model and we are happy to exchange best practice with other countries, because we think that training leads to a better world.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Mr Gülpinar.
Mr GÜLPINAR (Turkey)* – It cannot be denied that the challenges that we face today, such as the economic and financial problems, rising xenophobia and greater empathy for radical groups, remind us of the importance of quality education. It is a key factor in social cohesion and economic development. In that context, the quality of education and the status of professional training need to be examined in depth with a view to tackling those problems effectively. Consequently, I thank the rapporteurs for having addressed those crucial global themes in the report.
On improving the quality of education, I will mention a number of points covered in the report. I am convinced that education is one of the most important fields where discrimination should be entirely eliminated. Equality of opportunity should be granted to all segments of society, which would guarantee social cohesion. Educational programmes should be designed to be inclusive and accessible to all. Migrants and minorities should also be taken into consideration in the shaping of educational policies. Through that, global success in education could be achieved. It is fundamental that discriminatory expressions should be removed from textbooks, as such expressions contribute to xenophobic acts.
Apart from the content of educational programmes, we should undertake to ensure equality, which should be guaranteed through good governance. Teachers should perform their responsibilities in an egalitarian way and not discourage certain students, particularly migrant students, from pursuing and continuing their studies. The elimination of discrimination provides equality of opportunity for all children and is one of the most important dimensions in the quality of education. Discrimination deserves particular attention when one debates educational policies. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to look into these matters in our own processes of policy development, so as to create new generations to defend the principles of the Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Mr Cozmanciuc.
Mr COZMANCIUC (Romania) – First, I congratulate Mr Corsini on the report. Nowadays, digital technologies are the source of transformations that influence the public sector and all aspects of functioning in the main branches of economies. It is inevitable that such technologies challenge existing systems of formal teaching in all European countries. The Internet has caused the biggest change in education and learning since the advent of the printed book a little over 500 years ago. It is often difficult for people to adapt during times of rapid change, but the Internet and its services have become inherent elements in the lives of young people. Nevertheless, while the educational potential the Internet offers for supporting learning processes is acknowledged, it is exploited only partially.
In my opinion, each member state should consider the importance of developing the digital competency of children and start preparing the prerequisites for the use of digital textbooks and the creation of virtual libraries. Introducing digital school books is a necessary step towards a modern world, where the educational system is adapted to the universe of technology and has a better understanding of what is actually happening in the lives of children.
By using digital textbooks, schools reach out to their pupils and provide a better solution for their needs and expectations. Most children nowadays live in a digitalised world, so it is time for schools to offer their students the proper tools and methods of learning for that technological world. I call for renewed action to build skills for the 21st century. We should stimulate open and flexible learning and prioritise investment in education and training.
THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Ms Santerini.
Ms SANTERINI (Italy)* – I congratulate Mr Corsini and Mr Wach on the report. The idea of school that we and they wanted to stress was about inclusion, egalitarianism and equality. School should respond to the problems of life that we face. I will pick out a couple of points that have been included in the report and which deserve greater attention from our side.
One is the integration of foreigners into European schools. It is not enough for such pupils simply to be on the school register and going to school; they should be integrated. One of the main arguments of integration is on whether such children should be distributed throughout the school in a homogeneous way. We have better schools; we have not-so-good schools; we have schools for, as it were, natives; and schools for foreigners. These are major obstacles to the democratisation of education. We need to make sure that the equal opportunities we have been talking about mean that we illuminate any phenomena regarding selection and inclusion in schools. Of course, we know that there are certain structural factors and certain questions concerning immigrants and the fact that they often have the lowest-paid jobs, and so on. We should not have mono-ethnic schools but variegated schools with different attendances; otherwise, we can see the damage that is done to students. Particularly with regard to civic education – education for citizenship – we have to work together to make sure that the students who go to these schools are to behave and to live as citizens. It is not enough to have mere knowledge; they should be able to know how to live as citizens. We must therefore make sure that these civic competencies are enhanced.
THE PRESIDENT – I do not know whether Ms Magradze is with us. That is not the case. I call Ms Kovács.
Ms KOVÁCS (Serbia) – I congratulate our two rapporteurs on their enthusiasm and really excellent work.
I believe that education should promote the nurturing of moral values, the development of arts and science, respect for ethnic minority cultures, access to new technologies, the promotion of democracy and human rights, solidarity, and the acceptance of diversity, tolerance and equal rights for all. There is obviously a need to rethink education policies and strategies to secure the right to education of adequate quality to all. What is needed is close co-operation between everybody involved in the process of education. Schools must be places where young people learn to live in harmony with each other in an environment that respects freedom of thought and conscience and encourages students to open up to others and to develop critical minds.
Our member States should adopt measures that enable mobility and establish validation procedures. More effort should be made towards reaching the goal of providing universal, free and accessible education regardless of, for example, nationality or social origin. For me personally, the quality of an education system can be measured by the consistency of educational achievements with the needs in terms of professional qualifications.
Vocational education and training faces many challenges regarding lack of quality, social recognition, and so on. Therefore, I support initiating campaigns aimed at raising public awareness of the role and benefits of vocational training in terms of employability. Interactive methods of teaching that take into consideration new developments and trends and focus on personal and professional growth need to be promoted. I also support recognising and validating non-formal and informal learning by the assessment of knowledge, skills and competencies acquired.
Globalisation, technological development and demographic changes are among the most common challenges for the majority of our member States. Therefore, consistency with the changing needs of the labour market in terms of skills and competencies is essential. Vocational education and training helps with access to employment since it provides a much-needed qualified work force. With the growing importance of educational measures in relation to labour market developments, particularly in combating unemployment, continuous vocational education and training are of great significance in adult education. Vocational education and training is crucial not only to integrate young people into working life but for further personal development and social integration. Investing in continuous education and training efforts and securing professional experience and expertise are important tasks in meeting the future needs of the labour market.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Kovács. I call Ms Christoffersen.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I thank Mr Wach, the rapporteur, for his clear emphasis on the importance of vocational training.
Throughout history, an equal right to higher education unrelated to social background has always been an important requirement of the labour movement. Today we see a labour market that is changing rapidly. Unskilled work has almost gone. Knowledge is crucial for high-cost countries like Norway, but at the same time there are strong indications that the focus on higher education has been too one-sided. We seem to have lost sight of the importance of vocational education and training. A false image of crafts and industry as old-fashioned and dirty jobs has been allowed to develop. The status of vocational education has fallen. More and more young people choose higher education, and secondary education has become more theoretical, even in terms of vocational training. This leads to a high degree of drop-out, to a larger extent among boys, particularly boys of an immigrant background. For those who choose vocational education, it is difficult to get an apprenticeship to complete their education in both the private and public sectors, and the result is a lack of skilled labour.
European Union enlargement has led to a comprehensive migration of labour to Norway, largely of people with a vocational background. This is positive, because we lacked workers with such a background in the construction industry, in fisheries, in agriculture, and in caring. Whether this is as positive for the countries of origin is another question. A more negative effect of high labour immigration is the growing occurrence of social dumping and undeclared work, primarily in industries with vocational labour. Vocational industries have thus gained a bad reputation. Parents warn their children against vocational education, and careers in other sectors are seen as more attractive.
In the end, there is only one solution to this problem. Employers, unions and public authorities need to make a common effort in informing young people about the opportunities in traditional crafts and industries, including by offering sufficient apprenticeships. There is also an urgent need for a tripartite fight against social dumping and undeclared work. Businesses and the public sector have a current as well as a future need for skilled craftsmen and vocational labour. In fact, without them our societies will collapse. We therefore need to lift the quality of vocational education, continue the fight against social dumping and undeclared work, and, last but not least, restore the pride in quality craftsmanship.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Christoffersen. I call Ms Zimmermann.
Ms ZIMMERMANN (France) – François-Xavier Bellamy, who was a young philosophy professor in France, looked back on his teaching career with some alarm and dismay. He said there was an unprecedented breakdown in the knowledge transmission chain and that a growing gulf was opening up. If we look at the results of the recent PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment – survey, we see that the same point is made. There are enormous gaps between countries. In some countries, such as Finland, knowledge is still being handed on from one generation to another, and in others, like France, we are simply teaching basic skills – arithmetic, algebra, geometry. Acquiring knowledge is essential if people are to be able to choose their educational or vocational path in life. Too many young people in Europe are falling out of the education system and lacking in basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills as a result. Can we accept that? No.
If the education system does not continue to allow people to move through society, then society is in jeopardy. We now have people going into higher education without basic reading and writing skills. These basic skills are not emphasised because many rather marginal cultural activities are put in their place. It is not up to schools to teach things like pottery or dance; it is up to them to equip children with the basic skills that they need – perhaps, indeed, in order to pursue artistic studies of some kind. What is important for a nine-year-old child is to be able to read and write correctly. Reading is the window on to knowledge – if you cannot read, every door is closed to you.
People need these basic skills, yet many adults cannot read or write, despite having been to school till the age of 16, as is compulsory. This is unacceptable. Teachers must be able to do their job correctly. We must refocus school programmes on basic skills and not mix up skills that schools should be teaching with those that can be acquired elsewhere. We need to train and educate people properly, meaning that teachers themselves must be well trained and respected as professionals. As stated in the report, teachers must be able to up-skill and re-skill as necessary, particularly in so-called difficult schools. Some children are so adrift they do not know what “authority” means or understand what structure is, meaning that teachers cannot hand on knowledge. We need to transmit knowledge to secure a fairer and more democratic society.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Gafarova.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate the rapporteurs on raising an important issue. As is well known, the United Nations has declared the 21st century to be the century of education. In the modern world, a country’s success depends on its level of education. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Azerbaijan gained its independence, the need for fundamental reforms in education emerged, as it did in other areas. The educational reforms since independence have been comprehensive, with several laws having been adopted, while investment in education has increased, especially over the past 10 years. For example, in 2005, investment was 8.3 million Azerbaijani manats, but in 2013 that figure was more than 2.2 billion, or 11.6% of total budget expenditure.
An important part of the State’s budget expenditure on education goes on the construction of new schools and the modernisation of the educational infrastructure. More than 2 700 new schools have been constructed or repaired in the last decade. The construction of new schools and the repair and modernisation of the old ones has been funded by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the reserve fund of the President of Azerbaijan. The most important development in the reform of higher education was the adoption in 2009 of the State programme of reforms covering the years 2009 to 2013. The main purpose of this programme was the integration of the country’s higher education system with that of Europe and the development of its content in accordance with the principles of the Bologna Process.
According to the strategy of transforming oil capital into human capital, Azerbaijan is funding the education of students at the world’s leading higher education institutions, and a separate State programme was adopted for this purpose in 2007. Its main objective was to increase to 5 000 the number of Azerbaijani students studying abroad at the expense of the State. Our next main goal, in the “State strategy for the development of education in the Azerbaijani Republic”, approved by order of the President in October 2013, is to provide continuous economic development and improve the lifestyle of our people through the further modernisation of social and economic life and the adoption of best practice.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. Were Mr Hancock with us, he would have the floor, but it is not so. I call Mr Nicolaides.
Mr NICOLAIDES (Cyprus) – I congratulate Mr Corsini and Mr Wach on their respective reports, which merit our support for their thorough research and exhaustive approach.
On the report on vocational and educational training, we must consider that the relevant provisions of the European Social Charter should become binding as the first step in recognising and effectively utilising this resource and to address the shortcomings in employment and welfare policies. Most European labour markets are faced with a number of structural rigidities and asymmetries that are country and/or sector-related. This, in addition to the difficult economic and financial situation in several member States, made worse by failing banks or public debt exposure, has put enormous pressure on labour markets and the effective provision of decent work for all.
The effects of this crisis on employment and social cohesion are well known. By raising the standards of vocational and education training, we can cushion these effects and sharpen employee skills to better meet market needs today. Such an investment would have a direct and positive impact on employment. I commend the European Parliament’s approach, through the mobilisation of the European globalisation adjustment fund, providing financial support for Greece, Romania and Spain and for redundant workers and their reintegration into the jobs market through occupational guidance, specific training, retraining, vocational training and counselling services.
In devising vocational and educational training, public authorities and private enterprises should seek to be as specific as possible, either with respect to the sector’s changing demands or a country’s specific requirements. In doing so, by involving and networking with relevant stakeholders and local and regional partners, vocational and education training strategies can become meaningful, effective and long lasting. At the same time, special effort should be made to assist disadvantaged groups who, by definition, might face additional barriers in the work force because of gender, race, social background, lack of education or disability.
The quality of the services, work and goods delivered by our work force reflects the level and quality of our democracies and welfare states. It is imperative that we continue to fine-tune these strategies in order to create a highly motivated, flexible, skilled and committed work force in both the private and public sectors.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I give the floor to Mr Sabella, partner for democracy from Palestine.
Mr SABELLA (Palestine) – The quality of education concerns not only Europe, but us in the southern Mediterranean. I could not agree more with the statement in the draft resolution that “quality of education is critical in determining our societies’ capacity to thrive, and that enhanced…education systems are a fundamental tool to deal effectively with today’s crucial societal challenges.” This statement applies particularly to our societies in the southern Mediterranean, especially given that we are witnessing transitions – most often violent – that run counter to accepting “the other” and to increasing individual and collective capacities to deal with change constructively and positively.
We cannot accept the draft recommendations without thinking of education as part and parcel of the human security perspective or paradigm. Such a paradigm would link success in providing quality education to job creation, health care provision and the fulfilment of housing needs, alongside other social and cultural needs.
Mr Corsini, your report, on which I congratulate you heartily, is a timely reminder not only to Council of Europe member States but to Partners for Democracy in the south that quality education is essential to a thriving society. If applied properly, it leads societies to uphold the universal values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Jenssen.
Mr JENSSEN (Norway) – The most valuable thing that we as societies can provide our children and youth with is an education of the best possible quality. Education gives individuals the best opportunities to support themselves and their families, and it is the basis for work and social mobility. Better-educated generations give us the best opportunities as societies. Education is the foundation for economic progress, jobs and social cohesion. It therefore also promotes peace and human rights and prevents social unrest and discrimination.
In our debate at home in Norway, we acknowledge that, even though we put significant resources into our education system, the outcomes are not proportionate to our investment. Two of our key strategies now are raising teaching quality and boosting vocational education, both of which are in accord with the two reports that we have discussed today. In fact, earlier this very day, the Norwegian Prime Minister and Minister of Education together launched a cohesive plan for educating even better teachers and strengthening teachers’ ability to do a great job.
Teachers are undoubtedly the single most important factor in students’ successful education and in their learning environment. It is important to attract more of the best-qualified and most motivated students to become teachers. In Norway, we are both raising requirements to get into teacher training and changing teacher education programmes to make them more attractive. We want more teachers who are skilled professionals in the subjects that they teach as well as great educators. Existing teachers, of course, also need access to new and updated knowledge. Recently, we have significantly increased our efforts in continuing education for teachers.
Vocational education is also high on the agenda in Norway. All our societies need a skilled workforce of builders, electricians, health workers and others. A highly educated workforce is definitely an advantage, but we cannot all be academics. We need all professions to have a job market that fits the needs of individuals and society as a whole.
Education provides opportunities for all, regardless of background. Knowledge will create the jobs that will support us in future and ensure our welfare in the coming decades. We therefore need to raise the quality of our education systems, educate teachers better and ensure that vocational education is attractive and relevant.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Mattila.
Ms MATTILA (Finland) – Listening to Mr Jenssen, it is easy to understand that we come from Nordic countries and have similar models. We are discussing two excellent reports on education. The appreciation of vocational training is higher in Finland than the averages presented in the reports. The renewal of degree structures guarantees that vocational and university education involve different study paths, but it also obliges vocational schooling constantly and fundamentally to evaluate its own field. However, education is still a social institution that should support the fulfilment of human rights and our values.
In Finland, people with vocational training and degrees have higher rates of employment than those without any vocational education at all. We know that work is the best social security. It puts bread on the table and raises pension funds while bringing the State tax income with which to fund public services. When we discuss vocational training and work, we are discussing a matter of utmost importance to society.
The rapporteur, Mr Corsini, refers to the competence of teachers, different teaching methods and the attractiveness of the field. As a former teacher, I naturally support increasing salaries, which the rapporteur also mentioned, but of course it is a matter of professionalism as well. I think that everyone here can remember a teacher who got us excited to learn and made us feel what is called pedagogical love; personally, I want to thank my high school mathematics teacher. Society should guarantee that teachers continue to work with passion. I support warmly the initiative to shape the administration of teaching to be so light that it does not take time away from actual teaching. Teaching must be high-quality and values-based. That is challenging, but I have firm trust in the competence of teaching administration as well as in teachers.
Economic development in Europe is weak at the moment. We need to do everything possible to improve the situation. Education, including vocational training, is an important part of that. It is essential that we acknowledge the challenges of lifelong learning and develop consolidation of vocational degrees within Europe. Administration must not be allowed to hinder the employment of professionals.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Karamanli.
Ms KARAMANLI (France)* – I am delighted to take part in this debate to discuss two reports, particularly the one on enhancing the quality of education and raising the status of vocational education. These reports are timely. I would like to make three remarks to flesh out some of the recommendations made. First, of course, vocational training enhances the quality of work and labour. Many adjustments are being made to the labour market in Europe, whether they involve prices, changes to the minimum wage or quantities. Numerous different factors are being adjusted. People are retiring early or having their working hours altered.
That is why it is important, in this context, that we focus specifically on the quality of training. People must acquire the right skills, which must be properly transferable and applicable to the labour market. That accounts for the importance of vocational training for young people in developing professionally and personally in a very difficult economic climate.
Secondly, vocational training is a plank of public policy. It is absolutely vital to professional inclusion and to countering the precarious nature of some work to make it possible for those in employment to access vocational training. Perhaps we can do away with some of the barriers between training and employment. Studies have shown that vocational training is lacking in many countries, and what is on offer tends not to benefit those from the more modest sectors of society. That is why it is important that we turn the situation around by targeting vocational training at the most vulnerable in our societies, using our corporate structures to do so and ensuring that the universities are on board as well.
There are many different ways to do that. The report maps out many avenues, such as increasing both initial and ongoing vocational training. I think that some labour market observers would say that it is possible for us to enhance training with a broader panoply of vocational training courses.
I would like to wind up by saying that vocational training appears to be ordinary and institutional, and by dint of that it should be recognised and funded, because that gives people more secure employment powers. I would very much like our social partners to ensure that their initiatives are part of such a process.
THE PRESIDENT – Mr Matušić, the floor is yours.
Mr MATUŠIĆ (Croatia) – Thank you very much Mr President, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me to congratulate our two rapporteurs on their excellent reports on this extremely important and sensitive issue. Today our societies face many challenges, among them rising unemployment, globalisation, terrorism and so on, but in my opinion the only effective tool for dealing with these challenges is quality education. We have to admit that our education systems are not effective enough, and sometimes it seems that they do not meet the needs of our societies, especially the needs of our market economies.
However, I agree with the rapporteur, Mr Corsini, that learning outcomes should be coherent, with two key end results that must go hand in hand. The first, which is usually emphasised, is employability. The second, which is no less important, is responsible citizenship. At this point I would like to add one more key end result of learning outcomes: a creative personality. Without creativity, we will not be able to face the challenges in front of us. The creativity of our pupils and students should be a main goal of education. This goal can be achieved only if we have competent, qualified, committed and creative teachers. The best example of a creative teacher you can find is in the movie “Dead Poets Society”, with the brilliant actor Robin Williams, who unfortunately tragically passed away. In this context, the call for the upgrading of the status of the teaching profession is of the utmost importance.
With regard to vocational education and training, it is important to emphasise that access to vocational education and training is as necessary for adults as it is for young people in order to prevent life-long dependency on State-funded support assistance. I agree with the rapporteur who said that the population of countries with higher unemployment are particularly vulnerable. In my country, Croatia, unfortunately the unemployment rate of people from 18 to 25 years is 50%, one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. I believe that the changes in the education system and lifelong learning suggested in these reports can help to improve the situation. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Matušić. Ms Nachtmannová, the floor is yours.
Ms NACHTMANNOVÁ (Slovak Republic) – Thank you, Mr President and dear colleagues. Let me address you and make a contribution to this topic in my capacity as a long-serving teacher at a university and at the same time in my capacity as a member of the Committee on Education, Science, Youth and Sports of the Slovak Parliament.
I fully support and stand behind the basic idea that education and training must get people closer to humanism, tolerance, solidarity, co-operation and responsibility for life. At the same time, the agenda of the status of vocational education and training is, expressis verbis, very topical and up to date.
Current prognoses of the European Commission and those of the OECD as regards vocational education and training demonstrate that the most sought-after professions are services and professions requiring a high mastery of technical skills. According to the prognoses dealing with the European Union labour market in the near future, approximately 1 million IT specialists will be missing. It is necessary to create the conditions to enhance natural and technical science education.
The Slovak Republic is aware of this fact, so it constantly seeks to make technical education more attractive. The concept of dual education is in the pipeline. By the way, this kind of model was very successfully applied in Slovakia in the past, but following the change in our political and economic orientation we rejected this concept very imprudently.
Pilot projects of dual education give young people the chance to prepare for their future profession directly while working in enterprises, thus making it possible to get an employment contract during their studies. In Slovakia there are almost 462 secondary vocational schools at which a young person can get vocational qualifications for various economy sectors. It is a positive sign that some enterprises are going back to dual education in practice, thus co-operating with schools. Teachers, masters in special training and employers will support and encourage a pupil on his or her way to his or her professional career. The duration of study is different, and it depends upon the difficulty of the working activities. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Nachtmannová. Now Ms Hoffmann has the floor.
Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – Thank you, Mr President.
The Hungarian delegation gives its full support to the efforts of the Council of Europe to play a more active role in developing national educational policies and to encourage such policies at the European level. We welcome the fact that this report, Document 13585, has been put on our order paper, because education is a key factor in young people’s future and in the future of Europe. That is why we welcome and congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Corsini, who has carried out his job so effectively. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to tell you a little about the measures that have recently been adopted in Hungary in order to improve the outcome of education, pursuant to the recommendations of international organisations.
In 2002, it was the Christian Democratic Federation, the FDC, which belongs to the EPP family group, that won two-thirds of the votes in the general election. This occurred once again in 2014, when there was a liberal government, and this made it possible for us to be able to undertake far-reaching changes. It was not simply a possibility, but an obligation to respect the will of the electorate. We carried out root and branch reform of education in the following areas.
In the compulsory education system, we chose to promote individual success so that the State would play a more important role in managing the school system to decide the content of the curriculum and in appointing headmasters and headmistresses, the people who are in charge of educational establishments, and in evaluating results.
A greater role will also be given to local authorities and to teachers. We also reorganised and increased teachers’ salaries, and this will continue until 2017. We have also improved teacher training schemes at the same time as strengthening our system of evaluation, which is recognised throughout Europe. We also introduced professional control of schools inspectorates. The ideas are very much in line with the ideas suggested in the Corsini report, although there might be some differences in the priorities that have been established, so I ask you to support our proposal. Thank you very much indeed.
THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Mr Taliadouros.
Mr TALIADOUROS (Greece)* – Thank you, President. I congratulate both rapporteurs. They have produced an excellent report.
Teaching – education – has always been a priority for Europe. Having high-quality education that is competitive globally is critical for us today. Member States of the Council of Europe are facing considerable challenges in the world in which we live, including unemployment and the economic crisis that we are all grappling with. We have to invest in education to enhance the quality of our education systems. We need to manage these systems properly, in accordance with clearly defined policies. We need to ensure that our educational systems can operate transparently. We need to do all this to enhance the quality of the education provided.
These, then, are the goals that we have set ourselves and if we are to achieve them we have to work together and cooperate with one another. I think Europe can play a particularly important role in developing educational systems and supporting countries throughout Europe in what they are endeavouring to do.
Educational systems must be fair and transparent for everyone living in Europe. Young people must be enabled to acquire the skills that they will need in their professional lives. Young people must be well prepared for their professional lives and for citizenship, to participate actively in civic life. Alongside that, education must ensure that equal opportunities are afforded to everyone, while recognising everyone’s specific needs.
Teaching has to be of high quality. Teachers must also be of high quality and, in addition, they must keep their skills up to date and be familiar with technological developments, for instance. The way they teach – their teaching methods – must be defined in a way that is not too bureaucratic, so that teachers do not end up spending too much time on administrative tasks. We need to reduce red tape and ICT can be a way of doing that, as can using the Internet. These things can reduce the administrative burden on teachers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that if we ensure that member States work together more closely in this area, we can improve the quality of the education that we provide and we can make Europe more competitive when it comes to education.
THE PRESIDENT – I give the floor to Mr Fronc.
Mr FRONC (Slovak Republic) – President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to show my appreciation of the work of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media and both rapporteurs. Doubtless, the reports presented contain many stimulating recommendations and proposals on how to improve the quality of education and its governance.
Education is a real priority. I want to compare participation in this debate with participation in the debate tomorrow concerning the situation in Ukraine. I spent the whole of my professional life in the education system: as a university teacher, a manager in a university and then as a top manager in my country. During this period I have seen a number of adopted reports – good reports – on improving access to and the quality of education. However, all such efforts require finance. Unfortunately, a State’s annual budget always has other priorities, including investment in industry, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and farmers, and so on. Even with a proclaimed will to invest in education, education does not become the priority.
Let me mention at least two examples relating to the quality of education. The first example is the Shanghai Ranking of universities. It is difficult to compare European universities with top universities in the United States, for example. One top university in the United States – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – has an annual budget that is higher than the annual State budget of some European countries.
My second example is from a period during which I was a member of the Council of Education Ministers of the European Union. One of the European Union’s objectives, under the Lisbon strategy, is that European Union citizens will be able to speak two foreign languages, and that has to be achieved in 2020. However, the European Union is investing enormous finances to support farmers and the agricultural sector, and I do not know whether there is a programme supporting the objective we are discussing.
In conclusion, I appreciate and welcome the reports, but I am also concerned that the mission will not be fulfilled. I hope that I am wrong. Thank you for your attention.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Fronc. I now call Mr Shahgeldyan.
Mr SHAHGELDYAN (Armenia)* – Thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen and colleagues, first I thank the rapporteurs for a very good job of work. This is a highly topical issue, particularly for me as a teacher and former vice-president of the French University in Armenia. This subject is close to my heart. I should like to address a few points and make a couple of proposals, particularly with regard to higher education.
Armenia is a centre of higher education. We have universities that were set up in partnership with the European Union, as well as with the United States and Russia. We have an American University, a Slav University and the European Academy, the French Academy, the Engineering School, the French Lycée, the European College, as well as a nursery school, and support from the Robert Schuman Foundation. The quality of higher education institutes is something worth reflecting on for the future, with a view to improving the standard of education.
In a changing world, education, too, must change in step with other changes. That is why the real challenge of the age is to adapt our higher education. There are certain stages to education: skills, first of all, and know-how, and then knowing how to live and how to pass on knowledge. All those different stages of the educational process will come together in our approach to education.
First, we have to base our education on values and citizenship, but we have to ensure that those values are put into action and are operational, so that young people know how to behave and act while preserving them. That is important. Secondly, we need to look at the relationship between the different stages of education: primary, secondary and then tertiary, or higher, education. Of course, ongoing professional training is also important.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, we were sorely lacking vocational training in Armenia, but we are now doing something because of the huge demand from the labour market. There are now many more vocational training institutions. We have to innovate in order to adapt, and we have to take vocational training far further forward in order to make our system more competitive.
Once again, I am indebted to the rapporteurs. I wish them every success in implementing the various provisions of these reports.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Virolainen, who is not with us. That concludes the list of speakers. I say that with pleasure because everyone on the list has had a chance to speak.
We do not often have three university professors on the Committee Bench. I call Professor Corsini, the rapporteur. You have six minutes to reply.
Mr CORSINI (Italy)* – Thank you, Mr President. I, too, am struck by the curious fact that the speakers in this debate are mainly university lecturers or professors. We academics are a subsector within the Parliamentary Assembly. I am not a teacher, and I do not work in schools. My university field is history, and I have learned a great deal from the Committee’s work and from the viewpoints, encouragements and suggestions presented today. I am particularly interested in comparative data across education. It is interesting to hear how schooling is organised differently in different countries and about how it is based on different underlying principles. I was not familiar with the Scottish or Polish systems, for example, and their results seem valuable and fertile.
We have a rather traditional education system in Italy, which may be a plus factor that could be fed into the general thinking about education. School is not an island; it is a key point in what we might define as an educational community. School is a crossroads in the education system. On the one hand there is the family, and on the other hand there are the educational establishments. Other public institutions are also involved, and if we want to improve schooling and the school system, we should share out responsibility between families and public institutions.
Many colleagues rightly talked about indicators and the points made in the recommendation and the resolution. Colleagues asked how the resolution and the recommendation could be implemented. Countries that have developed a market economy show that there is no doubt that investing in schooling is both productive and useful economically, so we should take further steps in that direction.
Schools are significant in promoting development and progress. Schools are a stage on which democracy can be developed. They are an opportunity for the growth of our values as civil societies. We often ask what “society” means, what we are aiming for and what our future will be. If we want to pursue a humanistic interpretation of European history, we must enhance the values of civilisations that are different from our own. We should make it possible for students to fulfil themselves in their separate and autonomous development. Education is not simply about the transmission of knowledge but about developing a method that will enable students to attain self-fulfilment.
There are challenges ahead. I listened to the interesting statement on the internet at school and on the internet and school. That phenomenon will change our mental framework considerably, because it will force us to consider a more systematic analysis of our schools. Today’s students were born in a digital era—they are digital natives. I am talking about the digital divide, and I have no competence in that area at all. There is a Copernican revolution in schools and education today.
Finally, I am from a generation that saw the major upheavals and changes of the 1960s, which was a time when schooling for all was introduced in Italy. Such mass education exploded across Europe, and almost across the globe. We need to think about that. What is the link between the growth of quality and the democratic principle of the right of access for all? We must not lose quality by going for quantity. My Italian colleague, Ms Santerini, said that we need to consider that more closely.
Once again, I thank colleagues for their attention, and I will factor in their comments.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Professor Guţu, the chair of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – Thank you, Mr President. As chair of the Committee, I begin by thanking all those who are still here. Many university lecturers and professors are here and are very aware of the changes that are needed in teaching and educational establishments today. We are well placed to know that we need to ensure good governance of our educational establishments, systems and methods so that we can be in step with the continual changes in mind-sets and so that we remain in tune with the basic values of democracy, citizenship and human rights that are upheld by the Council of Europe.
Both reports are extremely good, well crafted and propose specific solutions to challenges faced by national governments. The reports address how to improve the quality of teaching and teachers, and how to improve the quality of output—in other words, how to ensure that young people are better educated to play a part in the societies in which we live and to be active participants in long-standing and emerging democracies.
According to the picture that emerges from the report, the educational system has to be philosophical, poetical and theoretical but at the same time it has to be practical. We have to try to bring those things together and reconcile pragmatism with a more theoretical and abstract approach. I thank Professor Corsini and all who contributed to both reports, which are of a very high quality. I invite members of the Assembly to support the reports, resolution and recommendation.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Guţu. Professor Wach, you have five and a half minutes to reply.
Mr WACH (Poland) – I am not disappointed by the number of people present, and I am even less disappointed by the quality of the speeches. Of the 27 speakers, I would like to respond to at least 15, but that is impossible so I must limit myself and integrate my answers.
I thank those who stressed the role of the trade unions and the need for flexible teaching, equality and changes to the role of teachers and the evaluation of teachers. The report is designed to improve the social recognition of vocational education and training, and all your remarks are very valuable. I thank Baroness Wilcox for her encouraging remarks and for her comments about the British system. Mr Connarty spoke about Scotland and his personal experiences, and he expressed some reservations. I found many things to respond to in the other speeches, but I want to address the remarks of our Norwegian and Finnish colleagues, who spoke about the same subject but in slightly different ways. Ms Christoffersen stressed the social angle of education and the efforts of the Government and society to overcome divisions in the country. Mr Fronc’s bitter remarks are justified in some countries, and we have to swallow those remarks and take them into account. In general, I think that the countries that have, over a long period of time, given a higher priority to education and vocational training tend to have better results. It is clear from observation that that pays off, in terms not only of social justice but of economic outcomes.
Several of my colleagues spoke positively about the German system. I refrained from doing so in my main speech, because I do not know all the systems and if I had praised the German system of vocational training, I might have done something wrong. However, I know the German system very well, especially the Fachhochschulen. In English, such schools, which use also double names in correspondence, are called universities of applied sciences. They do not drag the system down; they upgrade it and help to show vocational education in a positive light. I think that the success of the system is due to the fact that there are good teachers, who are owners and managers of firms. They have real practice and a real knowledge of what is needed. In addition, they often absorb the trainees. They can often make the starting selection for trainees. In situations where there are poor teachers, bad workshops and only the pretence of real practical work, trainees become demoralised and the system stops working. The opposite is true in some countries, and we can see the economic and social benefits to society.
Thanks to the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, I had an opportunity to discuss the issues in the report with some of you. However, many more of you have made important remarks today, and if I had heard all those remarks before now, the report would have been even better.
THE PRESIDENT* – Would the chair of the committee, Ms Guţu, like to speak again?
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – I think that I have already said everything I wanted to say. There is an awful lot that we could have mentioned, but perhaps I might add that I think the key words from the reports are inclusion, solidarity among the generations, inclusive education and the quality of teachers and teaching. There is an awful lot to be said about all those key concepts. It is up to us as members of the Parliamentary Assembly—particularly those of us who have been university lecturers and who have experience of education—to forward these texts to our domestic parliaments to improve our own legislation and to ensure that we put into practice everything we have been discussing.
Those of us who are or have been university lecturers are the first to realise the importance of everything we have been talking about. We need to ensure that we pass on values to the younger generations to ensure that they get better than we did under a totalitarian system, particularly when there are all kinds of historical conflicts surrounding education. I thank Assembly members and, once again, Professor Wach and Professor Corsini. I invite the Assembly to support these two resolutions.
THE PRESIDENT – We will first consider the draft resolution and recommendation on “Good governance and enhanced quality in education”, Document 13585. There are three amendments to the draft resolution, and two sub-amendments. They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium and the Organisation of Debates1.
We come to Amendment 2. I call Ms Santerini to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Ms SANTERINI (Italy)* – The amendment speaks for itself.
THE PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. I call Mr Corsini to support the sub-amendment.
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – Are we now discussing our sub-amendment?
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, but the committee is obviously in favour of it. Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment?
That is not the case.
The vote is open.
The sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended?
That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – In favour.
THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
We come to Amendment 1. I call Ms Hoffmann to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – I have found that more attractive professional training for teachers is perhaps more important than the promotion of gender equality, which is why we want to change the order of the sub-paragraphs. We are not changing the text; only the order. The proposal was defeated by seven votes to six, so the committee did not go along with it, but we want the plenary Assembly to adopt it.
THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Corsini.
Mr CORSINI (Italy)* – As in the committee, I am in the hands of the chair, because the issue is not particularly divisive. I welcome the suggestion, but all the subjects in paragraph 5 are important and there is no discrimination between them. The committee is against the amendment.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – Against.
THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
Amendment 1 is rejected.
We come to Amendment 3. I call Ms Santerini to support the amendment. You have 30 seconds.
Ms SANTERINI (Italy)* – The amendment seeks to spell out the fact that codes of conduct in schools relate to civic competences, not just good behaviour. It is not about pupils and students just knowing the rules, but about their participating and co-operating. It is important for them to take part in school life if they wish to participate in civic life in general.
THE PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. I call Mr Corsini to support the sub-amendment on behalf of the committee.
Mr CORSINI (Italy)* – I support the sub-amendment – even more so following that explanation – and our colleague has indicated that she agrees.
THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment?
That is not the case.
What is the opinion of Ms Santerini?
Ms SANTERINI (Italy)* – In favour.
THE PRESIDENT – The committee is obviously in favour.
The vote is open.
The sub-amendment is adopted.
Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended?
That is not the case.
What is the opinion of the committee?
Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova)* – In favour.
THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.
We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13585, as amended. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft resolution in Document 13585, as amended, is adopted, with 69 votes for, 0 against and 1 abstention.
We come to the draft recommendation contained in Document 13585. As there are no amendments to the draft recommendation, we will proceed straight to the vote. A two thirds majority is required.
The vote is open.
The draft recommendation in Document 13585 is unanimously adopted, with 67 votes for, 0 against and 0 abstentions.
We will now proceed to consideration of the draft resolution from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media on “Raising the status of vocational education and training”, Document 13590.
As there are no amendments to the draft resolution, we will proceed straight to the vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13590. A simple majority is required.
The vote is open.
I congratulate you, ladies and gentlemen, the rapporteurs, the Committee and the Secretariat.
3. Next public business
THE PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved on Monday morning.
I remind the Assembly that it agreed this morning to modify the agenda for tomorrow so that the debate on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Georgia” will continue in the afternoon until about 4.30 p.m.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 7.30 p.m.)
1. Women’s rights and prospects for Euro-Mediterranean co-operation
Presentation of report, Document 13596, by Ms Saïdi, on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
Speakers: Ms Anttila (Finland), Ms Katrivanou (Greece), Ms Giannakaki (Greece), Ms Quintanilla (Spain), Ms Kontoura (Greece), Ms Crozon (France), Ms Erkal Kara (Greece), Ms Zimmermann (France), Ms Mulić (Croatia), Ms Centemero (Italy), Ms Faber-Van de Klashorst (Netherlands), Ms Mitchell (Ireland), Ms Bilgehan (Turkey), Ms Virolainen (Finland), Ms Bourzai (France), Mr Schennach (Austria), Mr Ameur (Morocco, Partner for Democracy), Ms Bonet Perot (Andorra), Ms Al-Astal (Palestine, Partner for Democracy), Ms El Ouafi (Morocco, Partner for Democracy), Mr Yatim (Morocco, Partner for Democracy)
Draft resolution and recommendation contained in Document 13596 adopted.
2. Joint debate on (1) Good governance and enhanced quality in education; and (2) Raising the status of vocational education and training
Presentation of report, Document 13585, by Mr Corsini on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media
Presentation of report, Document 13590, by Mr Wach on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media
Speakers: Mr Jónasson (Iceland), Mr Díaz Tejera (Spain), Mr O’Reilly (Ireland), Baroness Wilcox (United Kingdom), Mr Bardina Pau (Andorra), Mr Connarty (United Kingdom), Mr Reiss (France), Mr Le Borgn’ (France), Ms Schneider-Schneiter (Switzerland), Mr Gülpinar (Turkey), Mr Cozmanciuc (Romania), Ms Santerini (Italy), Ms Kóvacs (Serbia), Ms Christoffersen (Norway), Ms Zimmermann (France), Ms Gafarova (Azerbaijan), Mr Nicolaides (Cyprus), Mr Sabella (Palestine, Partner for Democracy), Mr Jenssen (Norway), Ms Mattila (Finland), Ms Karamanli (France), Mr Matušić (Croatia), Ms Nachtmannová (Slovak Republic), Ms Hoffmann (Hungary), Mr Taliadouros (Greece), Mr Fronc (Slovak Republic), Mr Shahgeldyan (Armenia)
Amendments 2 and 3 (as amended) adopted.
Draft resolution in Document 13585, as amended, adopted.
Draft recommendation in Document 13585 adopted.
Draft resolution in Document 13590 adopted.
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*
AMON Werner/Mayer Edgar
AMTSBERG Luise/Schmidt Frithjof
ANDERSEN Liv Holm*
BACQUELAINE Daniel/Saïdi Fatiha
BARCIA DUEDRA Gerard/Bonet Perot Sílvia Eloïsa
BENEŠIK Ondřej/Karamazov Simeon
BENEYTO José María*
BERGAMINI Deborah/Galati Giuseppe
BERISHA Sali/Bylykbashi Oerd
BERNINI Anna Maria*
BERTUZZI Maria Teresa*
BINLEY Brian/Wilcox Judith
BLAHA Ľuboš/Gabániová Darina
BLANCO Delia/Quintanilla Carmen
BRASSEUR Anne/Oberweis Marcel
BÜCHEL Gerold/Gopp Rainer
BUGNON André/Schneider-Schneiter Elisabeth
CHIUARIU Tudor-Alexandru/ Badea Viorel Riceard
COSTA NEVES Carlos*
DEBONO GRECH Joseph
DI STEFANO Manlio
DÍAZ TEJERA Arcadio
DRAGASAKIS Ioannis/Katrivanou Vasiliki
ERKAL KARA Tülin
EßL Franz Leonhard
FENECH ADAMI Joseph/Bonnici Charlò
FENECHIU Cătălin Danie*l
FISCHER Axel E.
FLEGO Gvozden Srećko
FRÉCON Jean-Claude/Bourzai Bernadette
FRESKO-ROLFO Béatrice/ Barilaro Christian
GIRO Francesco Maria
GORGHIU Alina Ştefania*
GRAAF Fred/Faber-van de Klashorst Marjolein
GROOTE Patrick/VAERENBERGH Kristien
GÜLPINAR Mehmet Kasim
GULYÁS Gergely/Hoffmann Rozsa
GUTIÉRREZ Antonio/Xuclà Jordi
GUZENINA Maria/Pelkonen Jaana
HEER Alfred/Voruz Eric
HUSEYNLI Ali/Gafarova Sahiba
JENSEN Michael Aastrup*
JENSSEN Frank J.
JOVIČIĆ Aleksandar/Pantić Pilja Biljana
JURATOVIC Josip/Heinrich Gabriela
KAIKKONEN Antti/Anttila Sirkka-Liisa
KLICH Bogdan/Borowski Marek
KLYUEV Serhiy/Pylypenko Volodymyr
KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR Unnur Brá*
KORENJAK KRAMAR Ksenija
KOSTŘICA Rom/Pecková Gabriela
LE DÉAUT Jean-Yves*
LÉONARD Christophe/Crozon Pascale
LONCLE François/Bies Philippe
LOUKAIDES George/Nicos Nicolaides
MACH Trine Pertou*
MATEU PI Meritxell
MAURY PASQUIER Liliane
MEHMETI DEVAJA Ermira*
MENDES BOTA José
MENDONÇA Ana Catarina*
MORENO PALANQUES Rubén
MOTA AMARAL João Bosco
NAGHDALYAN Hermine/ Shahgeldyan Mher
OSBORNE Sandra/Crausby David
PALACIOS José Ignacio*
PREDA Cezar Florin
ROCHEBLOINE François/Reiss Frédéric
ROSEIRA Maria de Belém*
ROUQUET René/Le Borgn’ Pierre-Yves
SANTANGELO Vincenzo/ Spadoni Maria Edera
TOMLINSON John E./Connarty Michael
TUDOSE Mihai/Cozmanciuc Corneliu Mugurel
TÜRKEŞ Ahmet Kutalmiş
TZAVARAS Konstantinos/ Giannakaki Maria
VÁHALOVÁ Dana/Dobešová Ivana
VALAVANI Olga-Nantia/ Taliadouros Spyridon
VALEN Snorre Serigstad/ Godskesen Ingebjørg
VORONIN Vladimir/Petrenco Grigore
WELLMANN Karl-Georg/ Benning Sybille
ZECH Tobias/Wadephul Johann
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, ‘‘The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’’*
Vacant Seat, United Kingdom*
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Eloy CANTU SEGOVIA
Héctor LARIOS CÓRDOVA
Partners for democracy
Nezha EL OUAFI
1 The amendments are available at the document centre or on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.