AS (2014) CR 35



(Fourth part)


Thirty-fifth sitting

Thursday 2 October 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 1081 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 3.30 p.m.)

      THE PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.

1. The activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

in 2013-2014

      THE PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled “The activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2013-2014” (Document 13594), presented by Ms Cheryl Gillan on behalf of the Political Affairs Committee, with a statement by Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

      Sir Suma, you are very welcome in this Chamber. It is the first time, but hopefully will not be the last, that you come here to the Council of Europe and to our Assembly. As President, I have the pleasure of welcoming you officially. We have already had the pleasure of a very good meeting and an exchange of views. We are really glad to have you here. It has been more than eight years since a President of the EBRD has come to our Assembly, so you are most welcome.

      As it is the first time you are among us, allow me to present you briefly to my colleagues. I say “briefly”, because looking at your CV it is so long, with so many distinctions and high-level responsibilities that you have had, that I am going to take a short cut – forgive me for that. You were born in India and educated in London and Oxford. You had a successful career in the British civil service. You started as an economist at the then Overseas Development Administration, and you spent some time seconded to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. You were Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice of the United Kingdom when you were elected as the sixth President of the EBRD in May 2012. I say “elected” because I am told that the EBRD is the only international financial institution which has democracy in its mandate. It is important that you have an elected mandate as well, and I congratulate you on behalf of us all. As you have democracy in your mandate, it is very important that we co-operate together, as we have, and now we are looking towards even closer co-operation.

      Yesterday we heard from the Secretary General of the OECD, who spoke to us about the world economy. We are therefore more or less well-acquainted with the environment in which your institution has evolved. We are looking forward to hearing not only your perspective on the evolution of your bank but your view of the more general picture.

      Before giving you the Floor, I ask the rapporteur to present her report. We decided this morning that the speaking time for all Members will be three minutes, but the rapporteur, as always, has 13 minutes. You can use that for your speech or save some time for a response after the debate. The rapporteur is also representing her committee. I would like to thank you for doing both.

      Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – Thank you very much, Madam President. I shall speak now as the rapporteur and afterwards as the chairman of my committee. Perhaps in that way I will get 15 minutes.

      This report to the Assembly covers the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for one year only – 2013. It follows on from an excellent report by our colleague, Tuur Elzinga. The new terms of reference for the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy mean that it now prepares the reports on both the EBRD and the OECD. That is good, because this Chamber spends a lot of time debating the problems affecting all our countries, but today we have a chance to highlight a very important organisation that offers solutions to many of the problems we discuss. I am delighted that Sir Suma has accepted the invitation to join us at the Assembly. I thank him and his staff at the EBRD for all their co-operation during the process of preparing the report for the Assembly.

      The EBRD was established in 1991. Over its 25 years of operation, it has seen phenomenal change, politically, economically and technologically, and also in its diplomatic relationships, both in the areas of its operation and among its donors. Its original brief to support the transition of former Soviet countries to market-oriented economies naturally included encouraging multi-party democracy and pluralism, but as revealed by the bank’s own examination, those countries are still very much stuck in transition. To date, only one country – the Czech Republic – has actually graduated and completed the process.

      Since it was founded, the bank’s territory has expanded and now spans a vast range of projects extending over 35 countries, and it seeks to maximise the impact of its activities through strategies designed to complement and underpin its core work. I will give colleagues an idea of the scale of its work. By the end of 2013, over the lifetime of its operations, the bank had invested in 3 944 projects, with a total value of €253 billion. For every euro it invested, there was a multiplier effect of 2.5. So it is doing great work.

      Over the years, the bank has worked in varying financial conditions, but 2013 was a difficult period, with the economic winds of change providing a harsh economic background against which to operate. The continuing repercussions of the global financial crisis, coupled with diminished confidence in the eurozone, not only affected the investment climate, but stalled – and even reversed – the trajectories of the economies of the countries in the transition region. Despite that, the bank maintained its level of investment, and its results showed that at the end of 2013 it had invested €8.5 billion, of which 20% was in municipal infrastructure and transport, 21% in energy-related projects, 28% in the financial sector, including good support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and just over 30% in corporate activities, including everything from agribusiness to manufacturing.

In 2013, the bank covered 392 projects in more than 30 countries, and, most importantly, consolidated the expansion of its operations into the southern and eastern Mediterranean. Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia became full countries of operation, and, importantly, Egypt entered the frame. I welcome this week’s announcement of the bank’s first country strategy for Jordan, prioritising energy, the private sector and infrastructure. Despite the difficult political circumstances in that area, the bank invested an impressive €449 million over 21 projects and opened new offices in Oman and Tunisia.

      Monitoring and evaluation are vital to the success of any international financial institution, and the bank has continued to monitor progress in its regions, predictably finding that European Union countries and European Union applicant countries showed the highest degree of democratic consolidation. However, as reflected in the report, financial austerity and the continuing fallout from the global economic downturn continued to affect support for democracy and the transition process within some countries.

With the spread of investment sectors, their monitoring has become important, and in that regard 2013 proved to be an informative year. The bank identified energy as one of the toughest policy areas, given the economic and social pressures, because it is politically hard to pursue enhanced energy efficiency, investment in renewables or cost-reflective tariffs. Its experience of the financial sector in 2013 reinforced the need to build sustainable sources of finance – something we all know here – and in agribusiness, where it has helped raise standards and production methodologies, in the information and communications technology sector, where it has worked on legal and regulatory reform, and in manufacturing, where it has focused on improved productivity through improving skills and energy efficiencies, the bank has helped make recipient countries more attractive to the wider global market.

Transport and interoperability are vital to improving economic inclusion and free market development. In 2013, the bank put in place a new transport sector strategy, building on the considerable investment of €1 billion in each of the preceding five years. I saw the importance of this at first hand when the bank invited me to a conference which no fewer than seven Prime Ministers from the Balkan countries attended and contributed together to generate interest, particularly in the completion of an integrated transport system to serve the countries of the region. There are not many operations that can get seven Prime Ministers to share a platform. It was impressive.

In my time as rapporteur, the bank has been in good financial health, with a net profit of €1 billion over the year. It has a triple A rating from all three major rating agencies and increased reserves of €8.7 billion. Its relationships with donors continue to be strong, with the European Union, its largest single donor, contributing about 37% of its total funds in 2013. A range of international financial institutions and governments make up the bilateral donors, but in 2013, for the first time, Russia and Kazakhstan joined the group. Significantly, however, donors now want more demonstrable results, so in 2013 the bank started considering how to improve reporting as part of an enhanced performance-management system. More information will enable the bank to better match its shareholders’ strategic aspirations with the bank’s future activities.

In 2013, the bank also looked at a pilot comparing country strategy results against clear and measurable objectives for each country, and I believe that this strategy will pay off in the future. However, the “2013 Aid Transparency Index” ranked the bank poorly for transparency, reflecting a lack of comprehensiveness in the publication of organisation and activity-level data – the European Investment Bank is in a similar position. It is appreciated, however, that the bank, which operates mainly in the private sector, must maintain the confidence and trust of its clients and co-financiers, and I know that Sir Suma is keen to ensure that the bank gets much further up this index. I understand that the bank now has a new public information policy, and no doubt this will improve the situation.

Finally, I find that the bank has a strong emphasis on governance, political analysis and environmental and social sustainability. This, coupled with the independent evaluation of past projects, will help improve the focus and design of future projects. All in all, 2013 seemed to be a good year for the bank. It expanded its operations, consolidated relationships, increased its analysis and addressed its weaknesses. The report reflects that assessment and invites the Assembly to welcome the changes and encourage the bank in its activities, which continue to help countries make the transition to open market economies and multi-party democracies that we all wish to see. I commend the report to the Assembly.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Gillan, for your very good report and presentation. You have five and a half minutes left to answer questions. I now have the pleasure to give the floor to Sir Suma Chakrabarti. I am looking forward to your speech.

Sir Suma CHAKRABARTI (President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) – Madam President, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to Strasbourg. I am sorry it has taken so long for an EBRD president to appear, but I am glad I am here. I thought it important for the bank to engage with the Assembly and high time that a president came, and I have come at the first opportunity.

I give my special thanks to the rapporteur, Cheryl Gillan, for her interesting and thoughtful report. I was glad to meet some of you in London half a year ago during your information-gathering visit to the headquarters of the EBRD. We had a fruitful discussion about our vision and activities and the challenges we were facing, and it is a pleasure to continue that dialogue today and to bring you up to date with our activities in what we will all agree has been a challenging year. However, the EBRD has tackled those challenges with its usual energetic application and vigour.

History has always loomed large in the bank’s life. After all, it was a moment in history – the fall of the Berlin wall, almost exactly 25 years ago – that triggered its birth. Again, it was a point in history – namely, the Arab Spring of 2011 – which led the bank to expand its mandate successfully to the emerging Arab democracies. Today, the bank faces difficulty with the current geopolitical tensions over events in Ukraine. These tensions are, of course, shaping some of the bank’s work. I will complement what Cheryl Gillan said by giving you a brief tour d’horizon of our operations and our considerable impact in our countries of operation.

The EBRD has a huge geographical footprint, which marks it out as different from other regional development banks. We are a semi-global bank operating on three continents now – Europe, Asia and Africa – with investments in Mongolia, central Asia, Russia, central Europe, eastern and south-eastern Europe, Turkey and the southern and eastern Mediterranean region. We operate from Casablanca to Vladivostok. We are active in more than 30 countries. Cyprus is the most recent addition; we will use our unique expertise to help that nation temporarily as it overcomes its financial crisis. In fact, the board of directors approved its second project in Cyprus just this week.

This year we expect to invest about €8.5 billion in projects across our regions, including the southern and eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, added to about €18 billion in 2012 and 2013. By the end of this year, we expect to have signed approximately 370 projects. These projects really do make a difference and can change lives by developing the private sector in pursuit of our transition mandate. The EBRD helps countries develop free, open-market economies, which can contribute to the eventual bolstering of democracy.

Our work is not just about the number of projects that we have signed or how much we invest, although that is considerable; our real focus is on the impact that we have. The following is a small overview of noteworthy examples of EBRD projects. We have provided financing to assist with the electrification programme in rural Morocco, which brings social inclusion to deprived households, enhances quality of life and supports local employment. We also co-financed the very large Al-Manakher power plant in Jordan, where power blackouts are a common occurrence.

The EBRD invested €75 million for an equity stake in Romania’s major electricity distribution company, SC Electrica, which was listed on both the Bucharest and London stock exchanges earlier this year. We provide local currency financing in Armenia, Georgia and Kazakhstan, improving opportunities for private sector firms to access finance without taking foreign exchange risks.

I am also very proud of our dedicated Women in Business financing programme in Turkey, which is going from strength to strength. It allows us to facilitate access to finance and advice for women-led small and medium-scale enterprises, involving women who have often been shut out of the financial system.

A third of our investment is now in sustainable energy. It is not just about renewable energy, although we are the largest investor in renewables in our region; it is also about ensuring that we make the best use of the energy that we have. Energy efficiency and energy security are two sides of the same coin.

We are also a bank, so it is good news that we continue to be profit-making, with a profit of more than €1 billion in 2013, our most recent full financial year. Those funds are recycled back into building our strong capital base, helping maintain our triple-A credit rating, which has just been reconfirmed by major rating agencies. Importantly, those funds return through our investments to our countries of operations.

The EBRD is now at a crucial juncture. As Cheryl Gillan said, some of our countries are stuck in transition as growth and structural reforms have stalled. We need to help those countries re-energise transition. That thought lay behind the agreement at our most recent annual meeting, in Warsaw, on the EBRD’s medium-term directions. They will help guide our operations for the next few years. We will focus on making economies more resilient, integrating them more into the regional and global economy and helping them deal with common global challenges, such as mitigating the effects of climate change. Of course, we will also work on energy security.

We know that investing in projects alone cannot achieve these goals, so we are also stepping up policy dialogue with the authorities in countries with the aim of producing much wider economic reform. We strongly support regional co-operation and integration. One recent example, as Cheryl Gillan mentioned, is the historic summit of western Balkan countries which took place in February this year at the EBRD’s London headquarters. For the first time, seven Prime Ministers from the region gathered to discuss ways to improve co-ordination of regional policies and boost investment in the region.

I began by talking about history. The EBRD was set up initially to help countries make the transition from communism to capitalism. The bank was designed as a bridge between west and east. I think we would all agree that today, those relationships are strained as geopolitical tensions have come to the fore. History has taken a hopefully brief turn for the worse. Current geopolitical tensions between the west and Russia are affecting many EBRD countries of operation. The EBRD now forecasts that the Russian economy is likely to be stagnant this year and that there will be a mild recession in 2015. The economy is forecast to contract by 0.2% as the impact of sanctions is felt by an already unbalanced economy. Our forecasts also say that Ukraine’s economy could shrink by 9% this year and a further 3% in 2015. The economic situation is clearly very serious.

That economic shock in Russia and Ukraine is having an impact on other countries in the region. The weak Russian economy was already affecting remittances to central Asia and other Commonwealth of Independent States countries, even before sanctions came into play. In addition, many countries bordering Russia are exposed to a slowdown of trade and investment channels. Uzbekistan, Moldova, Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan have all been badly hit.

What is the EBRD doing about all this? We are responding in a big way to these economic challenges. We are ramping up our support for Ukraine by boosting our investments, including by returning to the public sector. By the end of August, we had invested almost €620 million in 19 new projects in Ukraine this year, and we are well on the way to €1 billion in investment in Ukraine this year. We continue to support important infrastructure projects, both in the public sector with a huge €200 million road project and in the private sector with a $60 million grain terminal in Odessa. Energy sector and agribusiness investment also remain key priorities in Ukraine.

We are supporting Ukraine not just with money but with policy dialogue and advice. We have been asked to help with the new National Reform Council, which is responsible for the preparation, co-ordination and implementation of Ukrainian-led strategic reforms. You all know that Ukraine has had a problem that we now speak openly about – corruption. I am very proud that we have signed an anti-corruption initiative with Ukraine, which will set up an independent ombudsman. We intend to play a major role in this difficult area for the country.

We have a lot of existing investments in Russia, but we are not making any new investments for now. The majority of our shareholders have given us guidance that, for the moment, they do not want us to bring forward new projects in Russia for board approval. In other countries affected by the slowdown in the region, we are working to see what we can do to give additional help.

The current geopolitical tensions and the reliance of many countries on gas from a single source – Russia – has brought the question of energy security back into sharp focus. The EBRD has been doing a lot of work in this area, and we will continue in our efforts to increase energy security in central and eastern Europe. We began that work after the last energy crisis in 2009, at another time of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

We have invested in large-scale projects that can insure against possible interruptions of supply, and we continue to assist in the sector of energy storage, having invested in a LNG terminal in Poland, which is about to open, together with three existing gas storage facilities in Hungary, Serbia and Croatia.

      The transport of gas is also important. We have co-financed important energy infrastructure projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the South Caucasus pipeline, both of which are important for bringing supplies in from the Caspian Sea. We are actively looking at ways to help finance the development of the Southern Corridor and we are currently supporting work on the natural gas interconnector from Greece to Bulgaria. In Ukraine we plan to finance a gas transit system upgrade to allow the reverse flow of gas from Slovakia.

      However, it is not just about bolstering energy security. It is also about energy efficiency and, as I have said before, we are very active in that sector. Indeed, the Bank’s skills in the area of energy efficiency are now so much in demand globally that we are happy to lend our expertise to those who want it outside our regions. In fact, the global environment facility has given the EBRD funding so that we can help energy efficiency credit lines grow in several countries outside our regional operations.

      I turn now to the political aspects of our mandate, to which you in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rightly pay very close attention. The recent review of our political assessment methodology, to which the Parliamentary Assembly contributed, has proved very helpful. We look forward to continuing co-operation with you in the area of political assessments.

      Under the new approach, which reflects the evolution of understanding of modern democracy, the Bank now looks more carefully at factors such as fair and competitive elections, the effective power to govern of elected officials, the role of civil society, efforts to combat corruption, the protection of minority rights and equal rights for women.

      When we assess a country’s progress in democratic transition, we put special emphasis on the trajectory of change. The underlying approach of the Bank is engagement, even in cases where political conditions are difficult. In the most difficult cases, of course, we do not disengage: rather, we focus our efforts on a few core sectors such as small and medium-scale enterprises and developing the private sector, and aim to incentivise further reforms in those countries through what we call a calibrated approach that promises broader engagement in response to improvements against a set of political and economic benchmarks.

      Our political methodology is not the only area undergoing modernisation. The EBRD is also responding to changing times by pursuing its own internal modernisation programme, which includes a comprehensive review of its processes and a design of budget and human resources planning in order to better align our priorities and resources. We are also developing country strategy results frameworks, as Cheryl Gillan mentioned, and Jordan was the first country to have this new framework.

      The EBRD is also seeking to increase its engagement with civil society and its efforts in transparency. Our website now contains a wealth of useful information, and our public information policy was recently revised and judged to be consistent with best practice among international institutions.

      Nevertheless, we can do more, and I and my colleagues are committed to doing more in this respect. I note the call from MPs for a further increase in the transparency of our publications. We know where this comes from: EBRD is indeed ranked rather low in the Aid Transparency Index. I have some personal heft in this, because I helped to create this index in a previous job, so I care about this.

      The International Aid Transparency Initiative standard was developed, as I remember it, for traditional aid donors, who are largely, of course, funding grants for public sector projects. As such, the original reporting schedule of this index is not really tailored for the reporting of investments to private sector clients, the core of what the EBRD does. The detail of our investments is often commercially sensitive information that is normally the subject of non-disclosure agreements with private sector clients.

      In fact, the IATI itself has acknowledged this fact, and we have been working together, alongside other IFIs, to develop a reporting approach that will be more appropriate to private sector investments. When a new private sector schedule is adopted, I can assure you that the EBRD will make an effort to adhere to this. I and my colleagues are completely committed to doing that. Nevertheless, we will do more in the meantime to try to increase transparency through other means, not just wait for that day to arrive, although it will arrive before too long.

      In conclusion, history has often taken a hand in our activities, but the Bank is experienced at adapting to changing circumstances. The Bank was created to respond to change in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It has responded rapidly to the changes in the Arab world. It has responded flexibly to crises - financial crises and geo-political crises. Whether it was by lifting our lending levels, or adapting our products after the financial crisis hit or now after the geo-political tensions have taken hold, the Bank has shown a nimbleness and adaptability that is unusual among international public institutions. And we have the headroom to do more if called on.

      As President, I have to say that I am extremely proud to lead a Bank that delivers such impact. Many of our countries have serious challenges. We do not duck them. The geopolitical backdrop is difficult, but we are not deterred. The EBRD will continue to hone its skills, its flexible approach, and its innovative products, to meet the needs of our regions that require long-term support.

      Thank you very much.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you very much, Sir Suma. We would like to continue this discussion, and I would now like the speakers to ask questions or to make their comments. After the general debate, you can of course take the floor once more in order to answer questions that might have been put by our colleagues.

      Dear colleagues, I remind you that you have three minutes for your interventions, and that we have to stop our work at about 4.30 p.m. in order to hear the committee’s answer. We start immediately with our speakers. Ms Vėsaitė is the first speaker on the list on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Ms VĖSAITĖ (Lithuania) – Thank you Madam President.

      First, I would like to thank the rapporteur for a very informative and comprehensive report. It is good news that the bank is in a good financial position, and in good hands as well. One of the EBRD’s operations is to promote the transition to a market economy by making or co-financing loans, investing in equity capital and facilitating access to capital markets. This activity is very important to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the recipient countries.

      After the crisis, national governments incurred a heavy burden of debt. The public debt/GDP ratio had increased by more than 15 percentage points in the European Union, and the banks, instead of financing SMEs, feel less at risk buying government bonds. SMEs, the vehicles of economic development, are left without access to capital. That is coupled with slow recovery and low growth rates, so guarantees for loans for SMEs should become an essential part of the activities of European banking institutions and of the EBRD in particular.

      I come from Lithuania, and the EBRD is involved in Lithuania’s Ignalina nuclear power plant commissioning project. Unfortunately the process has been delayed for more than four years. The price of the commissioning increased by 40% because of ill-management and poor technical assistance. With the change of presidency of the bank we wish to improve the standards of governance, to reconsider transparency procedures and to modernise its management culture.

      The Russia-Ukraine crisis, with an embargo on the exports of agricultural production, has modified the growth in GDP of EBRD recipient countries in eastern Europe. Lithuania exported around 20% of agricultural production to Russia, as well as to Poland, Latvia and other neighbouring countries. Our farmers are now in trouble and are looking for other export opportunities.

      Of course, we congratulate the EBRD on stating its readiness to step up both its financial engagement to Ukraine and its policy dialogue initiatives with the authorities. The bank’s investments are expected to increase to €1.5 billion per year and its anti-corruption initiative aims to monitor corruption and increase transparency.

      The security of the energy supply to Ukraine and other European countries is essential, because Russia is the only supplier in many cases.

      As an Assembly, we are concerned about the state of democracy in Europe and globally. The rapporteur provided us with a short survey investigating the relationship between economic development and democracy. The major challenge to democracy and development is increasing inequalities between the rich and the poor, which give rise to populist ultra-right parties, nationalism and fundamentalism, and cross-border terrorism.

If we want to preserve democracy, we should carefully analyse the phenomenon and take proper measures to improve the situation.

      Thank you.

(Ms KORENJAK KRAMAR, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Brasseur.)

      THE PRESIDENT – I now call Mr Schneider, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr SCHNEIDER (France)* – President of the EBRD, distinguished colleagues, for more than 20 years the EBRD has played a key role in ensuring the transition of eastern Europe towards democracy. In granting financial aid, it requires from the states concerned a commitment to respect and implement principles of democracy, pluralism and the market economy. By taking this approach, the EBRD has shown that official development assistance can be done differently. This very original structure has made it possible to foster private initiative and to establish SMEs, thanks to loans or shareholding offers.

The success of the EBRD – it has been successful; it has realised profits of more than €1.2 billion – is reflected today in its expansion to the south and to the east of the Mediterranean. I can only welcome the fact that the EBRD has been able to grasp hold of the issues raised by the Arab Spring in this way. Since 2012, for instance, six projects have been supported by the bank in Morocco and more than 20 in Egypt, in various sectors, supporting the banking sector, energy or agriculture. Support for entrepreneurship seems to me to be particularly important in that part of the world. I have always defended the idea of doing development aid differently. I am convinced that this type of intervention can allow countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to enjoy genuine development.

However, it is appropriate for us to think about the opportunities for the EBRD at least partially funding projects that the Council of Europe – and more particularly our Assembly – has initiated with some of these emerging countries, within the framework of the partnership for democracy. This would allow us to see real interaction between the economic and political activities undertaken by the EBRD.

Although we welcome this expansion, or enlargement, there is a risk today, as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, that we cannot fail to be concerned about. Indeed, Russia, like Ukraine, is one of the three most important beneficiaries of the bank, along with Turkey. The bank’s board has, at present, frozen financial assistance given to Russia. It issued a warning, as early as mid-September, stating clearly that the Ukrainian conflict may now endanger the peace dividend that eastern Europe has enjoyed since the end of the Cold War.

However, I regret the lack of transparency in terms of the specific outcome of some of the bank’s activities. Here we might look for better application of the political aspects of EBRD’s mandate and, again, cooperation between the EBRD and the Council of Europe should be enhanced.

I note that gender equality will now be evaluated in bank funding programmes for new activities to be undertaken, particularly as part of the SEMED programme. This is an area where the Council of Europe has real expertise, so let us use it.

In conclusion, I say bravo, rapporteur, and congratulate you on an excellent report.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.

I ask Mr Selvi, from Turkey, to take the floor on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

Mr SELVİ (Turkey) – Dear colleagues, I thank the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and Sir Suma Chakrabarti for his presentation and for the information he has provided.

As stated in the EBRD’s agreement, successful transition of member countries to market- oriented economies is closely linked to parallel progress towards democracy and the rule of law. These two elements are the core values of the Council of Europe and we strongly support these values in every platform. For this reason, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we carefully observe the activities of the bank and we believe that our long-term cooperation with it has always been beneficial to both parties.

Since the last report on the bank’s activities was presented in 2013, countries in which the EBRD is operating have witnessed political and economic changes. Negative effects of the crises are still felt. The transition countries have to struggle with problems of slow growth, unemployment, stagnation and inflation. This is not a surprise, since even leading economies have not reached their pre-crisis positions. I am confident that, with a global recovery and the sincere efforts of the EBRD, transition countries will be able to have positive developments.

The expansion of the EBRD’s activities to countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean is widely welcomed by our group. Future operations that will be carried out in Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia will be proof that these countries are capable of carrying out transitions to the open market economy. Their rapid transition could create a positive environment, from which neighbouring countries may benefit.

Finally, in the last report it was stated that there would be more focused political assessment. However, these assessments should be balanced, realistic and fact-based, rather than speculative. This is a crucial point we should care about if we want to help the EBRD with our comprehensive reports.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.

I call Ms Gambaro, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms GAMBARO (Italy)* – President, colleagues, I congratulate the rapporteur, but have a political comment to make. Speaking on behalf of the ALDE group, I do not think that we can support any kind of financial commercial cooperation. We would like to see greater support for countries that are emerging from crises and persistent difficulties, and ensure that in their new constitutions their citizens’ rights of protection are enshrined; I mean forms of support of the kind that have been mentioned during the past 25 years, relating to the European regions that were getting ready to make a great leap towards more open markets and were, therefore, also getting ready to set up more democratic political systems.

We have welcomed such support, but we have to look at a certain economic analysis, because the counterproof of our looking at the activity of the EBRD, which has been a beacon of growth in the countries where it has operated, is represented by the fact that geopolitical tensions in the area around Russia and Ukraine are worsening.

We have to look at the bank support over previous decades. There is political instability in the region, and there will not be a favourable outcome for the economy or for international investments over the next few years, so we should support the Assembly’s decision to provide specific financial support for banking organisations and member States of the Council of Europe. We should not judge things on purely financial grounds.

      THE PRESIDENT – The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate, but does she wish to respond now?

      Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – I will reply at the end of the debate.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Šehović.

      Mr ŠEHOVIĆ (Montenegro) – As an economics professor and a politician, one of my main areas of interest has always been the relation between markets and democracy, which has been one of history’s greatest economic and political debates. There are numerous theories that find wealth, industrialisation and education to be statistically associated with the development of democratic systems. On the other hand, some theories find that free markets are responsible for changing the position of the middle class and the level of democracy.

The EBRD is probably one of the most visible and successful examples of the inseparable interrelation between economy and democracy, which is especially important because the main idea behind the creation of the EBRD was to promote the transition of Eastern European countries to market economies. The economy has always been the first and, in most cases, the most important step towards democracy, as well as the starting point of the reconciliation process.

Since its establishment, the EBRD has been involved in areas such as banking system reform, the liberalisation of prices, privatisation and the creation of proper legal frameworks for property rights, all of which are vital elements for change. Such reforms have been supported by sound advice, training and technical expertise, and supplemented by major investment in the private and public sectors.

Coming from a country that has benefited from the EBRD’s support and expertise, I can say that its mission needs to be oriented towards stabilisation and further development of Europe. It must also promote regional co-operation, of which the recent meeting of seven Balkan prime ministers is a good example. In the past year, the EBRD has been active on the interconnection between the economies of all countries. In a way, the main problems are almost the same in every country, albeit to different extents: the consequences of the economic crisis.

The new EBRD strategy develops three key points: the need to build resilience in the transition process, especially in institutions and economic structures; the need to create the medium-term direction for developing further economic integration in the transition region; and the need to address common global challenges, such as food security, climate change, water scarcity and energy security. Those key points are crucial for the future phase of the EBRD’s development, as well as for strengthening the engagement of both the EBRD and its member countries. I support and hope for the effective implementation of the EBRD’s new methodologies and strategies, and I fully support its mission. I thank the rapporteur, Ms Cheryl Gillan, for her useful report.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Sasi.

Mr SASI (Finland) – Thank you, Madam President. I greatly appreciate this parliamentary dialogue in the presence of the president of the EBRD. This debate is good for financial institutions and for parliamentary democracy. I congratulate Ms Gillan on her report.

There is no democracy without market economy, and there is no sustainable market economy without democracy. History clearly shows that link. If there is market economy without democracy, it usually results in the misuse of public money and embezzlement, which is why democracy is important. Clear policies improve the growth of market economy. It is important that the EBRD has a clear policy for the future. The bank was established to further market economy reforms and strengthen democracy in Eastern Europe, and that focus must remain.

The key question today is on the sanctions against Russia, which mean that the bank must refrain from most projects in Russia. The sanctions are right because they have been introduced to improve democracy in Eastern Europe. Russian leaders must think “What are the pluses and minuses?” when they consider their policies. The economy has a certain weight in those calculations. There could be environmental projects in Russia that might benefit the whole of Europe, but Russia’s participation in such projects has unfortunately been lacking. Russia is not interested in environmental projects.

The key question is Ukraine. The bank must provide a lot of funding to Ukraine. Of course the quality of the projects must be maintained, but the country must be forced into market-oriented reforms. Ukraine needs investment in infrastructure and environmental projects, but small enterprises are also needed. The bank should not finance oligarchs, but small entrepreneurs help small flowers to bloom.

Transparency is one of the bank’s biggest assets, and that transparency teaches countries how to handle investment projects. The bank must export transparency to all countries, and it is doing so. I have doubts about projects in North Africa. It is good that the bank is seeing what can be done in North Africa, but it should be very cautious. When there is peace between Ukraine and Russia, the bank should fund projects in Russia and try to help it grow and achieve democracy again.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Ahmet Türkeş.

Mr A. TÜRKEŞ (Turkey) – I thank the rapporteur and Sir Suma Chakrabarti for enlightening us on the EBRD’s activities. I also congratulate the EBRD on its sound financial results in 2013. The bank has displayed strong resilience to global financial volatility, as reflected in its annual investment of €8.5 billion and net profit level of €970 million.

Turkey’s relationship with the EBRD goes beyond finance. Turkey is a founding member of the bank and is represented on its board at director level. Furthermore, in 2013 Turkey successfully hosted the EBRD’s 22nd annual meeting of the board of governors in Istanbul. Additionally, the EBRD family in Turkey is growing larger. Alongside the regional office in Istanbul, the offices in Ankara and Gaziantep employ more than 60 staff. The recent opening of the Gaziantep office is an important indication of the EBRD’s intention to deepen our engagement and to increase confidence in the future of the Turkish economy. It will also enable the EBRD better to serve the eastern part of our country.

Paragraph 30 of the report addresses the Gezi Park demonstrations from a narrow angle by only highlighting the government’s reaction to the demonstrations that caused a wave of protests across the country due to alleged limitations on the freedom of expression and assembly. The protests, which began in the evening hours, clearly violated the scope of the Act on assembly and demonstrations. Certain provocative groups infiltrated peaceful groups with arms, knives and explosives to change the nature of events. Finally, the provocateurs manipulated social media to create false information and allegations.

On the other hand, there were no public protests after December 2013. The Turkish Government is determined to shed light on the accusations regarding ex-government Ministers, so a parliamentary investigation committee has been set up. In addition, the temporary limitations on social media platforms were due to the fact that they have repeatedly ignored numerous court decisions and official applications to remove content that jeopardises the privacy of Turkish citizens and national security.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Türkeş. Mr Di Stefano and Mr Dragasakis are not here, so that concludes the list of speakers. I call Sir Suma to respond to the general debate.

Sir SUMA CHAKRABARTI – Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond. I am grateful for all the positive comments and for all the questions I have been asked. There was, of course, some overlap between them, and I will try to address some of them.

The first speaker commented on the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises, and I absolutely agree. SMEs are the backbone of nearly all the economies in which the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development works. Nearly 50% of EBRD’s work relates to financing SMEs, and we do that in a number of different ways. We do it by providing consulting services through our small businesses scheme, to help SMEs gain the skills to prepare projects that they can submit to banks for financing. We do it through our local enterprise facility, which invests directly in SMEs in the Balkans, in Turkey and now in the southern and eastern Mediterranean. We also do it through what we call indirect financing, by setting up credit lines through banks throughout our region and helping them to gain the capability to lend effectively to SMEs. That is fundamental. Ms Vėsaitė was right to say that one of the biggest issues we face in our region is to get credit flowing again from the banking system – not only from the EBRD but from the domestic banking system – into the SME world. There, together with the authorities and the banks, we have to tackle the issue of non-performing loans. That is a big challenge for us. In many of our countries, there is a high volume of non-performing loans, which makes the banks more conservative about lending again. That is the challenge that we must face up to in the next year or so.

Ms Vėsaitė mentioned Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. I am pleased to report that the two major projects that are crucial for the decommissioning of Ignalina, which are financed from the EBRD-managed Ignalina decommissioning support fund, are now back on track and excellent progress has been made this year. All the outstanding disputes have been resolved. I want to thank the Lithuanian authorities, the government and the European Commission as well as my colleagues in the EBRD for that great improvement in the state of affairs.

A number of comments were made about the importance of dealing with inequality, social inclusion and gender, and I absolutely agree. When the EBRD was set up in 1991, our concept of what a market economy should look like did not encompass issues such as inclusion, gender or even the environment, which only started to come in during the early 1990s. Now, of course, all those issues really matter. We now know that a market economy is important for democracy, but we also know that it cannot function well if a lot of people are shut out of it and cannot get access to finance. For example, a female entrepreneur in some parts of Turkey or in some of our southern and eastern Mediterranean countries may be unable to access finance because banks ask for collateral, and her collateral – her property – is in her husband’s name. That makes things difficult. How do we resolve such issues? That is what the EBRD is about. We are trying to help banks that want to help female entrepreneurs to develop a different approach to their lending.

On the expansion into the southern and eastern Mediterranean, of course we should be cautious and not drop our standards, and nor have we. I think it is great that in two years, we have now reached almost €1.5 billion euros of investment in the four countries. We have done that from a standing start, establishing offices in those countries, building a pipeline, recruiting local staff and getting to know the countries really well. We should be proud of that, and there is plenty more such work to come. I completely agree that we must maintain our standards, however.

I want to look at how we can work more closely with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on, for example, the partnership for democracy. As I said to Madam President in a meeting before this hearing, I think it is really important that we share a lot of our political assessments with the Assembly, which we do as part of our country strategy process, and I would like to see more continuous engagement. I would very much like to see representation – hopefully the rapporteur – at next year’s Tbilisi annual meeting of the EBRD. I think that that is a way of maintaining engagement between reviews as well.

Many people mentioned Ukraine and Russia. In some ways, those are the biggest challenges that we face right now. We are scaling up our projects in Ukraine, and I am proud of what we have done there. Because of the situation in Ukraine, we are taking much higher risks than we might normally take in some countries, but I think that that is the right thing to do in the current situation. We also have to scale up our policy efforts in Ukraine, because it is no good having a country with very successful projects but no systemic change. We need to help Ukraine to change its system to something that is much more democratic, open and transparent, and much less corrupt. The rule of law matters fundamentally here. That is where the legal transition team in the EBRD can play a much bigger role. It is a very good team, and it does very good work, but we need to bind its work into what we are doing in each country.

Finally, I turn to regional stabilisation and the European connection. Cheryl Gillan and I, and one other Assembly member, mentioned the Western Balkans Conference. That is very important, because it has put on the agenda the fact that you can have political borders, but for the region to function, economic borders must be porous. We cannot create successful projects in the western Balkans unless we think across borders about energy, transport infrastructure and so on. Getting the seven prime ministers together to talk to each other about that was really important, and we are now following that up. The European Union is an important part of that, because it is still the model towards which many of those countries want to gravitate. The EBRD’s role is very much to help those countries to prepare themselves by getting some of their policies in place that will help them with the accession process. For those countries that have already acceded – Bulgaria, Romania and others – our role is to help them to spend European Union structural funds even better than they are doing at the moment. That is where we can help them, and that is what we have been doing in those countries.

There is a lot to do, and I could go on. I could talk about the small business office that we have created in Lviv to try to take SME support there as well. I could talk about the transparency agenda, which I strongly believe in. I come from a culture that Cheryl Gillan knows well, which believes strongly in transparency. I want the EBRD to play its role in that, and I am very committed to making that happen. In the end, our relationship with the Parliamentary Assembly is very good, and I think that the review has been an important part of it, but I do not want this to be an engagement that happens every two years. I want the process to be much more continuous, and that is what I want to offer you.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Sir Suma. I call Ms Gillan, the rapporteur, to reply. You have approximately five minutes.

Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – It is not often that a rapporteur has the privilege of an instant response from the president of the organisation on which he or she has reported. I am grateful to you, Sir Suma, for your frank replies. I thank Ms Vėsaitė, who raised the problems about SMEs and was able to get assurances from you on that subject and on the resolution of the delays in the Lithuanian project. That is good news. Clearly, the bank is doing its job. Mr Schneider made a valuable contribution in his support for the bank’s business model. The response that he received from you confirming the possibility of the EBRD’s relating more strongly to our partnership for democracy programme was also very welcome.

      Mr Selvi rightly recognised the hostile trading conditions, but I was pleased Mr Sasi thought that it was excellent for financial institutions to engage more closely with political institutions such as ours. To hear from Sir Suma that he wants continuous engagement between the Council of Europe and the Bank was very heartening for all of us. I must also thank Mr Ahmet Türkeş for clarifying paragraph 30 of the explanatory memorandum, and for updating us on the situation in Turkey, which was most helpful.

      I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to look, on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, at the Bank’s operations more closely for the Council of Europe. The Bank has faced other challenges since the preparation of the report, and the shape of the world has changed dramatically with the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and developments on the borders of the Bank’s area of operation that no doubt affect its activities. I am pleased that the Bank, unlike others, is not walking away from such places, but running towards them with solutions in its hands. I am very grateful to the Bank for its attitude because it will pay off in the long run.

      The Bank was designed as a bridge between east and west, and perhaps some of the bridge’s pillars need to be strengthened. That is what the Bank is doing. Through its activities, it can help to reduce tensions and provide more stability in areas that remain unstable. On British television, an advert for a credit card asked people to let it be their “flexible friend”. That would be a good adage for the EBRD: it is definitely a flexible friend for countries in its area of operation. I hope that it will continue to respond positively. The climate will change in donor countries, because defence budgets will no doubt increase and austerity measures will no doubt continue, given the economic climate, but I hope that in the not too distant future more countries will achieve transition and take the step taken by the Czech Republic.

      It just remains for me to thank the Bank again, particularly its president for joining us in the Chamber today. I thank Mr Gabriele Ciminelli, who helped in the preparation work for the report. I also thank the staff of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, particularly Mr João Ary, who has been most helpful and very supportive – a man who is good at his job. I thank my fellow members of the committee, who have been very supportive in offering me advice and scrutinising the EBRD’s work. I hope that we have produced a report that the Council of Europe will now accept.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Gillan. As I do not see, Ms Bakoyannis, the chairperson of the committee in the Chamber, that concludes the debate.

      Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – I am acting as my own chairperson.

      THE PRESIDENT – Do you want to speak on behalf of the chairperson, Ms Gillan?

      Ms GILLAN (United Kingdom) – I think that the time allocated to me included the two minutes normally given to the chairperson of a committee. That is why I thanked the committee and those who have helped us in my closing remarks.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you for your explanation, Ms Gillan.

      As no amendments have been tabled, we will proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13594.

      The vote is open.

2. The progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (October 2013 – September 2014)

      THE PRESIDENT – The next item of business is the debate on the report entitled, “The progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (October 2013 – September 2014)”, Document 13595, presented by Mr Stefan Schennach on behalf of the Monitoring Committee.

      In order to finish in time for the next debate, I shall interrupt the list of speakers at about 5.50 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the votes. I remind the Assembly that the time limit on speaking is three minutes.

      I call Mr Schennach, the rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between your presentation of the report and your reply to the debate.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I am in the same position as Ms Gillan, in that I am presenting the report in the absence of a vice-chairperson from my committee, so I will also speak on behalf of the committee and, as it were, perform a double function.

      The Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee has to produce an annual report on the monitoring procedure for the Assembly. This time, the report is different: we have not compiled a compendium, but a more focused report, as members who have been here for several years will already have realised. It is special in that it contains a whole raft of proposals for the adaptation of some of the Assembly’s monitoring procedures.

      I thank all the members of the Monitoring Committee, which undertakes an extremely hard job within the Council of Europe. I am indebted to all its rapporteurs and staff, as well as the election observers and the election observation unit.

      At present, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine are under the full monitoring procedure, while Bulgaria, Monaco, Macedonia and Turkey are engaged in post-monitoring dialogue. The report states that there has been progress – we are very proud of that – but also a number of setbacks.

Of course, there are all kinds of different problems across member states, but one of the main difficulties we have is getting countries to understand that democracy is a balance between opposition and government: it is not – or should not be – a “winner takes all” situation. Time and again, we see the losers in elections boycotting the parliament, as if the only thing that matters is being in government. However, if you do not have an opposition, you do not have a democracy. An opposition has to have rights. Parliamentary and minority rights must be afforded to the opposition, including access to the media. However, as I said, time and again we find that in a few of the countries under monitoring or post-monitoring, the opposition’s role is denied or challenged in some way.

      It must be said in passing that it is great that we have seen changes in two of the countries under monitoring: in Albania; and in Georgia, the first Caucasian country in which there was a democratic change of government. The report shows that we have seen increasing polarisation between government and opposition in many of the countries under monitoring, which is very bad for their democratic development and institutions.

      There is a real issue with blatant, endemic corruption. There are also problems with political detainees, the rule of law and the guarantee of basic rights, independence of the judiciary and, in many cases, the media, which is an extremely important issue. Last but not least is the issue of the rights of minorities. The value of a democracy can be measured in the way a country treats its minorities, and the extent of the media’s freedom: in other words, free access to social media and the internet.

      The report also says that in many cases, we are indeed engaged in constructive dialogue. I must point out that in considering the tension between government and opposition in countries under monitoring, we should not suppose that all this is purely domestic, and view it as a purely internal matter. It is important that we keep a distance from internal affairs, but it is our job to strengthen the hand of the rapporteurs, seeing to it that constitutional provisions are respected. Our rapporteurs go to many of the countries that are under monitoring or post-monitoring.

      Amending the Rules of Procedure is an extremely important step that I set great store by. We set up an ad hoc committee, half of whose members were from countries under monitoring, and half of whom were from countries not under monitoring. We managed to thrash out a compromise whereby we could do something to enrich what the Parliamentary Assembly does. First, we want to put an end to this “class system”, if you like. We look only at countries that are under the microscope and in the monitoring procedure; nobody looks at what is happening in countries that are long-standing members of the Council of Europe. In future, all countries will be under monitoring or might be brought into the monitoring procedure. There might be periodic, country-specific or thematic monitoring. I can see my colleague Valeriu Ghiletchi in the Chamber; we travelled on a monitoring mission to France. We are no longer going to have this class system: countries under monitoring, and others that are not subject to any kind of scrutiny.

      The second important thing is that we are appealing to the political groups to see to it that all member States are represented on the Monitoring Committee. We call on the political groups to ensure that there is a maximum of four representatives per country on the Monitoring Committee. A whole host of countries are not represented on it, which is politically unwise.

      Thirdly, it is important that we are honest with ourselves, so that we can look at ourselves in the mirror. We have countries that have been in post-monitoring for more than 12 years. In some cases, there is no willingness to take on board the Council of Europe’s proposals, which is why we are going to reduce the post-monitoring period. Once it has elapsed, we in the Assembly will have to decide whether to send a country back into full monitoring, or to put an end to the process.

      It is also important that we have greater co-ordination between the Assembly monitoring missions and the Monitoring Committee. We want the two to work in concert. The Monitoring Committee has already taken part in the pre-election observation missions, which is hugely valuable in terms of the wealth of knowledge our people can build up. Our Ukraine rapporteurs have already spent three months of this year – three months of their lives – in the country, so, as I say, their personal involvement and commitment is huge.

I want to take this opportunity again to thank all those members who have worked so hard on these issues, and I very much hope that I have your understanding for all these changes to the rules, which were adopted unanimously by the plenary and the Sub-Committee.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Schennach. You have two and a half minutes remaining if you wish to contribute at the end of the debate.

      In the debate, I call Mr Gross on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr GROSS (Switzerland)* – Stefan, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Socialist Group for this excellent report, for your committed attitude, and for the calm way in which you lead and chair the Monitoring Committee, which has a difficult task to perform. It is not always easy to get the message across.

      We welcome the three parts of the report, and it is good that we have been successful in bringing about these reforms. I would also like to thank Pedro Agramunt, who worked with you on the sub-committee and chaired it so efficiently. The first part of the report summarises what we think about the different countries and the most urgent demands for reform. There is also a statement saying that the countries should make greater efforts to carry out these reforms. You did offer some words of praise, but perhaps the rapporteurs should do a bit more: we should hear a little more about the majorities and minorities in the different countries.

Over and beyond the majorities and minorities in different countries, we should be able to investigate these problems and understand why it is that these countries that have such problems. We need to dig a little deeper into that. Through that, we could learn what we can do to improve situations and the support that we give to enable these reform processes. We social democrats are happy that we will be able to reduce the length of the whole process. It is important that the so-called “old” member countries are better involved in the monitoring process. There should not be two classes of society.

To the themes that you mentioned—the four so-called “transverse” cross-cutting monitoring processes, which would lead to monitoring for other countries—we can add the whole question of money. There are some old democracies where questions about money and elections are not properly dealt with. Sometimes, the transparency on electoral processes is not what it should be. It would be good to have greater transparency on how those processes function. We need to know exactly what the relation is between the parties in power and the opposition. I thank Mr Schennach for the report, and I hope to see it implemented in the coming years.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Ms Djurović on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – On behalf of the EPP Group, I welcome the report and the work of the Monitoring Committee and its mechanism. Also, I congratulate the rapporteur on this important report, which is the outcome of a long process of considering different positions and views on the future of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe monitoring tool and the various procedural novelties that the report proposes. The report confirms the importance of the Monitoring Committee and, given the innovations proposed, it will play an even more important role in future.

The monitoring procedure is a kind of a school of democracy. It has a positive function in the transformation process of many Council of Europe member States. It is a vital instrument of democratisation and institution-building. However, given the perceived division between the two types of member State, it is important to eliminate any notion of injustice. For that reason, the most important innovation proposed in the report is the ending of that division. The possibility of the monitoring procedure being opened for any Council of Europe member State can contribute to greater transparency, equal access, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Those are the founding principles of the Council of Europe, and I see no reason why the proposal would not be supported by all members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I would like to say a few words on behalf of my country. Serbia has been under the monitoring procedure since 2003, when it became a member state of the Council of Europe. I am immensely pleased to see that while neither paragraph 10 nor paragraph 11 of the draft resolution, which provide concrete recommendations on issues that certain countries still need to address, mention Serbia. That shows that our society has passed through a long process of democratisation. We have implemented Council of Europe standards and we are proud to emphasise that fact. The report also shows that Serbia fully deserves to take the next step and engage in post-monitoring dialogue. I sincerely hope that that will be recommended in the next monitoring report.

Another important innovation proposed in this report is the limit for the duration of post-monitoring dialogue. I understand that some countries might feel a certain amount of apprehension about the possible reopening of the full monitoring procedure. Serbia supports that proposal because we believe that as a society we are ready to complete the whole procedure within the envisaged timescale and so close the monitoring process. In January this year we opened accession negotiations with the European Union, and we are fully committed to further reforms of our society and to harmonising our legislation with the European Union acquis in the next five years. Mr Schennach, I once again congratulate you on this fair and courageous report. The EPP Group and the Serbian delegation support it.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I now call Mr Selvi on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

      Mr SELVİ (Turkey) – The report contains several thought-provoking ideas and proposals. It is important to introduce a punctual overview of groups of countries by having issue-based, cross-country monitoring in close co-operation with the relevant committees. The monitoring process should be impartial, objective and constructive and should be applied routinely to all members of our Organisation. I welcome the idea of establishing guidelines for the monitoring procedure to eliminate any feeling of unfairness and to increase the transparency of the process. Nevertheless, we should avoid taking counterproductive steps that would undermine the whole spirit of monitoring. Instead of referring to such notions as “negative reports” and “deadlines”, we should adopt a language that encourages the countries concerned to fulfil their commitments and to comply with Council of Europe standards.

       A monitoring procedure that proceeded on the basis of deadlines would first neglect the uniqueness of each member country. When completing a certain reform in a specific field, circumstances can differ from country to country. Secondly, it would pave the way for further politicisation of the process. Thirdly, since the Monitoring Committee could decide at any time to subject a country to the monitoring process, imposing deadlines for returning a country to the monitoring process regardless of the committee’s opinion is incomprehensible. That decision should be made by the committee.

So far as the countries under the post-monitoring dialogue process are concerned, assessing their democratic progress by examining each individual commitment separately, rather than as a whole, would contribute to the overall effectiveness of the post-monitoring dialogue process.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Guţu on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova) – I join in with the thanks to Mr Schennach that have rung out in the Chamber. I also thank the Monitoring Committee and all its rapporteurs, who have carried out the monitoring procedure in a large number of countries. It is perfectly true that the list of countries under monitoring has remained pretty much unchanged in the past 10 years. We now find ourselves to be one of the ex-Soviet countries that are emerging democracies and have similar problems in respect of human rights, electoral democracy, freedom of expression, pluralism of opinion and other democratic values. We also face the problem of frozen conflicts, and we have to face up to that.

A tremendous job of work has been carried out by the members of the committee. The vigilance that emerges in the reports has a knock-on effect on the advancement of these countries in the monitoring process. They would like to progress along the path to democratisation. We also welcome the thinking on the possible rejigging of the monitoring procedure for member countries of the Council of Europe. We understand that it is difficult to break certain traditions that have become enshrined. They have almost become petrified over the years. At the same time, we have to accept omnia fluunt, omnia mutantur—everything flows, everything changes. That includes certain political phenomena in our member countries.

We have seen the rise of populist extreme right parties in European countries. After all, there were two enlargements of the European Union in 2004 and 2007 and partnerships for democracy have been initiated with countries in North Africa and in Asia. This year has been explosive, with violations of the principles of international law in Ukraine. The map of Europe is in the process of being redrawn at the beginning of the 21st century. We have seen frozen conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and now Crimea. In such conditions, we have to welcome the thinking behind such changes.

      It is time to review the thinking behind the monitoring procedure to make it more effective, including from the financial viewpoint, and also more specific, more targeted, and unable to leave things to drag on for years when there is an interruption. There were six years between the two monitoring procedures. We should allow for the possibility of specific and single-theme monitoring procedures – for example, on electoral democracy, freedom of the press, or constitutional reform.

      I wish every success to the whole Monitoring Committee and thank its chair. The ALDE group gives its full support to the draft resolution.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Jónasson on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr JÓNASSON (Iceland) – The UEL parties of Iceland welcome this report and its proposals, especially its forward-looking nature. On our group’s behalf, I thank the rapporteur, Mr Schennach, and all those who have collaborated in this process.

      We agree that monitoring is a means to ensure that the norms we set in this Assembly are not mere words but are respected in practice and adhered to. After all, we are talking about human rights and the functioning of the mechanisms of democracy. Consequently, the report correctly states: “The monitoring process, and the work of the Monitoring Committee, is one of the core activities of the Assembly that needs to be maintain and reinforced.” The monitoring process has not always been flawless or beyond criticism. Sometimes one has the feeling that internal political debates and disputes in the countries that are being monitored are extended here into the Council of Europe. This is of course understandable in countries plagued by serious internal troubles, or even on the verge of civil war, when feelings run high. However, this puts all the greater responsibility on to everybody else’s shoulders. When we enter the Assembly, we should cease to be representatives of countries. We should even forget which political group we belong to. We should not ask who is putting forward a criticism but concentrate on its content and whether it is fair and justified. Above all, we should avoid double standards. This is a discretion we have consistently taken within our parties. I feel very strongly that there is a need to do this very seriously, collectively, in this Chamber.

      The proposals remind us of what monitoring should be recognised as being – namely, an integral part of the democratic process applicable to all, not to some States but to all States. No State is flawless, and all States would benefit from having the scrutinising eyes of a visiting friend. These proposals recognise those facts.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate, but do you wish to reply at this stage?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – No.

      THE PRESIDENT – In the debate I call next Mr Rouquet from France.

      Mr ROUQUET (France)* – The time period covered by this report – October 2013 to September 2014 – was a particularly difficult one. Force was used once again to resolve issues between states in Europe. This is something we had believed, perhaps naively, that we would never see again on our continent, although the existence of frozen conflicts could have been a warning sign. Alongside that, there are many other difficult issues that have been on our agenda for many years. Some of those are extremely complicated, such as Bosnia and Russia, and others perhaps less complicated but still there. The fact remains that we have these situations that have become virtually permanent.

      Clearly, we must then think about how relevant our procedures are. Some of the States involved in monitoring or post-monitoring seem to feel that they are never going to get out of it, and a sort of apathy or lethargy sets in. Therefore, the idea of having periodic review by group or cluster of countries, including those that are not being specifically monitored, is particularly relevant, because this clearly meets our needs to improve our procedures and also meets the needs of these countries. Paragraph 16 refers to a “more rigorous and homogenous assessment” being undertaken, which should mean that countries did not feel any kind of sense of injustice and there was greater transparency. It is suggested that it is up to the political groups to ensure that there are no more than four national delegations from any single country that is involved in monitoring. That would clearly be desirable, but it amounts to little more than a pious hope. You can certainly say that there should be no more than four, but then the officers of the group would have to take a decision on when the desirable result had not been achieved.

      I also have some doubts about paragraph 17, which talks about the post-monitoring situation and refers to countries that do not do what they are required to do within a particular deadline, with certain measures then being applied to them. What would happen if by reopening a full monitoring procedure you did not get anywhere? Would you then end up expelling the country concerned? This would clearly have to be a last resort, but it would close the door to any kind of further dialogue. If we were to go down that track, the Council of Europe would become totally irrelevant. Russia is a problem for our Organisation, internally and externally, but what would we be without Russia? We have to recognise that we are not a court or a tribunal, that we do not have an army, and that we do not have financial sanctions to impose. We can note shortcomings and problems, but what we should do, first and foremost, is to assist and to recognise that the rule of law and democracy can come into being only after a very long period.

      I welcome this report and the chance to discuss it, and commend the rapporteur.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Bokuchava from Georgia.

      Ms BOKUCHAVA (Georgia) – I welcome the report and thank the rapporteur.

      One area where I have a difference with the content of the report is the suggestion that there may in future be cross-country monitoring. Of course, that can be very important, and procedurally it can be all-encompassing at times. However, I believe that the strength of the monitoring procedure to date is precisely that it has focused on specific countries. I would wish the monitoring procedure to continue to focus on specific countries rather than carrying out cross-country monitoring. Other committees can do that sort of work – for example, the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee, the Equality and Non-Discrimination Committee, and the Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons Committee, on which I serve.

      As for the rapporteur’s comments on Georgia, I very much resonate with his words. I believe – as a representative of the opposition, it would be remiss of me not to mention this – that a strong opposition is key to the democratic development of a country. We saw the importance of that point in yesterday’s heated debate on the monitoring procedure in Georgia. I had hoped that, precisely in this spirit, representatives of my government would accept the recommendations in the report that was adopted by this Assembly after that debate. Unfortunately, however, we heard instead from the government, including the head of the delegation from the parliamentary assembly of the Georgian government, that resolutions made here are not binding and documents here are not binding. It is genuinely with great regret that I must note that the government reacted in this way rather than heeding these important recommendations as recommendations of our friends that we do better on our path of democracy.

      Finally, Russia has also pointed out that these documents are not binding – Putin often makes that point – which might be why it does not heed them, but unfortunately I see no reference to that in the report. According to the rapporteur, there were no new developments in 2013-14, yet we have seen increased “borderisation” and militarisation in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Georgia. I would welcome a mention in the report of Russia’s failure to implement the resolutions on the war file.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Recordan.

Mr RECORDAN (Switzerland)* – I thank the rapporteur for his valuable report, of which I approve wholeheartedly.

Colleagues have already made many useful and relevant points, so I will restrict myself to just three. First, we must consider the situation of our newer member States. Our debate on Georgia showed that weaknesses and problems remain with our methodology, and in partisan debates, what happens is the opposite of what Mr Jónasson talked about. We need a rigorous procedure to investigate the facts of a situation. Only with facts can we avoid what we saw the day before yesterday in this Chamber.

Secondly, I approve of periodic monitoring of older member States. In some of those countries, progress has been slow and sometimes things have actually gone backwards. We talk about the newer member States, but we must not underestimate the problems in older member States. I am thinking about human rights – things are perhaps better with democracy – where problems can become systemic. Sometimes, perhaps because of a lack of courage or perception, authorities are not as quick to react as they should be against racism and xenophobia, of which we have seen dreadful examples in some longstanding member States.

Finally, some member States have said that we do not have many weapons in our arsenal. We should speak out more strongly and think more clearly about how to react to serious and repeated failures to live up to our standards – for example, I am thinking of our response to Crimea.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Christoffersen.

Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I thank Mr Schennach for his thorough report. The yearly reviews show some progress, but unfortunately also the opposite in countries under the monitoring procedure or post-monitoring dialogue. The report contains important proposals for renewing our monitoring procedures. From time to time, we hear countries being monitored launch allegations of double standards against the older member countries. Sometimes, these are merely attempts to blur their own shortcomings, but sometimes they might have a point, so it is of the utmost importance that we develop a monitoring system seen as legitimate by all member States.

In this time of devastating crises, both in Europe and the Middle East, it is more important than ever to ensure the dynamics of this Organisation. On 16 September, Secretary General Jagland presented his second-term agenda to the Committee of Ministers, beginning with an analysis of the main challenges in Europe today: “The countries in Europe and the European institutions are facing huge challenges to overcome threats and to consolidate democratic security across the continent. What is clear is that it is more important than ever to enhance democratic security – or deep security – which is the Council of Europe’s mandate.”

I wish to remind colleagues of our debate on Ukraine yesterday. Mr Jagland made the important point that Ukraine’s high level of corruption and lack of an independent judiciary led to turmoil and revolt, which in turn left the country more vulnerable and open to external pressure. He then pointed out that recent developments show that upholding the rule of law and human rights is the bedrock of our security – not society, but security. Monitoring should been seen as helpful, not as a means to make mutual accusations. In today’s tense situation in Europe, the honouring of obligations cannot be reduced to a matter of internal affairs in each member country. Therefore, we need better procedures. The invasion of Ukraine ought to be a serious wake-up call to every member country that has been under decades of monitoring. Speed up! It is in your best interests. This is a question of deep security for all of us, including the population of Russia.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Hovhannisyan.

Ms A HOVHANNISYAN (Armenia) – I thank the rapporteur for his objective report and draw colleagues’ attention to the findings of the Monitoring Committee on the situation in Azerbaijan. I speak not as a member of the Armenian delegation, but as a member of the Assembly. The resolution states that “the Assembly expresses its concern about developments and remaining shortcomings…in Azerbaijan”, including “the high number of reportedly politically motivated prosecutions of, and pressure exerted on, journalists, civil society activists and opposition supporters, as well as the deterioration in the respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms”.

Multiple motions, reports and resolutions on Azerbaijan have been enacted or are still pending. We have expressed many concerns about human rights, and the European Parliament recently passed a resolution on the persecution of human rights defenders there. The situation has also been condemned by the United States, Human Rights Watch and other international organisations, such as Amnesty International, which recently stressed again that the human rights situation in Azerbaijan was getting worse by the day. It also condemned the Council of Europe: “The fact that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is not elaborating a strong and consolidated stance on human rights violations in Azerbaijan indicates that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe itself is struggling to meet its human rights expectations.”

What was Azerbaijan’s answer to all this? In his rude and violent speech here, in the Council of Europe, President Aliyev declared that there were no political prisoners in Azerbaijan, yet the expert who spoke about the situation of political prisoners in this Assembly just months later became a political prisoner himself. That was its answer to our question about political prisoners. One week ago, Madam President visited Baku, and we all hoped that her visit would bring some tangible results, but apparently we were too naïve. The only positive outcome was that she met two out of 98 alleged political prisoners. Apparently, that is the best this Assembly can achieve in its drive to protect human rights, the rule of law and democracy. We can write millions of motions, but it makes no sense if they are only ignored.

Last but not least, over the last couple of days I have heard in this Chamber and in the lobby persistent attempts by the Azerbaijani delegation, and just a couple of hours ago by the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, to persuade this Assembly that Azerbaijan is very much afraid and concerned about what is happening in Ukraine, and that the next victim of so-called Russian aggression will be Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, some colleagues are accepting those claims. In that context, I quote the Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Mr Eyyubov: “Nobody will break Russia. It will not bend. On the contrary, it will strengthen Russia even more. The European Union and the United States of America have to understand they made a serious mistake when they switched from dialogue to the language of sanctions.”

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Sir Roger Gale. He is not here, so I call Mr Xuclá.

Mr XUCLÁ (Spain)* – I would like to make a few comments on the report. I congratulate Mr Schennach on the great work that he did and on his presentation of the report. It assesses the work that we have done since October last year. We have done some things well, and some things we could have done better. I would like to share my opinion.

Some of you might not agree with me, but on Azerbaijan, I think the territorial question should be separated from the question of respect for human rights, because very often, the territorial aspect has served as a pretext or cover to avoid dealing with the human rights situation. Now that we have a report on the territorial question which pleases all Members of this Assembly, we can come straight to the human rights situation. What we did not do very well this year includes duplicating work: the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has a report on a subject that clearly pertains to the Monitoring Committee. I agree with Mr Kox that we should have a round table at the highest level possible so that the highest authorities in the Parliamentary Assembly are involved in that debate.

The work on Turkey has been important and has been more monitoring than post-monitoring in nature. It has been useful for the presidential elections that occurred in August. I note that there is an open request for monitoring for France. Personally, I think that that is quite ridiculous. The Assembly voted for it at one point, so it is a legitimate decision. It was voted for following a majority decision in the French Parliament on same-sex marriage and the repression of demonstrators in the streets who wanted marriage for all. I think we should reconsider the usefulness of that report.

We should also consider the meaning of “post-monitoring”. Post-monitored countries are countries that want post-monitoring work concluded; post-monitoring cannot last for ever. In those countries that have been under post-monitoring for many years, we must reach conclusions. In some cases, the conclusions will be concrete; in others we might return to monitoring, a mechanism that we have never used. During the course of the year, we have spoken much of reforms. We should be able to reach conclusions on the proposals for reforms. It is also important that Mr Schennach, who has proposed these reforms of the monitoring system, should maintain the rhythm so that we can achieve them.

(Mr Giovagnoli, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Korenjak Kramar.)

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Ariev from Ukraine.

Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – New challenges in Europe and worldwide show that this Assembly is unfortunately lagging behind. The situation is not moving in a good direction, but not enough real efforts have been made to turn it around. We have even heard some statements condemning the use of sanctions against Russia. This is a cowardly policy. Russia has demonstrably and brutally violated all the principles not only of the Council of Europe but of international legislation and security. Despite having signed the Budapest Memorandum with Ukraine, the USA and the United Kingdom, which clearly fixed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia has sent troops to annex Crimea and the head of its Parliament has publicly rejected Ukrainian sovereignty.

Moscow shows arrogance and disrespect to all of you, and even flaunts its boorishness. Since the last calls to free Crimea, it has occupied part of eastern Ukraine, in a clear answer to all our words. NATO and the European Union both recognise that there are Russian troops in Ukraine. How much concern will you express before real actions follow? Words mean nothing to the Kremlin; only actions matter. The word “dialogue” has been mentioned here many times. Dialogue with whom? With Putin, the source of all tension? Maybe, but what dialogue is possible with those who blindly execute Putin’s will? I see no sense in that, but revising Russian membership in the Council of Europe is a reason for serious discussion.

The Putin regime is a menace to the stability of the entire world. It is shaking Europe with military aggression in Ukraine and financing separatist movements, eurosceptics and radical nationalists in many European countries. It is shaking the Middle East by selling rockets to Syria and transporting them to the Gaza Strip, then proposing initiatives to resolve the problems it has created. Why? It is a return to the dreams of the old Soviet empire. If we allow Putin to continue this game, huge problems can be expected throughout Europe and beyond.

We must reinforce the monitoring procedure, especially the response to the violation of Council of Europe principles. The conclusions of the rapporteurs adopted by voting in the Assembly must be followed by real acts, not only by words. Then we will get results. I remind you that the revolution of dignity in the Ukraine happened after we believed in the European values of democracy, equality, transparency and common European support. We do not want to be disappointed. Please remember the meaning of those values, not only their names.

I thank Marietta Pourbaix-Lundin, rapporteur on Ukraine, for her honest and strong efforts in her work. Ukrainians are grateful to you.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Japaridze.

Mr JAPARIDZE (Georgia) – I commend the draft resolution on the progress of the Assembly’s Monitoring Committee, and especially Mr Stefan Schennach and his staff. Monitoring is an exceptional instrument for strengthening the democratic process and making democracy a way of life. It is a delicate and sensitive process, and we must take care of the image and reputation of the Monitoring Committee and its rapporteurs by not pressuring them, letting them work in an unbiased and transparent manner and not engaging them in our domestic politics, thus crippling their capacity and image in the countries that they monitor. This Parliamentary Assembly is a bastion of democratic principles and values. For countries such as Georgia, monitoring is a daily process of learning the habits of democracy, specifically keeping a balance between the party in power and the opposition.

What I have said deviates from some real and painful problems. It is important – I appreciate it very much – that the report mentions Crimea and the tragic developments in Ukraine that have dramatically changed the geographical and political landscape in our part of the world, but Russia’s revanchist imperial stance started in 2008, during the war with Georgia. We should not forget the need for updates on the fulfilment of commitments under the relevant resolutions of this Assembly on the consequences of that war. The Georgian-Russian file should be under permanent monitoring.

I conclude by thanking Stefan Schennach and his capable staff for this exceptional, important and timely report.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Japaridze. I now call Mr Nikoloski.

      Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – Thank you, Mr President.

      Dear colleagues, I am happy that this morning the Monitoring Committee adopted the reforms of the monitoring process, which I hope will also be adopted today. The reform of the monitoring process reflects the work done by the Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on the reforms, which I had the privilege to participate in. I congratulate all our friends with whom we have worked in the past year.

      This reform is based on Resolution 1953, which refers to enhancing the efficiency and impact of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure with regard to all Council of Europe member states. It also asks for periodic review, country by country, of all member states of the Council of Europe, as well as periodic review of groups of countries, either issue by issue or region by region.

      Also according to Resolution 1936, the monitoring procedure can be implemented with regard to every country if concern is raised. As Mr Schennach said, there will be no more class society in the Parliamentary Assembly, which I respect and support. This will mean that all Council of Europe member States must fully comply with their obligations, primarily in the areas of the rule of law, fundamental human rights, languages, and the fight against corruption, in relation to which there is a question of adoption for some of them. Therefore, I am pleased that the Assembly is adopting this crucial reform.

      Also, on the question of post-monitoring dialogue, I support the idea of a time limit of three years. My country, Macedonia, has been in post-monitoring dialogue for more than 13 years, which is very similar to other countries. We must end this. Either countries will fulfil their criteria and go on, or they should have a road map for what they should do in the future.

      With these new monitoring procedures, all member states are becoming equal in their rights and duties. The Assembly knows that there are member states that do not meet the criteria for membership. I would like to inform you that we will use this opportunity to seek to have rapporteurs appointed for the monitoring of Greece in respect of this new change, especially for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which it has not ratified. The discriminatory laws of 1982 and 1985 state that only people who are “Greek by genes” can come back, and that Macedonians, Albanians, Turkish people and Romas cannot have an assembly or education in their mother tongue.

      Thank you again. I fully support Mr Schennach’s report and the work of the Ad Hoc Committee.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Nikoloski. I now call Ms Pashayeva.

      Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) – Dear colleagues, the rapporteur in his report touched on processes taking place in some monitored and post-monitored countries. At the same time the same unacceptable points that relate to my country are pointed out as well. Unfortunately an Armenian colleague made a full speech against Azerbaijan using false information. If would be better if she also spoke about the gross violations of human rights in her own country. Many international organisations, including the Council of Europe, have levelled a lot of criticism against this country. I do not wish to respond to her claims, because the representative of a country that has occupied 20% of a neighbouring country and created 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons has no right to criticise any other country or to speak about human rights issues.

      Dear colleagues, despite that attack and the fact that I do not agree with some issues, I want to bring to your attention a very important issue that has not been reflected in the document, and I request that the Assembly takes urgent steps relating to it. When my country, Azerbaijan, and Armenia entered the Council of Europe, we made commitments on the regulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Some years have already passed, but there is no progress, because Armenia refuses to implement Resolution 1416 adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly, despite the long years that have passed since its adoption. As a result, the situation in the region is getting more strained.

      I would like to bring to your attention the issues that have occurred in the region in the past few days and to urge the Assembly to increase its attention to this issue. In September, the Armenian armed forces regularly violated the ceasefire and Armenian snipers shot civilians living in adjoining villages from their positions. Civilians were wounded by the Armenian armed forces shooting into their houses. As a result of a breach of the ceasefire by Armenia, 13 soldiers from the Azerbaijani army defending civilians were killed. Thirteen young men lost their lives while preventing Armenian acts of sabotage, and the Council of Europe should not be indifferent to this matter.

      If the Council of Europe had put pressure on Armenia to implement commitments taken with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to implement Resolution 1416 on time, maybe such tragedies would not occur. Azerbaijanis Shahbaz Guliyev, Hasan Hasanov and Dilgam Ahmedov were taken prisoner by Armenia this August, which took inhuman steps that contradict international rules. Hasan Hasanov was killed savagely, and Dilgam Ahmedov and Shabaz Guliyev have been tortured. These are people whose homeland has been under Armenian occupation for over 20 years and who risked their lives. They went home and were subjected to inhuman actions, and Dilgam Ahmedov and Shahbaz Guliyev are still being kept in captivity.        We urge the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly and the highly distinguished rapporteur to take steps to ensure their release from captivity and to prevent the escalation of the situation.

      I believe that none of you, including the rapporteur, wants the situation to escalate in the region or young people to be killed and that you will attach serious importance to these issues and take real steps.

      Thank you.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Pashayeva. I now call Mr Zourabian.

      Mr ZOURABIAN (Armenia) – Let me first thank Mr Stefan Schennach for a comprehensive report on the activities of the Monitoring Committee. I would like to use this opportunity, however, to reveal the deficiencies of the monitoring procedure with regard to Armenia. What we have in Armenia is a managed democracy: inflated voter lists, state-organised voter bribing and intimidation, and multiple voting taking place on a scale that ensures that the political power in Armenia cannot be changed through elections.

      In section 10 of the draft resolution, in which the Assembly expresses its concern about developments and remaining shortcomings, proposals on the fundamental overhaul of the Armenian electoral system are conspicuously absent.

      The next problem is the constitutional reform proposed by the Armenian authorities. The constitutional provision that bans a third term for the president of the country is currently the only obstacle for the prolongation of Serge Sargsyan’s personal power. A staunch opponent of the parliamentary model of governance, the incumbent president has now surprisingly proposed a transition to a parliamentary system.

      The move is presented as democratic concession to the opposition. However, this statement is nothing more than simple hypocrisy. Only one small party in the parliament has expressed support for the reform. Three major opposition forces are opposed to the change to the constitution. The Armenian authorities want to use European democratic institutions such as this Assembly and the Venice Commission to legitimise their autocratic grip on Armenia under cover of democratic constitutional reformation. Do not be tricked into this. The majority of the Armenian people and political forces reject these plans. Any sweeping change of the constitutional model of governance can be made only through reaching broad consensus between the political forces of the country. If there is such consensus within the Armenian society, it is against the proposed reform.

      Yet, in the report, the Armenian constitutional reform is mentioned in the section on positive developments. This, of course, is explained by the fact that unfortunately Armenia is represented in the Monitoring Committee by two members only, one from the ruling party and one from the only party that supports the reform. This should be corrected. The Assembly should say unequivocally that any constitutional reform in Armenia should go ahead only if it is based on broad political consensus.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Zourabian.

Mr Sasi, you have the floor.

      Mr SASI (President) – Thank you, President.

I welcome the report by the sub-committee and by Mr Schennach. It is a good review of the monitoring process. It is not a revolution, but there are proposals for clear improvements in the process.

       First, I should like to mention post-monitoring. We have four countries in post-monitoring and there is no clear exit at moment. It is now clear that certain conditions must be put to the countries and that they will have to fulfil them within a reasonable time and, if nothing happens within three years, then they return to monitoring. That is a very good rule that makes post-monitoring more effective.

To be fair in this Assembly it is good that we have periodic overviews of countries and it is important that, in respect of a certain issue, you see whether there are systematic problems in some countries, and then you look at what should be done in those countries and give recommendations. It is important that we do not make a list of all countries and do technocratic work that does not really lead to anything, but that we focus on certain subjects and make recommendations where we see problems, and then try to have a real impact on decision-making in those countries.

I do not like the proposal for partnership countries to be in the process. I can accept it because it is included so that we can consider whether they should be on board, but I think that only those countries that are parties to the Human Rights Convention should be making decisions and judging other countries. Okay, we can discuss that, but I am hesitant in that respect.

It is important that we have clear guidelines for the monitoring process, and that is something that is promised. There must always be a road map for a country, stating what the country must do, and we should try to give some time frames. The monitoring reports are fairly good, but they do not indicate clearly enough what should be done. So there should be a clear list of things to be done, showing which direction a country is going in.

In many countries there is a problem with the same government being in power for a very long time. Such governments use administrative resources. The only thing available to solve problems in such countries is a shift of government, with new people coming into government and everything being gone through, after which you get a good parliamentary system. However, it is difficult for us to recommend that, to get such a balance, some parties should win and some should lose, or, indeed, to recommend getting rid of the use of administrative resources. You have to be afraid that new people would use them as well.

Some countries do not make any progress. A key question for this Assembly is what to do about that. Okay, we can take away their voting rights, but that does not help much. Should we fine those countries? Are they willing to pay? Well, that is not very good either. We in this Assembly should be thinking about whether there are more effective means by which to try to punish countries that do not make any progress.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Sasi.

Ms Taktakishvili, you have the floor.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – Thank you, President. I thank Mr Schennach for the report and thank the entire Monitoring Committee for their tremendous capacity and for their professionalism in dealing with reports. This is one of the most important committees in this Assembly.

I ask the rapporteur why, given the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia, relevant recommendations are not included in the documents. I perfectly understand that it is a report only for the period 2013-14, and that it is true that we have not adopted any new resolutions in that regard, but these were the years in which the rapporteurs expressed their concern about the new borderisation processes, where the occupied territories are physically divided from the rest of Georgia. I think the report could have been better if the failure of the Russian Federation to implement the recommendations contained in the file on Georgia-Russia was included in the document.

Reflecting generally on the monitoring procedure, I very much appreciate that the report deals with some of the novelties and makes proposals for the Assembly to consider. I should like to comment on three issues. First, on the new rules for post-monitoring could you say what the new added value would be of appointing the second co-rapporteur for post-monitoring? We know that only one rapporteur is dealing with post-monitoring. There was meant to be differentiation between full-scale monitoring and post-monitoring, so why is this needed and what are the specific challenges that one rapporteur cannot deal with?

Secondly, we are introducing a time frame, with an expiration, under which a country should go back into the monitoring procedure. I am very much in favour of introducing such deadlines. This is a good thing. However, I have questions about the automatic restoration of the full-scale monitoring procedure? Why? Because even if a country has only a few remaining shortcomings it then enters into the post-monitoring procedure. However, if the administration of justice or the administration of elections poses serious problems in such countries, they should not be in post-monitoring at all. At the same time, the final decision would be to initiate the entire monitoring procedure, concerning not only the small shortcomings, but the entire procedure.

Finally, you are proposing more cooperation – structural cooperation – between the monitoring procedure and election observation. Maybe it would be good to install a new fully fledged committee on observation, rather than to mix such functions in with those of the Monitoring Committee.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you.

Neither Mr Chikovani nor Mr Huseynov is in the Chamber, so that concludes the list of speakers.

I now call Mr Schennach, the rapporteur, to reply. You have two and a half minutes.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – And, I think, two minutes more, as Chairman of the Committee?

THE PRESIDENT – Yes, you are right.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Before I go into my answers, since the Bureau was not here at the beginning I should like to say once again that the rapporteurs go to the countries for monitoring, but you have to go as well and you work with them on-site, so thank you very much for what you have done – the whole team of Caroline Rivaud, and others. One job here is vacant, by the way, and we need to fill that gap. I thank Pedro as well, particularly, for the leadership of the sub-committee for reform.

I thank all those who have contributed and should like to correct one or two things, and stress one or two points, in the case of Mr Gross and Ms Djurović. Ms Djurović said something very neat: “The Monitoring Committee is a school of democracy”. Yes, she puts it extremely well. As Mr Jónasson said, this is the core business of the Council of Europe. I say to Mr Sasi that, because it is a school of democracy, we have suggested what we want to achieve with the partnership for democracy, and it is exactly this process that we go through together. Taking the example of Morocco or the Palestinian Autonomous Authority, we participate and learn during the monitoring procedure.

Mr Jónasson, we should not just look at this from a party political point of view. Obviously we can do that, but it is more important not just to look at things from the perspective of your own country—defending your own country and attacking another—but to become a team. We will then achieve a common process towards the rule of law and the growth of democracy, which is a target that we are all ultimately trying to achieve.

In answer to Ms Bokuchava and Ms Hovhannisyan, I have written a report about what has been done in the Monitoring Committee, but I am not the rapporteur for Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan or Russia—that would be Ms Bakoyannis, Mr Gross, Mr Agramunt and Mr Debono Grech. I report on what happens in the Monitoring Committee. I do not write my own reports, and I do not replace the rapporteurs, which is a very important point that you must appreciate.

Mr Ariev, you called for sanctions left, right and centre, but as Kimmo Sasi said, there would be 10 fewer countries in the Council of Europe if we had sanctions because corruption is such a major issue and there are at least 10 member countries where corruption is one of the massive dangers to democracy. You might say that there is only one such country, but monitoring reports always come up against corruption. The Maidan Square protests, for example, were protests against endemic corruption in Ukraine. I said in the report that we see corruption in all these countries. Corruption is one of the major evils, and I am pleased that in Albania, for example, the GRECO report says that effective first steps have been taken to combat corruption.

I thank Mr Xuclà for his kind words, but I must correct one thing. France is not under monitoring, and the report is not about homosexual partnerships or adoption. Mr Valeriu Ghiletchi and I are merely mandated to clarify what the police did with regard to the demonstrators and whether there was any breach of the law or human rights, which is what Ms Guţu said—I thank her for that. There has to be quick, issue-based monitoring, which is what we are doing. I clarify that that is the case for the question of whether the police action during the demonstrations in France infringed the law or overstepped the mark.

As I am alone here, I think I have a few more seconds. In answer to Ms Taktakishvili, we have to decide at some point whether to stop monitoring a country or whether to go back, and we need at least two people for post-monitoring. It has to be balanced. In June 2013, the Monitoring Committee spent a whole day considering the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh and the southern territories. This report starts after that point. The Monitoring Committee does a lot of work on frozen conflicts. I thank everyone for this positive debate.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. That concludes the debate. We now proceed to the amendments.

The Monitoring Committee has presented a draft resolution to which eight amendments and one sub-amendment have been tabled. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium and the Organisation of Debates1. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

I understand that the Monitoring Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 1 to 5 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as adopted by the Assembly.

Is that so?

Amendments 1 to 5 adopted.

I understand that the Monitoring Committee proposes an oral amendment instead of amendment 7 tabled by Ms Leskaj.

The effect of the oral amendment would be to change the end of paragraph 10.1 to read: “…persistent and widespread corruption at many levels of Albanian life” instead of “persistent and endemic corruption at all levels of Albanian society.”

Is that the proposal of the Committee?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Yes, it is the proposal of the Committee. I thank Ms Leskaj for the compromise.

THE PRESIDENT – Does Ms Leskaj wish to withdraw her amendment?

Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – After constructive discussions with the rapporteur, I have agreed to withdraw my amendment.

THE PRESIDENT – Any other Member of the Assembly may move the amendment if they wish, otherwise it can be withdrawn. Does anyone else wish to move Amendment 7?

That is not the case.

Oral amendment adopted.

I call Mr Xuclà to support Amendment 8. You have 30 seconds.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain) – I agree with the amendment, which improves the text by sending a clear signal.

THE PRESIDENT – I call Mr Schennach to support Sub-Amendment 1. You have 30 seconds.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The person who tabled the amendment is not a member of the Monitoring Committee, so we could not ask him whether he agreed with the sub-amendment. The sub-amendment addresses pre-trial detention. The Committee agreed to the sub-amendment unanimously.

THE PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment?

That is not the case.

I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The sub-amendment is agreed to.

I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.

The vote is open.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13595, as amended.

      The vote is open.

3. The honouring of obligations and commitments by Albania

      THE PRESIDENT – The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled “The honouring of obligations and commitments by Albania”, Document 13586, presented by Mr Grigore Petrenco and Mr Jonathan Evans on behalf of the Monitoring Committee.

      I call Mr Popescu on a point of order.

      Mr POPESCU (Ukraine)* – I wanted to announce that I have been unable to press my voting button, so I did not manage to vote on the previous resolution. Could you count me as being in favour of the draft resolution?

      THE PRESIDENT – We have noted that point, and we are looking into it to fulfil your request.

      In order to finish this afternoon by 8 p.m. we shall interrupt the list of speakers at about 7 p.m. to allow time for the replies and votes. I remind the Assembly that the limit on speaking time is three minutes. Please stick to the time.

      I call the co-rapporteurs, Mr Evans and Mr Petrenco. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – Albania joined the Council of Europe on 29 June 1995, barely a few years after the fall of communism. In joining the Council of Europe, Albania aligned itself with article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, which talks of pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Those commitments affect all member States. Article 3 sets out those obligations, and all member States are obliged to honour them. Albania made further specific commitments in an opinion that was appended to the report when the country joined in 1995, and it has been regularly assessed in the years since then. Over a period of 16 years, a total of 29 visits to Albania have been undertaken by rapporteurs, the President of the Assembly and electoral monitoring missions. The Assembly’s most recent report on the matter was produced some four and a half years ago, so it is timely that Mr Petrenco and I have been asked to update it. We have produced a comprehensive report that covers a period of major change. There was a peaceful transition of power following an election last year, but also periods of turmoil in which both major parties have, at one point or another, boycotted participation in parliament. Against that, however, the country has also achieved European Union candidate status.

      I want to place on record our genuine thanks to the leadership of the government and the opposition for their positive engagement with us as rapporteurs while we have undertaken this work. They have shown a clear willingness to engage constructively with us, with the OSCE, with the Venice Commission and with many other stakeholders. There are issues of concern, the first of which remains the capacity of the two parties constructively to engage with one another in the way in which any mature democracy needs and demands. During our reporting period, many of the problems that have arisen have been accentuated by deep distrust between the parties. In our view, the main guarantor of the fairness of elections in Albania, the Central Election Commission, has sometimes fallen victim to that danger. It has also been undermined by the fact that overdue reforms of the local government structure in the country, which we support, were also affected by distrust. The main parties look to the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Venice Commission and the European Union as arbiters, and perhaps too often seek to involve them as arbiters in local political disputes, which ought to be resolved by the main parties themselves. Therefore, major administrative and constitutional reforms tend to be taken forward by consensus only when to do so appears to be a prerequisite of the international community, as has been the case in respect of the reform of the judiciary and of public administration.

      One key area of widespread concern remains the issue of corruption, which affects many areas of public and private life. It has been an extraordinary experience to find that many of those to whom I have spoken in Albania, at the highest levels of public administration, acknowledge the existence of that problem in the judiciary, in the police and elsewhere in public life. That issue must be tackled. In fact, pledges to that effect were made when Albania was granted European Union candidate status.

Our report highlights a range of serious issues for Albania, but there is no doubt that Albanians look positively to Europe for their political and economic future. I am sure that we all want Albania to be able to achieve that future, and the political parties in the country can be in no doubt whatsoever of the challenges that they must meet if they are to be able to achieve that European future.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Evans. I call Mr Petrenco. You have eight minutes and 42 seconds.

Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova)* – I thank the Group of the Unified European Left for their faith in me, and I thank the Monitoring Committee for confirming me in May 2011 as co-rapporteur on Albania. More than three years have passed, and it has been an excellent experience for me. I thank the Albanians, both the authorities and the opposition – of course, they have switched places during the past few months – for their close co-operation. Without their co-operation, the report would not have been as thorough as it is. The report began a long time ago; the last examination of Albania’s compliance was in 2007, so we have been looking at their institutions ever since. As Mr Evans has just said, Albania has done a great deal over the past few years to bring itself into line with its commitments to the Council of Europe, including work on electoral laws, freedom of speech, decentralisation and close co-operation with the Venice Commission to reform the justice system. I also want to mention amendments to the crIminal law with regard to a series of categories of crime.

      Albania is gradually becoming a more stable feature of the region, but we must admit that political crises have put a brake on the reforms on several occasions in the past few years. In particular, the political crisis that followed the parliamentary elections in 2009 included a boycott of parliament, which meant that a series of laws and reforms could not go through. That crisis was overcome, and the parliamentary elections in 2013 were conducted more or less calmly, with no repeat of the events of 2009. The will of the people was more or less freely expressed, and there was a change of government.

      Although the 2009 crisis was overcome, the parliament is still racked with problems. There must be a change in mindset in the relationship between the government and the opposition. One sometimes gets the impression that, despite the parties having changed places, the new government is repeating exactly the same mistakes as those of the previous one in its attitude to the opposition.

      There is a lack of trust by citizens in State institutions. They do not trust the judges, the courts or the electoral commission. The endemic corruption, which is mentioned in the report, is not allowing Albania to function properly as a democratic State, and it hampers its economic development. Albania also lacks an independent judiciary. All this is in the report. We should point out that such defects are not peculiar to Albania; they permeate the whole of the Balkans and many countries in eastern Europe.

      The report draws attention to other issues that need to be tackled, such as the large number of cases and applications for cases now before the European Court of Human Rights, the need to reform the Albanian Supreme Court or high court of justice, the need for greater flexibility in recognising ethnic or national minorities, and the need to sign and ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. We believe that the monitoring process for Albania should continue, which will help it to develop in a democratic direction.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Petrenco. You and Mr Evans have four minutes and 15 seconds remaining to share between you. I call Mr Nikoloski on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I thank Mr Petrenco and Mr Evans for preparing a well-balanced report on Albania’s obligations. Albania faces big challenges, and constructive dialogue between the two major parties is needed. Albanian society must become more inclusive not only of all political forces, but of all ethnic groups there.

      I will focus on two main issues in the report – local self-government, and minorities and discrimination. I want to underline that the new law on self-government has created big problems for Albanian society. The Parliamentary Assembly asked the Albanian authorities to adopt a new law to reform the territorial system and allow communes and municipalities to carry out their responsibilities, particularly in relation to territorial development and urban planning. However, the new law does not do that; it does the opposite. That is why I hope that it will be withdrawn or suspended by the Constitutional Court, where it is now under consideration.

      One weakness of the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government is that it does not guarantee a city council any authority over the elected mayor, which can lead to conflicts. The regions are headed by a prefect who is appointed by the Albanian Council of Ministers – namely, the government. Although the share of their own revenue in local authority budgets has increased considerably in recent years, local authorities are still dependent on central government funding, especially as they cannot collect local taxes.

      Some Albanian municipalities are inhabited mainly by ethnic minority Macedonians. Bearing in mind that a law relating to territorial and administrative reform will require municipalities to have at least 10 000 inhabitants, such municipalities will be merged into bigger ones. If that happens, Macedonians fear that they will lose their basic rights, because such municipalities will be dominated by Albanians. Such municipalities will also cover a larger territory, which will make it more complicated for those from the minority population to exercise their rights. They will need to travel further to obtain basic services, which will create not only ethnic tension, but economic problems and migration.

      To take 10 seconds more on minorities and discrimination, minorities can have schools that use their own languages only in municipalities where they are dominant; it is impossible in the rest of the country. That is why I ask the Parliamentary Assembly to monitor this process, and to allow Macedonian and other minorities to have schools that operate in their mother tongue wherever they live in Albania.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Nikoloski. I call Lord Balfe on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

      Lord BALFE (United Kingdom) – I congratulate the two rapporteurs on their excellent report. It is good that it was written, although I must say that it makes for a rather depressing read. I have visited Albania on several occasions dating back to 1975, when it was certainly very different from what it is now. I have not been there recently, although I understand from the British press that it has had a visitation from a certain Mr Tony Blair. Clearly that has not done them that much good, but I wish him well there – perhaps he would like to stay.

      I want to concentrate only on the aspect of corruption. It is often misunderstood, but the report lays it out fairly clearly. The country is right down at the bottom of the Transparency International index – 133rd out of 176 countries. The problem of corruption has to be tackled not for us, but in order to build a decent society.

      The first thing that happens in a society with corruption is that the best brains leave to go to universities abroad. Really productive talent will therefore be outside Albania and not contributing to its future. If a bright young Albanian sees that jobs in the civil service are given out according to political party, not ability, or notices a general politicisation in the judiciary or the entire public domain, they will make getting out of the country their first priority. One only has to look at the United States to see the extent to which brains from countries such as Albania are sucked into another country and how much they can add to its wealth.

      The second effect is on businesses, which will not go to countries where the rule of law is not secure. Ukraine has found that, and Albania will do so too. There is no reason for a business to go to a country where the judiciary is perhaps corrupt and the business cannot secure a level playing field. My message to all our Albanian colleagues is that it is principally in their interests, although it is also in ours, for them to take aim at and deal with this cancer at the heart of the economy. That is how Albania can benefit from this report.

      THE PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Ms Mateu Pi on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Ms MATEU PI (Andorra)* – The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe would like to congratulate the rapporteurs on the work they did on Albania’s respective obligations and undertakings.

Albania obtained the status of candidate for the European Union last June. Observers such as GRECO in March 2014, the European Union in June, the OSCE in September, and our rapporteurs in their conclusion, have noted that Albania has made great progress, anchoring it as a State with a rule of law pursuant to the democratic standards of our institution. Yet, these reforms and changes have to be pursued relentlessly and continuously, because the path is still long and winding.

We of course welcome the positive efforts made in the fields of media freedom and combating corruption in justice – thanks to the precious assistance of the Venice Commission – but efforts also have to be made in the fields of education and health, where corruption is present. Furthermore, as the rapporteurs indicated, substantial reforms are necessary to deal with abuse of power in politics and the civil service.

      However, we want to praise the efforts Albania has made in respect of its legal framework, and we hope that legislation Albania is producing in favour of transparency and democracy will genuinely be applied and developed. Wounds such as organised crime, co-action and intimidation are often so deep that one has to be constantly on the alert in order to remove them from the institutional, political and social landscape. We also call upon the Albanian authorities to intensify their efforts to respect human rights, and to develop policies against discrimination, particularly concerning minorities.

      We share the rapporteurs’ view on the need to end the polarisation of politics and to normalise democracy. We note the habit of boycotting parliament that opposition parties seem to have adopted. For a long time, the socialist party did it; now that they are in power, the democratic party are doing it. This is not tolerable in a democracy. Respect for political pluralism, and open debate with mutual respect, are the fundamentals of our democracies.

      However, we support the report of Mr Evans and Mr Petrenco because we feel that Albania is progressing along the right lines.

      (Mr Rouquet, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Giovagnoli.)

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kox on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – The rapporteurs have done a difficult job. It is not easy to monitor the extent to which a country is able to honour its obligations and commitments, because such a task is a very difficult one for a country to take on. However, membership of the Council of Europe should not be for free: it should help countries to develop their standards, so that they can live up to the obligations they have voluntarily taken upon themselves.

      After a week of many difficult discussions in this Assembly, it is important to stress that the monitoring procedure is as fair as possible. The report and the resolution meet the criteria of a fair and open observation of what is going on in a given country. Progress is noted in the report, which should encourage Albania to go further in its efforts to meet its obligations and commitments. However, friction and setbacks are mentioned.

      Perhaps the rapporteurs would like to comment on paragraph 4, which says that the functioning of the parliament and the relationship between the parties is still very problematic. Some years ago, this Assembly sent a presidential committee to Albania to speak to all the parties and to tell them that that was not the way to deal with their problems. If the opposition keeps boycotting the parliament, and if the coalition keeps on abusing the power it enjoys as a majority to structurally set back the opposition, parliament cannot function. Without a functioning parliament there is no functioning democracy, and without a functioning democracy you can never live up to the obligations you have taken upon yourself.

      The rapporteurs have said that this issue remains a major problem in Albania, and they rightly emphasise that it cannot be solved with rules. In my country, the Netherlands, we have very few rules on how opposition and government should work together. It is a question of attitude and culture, and if the majority cannot accept that the minority also has a role to play, and if the opposition and the minority cannot accept that a coalition based on the majority is allowed to come up with proposals and to decide on them, the parliament will never function.

      This problem does not affect only the Albanian Parliament. We see it in many of our countries, and where it happens and we are unable to overcome it, democracy is not functioning as it should, and that is a pity, first and foremost, for the country in question.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Le Borgn’ on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – On 26 June, Albania was granted at the European Council in Luxembourg the status of candidate State for membership of the European Union. I was delighted by this, as was the Socialist Group. Albanian Governments have fought for this for many years. Granting this status reflects the progress that has been made in Albania in clamping down on organised crime. That was recognised by Štefan Füle, the European Commissioner for enlargement, and by the Council.

I did not come across the same degree of appreciation in the report that our colleagues Mr Evans and Mr Petrenco expressed in their presentation. The report is right about what still needs to be done, but it is sometimes quite severe and peremptory.

The year 2015 will mark the 20th anniversary of Albania’s joining the Council of Europe. Our Assembly has regularly assessed Albania’s compliance with its obligations, in accordance with Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, concerning democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

To say that Albania has some way to go is an understatement. What is required is a peaceful and mature political approach in which ideas, initiatives and people are respected. Albania suffers from a public debate which, although improved, is still excessively divisive and internecine. Future democratic progress requires that at least the minimum amount of institutional and political consensus between the majority and the opposition be achieved. The best reforms work only if they go hand in hand with a definite change in mind-set and a strong desire for sincere co-operation among all parties.

The priorities should be independence, impartiality, transparency and efficiency. The politicisation of public administration must stop. The appointment and promotion of public officials should be done solely on the basis of competencies, merit and professionalism. It is an unhealthy state of affairs if, every time there is a political change of power, such as happened last year, there is a huge shake-up in public administration. The law on public administration must be applied urgently.

Impartiality and independence of the judiciary is also very important. It is riven with corruption and discredited by its failure to execute many decisions, including ones handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. Anti-corruption legislation has had little impact, because it is not being applied and it does not have the necessary resources.

The impartiality and independence of the media is important. The media must stop being instrumentalised and intimidated by, among other things, the continuing criminalisation of slander, which all Council of Europe member states must put a stop to. I believe in Albania, the Albanian people and the youth, as does my group and, I am sure, as does the Assembly. I remember a lively debate in Tirana last year with the People’s Advocate, Igli Totozani, whose work to promote the rule of law impressed me. I hope that this commitment can inspire the Government, the majority and the opposition to carry through all the necessary reforms on the basis of consensus and to build the future for Albania and Albanians.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Rapporteur, would you like to take the floor now, or would you rather wait until the end of the general discussion?

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – I think I would prefer to hear the voices of the rest of the members of the Assembly first.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Ms Leskaj.

      Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – First, I thank the two rapporteurs for their comprehensive report. The report mentioned several areas of concern that need major reform, but many of those reforms have been made or are currently under way. The European Union progress report noted several very positive developments and based on that, Albania got candidate status with the full consensus of European Union countries. The government has made these fundamental reforms a national priority. Territorial reform has been successfully approved with an inclusive approach based on international standards. There has also been reform of the judiciary and anti-corruption measures have been taken. Positive steps have been taken in the fight against corruption, and that has been recognised by several international reports, including the European Union report, the GRECO report, the most recent OSCE report and the conclusions of Transparency International.

Albania has strengthened the legal and institutional anti-corruption framework. A national co-ordinator on anti-corruption has been appointed and will provide a focal point going forward. Co-operation among law enforcement agencies has been strengthened. The important thing is the track record. This year, the number of corruption cases referred to the prosecutor’s office increased by 54% as compared with last year.

Albania has demonstrated its commitment to reforming the judicial system, notably by working with the Venice Commission to improve independence, accountability and professionalism. On the civil service, the new government froze all recruitment from March to July to allow for the new civil service law to become fully operational, thus ensuring a robust and transparent recruitment process. On the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflicts of Interest, improvements have been made within the legal framework and the performance of the institution has improved. The track record shows marked progress.

Finally, I stress the clear will of the government to break away from the culture of having good laws only on paper. I totally agree with Mr Kox on that. We are conscious of the challenges ahead of us in advancing and implementing the reforms. Meanwhile, boycotts cannot be a solution, either for the country or for the opposition. We are open to discussing every solution in parliament. We do not need the opposition for votes, because the government have enough votes, but we need the opposition for democracy and because the reforms need to be steady. They cannot be steady without the opposition. We are fully committed to negotiating with them on everything.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now call Mr Fournier.

      Mr FOURNIER (France)* – I welcome this exhaustive report on Albania by our colleagues Mr Petrenco and Mr Evans. Albania is one of the seven member states of our Organisation that is the subject of specific monitoring by our Assembly. I regret, however, that the report does not explicitly indicate that Albania obtained candidate country status for membership of the European Union during the European Council meeting held last June. With this report, the Albanian authorities have an exhaustive road map for pursuing indispensable reforms in their journey to a European rapprochement. Our Monitoring Committee produced a good piece of work. While it underscores the important reforms that have taken place in Albania, it does not underestimate the magnitude of the task ahead, particularly to guarantee the impartiality of public administration and the independence of the judiciary and to effectively combat corruption.

Albania had a very repressive political regime for more than 45 years. It was closed in, so it is not surprising that mentalities may still be marked by totalitarian practices. The regime remained Stalinist almost right to the end. Those mentalities are often too characteristic of Albanian political life. I deplore them, but they have historical roots. Democratisation is a long-running process and Albania has only known it for less than 25 years. In that short period of time, it has covered a lot of ground with important and often painful reforms. The attribution of candidate country status for membership of the European Union consecrated those efforts.

I have been to Albania several times, and each time I have been pleasantly surprised to note the considerable evolution that has taken place. The youthfulness of its population, its dynamic civil society and its openness to Europe and the world are impressive. Furthermore, the Albanians have a sincere wish to be part of Europe, and membership of the European Union is one of the rare topics that has consensus among the political classes and is above partisan divisions. We should congratulate ourselves on that. We should adopt a balanced and constructive position on Albania. Many reforms are still to happen, but we should avoid discouraging the Albanian authorities. That is why I agree with the conclusions of the co-rapporteurs, who say that the Council of Europe and its bodies can contribute their expertise to Albania in making those reforms.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Moreno Palanques.

      Mr MORENO PALANQUES (Spain)* – I thank the rapporteurs for the report they produced on the respective obligations of Albania. We should always congratulate ourselves on the progress that countries make on their undertakings, particularly those relating to the Council of Europe, and when they seek to get closer to the European Union. The report contains important information on the most important political events that have happened in Albania, as well as on the fundamental aspects of reform and development in Albania in terms of the democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights.

One aspect that I particularly underscore is parliamentary reform and the changing of the procedural rules. Those rules are the basis of an effective and representative parliament, and they are particularly important during a difficult period. We all know that, in order to bring stability, not only the institutions but the whole country has to contribute. One should do things with greater consensus, as has already been said. I am pleased that it was someone from the Albanian Parliament who said that. There has to be greater consensus because we need respect among different parties as regards their independence. A pluralistic democracy is required to achieve these aims.

      Albania has undertaken important reforms and has obtained the status of candidate country for membership of the European Union. That is no small thing, especially considering where that country started from. I hope that it will continue to work along these lines. However, as the report says, it is also very important that the process of reform should be pursued, that the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the public administration should be guaranteed, and that corruption should be combated. It is not an easy task – nobody pretends that it is. Fulfilling one’s obligations vis-à-vis pluralistic democracy and human rights is a thorny path. Nor is it easy to become a member of the European Union, but those efforts are well worth while, as we have seen from the countries who have joined it.

      We congratulate Albania and hope it will continue to progress, and that participation and consensus will be as great as possible, because a solid future has to be built for the good of its citizens. That is what is augured by all those of us who are involved in politics.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much. Ms Kountoura is not here, so I call Mr Bylykbashi.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – I sincerely thank the co-rapporteurs for their work and the report. I have to say, however, that in in the past year, since the new government took office, the democratic standards that were already achieved have been undermined or are threatened. Many of the worrying developments happened after the draft resolution was approved on 24 June and after the granting of candidate status.

      I have been listening to some of the concerns that are now developing in Albania. On the situation in parliament, the ruling majority has, de facto, taken away all constitutional space for the opposition. The majority does not execute constitutional court rulings that oblige the establishment of investigative committees, which are an excellent tool for oversight of the executive. It continues to block three major investigative committees requested by the opposition. In addition, a mechanism to silence the opposition’s voice in parliament has been set up by the prime minister. An unprecedented number of MPs on the ruling majority side have proven criminal records or past convictions for organised crime, and they are ordered by the prime minister to be physically aggressive towards opposition MPs and threaten their lives. A vocal opposition MP was assaulted only recently, on 10 July – after the draft resolution was approved. He has twice been assaulted in parliament, most recently on 10 July, while making statements denouncing the criminalisation of parliament.

      The ruling majority has replaced the head of the high inspectorate of declaration and audit of assets, which controls high officials’ assets. It should be an independent institution that cannot be controlled by government. However, the government removed the powers of the president to propose candidates for the vacant position of chief inspector, and now the appointment of this independent body that should check the corruption of government officials is firmly in the hands of the majority.

      The majority has removed the head of the Albanian media authority and has appointed a former socialist minister as commissioner for data protection. Meanwhile, we are asking for an investigative committee to look into the theft of 32 million personal records in the tax office service. In July, the majority approved laws to replace high council of justice members. Only in September, the impeachment procedure was initiated against the deputy chair of the HCJ and another member, and their dismissal is only a matter of a few weeks away. We have to fight hard against corruption in the judiciary, but that should be done by the judiciary itself; it cannot be done by our making political statements on the judiciary.

      Another instance of the capture of independent institutions is the central bank. The governor was illegally arrested in relation to a theft at the central bank. The political objective was his dismissal, while the persons in charge of protecting the institution are not investigated. Three constitutional court decisions have been ignored by the government, and other decisions too. Less than a year from elections, electoral reform has not started – that is unprecedented – and the central election commission is incapacitated. Territorial reform has slashed the number of units from 373 to only 61, and that was done without consultation and without consensus. There is blatant evidence of gerrymandering. In the meantime, the government is blocking the work of local authorities that are led by the opposition.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Mr Badea is not here, so I call Mr Shalsi of Albania.

      Mr SHALSI (Albania) – I sincerely thank the rapporteurs for their work. I want to thank each one of you who has been to Albania and inspired us to improve democracy in our country.

      I remember that the first time I came here I was asked by an honourable colleague of mine about Lazarat. There is an area of countryside in Albania called Lazarat that is very famous, not only in Albania but the whole of Europe, for marijuana. There has been a lot of discussion about it in newspapers. In fact, it was not the only place where the whole area was covered with marijuana. For many years, various Albanian governments failed to tackle this issue, which was a huge problem not only in itself but for the image of Albania. That was not the only place where it happened – all over Albania there were other well-known places where different kinds of drugs were cultivated. In March, the new government started a massive operation against marijuana, not only in Lazarat but in all areas in Albania. It was a huge battle. The total value of marijuana and other drugs confiscated was €6 billion or €7 billion. A poor State has had to tackle such a big problem, but we did it. We have a prime minister who proved to be a very successful mayor of Tirana in 2004. We know that we have a lot of problems to handle. It is not easy to judge a country that changed government a year ago, but a year is long enough to realise whether we are moving in the right direction.

      Finally, I would like to give an answer to Mr Nikoloski, who is not here at the moment. He mentioned territorial reform and minorities. Perhaps he has not been informed that territorial reform has been achieved. We have been speaking about it for 20 years, and now it has been done. The Macedonian and Greek minorities both have their own municipalities. We excluded the general criteria just in order to satisfy the rights of minorities. We have had official thanks from the Macedonian ambassador in Albania. I want to let Mr Nikoloski know that, as part of the territorial reform, Pustec is now a minority Macedonian unit.

      I thank all of you for inspiring us and, as my dear colleague said, for believing in us. We are not going to disappoint you.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Shalsi.

That concludes the list of speakers. I now call on the co-rapporteurs to respond. Mr Evans, you have four minutes and 15 seconds.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – I shall deal quickly with the points made on behalf of the groups. I am sorry that Mr Nikoloski is not here –

Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I am here!

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – He is here now.

We are very positive about the administrative reforms in Albania. We argued for them because they were overdue, and we also argued for involvement from both political parties – we did not miss that point, or the point about minority rights, which we discussed with the government and the deputy speaker, who himself comes from a minority group.

I am grateful for Lord Balfe’s comments about the need to tackle corruption, which ultimately steals away the best minds in any country, and for Ms Mateu Pi’s point about the boycotts, which we also think are not constructive. I also appreciated Mr Kox’s comments about the relationship between the parties, which I spoke about earlier. I want also to reassure Mr Le Borgn’ and Mr Fournier: this is not a harsh report and it does deal with European Union enlargement, which we addressed at a later committee hearing. It will be seen in the report that we welcome Albania’s being granted candidate status

We also talk about Albania being a force for stability in the Balkans, so I do not accept the claim that we have not been encouraging enough; what we have been is realistic, and we have found our Albanian colleagues, as well as the president and the two prime ministers who served while Mr Petrenco and I were involved, to be realistic as well. There remain big issues in Albania, and it is not harsh to say that they need to be tackled – that is what Albanian citizens have said in Transparency International reports. However, I think we are meeting the challenges, and I encourage the Albanians, now that they have achieved candidate status, to work with us to address the challenges outlined in the report.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Evans. I give the floor to Mr Petrenco, co-rapporteur.

Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova)* – I would like to thank everyone who has spoken in the debate and to reply to the representative from “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Mr Nikoloski. We must monitor the rights of national minorities in Albania to see, for example, whether they are able to study in their own language and maintain their own culture and identity. That will be possible if we continue our monitoring – the main instrument of the Assembly – of Albania.

Today’s debate has reaffirmed the need to change the mindset of how the government and opposition relate to each other. If the report is adopted as it stands, it will help Albania to change in a positive way, and we all trust that in future years Albania will become a more genuinely democratic State and will start to prosper, especially if it follows our recommendations. I thank the rapporteurs I have worked with over the past three years, Tomas Jirsa from the Czech Republic and Jonathan Evans from the United Kingdom, for their teamwork. I also thank the Secretariat of the Monitoring Committee for its cooperation.

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Petrenco. I call Mr Schennach, Chair of the Monitoring Committee.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – On behalf of the committee, I thank the rapporteurs for their work and constructive cooperation. It is good that Grigore Petrenco comes from a country that has been subject to monitoring as well – it meant he could identify with all the important points made.

That Albania now has candidate status for European Union membership should encourage it to make further progress. The monitoring procedure, however, does not always work perfectly during a transfer of power between the government and opposition – the situation is similar in “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, where there are boycotts. In such cases, the Council of Europe needs to support the political institutions – both the government and parliament.

It is encouraging that GRECO states that Albania is clamping down on corruption. However, the fighting in parliament in July should not have happened. The fundamental principles of parliamentarianism need to be applied. Nevertheless, the report states that there are positive signs, and I thank both government and opposition representatives for their constructive cooperation with the committee.

THE PRESIDENT* – The Monitoring Committee has submitted a draft resolution to which 23 amendments have been tabled, as well as a number of oral amendments and sub-amendments. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium and the organisation of debates2. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

I understand that Mr Schennach wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 2, 20 and 10 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Monitoring Committee, should be declared as adopted by the Assembly.

Is that so Mr Schennach?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – That is correct.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object?

As there is no objection, I declare Amendments 2, 20 and 10 to the draft resolution have been adopted.

Amendments 2, 20 and 10 are adopted.

I understand that the committee proposes an oral amendment to replace Amendments 17 and 18, which are withdrawn.

      The oral amendment tabled by the Committee reads as follows: in the draft resolution, at the start of paragraph 2, insert the sentence:

      “Recognising the role of Albania as a factor for stability in the region, the Assembly welcomes the conclusions adopted by the European Council on 27 June 2014 to grant Albania candidate status and encourages the country to fulfil the key priorities.”Th

      The President may accept an oral amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy or conciliation and if there is not opposition from 10 or more members to its being debated.

      In my opinion, the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 34.7.a. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

      That is not the case. I therefore call Mr Evans to support oral amendment 1 on behalf of the Committee. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – This amendment covers the points raised in Ms Leskaj’s two original amendments and addresses the reservations raised in the course of the debate by Mr Fournier and Mr Le Borgn’ that we had not done enough to welcome the news relating to candidate status. I explained that the reason for it was that it had taken place at the same time as we considered the draft report, so we could not be ahead of the moment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment? That is not the case.

      The Committee is obviously in favour.

      I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      The oral amendment is adopted.

      I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 1.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – The elections are less than a year from now, and it is necessary to prepare the election legislation in compliance with the Venice Commission recommendations. There are a number of recommendations from the Venice Commission and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that have not yet been dealt with. It is unprecedented. We have gone beyond the deadline for what is considered good practice in an election, which is to change legislation more than a year prior, so we would like that to move forward.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the Committee?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria)* – Against.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 1 is rejected.

      I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 3.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – The same reasons that I mentioned earlier also apply to this amendment. Elections are very close, and the Central Election Commission is incapacitated at the moment. It has only four members out of seven, and five votes are needed to approve byelaws and make important decisions. There is no impediment to the ruling party sending three candidates to fill the vacancies, but it has not done so for over a year now. We would like the resolution to push in that direction so that we have a functioning CEC before the elections.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Evans.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – When we considered this matter in our Committee I opposed this amendment. The issue in relation to the CEC is dealt with comprehensively in our report. We do not think that it needs to be voted on by the Assembly.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 3 is rejected.

I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 4.

Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – As I mentioned earlier, there have been instances of violence against opposition members of Parliament; the last one was on 10 September. It has triggered a strong reaction from the opposition. At the moment, we are not following Parliament’s work. We want the resolution to condemn the violence that has been happening in the Albanian Parliament in order to prevent it from happening in future.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Evans.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – Again, we considered this matter in our Committee. My view is that, obviously, violence is to be condemned in all its forms, but whatever took place on the date stated is under investigation by the authorities, and that investigation has not yet been concluded. In my view, it is therefore entirely premature for us as a Parliamentary Assembly to be expressing a view on it either way.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 4 is rejected.

I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 5.

Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – As I mentioned in my speech, space for the opposition in Parliament has been reduced almost to nothing. Constitutional court decisions meant to guarantee parliamentary oversight to the opposition are being ignored. Our free speech is being silenced through violence. The rules of procedure, which were approved consensually three weeks before the election last year by request of the European Union, are openly violated every time a law is passed.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Mr Evans.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – I am opposed to this amendment, primarily because our report quite clearly urges the opposition not to resort to boycotting the work of Parliament, on one side. On the other side, we urge the ruling majority not to use its constitutional majority to bypass the opposition and to seek consensus on important reforms whenever possible. The idea that there ought to be parliamentary space for the opposition seems completely covered by what we have already said. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 5 is rejected.

I understand that Mr Bylykbashi has tabled Amendment 13 but that the Committee have presented a compromise oral sub-amendment.

I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 13. You have 30 seconds.

Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – The amendment is meant to ensure that a body as important as the media regulator, the National Council of Radio and Television, is regulated through a consensual legal framework and that nothing that has been happening to our other institutions happens to it. Its takeover has already started. Already, the head of the institution has been dismissed so that the government can control it. We would like any change in the legislation to be consensual.

THE PRESIDENT* – The oral sub-amendment proposed by the Monitoring Committee would mean that the new text to be inserted would read, “to consensually agree on a composition formula for the National Council of Radio and Television that will foster an independent and pluralist media environment.”

In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules.

However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

That is not the case. I therefore call Mr Evans to support the oral sub-amendment.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – It is my understanding that Mr Bylykbashi accepts my oral sub-amendment, and that it is therefore not controversial.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

That is not the case.

What is the opinion of Mr Bylykbashi?

Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – In favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The Committee is obviously in favour.

I will now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

We will now consider the main amendment, as amended.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the Committee on the amendment, as amended?

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – In favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      We now come to Amendment 14 and the oral sub-amendment to it. I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 14.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – When the draft resolution was adopted on 24 June, territorial reform had not yet happened. It was in the process of happening, but it was concluded in a rush on 31 July, with territorial reform that is only an election exercise and nothing to do with the competency of local government. It is highly contested. Even at local level, referendums are expected. This amendment is meant to bring the resolution into line with the situation as it is now. When the resolution was approved, it could not foresee what was going to happen two months later. That is the reason for the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Bylykbashi. I have been informed by the Monitoring Committee that it wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment to replace the sentence with: “The Assembly welcomes the priority given by the new authorities and the support expressed by the opposition to administrative-territorial reform and the strengthening of local self-government as a main pillar of the democratic consolidation of Albanian society.”

      I consider the oral sub-amendment admissible in the light of the rules. It cannot be taken into consideration if 10 or more representatives object.

      There is no objection to considering the oral sub-amendment. I call the co-rapporteur to support the oral sub-amendment on behalf of the committee.

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – We are of the view that the concern that has been expressed by Mr Bylykbashi – that the opposition supports the concept of local government reform, although it has strong criticisms of the way in which it has been carried out – should be reflected. For that reason I have proposed this oral sub-amendment, including these words about the support that has been expressed by the opposition for administrative-territorial reform. The end of that sentence is “society”. I am opposed to the rest of the content of that amendment, so the oral sub-amendment purely adds that one sentence.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

      That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the author of the amendment with regard to the oral sub-amendment?

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – I agree with the oral sub-amendment, because we have also reached a compromise on Amendment 15 later.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Bylykbashi.

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – We now proceed to the vote.

      The vote is open.

      The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

      We will now consider the main amendment, as amended. Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 14, as amended?

      That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the Monitoring Committee on the amendment, as amended?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      We now come to Amendment 15 and its oral sub-amendment. I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 15.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – We reached an agreement on this amendment, so that it reflected our concern regarding territorial reform. The idea behind the amendment that we presented at the beginning is that this reform will impact harshly on the current set-up of local government. With the oral sub-amendment that I propose, I believe that there is at least some remedy.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Bylykbashi. The committee has suggested an oral sub-amendment that would replace part of the amendment with: “but notes the concerns expressed by the opposition for the immediate reduction from 373 local government units to 61, gerrymandering, and its potential impact on local democracy”.

      Is that correct, chairman?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Yes.

      THE PRESIDENT* – I think this is admissible under the rules. However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

      I see no one rising, so it is admissible and will be taken into account.

      I give the floor to the co-rapporteur, Mr Evans, to speak to the oral sub-amendment on behalf of the committee.

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – The oral sub-amendment deals with the concerns of the opposition. The opposition must, in my view, be given the opportunity to set out its concern. The committee as such does not share that view, but at the same time we recognise the concern, so we do not object to this amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Rapporteur.

      Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? Apparently not.

      What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment on the oral sub-amendment?

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The committee is obviously in favour.

      The vote is open.

      The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

      We will now consider the main amendment, as amended.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 15, as amended?

      That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the committee on Amendment 15?

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – In favour.

      THE PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 15, as amended, adopted.

      Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – Amendments 21 and 16 were withdrawn by Ms Leskaj and Mr Bylykbashi for a compromise by our rapporteur.

THE PRESIDENT* – Is that true, Mrs Leskaj? Can you confirm that you withdraw this amendment?

      Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – Yes. Both are withdrawn in view of the compromise from the rapporteurs.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 16 is also withdrawn.

I call Mr Bylykbashi to support Amendment 11.

Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – This amendment would be justified given what has happened. Prosecutions have increased over the years, although there has been no recent success—the text of the resolution therefore says the measure does not appear to have been effective.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Evans.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – I oppose this amendment. I think Mr Bylykbashi knows that I consider the amendment to be taking detail to a point at which it does not help comprehension of the text. The text would not be improved in any way by the amendment, and it is best that we remain with the text that we have.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – The Committee disagrees with the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 11 is rejected.

I call Ms Leskaj to support Amendment 23.

Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – The amendment welcomes the recent developments in the High Inspectorate, both on the legal framework and on the number of people who have been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office. That number has increased. It is important that we committed ourselves to improving the law, and we did.

THE PRESIDENT* – I have been informed that Mr Schennach wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, on behalf of the Monitoring Committee, the effect of which would be to retain the first sentence of paragraph 9.3 rather than delete it, and insert the following words at the end of the sentence:

“and welcomes the amendments to the law on the declaration and audit of assets and prevention of public interest in exercising public functions, which aim to increase the transparency of public officials and to strengthen the institutional role of the High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets”.

In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules.

However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

That is not the case. I therefore call Mr Evans to support the oral sub-amendment.

Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – I will not detain the Assembly. We have endeavoured to include the concerns raised by Ms Leskaj while also including the concerns of my co-rapporteur, Mr Petrenco, and I on recent developments in relation to HIDAA. The sub-amendment would therefore incorporate both in the text.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of Ms Leskaj?

Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – I agree.

THE PRESIDENT* – The Committee is obviously in favour.

I will now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

We will now consider the main amendment, as amended.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the Committee on the amendment, as amended?

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) – In favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – I shall now put Amendment 23, as amended, to the vote.

The vote is open.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 13586, as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

4. Next public business

THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday morning.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 7.45 p.m.)


1. The activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2013-14

Presentation of report, Document 13594, by Ms Gillan on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Statement by Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the EBRD

Speakers: Ms Vėsaitė (Lithuania), Mr Schneider (France), Mr Selvi (Turkey), Ms Gambaro (Italy), Mr Šehović (Montenegro), Mr Sasi (Finland), Mr A. Türkeş (Turkey)

Draft resolution contained in Document 13597 adopted.

2. The progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (October 2013 – September 2014)

Presentation of report, Document 13595, by Mr Shennach on behalf of the Monitoring Committee

Speakers: Mr Gross (Switzerland), Ms Djurović (Serbia), Mr Selvi (Turkey), Ms Guţu (Republic of Moldova), Mr Jónasson (Iceland), Mr Rouquet (France), Ms Bokuchava (Georgia), Mr Recordan (Switzerland), Ms Christoffersen (Norway), Ms A Hovhannisyan (Armenia), Mr Xuclà (Spain), Mr Ariev (Ukraine), Mr Japaridze (Georgia), Mr Nikoloski (“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), Ms Pashayeva (Azerbaijan), Mr Zourabian (Armenia), Mr Sasi (Finland), Ms Taktakishvili (Georgia).

Amendments 1 to 5 adopted.

Oral amendment adopted.

Amendment 8, as amended, adopted.

Draft resolution contained in Document 13595, as amended, adopted.

3. The honouring of obligations and commitments by Albania

Presentation of report, Document 13586, by Mr Evans and Mr Petrenco on behalf of the Monitoring Committee

Speakers: Mr Nikoloski (“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”), Lord Balfe (United Kingdom), Ms Mateu Pi (Andorra), Mr Kox (Netherlands), Mr Le Borgn’ (France), Ms Leskaj (Albania), Mr Fournier (France), Mr Morenco Palanques (Spain), Mr Bylykbashi (Albania), Mr Shalsi (Albania), Mr Schennach (Austria)

Amendments 2, 20 and 10 adopted.

Oral Amendment 1 adopted.

Amendment 13, as amended, adopted.

Amendment 14, as amended, adopted.

Amendment 15, as amended, adopted.

Oral Amendment 2 adopted.

Amendment 6, as amended, adopted.

Amendment 9, as amended, adopted.

Amendment 22, as amended, adopted.

Amendment 23, as amended, adopted.

Draft resolution contained in Document 13586, as amended, adopted.#

4. Next public business

Appendix I

Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk


ALEKSANDROV Alexey Ivanovich*

ALLAIN Brigitte*

ALLAVENA Jean-Charles*

AMON Werner*




ANDREOLI Donald/Lazzari Luca

ARIB Khadija*

ARIEV Volodymyr


BAĞIŞ Egemen*


BAKRADZE David/Bokuchava Tinatin

BALLA Taulant/Eduard SHALSI

BAPT Gérard/LE BORGN’ Pierre-Yves

BARCIA DUEDRA Gerard/Bonet Perot Sílvia Eloïsa


BARREIRO José Manuel*


BECK Marieluise*


BENEYTO José María*



BERISHA Sali/ Bylykbashi Oerd

BERNINI Anna Maria*

BERTUZZI Maria Teresa*




BLAHA Ľuboš*



BOCKEL Jean-Marie*




BOSIĆ Mladen*

BRAGA António*

BRASSEUR Anne/Oberweis Marcel

BRATTI Alessandro*

BÜCHEL Gerold*

BUGNON André/Recordon Luc






CHITI Vannino*

CHIUARIU Tudor-Alexandru/Badea Viorel Riceard

CHOPE Christopher


CHUKOLOV Desislav*

ČIGĀNE Lolita*


CIOCH Henryk*

CLAPPISON James/Balfe Richard

CONDE Agustín*








CSÖBÖR Katalin*



DECKER Armand*





DIJK Peter

DİŞLİ Şaban*

DJUROVIĆ Aleksandra




DUMERY Daphné*

DUNDEE Alexander*

DURRIEU Josette*




EßL Franz Leonhard*



FENECHIU Cătălin Daniel*

FETISOV Vyacheslav*

FIALA Doris/Comte Raphaël




FLEGO Gvozden Srećko*



FRÉCON Jean-Claude*


FRONC Martin

GALE Roger*





GIRO Francesco Maria*

GOGA Pavol*


GORGHIU Alina Ştefania*


GOZI Sandro*


GROOTE Patrick*

GROSS Andreas


GÜLPINAR Mehmet Kasim*

GULYÁS Gergely*

GÜR Nazmi

GUTIÉRREZ Antonio/Xuclà Jordi


GUZENINA Maria/Pelkonen Jaana


HÄGG Carina*


HALICKI Andrzej*

HAMID Hamid*



HEER Alfred








HÜBNER Johannes*

HUNKO Andrej*





IWIŃSKI Tadeusz*






JENSEN Michael Aastrup*



JOVIČIĆ Aleksandar/Pantić Pilja Biljana







KATIČ Andreja*



KLICH Bogdan*

KLYUEV Serhiy*

KOÇ Haluk*




KORODI Attila/Kelemen Attila Béla-Ladislau





KOX Tiny

KRIŠTO Borjana*



LE DÉAUT Jean-Yves*


LÉONARD Christophe*

LESKAJ Valentina



LONCLE François*



LUND Jacob

MACH Trine Pertou*


MAHOUX Philippe


MARKOVÁ Soňa/Holík Pavel


MATEU PI Meritxell

MATTILA Pirkko/Raatikainen Mika



McNAMARA Michael*





MENDONÇA Ana Catarina*


MIGNON Jean-Claude*

MIßFELDER Philipp*





MULARCZYK Arkadiusz*

MULIĆ Melita*


NACHBAR Philippe*



NEACŞU Marian*


NICHOLSON Emma/Evans Jonathan



NIKOLOSKI Aleksandar

NYKIEL Mirosława*



OEHRI Judith*


O’REILLY Joseph*



PALACIOS José Ignacio*



PIPILI Foteini*



PREDA Cezar Florin*


PUCHE Gabino*


REPS Mailis*


RIGONI Andrea*

ROCHEBLOINE François/Schneider André

ROSEIRA Maria de Belém*



RZAYEV Rovshan*

SAAR Indrek

SANTANGELO Vincenzo/Spadoni Maria Edera


SASI Kimmo



SCHOU Ingjerd/JOHNSEN Kristin Ørmen


SCHWALLER Urs/Schneider-Schneiter Elisabeth

SEARA Laura*

SEDÓ Salvador



SENIĆ Aleksandar

ŠEPIĆ Senad*









STEFANELLI Lorella/Giovagnoli Gerardo



STROE Ionuţ-Marian*


SYDOW Björn*



TIMCHENKO Vyacheslav*




TÜRKEŞ Ahmet Kutalmiş

TÜRKEŞ Tuğrul*

TZAVARAS Konstantinos*



VALAVANI Olga-Nantia*

VALEN Snorre Serigstad/Hagebakken Tore


VECHERKO Volodymyr*


VERHEIJEN Mark/Faber-van de Klashorst Marjolein



VORONIN Vladimir/Petrenco Grigore

VRIES Klaas*


VUKSANOVIĆ Draginja/Šehović Damir

WACH Piotr

WALTER Robert*

WATKINSON Angela/Gillan Cheryl

WELLMANN Karl-Georg*

WERNER Katrin*

WOLD Morten*

WURM Gisela*

ZECH Tobias*



ZINGERIS Emanuelis

ZIUGANOV Guennady*

ZOHRABYAN Naira /Rustamyan Armen


Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, ‘‘The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’’*

Vacant Seat, United Kingdom*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote




Partners for democracy


1 The amendments are available at the document counter or on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.

2 The amendments are available at the document counter or on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates.